Thursday, February 19, 2009

Response to Brad on "Christians are Communists?"

I would like to take a moment to thank Brad, over at Dimensionless, for taking the time to respond to four of my posts. Unfortunately, there is no way for me to respond directly to him (which is causing me to rethink how to go about nurturing further dialogues), so I will do so here in this post.

First, on “Christians are Communists?” Thank you for sharing Ebonmuse’s real name. The fact that he does not post his name is of no incident, just an observation. You said, “The Bible is portraying a small instance of communism. Caring for the needy implies distribution of wealth - although not anything systematic or top-down. It is not, however, proscribing it for all its followers, nor necessarily condoning it for the masses as a viable form of economy or politics.” The root question that seeks to be answered here seems to be “what is normative?”

Looking at passages like Deuteronomy 15:7-8 and Acts 2:45-46 and 4:34-37 we can determine an ethical response for “the masses” by considering first, the similarity of situation. Despite differences in culture (no matter how subtle) geography and time, the situations people face (in this case, poverty and wealth) remain ever present. In other words, the situation of the ancients is still present in our own time and place.

A second factor concerns moral directive: is there an authoritative position that transcends cultural bias? We live and move within God’s created order and in relationship with other people. Since God is Creator, the biblical ideal is theocratic, not socialist. Of course, if one attempts to dethrone God in so many various ways (such as denying His existence) then one sets up for himself a misunderstanding of the culture, directive and solution—but I get ahead of myself.

Also, moral law is absolute and does not succumb to the particulars of culture, geography or time. This is where God as provident sovereign, works through structures of human freedom, controlling cultural development as they are found within the created order. The choice for humanity is to be built on and conform to moral absolutes, or operate autonomously and without a foundation. Structures without foundations crumble quickly.

This brings up a problem: the form of the directive for “the masses.” In the case of prescription for followers or masses, there exists a principle stated in Scripture (Deuteronomy 15:7-8) and is carried out in scripture beyond cultural bounds (the Acts passages)—this deserves a second look for any culture. Again, should anyone choose to shrug off the rule of God, what is he left to do but construct his own . . . the principle of the absolute is still present. Man shrugs off God's Word and lives by His own? This is most curious because the Bible is often criticized for being untrustworthy because it was "written by men . . ." The logic does not follow. God's absolutes still make themselves evident, no matter how man tries to cast Him off.

The difficulty for me is the use of the word “communism” (and this will address your last point): I understand that Ebonmuse attempts to differentiate atheism from communism; however, Ebonmuse closes by saying, “But even today, hardly any advocate the socialist, communist ideal that is plainly envisioned by the Bible itself.” The biblical ideal is theocratic, not socialist. In other words, God is the ruler, not the state. God made all, so He owns all. Men, made in God’s image are to manage God’s creation.

Second, you said, “He doesn't admit to the historicity of Jesus (although it actually isn't uncommon for atheists to concede such a point) - he says the evidence is lacking to confidently conclude there ever was a Jesus. He talks about how Jesus could not just be a "lord, liar, or lunatic" (as a certain apologist put it), but also a legend.”

Here is what Ebonmuse said: “In the Book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 44 to 45, we hear a bit about how the first Christians lived following the departure of Jesus . . .” This is a plain, clear statement of the historicity of Jesus and how Christians responded to His departure. Please help me see where Ebonmuse infers lack of confidence in the historicity of Jesus or that He is legend.

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