Friday, May 11, 2012

Legalizing Sin

* I wrote this in light of the conversations in Christian circles surrounding Obama's recent statement about condoning same-sex marriage.

At the risk of being unpopular among my fellow Christians, and the benefit of not being censored, I'm going to respond to Kevin DeYoung's recent article from The Gospel Coalition, point by point, 1 through 5, using scripture. Why? Because I think he is dead wrong, and his conclusions are seductively unChristian. Christians should not continue to oppose gay marriage. Some of the logical fallacies DeYoung presents are blatantly obvious, so rather than pointing them out, I'm going to stick with using some of Jesus' parables for my arguments against them. My interpretation of these parables, I should note, do not reflect their only application, and if you think I am misguided, by all means let me know with a comment. I intend to use this as a platform for truth, and make no reservation for unaccountability for myself.

Let me start by eliminating some false presuppositions based on my premise that may be unclear: I believe the Bible to be God's infallible scripture, and therefore acknowledge that the Bible explicitly calls Sodomy 'moral sin' (Jude 1:7Romans 1:24–271 Corinthians 6:9–10, 1 Timothy 1:9-11) according to Christianity.

*Edit: The NIV translates this as "Homosexuality", which may or may not fit with the original understanding of the word; I'm simply neutral on this issue at the moment, and the following argument does not address this nor seek to persuade you either way.

So we begin...

1. Every time the issue of gay marriage has been put to a vote by the people, the people have voted to uphold traditional marriage. Even in California. In fact, the amendment passed in North Carolina on Tuesday by a wider margin (61-39) than a similar measure passed six years ago in Virginia (57-42). The amendment passed in North Carolina, a swing state Obama carried in 2008, by 22 percentage points. We should not think that gay marriage in all the land is a foregone conclusion. To date 30 states have constitutionally defined marriage as between a man and a woman.
 If a Christian has an issue with changing a traditional constitution, we must consider what is at stake if we don't change. As in the parable of the Lost Sheep (Luke 15:3-7), The Good Shepherd willingly leaves his flock to search for the one who is lost. In order for this analogy to function, one requires the freedom to wander. What is at stake here is not even traditional marriage, per se; it is the oppression of freedom. The constitutional definition of marriage is not the definition as God has defined it. Christian marriage is between God and man. What God has joined together cannot be written and signed by our government to make it any more official. The ones who are lost are the ones in need of being validated as humans with rights. If the majority of people vote for something different than the garden of eden (where choice is freedom), and call it God's ideal, I think we're way off.

2. The promotion and legal recognition of homosexual unions is not in the interest of the common good. That may sound benighted, if not bigoted. But we must say it in love: codifying the indistinguishability of gender will not make for the “peace of the city.” It rubs against the grain of the universe, and when you rub against the grain of divine design you’re bound to get splinters. Or worse. The society which says sex is up to your own definition and the family unit is utterly fungible is not a society that serves its children, its women, or its own long term well being.
A society that relies on its government to define things such as sexual orientation is not a solution for gender confusion. This can be likened to putting a lamp under a bowl (Luke 8:16–18) in that government is elevated to uphold the morals of Jesus by creating a new norm, when in fact, this is idolatry. The only way to uphold Christian morals effectively is apart from the state, so that the light of Jesus can be visible. When we rely on government to uphold family values, we can expect things like gender distinguishability to be taken from us. Besides all this, it is benighted and bigoted to presuppose that homosexual parents desire to control the sexual orientation of their children.

3. Marriage is not simply the term we use to describe those relationships most precious to us. The word means something and has meant something throughout history. Marriage is more than a union of hearts and minds. It involves a union of bodies–and not bodies in any old way we please, as if giving your cousin a wet willy in the ear makes you married. Marriage, to quote one set of scholars, is a” comprehensive union of two sexually complementary persons who seal (consummate or complete) their relationship by the generative act—by the kind of activity that is by its nature fulfilled by the conception of a child. So marriage itself is oriented to and fulfilled by the bearing, rearing, and education of children.” This conjugal view of marriage states in complex language what would have been a truism until a couple generations ago. Marriage is what children (can) come from. Where that element is not present (at the level of sheer design and function, even if not always in fulfillment), marriage is not a reality. We should not concede that “gay marriage” is really marriage. What’s more, as Christians we understand that the great mystery of marriage can never be captured between a relationship of Christ and Christ or church and church.
The church lost the right to define legal marriage when we accepted tax benefits for married couples. Personally, I don't consider a marriage to be Christian unless the people in it are Christians. It's a different set of vows altogether. We can easily fall victim to judging others, to which I'm quickly reminded that while I was dead in sin, Christ died so I may live. The parable of the Two Debtors (Luke 7:36-47) shows us how more debt requires more grace, and pointing out when someone else doesn't measure up to my morals shows how little I could possibly love anyone.

4. Allowing for the legalization of gay marriage further normalizes what was until very recently, and still should be, considered deviant behavior. While it’s true that politics is downstream from culture, it’s also true that law is one of the tributaries contributing to culture. In our age of hyper-tolerance we try to avoid stigmas, but stigmas can be an expression of common grace. Who knows how many stupid sinful things I’ve been kept from doing because I knew my peers and my community would deem it shameful. Our cultural elites may never consider homosexuality shameful, but amendments that define marriage as one man and one woman serve a noble end by defining what is as what ought to be. We do not help each other in the fight for holiness when we allow for righteousness to look increasingly strange and sin to look increasingly normal.
Imposing Christian morals on society is no way to legislate a standard for living, let alone define deviant behaviour. Christianity, like [most] religions, is an opt-in relationship, and to say anything about someone who hasn't made that choice (and therefore doesn't accept our definition of sin), is simply inappropriate—EVEN IF our standards are too high for ourselves. The law was written on the hearts of man for the exclusive right of God to convict. Heterosexual marriage does not define nobility any more than being right handed. What defines nobility is the quality of your marriage. Righteousness will not look strange so long as we appear to be Wheat Among Weeds (Matthew 13:24-30). Since you and I as Christ-followers are mere servants, leave the harvesting to the harvesters.

5. We are naive if we think a laissez faire compromise would be enjoyed by all if only the conservative Christians would stop being so dogmatic. The next step after giving up the marriage fight is not a happy millennium of everyone everywhere doing marriage in his own way. The step after surrender is conquest. I’m not suggesting heterosexuals would no longer be able to get married. What I am suggesting is that the cultural pressure will not stop with allowing for some “marriages” to be homosexual. It will keep mounting until all accept and finally celebrate that homosexuality is one of Diversity’s great gifts. The goal is not for different expressions of marriage, but for the elimination of definitions altogether. Capitulating on gay marriage may feel like giving up an inch in bad law to gain a mile in good will. But the reality will be far different. For as in all of the devil’s bargains, the good will doesn’t last nearly so long as the law.
Besides being a slippery-slope fallacy in logic, this is also classic fear-mongering against an alleged agenda which should really have no bearing on how we should respond to them as people. The parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30–37) shows us how to love someone with an affliction, counter to religious priorities or consequences. Upholding the law as a levite or priest ultimately has greater implications for choosing to not get one's hands dirty. Surrendering an agenda of building a Christianized empire for the sake of someone's human rights is a worthwhile investment that will not go unnoticed. Not to mention, that's what Jesus would do.

Obviously I may have raised some further questions, for example, Should the church marry gay Christians? I think this comes down to personal conviction, as performing the wedding would ultimately recognize the marriage as before God, at least in appearance. Although, it sounds rather odd to want that—God's blessing to redefine a covenant that perfects the union of man with woman.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Why People Should Hate You

"The Christian Martyrs Last Prayer" - Painting by Leon Gerome
"You will be hated by everyone because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved."
-Jesus, Matthew 10:22
Jesus warned his followers that the world would hate them. Today, we hold onto this warning, as we witness the ongoing martyrdom of Christians from around the world. In many countries, Christians' human rights are violated on account of their faith. Churches are being burned, pastors imprisoned or killed, and many people are forced to flee their country - if not underground.
Persecuted Countries
I understand that many people face injustice on account of other faiths or unaffiliated reasons around the world, but I find it interesting that one man holds himself responsible for the persecution and deaths of his own followers.
The number of martyrs [in the period 2000-2010] was approximately 1 million. Compare this to an estimated 34,000 Christian martyrs in 1900.
-George Weigel
This begs the question, what was so threatening about the message of Jesus that would demand hatred from everyone? And who is everyone, anyway?

When we look at the way Jesus is depicted by the Bible, there is one thing that is inescapable. He clearly thought he was a king. If his goal was simply introducing moral behaviour, it is fair to say he did this poorly. I think there is something to be said about people who wish to take only the morals of Jesus and leave his apolitical agenda aside; it's a tad bit extreme. Take these, for example:
A man who said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.
-C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

So why does pairing these morals with Jesus' politics make any difference?
“My Kingdom is not an earthly kingdom. If it were, my followers would fight to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish leaders. But my Kingdom is not of this world.”
-Jesus, John 18:36
A Donkey Symbolizes Peace
The politics of a king are concerning his kingdom. For Jesus, it is also about a God who keeps His promise to make the nation of Israel a nation of priests. Because of this oath, Jesus is the guarantor of a better covenant. His message identified the true enemy of Israel not as Rome (nor is it now Palestine), but as sin and Satan. He was proclaiming the inauguration of a spiritual kingdom. The morals of Jesus should be equated to spiritual kingdom arsenal. Therefore, as soldiers of the Lord's army, we are not required to carry a gun; on the contrary, we are required not to.
If crucifixion is the coronation ceremony of our king, then you know this is not a kingdom that will progress through force.
-Bruxy Cavey, Why Did Jesus Die?
This is a hard pill to swallow for many of us as Christians, and that is evidenced throughout our history.   We either demoralize Jesus' politics, or depoliticize His morals. With the church institution perpetually being defined as a moral compass, it becomes compromised in politics, and subsequently loses in the end. In fact, the Catholic Church has failed to convince anyone that they are a force for good in the world any more. This is simply not an effort we can expect to see fruition from in this life. Steve Wilmshurst puts it aptly:
It is the overlap of the ages which produces the ongoing collision of the kingdoms and its attendant conflict: the Kingdom inaugurated by Jesus' mission is neither entirely ‘now' nor entirely ‘yet to come'. Thus there are two possible errors here. We could confine the Kingdom largely to the future, denying its effective presence in the world for today and minimizing its political dimension. . . On the other hand, to believe that the Kingdom can be fulfilled within the present age – the dream of certain liberal optimists and Christian socialists – is to ignore the plain teaching of Scripture, supported by our own experience that the power of sin and evil does not look like fading away! . . . The Kingdom's demands are so fundamental that they replace or transform our adherence to every other group, national, ethnic or cultural. . . The way of the Kingdom is to scatter the proud and bring oppressive rulers down from their thrones.
North Korean Christians Praying
What are the reasons people hate you? Are you kingdom-minded?
"We ask North Korean underground church members how we can pray for them," says Eric Foley. "And they answer, 'Pray for us? We pray for you!'" Foley explains, "When we ask them why, they say, 'Because you American Christians put so much confidence in your wealth and freedom that you don't fully know what it's like to be able to trust only in God.'"
-Pam Sparks, Christian News Wire
How has excess and freedom affected your ability to rely on God?
Dear friends, never avenge yourselves. Leave that to God. For it is written, "I will take vengeance; I will repay those who deserve it," says the Lord. . . Don't let evil get the best of you, but conquer evil by doing good.
-Paul the Apostle, Martyred in Rome, 65 AD

Friday, April 13, 2012

Seven Stories That Rule The World

As some of you know, I've been dabbling in screenwriting throughout the past months. I'm really enjoying what I'm learning, through taking a 2-day workshop, joining a small bi-weekly writers group, and reading a book called Save The Cat! One thing that has been fascinating for me is the principle of Archetype: the pattern of storytelling. Although the Jungian archetypes are limited to five, the amount of archetypal transformations are innumerable. British literary critic Christopher Booker famously limited the variety of stories of the world to only seven. In the film medium, these are synonymous to movie plots, for which there are arguably ten. Yes, that's right, you have only ever seen ten stories told in a movie theatre.
Of course it's the same old story. Truth usually is the same old story.
-Margaret Thatcher
The reason I find this so fascinating is because stories themselves are the one thing that can penetrate our souls and give our lives meaning; and ironically, our connection points are limited to a handful. Storytelling is the art of giving meaning. This is why Jesus told stories. For filmmakers, a screenplay is the set of instructions on how to tell that story.

This is the reason why personal testimony trumps science, logic, and reason every time. As Christians, this is the best we have at our disposal for describing our experiences with God. This is the only thing that centres me when I'm in a crisis of faith. This is what I wish I had every time I meet someone else in a crisis.

There are few things in this world more satisfying to me than to see the following words appear on a cinema screen: Based on a true story. Honestly, it's not even because the events actually happened; it's because I know I'm in for something primal. I know that the substance of whatever the film, at its core it will grip me by my basic instincts and make me feel something. Biographies do, however—though they resonate with our beings—often need to be embellished for one simple reason: humans are detestable. Would you watch the rest of Pursuit of Happyness if it opened with the affair Chris Gardner had with a dental student that brought his son into the world? Or that he was still married to the first woman while he was living on the streets? Perhaps, but it would be harder to not think he's an asshole.
It's the scene where we meet the hero and the hero does something — like saving a cat — that defines who he is and makes us, the audience, like him.
-Blake Snyder
Truth is, it's hard to tell a good redemption story without a redemptive quality in your main character. And for this reason, Christians have a particularly hard time making good films. Theologically, we don't believe anyone has a redemptive bone in their body, and to show a full, true transformation of repentance, it makes sense to highlight this. Fortunately (and unfortunately), God cares for the person nobody else would care about (not even an audience), if we truly knew their private life. However, I don't believe you have to break your conscience by making your character likeable; transparency does not necessarily need to be exposed in the same order as transformation. In fact, I think there is a much better time to reveal the deep darkness of the soul.
If you love only those people who love you, ...what’s so great about that? Don’t even unbelievers do that?
-Matthew 5:46-47
The biggest problem in portraying your character/self as completely detestable is that nobody relates to or cares what happens to this person. In a feature-length commercial (sellable spec) screenplay, a good protagonist generally has about six things that need fixing. I think a good testimony follows suit; generally, a concise oral parable only revolves around one or two problems.

There is a basic pattern in storytelling called The Hero's Journey, given name by Joseph Campbell in the 1940s. This charts the transformation process of any given archetype, as told in myths and folklore. The journey is divided into eight steps:
  1. Miraculous conception and birth
  2. Initiation of the hero-child
  3. Withdrawal from family or community for meditation and preparation
  4. Trial and Quest
  5. Death
  6. Descent into the underworld
  7. Resurrection and rebirth
  8. Ascension, apotheosis, and atonement
Incidentally, when this transformation process gets translated into film, one archetype is not enough to keep an audience engaged. Therein lies the purpose of a B Story or subplot. To demarcate this visually, every great screenplay follows a structure called a beat sheet. It's a preliminary blueprint for screenwriters that guarantees writing credit. Instead of writing out chapter four from Save The Cat!, I'll just list the steps here:
  1. Opening Image (first impression of tone, mood, type and scope of film)
  2. Theme Stated (say what A Story is about)
  3. Set-up (what is the world of the protagonist)
  4. Catalyst (world gets knocked down)
  5. Debate (what's the hero supposed to do?)
  6. Break into Two (something big happens, antithesis)
  7. B Story (the "love" story, breather from A Story)
  8. Fun and Games (promise of the premise)
  9. Midpoint (false peak or false collapse)
  10. Bad Guys Close In (everything is in perfect sync, but trouble abounds)
  11. All is Lost (whiff of death)
  12. Dark Night of the Soul (hero pulls out best idea to save himself)
  13. Break into Three (hazaah! the solution)
  14. Finale (lessons learned are applied, A&B Stories end in triumph)
  15. Final Image (opposite of opening image)
Note the similarities between the two structures. If you can fill in the blanks for the first structure, you can tell a story effectively. If you can fill in the blanks for the second structure, well, you probably have the makings of a decent film. If not, why not? Every life is a story worth telling, especially the ones of failure.
I really haven't had that exciting of a life. There are a lot of things I wish I would have done, instead of just sitting around and complaining about having a boring life. So I pretty much like to make it up. I'd rather tell a story about somebody else.
-Kurt Cobain

Friday, April 06, 2012

Planetary Self-Defence

When I was in high school, I got addicted to an Internet tick-based game called Planetarion. For me, this was the beginning of Online Gaming. In the wake of the Year 2000 Problem, Elite Commander Zirconus was spending all day and night combing the galaxy, forming alliances with neighbouring planets to defend Arsentium against militant aliens looking to deplete my,  ahem, *his resources and steal his orbiting asteroid mines.
To a human, this probably looked more like staring blankly at a chart on a 12" monitor waiting for the next hourly tick to go by so I could buy another eon gun...

Twelve years later, there is now talk of low earth-orbit transit systems attainable by using existing magnetic-levitation technology.

Maglev passenger trains have carried passengers at nearly 600 kilometers per hour (373 mph) - spacecraft have to be some 50 times faster, but the physics and much of the engineering is the same.
-Brian Dodson
With our eyes fixed on the stars, we start to imagine even greater possibilities. Interplanetary travel? Alien life? Earth 2.0? Jedi Academy? Ok, now I'm getting carried away...
Trains would shoot to orbit in seconds in an 80-mile sealed tube – and the scientists behind the $60 billion proposal claim it could revolutionize industry, allowing for cheap space-based solar power and generating unimaginable wealth from mines on asteroids.
-James J. Williams
I don't know about you, but I find this exciting. Slowly but surely, my high school alter-ego, Zirconus of Arsentium, is shaping up to become a reality...

But with technology pushing us beyond the limits of our humanity, so the anticipated challenges come.
End Times prophecies are even more popular than ever among date-setters, and Hollywood has even capitalized on the paranoia. With so many people fixated on the annihilation of our world, it's questionable whether channeling the energy required to save it is worth our time.

And time, apparently, is of the essence.
A rock, which is quarter of a mile across, will pass between our planet and the moon in November 2012 and will be visible with small telescopes. Passing by at a distance of just 201,000 miles, the asteroid will be the largest object ever to approach the earth so close.
-Martin Evans
Discover Magazine predicted the 10 most probable ways the world will end. Rather grim study, I must say. Odds being 1 in 700,000, asteroid impact is the only one nearly 100% preventable (as opposed to unpreventable for the rest).

What could be seen as a demonstration of God's glorious power, instead instills fear to most who describe it as nothing less than a swing and a miss.
The universe is trying to kill us.
-Phil Plait
Perversely, some Christians cry for the riddance of our home in pursuit of something greater in an after life. Was this what God intended?
The LORD smelled the pleasing scent, and the LORD thought to himself, I will not curse the fertile land anymore because of human beings since the ideas of the human mind are evil from their youth. I will never again destroy every living thing as I have done.
As long as the earth exists,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and hot,
summer and autumn,
day and night
will not cease.
-Genesis 8:21-22
Some Christians finish that sentence differently. To them, God's promise is about a flood, and therefore, we should not rule out fire and brimstone. We needn't really take Him seriously. But the way I read it, the earth is meant to continue to exist unharmed. God promises that it will not end in destruction. It will not cease.

Side Note:
The confusion comes from this passage:
By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.
-2 Peter 3:6-7
Which is in reference to refinement, as opposed to annihilation.

My question is, if our world is in danger, should we be prepared to defend it?

In 1995, a politically unstable South Africa came together to celebrate the victory of a rugby World Cup championship. If a common adversary in sport is enough to unite a country facing civil war, even for a moment, what would be required to unite our planet?
If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
-Nelson Mandela
It seems ironic to me that, for many Christians, world peace is not a goal but rather something to be feared. In light of end times prophecies, they seek war with each other as a means to an end. But what kind of God desires that?

Could it be that our God is feverishly trying to unite us?

Supposing our solar system lasts as long, scientists say that within the next 5 to 7 billion years, gravity will force the sun to collapse into its core which will ratchet up the heat on the remaining hydrogen and cause the sun to expand into a red giant. Currently, Plait labels this catastrophe "unpreventable".

So, we've got about 5 billion years, give or take, to figure out where science could lead us, before the sun implodes (*insert tongue in cheek). Is pursuing peace in our world a fruitless task? I believe one day, Jesus will return. And when he does, we will welcome him to reign in his kingdom here.
God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.
-John 3:17
Could the Saviour of our world be the Saviour of our universe?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Due Diligence

This blog post is my response to a series of questions my friend raised regarding my criticism of Creationism. I felt this would be a better fit for my answers than the platform of our original conversation. 

1. Why do you think the debate regarding creationism (and its offshoots and various understandings - which according to your earlier blog about offshoots being at a point closest to true revelation, there seem to be more offshoots from creationist thought than evolutionist thought (perhaps unity of a theory/belief represents truth more?) - and evolution, continues today?

Firstly, I think Christian creationism is better contrasted to Non-Christian creationism (to explain how variance equates closer truth in this case), rather than evolution. Eg., Who is the creator god, Yahweh or Brahma, and how did creation come about?

I found a great summary of the varied offshoots of Creationism, which does an excellent job of explaining this further. Understanding this, we can see that Christianity has been more reluctant to drop biblical allegories in favor of evolution, and has in effect, retrofitted evolutionary explanations into biblical fundamentals to create the various offshoots we see present.

I think the debate continues to happen when we eisegete scripture, taking liberties based on its presupposed inerrancy. The debate is unfruitful, not because discussion about our origins shouldn't happen, but because we enter the discussion from an unfounded reverence for the prooftexts. I believe the Bible is a collection of books, supernaturally infallible for the purpose of pointing us to Jesus. If someone wants to make it a textbook of science, which it was never intended to be, we have warnings against such practice and should not be so ignorant.

2. Does which side one person falls on matter?

Yes, but I think this is better understood in a different way.

3. If yes, why?
Watch out for false prophets! They dress up like sheep, but inside they are wolves who have come to attack you.
- Matthew 7:15
Looking at the continuum, I think it is evident where Young Earth Creationists fail to contribute to any discussion on the matter of Origin. Eg.,You will never get a Philosophical Materialistic Evolutionist to consider the earth as flat, or the centre of our galaxy, so why would they consider it to be 6,000 years old? Besides the recession of logic, this does not expound any scientific mystery.

The following are held by members of the Board of Answers in Genesis to be either consistent with Scripture or implied by Scripture:
  • Scripture teaches a recent origin for man and the whole creation, spanning approximately 4,000 years from creation to Christ.
  • The days in Genesis do not correspond to geologic ages, but are six [6] consecutive twenty-four [24] hour days of creation.
  • The Noachian Flood was a significant geological event and much (but not all) fossiliferous sediment originated at that time.
  • The gap theory has no basis in Scripture.
  • The view, commonly used to evade the implications or the authority of biblical teaching, that knowledge and/or truth may be divided into secular and religious, is rejected.
  • By definition, no apparent, perceived or claimed evidence in any field, including history and chronology, can be valid if it contradicts the scriptural record. Of primary importance is the fact that evidence is always subject to interpretation by fallible people who do not possess all information.
Young Earth Creation apologists believe the Origin of Life is narrated in Genesis, and any evidence must fit into the narrative to be considered valid. This is a classic example of a doctrine as the central ideal fallacy, and is also the reason why discerning bad theology matters. Christianity has to reflect reality—not the other way around.

4. Why do you think non-christians bring this matter up? Do they really care or is it just to justify not believing?
Invoking the supernatural is the dead-end to further inquiry.
- Anonymous
I think non-christians do care for the most part, otherwise they wouldn't ask. Creationism is not an easy (or necessary) hurdle, and there are more important things at stake if Jesus is who he says he is. But to the seeker who asks for evidence of 6 day creation, I would rather answer "No, I don't believe the Bible was written to be a book of science." If they have any more questions, they'll ask.

5. How do you think a creationist world view versus an evolutionist world view (or Big Bang theorist's view) affects [a Christian's] own narrrative framework for interpretting life? (more sucinctly: What does a belief in creationism or evolution look like through the eyes of [a Christian] interpreting they really differ in perspective enough for this view to matter?)

I think Theistic Evolutionists have a better worldview than Young Earth Creationists for two reasons:
  1. Their faith is informed by the reality around them, which permeates everything from the way they read scripture to how they respond to scepticism, ultimately leading to a fuller appreciation for God's creation.
  2. They do not get overwhelmed by defending Old Testament paradoxes; they generally get asked better questions by non-christians.
St. Anselm described theology as "Faith seeking understanding" and theistic evolutionists believe that this search for understanding extends to scientific understanding. 'Young Earthers' also make this claim, but they are either lying (to themselves), or they don't understand the process.
I am sending you like lambs into a pack of wolves. So be as wise as snakes and as innocent as doves.
- Matthew 10:16

6. If the debate was to be settled, what do you hope it looks like? Where do you think this should lead? What are you hoping changes/stays the same in Christianity with respect to the interpretation and application of Genesis? (What does your vision of the future of Christianity look like?)

I think the only way to settle the debate is to concede that if you look around, creation itself tells us the universe is more than 6,000 years old.

It should lead to repentance, thus producing a change in the handling of scripture. Presupposition is not welcome, and is never helpful for theology or apologetics.

In short, I think the future of Christianity needs to drop the presupposition of Biblical inerrancy.

7. We can point out flaws better than most I think, but can we imagine something better? 
When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I didn’t come preaching God’s secrets to you like I was an expert in speech or wisdom.  I had made up my mind not to think about anything while I was with you except Jesus Christ, and to preach him as crucified.
- 1 Corinthians 2:1-2
Ultimately, we should not claim anything at all. Science and scripture inform our worldview, but Jesus is the essence of our worldview. However, claiming nothing cannot be our true contrition if we maintain a Young Earth perspective, if you concede that the stars are visible, for example.

That said, I imagine a kind of Christianity where Jesus is the only controversy worth talking about, debating over, or dying for. I want nothing less to be a hinderance for a questioning mind.

8. This is the heart of my questions...what can/should the church of tomorrow look like? 

I think my purpose (and the purpose of this blog) is to inspire the church to keep asking that very question.

Some of the questions I have for the "church of tomorrow" are:
  • Can we find God in a Methodological or Philosophical Materialistic worldview?
  • Should we study and explain the natural world, without assuming the existence or nonexistence of the supernatural?
  • Could science lead us to a greater understanding and appreciation for our creator?
  • When does God interact with creation, and can we define these interactions as supernatural?
  • What are the problems for anti-theists?
  • What can we learn from Progressive-Christianity (questioning traditions) and Christian Existentialism (choice constitutes your existence)?
  • Are we using proof-texts to support any other theology? Are there other ways we misuse scripture?
  • How is social media best used as a platform for discussion?
  • What are the fruits (good or bad) of memes, rage comics, or trolling?
  • Do we need to keep repeating the mistakes of our past in order to engage culture appropriately?

9. What is the potential good that can occur/be achieved (in church and in the world)?

I found that Young Earth Creationism (even when I never talked about it publicly) limited my ability to test scripture against the reality it claimed to have relevance for. Giving up this presupposition allowed me to ask myself the questions that really troubled me, and allowed me to discover the answers that exist in reality, and not just believe them because the Bible told me so. It helped my faith.

10. I ask these because I'm curious. There is a lot of pointing of fingers, labeling, disagreements, etc. but repeatedly I find myself frustrated because while we point, we do little to imagine (or if we do, to explain) a different way / a better way... The Bible says that without vision the people perish... Where is the vision?.... What's your vision?

No-one is asking which god created the universe anymore, and the world has bigger questions than how God did it. So turning a stumbling block into a stepping stone is, in my opinion, the best use of our time.

What did Paul learn from the pagans in Mars Hill? The pagans worshipped an unknown god, by making sacrifices to idols of gold and silver. Paul taught them that God made us in His image, so these things have no resemblance. Today, our challenge is humanism (go figure). Science worships the unknown, but they have dropped the god.

My vision is to see Christianity cater to this mystery.

I think the Gospel needs to be presented the way Jesus presented it, as a hidden pearl: easily trampled, often overlooked—but, once found, worth selling everything you own.
- Matthew 7:6, 13:45-46

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Existential Compass

In the world of science, a paradigm is used to understand concepts. Paradigms are found anywhere a concept is unclear or requires greater understanding. Democracy, for example, is a paradigm that allows us to best understand governance, but there are many ways to govern. Perfection of government has long been an interest for humanity. How do we measure potential perfection? One tool in use today is the "political compass".

The political compass is a multi-axis model, used to label or organize political thought on two dimensions. This helps us grasp the "centrist's" idealistic goal as we navigate the extremes, and see what is needed to bring correction.

Economic and Personal Liberties vs Securities are being measured in this example. It is how we determine where political thought falls in relation to the centrist, or the ideal. Of course, there are different opinions about what the ideal looks like, and there have been both great and terrible leaders representing all walks of life. But I think the closer we are to the centre, the better our leaders tend to be. In trying to achieve that, the recursive action we take is to vote counter to the political norm, swinging the pendulum the opposite way. The political compass can help us measure and possibly predict the outcome for the counterbalance. I am sure you can find other scenarios where this compass could be useful.

To SIN means "to miss the mark". What is this mark? What is the centrist's ideal that we define sin according to? What are the axis on this compass? What are the extremes?

In the pursuit of bringing people to truth, the ongoing discussion revolves around what we believe to be true. But we are bound to come across people with a difference of opinion, perhaps even a polarizing conflict. Mapping this typology on a compass should help us determine what side we err on, but I think we attempt this by placing doctrine as the ideal, because this is the paradigm by which we understand truth.
The biggest reason why this compass isn't helpful is because it doesn't help us understand where Republicans are in the reality paradigm, as much as it helps you understand where realities are in relation to the Republican. This is the definition of 'relative truth', and this is what defines denominations. I believe that recognizing this flaw is central to understanding the diversity that is Christianity.

When a deviation from a common rule is found to be true, we call this an Anomaly. Enough of these can throw our paradigm into a state of crisis, which in turn produces a Paradigm shift. In a Christian context, this is known as a denominational divide. But the reasons that divide us are bigger than doctrine alone. For instance, the Great Schism was a political and cultural issue; it had nothing to do with faith or practice. Alternatively, the Reformation was a doctrinal divide, but it could only gain legs because of the recent common language translation of the Bible. This puts culture into perspective for us; ie., the society that influences how we appropriate truth is varied.

Paradigm shifts should not be associated with a theory of relativism. The idea is not that truth is changing, but that further study is changing our understanding of truth.- Donald Miller, When Truth is the Enemy of Truth
Further study of truth changes our understanding of truth. That is, truth is not relative to a greater experience, so much as experiences are relative to a greater truth.

Science offers us an explanation of how complexity (the difficult) arose out of simplicity (the easy). The hypothesis of God offers no worthwhile explanation for anything, for it simply postulates what we are trying to explain.- Richard Dawkins
Our existential compass has the way of attaining the meaning of life or "The Way of True Life" as the centrist's ideal when we are trying to find purpose beyond ourselves, or such an elusive character as God. We find purpose on a spiritual level and on a cultural level, and express meaning by living liberally or confiding in security. To hold this in perfect balance would mean to have a significant understanding of how our universe works, and how we can partner with, and perpetuate it further. So I think that by studying where cultural and spiritual securities and liberties intersect, we can map which experiences are less healthy and which are more beneficial to discovering meaning. In theory, more anomalies within the central sphere should reflect thought that holistically brings us closer to understanding the universal meaning of life.
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through me."
John 14:6
There is a vast difference in opinion/experience within the Christian faith, and I believe it is the result of being closer to the greatest complexity that the world is trying to understand.

If the compass could be used for securities and liberties being measured spiritually and culturally, with "The Way of True Life" being the ideal, this is what I think it would look like:

"The Existential Compass"

The way I would interpret this is that the 'Way of True Life ideal' incorporates all of spiritual and cultural liberty and security to the fullest. I've placed some things on the compass, do you agree with my interpretation? Would you change the axis?

The questions I ask myself to determine how I place thought on these axes:
  • What is the spiritual posture toward cultural engagement?
  • What is the cultural posture toward spiritual engagement?
  • Are you seeking to engage in culture or spirituality?
  • Do you seek to be influential in secular or religious circles?
  • Do you achieve this in a primarily passive or aggressive tone?
  • What are your extremes or preferences?

Friday, March 09, 2012

Learning Christianese

* I must confess, I began this post as a rant of sorts, but I've restructured it to be more helpful to conversation.
Defining Christianese
Christianese is an in-group jargon used most notably by members of “low” Church denominations—usually Charismatics and Evangelicals. David Martin defines this discourse as “a lens for concentrating a particular angle of vision” (9). Like any in-group language, Christianese developed out of prolonged contact between people who subscribed to similar beliefs. It is characterized by the common usage of certain words, theological terms, and catchphrases. These words and phrases are usually found in standard English but with different meanings; without an understanding of the Bible or evangelical culture, the listener has no context to understand what is being said. For example, a Christianese phrase like, “set me on fire” is a request for God to renew religious passion. However, without an understanding of common Christian metaphor which equates God’s power with fire, this statement could seem like a suicidal request.
You may have heard or seen some Christian slogans in your lifetime.............. They are often created as jpeg images, T-shirts, billboards, or bumper stickers. A common trend has been to alter popular logos and trademarks by changing the wording to reflect a cryptic message referencing God, grace, and the like. Capitalizing on the successes of large corporations—often at the risk of federal trademark infringement, can seem rather dangerous for a small organization such as a church, IMO.

To be fair, Christians aren't the only ones doing this. It's an easy way for small businesses or activist groups to gain attention as well. But Christian culture rips off anything; even if the reference isn't clear or relevant. Paired with using Christianese, it's become an inside joke, really. These become the T-shirts that stay in our closets, only to come out for a church gathering.

Christian slogans are designed objectively to implement the 'Great Reversal' of Jesus—that is, the reconciliation of secular culture. We are infatuated with the way Jesus communicates: the surprising morals of his stories, his unconventional healing ministry, his quick wit when chastising hypocrites. But the difference between hijacking trademarks and the message Jesus' intended is simple: we cannot expect anyone to find truth in a counterfeit.

Counterfeits are imitations of superior value. It's not difficult to see how this method of evangelism is confusing for people. Infringements aside, anything that causes people to question the integrity of the product you're pushing is a sin, regardless of a clever acronym. This transcends the lousy T-shirt; it has ineffectually created an entire culture of apathy.

South Park, S07 E09
The way Christians have infiltrated the music industry has been nothing short of embarrassing. Christianese lyrics carry double meaning or no meaning for most listeners, while maintaining an uncomfortably positive vibe throughout. On iTunes it dominates the Inspirational genre, while blurring the line of what it means to be inspirational. This is clear because of the negative way many talent-privy listeners (Christian and non-Christian) have reacted. When Christian music labels arent infamously employing musicians to play Top 40's cover songs, they're making worship music. This serves a purpose, I concede, but I'm criticizing the tendency to produce songs that celebrate an ideological standard versus honest reality.

The Christian film industry would be the same way, save for its non-existence. Films are expensive to make, so the most prevalent content that any Christian film companies produce is Sunday School curriculum and infomercials. Any feature films that do get produced are revolving around an exasperly overt 'rebirth' plot, thus preaching to the choir, as it were—and include homework. This is just more Sunday School curriculum.

Putting ourselves through self-inflicted persecution that has nothing to do with Jesus' message of grace is a dangerous mistake, which I believe should be taken very seriously.

The goal in multimedia creation should be nothing more than to simply start a dialogue with people who notice. This is done by connecting with them on a level of familiarity, yet subtly (or unsubtly) presenting an ideology to a potential spiritual seeker. Sociologically, it's possibly the most effective way of evangelism, but sadly, it's been poorly executed. Who is your target audience? Will only church-goers understand the obscure Jesus-connection and cultural references? The question is, how do we accomplish this goal without looking like turds?
Knowing you are good at something requires precisely the same skills you need to be good at it, so people who are horrible at something tend to have no idea they are horrible at all.
- John Cleese
The Dunning-Kruger Effect is a cross-cultural study that tends to focus on American subjects. It concludes that many of them, at least sometimes and under some conditions, have a tendency to inflate their worth.

Why is this important? Most Christian propaganda, paraphernalia and multimedia is produced in America, for starters. Secondly, the companies creating this content are structured so that their strategic focus is largely dictated by non-creatives (John Cleese also talks about this). Thirdly, scripture is misappropriated to reason away communication error.
E.g., this string of arguments:

For I am the Lord, I do not change.
- Malachi 3:6
Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
- Hebrews 13:8
"When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all men to myself." - Jesus
- John 12:32
So we don't need to worry, because, 
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.
- Romans 8:28
Christians can use scripture to excuse their efforts in partnering with God to produce good work. Incidentally, the number of Christians in church communities who possess creative abilities but are disengaged is astronomical. The 'Church collective' is a resource for this very purpose.
Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men
- Colossians 3:23
With regards to creating meaningful content, I think it is important to recognize the value of communication science. The human mind connects messages on a subliminal level that, if used properly, can communicate positive undertones combined with core values, etc. Of course, this can be manipulated. However, by not paying attention to these subliminal connection being made, you are more than likely sending a confusing, or worse, conflicting message. After all, living in the Information Age, we are doing Christ a disservice by not communicating to the highest level of our ability. Looking at early Christianity, it was evident that communication methodology was carefully considered when sharing the simplest of truths. I think we can especially draw from the parabolic method of Jesus.

Foot Washing (leading by serving)
Workers in the Vineyard (unfair wages)
The Widow's Offering (giving what you don't have)
The Good Samaritan (loving people who hate you)

The list goes on.

Jesus was a revolutionary communicator, who used palatable concepts and universal language. Everything He said challenged the way we live our lives, and did nothing short of flip our world upside down to help us understand how backwards his message was. Above many things, I think what we can take from this as storytellers, artists and designers is one guiding principle: Your theme cannot be more important than how you communicate it. Whether that's a story, a song, or a bumper sticker, if you do not allow yourself time to be creative, and your screening process does not involve test subject criticism, you may not be the right person for the job, and you will never realize that.

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Is Jesus The Enemy of Enlightenment?

There is a high amount of bitterness about the level of scientific advancement achieved thus far, namely due to Christianity.
The so-called Christian nations are the most enlightened and progressive...but in spite of their religion, not because of it. The Church has opposed every innovation and discovery from the day of Galileo down to our own time, when the use of anesthetic in childbirth was regarded as a sin because it avoided the biblical curse pronounced against Eve. And every step in astronomy and geology ever taken has been opposed by bigotry and superstition. The Greeks surpassed us in artistic culture and in architecture five hundred years before Christian religion was born.
- Mark Twain
This tragedy has left scientific minds questioning where we could have been by now if God hadn't held us back.

It's a fair question that deserves recognition. As I mentioned in my last blog post, I do believe God's desire is for us to advance in science. Unfortunately, the Dark Ages was a magnificent example of  manipulation of scripture to oppress the illiterate (fair summary?).

But today, Christians could be guilty on another level.

By correlating Darwinian Evolution Acceptance with the Percentage of Educated Religious People, we can see that the more educated people there are within a group, the more they tended to accept evolution as the best explanation of our origin. The three highest scoring were Buddhists, Jews, and Hindus. Besides being inclined to pursue higher education, they happen to be the oldest religions.
At the bottom of the spectrum, we have Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, and Evangelicals. It's also interesting to note which religions have less than 20% educated. This bunch is fully contributing to the bell curve.

Does Jesus have anything to do with this? Does Jesus prey on the uneducated? Or could this graph just prove the effects of the education system?

Let's take a look at what Creationism teaches.

    noun /krēˈāSHəˌnizəm/ 

    1. The belief that the universe and living organisms originate from specific acts of divine creation, as in the biblical account, rather than by natural processes such as evolution

This is the common belief for most people who cannot accept evolution as fact.

Jewish views on evolution includes a continuum of views about evolution, creationism, and the origin of life. Today, many Jews accept the science of evolutionary theory and do not see it as incompatible with traditional Judaism, thus endorsing theistic evolution.
The vast majority of classical Rabbis hold that God created the world close to 6,000 years ago, and created Adam and Eve from clay. Modern Rabbis who came out of this view based their conclusions on verses in the Talmud or in the midrash. For example:
  • Talmud Chaggiga 13b-14a states that there were 974 generations before God created Adam.
  • The Midrash says: God created many worlds but was not satisfied, and left the world he was satisfied with.
  • Rabbi Moshe Ben Nacman (1194–1270) writes: In the first day God created the energy (כח) "matter" (חומר) of all things, and then he was finished with the main creation. After that God created all other things from that energy.
  • Some midrashim state that the "first week" of Creation lasted for extremely long periods of time. See Anafim on Rabbenu Bachya's Sefer Ikkarim 2:18; Midrash Bereshit Rabbah 9.
  • In Psalms it says "A thousand years is like a day in Your sight" (Psalm 90:4)
- Wikipedia

My question is, if Jews find no qualm with evolution because it simply doesn't offer any problems for them morally, what are the obstacles for Christians? Is it problematic for Jesus? Why are we only interested in what Christians have to offer science? Is a God who created the universe in 6 days bigger than a God who took more time?
What you don't see with your eyes, don't invent with your mouth.
- Jewish Proverb

Friday, February 10, 2012

Where Did God Come From?

When I was in grade 12, I took a grade 10-level Auto Mechanics class. Just for fun. Our teacher gave us complete freedom to do whatever we wanted, and had a drawer full of manuals in case we desired to get our hands dirty. He supervised, while reading magazines. At the end of the semester, he held a 30% exam. Our objective? To design and present a new form of transportation.

I chose time-travel.

I must say, my presentation was by-far the most elaborate, compared to the other students'. Some of them had a problem with my transportation method, regardless of my thorough explanations and diagrams of worm-hole technology, combined with a nonconductive salad-spinner design.

Their problem lied within my definition of "transportation".

Since my grades relied on nothing else to pass this class, I challenged every question they had with dribble about string-theory, quantum mechanics, polar-reversal, you name it. I briefed the topics in preparation, betting that their monkey-brains wouldn't understand anything beyond a DeLorean on a train track.

I got an A+ on that project.

Ever wonder about where we came from? Where the universe came from? Before the big bang? I was milling around on YouTube when I came across this comment:
"There are actually a great number of reasons to believe that the universe is a computation and data storage substrate. Scientists don't generally go around putting it like that, but that's because every God-loving moron (incapable of understanding information theory or quantum theory) would ask "whose computer?" It must be God. What annoys me is that religious people can't even understand easy science like evolution, but they think they are experts on reality."
- YouTube Comment by Snakepliskinist
The "data storage substrate" explanation is funny to me, but I've heard more bizarre things. I feel my stomach churn when I read the rest of that though–Christians wouldn't say that... would they? I Google-ed the question "Where did God come from?" and found a Christian site that offered this explanation:
The question is tricky because it sneaks in the false assumption that God came from somewhere and then asks where that might be. The answer is that the question does not even make sense. It is like asking, “What does blue smell like?” Blue is not in the category of things that have a smell, so the question itself is flawed. In the same way, God is not in the category of things that are created or caused. God is uncaused and uncreated—He simply exists.

I have to say, it's hard to pinpoint why I'm more infuriated by this than by the question left unanswered!

The question is flawed? Your argument is invalid??

Needless to say, I still needed to hear something more sane than that, and this video gave me some good insights about my natural curiosity:

"It has often and confidently been asserted, that man's origin can never be known: but ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science."
- Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man (1871)
My problem with isn't their answer. My problem is with their smugness of ignorance, circling of reason, and hastiness of quick-wit. Yes that's right, I have a problem with their entire website.

What is the ultimate goal of the question? To satisfy our curiosity, right? What else would we do once we have the answer?

Change in perspective is the key to understanding this question, which is the key to being satisfied with not being able to know the answer.

What I mean is, instead of asking "Where did God come from?" We could ask a broader, less presumptuous question like, "What does God want me to know about him?" If God is ever going to give me any answer, it is going to be something I can grasp; or at least some portion of it that will fit inside my head. I think I would be satisfied with that.

Lofty scientific goals push us further than we are willing to think, which I am completely grateful for. But when we find the answer to this great life question, what will our discoveries have lead us to? Will there be a Christian there saying "I told you so?"
“The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical. It is the sower of all true science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. That deeply emotional conviction of the presence of a superior Reasoning Power, which is revealed in the incomprehensible Universe, forms my idea of God.”
- Albert Einstein, as cited in Libby Anfinsen (1995)
Where did God come from? The answer is simply too big for my monkey-brain, but Einstein seemed satisfied with the limits of his understanding enough to be able to appreciate the wonder. I believe there is great work to be done, and the best we can do is unitedly accept what God is showing our best minds through this worshipful adventure. God surely reveals himself through all creation, to everyone at some point. Let him take care of crafting the course of discovery, and let us allow it to happen.

Cosmology (in metaphysics) is the reflection on the totality of all phenomena; science will not cease until it has solved all mysteries. But the Sower of all true science is unravelling them as we speak.
“I want to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thoughts, the rest are details.”
- Albert Einstein, as cited in Clark (1973)

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

The Jesus Conspiracy

Did Princess Diana fake her own death to escape the public eye? Or was she killed by a rogue element of the British secret service?

If you agree with one of these theories, there's a good chance you'll subscribe to both even though one suggests Princess Diana is alive, the other dead, a new study indicates.

It's known that people who believe one conspiracy theory are inclined to endorse others as well. But new research shows that conspiracy theorists aren't put off by contradictory theories and offers a reason why.
"They're explained by the overarching theory that there is some kind of cover-up, that authorities are withholding information from us," said Karen Douglas, a study researcher and reader in the school of psychology sciences at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. "It's not that people are gullible or silly by having those beliefs. … It all fits into the same picture."
- Excerpt from Is This Article Part of a Conspiracy?
My question is, what are the implications for having multiple theories about Jesus? Could it be possible to believe multiple truths about him?

Did Jesus die on the cross and rise again three days later? Or did he fake his death and live a secret life?

Dan Brown's book ignited a conspiracal revolution surrounding the life of Jesus. Suddenly, it wasn't clear what was fact or fiction; Gnostic Gospels were surfacing, giving a notion that we had all been duped. The greatest fear for the entire future of Christianity was being realized. It was obvious what the implications were for believing he lived a secret life. But the question everybody had was, what are the implications if Jesus didn't actually die to begin with? And if so, did he give up his life willingly? To Christians, this is more important than his dying at all. So what are the implications? According to the Bible, he would be a fraud, and would never develop a following from anyone claiming the Bible as truth–certainly not to the extent of martyrdom as many experienced.

Was Jesus' death and resurrection a conspiracy theory?
A conspiracy theory is defined as a proposed plot by powerful people or organizations working together in secret to accomplish some (usually sinister) goal (Coady, 2006; Douglas & Sutton, 2008; Goertzel, 1994).
Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories
The obvious question based on this definition is whether or not Jesus was powerful, and if his goal was sinister. The following is an excerpt from Flavius Josephus, a 1st century Jewish historian, and his account of Jesus' crucifixion.
Flavius Josephus

Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named for him, are not extinct at this day.
- Jewish Antiquities by Flavius Josephus, Book 18, Ch.3, Par.3
The account seems to suggest that Jesus was wise and influential, and the principal men suggested that he deserved death by crucifixion. Assuming this account is true, the only ones to see him alive on the third day were those that loved him at first. He also mentions the tribe of Christians not being extinct. Early Christians believed that he said he would rise from the dead as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things.

Being that the Bible is arguably biased at best, I'm trying to go as far as I can to rationalize this without using it as a source (other than for Jewish/Christian tenet reference). It obviously corroborates everything Josephus said, even if parts of his account have been tampered with (another conspiracy theory).
Jesus Tried By Pilate

Let's go back to the principal men. Why did they suggest to Pilate that Jesus deserved death? Were they considered powerful? Could their goal have been sinister? Josephus seems to paint a pleasant picture of Jesus in that first sentence. What would he have done to deserve death? Could he have been a threat to the principal men?

Jesus was a Jewish teacher, this meant that he taught in the synagogues of Jerusalem. The principal men, or members of the Sanhedrin, legislated all aspects of Jewish religious and political life.

Josephus said that Jesus drew many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles to himself. It is a known fact that Jews had a low estimate of a Gentile's character. Conversely, they were admitted into synagogues if they kept all the rules (Isaiah 56:6-7).

I believe this is as far as I can go to draw any reasonable conclusions without a motive.

What would be the motive for Jesus and his followers?

What would be the motive for the Sanhedrin?

Who is more likely to need a cover-up?