Thursday, July 27, 2017

An Atheist's Take on the Sermon on the Mount

I read this article on the National Catholic Register site commenting on a post made by atheist philosopher Daniel Fincke called "The Evils of the Sermon on the Mount (Part 1)". Dave Armstrong does a good job in his article of showing the flaws in Dr. Fincke's post, but I wanted to add my overall impression of his attempt to critique Jesus. I will do it by analogy, but before I start, I want to stress that I am not attempting to insult Dr. Fincke's intelligence because I think he is clearly a very intelligent and learned philosopher. Instead, I want to show that as someone who has studied the Bible and theology in an attempt to follow Jesus now for over 37 years, I am as unimpressed by Dr. Fincke's analysis as a mathematician would be by what my fictional character Joe thinks about geometry.

Imagine a young man named Joe, who dropped out of high school after he failed several courses, including geometry. Joe is an intelligent young man with obvious artistic talent, but he considers school to be a waste of his time, so he blew off his school work, and that is why he failed.

Joe obtained a copy of his geometry textbook and proceeded to transform the various diagrams in the book into dirty pictures. He got together with his buddies who have a similar attitude towards education, and they all had a great laugh at Joe's creations, and they celebrated Joe's emancipation from the stupidity of school. Emboldened by the approval of his peers, Joe sought out his geometry teacher and showed him what he had done, saying, "this is what I think of your stupid, useless class, and all of my friends agree with me."

Of course, Joe's drawings did nothing to lessen his teacher's love for geometry. Instead, the teacher was saddened for several reasons. Joe completely missed the point of geometry and never saw it's beauty. He defaced a fine textbook for a noble subject and turned it into something vulgar. Although Joe feels liberated right now, he doesn't understand the future hardships he will face due to his lack of education. Finally, Joe is not only hurting himself, but he is dragging down his friends with him by using his talents to ridicule education.

Dr. Finke uses his intelligence and education to produce a finely crafted critique of the Sermon on the Mount, but he completely misunderstands Jesus. Although it is clear from the comments that his fellow atheists are impressed by his work, he has done nothing to change my view of Jesus. Instead, I am sad that he doesn't get it and that he is dragging others down with him. However, there is one positive thing about Dr. Finke's article. It shows that Jesus is not like the progressives of today who would like to think that Jesus is on their side. No, Jesus is calling his disciples to a supernatural life that goes way beyond progressive niceness. The love of Jesus warmly receives the sinner, but instead of affirming him in his sinfulness, Jesus calls him to holiness.

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