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Christ and Mythology

I was browsing though stuff on an external hard drive recently and found a few documents that I’d written that I thought might be worth making into blog posts.  The following essay was originally written as an email response to a friend with whom I was having a discussion.  It has been edited slightly, but still may sound a bit like an email.  I think it holds up, for all that, so I’m leaving it essentially as I found it with only very light editing.  Enjoy!

You said awhile back that I hadn’t told you my views of the dying-god myths of Classical antiquity (e.g., Venus and Adonis, and so on).  As I said, I’ve actually told you my opinion before, which is that such things aren’t really relevant, but I will elaborate.

Let me begin with an analogy.  We know that Leif Erikson discovered North America, a.k.a. Vinland, in the late 10th Century.  We also know that there are other accounts that have been interpreted as European trips to the New World, e.g. Madoc of Wales and St. Brendan the Navigator.  Some of these predate Leif Erikson.  So, suppose a skeptic said, “I don’t believe the Vikings ever came to America.  Erikson’s story is just one of many, probably copied from one of the other stories.”  How would one proceed?

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How Not to View the Atonement


Part of the motivation for me to begin this sub-series on the atonement–aside from what I discussed at the beginning of it–was the following post from my sometime interlocutor A. Sinner, of the blog Renegade Trads, posting in a discussion at Vox Nova.   Here it is, below the cut:  Read the rest of this entry

The Atonement: Index

The Atonement

Some Theories of Atonement, or Love, not Honor or Substitution  This post, by Father Nathan O’Halloran, S. J., is reblogged from Vox Nova.  I’ve touched on the idea of the Atonement in the course of this series insofar as it has implications for the concept of the Fall and the interpretations of the Fall which I have been discussing.  Thus I’m adding this as a sort of guest post that goes into more detail on that particular aspect of the issues I’ve been dealing with here.  Update:  Since I originally reblogged this, Vox Nova has moved to Patheos; thus, the reblogged link no longer works.  I’ve deleted the reblogged post from this blog, and put the link to the original post by Fr. O’Halloran at the new Patheos site in the link above.  Thus, clicking there will take you to Patheos, not to my blog. 

How Not to View the Atonement

Atonement Theology  This post was reblogged from the blog Triangulations, and gives an excellent summary of various schools of thought on the Atonement.

Saved from What?

The Atonement:  An Overview of the Traditional Perspective

The Apple and the Multiverse

Hell’s Angels and Looking for God in All the Wrong Places

Original Sin:  Is the Fault in the Manufacturer?

Penal Substitution

The Atonement

I had originally planned–or at least hoped–to complete my two main series, “Legends of the Fall” and “The Pretty Good Book” by the end of August.  As the academic year moves along, I have less time for blogging in general and working on these series in particular.  Still, I have managed to keep them ongoing.  I think I will be able to wrap up “The Pretty Good Book” in no more than six more posts (perhaps fewer).  On the other hand. “Legends of the Fall” has proven rather intractable.

I had actually thought it finished some time ago; but as I discussed when I began the (increasingly lengthy) series of addenda to it, issues I hadn’t thought about or considered deeply enough kept popping up in relation to it.  My original idea had been to examine the Genesis story of the Fall of Man and to explore ways of harmonizing it with modern knowledge of human origins.  However, this has been a much larger undertaking than I’d anticipated.  After all, if one considers the stopping of the sun by Joshua or the swallowing of Jonah by a whale (or fish), such stories are obviously folktales or myths which can be dismissed without too much effect on the narratives.  On the other hand, the Eden myth is right at the center of the main threads of Christian belief–creation, sin, atonement, redemption.  Anything one does with this narrative–whether it be uncritical acceptance, wholesale rejection, allegoricization, or anything else–has profound effects in all areas of Christian belief. Read the rest of this entry

Excursus: The Resurrection

In the last post I gave the basis from which I start in interpreting my faith, the Bible, and spiritual things in general–the love of God manifested in Christ.  More specifically, the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.  Before I move on to make the ramifications of that clear, it occurs to me that I need to say a few words about the last of these, the Resurrection.  After all, except for those who doubt that Jesus even existed–and I think that viewpoint has been nicely debunked–no one doubts that he lived and died.  The Resurrection is where we open the can of worms.

I contend that if Christianity is to make any sense, the Resurrection must have been a real, historical event.  Further, I think it was a physical event (that needs to be qualified, but we’ll get there).  Finally, I believe this not so much because my religion “requires” me to–there’s an awful lot of other stuff that I don’t accept as such–but more as a ground for believing in the first place.  Put it like this:  while I don’t think the Resurrection can be “proved” (most historical events can’t be, either), I don’t think there is sufficient evidence to reject it (qualifications on that, too, in a moment), and it seems to me the most probable explanation of the rise and spread of Christianity.  If I were to cease to believe in the Resurrection, for whatever reason, I would cease being a Christian, as well, since there would then be, in my view, no basis for the faith. Read the rest of this entry