Sunday after Nativity

  1. Pious fables
  2. Parable of the Vinedressers
  3. Slaves, hirelings, sons

1

I continue to be astonished by the pious fictions masquerading as fact that some of my Evangelical friends share on Facebook. The atheist USC Professor story is the latest, shared by a good man (I mean that) a few years my senior – and seen (I assume the view meter is true, even if the story is not) by 26,908,035 viewers so far.

When I Googled “snopes USC philosophy professor chalk,” my top three hits (here, here, and here) were debunkings. The next was a critical retelling by Del Rey Church followed by Gospelweb.net (with a familiar garish website design beloved by the tin hat set), which recognized the myth but plowed ahead:

Reputedly a true story of something that happened some years ago at USC. It certainly COULD have happened, so is a good illustration of truth whether it literally occurred there or not. Snopes calls it a “charming parable.

Well, no, actually it could not have happened. Oh, the chalk sliding down the pants, off the cuff and off the shoe is believable enough – drop chalk semester after semester for 20 years as an illustration and something’s likely to break the fall eventually.

What couldn’t have happened, I submit, is that USC would allow a prof in a required class with 300 students for 20 years (40 semesters, perhaps?) to “spend the entire semester attempting to prove that God could not exist;” that not one out of 6000 students (or would it be 12,000?) could see that the logic of the chalk drop was anything other than impeccable; than the prof would every year taunt his class with “If there’s anyone here who still believes in Jesus [italics added], stand up!;” that he would taunt students as “fools” with impunity; etc.

The story just reeks of the rankest caricatures, and only the worst sufferers from confirmation bias could really credit it.

But, 27 million views and a challenge at the end that you’ll share it if you love Jesus.

Confession: confirmation bias is a two-way street. I almost accused Del Rey Church of credulity, but they weren’t exactly credulous. They told the story in order critique it. But I really would have preferred that the critique start with “don’t tell fables like this as if they’re true” instead of saying “this story may never have happened” before getting to what it fancies the more important point:

I would still be hesitant in retelling the story because it seems to lack apologetic persuasiveness particularly to the sort of pseudo-intellectual hyper-skeptics I deal with in sharing the faith.

So there. The little problem is that the story starts with This is a true story of something that happened just a few years ago at USC” when it almost certainly isn’t true and didn’t happen. The big problem is that pseudo-intellectual hyper-skeptics won’t fall to their knees in repentance upon hearing it.

Bottom line: if you want to tell this story, start it off with “Once upon a time in a land far away ….” Claiming “it’s true, it’s actual” turns pious fiction into a damned lie.

And for goodness’ sake, get your crap detector fixed and turn it on before you surf the web or social media.

2

You understand, of course, that Dostoyevsky wrote novels? They were not true and actual.

Dostoevsky’s novels are “an endless exploration of the consequences of the existence or non-existence of God,” according to Father Steven Kostoff. The nineteenth-century Russian writer’s greatness lies in his godly trepidation at seeing the atheistic, humanist philosophies of western Europe penetrating the Russian intelligentsia. Dostoevsky foresaw “that the future envisioned by these ideas would eventually become an inhuman world wherein ‘everything is permitted’ against flesh-and-blood human beings not ‘in-step’ with the reigning ideas or the reigning party” (“Searching for Truth with Fyodor Dostoevsky,” Again, vol. 24, no. 2, p. 13).

The Lord Jesus prophesies the same outcome whenever nations turn against God, deny His existence, and reject His sovereignty. If we take the Parable of the Vinedressers and clothe it in a swastika, or a hammer and sickle, the religious roots of Dostoevsky’s prophecy are plain: denial of the existence of God inevitably leads to contempt for humanity.

(Dynamis, hyperlink to parable added)

3

“One who performs saving works simply from the fear of Hell follows the way of bondage, and he who does the same just in order to be rewarded with the Kingdom of Heaven follows the path of a bargainer with God. The one they call a slave, the other a hireling. But God wants us to come to Him as sons to their Father” (Way of a Pilgrim, p. 36, via Dynamis)

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“The remarks made in this essay do not represent scholarly research. They are intended as topical stimulations for conversation among intelligent and informed people.” (Gerhart Niemeyer)

Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.