Thursday, August 18, 2005

Christ Jesus: Still a Jumble of Contradictions

Earlier this month I published on my blog an article titled Christianity as the Worship of Self-Contradiction. In that piece, I explained how the Athanasian Creed makes it clear that the Jesus of the Christian New Testament constitutes the embodiment of contradiction as an object of religious worship. The Athanasian Creed tells us that Jesus is "fully God, fully man," making the Christian savior both fully divine and fully human at the same time. I listed 20 different attributes and properties ascribed to the Christian god that pose diametric conflict with human nature when those attributes and properties collide with their human counterpart in the so-called "incarnation" of the man-god Jesus, as conceived in the Athanasian Creed, which is taken as an authoritative statement in summary of what constitutes essential Christian doctrine by most believers in the West.

Of course, several who are confessionally invested in the devotional program of Christianity and who want to believe its teachings are true, were clearly disturbed by the findings of my critique. This is most likely the case because they want to believe that non-Christian worldviews are contradictory, and thus carrying on as if the presence of contradiction in one's worldview were in their eyes objectionable, they hold such defects as counting against those worldviews' claim to truth. Naturally, when this strategy is shown to apply against Christianity itself, and major contradictions are exposed in this primitive worldview, Christian apologists wax in anger and resentment, often unwittingly showing their true colors as a result.

Following Orders: Defending the Faith at All Costs

But there were a few attempts - albeit rather weak and unsubstantial - to counter my criticism. Some of these attempts were posted on the publicly accessible comments section of my blog, and others were sent to me privately on e-mail. In my present article, I would like to explore these responses.

To be sure, the exposure of a contradiction in one's worldview could spell disaster, especially if elsewhere in that worldview we find objections to contradictions. And though I don't recall reading anywhere in the bible that the presence of contradiction invalidates anything (its authors in fact appear to have been concerned with promulgating mysticism, and not with logical consistency), modern apologists, having borrowed from secular models in the formation and development of their defense strategies, carry on as if contradictions spelled death to one's worldview. And while these Christian adherents have had to seek outside the bible for such principles of thought in order to import them into their religious defenses, this may be an indication that some thinkers who like to style themselves as pious 'scholars' may in fact be slowly growing beyond the primitive and superstitious constraints of their arbitrary confession. However, it may be premature to consider such signs as a cause for hope.

One amateur apologist, a Mr. Paul Manata, who has commented on my blog in the past, was generous enough to provide a specimen of the kind of empty rejoinder that we should expect to find in reply to the kind of criticism that I have presented. Seeking to reply to me, Mr. Manata singled out the following statement of mine:

But herein lies a long list of contradictions, for God is not a man, and man is not a god. The Athanasian Creed is essentially saying that Jesus is both A and not A.

In response to this, Mr. Manata wrote:

So, take A, where A refers to, say, God. You just said that the athanasian creed said that Jesus is both A and not-A, tranlated, you just said the athanasian creed said that Jesus is both God and not God, but is that what the creed says? [sic]
Again, the Athanasian Creed says that Jesus is "fully God, fully man." That's what it says, and that is the statement that I interacted with to show that on this conception, Christianity amounts to the worship of contradiction as such. But Mr. Manata begged to differ (if not the question), and proceeded with the following frail defense:

So, in the case of Jesus we would have A (God) and B (man). Jesus is both A and B.
Mr. Manata says that "Jesus is both A and B," and contends on this basis that there is no contradiction. But by admitting that there are two distinct qualities joined together in one entity, Mr. Manata makes no progress in recovering lost ground. For unless B is identical to A, then B may in fact be just another way of saying non-A (or ~A, as Mr. Manata prefers). Now of course, there are cases of compatibility in which one can say that the same entity is A, B, C, and so on. For instance, one could say that Mr. Brown is A (a tax attorney), B (a good racketball player) and C (a father). In such a case, there is no contradiction. Mr. Manata has not shown that the Athanasian Creed's statement about Jesus being "fully God, fully man" amounts to this kind of benign combination of attributes. Indeed, no effort has been made to show that divine attributes are compatible with human (i.e., non-divine) attributes in the combination that is explicitly affirmed in the Athanasian Creed.

Furthermore, if an entity is said to be both A and B such that A has attributes which are directly negated by B, then any entity which is said to possess both A and its negation B (i.e., non-A), in fact amounts to a contradiction. For instance, if one said that Mr. Brown is both A (a tax attorney) and B (not a tax attorney), then he would be making two statements which are in direct conflict with each other. It is in this latter manner that the Athanasian Creed commits Christianity to a contradiction when it identifies Jesus as both "fully God, fully man." For so long as constituent terms have stable meanings, this is essentially saying that Jesus is both fully uncreated and fully not uncreated, fully divine and fully not divine, fully supernatural, and fully not supernatural, and so on down the list of attributes which I provided in
my original article. Mr. Manata's unnecessary berating tone and slanderous remarks aside, he has not shown that the statement in the Athanasian Creed is not contradictory in this way.

Symptoms of Desperation: Meeting Stated Stipulations

In order to take control of the matter, Mr. Manata also offered the following statement:

A contradiction, dear Dawson, would be if the creeds had said that Jesus was God and was *not* God in the same sense and relationship. If they said this *then,* then dear Dawson, you'd have your A and ~A.

One immediate point that needs to be made here is that I cited only one creed in formulating my criticism, namely the Athanasian Creed. The use of the plural here is unwarranted. But the issue at hand is whether or not the conception of Jesus found in the Athanasian Creed commits believers to the worship of a contradiction. Unfortunately for many Christians in the West, since this creed "has been adopted by the Lutheran and several Reformed churches" [1] along with numerous other Protestant denominations, if in fact the Athanasian Creed paints Jesus as a self-contradiction, then it is likely the case that these Christian factions have been worshipping a contradiction all along, and its members, uncritical of church doctrine as they typically are, never really fully realize this.

Mr. Manata says that for the statement to be contradictory it would have to affirm "that Jesus was God and was *not* God in the same sense and relationship" in order to stick. Now the relationship in question would be an internal relationship, since the issue revolves around a single entity and its several mutually contradictory attributes. And since the Athanasian Creed is speaking of a single entity, the relationship in question would be between the entity in question and itself. So this portion of Mr. Manata's stipulation is satisfied. Additionally, the Athanasian Creed supplies the sense in which we are to understand what it is saying, for it says "fully God, fully man," which could only be taken to mean "in every sense and relationship." To say otherwise would be to say that Jesus is somehow less than "fully God, fully man." By use of the modifier "fully" to qualify the sense intended, the Athanasian Creed is telling us that there is no exception here: Jesus is in every way God, and in every way man. Anything less than this would compromise the sense intended by the Athanasian Creed as well as the mystical nature of Jesus that Christianity seeks to promote. It happens to be that God is said to be uncreated, divine, supernatural, perfect, immutable, immortal, infinite, etc. That is, by saying that Jesus is "fully God," the Athanasian Creed is saying that Jesus is therefore fully uncreated, fully divine, fully supernatural, fully perfect, fully immutable, fully immortal, fully infinite, etc. In other words, Jesus as "fully God" is uncreated in every sense that something could be uncreated, divine in every sense that something could be divine, supernatural in every sense that something could be supernatural, perfect in every sense that something could be perfect, immutable in every sense that something could be immutable, immortal in every sense that something could be immortal, infinite in every sense that something could be infinite, etc. Would believers say that their god is in some sense not uncreated, in some sense not divine, or in some sense not supernatural? It's up to them if they want to start watering down their own religious affirmations.

Contrariwise, man is none of these things. As I pointed out in my blog (and which has not been challenged), Christianity teaches that man is not uncreated, not divine, not supernatural, not perfect, not immutable, not immortal, not infinite, etc. And since Jesus is, according to the Athanasian Creed, "fully man," Jesus is therefore fully not uncreated, fully not divine, fully not supernatural, fully not perfect, fully not immutable, fully not immortal, fully not infinite, etc. That is, Jesus as "fully man" is not uncreated in every sense that something could be not uncreated, not divine in every sense that something could be not divine, not supernatural in every sense that something could be not supernatural, not perfect in every sense that something could be not perfect, not immutable in every sense that something could be not immutable, not immortal in every sense that something could be not immortal, not infinite in every sense that something could be not infinite, etc.

I submit, therefore, for the reasons I have given here, that according to the Athanasian Creed's formulation, "Jesus was God and was *not* God in the same sense and relationship," and this is vouchsafed by the modifier "fully" applied to both components of Jesus' alleged nature. For "fully" could only mean complete in every sense. And to the discredit of his own rebuttal, Mr. Manata failed to identify any sense in which Jesus is neither "fully God" or "fully man," which is what he would have to do if he wanted to wage an effective case against the charge of contradiction. Thus the stipulations which Mr. Manata has stated have been met.

Even per Mr. Manata's own criterion for deciphering the Athanasian Creed, there is on every point in question a standing contradiction affirmed in the notion that Jesus is "fully God, fully man." His protestations to the contrary have been unhelpful in salvaging his worldview from being found to consist essentially of the worship of a self-contradiction. And though he presented very little substance (if it could be called this) in response to my criticism, Mr. Manata proclaims that he has "proven, by strict rules of logic," that there is no contradiction affirmed in the Athanasian Creed, even though it's clear that he nowhere fully engaged the issue, but rather simply offered a semantic device ("B" in place of non-A) to make it appear that no contradiction was being affirmed.

A Test Case: Square Circles

But in case I have misunderstood the essence of Mr. Manata's rejoinder, I am willing to explore his suggested solution a little further. As a hypothetical case by which apologetic attempts to rebut my criticism can be tested, let me apply those attempts to the delightfully playful notion that defenders and critics of religion have for so long enjoyed batting back and forth. I am speaking of the notion of square circles. It is commonly accepted without challenge that the notion of a square circle is a self-contradiction: something cannot have both the shape of a square and the shape of a circle at the same time and in the same sense. One shape is "a rectangle with all four sides equal," and the other is "a closed plane curve every point of which is equidistant from a fixed point within the curve."
(Webster's) The notion that a single shape is both a square and a circle constitutes a contradiction and as such the notion of a square circle can serve as a case in which proffered solutions to the charge of contradiction in Christianity can be tested. If the notion of a square circle can pass unscathed through apologetic solutions to the problem of the Athanasian Creed, then we can safely say that those solutions are unhelpful in untangling the matter in favor of the Christian worldview.

The apologetic effort that we have seen - an effort to interpret the Athanasian Creed in order to dissolve the charge that it entails a contradiction by saying that Jesus is both A and B (instead of A and non-A) - can be used to show that the notion of a square circle is, by the same "logic," not contradictory. Mr. Manata says that Jesus is "A (God) and B (man)," that is "both A and B." On this basis, he dismisses the charge of contradiction. However, by the very same logic, the charge that the notion of a square circle is self-contradictory can be dismissed by saying that a square circle is A (a square) and B (a circle). Since a square circle would be "both A and B" on Mr. Manata's reasoning, the notion of a square circle is not self-contradictory.

Who would accept this in the case of the notion of square circles? Would Mr. Manata? Perhaps we would rather not want to know the answer to such questions.

Pauline Shuffle: The Manata Maneuver

But the problem here should be clear: if the same attempts used to rebut my detection of a contradiction in the nature ascribed to Jesus Christ in the Athanasian Creed can be used to make the notion of square circles seem logically consistent, then why should we expect such tactics to be effectual in dissolving the contradiction exposed in the nature of Jesus as the Athanasian Creed describes it? Mr. Manata says that Jesus is both A (God) and B (man), and thus it's not a contradiction. Similarly, the advocate of square circles could say that a square circle is both A (a square) and B (a circle), and, on Mr. Manata's logic, there's no contradiction. In fact, one could use this ploy in dispelling any charge of contadiction. One could, for instance, say that the moon is A (rock) and B (cheese), that Albert Einstein was A (a man) and B (a woman), that the Queen Elizabeth II is A (a cruise ship) and B (an omlette). On Mr. Manata's "logic" none of these statements could be found to be contradictory. Indeed, any charge of contradiction can be met with what I shall dub the Manata Maneuver, since this ploy consists of moving out an uncomfortable term (e.g., non-A) and replacing it with a euphemism (e.g., B) which enables the apologist to carry on with the pretense that there is no contradiction, when in fact there is.

In the standard condescending tone that is typical of his discourse, Mr. Manata emphasized his point that "Jesus is both A and B" in a comment which he later apparently retracted (since he deleted it), saying:

Technically, to any trained dimwit, as it stands the athanasian creed sayeth, "Jesus is both A and B" where A stands for God and B stands for man. [sic]

And though the Athanasian Creed in fact says that Jesus is "fully God, fully man," the particular terms used to signify the variables matters not. We could use X and non-X just as well. The point, however, is that if God is something other than man, then if A refers to God, man must be designated as something other than A, that is, not A. Substituting B for "not A" is simply an attempt to cover a real and present contradiction. If it's not a contradiction for a single entity to be both "fully God" and "fully man" since this amounts to it being both A ("God") and B (man), then similarly a square circle is not a contradiction since it, too, is both A (a square) and B (a circle). What is to keep a thinker from thinking of a square circle as both A and B? As we saw above, Mr. Manata's own formulation proposed to undo the contradiction affirmed in the Athanasian Creed can be used to make the notion of a square circle seem non-contradictory, even though it is. Why then should we accept Mr. Manata's formulation as a suitable explanation of the notion that Jesus is "fully God, fully man"? Blank out.

A similar attempt to rebut my criticism was sent to me by one apologist who contacted me privately. His response was to say that "Christ was God that took on a human nature," saying that "these are two distinct categories," and thus there is "no contradiction" in the notion that Jesus is "fully God, fully man." Again, using this approach one could say that a square circle is a square that "took on" a circular nature, and thus the notion of a square circle, on this "logic," is not self-contradictory. After all, don't squares and circles constitute "distinct categories"? This same individual also stated that "a contradiction is defined as a proposition and its negation." Indeed, this works for me as well. The claim that Jesus is "fully God, fully man" thus amounts to the claim that Jesus is fully immortal (since God is said to be immortal) and fully not immortal (since man is not immortal). Similarly, Jesus is fully uncreated (since God is said to be uncreated) and fully not uncreated (since man according to Christianity is part of creation). Again and again, my criticism survives the challenges brought against it in flying colors.

Venturing Out: Identifying Unspecified Contexts

But one might ask: What about biblical context? Do statements in the bible rescue Christ-worship from internal contradiction? The apologist who contacted me privately said I should take into account "immediate and larger contexts." And though this individual did not specify what he had in mind or where to find these "immediate and larger contexts," I don't see how a Christian apologist could object to my consulting the Christian New Testament to identify them. The question at issue is the nature of the Christian god vis-à-vis the nature of man, for Jesus is supposed to be both the Christian god and a man. John 4:24 says that "God is a Spirit." And in Luke 24:39, we read that "a spirit hath not flesh and bones." Already a major internal discrepancy is taking shape in the pages of the bible itself. For we know that man has flesh and bones, and since "a spirit hath not flesh and bones," this could only mean that man is not, unlike the Christian god, "a Spirit." So given what the Athanasian Creed says informed with the "immediate and larger contexts" as found in the Christian New Testament, we have the following:
Jesus is fully Spirit ("fully God") and fully non-Spirit (since man has flesh and bones).
Indeed, the more we look into this matter, the more secure is the conclusion that Christianity in fact and in principle boils down to a perverse worship of contradiction as such.

Mr. Manata, in his characteristic puffery, repeats his poorly defended claim that there is no contradiction here, and ejaculated that "any dimwit within 57 pages into an intro to logic text could have figured this out." But what "logic text" has Mr. Manata cited that agrees that square circles are not contradictions? Indeed, no citation to support his rebuttal attempts has been provided. Thus we have an empty appeal to an uncited, unspecified "logic text," and it's certainly doubtful that any logic text worth its salt is going to say a contradiction is not a contradiction.

In the final analysis, it's clear that apologists recognize that there's a fire here, for if they didn't think their doctrine were burning in devouring flames, they'd not be in such a rush to put it out. Can apologists devise some way to make "fully God, fully man" logically coherent? Apparently only by not engaging the details of the matter, for none have presented a worthy defeater of the points I have raised.

by Dawson Bethrick

[1] Michael Martin, The Case Against Christianity, (Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press, 1991), p. 10.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Christianity as the Worship of Self-Contradiction

Christianity is, if nothing more, the worship of Jesus. According to orthodox Christianity, Jesus is the god of the Old Testament come down to the earth, incarnated in the flesh of a human being, and so-called "king of kings," even though his only crown was assembled from thorns which corrupted his flesh.

In evangelizing, many adherents to Christianity carry on as if they were really concerned about the presence of contradictions in one’s worldview. While pretending that their worldview is wholly consistent and free of any contradiction whatsoever, Christianity's apologists roam about like lions seeking whom they may devour on the charge of contradiction and fallacy. What’s often overlooked by both the apologists themselves and unsuspecting non-believers, is that Christianity reduces quite literally to worship of a walking contradiction. This is not hard to see, but it is impossible for apologists to distangle.

Athanasian Creed makes this unmistakably clear when it affirms that Jesus is “both God and Man,” that he is "fully God, fully man," that is, both wholly divine and wholly human.

But herein lies a long list of contradictions, for God is not a man, and man is not a god. The Athanasian Creed is essentially saying that Jesus is both A and not A. Observe the following 20
essential qualities attributed to the Christian god which man does not share with it:

* God is uncreated, but man is not uncreated
* God is divine, but man is not divine
* God is supernatural, but man is not supernatural
* God is perfect, but man is not perfect
* God is immutable, but man is not immutable
* God is almighty, but man is not almighty
* God is sovereign, but man is not sovereign
* God is omniscient, but man is not omniscient
* God is omnipotent, but man is not omnipotent
* God is omnipresent, but man is not omnipresence
* God is omnibenevolent, but man is not omnibenevolent
* God is infallible, but man is not infallible
* God is infinite, but man is not infinite
* God is eternal, but man is not eternal
* God is immortal, but man is not immortal
* God is incorporeal, but man is not incorporeal
* God is non-physical, but man is not non-physical
* God is immaterial, but man is not immaterial
* God is incorruptible, but man is not incorruptible
* God is indestructible, but man is not indestructible
And even though only one of these would have to stick in order for there to be a real (as opposed to an "apparent") contradiction, we also note that man is biological in nature. But how could one say that the Christian god, which is said to lack a body, is biological? And while Christians say that their god is worthy of worship, would they say that human beings are worthy of worship? In fact, it is hard to find any quality ascribed to the Christian god by Christian sources that man has.

Since Christians worship Jesus, and Jesus is claimed to be both one thing and also its logical opposite, we can only conclude that Christians therefore literally worship a contradiction. And since they worship contradiction, how can they find the presence of contradictions (or supposed contradictions) in non-Christian worldviews objectionable? Perhaps their complaint is that non-Christian worldviews don’t have enough contradictions, or that non-Christian worldviews do not give contradictions enough respect. At any rate, if one is to avoid contradictions, this much is certain: one must abandon Christianity.

by Dawson Bethrick