The Case Against Karen Armstrong: What is Belief?

In my last post I discussed how Karen Armstrong misrepresents some of her sources. The end result is a sort of ‘cherry pick’ to support her thesis. In this post I’m going to address her treatment of the word “Belief” as used in the Bible.

What Does “Believe” Mean?

Several years ago I did a study of the New Testament using several parallel Bibles, Strong’s Concordance, and a Greek manuscript of the New Testament. One of my discoveries was that the word translated “belief” in the New Testament actually came from the Greek word pisteuo (Strong’s 4100) which has a stronger connotation than the word “believe” in English, at least as it is used today. So consider this verse as an apt example:

Romans 3:22

22 Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference: Continue reading

The Case Against Karen Armstrong: Misquoting Religious Sources

Case for GodIn my last two posts, I summarized both Karen Armstrong’s views of religion and God and her negative view of Christian doctrines.

Karen Armstrong is a fantastic writer that holds one’s interest while spinning out tales that seamlessly mix religion, history, science, and philosophy. She is, beyond doubt, far more educated than me on these subjects. Yet when Armstrong hit upon a subject that I knew even a little bit about, I would immediately recognize that she was often misunderstanding, misrepresenting, or misquoting her sources. This fact caused me to lose confidence that she was accurately representing her other sources.

In this post I will concentrate on the frequent misinterpretations of her religious sources. Continue reading

Karen Armstrong’s view of Jesus Christ

We know very little about the historical Jesus, since all our information comes from the texts of the New Testament, which were not primarily concerned with factual accuracy. (Karen Armstrong on p. 81 of The Case for God.)

Case for GodIn my last post, I summarized Karen Armstrong’s view of God and religion. One item that was of particular interest to me was her view of Jesus Christ. No other religion in her book gets the debunking she gives Christianity. (This also serves as a sort of counter point to the Believing Scholars point of view as discussed here.)

In her view, Jesus, for reasons lost in history, was crucified by the Romans only to have his disciples have “visions” that convinced them he had been raised from the dead. (p. 82) The first Christians were, of course, thoroughly Jewish which she believes had no intentions of founding a new religion, though she admits they took the “highly unusual” step of converting gentiles. (p. 82) This eventually lead to Paul (and probably others) belief that the mixed Jewish and Gentile congregations were the first fruits of a “new Israel.” Using Midrashic techniques, these early Christians reinterpreted the Old Testament to contain prophecies — never originally intended — of a future redeemer who would be crucified and rise from the dead. She uses 1 Cor 1:23 to prove that these reinterpretations were often considered scandalous. Continue reading

Karen Armstrong’s Case for Religious Practice: Summary

As I mentioned in my last post, Karen Armstrong’s book The Case for God is not really a case for God per se, but instead a case for human spirituality and religious practice. It was written in part as a response to the ‘new atheists’ (i.e. militant atheists) attacks on religion.

Logos and Mythos

Armstrong argues that there are two sources of knowledge in the world. One is logos, which is rationality, and the other is mythos. Logos helped us with daily survival, but could not assist us with human grief or finding ultimate meaning. For ‘ultimate meaning’ humans turned to mythos or “myth” though back then the word was not used (as it is today) as a synonym for untruth. (p. xi, 325) Religion and Mythos are the human way of living “joyously” with realities for which are insoluble, such as mortality, grief, and pain. [1] Continue reading

Karen Armstrong’s Case for Religious Practice: Introduction

I recently listened to Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God not really knowing what to expect and without any preconceived ideas about it other than the vague memory that it was in part written as a response to the militant atheists such as Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, and Hitchens. I also remembered that a friend of mine, John Dehlin, had highly recommended it on one of his blogs or podcasts.

Though the book makes no case for God whatsoever, in it I was delighted to find a semi-systematic explanation of liberal theology. Better yet, it is most likely a non-literal theist view of liberal theology though, as we’ll see, this is not entirely clear due to her obfuscation of her point of view. Continue reading