Yesterday David Parker provided us with a link to “triablogue“. Once there I read this:
“While atheism is wicked, I truly appreciated Azrienoch’s logical rigor and consistency. His analysis only confirms what I’ve been saying for years, which goes something like this: If you are logically consistent and want to have a worldview that can ground rationality and provide an indubitable moral basis to be rational, then there is only one worldview that you can adhere to in the end: Biblical Christianity.”
Yoiks! This is wrong on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin. The problems begin when we simply try to figure out what the claim actually is. So what are the beliefs one must hold to have the worldview of “biblical Christianity”? Well there are two words here for our consideration: biblical, and Christianity. First off, the only rational worldview according to this author is a biblical one. What is that supposed to mean? It could mean holding the set of beliefs held by one of the authors of the Bible. Or maybe we should also extend it to the beliefs of one of the main characters in the Bible that plays for the home team. (Thus Herod the Great probably doesn’t get included. Neither does Jezebel. Although maybe they did have a biblical worldview and they just didn’t live according to their beliefs. It’s hard to say.)
But surely it couldn’t mean that. For one thing, the authors and main characters in the Bible held very different beliefs. The set of beliefs about theology, history, culture, and the natural world held by Abraham or Moses or David is very different from the set of beliefs held by Paul or Timothy or Mary. So if there is one set of core beliefs about the ultimate constituents of reality and the structure of the natural world that a person must hold to be rational (because a worldview is at least that) then the various authors and characters of scripture couldn’t have held a biblical worldview because they differed. Abraham was a polytheist who came to worship Yahweh alone. Paul was a monotheist. Abraham didn’t hold the belief that God could be incarnate (or at least one person who is God could). Paul apparently did. So with whom should we throw in our lot? Which one of these sets of beliefs is rational?
The reference to “Christianity” helps us narrow this down a bit. Perhaps then the only rational biblical worldview for us today is the one that was held by New Testament figures and characters post-Jesus in the fledgling Christian church. This would help us with the diversity problem because it would narrow us to Paul and Timothy and Mary. So the only rational worldview is that held by Paul and other New Testament, early church Christians. And that’s the worldview of biblical Christianity that we should hold as well.
I’m confused. What does this mean for many of the beliefs in our worldview? Science, for instance. Did Paul accept the atomic theory of matter, the germ theory of disease and plate tectonics? I don’t think so. Actually, I’m pretty sure he didn’t. But that is part of the worldview of the moderately scientifically literate denizen of the western world. That person probably also believes that democracy is the best way for citizenry to govern their affairs. And he is also likely an advocate of the free market, perhaps with a dash of socialism as we see in the mixed economies of the western world. These beliefs about science, politics and economics are pretty basic and thus constitute part of one’s worldview. But they weren’t part of Paul’s. So should we retrogress? Could this author really mean that Paul’s three storied universe and Roman governance and economy is really the way we should believe and organize ourselves today? Surely not.
I suspect that when this author says the only rational worldview is “Biblical Christianity” what he probably means is the only rational worldview is one which includes a set of theological beliefs consistent with and derived from those held by the authors and main figures of the New Testament church. So let’s try that out.
This author apparently believes that there was not significant disagreement among New Testament Christians. But that is very far from obvious. Did Paul and James (brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem church) see eye to eye on the role of the law in the church? There certainly is much rational room to doubt this. (And remember, all we need to throw a wrench into the author’s claim is to point out rational grounds for dissent.) But if they didn’t agree, or at least if we have reasonable grounds to think it possible that they didn’t agree, then which one was the biblical Christian? Needless to say there are other possible areas of disagreement as well. For example, would James have agreed with the christology packed into the Gospel of John? Maybe, but possibly not.
At the very least, it would surely be naive to deny that there is not development in the New Testament church’s theology. For instance, there is a pretty big gap between the tacit adoptionism of Peter’s preaching in Acts 2:36 (“Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”) and the lofty declaration of John 1:1 (In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.) And this development carries seamlessly from the close of the NT period into the early church. Thus the christology of Justin Martyr, or Athanasius, or Cyril, or John Calvin, is different than that of James and John. And this means in part that there are certain important claims about the incarnation and atonement on which Peter the Apostle, John the Apostle, James, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Cyril and John Calvin would have disagreed.
So then let’s try this. Maybe “Biblical Christianity” is constituted by the set of core theological claims on which all these Christians would have agreed. Maybe we should listen to Vincent of Lerins on this point when he famously declared: “Now in the Catholic Church itself we take the greatest care to hold that which has been believed everywhere, always and by all.” Oh yeah, it’s just that simple. And please show me that set of beliefs, you know the set of essential beliefs on which Peter the Apostle, John the Apostle, James, Justin Martyr, Athanasius, Cyril, John Calvin, Vincent of Lerins, and the author at Triablogue all agree is essential, necessary and sufficient to have the worldview of “Biblical Christianity.”
And so finally my conclusion. We can’t even provide a meaningful definition for what “the worldview of Biblical Christianity” is, so it seems a bit overreaching to say this is the only rational worldview. Sadly, the author of Triablogue appears to be doing nothing more than providing empty rhetorical bluster to perpetuate the delusion that only he, and those who agree with him, are rational.