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Throughout the history of Christianity, many have criticized Christianity, the church, and Christians. Some criticism specifically addresses Christian beliefs, teachings and interpretation of scripture. The formal response of Christians to such criticisms is described as Christian apologetics. Several areas of criticism include some claims of scripture itself, ethics of biblical interpretations that have been used historically to justify certain attitudes and behaviors, the question of compatibility with science, and certain Christian doctrines.
Biblical criticism, in particular higher criticism, covers a variety of methods used since the Enlightenment in the early 18th century as scholars began to apply to biblical documents the same methods and perspectives which had already been applied to other literary and philosophical texts. It is an umbrella term covering various techniques used mainly by mainline and liberal Christian theologians to study the meaning of Biblical passages. It uses general historical principles, and is based primarily on reason rather than revelation or faith. There are four primary types of Biblical criticism: form, traditional, higher and lower criticism.
Conservative Protestant Christians, as well as much of Orthodox Judaism and Karaite Judaism, support the idea that the Bible is historically accurate. Moderate and liberal Christians generally accept the historicity and reliability of scripture in varying degrees, but differ primarily on interpretation of particular passages—from literal meanings to metaphorical intent in some regard.
Inconsistencies have been pointed out by critics and skeptics, presenting as difficulties the different numbers and names for the same feature and different sequences for what is supposed to be the same event. Responses to these criticisms include the modern documentary hypothesis, two source hypothesis (in various guises), and assertions that the Pastoral Epistles are pseudonymous. Contrasting with these critical stances are positions supported by literalists, considering the texts to be consistent, with the Torah written by a single source, but the Gospels by four independent witnesses, and all of the Pauline Epistles, except possibly the Hebrews, as having been written by Paul of Tarsus.
While consideration of the context is necessary when studying the Bible, some find the accounts of the Resurrection of Jesus within the four Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, difficult to reconcile. E. P. Sanders concludes that the inconsistencies make the possibility of a deliberate fraud unlikely: "A plot to foster belief in the Resurrection would probably have resulted in a more consistent story. Instead, there seems to have been a competition: 'I saw him,' 'So did I,' 'The women saw him first,' 'No, I did; they didn't see him at all,' and so on."
Harold Lindsell points out that it is a "gross distortion" to state that people who believe in Biblical inerrancy suppose every statement made in the Bible is true (opposed to accurate). He indicates there are expressly false statements in the Bible which are reported accurately (for example, Satan is a liar whose lies are accurately reported as to what he actually said). Proponents of biblical inerrancy generally do not teach that the Bible was dictated directly by God, but that God used the "distinctive personalities and literary styles of the writers" of scripture and that God's inspiration guided them to flawlessly project his message through their own language and personality.:Art. VIII
Those who believe in the inspiration of scripture teach that it is infallible (or inerrant), that is, free from error in the truths it expresses by its character as the word of God. However, the scope of what this encompasses is disputed, as the term includes 'faith and practice' positions, with some denominations holding that the historical or scientific details, which may be irrelevant to matters of faith and Christian practice, may contain errors.[page needed] Other scholars take stronger views, but for a few verses these positions require more exegetical work, leading to dispute (compare the serious debate over the related issue of perspicuity, attracting biblical and philosophical discussion).
Infallibility refers to the original texts of the Bible, and all mainstream scholars acknowledge the potential for human error in transmission and translation; yet, through use textual criticism modern (critical) copies are considered to "faithfully represent the originals",:Art. X and our understanding of the original language sufficiently well for accurate translation. The opposing view is that there is too much corruption, or translation too difficult, to agree with modern texts.
Hundreds of years before the time of Jesus, Jewish prophets promised that a messiah would come. Judaism claims that Jesus did not fulfill these prophecies. Other skeptics usually claim that the prophecies are either vague or unfulfilled, or that the Old Testament writings influenced the composition of New Testament narratives.[page needed] Christian apologists claim that Jesus fulfilled these prophecies, which they argue are nearly impossible to fulfill by chance. Many Christians anticipate the Second Coming of Jesus, when he will fulfill the rest of Messianic prophecy, such as the Last Judgment, the general resurrection, establishment of the Kingdom of God, and the Messianic Age (see the article on Preterism for contrasting Christian views).
God gave Abraham unconditional promises entailing multitudinous progeny, nationhood, royal leaders, and land possession. The Hebrew Bible's prophetic literature ends waiting for Judah to be restored via a new monarch, one who will restore the Davidic kingdom and possibly create universal peace. The New Testament traces Jesus' line to that of David; however, according to Stephen L. Harris:
Christian preachers counter this argument by stating that these prophecies will be fulfilled by Jesus in the Millennial Reign after the Great Tribulation, without adding a source to back such claim.
The 16th-century Jewish theologian Isaac ben Abraham, who lived in Trakai, Lithuania, penned a work called Chizzuk Emunah (Faith Strengthened) that attempted to refute the ideas that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament and that Christianity was the "New Covenant" of God. He systematically identified a number of inconsistencies in the New Testament, contradictions between the New Testament and the Old Testament, and Old Testament prophesies which remained unfulfilled in Jesus' lifetime. In addition, he questioned a number of Christian practices, such as Sunday Sabbath. Written originally for Jews to persuade them not to convert to Christianity, the work was eventually read by Christians. While the well-known Christian Hebraist Johann Christoph Wagenseil attempted an elaborate refutation of Abraham's arguments, Wagenseil's Latin translation of it only increased interest in the work and inspired later Christian freethinkers. Chizzuk Emunah was praised as a masterpiece by Voltaire.
On the other hand, Blaise Pascal believed that "[t]he prophecies are the strongest proof of Jesus Christ". He wrote that Jesus was foretold, and that the prophecies came from a succession of people over a span of four thousand years. Apologist Josh McDowell defends the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy as supporting Christianity, arguing that prophecies fulfilled by Christ include ones relating to his ancestral line, birthplace, virgin birth, miracles, manner of death, and resurrection. He says that even the timing of the Messiah in years and in relation to events is predicted, and that the Jewish Talmud (not accepting Jesus as the Messiah, see also Rejection of Jesus) laments that the Messiah had not appeared despite the scepter being taken away from Judah.
Critics argue that the selective invocation of portions of the Old Testament is hypocritical, particularly when those portions endorse hostility towards women and homosexuals, when other portions are considered obsolete. The entire Mosaic Law is described in Antinomianism in the New Testament.as a tutor which is no longer necessary, according to some interpretations, see also
On the other hand, many of the Old Testament laws are seen as specifically abrogated by the New Testament, such as circumcision, though this may simply be a parallel to Jewish Noahide Laws. See also Split of early Christianity and Judaism. On the other hand, other passages are pro-Law, such as Romans 3:31: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law." See also Pauline passages opposing antinomianism.
There are a number of positions which are taken in response to these critics:
Within the wealth of Biblical manuscripts exist a number of textual variants. The vast majority of these textual variants are the inconsequential misspelling of words, word order variations and the mistranscription of abbreviations. Text critics such as Bart D. Ehrman have proposed that some of these textual variants and interpolations were theologically motivated. Ehrman's conclusions and textual variant choices have been challenged by reviewers, including Daniel B. Wallace, Craig Blomberg and Thomas Howe.
In attempting to determine the original text of the New Testament books, some modern textual critics have identified sections as probably not original. In modern translations of the Bible, the results of textual criticism have led to certain verses being left out or marked as not original.These possible later additions include the following:
Most Bibles have footnotes to indicate areas which have disputed source documents. Bible Commentaries also discuss these, sometimes in great detail.
In The Text Of The New Testament, Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland compare the total number of variant-free verses, and the number of variants per page (excluding orthographic errors), among the seven major editions of the Greek NT (Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, Vogels, Merk, Bover and Nestle-Aland) concluding 62.9%, or 4999/7947, agreement. They concluded, "Thus in nearly two-thirds of the New Testament text, the seven editions of the Greek New Testament which we have reviewed are in complete accord, with no differences other than in orthographical details (e.g., the spelling of names, etc.). Verses in which any one of the seven editions differs by a single word are not counted. This result is quite amazing, demonstrating a far greater agreement among the Greek texts of the New Testament during the past century than textual scholars would have suspected… In the Gospels, Acts, and Revelation the agreement is less, while in the letters it is much greater."
With the discovery of the Hebrew Bible texts among the Dead Sea Scrolls, questions have been raised about the textual accuracy of the Masoretic text. That is, whether the Masoretic text which forms the basis of most modern English translations of the Old Testament, or translations which pre-date the masoretic text, such as the Septuagint, Syriac Peshitta, and Samaritan Pentateuch are more accurate.
Translation has given rise to a number of issues, as the original languages are often quite different in grammar as well as word meaning. While the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy states that inerrancy applies only to the original languages, some believers trust their own translation to be the accurate one. One such group of believers is known as the King-James-Only Movement. For readability, clarity, or other reasons, translators may choose different wording or sentence structure, and some translations may choose to paraphrase passages. Because some of the words in the original language have ambiguous or difficult to translate meanings, debates over the correct interpretation occur.
Criticisms are also sometimes raised because of inconsistencies arising between different English translations of the Hebrew or Greek text. Some Christian interpretations are criticized for reflecting specific doctrinal bias or a variant reading between the Masoretic Hebrew and Septuagint Greek manuscripts often quoted in the New Testament.
Translation of Almah as Virgin: Christianity, Jewish critics have argued that Christians were mistaken in their reading of the word almah ("עלמה") in . Jewish translations of the verse from Isaiah read: "Behold, the young woman is with child and will bear a son and she will call his name Immanuel." Moreover, it is claimed that Christians have taken this verse out of context (see Immanuel for further information).reads: "All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 'The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him 'Immanuel'—which means, 'God with us.' " From the earliest days of
Christians also counter this argument by stating thatrefers to the "seed of the woman" when in fact there is no such thing, therefore prophesying a virgin birth.
The Greek text ofuses the term "parthenos", which is the usual Greek word for virgin:
However, the Hebrew text at almah:uses the word
The Jewish translation of the Hebrew scriptures into Greek that was in use during the 1st century, the Septuagint, uses the word "parthenos" ("virgin") in rather than the usual Greek word "neanis" for "young woman". The Septuagint's Greek term παρθένος (parthenos) is considered by many to be an inexact rendering of the Hebrew word `almah in the text of Isaiah.
The use of the Hebrew word "almah" in the Hebrew Masoretic Text of Isaiah has stirred debate among translators and has resulted in variations between Bible translations, with some translations using "young woman" as does the New English Translation or NET Bible:
The text from the Luther Bible uses the German word "Jungfrau", which is composed literally of the words "young" and "woman", although it is common to use this word for "virgin". This ambiguity results in a similar reading to the original Hebrew in the text of Jesaja (Isaiah) 7:14. "Darum wird euch der HERR selbst ein Zeichen geben: Siehe, eine Jungfrau ist schwanger und wird einen Sohn gebären, den wird sie nennen Immanuel." in English: "For this reason, the LORD himself will give to you(plural) a sign: See, a virgin/young woman is pregnant and will bear a son, whom she will name Immanuel."
Some scholars contend that debates over the precise meaning of bethulah ("בתולה"-virgin) and almah (young woman) are misguided because no Hebrew word encapsulates the idea of certain virginity. Martin Luther also argued that the debate was irrelevant, not because the words do not clearly mean virgin, but because almah and bethulah were functional synonyms.
Prophecy of the Nazarene: Another example is : "And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, 'He shall be called a Nazarene.'" The website for Jews for Judaism claims that "Since a Nazarene is a resident of the city of Nazareth and this city did not exist during the time period of the Jewish Bible, it is impossible to find this quotation in the Hebrew Scriptures. It was fabricated." However, one common suggestion is that the New Testament verse is based on a passage relating to Nazirites, either because this was a misunderstanding common at the time, or through deliberate re-reading of the term by the early Christians. Another suggestion is "that Matthew was playing on the similarity of the Hebrew word nezer (translated 'Branch' or 'shoot' in and ) with the Greek nazoraios, here translated 'Nazarene.'" Christians also suggest that by using an indirect quotation and the plural term prophets, "Matthew was only saying that by living in Nazareth, Jesus was fulfilling the many Old Testament prophecies that He would be despised and rejected." The background for this is illustrated by Philip's initial response in to the idea that Jesus might be the Messiah: "Nazareth! Can anything good come from there?"
For most Christians, the miracles represent actual historical events. Without the resurrection, Paul writes in his first letter to the Corinthians, "our preaching is useless and so is your faith". The Roman Catholic Church requires a certain number of miracles to occur before granting sainthood to a putative saint, with particularly stringent requirements in validating the miracle's authenticity.
Philosopher David Hume argued against the plausibility of miracles:
Hume's argument against the plausibility of miracles produced by humans is challenged by Jesus' own admission of the human impossibility of miracles.
The Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church reject Hume's argument against miracles outright with the teachings of St. Gregory Palamas, who postulated that Reason alone was not sufficient to understand God's energies (activities such as miracles) and essence, but faith was. In the Eastern Churches the "miraculous" transubstantiation is described as a "mystery", claiming that any human attempt to understand the scientific process leads to confusion.
Certain interpretations of some moral decisions in the Bible are considered ethically questionable by many modern groups. Some of the passages most commonly criticized include colonialism, the subjugation of women, religious intolerance, condemnation of homosexuality, and support for the institution of slavery in both Old and New Testaments.
The philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche criticized the ethics of Christianity. See Philosophy_of_Friedrich_Nietzsche#Christianity_and_morality.
Christianity and colonialism are often closely associated because Catholicism, Russian Orthodoxy and Protestantism were the religions of the European colonial powers and acted in many ways as the "religious arm" of those powers. Initially, Christian missionaries were portrayed as "visible saints, exemplars of ideal piety in a sea of persistent savagery". However, by the time the colonial era drew to a close in the last half of the twentieth century, missionaries became viewed as “ideological shock troops for colonial invasion whose zealotry blinded them.”
Christianity is targeted by critics of colonialism because the tenets of the religion were used to justify the actions of the colonists. For example, Michael Wood asserts that the indigenous peoples were not considered to be human beings and that the colonisers was shaped by "centuries of Ethnocentrism, and Christian monotheism, which espoused one truth, one time and version of reality."
Early Christianity variously opposed, accepted, or ignored slavery. The early Christian perspectives of slavery were formed in the contexts of Christianity's roots in Judaism, and as part of the wider culture of the Roman Empire. Both the Old and New Testaments recognize that the institution of slavery existed.
The earliest surviving Christian teachings about slavery are from Paul the Apostle, who frequently referred to himself as a "Slave of Christ", perhaps implying that he was a slave and Jesus was his master, although it may have just been an expression. Paul did not renounce the institution of slavery. Conversely, he taught that Christian slaves ought to serve their masters wholeheartedly.
Since the Middle Ages, the Christian understanding of slavery has been subjected to significant internal conflict and has endured dramatic change. Nearly all Christian leaders before the late 17th century recognised slavery, within specific Biblical limitations, as consistent with Christian theology. In early Medieval times, the Church discouraged slavery throughout Europe, largely eliminating it. That changed in 1452, when Pope Nicholas V instituted the hereditary slavery of captured Muslims and pagans, which effectively categorised African and Asians as inferior to European Christians. As he read the Bible, God had instructed his faithful to make slaves of the neighboring heathens. Pope Paul III in the 1537 bull Sublimis Deus forbade the seizing of pagans as slaves, however various Christian groups[who?] have taught that Africans were the descendants of Ham, cursed[dubious ] with "the mark of Ham" (dark skin) to be servants to the descendants of Japheth (Europeans) and Shem (Asians).[page needed]
Rodney Stark makes the argument in For the Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witch-Hunts, and the End of Slavery, that Christianity helped to end slavery worldwide, as does Lamin Sanneh in Abolitionists Abroad. These authors point out that Christians who viewed slavery as wrong on the basis of their religious convictions spearheaded abolitionism, and many of the early campaigners for the abolition of slavery were driven by their Christian faith and a desire to realize their view that all people are equal under God. In the late 17th century, anabaptists began to criticize slavery. Criticisms from the Society of Friends, Mennonites, and the Amish followed suit. Prominent among these Christian abolitionists were William Wilberforce, and John Woolman. Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote her famous book, Uncle Tom's Cabin, according to her Christian beliefs in 1852. Earlier, in Britain and America, Quakers were active in abolitionism. A group of Quakers founded the first English abolitionist organization, and a Quaker petition brought the issue before government that same year. The Quakers continued to be influential throughout the lifetime of the movement, in many ways leading the way for the campaign. John Wesley, the founder of Methodism, was instrumental in starting abolitionism as a popular movement.
Nearly all modern Christians are united in the condemnation of slavery as wrong and contrary to God's will. Only peripheral groups such as the Ku Klux Klan and other Christian hate groups on the racist fringes of the Christian Reconstructionist and Christian Identity movements advocate the reinstitution of slavery. Full adherents to reconstructionism are few and marginalized among conservative Christians. With these exceptions, all Christian faith groups now condemn slavery, and see the practice as incompatible with basic Christian principles.
In addition to aiding[dubious ] abolitionism, many Christians made further efforts toward establishing racial equality, contributing to the Civil Rights Movement. The African American Review notes the important role Christian revivalism in the black church played in the Civil Rights Movement. Martin Luther King, Jr., an ordained Baptist minister, was a leader of the American Civil Rights Movement and president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a Christian Civil Rights organization.
Many feminists have accused notions such as a male God, male prophets, and the man-centered stories in the Bible of contributing to a patriarchy. Though many women disciples and servants are recorded in the Pauline epistles, there have been occasions in which women have been denigrated and forced into a second-class status. For example, women were told to keep silent in the churches for "it is a shame for a woman to speak in the church".
Elizabeth Clark cites early Christian writings by authors such as Augustine, Tertullian and John Chrysostom as being exemplary of the negative perception of women that has been perpetuated in church tradition. Until the latter part of the 20th century, only the names of very few women who contributed to the formation of Christianity in its earliest years were widely known: Mary, the mother of Jesus; Mary Magdalene, disciple of Jesus and the first witness to the resurrection; and Mary and Martha, the sisters who offered him hospitality in Bethany.
Harvard scholar Karen King writes that more of the many women who contributed to the formation of Christianity in its earliest years are becoming known. Further, she concludes that for centuries in Western Christianity, Mary Magdalene has been wrongly identified as the adulteress and repentant prostitute presented in —a connection supposed by tradition but nowhere claimed in the New Testament. According to King, the Gospel of Mary shows that she was an influential figure, a prominent disciple and leader of one wing of the early Christian movement that promoted women's leadership.
King claims that every sect within early Christianity which had advocated women's prominence in ancient Christianity was eventually declared heretical, and evidence of women's early leadership roles was erased or suppressed.
Classicist Evelyn Stagg and New Testament theologian Frank Stagg, in a scholarly book entitled Woman in the World of Jesus, document very unfavorable attitudes toward women that prevailed in the world into which Jesus came. They assert that there is no recorded instance where Jesus disgraces, belittles, reproaches, or stereotypes a woman. They interpret the recorded treatment and attitude Jesus showed to women as evidence that the Founder of Christianity treated women with great dignity and respect. Various theologians have concluded that the canonical examples of the manner of Jesus are instructive for inferring his attitudes toward women. They are seen as showing repeatedly and consistently how he liberated and affirmed women. However, Schalom Ben-Chorin argues that Jesus' reply to his mother in during the wedding at Cana amounted to a blatant violation of the commandment to honor one's parent.
Some Christians argue that the idea of God as a man is based less on gender but rather on the dominant Patriarchal society of the time in which men acted as leaders and caretakers of the Family. Thus, the idea of God being "The Father" is with regards to his relationship with what are "his children", Christians.
Most mainline Christians claim that the doctrine of the Trinity implies that God should be called Father and not called Mother, in the same way that Jesus was a man and was not a woman. Jesus tells His followers to address God as Father.
In 2000, the Southern Baptist Convention voted to revise its "Baptist Faith and Message" (Statement of Faith), opposing women as pastors. While this decision is not binding and would not prevent women from serving as pastors, the revision itself has been criticized by some from within the convention. In the same document, the Southern Baptist Convention took a strong position of the subordinating view of woman in marriage: "A wife is to submit herself graciously to the servant leadership of her husband. She has the God-given responsibility to respect her husband and to serve as his helper in managing the household and nurturing the next generation." (Emphasis added)
The Eastern Orthodox Church does not allow female clergy. The Chaldean Catholic Church on the other hand continues to maintain a large number of deaconesses serving alongside male deacons during mass.
In some evangelical churches, it is forbidden for women to become pastors, deacons or church elders. In support of such prohibitions, the verse is often cited:
Reverend Rich Lang of the Trinity United Methodist Church of Seattle gave a sermon titled "George Bush and the Rise of Christian Fascism", in which he said, "I want to flesh out the ideology of the Christian Fascism that Bush articulates. It is a form of Christianity that is the mirror opposite of what Jesus embodied."
Many critics of Christianity have cited the violent acts of Christian nations as a reason to denounce the religion. Science-fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke said that he could not forgive religions for the atrocities and wars over time. Richard Dawkins makes a similar case in his book, The God Delusion. In The Dawkins Delusion?, Alister McGrath responds to Dawkins by suggesting that, far from endorsing "out-group hostility", Jesus commanded an ethic of "out-group affirmation". McGrath agrees that it is necessary to critique religion, but says that Dawkins seems unaware that it possesses internal means of reform and renewal. While Christians may certainly be accused of failing to live up to Jesus standard of acceptance, it is there at the heart of the Christian ethic. The relationship of Christianity and violence is the subject of controversy because some[which?] people assert that Christianity advocates peace, love and compassion whereas others view it as encouraging violence.
Peace, compassion and forgiveness of wrongs done by others are key elements of Christian teaching. However, Christians have struggled since the days of the Church fathers with the question of when the use of force is justified.[dubious ] Such debates have led to concepts such as just war theory. Throughout history, certain[which?] teachings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and Christian theology have been used to justify the use of force against heretics[clarification needed], sinners and external enemies. Heitman and Hagan identify the Inquisitions, Crusades, wars of religion and antisemitism as being "among the most notorious examples of Christian violence". To this list, J. Denny Weaver adds, "warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of 'spare the rod and spoil the child', justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men". Weaver employs a broader definition of violence that extends the meaning of the word to cover "harm or damage", not just physical violence per se. Thus, under his definition, Christian violence includes "forms of systemic violence such as poverty, racism, and sexism".
Although some Christians have relied on Christian teaching to justify their use of force, other[which?] Christians have opposed the use of force and violence. Some[which?] of the latter have formed sects that have emphasized pacificism as a central tenet of their faith. Christians have also engaged in violence against those that they classify as heretics and non-believers. In Letter to a Christian Nation, critic of religion Sam Harris writes that "...faith inspires violence in at least two ways. First, people often kill other human beings because they believe that the creator of the universe wants them to do it... Second, far greater numbers of people fall into conflict with one another because they define their moral community on the basis of their religious affiliation..."
Christian theologians point to a strong doctrinal and historical imperative within Christianity against violence, particularly Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which taught nonviolence and love of enemies. Weaver says that Jesus' pacifism was "preserved in the justifiable war doctrine that declares all war as sin even when declaring it occasionally a necessary evil, and in the prohibition of fighting by monastics and clergy as well as in a persistent tradition of Christian pacifism". Others point out sayings and acts of Jesus that do not fit this description: the absence of any censure of the soldier who asks Jesus to heal his servant, his overturning the tables and chasing the moneychangers from the temple with a rope in his hand, and through his Apostles, baptising a Roman Centurion who is never asked to first give up arms. Criticism of the violent acts of Christian societies to non-believers, as Christian pacifists would argue that Christianity has been co-opted by militant states to simply provide justification for political agendas. Violence is antithetical to the teachings of Jesus[according to whom?], and as such war and genocide are regarded[by whom?] as un-Christian acts.
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During the 19th century an interpretive model of the relationship between religion and science known today as the conflict theory developed, according to which interaction between religion and science almost inevitably leads to hostility and conflict. A popular example was the misconception that people from the Middle Ages believed that the Earth was flat, and that only science, freed from religious dogma, had shown that it was spherical. This thesis was a popular historiographical approach during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but most contemporary historians of science now reject it.
The notion of a war between science and religion remained common in the historiography of science during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Most of today's historians of science consider that the conflict thesis has been superseded by subsequent historical research. The framing of the relationship between Christianity and science as being predominantly one of conflict is still prevalent in popular culture.
Many scientists throughout history held strong Christian beliefs. Isaac Newton, for example, believed that gravity caused the planets to revolve about the Sun, and credited God with the design. In the concluding General Scholium to the Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, he wrote: "This most beautiful System of the Sun, Planets and Comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful being." Other famous founders of science who adhered to Christian beliefs include Galileo, Johannes Kepler, and Blaise Pascal.
The astronomer Carl Sagan, mentioned the dispute between the astronomical systems of Ptolemy (who thought that the sun and planets revolved around the earth) and Copernicus (who thought the earth and planets revolved around the sun). He states in his A personal Voyage that Ptolemy's belief was "supported by the church through the Dark Ages…[It] effectively prevented the advance of astronomy for 1,500 years."
Historians of science such as J.L. Heilbron, Alistair Cameron Crombie, David Lindberg, Edward Grant, Thomas Goldstein, and Ted Davis also have been revising the common notion—the product of black legends say some—that medieval Christianity has had a negative influence in the development of civilization. These historians believe that not only did the monks save and cultivate the remnants of ancient civilization during the barbarian invasions, but the medieval church promoted learning and science through its sponsorship of many universities which, under its leadership, grew rapidly in Europe in the 11th and 12th centuries, St. Thomas Aquinas, the Church's "model theologian", not only argued that reason is in harmony with faith, he even recognized that reason can contribute to understanding revelation, and so encouraged intellectual development. He was not unlike other medieval theologians who sought out reason in the effort to defend his faith. Some of today's scholars, such as Stanley Jaki, have claimed that Christianity with its particular worldview, was a crucial factor for the emergence of modern science.
David C. Lindberg states that the widespread popular belief that the Middle Ages was a time of ignorance and superstition due to the Christian church is a "caricature". According to Lindberg, while there are some portions of the classical tradition which suggest this view, these were exceptional cases. It was common to tolerate and encourage critical thinking about the nature of the world. The relation between Christianity and science is complex, according to Lindberg. Lindberg reports that "the late medieval scholar rarely experienced the coercive power of the church and would have regarded himself as free (particularly in the natural sciences) to follow reason and observation wherever they led. There was no warfare between science and the church." Ted Peters in Encyclopedia of Religion writes that although there is some truth in the "Galileo's condemnation" story but through exaggerations, it has now become "a modern myth perpetuated by those wishing to see warfare between science and religion who were allegedly persecuted by an atavistic and dogma-bound ecclesiastical authority". In 1992, the Catholic Church's seeming vindication of Galileo attracted much comment in the media.
The earliest objections to incarnation come from Celsus and Porphyry. Celsus found it hard to reconcile Christian human God who was born and matured with his Jewish God who was supposed to be one and unchanging. He asked "if God wanted to reform humanity, why did he choose to descend and live on earth? How his brief presence in Jerusalem could benefit all the millions of people who lived elsewhere in the world or who had lived and died before his incarnation?"
One classical response is Lewis's trilemma, a syllogism popularised by C. S. Lewis that intended to demonstrate the logical inconsistency of both holding Jesus of Nazareth to be a "great moral teacher" while also denying his divinity. The logical soundness of this trilemma has been widely questioned.
Christianity has been criticized as seeking to persuade people into accepting its authority through simple fear of punishment or, conversely, through hope of reward after death, rather than through rational argumentation or empirical evidence. Traditional Christian doctrine dictates that, without faith in Jesus Christ or in the Christian faith in general, one is subject to eternal punishment in Hell.
Critics regard the eternal punishment of those who fail to adopt Christian faith as morally objectionable, and consider it an abhorrent picture of the nature of the world. On a similar theme objections are made against the perceived injustice of punishing a person for all eternity for a temporal crime. Some Christians agree (see Annihilationism and Trinitarian Universalism). These beliefs have been considered especially repugnant when the claimed omnipotent God makes, or allows a person to come into existence, with a nature that desires that which God finds objectionable.
In the Abrahamic religions, Hell has traditionally been regarded as a punishment for wrongdoing or sin in this life, as a manifestation of divine justice. As in the problem of evil, some apologists argue that the torments of Hell are attributable not to a defect in God's benevolence, but in human free will. Although a benevolent God would prefer to see everyone saved, he would also allow humans to control their own destinies. This view opens the possibility of seeing Hell not as retributive punishment, but rather as an option that God allows, so that people who do not wish to be with God are not forced to be. C. S. Lewis most famously proposed this view in his book The Great Divorce, saying: "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.'"
Hell is not seen as strictly a matter of retributive justice even by the more traditionalist churches. For example, the Eastern Orthodox see it as a condition brought about by, and the natural consequence of, free rejection of God's love. The Roman Catholic Church teaches that hell is a place of punishment brought about by a person's self exclusion from communion with God. In some ancient Eastern Orthodox traditions, Hell and Heaven are distinguished not spatially, but by the relation of a person to God's love.
Some modern critics of the doctrine of Hell (such as Marilyn McCord Adams) claim that, even if Hell is seen as a choice rather than as punishment, it would be unreasonable for God to give such flawed and ignorant creatures as humans the awesome responsibility of their eternal destinies. Jonathan Kvanvig, in his book, The Problem of Hell, agrees that God would not allow one to be eternally damned by a decision made under the wrong circumstances. For instance, one should not always honor the choices of human beings, even when they are full adults, if, for instance, the choice is made while depressed or careless. On Kvanvig's view, God will abandon no person until they have made a settled, final decision, under favorable circumstances, to reject God, but God will respect a choice made under the right circumstances. Once a person finally and competently chooses to reject God, out of respect for the person's autonomy, God allows them to be annihilated.
The Catholic Church teaches that baptism is a necessity. In the 5th century, St. Augustine concluded that infants who die without baptism were consigned to hell. By the 13th century, theologians referred to the "limbo of infants" as a place where unbaptized babies were deprived of the vision of God, but did not suffer because they did not know of that which they were deprived, and moreover enjoyed perfect natural happiness. The 1983 Code of Canon Law (1183 §2) specifies that "Children whose parents had intended to have them baptized but who died before baptism, may be allowed church funeral rites by the local ordinary". In 2007, the 30-member International Theological Commission revisited the concept of limbo. However, the commission also said that hopefulness was not the same as certainty about the destiny of such infants. Rather, as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1257, "God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments." Hope in the mercy of God is not the same as certainty through the sacraments, but it is not without result, as demonstrated in Jesus' statement to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:42-43.
The idea of atonement for sin is criticized by Richard Dawkins on the grounds that the image of God as requiring the suffering and death of Jesus to effect reconciliation with humankind is immoral. The view is summarized by Dawkins: "if God wanted to forgive our sins, why not just forgive them? Who is God trying to impress?" Oxford theologian Alister McGrath maintains that Dawkins is "ignorant" of Christian theology, and therefore unable to engage religion and faith intelligently. He goes on to say that the atonement was necessary because of our flawed human nature, which made it impossible for us to save ourselves, and that it expresses God's love for us by removing the sin that stands in the way of our reconciliation with God. Responding to the criticism that he is "ignorant" of theology, Dawkins asks, "Do you have to read up on leprechology before disbelieving in leprechauns?" and "[y]es, I have, of course, met this point before. It sounds superficially fair. But it presupposes that there is something in Christian theology to be ignorant about. The entire thrust of my position is that Christian theology is a non-subject." Dinesh D'Souza says that Dawkins' criticism "only makes sense if you assume Christians made the whole thing up." He goes on to say that Christians view it as a beautiful sacrifice, and that "through the extremity of Golgotha, Christ reconciles divine justice and divine mercy." Andrew Wilson argues that Dawkins misses the point of the atonement, which has nothing to do with masochism, but is based on the concepts of holiness, sin and grace.
Robert Green Ingersoll suggests that the concept of the atonement is simply an extension of the Mosaic tradition of blood sacrifice and "is the enemy of morality". The death of Jesus Christ represents the blood sacrifice to end all blood sacrifices; the resulting mechanism of atonement by proxy through that final sacrifice has appeal as a more convenient and much less costly approach to redemption than repeated animal sacrifice—a common sense solution to the problem of reinterpreting ancient religious approaches based on sacrifice.
The prominent Christian apologist Josh McDowell, in More Than A Carpenter, addresses the issue through an analogy of a real-life judge in California who was forced to fine his daughter $100 for speeding, but then came down, took off his robe, and paid the fine for her from his billfold, though as in this and other cases, illustrations are only cautiously intended to describe certain aspects of the atonement.
Several verses in the New Testament appear to contain Jesus' predictions that the Second Coming would take place within a century following his death. Jesus appears to promise for his followers the second coming to happen before the generation he is preaching to vanishes. This is seen as an essential failure in the teachings of Christ by many critics such as Bertrand Russell.
However, Preterists argue that Jesus did not mean his second coming
Most Christian traditions teach belief in life after death as a central and indispensable tenet of their faith. Critics argue that the Christian conception of the afterlife is inconsistent with that described in the Old Testament. George E. Mendenhall believes there is no concept of immortality or life after death in the Old Testament. The presumption is that the deceased are inert, lifeless, and engaging in no activity. However, two men, Enoch and Elijah, are taken into the afterlife without ever experiencing death.
The idea of Sheol ("שׁאול") or a state of nothingness was shared among Babylonian and Israelite beliefs. "Sheol, as it was called by the ancient Israelites, is the land of no return, lying below the cosmic ocean, to which all, the mighty and the weak, travel in the ghostly form they assume after death, known as Raphraim. There the dead have no experience of either joy or pain, perceiving no light, feeling no movement." Obayshi alludes that the Israelites were satisfied with such a shadowy realm of afterlife because they were more deeply concerned with survival.
Some critics[who?] charge that the belief in an afterlife is an innovation of Christianity, perhaps by admixture with Greek philosophy; however, by the 1st century such a belief was already prevalent in Jewish thinking among the Pharisees and Essenes. The themes of unity and sheol which largely shaped the ancient tradition of Judaism had been undermined when only the most pious of Jews were being massacred during the Maccabean revolt.
David Kinnaman, president of the Barna Institute, and Gabe Lyons of the Fermi Project published a study of attitudes of 16- to 29-year-old Americans towards Christianity. They found that about 38% of all those who were not regular churchgoers had negative impressions of Christianity, and especially evangelical Christianity, associating it with conservative political activism, hypocrisy, anti-homosexuality, authoritarianism, and judgmentalism. About 17% had "very bad" perceptions of Christianity.
Nazi ideology was hostile to Christianity and clashed with Christian beliefs in many respects. Nazism saw Christian ideals of meekness and conscience as obstacles to the violent instincts required to defeat other races. The Nazis opposed Catholic teachings against racism, euthanasia and eugenics.
Aggressive anti-Church radicals like Joseph Goebbels and Martin Bormann saw the conflict with the Churches as a priority concern, and anti-church and anti-clerical sentiments were strong among grassroots party activists. According to biographer Alan Bullock, Hitler, who had been raised Catholic, retained some regard for the organisational power of Catholicism - but had utter contempt for its central teachings, which he said, if taken to their conclusion, "would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure".:
In Hitler's eyes, Christianity was a religion fit only for slaves; he detested its ethics in particular. Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest.
Joseph Goebbels, the Minister for Propaganda, was among the most aggressive anti-Church Nazi radicals. In 1928, soon after his election to the Reichstag, Goebbels wrote in his diary that National Socialism was a "religion" that needed a genius to uproot "outmoded religious practices" and put new ones in their place: "One day soon National Socialism will be the religion of all Germans. My Party is my church, and I believe I serve the Lord best if I do his will, and liberate my oppressed people from the fetters of slavery. That is my gospel." Goebbels led the Nazi persecution of the German Catholic clergy and, as the war progressed, on the "Church Question", he wrote "after the war it has to be generally solved... There is, namely, an insoluble opposition between the Christian and a heroic-German world view".
Hitler's chosen deputy and private secretary, Martin Bormann, was a rigid guardian of National Socialist orthodoxy and saw Christianity and Nazism as "incompatible" (mainly because of its Jewish origins), as did the official Nazi philosopher, Alfred Rosenberg. In his "Myth of the Twentieth Century" (1930), Rosenberg wrote that the main enemies of the Germans were the "Russian Tartars" and "Semites" - with "Semites" including Christians, especially the Catholic Church.
According to Bullock, Hitler considered the Protestant clergy to be "insignificant" and "submissive" and lacking in a religion to be taken seriously. Kershaw wrote that the subjugation of the Protestant churches proved more difficult than Hitler had envisaged however. With 28 separate regional churches, his bid to create a unified Reich Church through Gleichschaltung ultimately failed, and Hitler became disinterested in supporting the so-called "German Christians" Nazi aligned movement. Hitler initially lent support to Ludwig Muller, a Nazi and former naval chaplain, to serve as Reich Bishop, but his heretical views against St Paul and the Semitic origins of Christ and the Bible (see Positive Christianity) quickly alienated sections of the Protestant church. Pastor Martin Neimoller responded with the Pastors Emergency League which re-affirmed the Bible. The movement grew into the Confessing Church, from which some clergymen opposed the Nazi regime. Neimoller was arrested by the Gestapo in 1937, and sent to the Concentration Camps. The Confessing Church seminary was prohibited that same year.
Gaudium et Spes claims that the example of Christians may be a contributory factor to atheism, writing, "…believers can have more than a little to do with the birth of atheism. To the extent that they neglect their own training in the faith, or teach erroneous doctrine, or are deficient in their religious, moral, or social life, they must be said to conceal rather than reveal the authentic face of God and religion."
Secular and religious critics have accused many Christians of being hypocritical. For instance, although marital fidelity and family values are arguably central to Christian morality (see Christian views on divorce), a study by the Barna Research Group has shown that divorce rates among Evangelical Christians were higher than for other faith groups, and also trended higher than the rate of divorce among atheists and agnostics. Tom Whiteman, a Philadelphia psychologist found that the primary reasons for Christian divorce include adultery, abuse (including substance, physical and verbal abuse), and abandonment whereas the number one reason cited for divorce in the general population was incompatibility. Issues of hypocrisy in general within Christianity come in a variety of forms.
Conservative Christians are often accused of being intolerant by secular humanists and liberal Christians, claiming that they oppose science that seems to contradict scripture (Creationism, use of birth control, research into embryonic stem cells, etc.), liberal democracy (separation of church and state), and progressive social policies (rights of people of other races and religions, of women, and of people with different sexual orientations).
|This section's factual accuracy is disputed. (January 2013)|
According to Mahatma Gandhi, the materialism of western Christians is in contradiction to the teachings of Jesus Christ; that it is not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time. (see also Prosperity gospel)
I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ. The materialism of affluent Christian countries appears to contradict the claims of Jesus Christ that says it's not possible to worship both Mammon and God at the same time.
— Mahatma Gandhi
Some have argued that Christianity is undermined by the inability of Christians to agree on matters of faith and church governance, and the tendency for the content of their faith to be determined by regional or political factors. Schopenhauer sarcastically suggests:
Christians respond that Ecumenism has helped bring together such communities, where in the past mistranslations of Christological Greek terms may have resulted in seemingly different views. Non-denominational Christianity represents another approach towards reducing the divisions within Christianity, although many Christian groups claiming to be non-denominational wind up with similar problems.
Individuals and groups throughout history have been persecuted by certain Christians (and Christian groups) based upon sex, sexual orientation, race, and religion (even within the bounds of Christianity itself). Many of the persecutors attempted to justify their actions with particular scriptural interpretations. During Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, important Christian theologians advocated religious persecution to varying degrees. However, Early modern Europe witnessed a turning point in the Christian debate on persecution and toleration. Nowadays all significant Christian denominations embrace religious toleration, and "look back on centuries of persecution with a mixture of revulsion and incomprehension".
Early Christianity was a minority religion in the Roman Empire and the early Christians were themselves persecuted during that time. After Constantine I converted to Christianity, it became the dominant religion in the Roman Empire. Already under the reign of Constantine I, Christian heretics had been persecuted; beginning in the late 4th century AD also the ancient pagan religions were actively suppressed. In the view of many historians, the Constantinian shift turned Christianity from a persecuted into a persecuting religion.
After the decline of the Roman Empire, the further Christianization of Europe was to a large extent peaceful. However, encounters between Christians and Pagans were sometimes confrontational, and some Christian kings (Charlemagne, Olaf I of Norway) were known for their violence against pagans. In the late Middle Ages, the appearance of the Cathars and Bogomils in Europe laid the stage for the later witch-hunts. These (probably gnostic-influenced) sects were seen as heretics by the Catholic Church, and the Inquisition was established to counter them.
After the Protestant Reformation, the devastation caused by the partly religiously motivated wars (Thirty Years' War, English Civil War, French Wars of Religion) in Europe in the 17th century gave rise to the ideas of Religious toleration, Freedom of religion and Religious pluralism.
Christians will sometimes point out that in their points of view, the wrongdoings of other Christians are not the fault of their religious scriptures but of those who have wrongly interpreted it. They posit that the mistakes of Christians do not refute the validity of their teachings, but merely proves their weakness and sinful nature, of which they then turn to Christ. Thus, according to them, the "Word of God" can still be true and valid without it having been accurately followed. According to Ron Sider, an Evangelical theologian, "The tragedy is that poll after poll by Gallup and Barna show that evangelicals live just like the world. Contrast that with what the New Testament says about what happens when people come to living faith in Christ. There's supposed to be radical transformation in the power of the Holy Spirit(2 Cor 5:17, 1 Cor 10:13). The disconnect between our biblical beliefs and our practice is just, I think, heart-rending."
Similar arguments are held by Roman Catholics against critics of the Catholic Church, or by other Christians defending their respective Churches. of the Church's structure. Roman Catholics will argue that Popes who were corrupt in the Middle Ages is not the fault of the position of the Papacy or of the fact that there are obedient Priests lower in the hierarchy, but the fault of the individual people who act as "God's representative on Earth". Such examples can be seen in Dante's Divine Comedy, where Roman Catholic Clergy who had practiced simony find themselves in the lower circles of hell.
||The neutrality of this section is disputed. (March 2013)|
Some have argued that Christianity is not founded on a historical Jesus, but rather on a mythical creation. This view proposes that the idea of Jesus was the Jewish manifestation of Hellenistic mystery cults that acknowledged the non-historic nature of their deity using it instead as a teaching device. Author Brian Branston has argued that Christianity adopted many mythological tales and traditions into its views of Jesus. According to Branston these traditions, largely from Greco-Roman religions, have parallels to the story of Jesus. However, the position that Jesus was not a historical figure is essentially without support among biblical scholars and classical historians, most of whom regard its arguments as examples of pseudo-scholarship. 
Scholars and historians such as James H. Charlesworth, caution against using parallels with life-death-rebirth gods in the widespread mystery religions prevalent in the Hellenistic culture to conclude that Jesus is a purely legendary figure. Charlesworth argues that "it would be foolish to continue to foster the illusion that the Gospels are merely fictional stories like the legends of Hercules and Asclepius. The theologies in the New Testament are grounded on interpretations of real historical events…" Similarly, the existence of the category of life-death-rebirth gods is questioned by mainstream scholarship.
For Acts, the confirmation of historicity is overwhelming. Yet Acts is, in simple terms and judged externally, no less of a propaganda narrative than the Gospels, liable to similar distortions. But any attempt to reject its basic historicity, even in matters of detail, must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted…. The agnostic type of form-criticism would be much more credible if the compilation of the Gospels were much later in time…. Herodotus enables us to test the tempo of myth-making, [showing that] even two generations are too short a span to allow the mythical tendency to prevail over the hard historic core.
— Roman Society and Roman Law in the New Testament. Oxford: Clarendon Press (1963), pp. 189-190.
A classic response to the criticism of the relations between Greco-Roman mythology and Christianity is that of J. R. R. Tolkien and subsequently C. S. Lewis, who considered that just because a story was a myth does not preclude it from also having taken place as a historical event. Pagan myths can be seen as prefiguring the life and death of Christ, but without detracting from their historical and religious significance. Lewis even went so far as to suggest that the existence of these Pagan myths lend Christianity credibility, as their existence might reflect God's hidden watch over all human history and his influence on the collective subconscious in the form of "good dreams" and premonitions. Lewis states that he would be far more doubtful of the reality of a supposed historical event of the magnitude of the Atonement if humanity had neglected to anticipate it in any way. A similar approach is used in justifying the Gospels, whose own similarities, yet in lacking exactness of words, point to a common "truth" arrived at separately by the four evangelists.
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