The New Testament and Agnosticism

The New Testament and Agnosticism

Postby Bill » Sun Nov 15, 2015 10:44 am

On another thread, the question was posed what, if anything, can the Agnostic agree with anything ascribed to be the teachings of Jesus?

And the unqualified response is "Yes, of course the agnostic can agree with the content of those teachings."

But a degree of qualification makes the agnostic position clearer.

There are two elements: the teachings and the teacher.

The teachings fit squarely with the philosophy of most agnostics: The Golden rule is a rule to live by, and loving one's fellow man is far more likely to make a society worth living in than one in which all and sundry hate everyone else. The message of love is one that the agnostic readily accepts for it confirms a basic tenet of the agnostic way of thinking.

The disconnect becomes clear if Jesus really did say "“My teaching is not my own. It comes from the One who sent me." (John 17:6). Yahweh is such an improbable god, with not one shred of evidence to support the existence of such a being. Which leads the agnostic to have serious doubts that Jesus, if he actually lived on our planet, was sent to convert existing codes of conduct into the heart of a brand new religion.

Hence, while the agnostic can easily accept the philosophy that underpins the words ascribed to Christ, the agnostic has no reason to think that the messenger was transmitting the words of a God.
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Re: The New Testament and Agnosticism

Postby Ayn Marx » Tue Jan 19, 2016 4:21 pm

The key phrase here is 'The words ascribed to Christ'. We have no certainty in this so discussion on agreeing or not agreeing with what Christ believed are essentially pointless. We can only debate the remnants of his teaching after his disciples, Rome and others stood in between.
As to claims concerning how any of this may or may not be supported by agnostics we need to disabuse ourselves that agnosticism comes packaged with any standardised moral code.
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Re: The New Testament and Agnosticism

Postby Bill » Tue Jan 19, 2016 5:01 pm

It seems to revolve around the semantics of "standardized"

All mammals with enlarged temporal lobes exhibit behaviors which, in humans, is labelled altruistic or having lack of self regard when it comes to the good of "the tribe" as a whole.

I would suggest that the ancients did some reverse engineering on a trait that can be seen in most men: a willingness to share, help and assist fellow men even, if the most extreme case, sacrificing ones life in order to protect others. Observing the trait, the trick was to show it belonged to some higher order an give credit for the existence of the trait to that higher order.

I believe that mankind is intrinsically altruistic. Therefore we can agree with those who say altruism is "a good thing" without agreeing that any cause or effect of altruism lies at a higher level that other than ingrained instincts which equips a tribe better to survive better in the long term in a hostile universe.
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Re: The New Testament and Agnosticism

Postby romansh » Sat Jan 23, 2016 10:12 am

Ayn Marx wrote:The key phrase here is 'The words ascribed to Christ'. We have no certainty in this so discussion on agreeing or not agreeing with what Christ believed are essentially pointless. We can only debate the remnants of his teaching after his disciples, Rome and others stood in between.
As to claims concerning how any of this may or may not be supported by agnostics we need to disabuse ourselves that agnosticism comes packaged with any standardised moral code.


In my nomenclature "Christ" is the myth and Jesus is the historical character that the myth crystallized around.

Anyway Rex Weyler has a nice book (The Jesus Sayings) about what can be ascribed to the historical person. Of course we don't have any certainty here and no absolute method of verification. Either way you can find a summary of what Weyler thinks we can ascribe to Jesus here.
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