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Home School College

Note: a more thorough review of Esolen’s book is coming very soon.

Thanks to Ben Franklin, it has always been possible to home-school yourself to a college education. Libraries let you walk right in, take any book (or nearly so) off the shelf, and read it. And you can do this over and over. What an astonishing privilege! And they don’t charge for it!

Alas, the weakness in this system is all too apparent. Rather, there are two weaknesses. One, reading is increasingly passé; or, rather, reading is returning to its more historic status of being an unusual activity. Two, and more important, it’s hard to discover what to read.

Imagine walking into a well appointed university library and pulling down a journal, any journal. Daniel Lattier reminds us you might be horrified to find yourself reading “Brides and Blemishes: Queering Women’s Disability in Rabbinic Marriage Law” or “Misfit Messengers: Indigenous Religious Traditions and Climate Change”. Not only would you not learn anything, you’d come away damaged.

Or you might find “Lensing substructure quantification in RXJ1131-1231: A 2 keV lower bound on dark matter thermal relict mass“, a fine entry in astrophysics but a paper which is sure to be opaque to all but a handful of men. Still, since there is truth here, even the most untutored reader will take something away from an earnest attempt at reading; at least the appreciation that some are reaching for the stars. Though this would not be the place to begin learning about the heavens.

Or, worse, you discover a textbook, a book written—nay: designed—with the purpose of teaching students (see the late Kenneth Minogue’s The Concept of a University for a cutting critique of textbooks). Books with lots of colors, cartoons, bullet points, and words drained of all beauty aimed at the lower range of intellectual abilities. As if this “dumbing down” is helpful. Incidentally, if this principle were applied to art, it would be the same as if we showed students who couldn’t paint only hand-drawn cartoons instead of showing them the Mona Lisa on the theory that since these unable students can’t produce such works, and can’t understand the whole of them, they wouldn’t understand a part of them.

Now it used to be that “the basics” were known by, if not most, then by a fair number. One knew who to query. “What books should I read in history?” asked of the, say, bank manager or even middle school teacher would brings answers like, “You can’t go far wrong starting with Thucydides” or “A boy your age would love Plutarch’s Lives.” Try it now and you’ll hear, “Why don’t you Google it” or you’ll be recommended a list where the demographic characteristics of the authors has the utmost political correctness, a list chosen by some obscure national committee, itself demographically balanced and ideologically correct, and containing works nobody reads, or should.

The meager point made here (to be expanded greatly in time), to amplify the much greater point made by Fr Schall in the video above, is that, except in rare instances, we can no longer count on colleges and universities to guide students toward the Truth. Esolen: “Whorehouses and mental wards would be much cheaper. They might well be healthier, too.”

“The great books contradict each other,” says Schall. Which is why mere reading of the Great Books is not enough. A philosophical grounding is a necessity. That grounding requires a guide, an authority, and that authority must rely on Truth. Reading on one’s own without direction might work, but it won’t be easy. Which is, of course, why colleges were created, to provide the guides and the direction required. But what do we do when colleges have given up Truth?

This has ties to the matters roiling the Church, incidentally. For years, sinners like myself relied on our on consciences to decide how to act. But since everything, at least is the moment, seems like a good, nothing ever seems wrong. You therefore can’t let people decide for themselves what is right, because you’re apt to arrive at as many definitions of “right” as there are people. You clearly would not look to a statistician blogger for the definition, but you should look to an authority. Which is why it is so strange that many Church leaders are refusing their duty to uphold Truth.

Schall says that his title, How to Get an Education Even While in College, “implies that hundreds of thousands of highly degreed people are nonetheless mostly uneducated in the highest things even if they are degreed from the best and most expensive institutes of higher learning. It is quite possible to attend, what I call, the resumé university or the highest tuition college, to acquire there a straight-A GPA on all of the 128 credits that guarantee a student a liberal education; and yet, most still come away with an empty soul; to become what CS Lewis called them, ‘Men Without Chests.'”

The partial solution to this is to follow men like Schall, at universities that still house them, or elsewhere if not.

15 thoughts on “Home School College Leave a comment

  1. …reading is increasingly passé; or, rather, reading is returning to its more historic status of being an unusual activity.
    Possibly. But vinyl records are making a comeback. Sales last year passed $1B. Still small compared to streaming, but maybe an indicator of that yearning for the past so earnestly expressed by the James Earl Jones character near the end of the movie, Field of Dreams. (“It’s money they’ve got; It’s memories they want.” OTOH, the rising numbers of self-publishing authors shows reading might remain more than a niche hobby.

    … and more important, it’s hard to discover what to read.
    Bingo.

  2. There are some alternatives being formulated for confronting the growing trends towards irrationality and secularism, along with the future of Catholic higher education.

    Read the essay in the September, 2016 issue off “New Oxford Review,” entitled “Why We Need a New Model for Catholic Higher Education,” along with two responses to the essay in “Letters to the Editor” in the November issue by Dr. Jude Dougherty and Dr. Dennis McInerny, in a final exchange with the original essay’s author, Dr. Michael Ewbank.

  3. Briggs says:

    “…we can no longer count on colleges and universities to guide students toward the Truth.”

    — and when could we count on colleges and universities to guide students toward the Truth? Since those institutions came into being what constitutes “Truth” has ever shifted.

    RE: ““The great books contradict each other,” says Schall.”
    — always have, always will. The likes of Bart Ehrman have made a fortune pointing out just the contradictions in the Bible. Lesser known include Alan Dundes (cozy up with your Bible and his “Holy Writ as Oral Lit,” its a thin book and see for yourself — Dundes is using the Bible as the entirety of his focus).

    CONTINUING: “Which is why mere reading of the Great Books is not enough. A philosophical grounding is a necessity. That grounding requires a guide, an authority, and that authority must rely on Truth.”

    — Which “Truth”???

    That is itself a profound question Briggs and many others keep sidestepping.

    Consider Roman Catholicism vs most Protestant religions — “Christians” one & all citing the same, or mostly the same reference (exactly what constitutes the “Bible” itself is a point of disagreement between Catholics and pretty much all other “Christians). Setting aside the fact that what is and isn’t in the Bible itself, where they do agree they reach profound points of basic disagreement:

    – Catholics accept evolution; many/most Protestants cannot
    – Catholics accept a multi-billion year Earth & universe; many/most Protestants assert 6000 yrs (and no more) while others go to 10,000 yrs (and no more) — and of this ilk (30-40 percent of the U.S. population by varying estimates) there is not only no room for debate, but insistence that sciences like geology, biology, and so forth, be force-fit to their conception of reality.

    Just those two seemingly non-theological/-philosophical themes have significant impact on what is, and is not, taught in elementary schools, which elementary school texts are used, and what the curriculum will be. The non-Catholic outlook on reality has been held in check by the courts, somewhat, since the Scopes Monkey Trial.

    Never mind that some “Christian” denominations (e.g. some Episcopalians) have interpreted the Bible to accommodate gay clergy…

    And those three (evolution, age of the Earth/universe/humanity, and gay clergy) are just the major topics seen in the press, there are many other lesser issues of irreconcilable disagreement (e.g. baptism must be by immersion, or not; faith must be accompanied by works, or not; and, so on and so on).

    So when Briggs & Fr Schall say we need a Truth-based philosophical foundation, the obvious question — since they both mean a “Christian” philosophy & “Truth” — is which “Truth”?

    Which “Christian” doctrine?
    Which “Christian” reality?
    Which resulting “Christian” philosophy?
    All these “Truths” are points of disagreement with significant implications.
    All these “Truths” are based on nearly the same but not quite Bible
    And just those “Truths” are mutually exclusive and irreconcilable.
    That establishes beyond any doubt that many/most of those “Truths” are falsehoods.
    All of them may be false.

    Briggs tells us his meager discussion today is “to be expanded greatly in time”.

    One can hardly wait. But does anyone think the elephant in the room … which doctrine, which “Truth” is truly true … is going to even be addressed, much less resolved. Of course not. And until that is settled, there can be no settlement based on a proper philosophical grounding. Briggs, Fr Schall, and many others fail to recognize this, for example:

    “You therefore can’t let people decide for themselves what is right, because you’re apt to arrive at as many definitions of “right” as there are people. Which is why it is so strange that many Church leaders are refusing their duty to uphold Truth.”

    The problem isn’t that “Church leaders are refusing their duty to uphold Truth” the problem is that so many Church leaders have concocted too many mutually irreconcilable “Truths” they ARE upholding.

  4. Ken might enjoy St. John Paul II’s “Memory and Identity” (or possibly wouldn’t enjoy it at all – likely one or the other rather than some middle ground), which addresses just the issue of the appearance of “many irreconcilable ‘Truths'” and the consequences of the same.

  5. @Ken

    Ah! The usual fallacy: “Since people have different opinions, there is no Truth, the Truth is not knowable or there can be no settlement based on a proper philosophical grounding”. Of course, it is self-refuting but beyond that…

    It’s curious that it is only used when it comes to Christianity. People have different opinions all the time in all aspects of life. Nobody says: “Since people have different opinion about clitoral ablation (Muslim hadiths recognize the practice), let’s not ban this ancestral practice. Since there is different opinion about different matters, we cannot have laws. Since there are a lot of people that think taxes are not good, let’s not have compulsory taxing.

    It is Cafeteria relativism: your opinion is relative but my opinion is absolute. ¿Catholicism or Protestantism? Everything is relative ¿Do you have a bakery? You must bake a cake for a “gay wedding” because gay rights are absolute.

    You magnify the differences between churches with bombastic sentences as: “just those “Truths” are mutually exclusive and irreconcilable”. But Christian churches agree more than disagree. They agree about the most important things:

    – Truth exists
    – Truth is knowable.
    – God exists.
    – There is an objective moral law exists distinguishing good actions from sins.
    – The list of good actions and sins: the same in all churches.
    – The human being is fallen, that is, he is a sinner.
    – Jesus Christ is God.
    – Jesus Christ is the saviour for our sins.
    – You must have faith in Jesus Christ, pray, study the Bible, confess your sins to God (whether directly or indirectly), try to do good actions.

    (I am a Catholic but I would be glad to send my son to a Calvinist university that teaches that. But commonalities between Catholicism and other churches are much more than that. For example, the content of the Nicene Creed, the role of the Holy Spirit, etc.)

    The different churches disagree about secondary things, such as the role of Virgin Mary (as a Catholic, the role of Virgin Mary in Catholicism is completely optional). The role of good actions in salvation: Catholics say that they have a role, Protestants say that they don’t have a role. But everyone strives to do good actions and behave well. So the difference is mostly theoretical. I don’t think these differences matter anything when it comes to college education. I don’t think a Catholic college and a Luteran college will have diferent teaching when it comes to Philosophy, Antropology, History and so on and so forth.

    About creationism vs theistic evolution, it is a tertiary thing and not a dogma of faith in any Church, whether Catholic or Protestant. In fact, it’s only matter of opinion: the differences are not between Catholic and Protestants, as you say, but between members of the same Church. I am a theistic evolutionist but I would send my son to a Calvinist college teaching young earth creationist if I know a Christian approach is guaranteed.

    At the end, there will be Christian colleges managed by Catholics, Christian colleges managed by Luterans and so on and so forth. Everyone of them grounded on the Truth.

    Do you think Christianity is not the truth? Great, then go to a college that teaches that. But don’t say that other colleges cannot teach Christianity because we have some disagreements. This is a double standard. Secular colleges also have disagreements (for example, in Philosophy) and different approaches.

    (About the commonalities and differences between Christian churches, this a series for the people that know Spanish language. Only two posts have been published so far:

    http://www.thetruthcounts.com/blogtraducciones/2017/03/05/para-eliza-1-que-es-el-cristianismo/

    http://www.thetruthcounts.com/blogtraducciones/2017/04/19/para-eliza-2-las-divisiones-del-cristianismo/
    )

  6. Ken, we both know the Bible, specifically the book of Genesis, doesn’t speak to the age of the universe in anywhere near a rigorous numerical accounting. Speculations by the various branches of religious practice called Christianity are extrapolations way beyond the data by people not interested in establishing a fact, but rather creating “evidence” for a political purpose.

    So the point is that there are not versions of ultimate Truth; only versions of context that may or may not use Truth in their arguments. Until we agree on the definition, we’re talking past each other.

  7. Higher Education after high school – listen to Jack Ma. The question is who is getting prepared during their middle school and high school years (and have the educational sherpas to guide them) to harvest a useful college education from the Internet. Institutional colleges are about to go through a disruption that will totally reshape the education market. It will become increasingly more difficult for the traditional institutions to convince the market that the cost of “better together” is worth the value.

  8. Given the ever-growing complexities of modern life, worldwide urbanization, the stream of global logistics, formal education of some kind remains in order, and if anything, we need much more. Our university system, despite the pining for standard classical education, despite the Luddites and Christian Fundamentalists, remains the envy of the world. Aside from the usual anecdotes of silliness you’d expect from a few of thousands of schools, there are two main problems with that system: it is very expensive, and it is too advanced for American students coming out of high school. There are many ideas addressing the first problem, but the second remains a cultural issue America has always had to face – we’re not the most intellectual of societies.

    The over-emphasis on university education, especially within the institutions themselves, but also by the private sector in how they hire, is probably holding us back from having an even much better system, though many schools and businesses are pretty well out of that box. It’s long and always been known that universities are like little “universes” unto themselves and therefore lack in conveying understanding of the “real world” to the students. But the same could be said of any school, or business, or neighborhood, by the person going, working, or living there long enough.

    But back to the post… “the Truth” (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) is all well and fine for the philosophy student, but other than that… sounds like BS to me. Just another angle on your same target. You want Truth? Our kids need to know their civics. They need to understand how important it is they vote and what their interests are. They need to know what “interests” are in the first place, and to be able decipher those interests, they need to be media savvy. Donald Trump is President of the United States right now. If that doesn’t concern you, then you are stupid. University graduates, I can tell you for certain, are not the reason why that happened.

    The Truth? God ain’t gonna save us from our stupor. We should hold up education, and make it free for any American who can make the grades. Anyone who says otherwise, just reply, “Trump. You idiot.”

    JMJ

  9. Since those institutions came into being what constitutes “Truth” has ever shifted.

    Is that true?

    Actually, it may not be the Truth that has shifted, but rather the person who is ducking and weaving while trying to avoid it. Motion is relative, right?

    Stove once pointed out that one of the main tools of the post-modern irrationalists was the use of scare quotes to devalue words like “Truth” or “Science” or “proof.”

    The other use, of course, is to indicate that a word is being used as a material supposition; i.e., is referring to itself as a sign or word.

    Since “true” means faithfu;/reliable, something must be true to something. Be true to your school, as the Beach Boys prophesied. Lay a true line of bricks when building a wall. Be true to your spouse to whom you have been be-truthed (be-trothed). Be a true friend. That sort of thing.

    There are two basic kinds of truth.
    1. True-to-the-facts, which is the standard for natural science, and the related true-to-life, which is the standard for fictions. That is, a statement is true if it is compatible with the known facts, either metric facts of physical bodies or the facts of life and human relations.
    2. True-to-the-premises, which is the standard for mathematics et al. That is, a statement is true if it entails no contradiction with the basic premises.
    +++
    Consider Roman Catholicism vs most Protestant religions — “Christians” one & all citing the same, or mostly the same reference (exactly what constitutes the “Bible” itself is a point of disagreement between Catholics and pretty much all other “Christians).

    Catholics and Orthodox, which between them constitute roughly 2/3rds of all Christians, base their faith on the traditions handed down from the apostles, part of which are the writings compiled in the Bible. It might be more correct to say that they base their Bible on their faith rather than vice versa, since it was they who selected the books in the first place. (There was an orthodox, catholic church before there was a Bible.)

    It might not make sense to give equal weight to the consistent teachings of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches and to Bill and Ted’s Excellent Bible Shack.

  10. The question of Truth goes back to the reason that people broke (or were excommunicated) from Roman authority since the very beginning of Christianity. They see it as a human institution claiming infallible authority and also acting as intermediary between man and Christ.

    I see a value in keeping a sacred tradition of practices that have been found to help individuals come to Christ. But there are so many dogmas that have little to nothing to do with Christ and seem to be human creations designed to control.

    Some various dogmas of various Christian sects that I really don’t see as having any bit of Christ in them:

    Did God really decide at the beginning of time that he’d create a bunch of folks for the sole purpose of sending them to hell?

    Did God really make the letters of Paul (and the rest of the Bible, for that matter) “inerrant”? There is no reason that the scripture needs to be inerrant for it to be a reliable source to help us live lives more in accordance with God’s will. If anything, the fact that Jesus didn’t leave us with any of his *own* writings seems to me to indicate that He didn’t necessarily want us to fall into the same trap that the some of the more legalistic Jews did.

    Did God really mean that in order for one to not go to hell, Jesus dying (and our faith in him as the Truth) isn’t enough? One has to perform various actions in order to “clean” one’s soul off? John 3:16 doesn’t say “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him, and performs certain actions if they fail to live up to his standards (but only if those actions are sanctioned by someone claiming to be an authority on Him), may not perish but may have eternal life.”

  11. YOS,

    Putting down the faith of many Christians as going to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Bible Shack” throws out the many contributions of many great Protestant theologians and evangelists.

    And to be frank – “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Bible Shack” has brought more people to the Truth of Christ than most Catholic parishes (and most mainline Protestant congregations as well) . Folks seem to be more concerned about organizing the next Potluck or getting the Men’s Softball team together.

  12. I speak, of course, of modern evangelism (the last 200 years or so). Prior to that, it seems the roman church was much more evangelical.

  13. Many of you people are missing the point entirely. Examples:

    @ imnobody00: Do you think Christianity is not the truth?

    Which “Christianity”? There are so many. Superficially they look & sound similar, but at their core reflect very different religions.

    @ YOS: “Since “true” means faithfu;/reliable, something must be true to something.” and “There are two basic kinds of truth.” and so on….

    THINK AGAIN, RE-READ THE POST & ITS IMPLICATIONS:

    Briggs & Fr Schall endorse this view:

    “The great books contradict each other,” says Schall. Which is why mere reading of the Great Books is not enough. A philosophical grounding is a necessity. That grounding requires a guide, an authority, and that authority must rely on Truth.”

    Great. Accept that. THEN what??

    If there is a “Truth” everybody needs to agree on what that “Truth” is.

    There is radically diverse disagreement on what constitutes “Truth.”

    The particular “Truth” Fr Schall & Briggs endorse is a very particular form of “Truth” based on a very particular doctrine (Roman Catholic) of “Christianity.”

    A quick search indicates about 22% of the U.S. population is Roman Catholic; something like 40-50% of the U.S. population believes Earth is 6000 or 10,000 years old — i.e., they reject R. Catholic doctrine. They reject a particular “Truth.”

    So, if Briggs & Fr. Schall are to have their way & have a philosophical grounding for “Truth” one of two things MUST occur:

    1) Either they & their ilk convince everybody else that they are right and everybody else is wrong, or,

    2) They concede they are wrong & some subset of everybody else is right (again, there are many competing “Christian” doctrines out there).

    AFTER the correct “Truth” for a philosophical basis is established, THEN the remediation of all those conflicting textbooks, etc. can be addressed.

    In other words, before Briggs & Fr Schall can go around telling everybody what is “right” they need to do some missionary work to bring everybody around. Until everybody comes around to the same thinking, all the rest boils down to one opinion vs many others — and everybody thinks their opinion is right on.

    All the rest is pointless philosophizing certain to achieve zilch. For example, YOS makes this observation:

    “[Catholics/Orthodox] base their faith on the traditions handed down from the apostles, part of which are the writings compiled in the Bible.”

    ALL Christians of ALL denominations make that claim. So what?

    YOS also makes this point:

    “It might be more correct to say that they base their Bible on their faith rather than vice versa, since it was they who selected the books in the first place. (There was an orthodox, catholic church before there was a Bible.)”

    Think about that! Isn’t that a rather plain concession about which came first, man made in God’s image, or, God made in man’s image? Think about that — and not just in terms of Catholic/Orthodox doctrine, but all the various doctrines out there.

    Then this bit of recurring propaganda: “It might not make sense to give equal weight to the consistent teachings of the Orthodox and Catholic Churches….”

    WHAT CONSISTENT TEACHINGS?? The history of how women were and are treated is one example of doctrinal evolution (EX: The scriptures show women with very high standing — Mary Magdeline having very high standing among the apostles to the point she was getting insights from Jesus the men were deprived of…later…women forbidden to participate in the service & required to wear headgear…now…women hand out communion) The bit about scriptural consistency & absence of contradictions is so easily disproved–simply take any two Gospels & compare them side-by-side, etc. Compare the doctrines of Paul, Peter & Jesus side-by-side, etc.

    YOS, representative of the sort of contrived thinking in this arena, makes this remark:

    “Catholics and Orthodox, which between them constitute roughly 2/3rds of all Christians,…”

    That’s correct worldwide, but in the U.S., Catholics constitute about 21% of Christians, Orthodox another half-percent … of the 70-ish percent of total population claiming to be “Christian.” And, in the U.S., those many other “Christians” have beliefs that share some tenets that profoundly conflict with Catholic/Orthodox doctrine.

    But so what?

    Relative to the premise of the essay, if a philosophical grounding of “Truth” is required, Catholics & Orthodox have some key disagreements — and they have chasms of disagreements among the protestants.

    Bottom Line: If a philosophical basis for “Truth” is to be established, “Christians” need to first agree on what “Christian” truth is. Presently, there is so much diversity between different “Christian” faiths that one can argue [and some have] that, aside from the label being the same, they really aren’t even the same religion.

  14. ALL Christians of ALL denominations make that claim. So what?

    Most of the Protestant denominations base themselves on sola scriptura, “scriptures alone,” as if the Bible somehow came before the Church. They reject the role of Tradition. One aspect of Truth is truth-of-conformance; in this case, of conformance to historical fact, so you may want to re-think that ALL thing.

    But that nine blind men have different ideas of an elephant does not prove that the elephant does not exist. As the Catholic catechism teaches, all these searchers have some glimmering of the truth. It may not be complete and it may be distorted in some manner, but the intellect is still oriented toward the True as the will is oriented toward the Good. (In fact, by the convertibility of the transcendentals, the True and the Good are the same.)

    But to be oriented toward the True does not mean that Truth is always attained. Your car may break down along the way, or you may miss a connection in Atlanta.

    That’s correct worldwide, but in the U.S., etc…

    More America First, eh?

    WHAT CONSISTENT TEACHINGS?? The history of how women were and are treated is one example of doctrinal evolution

    What doctrine did you have in mind? Headgear is no more a doctrine than the rules in the military for head coverings are tactical doctrine.

    The catechism is a good source for doctrine. I understand the Orthodox have something similar. The Nicene Creed is also reliable. Read what the Church Fathers wrote and compare. Love your neighbor as yourself; love even your enemy; feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and so on.

    We read, for example, that in Christ there is no “man and woman, but all are one,” and indeed Christendom marked the first society in which women had a place in the public square. Granted, the turn to secularization later impaired the status women enjoyed in the Middle Ages (cf. Women in the Age of the Cathedrals by Regine Pernoud for background) but we can’t suppose there were no other forces at work.

    There were also cultural practices that overlapped. Men were forbidden to wear hats in church; women were supposed to cover their hair. This was largely because fancy headgear was then a mark of male social status, while a woman’s glory was her hair. So as an egalitarian measure, men had to forego their fancy hats and women had to cover their hair-dos.

    Besides, these sorts of secular customs and ritualistic practices are not suited-up for the same game as the moral teachings or even the natural truths — as Augustine noted a millennium and a half ago, when he commented on the fact that while at one time no one of quality would go about in public wearing anything but a toga, but by his time dalmatics were the general mode of dress. He cautioned his readers not to mistake such fashions for moral teachings. So perhaps a greater familiarity is called for.

    take any two Gospels & compare them side-by-side

    This seems to matter a great deal to some people, because they mistake ancient writing genres for modern ones. For example, the “orderly arrangement” of anecdotes in a bios need not be chronological, so stories may be presented in different orders or, depending on the purpose of the writer, some anecdotes may be omitted that others included. Check multiple histories of the US Civil War. Heck, compare any two accounts of the murder of Hypatia (say, Socrates Scholasticus v. Damascius) or accounts of a Caesar in Tacitus v. Suetonius.

    A philosophical grounding in the Truth does not require agreement with any particular religious doctrine; although some doctrines make the path to Truth smoother. There are some religious traditions, for example, that teach that the sensible world is an illusion and empirical evidence is unreliable. There is a certain kind of truth to this. After all, “Beauty and the Beast” (the fable, not the movie) is true even if none of it is factual. However, the world-as-illusion can get in the way of understanding the natural world.

  15. Did God really decide at the beginning of time that he’d create a bunch of folks for the sole purpose of sending them to hell?

    Nope. Ask a Calvinist about this. Or rethink your use of terms like “purpose” and “sending.”

    Did God really make the letters of Paul (and the rest of the Bible, for that matter) “inerrant”?

    Nope. None of the apostolic churches have taught this in the sense you seem to be using “inerrant.” See Augustine, On Christian doctrine. Fr. Georges Lemaitre put it this way:

    “The writers of the Bible were illuminated more or less – some more than others – on the question of salvation. On other questions they were as wise or as ignorant as their generation. Hence it is utterly unimportant that errors of historic or scientific fact should be found in the Bible, especially if errors relate to events that were not directly observed by those who wrote about them.

    The idea that because they were right in their doctrine of immortality and salvation they must also be right on all other subjects is simply the fallacy of people who have an incomplete understanding of why the Bible was given to us at all.”

    Did God really mean that in order for one to not go to hell, Jesus dying (and our faith in him as the Truth) isn’t enough? One has to perform various actions in order to “clean” one’s soul off?

    Nope. But if you don’t perform works of charity and love, then you haven’t really been listening to him, have you. The epistle of James is instructive (the one Luther wanted to discard.) We’re told that Jesus was the Way, the Truth, and the Light. So to accept him as the truth (truth=faith) means to follow in his way. And recall his comments that “You saw me hungry and did not feed me, etc.”

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