So I'm thinking that when I have kids, I would really like to teach them about Jesus, not as the Messiah or as the Son of God, but as a moral teacher who taught lessons that I cherish such as pacifism, charity, compassion, and love. Of course, I would probably not teach them to worship or pray to him(I'd have to discuss it with my other half), but I think that Jesus ranks up there when talking about virtuous figures for children to model themselves after.

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"If this is not a theologian you do not understand the definition, period."

Why don't you enlighten us about this strange definition of theologian which apparently exists entirely in your head?
To anyone else it's perfectly clear that if Ehrman is an agnostic atheist, he can't possibly be a theologian. The same goes for Vermes: he can't be a Christian theologian (though he technically could be a Jewish theologian, but then that makes no difference when discussing Christianity either way). And the same goes for Paula Frederiksen and dozens of others.

Are you now finally going to admit that you didn't know what the fuck you were talking about and have painted yourself in a pathetic little corner?

"Being a pseudo intellectual will not serve you well on this site'
Hell, I have a degree and still feel stupid at times trying to discuss things with these men and women....yes women...smart one too..."


Don't flatter yourself. You don't have to be an intellectual to kick the crap you're spouting here to bits.

"I don't get that, the way Matt insist on this story of a myth, explained in the stars even....tsk tsk tsk Orion that is..."

Historians insist on the historical theory with the most corroborating evidence and the one that requires the least amount of assumptions. A First Century Galilean preacher inspiring a tiny cult which eventually grew to become important is exactly the kind of theory that makes perfect sense and is consistent with what we know and understand about the time.
Of course, you're not interested in this, because - like all ideologues - you made up your mind before you came to this discussion, and are now trying to bluster your way through the conversation without having done the tiniest scrap of research.

Keep trying, JstN, you're not fooling anybody.
Matt, are you saying an atheist or an agnostic can't be a theologian? My dictionary says that a theologian is someone who studies theology, and that theology is " the study of religious faith, practice, and experience; especially : the study of God and of God's relation to the world."

I see nothing in there that requires belief. An atheist can study gods and goddesses in general or a particular god (such as the Christian God) without necessarily believing in any of them.
Note the dichotomy of your definition though: you could indeed be studying "religious faith, practice and experience" without believing in God; but you could not be studying "God and God's relation to the world" if you don't believe in a God: that would be like studying Santa and his relation to the world.

I think the second part of that definition is by far the most important one, simply because the first part is so broad. Many of us here have studied "religious faith, practice and experience" I'm sure. In fact we do a little bit of that everytime we find ourselves in a church or everytime we read about some kooky religious weirdos doing insane things. Or everytime we read Harris' and Hitchens' critiques against religious faith.

But surely that doesn't make us theologians?

The definition is very sloppy though, that's certainly true.
I strongly disagree, Matt. One can easily study God and God's relation to the world without believing, in the same way that we can study Thor and Thor's relationship with the Norse, or study Zeus and his relationship with the ancient Greeks. Studying a god or gods does not require belief in those gods. To say that only Christians can study Christianity and the Christian God would eliminate all objective study of the Christian religion. Can only Hindus properly study Vishnu and Hinduism? Can only Muslims properly study Islam and Allah?

All that is required to study a religion and it's adherents objectively is the ability to see the religion from the point of view of a believer. This may be difficult for some atheists, but many atheists started out as Christian believers, and they are as qualified as a believer, if not more qualified, to examine the Christian faith and Christian's relationship with God.
Okay, I can appreciate that. You could indeed hypothetically place yourself in the mind of a believer and start thinking about how this God might operate; it becomes a thought experiment then. But then you really are in the situation I alluded to: the one where it's like you're studying Santa Claus and how he interacts with the world, if he existed. I'm going to suggest that the main reason (along with historical precedent) why theology is an actual discipline and Santaology is not, is because it's sort of implied that most of the people doing theology actually really believe in it. We don't usually build entire disciplines around thought experiments.

Anyhow, we're meandering way off course now.
I'm gonna disagree here. I took quite a few comp. rel. and anthropology courses in my day, and quite frankly, I don't know anyone who came out of comp. rel. believing in rel. (religion). Furthermore, in both disciplines, as in history, we discussed god(s) and religion, and the roles they played, their historical development, their belief systems, and what not. Not one of the professors was a theologian.

In contemporary academics, we tend to distinguish between theology and religious studies in general, and there is often tension between the two. In fact, it is sometimes questioned whether theology is a proper academic study or whether it should be relegated to seminaries and what not. For anyone really interested, a decent collection of essays about the distinctions can be found in Donald Wiebe's The Politics of Religious Studies.
Matt,

Do you have any writings on this, available online? Have you studied this subject extensively in school, or on your own?
Hi George,

Most of what I know on the subject comes from my own research, yes. I'm not sure whether you can find Vermes' work online, but I'm pretty sure Ehrman's should be available on google books or something (or in, ahum, less legal avenues).

I'll look it up and get back to you.
Yes, the non-theologians. Ehrman is a New Testament scholar and an atheist no less. Vermes is a New Testament scholar too, and a cultural Jew at that. Neither of them spent their time either teaching or studying theology (even though they have obviously know a little bit about it - every New Testament scholar does). That means that you're wrong.

You can run around yapping like a tiny little dog pretending to have a coherent argument all day long, but at the end of the day I'll just keep smashing your head against the wall and make you face the fact that you're wrong and that these are not theologians.

But sure, let's broaden the scope a little bit. Let's hear why you think that an atheist/agnostic like Bart Ehrman is somehow going to be biased when discussing Jesus? Or why a cultural jew like Vermes would be? That's going to be amusing.

Oh, and while you're at it, how about you start naming us with some scholar (scholar = qualified historian teaching and/or researching at an accredited university) that supports your position.

Over to you, make it good.
I can find a man named jesus. He pronounces it hay-sews though, oh... and if you give him a bottle of rum, he will spout stuff off and pretend to heal his bum friends as well.

I'm sure somewhere in and around the time period of the bible A man named "jesus" existed. and that he went around ranting and raving about nonsense, the "jesus" figure that you read about in the bible, however did not exist. He did not go around healing people with gods love, he did not turn water into wine or feed thousands with two fish and a few loaves of bread.

Sorry i should have been more clear about what I meant.
He did not go around healing people with gods love, he did not turn water into wine or feed thousands with two fish and a few loaves of bread.

But, a majority of people believe he did, so it has to be true, right?

;-)

I still contend if I ever have kids I'm teaching them about Flying Spaghetti Monster. Way more moral than the buybull.
Hi Sam, Will you explain the reasons why you are calling Jesus “the greatest lie ever told”? And why do you think that he didn’t exist?

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