[ExI] What is Christianity

Dan dan_ust at yahoo.com
Fri Jun 12 18:45:41 UTC 2009

--- On Thu, 6/11/09, Stefano Vaj <stefano.vaj at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 10:23 PM, Dan<dan_ust at yahoo.com>
> wrote:
>> Okay, but then there's a bigger problem here: what
>> does it mean?  Obviously, if you're going to ask people who
>> call themselves Christians today and throughout history,
>> what they mean by being Christians, the answers are going to
>> vary a lot.
> Why don't we take the easy road? A triangle is a polygon
> with three
> angles, even though in some contexts people may find it
> funny to call
> triangles polygons with four sides, or it may also refer to
> one's dog nickname.

It's not really the easy road in terms of understanding reality.  There are people who call themselves Christians.  They advocate and act on specific views.  You have an idea of what Christianity means and it differs from the views they mouth.  Why is your idea better than theirs? 
> By convention, we call christians, communists, nazis,
> libertarians,
> transhumanists, etc. those who have a plausible claim to
> embody a
> philologically and historically acceptable meaning of the
> word.

And what exactly is that?  Does Monophystism or Nestorianism have less claim to the title "Christian" than, say, Catholicism?

> And
> everybody understands that if you are at odd with the
> legacy of the
> dominant confessions, dissent  on the basis of
> external influences
> with those who are the most motivated n your camp, and feel
> the need
> to "reinterpret" your heritage to accomodate it better to
> such
> infuences or to your personal taste, do not really
> represent what
> instituted the christian (communist, transhumanist, etc.)
> identity, as
> we know it, in the first place

I'm not arguing, again, about people who adopt the label, but actually are working against what they know to be the doctrine.  I'm asking what exactly is the doctrine.  Looking to -- gasp! -- Wikipedia:


You'll find people like Origen disagreeing with a literal interpretation.  (I've had, but have yet to read his _Against Celsus_.  I particularly want to read this one because he does a pretty much line by line rejoinder to Celsus, quoting, I believe, the whole of the latter's now lost work.)  Was Origen a Christian?  Not if we follow your view.
> Sure, the dominant sense of a given terminology can evolve,
> or split:
> the marxist socialism of Rosa Luxembourg is not exactly the
> same thing
> as that of the national- variety of Alfred Rosenberg.

But if you agree with that, which seems to be a way of sidestepping your former "essentialist" approach, then how would justify your view of Christianity (and presumably Judaism and Islam) as a religion based on certain sacred books?  Are you sure the "dominant sense" of Christianity (or of Judaism or Islam; of course, they might differ) is scriptural literalism?  I think it's not -- and maybe not because most so called members of that community are watering down their doctrine.

To be sure, most of them probably don't know it.  I often find it strange, e.g., when talking to Christians that they can't tell me how many books there are in their Bible (I'm talking about members of mainstream sects) or name the four Gospels.  If the Bible is supposed to be their doctrine, then that they don't follow it -- thank someone for that! -- literally probably has less to do with them reading it, deciding that it's not to their taste, and setting aside the stuff about stoning adulterers and destroying cities of those worshipping other gods.  It's probably just because they never read or thought of this as their doctrine in the first place.

And, again, I'm not sure this is out of dishonesty.  I doubt they even frame it that way.

I also think what we have here too is a movement that arose as a Jewish heresy that probably didn't have a hard doctrinal core -- or, if it did, it didn't survive.

> And in the
> latter case we are forced to indicate specifically what we
> intend to refer to.

This is exactly why I "indicate specifically" Biblical literalists by using the term "Biblical literalist" and not "Christianity" -- to make just a distinction between the literalists and the non-literalists.  (And I'm trying to use the term neutrally -- not arguing that literalists are truer Christians while the non-literalists, like Origen, are wishy washy liars who just aren't willing to take their position to where you think it should go.)

> But the endless late-XX-century dining-room games on
> whether the
> "real" X may actually be the opposite of what has always
> meant X to
> most people are exercises in futility, IMHO.

I don't think so, though it might be more helpful, when looking at these people, just to ask them what their views are.  One might point out that the views they hold or the actions they take are at odds with what you believe to be the essence of their faith.




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