Friday, December 20, 2013

Guest View point by Tercon: Truth that's God

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This is it until after new years. At that time I will answer Anonymous's comments on the problem pain and free will. Until  then have a Merry Christmas!

this is by a friend on carm. I thought it had some good features and is interesting. So it's a guest spot.
CARM 12/14/13

God doesn’t hide from man, but man hides himself from God in and with his own unbelief. There's nothing to hide in and from the truth, God didn't make us to hide from us, but he is known to us through and in how everything else we know exists and is known to us, through our own personal first person belief.

God desires to know whoever does believe the truth; do you desire to know God? If not, is it then a mystery to you that you don’t know him? Stop pretending that you don’t know that you have to believe first before anything is known; as you can’t know without first believing.

God is made known to us in the truth we believe in and about Him, but if you disbelieve he exists, then the reason you don’t know God is because you don’t believe he exists, it’s that simple; as no-one in their own unbelief is able to know the truth of something's existence in the first place.

What is it that we can know without first believing it, as we gain all the knowledge we have through belief.
And it’s premature of anyone to say that “God doesn’t exist” before they have themselves done what is required of them to know God or anything to exist in the first place, as no knowledge of anything is available to anyone in the midst of their own unbelief and this is without exception. All what we know; we know through and by the psychological act of belief and in no other way do we know of anything without this mental act upon what it is that we first must believe to exist before we are able to gain any knowledge of what is believed to exist. Believe the truth, for through and by this is the knowledge of God known.

The Epistle of John and through John’s words in which he believed and wrote in and of the truth he knew in the same way John knew Jesus, and Jesus did love John.

In the Beginning (Christ) was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God; this one was in the beginning with God; all things through him did happen, and without him happened not even one thing that has happened. In him was life, and the life was the light of men, and the light in the darkness did shine, and the darkness did not perceive it. He was the true Light, which does enlighten every man, coming to the world; in the world he was, and the world through him was made, and the world did not know him: to his own things he came, and his own people did not receive him; but as many as did receive him in belief to them he gave authority to become sons of God -- to those believing in his name; that He is truth itself, who -- not of blood nor of a will of flesh, as not through the senses, nor of a will of man but -- of God were begotten through belief, through the truth believed. And the Word in truth became flesh, and did tabernacle among us, and we realize His glory in this, realized as of an only begotten of a father, full of grace and truth. John the Baptist does testify concerning him, and has cried, saying, `This was he of whom I said, He who after me is coming, has come before me, for he was before me;' and out of his fullness believed in us did we all receive, and grace over-against grace; for the law through Moses was given, the grace and the truth through Jesus Christ did come; God no one hath ever seen; the only begotten Son, who is on the bosom of the Father -- he did declare.

For every one who is doing wicked things hates the light of the truth, and does not come to the light, that his works may not be detected; but he who is doing the truth does come to the light, that his works may be manifested, that in God they are having been created.'
After these things came Jesus and his disciples to the land of Judea, and there he did tarry with them, and was baptizing; ye worship what ye have not known; we worship what we have known, because the salvation is of the Jews; but, there cometh an hour, and it now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father also does seek such to worship him; God [is] a Spirit, and those worshipping Him, in spirit and truth are we to worship.' Another there is who is testifying concerning me, and I have known that the testimony that he does testify concerning me is true; you have sent unto John, and he has testified to the truth. `But I do not receive testimony from man, but these things I say that you may be saved; Jesus, therefore, said unto the Jews who believed in him, `If you may remain in my word, truly my disciples you are, and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.'

Wherefore if you do not know my speech? because you are not able to hear my word of truth. `Ye are of a father -- the devil, and the desires of your father ye will to do; he was a man-slayer from the beginning, and in the truth he has not stood, because there is no truth in him; when one may speak the falsehood, of his own he speaks, because he is a liar -- also his father. `And because I say the truth, you do not believe me. Who of you does convict me of sin? and if I speak truth, wherefore do you not believe me?
Thomas saith to him, `Sir, we have not known to what place do you go away, and how are we able to know the way?' Jesus saith to him, `I am the way, and the truth, and the life, no one does come unto the Father, if not through me; if you had known me, my Father also you would have known, and from this time you have known Him, and have seen Him.'

And I will ask the Father, and another Comforter He will give to you, that he may remain with you -- to the age; the Spirit of truth, whom the world is not able to receive, because it does not believe him, nor know him, and you know him, because he does remain with you, and shall be in you. `I will not leave you without, I come unto you; but -- that the word may be fulfilled that was written in their law -- They hated me without a cause. `And when the Comforter may come, whom I will send to you from the Father -- the Spirit of truth, who from the Father does come forth, he will testify of me; and you also do testify, because from and in a beginning you are with me from the day you first believed the truth.
But because these things I have said to you, the sorrow hath filled your heart. `But I tell you the truth; it is better for you that I go away, for if I may not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you, and if I go on, I will send Him unto you; and having come, He will convict the world concerning sin, and concerning righteousness, and concerning judgment; `I have yet many things to say to you, but you are not able to bear [them] now; and when He may come -- the Spirit of truth -- He will guide you to all the truth, for He will not speak from Himself, but as many things as He will hear He will speak, and the coming things He will make you know and understand in what you believe; He will glorify the truth, because of only truth He will take, and will tell to you and you will recognize the truth as is the same in you.

`Of the world they are not, as I of the world am not; sanctify them in Thy truth, Your word is truth; as You did send me to the world, I also did send them to the world; and for them do I sanctify myself, that they also themselves may be sanctified in the self-evidence of the truth. `And not in regard to these alone do I ask, but also in regard to those who shall be believing, through their word, in me;
Jesus answered, `My kingdom is not of this world; if my kingdom were of this world, my officers had struggled that I might not be delivered up to Jews; but now my kingdom is not from hence.' Pilate, therefore, said to him, `Art thou then a king?' Jesus answered, `Thou dost say [it]; because a king I am, I for this have been born, and for this I have come to the world, that I may testify to the truth; every one who is of the truth, does hear my voice.' Pilate saith to him, `What is truth?' and this having said, again he went forth unto the Jews, and saith to them, `I do find no fault in him;

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas and The Crucified God


This is my annual Christmas article. I have a guest article for friday and so I'll be off until after New Years. So I wish everyone a Mary Christmas!

The Christian part of Christmas, that's the nativity scene with no trees or elves. That's the part you go to chruch to talk about. Show some mangers and some wise men and play the drummer boy song (eeeeee can't stand that son, p-rum-pum-pum-pum, rum-pum-pum-pum...enough already!) and you've done your bit for Christmas. I actually love Christmas, I like the manger and the baby and all that. Yet that is not what it's about. The entrance of Christ into the world in a lowly birth, worshiped by wise-men and heralded by angles and a star, those are nice folk tale elements. That masks what it's all about in the guise of cute fluffy heart warming imagery. Christmas is about the birth of Christ, God come in the flesh, and that signals to us the death of Christ; its meaning, it's end, it's un-final end and new beginning. The birth heralds more of the positive side of Jesus time in the flesh, his career, his mission, the promise and the possibilities. After all the angels said "peace on earth, good will toward men." How does that connect to a kid born in a manger?

Even with the positive possibilities of peace the birth hearlds the death and since we are compelled to think of both they both remind us of the meaning of Christ's mission and the reason for his coming. I used to read a book every Christmas, the same book. It was one of my all time favorite books; The Crucified God, by Jurgen Moltmann. The subtitle is very important: The Cross of Christ as the foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology. That book seemed to most adequately sum up what the incarnation is about.

Motlmann was from the 60's to the 90's and maybe even up to the present was the greatest living Protestant theologian. He was best known for this book and his Theology of Hope. both of which served to dramatize and legitimize the theology of liberation and the struggles of Latin America. Moltmann's book is actually an argument for placing Praxis on the front burner of theology and leaving the dray musty doctrinal stuff on the back burner. Praxis is the idea of reflection upon material need, how to apply the lessons of theology in a practical way to people's needs.
To get to the core of the book and it's relation to Christmas, the argument goes like this: So what if Jesus was crucified? what's the big deal? There are much worse ways to suffer. Crucifixion is bad but it is far from the worst thing that can happen to you. So why was it a sacrifice, I mean after all he is God, what would it matter to him if he dies? And he got to come back."

First, most Christians try to answer this out of a need for piety. They do not give a theological answer, they give a pious one. The pious answer can't be undestood by modern people, they lack pious feelings, so it just makes it worse. The pious answer of course is to try and mount up the pain and make it seem so very much worse. O. Jesus suffered in hell and he suffers every minute and he's still suffering and he felt all the agony in the world. Of course it doesn't' really say that anywhere in the Bible. While I think this is true, and while my pious side feels the proper sense of devotion and gratitude to our savior for his work, we can't use this to answer the question because modern impiety can't understand the answer. They just hear us reiterating their hidden primes.
The other Christian answers are Propitiatory atonement, Substitutionary, or Moral government. These are the tree major ways of looking at the atonement. Propitiation means to turn away anger. This answer is also incomprehensible to moderns. God is so very angry with us that he can't stand the sight of us, he has to stick Jesus between himself and us so he will see Jesus and turn away his anger. This just makes God seem like a red faced historical parent who couldn't comprehend the consequences of his creation when he decided to make it. Substitutionary atonement says that Jesus took our place, he received the penalty our sins deserved. This comes in two verities. One is financial transaction, Jesus paid the debt. the other is closer to moral government, Jesus was executed because he stepped in and took the place of the guilty party. Both of these are also problematic, because they really allow the guilty to get off Scott free and persecute an innocent person. Again modern people can't understand this kind of thinking; you could not go down to the jail and talk them into letting you take another prisoners place. We can harp on how this is a grace so fine we can't undersigned it in the natural mind, and relapse into piety again singing the praises to God for doing this wonderful act, but it wont answer the atheists questions.
I realize that the view I hold to is a little known minority view. I know I'm bucking the mainstream. But I think it makes a lot more sense and  actually explains why there was an atonement. Before getting into it, however, I want to comment upon the atheist hidden premise. The explicit premise of the atheist argument is that atonement works by Jesus suffering a whole lot. If Jesus suffers enough then restitution is made. But wait, restitution for what? For our sins? Then why should Jesus suffer more than we do or more than our victims do? Why do atheists seem to think,  that Jesus must suffer more than anyone ever has for the atonement to work? It's because the hidden premise is that God is guilty and the atonement is the time God pays for his own mistakes. Jesus has to suffer more than anyone to make up for what God has done, in conceiving of us by creating us. The sickness of the modern mind can scarcely comprehend Christian theology now. I wonder if it isn't too late and we are just past the day when people in the West can really be saved?

I mean consider the idea that usually acompanies this argument: well he is God after all, a little torutre death cant' hurt him. In the old days, when we had a culture that ran on Christian memories, people said how great that God would do this for us when he didn't have to! Now the argument is "Of course he had to, it's the least he can do, after all I didn't asked to be born, so I'm entitled to whatever goodies I can get in compensation." That's why I think the hidden premise is to blame God; its as though they are saying God has to suffer more than anyone to make up for the suffering he caused as creator. This sort of attitude marks the disease of the modern mind.

In any case, my view is the Participatory atonement. It was embraced by several church fathers and modern theologians supporting it are mentioned below:

I.The Atonement: God's Solidarity With Humanity.

........A. The inadquacy of Financial Transactions

Many ministers, and therefore, many Christians speak of and think of Jesus' death on the cross as analogous to a financial transaction. Usually this idea goes something like this: we are in hock to the devil because we sinned. God pays the debt we owe by sending Jesus to die for us, and that pays off the devil. The problem with this view is the Bible never says we owe the devil anything. We owe God. The financial transaction model is inadequate. Matters of the soul are much more important than any monetary arrangement and business transactions and banking do not do justice to the import of the issue. Moreover, there is a more sophisticated model; that of the sacrament for sin. In this model Jesus is like a sacrificial lamb who is murdered in our place. This model is also inadequate because it is based on a primitive notion of sacrifice. The one making the sacrifice pays over something valuable to him to appease an angry God. In this case God is paying himself. This view is also called the "propitiation view" becuase it is based upon propitiation, which means to turn away wrath. The more meaningful notion is that of Solidarity. The Solidarity or "participatory" view says that Jesus entered human history to participate in our lot as finiate humans, and he dide as a means of identifying with us. We are under the law of sin and death, we are under curse of the law (we sin, we die, we are not capable in our own human strength of being good enough to merit salvation). IN taking on the penalty of sin (while remaining sinless) Jesus died in our stead; not in the manner of a premature animal sacrafice (that is just a metaphor) but as one of us, so that through identification with us, we might identify with him and therefore, partake of his newness of life.

.......B. Christ the Perfect Revelation of God to Humanity

In the book of Hebrews it says "in former times God spoke in many and various ways through the prophets, but in these latter times he has spoken more perfectly through his son." Jesus is the perfect revelation of God to humanity. The prophets were speaking for God, but their words were limited in how much they could tell us about God. Jesus was God in the flesh and as such, we can see clearly by his character, his actions, and his teachings what God wants of us and how much God cares about us. God is for humanity, God is on our side! The greatest sign of God's support of our cause as needy humans is Jesus death on the cross, a death in solidarity with us as victims of our own sinful hearts and societies. Thus we can see the lengths God is will to go to to point us toward himself. There are many verses in the Bible that seem to contradict this view. These are the verses which seem to say that Atonement is propitiatory.

.......C. Death in Solidarity with Victims.............. 
1) Support from Modern Theologians

.......Three Major Modern Theologians support the solidarity notion of atonement: Jurgen Moltmann (The Crucified God), Matthew L. Lamb (Solidarity With Victims), and D.E.H. Whiteley (The Theology of St. Paul).In the 1980s Moltmann (German Calvinist) was called the greatest living protestant theologian, and made his name in laying the groundwork for what became liberation theology. Lamb (Catholic Priest) was big name in political theology, and Whiteley (scholar at Oxford) was a major Pauline scholar in the 1960s.In his work The Crucified God Moltmann interprits the cry of Jesus on the cross, "my God my God why have you forsaken me" as a statement of solidarity, placing him in identification with all who feel abandoned by God.Whiteley: "If St. Paul can be said to hold a theory of the modus operandi [of the atonement] it is best described as one of salvation through participation [the 'solidarity' view]: Christ shared all of our experience, sin alone excepted, including death in order that we, by virtue of our solidarity with him, might share his life...Paul does not hold a theory of substitution..." (The Theology of St. Paul, 130)An example of one of the great classical theologians of the early chruch who held to a similar view is St. Irenaeus (according to Whiteley, 133).

..............2) Scrtiptural

...all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were Baptized into his death.? We were therefore burried with him in baptism into death in order that just as Christ was raised from the death through the glory of the father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him in his death we will certanly be united with him in his resurrection.For we know that the old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be rendered powerless, that we should no longer be slaves to sin.--because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.Now if we have died with Christ we believe that we will also live with him, for we know that since Christ was raised from the dead he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him; the death he died to sin he died once for all; but the life he lives he lives to God. In the same way count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Chrsit Jesus.(Romans 6:1-5)

.......In Short, if we have united ourselves to Christ, entered his death and been raised to life, we participate in his death and resurrection through our act of solidarity, united with Christ in his death, than it stands tto reason that his death is an act of solidarity with us, that he expresses his solidarity with humanity in his death.

.......This is why Jesus cries out on the cross "why have you forsaken me?" According to Moltmann this is an expression of Solidarity with all who feel abandoned by God.Jesus death in solidarity creates the grounds for forgiveness, since it is through his death that we express our solidarity, and through that, share in his life in union with Christ. Many verses seem to suggest a propitiatory view. But these are actually speaking of the affects of the solidarity. "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him! For if when we were considered God's enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! What appears to be saying that the shedding of blood is what creates forgiveness is actually saying that the death in solidarity creates the grounds for reconciliation. IT says we were enemies then we were reconciled to him through the death, his expression of solidarity changes the ground, when we express our solidarity and enter into the death we are giving up to God, we move from enemy to friend, and in that sense the shedding of blood, the death in solidarity, creates the conditions through which we can be and are forgiven. He goes on to talk about sharing in his life, which is participation, solidarity, unity.

.......D. Meaning of Solidarity and Salvation.

.......Jurgen Moltmann's notion of Solidarity (see The Crucified God) is based upon the notion of Political solidarity. Christ died in Solidarity with victims. He took upon himself a political death by purposely angering the powers of the day. Thus in his death he identifies with victims of oppression. But we are all victims of oppression. Sin has a social dimension, the injustice we experience as the hands of society and social and governmental institutions is primarily and at a very basic level the result of the social aspects of sin. Power, and political machinations begin in the sinful heart, the ego, the desire for power, and they manifest themselves through institutions built by the will to power over the other. But in a more fundamental sense we are all victims of our own sinful natures. We scheme against others on some level to build ourselves up and secure our conditions in life. IN this sense we cannot help but do injustice to others. In return injustice is done to us.Jesus died in solidarity with us, he underwent the ultimate consequences of living in a sinful world, in order to demonstrate the depths of God's love and God's desire to save us. Take an analogy from political organizing. IN Central America governments often send "death squads" to murder labor unionists and political dissenter. IN Guatemala there were some American organizations which organized for college students to go to Guatemala and escort the leaders of dissenting groups so that they would not be murdered.

.......The logic was that the death squads wouldn't hurt an American Student because it would bring bad press and shut off U.S. government funds to their military. As disturbing as these political implications are, let's stay focused on the Gospel. Jesus is like those students, and like some of them, he was actually killed. But unlike them he went out of his way to be killed, to be victimized by the the rage of the sinful and power seeking so that he could illustrate to us the desire of God; that God is on our side, God is on the side of the poor, the victimized, the marginalized, and the lost. Jesus said "a physician is not sent to the well but to the sick."The key to salvation is to accept God's statement of solidarity, to express our solidarity with God by placing ourselves into the death of Christ (by identification with it, by trust in it's efficacy for our salvation).

.......E. Atonement is a Primitive Concept?

.......This charge is made quite often by internet-skeptics, especially Jewish anti-missionaries who confuse the concept with the notion of Human sacrifice. But the charge rests on the idea that sacrifice itself is a prematurity notion. If one commits a crime, someone else should not pay for it. This attack can be put forward in many forms but the basic notion revolves around the idea that one person dying for the sins of another, taking the penalty or sacrificing to remove the guilt of another is a premature concept. None of this applies with the Participatory view of the atonement (solidarity) since the workings of Christ's death, the manner in which it secures salvation, is neither through turning away of wrath nor taking upon himself others sins, but the creation of the grounds through which one declares one's own solidarity with God and the grounds through which God accepts that solidarity and extends his own; the identification of God himself with the needs and cry of his own creation.

The Blogging Parson
Moltmann's theodicy is the great strength of this work, in that it directly engages the protest atheism of the mid twentieth century without negating the powerful emotional impact of its claims. We are returned to the cross as the heart of the Christian message repeatedly - it is no accident that Luther features so strongly and so positively in these pages. Further, the rigour of his penetrating search for the implications of the cross for God himself has led him rightly to the trinity, and stands as a rebuke to the western tradition for neglecting this understanding of God for so long. The atonement is necessarily a trinitarian event/process. The sense of God identifying with human beings in Christ is also very strong. Moltmann develops a theology of the atonement with a cosmic scope, and does not fall into the trap of individualising the work of the cross.

Moltmann's work turns out to develop a "Trinitarian history of God." This works through a dialectic through which God rejects the Son, then accepts the son, then raises the son to a hope and a future in which we can participate. This also raises a dialectical relation between God and man because the son becomes part of humanity then humanity becomes part of the son through adoption to sonship and participation in the future. Christ particpates in our life and We in his. That's quite a philosophical turn on for a German.

Blogging Parson again:
We might complain that Moltmann's doctrine of God suffers from an overdose of Hegelianism, by presenting the history of the world as God's history, the process by which he realizes himself. By rejecting impassiblity and divine aseity, does he allow a compromise of God's freedom? This having been said, is God still as impersonal as he ever was under the scholastics? Further, the God presented here seems almost dependent on, or at least intrinsically tied to, the world. His is a vulnerable God. Moltmann's trinitarian reflection leaves him open to the charge of tritheism - however, he more than responds to such a charge in The Trinity and the Kingdom of God; and he is recapturing a biblical emphasis, after all.
While the cosmic vision of Moltmann's theologia crucis is admirable, it says almost nothing about individual salvation - in fact, it almost non-soteriological. He describes God's judgement in the terms of the "giving up" of human beings to their godlessness, as in Rom 1 (p.242). The atonement is achieved not by any substitutionary work of Christ but by his identifying with human beings in their lostness, by solidarity with them. In the end, his panentheism leads him to a universalist model; and the preaching of the cross becomes a following of God's example in identifying with the lost and godforsaken.
This last criticism I think is valid on the surface. Mostlamann doesn't spend a lot of time focusing on individual piety I think the implications for the individual are obvious and it's up to the individual to step into a relationship with God. For me I find Chrsitman can be a great way to do what but only if you overlook the commercial crap and read a book like the Crucified God..

Online copy of Crucified God by Jurgen Moltmann

Monday, December 16, 2013

No Will Greater Than My Own?

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The other night I received an IM from a guy who posts on a certain message board. He's an atheist and we had exchanged a few barbs here and there, but didn't really know each other. He didn't attack me, he was polite enough but he said some very disturbing things. First he began with a lot of break the ice sort of questions, such as was I a YEC and what did I think about it? We got into a very shallow exchange about God arguments, by that I mean neither of us got into it deeply enough to say anything profound. Then he began to say that if God was real, he would still choose to go to hell. Why? He said he hates God. He said in no uncertain terms as he proceeded to issue forth the most blasphemous stream of bilge, complete with all sorts of imagined violations of God's body, I'm suer the reader can fill in the blanks. I asked him way he felt that way he said "no evidence." Well, I told him, he's bordering on abusive lanague and what he said if he could do it would definitely get him in put in jail. No one says stuff like that just because there's no evidence. That's pure hate, no one hates something (or someone) just because you can't prove they exist. He said "I hate dictators."

Now I can well imagine things one would say about why God might be considered a dictator, especially the God of the OT. But I asked him Why is God a dictator. The answer floored me. I expected him to say wiping out the Amalekite babies and such, but instead he says "he tells people what to do." I ventured the theory that a dictator is more than just someone who tells people what to do. God, in so far as he created us, might actually be in a valid position to tell us what to do. He seemed not to understand that concept. I don't think this guy speaks for all atheists. I think he might be just a fringe element, but it made me think. A week or so latter I had a discussion on my boards and it was enough like a lot of other discussions of that topic (moral issues, grounding of ethical axioms) that I have to wonder, do the atheists of this generation, the gen xer atheists really understand the concept of authority? Has no one ever introduced them to the notion that there might be a valid authority that really has the right to tell one what to do?

I am sure that atheists can understand this concept, what I'm not sure is that it has been sufficiently pounded into their heads to the extent that they are willing to actually take it seriously. The Xaths are the product of the selfish, hedonistic seventies and the "go along get along" "we generation" eighties, via their parents. That should make them more docile toward authority, but it also means they may never have been taught that there's a valid reason to think of a will higher than their own. They may resent a will that others purport to know but for which they can find no overt empirical demonstration. Following rules of a system is one thing, but submitting to the unseen is another. This is not something that we can reason about intellectually, its' a cultural difference, a generation gap, and there may be no way to bridge it. What was the discussion on my boards that made me wonder about all this?

The issue was advanced by an atheist friend that morality is genetic. Of course they have no data and certainly have no empirical proof, but sometimes atheists are content with speculation and assumptions, when it suites their side. So the argument is advanced, morality is genetic. we have genes to tell us right from wrong, thus we need no appeal to God. But the Christians counter with the bit a bout objective ethics. So it becomes the usual hum drum argument, "tastes great, less..." I mean, objective moralist vs. no need for God. I argued that objective morality is not the issue. The real issue is grounding of ethical axioms. Morality is not objective, but axioms can be grounded or ungrounded. God provides grounding because he created the universe and thus, is the author of its purpose. But the atheists counter by saying that being author doesn't give God any privilege at all. They are free to do as they please because if God was really kind he would have created them as robots so they wouldn't have worry about moral choices. I have seen this argued a hundred times. I've seen it argued on every major atheist board from CARM to Sec Web.

Many atheists will give it a long protracted argument; so what if God created me. That doesn't give him the right to tell me what to do. He's no more special than a drunk in bar on Saturday night. But every time I try to argue that God is necessary to ground axioms many of them chime in with "no he can't because he doesn't exist." This is merely circular reasoning. They are confusing the distinction between the effects of God's hypothetical existence upon meta ethics, and the actual fact of God's existence. Clearly this is circular since the answer to the question "if God did exist what difference would it make to morality?" Just cannot be "God doesn't doesn't exist so he can't make any difference." Then we spend about fives posts going "If he exists," "but he doesn't exist," "if he exists," "but he doesn't exists..."

I think the problem is it just never occurred to them to ground their moral axioms in some higher authority because they have always been taught to think of themselves as the ultimate authority. I wonder if perhaps they are coming at this from the stand point of consumers. They can understand following rules, but ultimately no other will can be imposed upon them since for each one he/she is the final authority and the only one to whom he/she must answer. If one worships the self, the highest blasphemy is that I am not the center of the universe.This is why my argument about the atonement as solidarity is as big a scandal to them as the financial transaction model or any other model. They see no logic in it and no sense. For the willingness of God to be in solidarity with them would be major blasphemy because God dares to put himself on equal grund with them. This must be what Paul meant when he said there would come a future generation that would be lovers of selves rather than of God.

Of course there are exceptions. There are valid concerns, I am not saying there are not. One such valid concern is wiping out the Amalekties. I am not saying that there aren't problematic Bible issues that have to be dealt with. But when push comes to shove the major cultural difference is, I think, that this nrew trend of atheism, while not very significant numerically, may represent the coming to fruition of many issues unresolved revolving around the ego in the modern age. As modern people we see ourselves as individual units, with rights, invested with a total package of personhood; a package that includes right, privileges, and revolves around the "punctual self" as the center of all navigation in the world. We see this tendency to center self in the world and make the world go around it in the Descartes and in the philosophy of modern world. I think, therefore, I am. I am the center, my perceptions determine reality. There is no tribe, there is no higher power there's only what I want and what I can get and what I have to put up with to get it.

Of course they realize that they have to cooperate. Of course they realize that we can't all be the center so we have to work together, that's why they have teleological ethics. Ethical means can't be based upon duty and obligation, that would necessitate another will than my own. I have to form a corporate will for the purpose of cooperating in society so not duty, but outcome becomes the major sticking point for moral value. That outcome revolves around soft values, like greatest good for greatest number, or avoiding pain since we can't impose anything upon anyone. Outcome ethics always leads to a disaster because it proceeds from the premise that there is no duty to impose and the only obligation is to cooperate so we can all have what we want. It can easily lead to the sacrifice of a small helpless group to support the cooperation for the greater number, because after all, the greatest good is getting what I want. Thus Regan's contra war of the eighties could be justified upon utilitarian grounds; and utilitarians supported the salve trade, because the "ignoble" black man had to be sacrificed to support the greater good (white people making money). I am not saying that atheists are on a par with slave traders. Please don't misunderstand me. This is not an argument about atheists not having morals. Atheists can have morals but they can't ground their axioms. They have to coast on Christian memories to ground their axioms.

There could be no stronger grounding than the authorization of the author of the universe. But we cannot move into this through winning rational arguments. One sees on message boards the bitter result of trying to confront the secular minded hoards with logic and theology. We have to find some new way around it. We have to get our bearings again. We are spoiled to live in a society which coasts on Christian memories. We have to find again the way Paul did it. We have to find out how to live in the power of God. We have to show the power and love of God to a pagan world. But it should help to understand the intellectual basis of the struggle.

Friday, December 13, 2013

The Argument From Religious A Priori



(1) Scineitifc reductionism loses phenomena by re-defining the nature of sense data and quailia.

(2)There are other ways of Knowing than scinetific induction

(3) Religious truth is apprehended phenomenoloigcally, thus religion is not a scientific issue and cannot be subjected to a materialist critque

(4) Religion is not derived from other disciplines or endeavors but is a approch to understanding in its own right

Therefore, religious belief is justified on its own terms and not according to the dictates or other disciplines

In my dealings with atheist in debate and dialogue I find that they are often very committed to an empiricist view point. Over and over again I hear the refrain "you can't show one single unequivocal demonstration of scientific data that proves a God exists." This is not a criticism. It's perfectly understandable; science has become the umpire of reality. It is to scientific demonstration that we appear for a large swath of questions concerning the nature of reality. The problem is that the reliance upon empiricism has led to forgetfulness about the basis of other types of questions. We have forgotten that essentially science is metaphysics, as such it is just one of many approach that can be derived from analytical reasoning, empiricism, rationalism, phenomonology and other approaches.

Problem with Empiricism

Is empirical evidence the best or only true form of knowledge? This is an apologetics question because it bears upon the arguments for the existence of God.

Is lack of empirical evidence, if there is a lack, a draw back for God arguments?
I deny that there is a lack, but it has to be put in the proper context. That will come in future threads, for this one I will bracket that answer and just assume there no really good empirical evidence (even though I think there is).

I will ague that empiricism is not true source of knowledge by itself and logic is more important.

True empirical evidence in a philosophical sense means exact first hand observation. In science it doesn't really mean that, it implies a more truncated process. Consider this, we drop two balls of different size from a tower. Do they fall the same rate or the bigger one falls faster? They are supposed to fall at the same rate, right? To say we have empirical proof, in the litteral sense of the term we would have to observe every single time two balls are dropped for asl ong as the tower exists. We would have to sit for thousnds of years and observe millions of drops and then we couldn't say it was truely empirical because we might have missed one.

That's impractical for science so we cheat with inductive reasoning. We make assumptions of probability. We say we observed this 40,000 times, that's a tight correlation, so we will assume there is a regularity in the universe that causes it to work this way every time. We make a statistical correlation. Like the surgeon general saying that smoking causes cancer. The tobacco companies were really right, they read their Hume, there was no observation fo cause and effect, because we never observe cause and effect. But the correlation was so tight we assume cause and effect.

The ultimate example is Hume's billiard balls. Hume says we do not see the cause of the ball being made to move, we only really see one ball stop and the other start. But this happens every time we watch, so we assume that the tight corrolation gives us causality.

The naturalistic metaphysician assumes that all of nature works this way. A tight correlation is as good as a cause. So when we observe only naturalistic causes we can assume there is nothing beyond naturalism. The problem is many phenomena can fall between the cracks. One might go one's whole life never seeing a miraculous event, but that doesn't mean someone else doesn't observe such things. All the atheist can say is "I have never seen this" but I can say "I have." Yet the atheist lives in a construct that is made up of his assumptions about naturslitic c/e and excluding anyting that challenges it. That is just like Kuhns paradigm shift. The challenges are absorbed into the paradigm untl there are so many the paradigm has to shit. This may never happen in naturalism.

So this constructed view of the world that is made out of assumption and probabilities misses a lot of experience that people do have that contradicts the paradigm of naturalism. The thing is, to make that construct they must use logic. After all what they are doing in making the correlation is merely inductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning has to play off of deductive reasoning to even make sense.

Ultimately then, "empiricism" as construed by naturalist (inductive probabalistic assumtions building constructs to form a world view) is inadquate because it is merely a contsuct and rules out a prori much that contradicts.

The A priori

God is not given directly in sense data, God transcends the threshold of human understanding, and thus is not given amenable to empirical proof. As I have commented in previous essays (bloodspots) religion is not a scientific question. There are other methodologies that must be used to understand religion, since the topic is essentially inter-subjective (and science thrives upon objective data). We can study religious behavior through empirical means and we can compare all sorts of statistical realizations through comparisons of differing religious experiences, behaviors, and options. But we cannot produce a trace of God in the universe through "objective" scientific means. Here I use the term "trace" in the Derision sense, the "track," "footprint" the thing to follow to put us on the scent. As I have stated in previous essays, what we must do is find the "co-detemrinate," the thing that is left by God like footprints in the snow. The trace of God can be found in God's affects upon the human heart, and that shows up objectively, or inter-subjectvely in changed behavior, changed attitudes, life transformations. This is the basis of the mystical argument that I use, and in a sense it also have a bearing upon my religious instruct argument. But here I wish to present anther view of the trace of God. This could be seen as a co-detmiernate perhaps, more importantly, it frees religion from the structures of having to measure up to a scientific standard of proof: the religious a prori.

Definition of the a priori.

"This notion [Religious a priori] is used by philosophers of religion to express the view that the sense of the Divine is due to a special form of awareness which exists along side the cognitive, moral, and aesthetic forms of awareness and is not explicable by reference to them. The concept of religion as concerned with the awareness of and response to the divine is accordingly a simple notion which cannot be defined by reference other than itself." --David Pailin "Religious a pariori" Westminster Dictionary of Chrisian Theology (498)

The religious a priroi deals with the speicial nature of religion as non-derivative of any other discipline, and especially it's speicial reiigious faculty of understanding which transcends ordinary means of understanding. Since the enlightenment atheist have sought to explain away religion by placing it in relative and discardable terms. The major tactic for accomplishing this strategy was use of the sociological theory of structural functionalism. By this assumption religion was chalked up to some relative and passing social function, such as promoting loyalty to the tribe, or teaching morality for the sake of social cohesion. This way religion was explained naturalistically and it was also set in relative terms because these functions in society, while still viable (since religion is still around) could always pass away. But this viewpoint assumes that religion is derivative of some other discipline; it's primitive failed science, concocted to explain what thunder is for example. Religion is an emotional solace to get people through hard times and make sense of death and destruction (it's a ll sin, fallen world et). But the a priori does away with all that. The a priori says religion is its own thing, it is not failed primitive sincere, nor is it merely a crutch for surviving or making sense of the world (although it can be that) it is also its own discipline; the major impetus for religion is the sense of the numinous, not the need for explanations of the natural world. Anthropologists are coming more and more to discord that nineteenth century approach anyway.

Thomas A Indianopolus
prof of Religion at of Miami U. of Ohio

Cross currents

"It is the experience of the transcendent, including the human response to that experience, that creates faith, or more precisely the life of faith. [Huston] Smith seems to regard human beings as having a propensity for faith, so that one speaks of their faith as "innate." In his analysis, faith and transcendence are more accurate descriptions of the lives of religious human beings than conventional uses of the word, religion. The reason for this has to do with the distinction between participant and observer. This is a fundamental distinction for Smith, separating religious people (the participants) from the detached, so-called objective students of religious people (the observers). Smith's argument is that religious persons do not ordinarily have "a religion." The word, religion, comes into usage not as the participant's word but as the observer's word, one that focuses on observable doctrines, institutions, ceremonies, and other practices. By contrast, faith is about the nonobservable, life-shaping vision of transcendence held by a participant..."

The Skeptic might argue "if religion as this unique form of consciousness that sets it apart form other forms of understanding, why does it have to be taught?" Obviously religious belief is taught through culture, and there is a good reason for that, because religion is a cultural construct. But that does not diminish the reality of God. Culture teaches religion but God is known to people in the heart. This comes through a variety of ways; through direct experience, through miraculous signs, through intuitive sense, or through a sense of the numinous. The Westminster's Dictionary of Christian Theology ..defines Numinous as "the sense of awe in attracting and repelling people to the Holy." Of course the background assumption I make is, as I have said many times, that God is apprehended by us mystically--beyond word, thought, or image--we must encode that understanding by filtering it through our cultural constrcts, which creates religious differences, and religious problems.

The Culturally constructed nature of religion does not negate the a priori. "Even though the forms by Which religion is expressed are culturally conditioned, religion itself is sui generis .. essentially irreducible to and undeceivable from the non-religious." (Paladin). Nor can the a priori be reduced to some other form of endeavor. It cannot be summed up by the use of ethics or any other field, it cannot be reduced to explanation of the world or to other fields, or physiological counter causality. To propose such scientific analysis, except in terms of measuring or documenting effects upon behavior, would yield fruitless results. Such results might be taken as proof of no validity, but this would be a mistake. No scientific control can ever be established, because any study would only be studying the culturally constructed bits (by definition since language and social sciences are cultural constructs as well) so all the social sciences will wind up doing is merely reifying the phenomena and reducing the experience. In other words, This idea can never be studied in a social sciences sense, all that the social sciences can do is redefine the phenomena until they are no longer discussing the actual experiences of the religious believer, but merely the ideology of the social scientist (see my essay on Thomas S. Kuhn.

The attempt of skeptics to apply counter causality, that is, to show that the a priori phenomena is the result of naturalistic forces and not miraculous or divine, not only misses the boat in its assumptions about the nature of the argument, but it also loses the phenomena by reduction to some other phenomena. It misses the boat because it assumes that the reason for the phenomena is the claim of miraculous origin, “I feel the presence of God because God is miraculously giving me this sense of his presence.” While some may say that, it need not be the believers argument. The real argument is simply that the co-determinates are signs of the trace of God in the universe, not because we cant understand them being produced naturalistically, but because they evoke the sense of numinous and draw us to God. The numinous implies something beyond the natural, but it need not be “a miracle.” The sense of the numinous is actually a natural thing, it is part of our apprehension of the world, but it points to the sublime, which in turn points to transcendence. In other words, the attribution of counter causality does not, in and of itself, destroy the argument, while it is the life transformation through the experience that is truly the argument, not the phenomena itself. Its the affects upon the believer of the sense of Gods presence and not the sense of Gods presence that truly indicates the trance of God.

Moreover, the attempts to reduce the causality to something less than the miraculous also lose the phenomena in reification.William James, The Verieties of Religious Experience (The Gilford Lectures):

"Medical materialism seems indeed a good appellation for the too simple-minded system of thought which we are considering. Medical materialism finishes up Saint Paul by calling his vision on the road to Damascus a discharging lesion of the occipital cortex, he being an epileptic. It snuffs out Saint Teresa as an hysteric, Saint Francis of Assisi as an hereditary degenerate. George Fox's discontent with the shams of his age, and his pining for spiritual veracity, it treats as a symptom of a disordered colon. Carlyle's organ-tones of misery it accounts for by a gastro-duodenal catarrh. All such mental over-tensions, it says, are, when you come to the bottom of the matter, mere affairs of diathesis (auto-intoxications most probably), due to the perverted action of various glands which physiology will yet discover. And medical materialism then thinks that the spiritual authority of all such personages is successfully undermined."

This does not mean that the mere claim of religious experience of God consciousness is proof in and of itself, but it means that it must be taken on its own terms. It clearly answers the question about why God doesn't reveal himself to everyone; He has, or rather, He has made it clear to everyone that he exists, and He has provided everyone with a means of knowing Him. He doesn't get any more explicit because faith is a major requirement for belief. Faith is not an arbitrary requirement, but the rational and logical result of a world made up of moral choices. God reveals himself, but on his own terms. We must seek God on those terms, in the human heart and the basic sense of the numinous and in the nature of religious encounter. There are many aspects and versions of this sense, it is not standardized and can be describes in many ways:

Forms of the A priori.

Schleiermacher's "Feeling of Utter Dependence.

Frederick Schleiermacher, (1768-1834) in On Religion: Speeches to it's Cultured Disposers, and The Christian Faith, sets forth the view that religion is not reducible to knowledge or ethical systems. It is primarily a phenomenological apprehension of God consciousness through means of religious affections. Affections is a term not used much anymore, and it is easily confused with mere emotion. Sometimes Schleiermacher is understood as saying that "I become emotional when I pay and thus there must be an object of my emotional feelings." Though he does vintner close to this position in one form of the argument, this is not exactly what he's saying.

Schleiermacher is saying that there is a special intuitive sense that everyone can grasp of this whole, this unity, being bound up with a higher reality, being dependent upon a higher unity. In other words, the "feeling" can be understood as an intuitive sense of "radical contingency" (int he sense of the above ontological arugments).He goes on to say that the feeling is based upon the ontological principle as its theoretical background, but doesn't' depend on the argument because it proceeds the argument as the pre-given pre-theorectical pre-cognative realization of what Anslem sat down and thought about and turned into a rational argument: why has the fools said in his heart 'there is no God?' Why a fool? Because in the heart we know God. To deny this is to deny the most basic realization about reality.

Rudolph Otto's Sense of the Holy (1868-1937)

The sense of power in the numinous which people find when confronted by the sacred. The special sense of presence or of Holiness which is intuitive and observed in all religious experience around the world.

Paul Tillich's Object of Ultimate Concern.

We are going to die. We cannot avoid this. This is our ultimate concern and sooner or latter we have to confront it. When we do we realize a sense of transformation that gives us a special realization existentially that life is more than material.

see also My article on Toilet's notion of God as the Ground of Being.

Tillich's concept made into God argument.

As Robert R. Williams puts it:

There is a "co-determinate to the Feeling of Utter dependence.

"It is the original pre-theoretical consciousness...Schleiermacher believes that theoretical cognition is founded upon pre-theoretical intersubjective cognition and its life world. The latter cannot be dismissed as non-cognative for if the life world praxis is non-cognative and invalid so is theoretical cognition..S...contends that belief in God is pre-theoretical, it is not the result of proofs and demonstration, but is conditioned soley by the modification of feeling of utter dependence. Belief in God is not acquired through intellectual acts of which the traditional proofs are examples, but rather from the thing itself, the object of religious experience..If as S...says God is given to feeling in an original way this means that the feeling of utter dependence is in some sense an apparition of divine being and reality. This is not meant as an appeal to revelation but rather as a naturalistic eidetic"] or a priori. The feeling of utter dependence is structured by a corrolation with its whence." , Schleiermacher the Theologian, p 4.

The believer is justified in assuming that his/her experinces are experiences of a reality, that is to say, that God is real.

Freedom from the Need to prove.

Schleiermacher came up with his notion of the feeling when wrestling with Kantian Dualism. Kant had said that the world is divided into two aspects of relaity the numenous and the pheneomenal. The numenous is not experienced through sense data, and sense God is not experineced through sense data, God belongs only to the numenous. The problem is that this robbs us of an object of theological discourse. We can't talk about God because we can't experience God in sense data. Schleiermacher found a way to run an 'end round' and get around the sense data. Experience of God is given directly in the "feeling" apart form sense data.

This frees us form the need to prove the existence of God to others, because we know that God exists in a deep way that cannot be estreated by mere cultural constructs or reductionist data or deified phenomena. This restores the object of theological discourse. Once having regained its object, theological discourse can proceed to make the logical deduction that there must be a CO-determinate to the feeling, and that CO-determinate is God. In that sense Schleiermacher is saying "if I have affections about God must exist as an object of my affections"--not merely because anything there must be an object of all affections, but because of the logic of the co-determinate--there is a sense of radical contengency, there must be an object upon which we are radically contingent.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Theology is Respected by the Academy Around the World

young Paul Tillich (right) at Science
Conference with Einstine
(second from left
back row)

Atheists are always bad mouthing theology, but the vast Majority of them have never read a single page of real theology. They have no concept of what a real theology is about, they probably think it's like Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell. They know nothing about it but they are so sure it's stupid. The bad mouthing began with Dawkins trying to overcome his deficit in theology without having to learn any. People who criticize his swill with the attack "he knows nothing about theology" which means his books are worthless when they attack theology. So he came up with the extremely inane response that "theology is stupid so I don't have to know about it to know its' stupid." Obviously if he doesn't know about it then he can't know it's stupid. I've seen atheist say "well it's about God so that's how I know it's stupid," That proves someone is stupid. Can you say "circular reasoning?" The attitude toward bad mouthing theology is no where more prevalent than on CARM the atheist boards.

Originally Posted by Rainydays View Post
LinkThis is no debate club, and there is no need to enter an arm's race. Let the maker of the positive claim come up with a serious case. I'm not even talking about this forum. If there was a good case, it would already be all over academic literature. I agree that a firm ''no'' is not always wise. I stick to the academic principle. If there are no positive results, a hypothesis cannot be accepted. This doesn't say a whole lot. It just means we will continue ''as if nothing happened'' until something changes.

ahahah My friend. I don't want to insult you. I really don't. Please don't take this the wrong way but you really need more exposure to the academic. IT is all over the academic world! First of all I think he actually got that line from me. I'm always saying "if you had an argument to disprove my position you would make it rather than just call the position names." The statement he makes there is so absurdly silly becuase there are many many dynamite cases for the existence of God and the validity of the Bible made all over the internet all the time. I have 42 of them myself. That's right, I got 42 so I could say this: The answer to God the universe and everything is these God arguemnts.

Do you not realize that every major university on earth has a theology department? Harvard, Yale. Tubingen, Northwestern, Georgetown, Oxford, Cambridge, Paris, McGill University in Montreal, ect ect. Even state schools in America can't have theology they have religious studies and philosophy of religion or even Bible chairs.

the vast majority of great writers and thinkers have been believers in God. The list of believers in God in the academic world reads like a list of the greatest thinkers in history it's like ten times longer than the atheist.

Numerous professors at every school I was at told me that theology is respected theologians are respected. you are getting your opinions from atheist web sties. If you Google people like Paul Tillich it will say he's considered one of the most Brilliant men of the 20th century. It will never sy "stupid theologian who didn't know nothing." My Greek professor whose earned his Ph.D. from Yale told me "you would be surprised where one finds Christians around academia, they are in all fields and all levels of academia." Another professor in graduate work, who taught Heidegger and Hermeneutics, said that the philosophers at Tubingen follow with great interest what Jurgen Moltmann does. They are not snidely ignoring theology becuase they think it's stupid.

Many major scientists have been Christians, some even theologians as well (Polikinghorne quite science to become a priest).
Fritz Shafer, nominated for Nobel Prize in Chemistry, University of Georgia, himself a Christian: "it is very rare that a physical scientists is truly an atheist."
Martin Rees at Cambridge: "The possibility of life as we know it depends upon a few basic values which are constants. And it is in some aspect remarkably sensitive to their heir numerical values. Nature does exhibit remarkable coincidences."
Arthur Schewhow, Nobel prize winner from Stanford, identifies himself as a Christian. "We are fortunate to have the Bible which tells us so much about God in widely accessible terms."
Charlie Towns Nobel prize winner: "The question of science seems to be unanswered if we explore from science alone. Thus I believe there is a need for some metaphysical or religious explanation. I believe in the concept of God an in his existence."
John Pokingham, theoretical physicist at Cambridge, left physics to become a minister. "I believe that God exists and has made himself known in Jesus Christ."
Allan Sandage, The world's greatest observational cosmologist , Caregie observatories won a prize given by Swedish parliament equivalent to Nobel prize (there is no Nobel prize for cosmology) became a Christian after being a scientist, "The nature of God is not found in any part of science, for that we must turn to the scriptures."

That list originally came from an article by Firtz Schaffer years ago on Leadership University. Martian Rees is not a Christian but he recently won the Templeton award for creating understanding between religoius thinkers and scinece. He is well known for respecting religion.
Drawing from Judaism's sacred texts as well as great thinkers such as Mordecai Kaplan, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Paul Tillich, Gillman traces his ...
Mar 2, 2012 – Seanad should respect Ireland's diversity ... who hold an attentiveness to the "beyond in our midst" as the great thinker Paul Tillich put it, as well . › Mind & Soul
Great Thinkers, Page: 3. ... Paul Tillich, Alfred North Whitehead, and Hans Jonas point to a God whose being is linked with our own. Jul 28, 2011 – John .
Sep 5, 2004 – ... attracting some of the greatest thinkers of the 20th century: Historian Arnold Toynbee, theologian Paul Tillich and two-time Nobel ... that would eventually influence the nation: a respect for mind-body connections, holistic ... › LibraryLiterature & Language
He (Tillich) became respected for his lucid preaching and his Systematic Theology, 3 vol. ... Together with thinkers such as Karl Barth and Rudolf Bultmann, Paul Tillich ... The best known of these, translated into English as The Religious Situation ...
Whitehead invented Process theology, Toynbee was a Christian, Tillich, Barth, Bultmann all liberal theologians in the Christian tradition. Sorry but it is the case that the major figures theology are respected as great thinkers.

what you are refusing to take seriously is the idea that most academics now that ultimate answers are not easy to come by.Most scientist don't buy into the fortress of facts. Carl Popper says scinece is not about proving things. Science can't prove things but atheists are always implying that their world view is backed by a huge pile of facts while religious belief is backed by no facts. this is what from true. I've researched a vast body of empirical research that shows that religious experience is the product of any kind of pathology and has dramatic transformation effects upon the experience.

Monday, December 09, 2013

Validity of Gospels part 2


This is the continence of the issues on Wednessday. I laid out a major point

I. The authority of Teaching for the Tradition

II. Eye Witness Testimony

A. Community as Author.
this leaves us with second sub point:

(B) Gospel behind the Gospels.

The Gospels we have now that we take for granted as the first and most authentic are constructed by communities, not individuals,(due to redaction, the editing process). They are composed from prior documents meaning that many of the very same reading were not the original words of authors named "Matthew, Mark, Luke, John" but already existed and already circulated in other forms. In other words, there are older "pre Gospel" Gospels. that can be dated as earlier as mid first century or so. We know this through a variety of sources.

The circulation of Gospel material can be showen in four areas:

(1) Oral tradition

(2) saying source Material

(3) Non canonical Gospels
(4) traces of pre Markan redaction(PMR) (canonical material that pre-date Mark, assumed the to be the first Gosple)

Oral tradition in two major sources

(1) Pauline references to sayings
The Great scholar Edgar Goodspeed held that oral tradition was not haphazard rumor but tightly controlled process, and that all new converts were required to learn certain oral traditions and spit them from memory.

An Introduction to the New Testament

By Edgar J. Goodspeed
University of Chicago Press
Chicago: Illinois.Published September 1937.

This web page is placed in the public domain by Peter Kirby and Wally Williams

Our earliest Christian literature, the letters of Paul, gives us glimpses of the form in which the story of Jesus and his teaching first circulated. That form was evidently an oral tradition, not fluid but fixed, and evidently learned by all Christians when they entered the church. This is why Paul can say, "I myself received from the Lord the account that I passed on to you," I Cor. 11:23. The words "received, passed on" [1] reflect the practice of tradition—the handing-down from one to another of a fixed form of words. How congenial this would be to the Jewish mind a moment's reflection on the Tradition of the Elders will show. The Jews at this very time possessed in Hebrew, unwritten, the scribal interpretation of the Law and in Aramaic a Targum or translation of most or all of their Scriptures. It was a point of pride with them not to commit these to writing but to preserve them.


1 Corinthians 15:3-8 has long been understood as a formula saying like a creedal statement.
For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

1Cr 15:4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

1Cr 15:5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

1Cr 15:6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

1Cr 15:7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

1Cr 15:8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

Two problems: (1) This does not confirm to a canonical reading; (2) it seems to contradict the order of appearance of the epiphanies (the sitings of Jesus after the resurrection). In fact it doesn't even mention the women. Nevertheless it is in general agreement with the resurrection story, and seems to indicate an oral tradition already in circulation by the AD 50s, and probably some time before that since it has had tome to be formed into a formulamatic statement.

 The problem with showing oral tradition is that we have to find it in writing and this is essentually impossible. But we do find references to it in Paul. We find the doxology and other sayings that to which he alludes.

(2)The nature of pericopes

 The nature of the pericopes themselves shows us that the synoptic gosples are made up of units of oral tradition. Many skpetics seem to think that Mark indented the story in the Gospel and that's the first time they came to exist. But no, Mark wrote down stories that the chruch had told for decades. Each unit or story is called a "pericope" (per-ic-o-pee).

Prof. Felix Just, S.J.

Electronic New Testament Educational Resources

pronounced "pur-IH-cuh-pee") - an individual "passage" within the Gospels, with a distinct beginning and ending, so that it forms an independent literary "unit"; similar pericopes are often found in different places and different orders in the Gospels; pericopes can include various genres (parables, miracle stories, evangelists' summaries, etc.)

On this basis Baultmann developed "form cricisim" because the important aspect was the form the oral tradition too, weather parable, narration, or other oral form.

Saying Source Material

Above we had oral tradition sources. The first one was Paul. This is about written saying sources. Again one of them is from Paul. But first "Thomas."

(1) Gospel of Thomas

 The Gospel of Thomas  which was found in a Coptic version in  Nag Hammadi, but also exists in another form in several Greek fragments, is a prime example of a saying source. The narratival elements are very minimul, amounting to things like "Jesus said" or "Mary asked him about this,and he said..." The Gospel is apt to be dismissed by conservatives and Evangelicals due to its Gnostic elements and lack of canonicity. While it is true that Thomas contains heavily Gnostic elements of the second century or latter, it also contains a core of sayings which are so close to Q sayings from the synoptics that some have proposed that it may be Q (see Helmutt Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels). Be that as it may, there is good evidence that the material in Thomas comes from an independent tradition,t hat it is not merely copied out of the synoptics but represents a PMR.

Quoted on Peter Kirby's Early Christian Writtings

KIrby quoting:Ron Cameron comments on the attestation to Thomas (op. cit., p. 535):

"The one incontrovertible testimonium to Gos. Thom. is found in Hippolytus of Rome (Haer. 5.7.20). Writing between the years 222-235 C.E., Hippolytus quoes a variant of saying 4 expressly stated to be taken from a text entitled Gos. Thom. Possible references to this gospel by its title alone abound in early Christianity (e.g. Eus. Hist. Eccl. 3.25.6). But such indirect attestations must be treated with care, since they might refer to the Infancy Gospel of Thomas. Parallels to certain sayings in Gos. Thom. are also abundant; some are found, according to Clement of Alexandria, in the Gospel of the Hebrews and the Gospel of the Egyptians. However, a direct dependence of Gos. Thom. upon another noncanonical gospel is problematic and extremely unlikely. The relationship of Gos. Thom. to the Diatessaron of Tatian is even more vexed, exacerbated by untold difficulties in reconstructing the textual basis of Tatian's tradition, and has not yet been resolved."

(Ron Cameron, ed., The Other Gospels: Non-Canonical Gospel Texts (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster Press 1982), pp. 23-37.)

Kirby--In Statistical Correlation Analysis of Thomas and the Synoptics, Stevan Davies argues that the Gospel of Thomas is independent of the canonical gospels on account of differences in order of the sayings.

In his book, Stephen J. Patterson compares the wording of each saying in Thomas to its synoptic counterpart with the conclusion that Thomas represents an autonomous stream of tradition (The Gospel of Thomas and Jesus, p. 18):

(Kirby quoting Patterson)"If Thomas were dependent upon the synoptic gospels, it would be possible to detect in the case of every Thomas-synoptic parallel the same tradition-historical development behind both the Thomas version of the saying and one or more of the synoptic versions. That is, Thomas' author/editor, in taking up the synoptic version, would have inherited all of the accumulated tradition-historical baggage owned by the synoptic text, and then added to it his or her own redactional twist. In the following texts this is not the case. Rather than reflecting the same tradition-historical development that stands behind their synoptic counterparts, these Thomas sayings seem to be the product of a tradition-history which, though exhibiting the same tendencies operative within the synoptic tradition, is in its own specific details quite unique. This means, of course, that these sayings are not dependent upon their synoptic counterparts, but rather derive from a parallel and separate tradition."

Stevan L. Davies, The Gospel of Thomas: Annotated and Explained (Skylight Paths Pub 2002)
 (2) Pauline references

Koster theorizes that Paul probably had a saying source like that of Q avaible to him. Paul's use of Jesus' teachings indicates that he probably worked from his own saying source which contained at least aspects of Q. That indicates wide connection with the Jerusalem chruch and the proto "Orthodox" faith.

Parable of Sower 1 Corinthians 3:6 Matt.
Stumbling Stone Romans 9: 33 Jer 8:14/Synoptics
Ruling against divorce 1 cor 7:10 Mark 10:11
Support for Apostles 1 Cor 9:14 Q /Luke 10:7
Institution of Lord's Supper 1 Cor 11:23-26 Mark 14
command concerning prophets 1Cor 14:37 Synoptic
Apocalyptic saying 1 Thes. 4:15 21
Blessing of the Persecuted Romans 12:14 Q/Luke 6:27
Not repaying evil with evil Romans 12:17 and I Thes 5:15 Mark 12:12-17
Paying Taxes to authorities Romans 13:7 Mark 9:42
No Stumbling Block Romans 14:13 Mark 9:42
Nothing is unclean Romans 14:14 Mark 7:15
Thief in the Night 1 Thes 5:2 Q/ Luke 12:39
Peace among yourselves 1 Thes Mark 9:50
Have peace with Everyone Romans 12:18 Mar 9:50
Do not judge Romans 13: 10 Q /Luke 6:37

Lost Gospels

Story by Kay Albright, (785) 864-8858

University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Copyright 1997

LAWRENCE - Fragments of a fourth-century Egyptian manuscript contain a lost gospel dating from the first or second century, according to Paul Mirecki, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas.

Mirecki discovered the manuscript in the vast holdings of Berlin's Egyptian Museums in 1991. The book contains a rare "dialogue gospel" with conversations between Jesus and his disciples, shedding light on the origins of early Judaisms and Christianities.

The lost gospel, whose original title has not survived, has similarities to the Gospel of John and the most famous lost gospel, the gospel of Thomas, which was discovered in Egypt in 1945.

The newly discovered gospel is written in Coptic, the ancient Egyptian language using Greek letters. Mirecki said the gospel was probably the product of a Christian minority group called Gnostics, or "knowers."

Mirecki said the discussion between Jesus and his disciples probably takes place after the resurrection, since the text is in the same literary genre as other post-resurrection dialogues, though the condition of the manuscript makes the time element difficult to determine.

"This lost gospel presents us with more primary evidence that the origins of early Christianity were far more diverse than medieval church historians would tell us," Mirecki said. "Early orthodox histories denigrated and then banished from political memory the existence of these peaceful people and their sacred texts, of which this gospel is one."

Mirecki is editing the manuscript with Charles Hedrick, professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield. Both men independently studied the manuscript while working on similar projects in Berlin.

A chance encounter at a professional convention in 1995 in Philadelphia made both men realize that they were working on the same project. They decided to collaborate, and their book will be published this summer by Brill Publishers in the Netherlands.

The calfskin manuscript is damaged, and only 15 pages remain. Mirecki said it was probably the victim of an orthodox book burning in about the fifth century.

The 34 Gospels

Bible Review, June 2002: 20-31; 46-47

Charles W. Hendrick, professor who discovered the lost Gospel of the Savior tells us

Mirecki and I are not the first scholars to find a new ancient gospel. In fact scholars now have copies of 19 gospels (either complete, in fragments or in quotations), written in the first and second centuries A.D— nine of which were discovered in the 20th century. Two more are preserved, in part, in other andent writings, and we know the names of several others, but do not have copies of them. Clearly, Luke was not exaggerating when he wrote in his opening verse: "Many undertook to compile narratives [aboutJesus]" (Luke 1:1). Every one of these gospels was deemed true and sacred by at least some early Christians

These Gospels demonstrate a great diversity among the early chruch, the diminish the claims of an orthodox purity. On the other hand, they tell us more about the historical Jesus as well. One thing they all have in common is to that they show Jesus as a historical figure, working in public and conducting his teachings before people, not as a spirit being devoid of human life.Hendrick says,"Gospels-whether canonical or not- are collections of anecdotes from Jesus' public career."

Many of these lost Gospels pre date the canonical gospels, which puts them prior to AD 60 for Mark:


The Gospel of the Saviour, too. fits this description. Contrary' to popular opinion, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not included m the canon simply because they were the earliest gospels or because they were eyewitness accounts. Some non canonical gospels are dated roughly to the same period, and the canonical gospels and other early Christian accounts appear to rely on earlier reports. Thus, as far as the physical evidence is concerned, the canonical gospels do not take precedence over the noncanonical gospels. The fragments of John, Thomas and theEgerton Gospel share the distinction of being the earliest extant pieces of Christian writing known. And although the existing manuscript evidence for Thomas dates to the mid-second century, the scholars who first published the Greek fragments held open the possibility that it was actually composed in the first century, which would put it around the time John was composed.

The unknown Gospel of Papyrus Egerton 2

The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 was discovered in Egypt in 1935 exiting in two different manuscripts. The original editors found that the handwriting was that of a type from the late first early second century. In 1946 Goro Mayeda published a dissertation which argues for the independence of the readings from the canonical tradition. This has been debated since then and continues to be debated. Recently John B. Daniels in his Clairmont Dissertation argued for the independence of the readings from canonical sources. (John B. Daniels, The Egerton Gospel: It's place in Early Christianity, Dissertation Clairmont: CA 1990). Daniels states "Egerton's Account of Jesus healing the leaper Plausibly represents a separate tradition which did not undergo Markan redaction...Compositional choices suggest that...[the author] did not make use of the Gospel of John in canonical form." (Daniels, abstract). The unknown Gospel of Egerton 2 is remarkable still further in that it mixes Johannie language with Synoptic contexts and vice versa. which, "permits the conjecture that the author knew all and everyone of the canonical Gospels." (Joachim Jeremias, Unknown Sayings, "An Unknown Gospel with Johannine Elements" in Hennecke-Schneemelcher-Wilson, NT Apocrypha 1.96). The Unknown Gospel preserves a tradition of Jesus healing the leper in Mark 1:40-44. (Note: The independent tradition in the Diatessaran was also of the healing of the leper). There is also a version of the statement about rendering unto Caesar. Space does not permit a detailed examination of the passages to really prove Koster's point here. But just to get a taste of the differences we are talking about:

Egerton 2: "And behold a leper came to him and said "Master Jesus, wandering with lepers and eating with them in the inn, I therefore became a leper. If you will I shall be clean. Accordingly the Lord said to him "I will, be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him. Mark 1:40: And the leper came to him and beseeching him said '[master?] if you will you can make me clean. And he stretched out his hands and touched him and said "I will be clean" and immediately the leprosy left him.
Egerton 2: "tell us is it permitted to give to Kings what pertains to their rule? Tell us, should we give it? But Jesus knowing their intentions got angry and said "why do you call me teacher with your mouth and do not what I say"? Mark 12:13-15: Is it permitted to pay taxes to Caesar or not? Should we pay them or not? But knowing their hypocrisy he said to them "why do you put me to the test, show me the coin?"


"There are two solutions that are equally improbable. It is unlikely that the pericope in Egerton 2 is an independent older tradition. It is equally hard to imagine that anyone would have deliberately composed this apophthegma by selecting sentences from three different Gospel writings. There are no analogies to this kind of Gospel composition because this pericope is neither a harmony of parallels from different Gospels, nor is it a florogelium. If one wants to uphold the hypothesis of dependence upon written Gospels one would have to assume that the pericope was written form memory....What is decisive is that there is nothing in the pericope that reveals redactional features of any of the Gospels that parallels appear. The author of Papyrus Egerton 2 uses independent building blocks of sayings for the composition of this dialogue none of the blocks have been formed by the literary activity of any previous Gospel writer. If Papyrus Egerton 2 is not dependent upon the Fourth Gospel it is an important witness to an earlier stage of development of the dialogues of the fourth Gospel....(Koester , 3.2 p.215)

Gospel of Peter
Fragments of the Gospel of Peter were found in 1886 /87 in Akhimim, upper Egypt. These framents were from the 8th or 9th century. No other fragment was found for a long time until one turned up at Oxyrahynchus, which were written in 200 AD. Bishop Serapion of Antioch made the statement prior to 200 that a Gospel had been put forward in the name of Peter. This statement is preserved by Eusebius who places Serapion around 180. But the Akhimim fragment contains three periciopes. The Resurrection, to which the guards at the tomb are witnesses, the empty tomb, or which the women are witnesses, and an epiphany of Jesus appearing to Peter and the 12, which end the book abruptly.
Many features of the Gospel of Peter are clearly from secondary sources, that is reworked versions of the canonical story. These mainly consist of 1) exaggerated miracles; 2) anti-Jewish polemic.The cross follows Jesus out of the tomb, a voice from heaven says "did you preach the gospel to all?" The cross says "Yea." And Pilate is totally exonerated, the Jews are blamed for the crucifixion. (Koester, p.218). However, "there are other traces in the Gospel of Peter which demonstrate an old and independent tradition." The way the suffering of Jesus is described by the use of passages from the old Testament without quotation formulae is, in terms of the tradition, older than the explicit scriptural proof; it represents the oldest form of the passion of Jesus. (Philipp Vielhauer, Geschichte, 646] Jurgen Denker argues that the Gospel of Peter shares this tradition of OT quotation with the Canonicals but is not dependent upon them. (In Koester p.218) Koester writes, "John Dominic Crosson has gone further [than Denker]...he argues that this activity results in the composition of a literary document at a very early date i.e. in the middle of the First century CE" (Ibid). Said another way, the interpretation of Scripture as the formation of the passion narrative became an independent document, a ur-Gospel, as early as the middle of the first century!
Corosson's Cross Gospel is this material in the Gospel of Peter through which, with the canonicals and other non-canonical Gospels Crosson constructs a whole text. According to the theory, the earliest of all written passion narratives is given in this material, is used by Mark, Luke, Matthew, and by John, and also Peter. Peter becomes a very important 5th witness. Koester may not be as famous as Crosson but he is just as expert and just as liberal. He takes issue with Crosson on three counts:

1) no extant text,its all coming form a late copy of Peter,

2) it assumes the literary composition of latter Gospels can be understood to relate to the compositions of earlier ones;
3) Koester believes that the account ends with the empty tomb and has independent sources for the epihanal material.


"A third problem regarding Crossan's hypotheses is related specifically to the formation of reports about Jesus' trial, suffering death, burial, and resurrection. The account of the passion of Jesus must have developed quite eary because it is one and the same account that was used by Mark (and subsequently Matthew and Luke) and John and as will be argued below by the Gospel of Peter. However except for the appearances of Jesus after his resurrection in the various gospels cannot derive from a single source, they are independent of one another. Each of the authors of the extant gospels and of their secondary endings drew these epiphany stories from their own particular tradition, not form a common source." (Koester, p. 220)

"Studies of the passion narrative have shown that all gospels were dependent upon one and the same basic account of the suffering, crucifixion, death and burial of Jesus. But this account ended with the discovery of the empty tomb. With respect to the stories of Jesus' appearances, each of the extant gospels of the canon used different traditions of epiphany stories which they appended to the one canon passion account. This also applies to the Gospel of Peter. There is no reason to assume that any of the epiphany stories at the end of the gospel derive from the same source on which the account of the passion is based."(Ibid)

So Helmutt Koester  differs from Crosson mainly in that he divides the epiphanies up into different sources. Another major distinction between the two is that Crosson finds the story of Jesus burial to be an interpolation from Mark to John. Koester argues that there is no evidence to understand this story as dependent upon Mark. (Ibid). Unfortunately we don't' have space to go through all of the fascinating analysis which leads Koester to his conclusions. Essentially he is comparing the placement of the pericopes and the dependence of one source upon another. What he finds is mutual use made by the canonical and Peter of a an older source that all of the barrow from, but Peter does not come by that material through the canonical, it is independent of them.

"The Gospel of Peter, as a whole, is not dependent upon any of the canonical gospels. It is a composition which is analogous to the Gospel of Mark and John. All three writings, independently of each other, use older passion narrative which is based upon an exegetical tradition that was still alive when these gospels were composed and to which the Gospel of Matthew also had access. All five gospels under consideration, Mark, John, and Peter, as well as Matthew and Luke, concluded their gospels with narratives of the appearances of Jesus on the basis of different epiphany stories that were told in different contexts. However, fragments of the epiphany story of Jesus being raised form the tomb, which the Gospel of Peter has preserved in its entirety, were employed in different literary contexts in the Gospels of Mark and Matthew." (Ibid, p. 240).

Also see my essay  Have Gaurds, Will Aruge in which Jurgen Denker and Raymond Brown also agree about the independent nature of GPete. Brown made his reputation proving the case, and publishes a huge chart in Death of the Messiah which shows the interdependent nature and traces it line for line. Unfortunately I can't reproduce the chart.

What all of this means is, that there were independent traditions of the same stories, the same documents, used by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which were still alive and circulating even when these canonical gospels were written. They represent much older sources and the basic work which all of these others use, goes back to the middle of the first century. It definitely posited Jesus as a flesh and blood man, living in historical context with other humans, and dying on the cross in historical context with other humans, and raising from the dead in historical context, not in some ethereal realm or in outer space. He was not the airy fairy Gnostic redeemer of Doherty, but the living flesh and blood "Son of Man."

Moreover, since the breakdown of Ur gospel and epiphany sources (independent of each other) demands the logical necessity of still other sources, and since the other material described above amounts to the same thing, we can push the envelope even further and say that at the very latest there were independent gospel source circulating in the 40s, well within the life span of eye witnesses, which were based upon the assumption that Jesus was a flesh and blood man, that he had an historical existence. Note: all these "other Gospels" are not merely oriented around the same stories, events, or ideas, but basically they are oriented around the same sentences. There is very little actual new material in any of them, and no new stories. They all essentially assume the same sayings. There is some new material in Thomas, and others, but essentially they are all about the same things. Even the Gospel of Mary which creates a new setting, Mary discussing with the Apostles after Jesus has returned to heaven, but the words are basically patterned after the canonical gospels. It is as though there is an original repository of the words and events and all other versions follow that repository. This repository is most logically explained as the original events! Jesus actual teachings!


Canonical Gospels

The Diatessaon is an attempt at a Harmony of the four canonical Gospels. It was complied by Titian in about AD172, but it contains readings which imply that he used versions of the canonical gospels some of which contain pre markan elements.

In an article published in the Back of Helmut Koester's Ancient Christian Gospels, William L. Petersen states:
"Sometimes we stumble across readings which are arguably earlier than the present canonical text. One is Matthew 8:4 (and Parallels) where the canonical text runs "go show yourself to the priests and offer the gift which Moses commanded as a testimony to them" No fewer than 6 Diatessaronic witnesses...give the following (with minor variants) "Go show yourself to the priests and fulfill the law." With eastern and western support and no other known sources from which these Diatessaranic witnesses might have acquired the reading we must conclude that it is the reading of Tatian...The Diatessaronic reading is certainly more congielian to Judaic Christianity than than to the group which latter came to dominate the church and which edited its texts, Gentile Christians. We must hold open the possibility that the present canonical reading might be a revision of an earlier, stricter , more explicit and more Judeo-Christian text, here preserved only in the Diatessaron. (From "Titian's Diatessaron" by William L. Petersen, in Helmut Koester, Ancient Christian Gospels: Their History and Development, Philadelphia: Trinity Press International, 1990, p. 424)

The Jesus Narrative In Pauline Literature

Paul's allusions to the narrative relates to many points in the Gospels:

He was flesh and blood (Phil 2:6, 1 Tim 3:16)
Born from the lineage of David (Rom 1:3-4, 2 Tim 2:8)
Jesus' baptism is implied (Rom 10:9)
The last supper (1 Cor 11:23ff)
Confessed his Messiahship before Pilate (1 Tim 6:13)
Died for peoples' sins (Rom 4:25, 1 Tim 2:6)
He was killed (1 Cor 15:3, Phil 2:8)
Buried (1 Cor 15:4)
Empty tomb is implied (1 Cor 15:4)
Jesus was raised from the dead (2 Tim 2:8)
Resurrected Jesus appeared to people (1 Cor 15:4ff)
James, a former skeptics, witnessed this (1 Cor 15:7)
as did Paul (1 Cor 15:8-9)
This was reported at an early date (1 Cor 15:4-8)
He asceded to heaven, glorified and exalted (1 Tim 3:16, Phil 2:6f)
Disciples were transformed by this (1 Tim 3:16)
Disciples made the Gospel center of preaching (1 Cor 15:1-4)
Resurrection was chief validation of message (Rom 1:3-4, Rom 10:9-10)
Called Son of God (Rom 1:3-4)
Called Lord (Rom 1:4, Rom 10:9, Phil 2:11)
Called God (Phil 2:6)
Called Christ or Messiah (Rom 1:4, Phil 2:11

Summary and Conclusion

Koester  and Crosson both agree that the PMR was circulating in written form with empty tomb and passion narrative, as early as 50AD

From this notion as a base line for the beginning of the process of redaction, and using the traditional dates given the final product of canonical gospels as the base line for the end of the process, we can see that it is quite probable that the canonical gospels were formed between 50 and 95 AD. It appears most likely that the early phase, from the events themselves that form the Gospel, to the circulation of a written narrative, there was a controlled oral tradition that had its hay day in the 30's-40's but probably overlapped into the 60's or 70's. The say sources began to be produced, probably in the 40's, as the first written attempt to remember Jesus' teachings. The production of a written narrative in 50, or there about, probably sparked interest among the communities of the faithful in producing their own narrative accounts; after all, they too had eye witnesses.

Between 50-70's those who gravitated toward Gnosticism began emphasizing those saying sources and narrative periscope that interested them for their seeming Gnostic elements, while the Orthodox honed their own orthodox sources that are reflected in Paul's choices of material,and latter in the canonical gospels themselves. So a great "divvying up" process began where by what would become Gnostic lore got it's start, and for that reason was weeded out of the orthodox pile of sayings and doings. By that I mean sayings Like "if you are near to the fire you are near to life" (Gospel of the Savior) or "cleave the stone and I am there" (Thomas) "If Heaven is in the clouds the birds of the air will get there before you" (Thomas) have a seeming gnostic flavor but could be construed as Orthodox. These were used by the Gnostically inclined and left by the Orthodox. That makes sense as we see the earliest battles with gnosticism beginner to heat up in the Pauline literature.

My own theory is that Mark was produced in several forms between 60-70, before finally comeing to rest in the form we know it today in 70. During that time Matthew and Luke each copied from different versions of it. John bears some commonality with Mark, according to Koester, becasue both draw upon the PMR. Thus the early formation of John began in 50-s or 60s, the great schism of the group probably happened in the 70's or 80s, with the gnostic bunching leaving for Egypt and producing their own Gnostic redaction of the gospel of John, the Orthodox group then producing the final form by adding the prologue which in effect, is the ultimate censor to those who left the group.

The Gospel material was circularizing throughout Church hsitory, form the infancy of the Church to the final production of Canonical Gospels. Thus the skeptical retort that "they weren't written until decades latter" is totally irrelevant. It is not the case,they were being written all along, and they were the product of the communities from which they sprang, the communities which originally witnessed the events and the ministry of Jesus Christ.