Things I never learned in Sunday School

By Nan Yielding

First, thanks Nan for the free copy. It is an interesting and easy read. I think a revised edition is due especially because I think you have in the intervening period learnt something that maybe was not available at the time of first publication.

This book is not a polemic against religion or an apologia. Maybe we could say it is an argument against taking someone as an authority without good reason. In this respect, I think Nan makes her point clearly throughout the book.

That said, I have a few issues with the book.

On the pentatauch, she alludes to Moses writing the first five books. First comment is that the existence of Moses is highly doubtful but that’s a story for later. On the authorship of the first five books, research that I have read point to a multiple group of writers. My preface to the African Bible( used by the Catholic Church) is explicit that while it is commonly believed Moses wrote those books, this is no longer tenable.

On Jesus, Nan writes in a manner that shows she is convinced of at least two things; he existed and had a message of love that he taught. The interesting question here is which Jesus. And having read several researches on Jesus life, I would ask with Ark, which Jesus? Nan writes we are certain Jesus died but this is putting the cart before the horse.

What can be said of the resurrection? She points out the various contradictions in the narratives telling of this special event. And I don’t think much needed to be added. Maybe we can say with Mangassarian that if he went to the sky it is best to live him there.

She writes a lot on Paul which is understandable because of his influence in Christian teaching. The first question is Paul who? Does the author of Acts know Paul? And while her conclusion is correct that without the Pauline literature, we would likely end up with a different religion today. She takes it for granted that Paul was. And I would think, as the theme of the book is not taking things on authority, a little bit of rigour would not be asking for too much.

Her exposition on the devil is quite illuminating. But in that chapter she says we are certain a supreme being exists? But does it really? Are we certain about this? What is the nature of this being & though in the final chapter she makes the argument that resembles that of Aviciena( via negativa) that maybe we can’t begin to name or even describe this being, this gives us no light on whether we should assume such a being exists.

I am not convinced the argument about the Roman empire persecution of Christians hold against scrutiny. I will have to dust my books & update this criticism but her position is not tenable.

I am African and it is a pet peeve of mine when I find African deities or religions referred to as tribal gods. This is following Hegel where everyone else has national gods or just religions but the African, no. His is a tribal god. I know it is not Nan’s fault here that most literature sees Africans only through the lens of tribe.

I think on matters where there is doubt, to express certainties must surely take away from the value of the work. To claim a supreme being/ god certainly exists is to stretch credulity a little far. My other general comment that covers the whole work is on miracles. The bible which is the source document for Christian belief is said to be a miracle- that is, it is not of natural production but involves the action of god(s) in unknown ways- is in need of defence.

While reading the book, a thought occurred to me concerning monotheism. Is it a belief in the existence of only one god or the belief in & worship of only one god While not negating the existence of other gods? The israelites are told not that other gods don’t exist, just that they should worship a specific god. Or as Nietzsche put it, the other gods laughed themselves to death when one of them said I am on the only god. Am I missing something?

Happy Sunday everyone. And thanks again Nan for the book.

was Luke Paul’s close companion?

Walter Cassels in his work, Supernatural Religion notes

As a general rule, any document so full of miraculous episodes and supernatural occurrences would, without hesitation, be characterized as fabulous and incredible, and would not, by any sober-minded reader, be for a moment accepted as historical. There is no other testimony for these miracles. Let the reader endeavour to form some conception of the nature and amount of evidence necessary to establish the truth of statements antecedently so incredible, and compare it with the testimony of this solitary and anonymous document, the character and value of which we shall now proceed more closely to examine.

it is with this background that we consider whether Luke was, first, an eyewitness to Jesus life, a companion of Paul ad the author of Acts.

As to the first point, Luke was no eyewitness. He says so himself in the first verse. HE is compiling what has come down to him from other eyewitnesses. Can his work be considered historical? I think to the extent that he writes about angels and other supernatural occurrences, that work cannot be historical.

As to whether Luke was the author of Acts, Cassels writes

After examining all the early Christian literature, and taking every passage which is referred to as indicating the use of the book, we see that there is no certain trace even of its existence till towards the
end of the second century; and, whilst the writing itself is anonymous, we find no authority but late tradition assigning it to Luke or to any other author.

And as to the final question, whether the author of Acts was a companion of Paul, the verdict, again, is negative. We cite this example, though plenty are provided for the student who wants to discover more for themselves

According to Paul himself (Gal. i. 16—18), after his conversion, he communicated not with flesh and blood, neither went up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before him, but immediately went
away into Arabia, and returned to Damascus, and only after three years he went up to Jerusalem to visit Kephas, and abode with him fifteen days, during which visit none other of the Apostles did he see “save
James, the brother of the Lord.” If assurance of the correctness of these details were required, Paul gives it by adding (v. 20): “Now the things which I am writing to you, behold before God I lie not.”

According to Acts (ix. 19—30), however, the facts are quite different. Paul immediately begins to preach in Damascus, does not visit Arabia at all, but, on the contrary, goes to Jerusalem, where, under the
protection of Barnabas (v. 26, 27), he is introduced to the Apostles, and “was with them going in and out.”

According to Paul (Gal. i. 22), his face was after that unknown unto the churches of Judaea, whereas, according to Acts, not only was he “going in and out” at Jerusalem with the Apostles, but (ix. 29) preached boldly in the name of the Lord, and (Acts xxvi. 20) “in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judaea,” he urged to repentance.

According to Paul (Gal. ii. 1 ff.), after fourteen years he went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas and Titus, “according to a revelation,” and “privately” communicated his Gospel “to those who seemed to be something,” as, with some irony, he calls the Apostles. In words still breathing irritation and determined
independence, Paul relates to the Galatians the particulars of that visit—how great pressure had been exerted to compel Titus, though a Greek, to be circumcised, “that they might bring us into bondage,” to
whom, “not even for an hour did we yield the required subjection.”

Given this background, where does my new friend, pastor blue jeans get his evidence for the claim that Luke was a physician, evangelist, author of acts and close companion of Paul?

There are no Christians

Only Paulines and Katlicks!

Nietzsche wrote in the Antichrist

I shall go back a bit, and tell you the authentic history of Christianity- The very word Christianity is a misunderstanding- at bottom there was only one Christian and he died on the cross.

[…]It is an error amounting to nonsensicality to see in ‘faith’, and particularly in faith in salvation through Christ, the distinguishing mark of the Christian: only the Christian way of life, the life lived by him who died on the cross is Christian..

[..] The Christian- he who for two thousand years has passed as a christian- is simply a psychological self delusion. Closely examined, it appears that, despite all his faith, he has only been ruled by his instincts- and what instincts!

Look at that and the claim by most evangelical Christians that they have been freed from the law and now they have entered a new covenant with god regardless of evidence to the contrary.

They ignore the teachings of Jesus on the law and go by Paul. I don’t think they can have them both ways. Either Jesus founded their delusion or Paul. If it is Jesus, then until heaven and earth passes not a dot of the law will change and if it be Paul, then Jesus is irrelevant in their belief.

What do you think? Have I misrepresented Christians here?