Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The Bad Jesus? Atheists reply.

A few posts ago, I listed five dozen or so "people who were inspired by Jesus to change the world for the better in a serious way."  Then for balance, I issued the following challenge (or request) to
atheists here and elsewhere:
Disciple of the "Bad Jesus?"

Give me the names of people who have been inspired by Jesus to mess up the world.  They don't have to be Christians, but they do need to have been inspired specifically by the teachings and example of Jesus.  And what they were inspired to do by Jesus' teachings, has to have harmed humanity in some serious way.

There are three criteria implicit in this challenge.  The person in question must (a) have been inspired specifically by Jesus (as represented in the four canonical gospels), whether or not as a Christian (b) to impact in an important way the lives of many people (c) more for ill than for good. 

So far, seven people have kindly responded to this half of the challenge, including John Loftus, Hector Avalos, and Richard Carrier.  Avalos asked for clarification, but mentioned a book he now happens to be writing on the "Bad Jesus."  Carrier has been thinking about the nature of history for some time, and gave the most thoughtful reply.  Others also offered suggestions.  In this post, I'll analyze all the candidates whose name have been put into the hat so far, generally beginning with the weaker ones, or those I need more information about, and working up.  Then I'll decide which I think are plausible candidates to this point. 

Of course I continue to welcome new entries on both sides of the equation. 

(1)  Highway Dog, apparently a Christian, offered two names: General Robert E. Lee
General Lewis Armistead, both from the Civil War.  I didn't know the latter, but it seems he was an effective and pious Confederate general.  I guess the thinking is that effective leadership on the "wrong" side probably extended the war, causing many more deaths than would otherwise have occurred.  But Highway Dog didn't give any details or explain his reasoning, so I don't know how either general was specifically inspired by Jesus to fight on the confederate side.  I'm also wondering why Dog didn't include Stonewall Jackson. 

(2) Arizona Atheist offered a rather bizarre argument about how many sexual deviants or predators are allegedly to be found among the ranks of conservative Christians.  His stats seemed squishy, and he didn't attempt to name any teaching or example of Jesus, or show how it impacted these perverts.  (And other poster points out that one of those studies was of those who sought help, that element of self-selectivity making the results unhelpful for AA's purpose, let alone for ours.)   

(3) Loren did not give any specific names, but suggested that Jesus could be blamed for the "divine right of kings" idea -- he did mention King George III here.  But he traces this idea to Romans 13 and the Old Testament, neither of which were written by Jesus.  (And historian Donald Treadgold argues that Israel was the only state in the region with a modicum of liberty, and is one of the sources of our liberty -- a topic for another day.)  Loren argues:

Jesus Christ himself never objects to monarchy, and he even claims that it is correct to say that he is the king of the Jews.

So can we blame Jesus for the Japanese royal family, or the more dysfunctional royal family of Nepal?  Royalty managed to aggrandize itself pretty well around the world, without help from Jesus.  (Who really didn't give it, anyway -- not objecting to something cannot be a cause of that thing, since what you don't object to presumably already existed.)  The Revolutionary Slogan, "No king but king Jesus!" which was employed against George III, could be cited on the other side. 

The argument seems vague and unsupported on several counts. 
"Jesus made me do it!"
(4) Cyrus offered the following list of ten, from an on-line article about "Ten People who Give Christianity a Bad Name:" Sun Myung Moon, David Koresh, Pat Robertson, Matthew Hale (a KKK leader), Michael Bray, Paul Hill (who killed an abortion doctor and his bodyguard), Marshall Applewhite (head of the suicide cult Heaven's Gate), Jim Jones, Charles Coughlin (an anti-semite priest), and Fred Phelps. 

I'm not sure any of these men meet all three criteria.  Some don't seem to have paid much mind to Jesus at all, like Jim Jones, a Marxist and a New Ager.  (And maybe an atheist, as Crude points out.) 

Influences on Applewhite seem to have been diverse: he was a Presbyterian while young, and did cite the New Testament.  But his defining ideology seems to have drawn from science fiction (Arthur C. Clarke, Star Trek), sexual confusion, theosophy, building on a "New Age matrix," as someone on Wikipedia put it.  He did make use of Revelations and other NT passages, but it's hard to see much real influence from Jesus, here.  Of course, positive evidence that Applewhite actually was influenced to mass suicide or a love of comets from something Jesus said or did, would overcome this negative circumstantial evidence, but Cyrus does not offer any.    

Some of the others in this list are small fry, and fail to meet criteria (b).  Phelps has a church of about 17.  Pat Robertson irritates a lot of people, but does not seem to have caused great harm. 

As for the racism of Coughlin, that's hard to blame on Jesus.  Jesus was of course himself a Jew, but like the prophets did sometimes rebuke "the Jews," or Jewish leaders, especially in the Gospel of John.   I suppose one could argue that Coughlin had an actual impact by increasing anti-Semitism in the US, which might (one supposes) have predisposed the Democratic administrations against letting more refugees into the country as the Nazi hammer came down.  But that's speculation.  It's not impossible that Coughlin got his anti-Semitism from Jesus, and caused great harm because of it, but again, one would need to see the evidence. 

Are we to believe that the Reverend Moon was influenced by Jesus to conduct grand wedding ceremonies?  Or to have his followers sell carnations in airports?  I'm open to including Moon, and he and Coughlin might be the most credible of these ten, but I'm not sure either meets the first criteria, and here again, need to see at least enough a priori evidence to make it worth one's while to dig deeper. 

(5) John Loftus linked to some posts on Deconstructing Christianity that he said gave "some Christians who have messed up the credibility of Christianity."

But that wasn't my question.  The site is for Loftus' posts labeled "Liars for Jesus."  These include a dishonest Amazon poster who pesters John, people at a conference Richard Dawkins visited who think kids shouldn't masturbate, Candida Moss' insinuations that Christians invent some sort of "myth of persecution" (even though she knows better), and Christians who promoted Andrew Flew's conversion to theism, after he exhibited signs of dementia, which Loftus finds sleazy. 

It doesn't appear that any attempt is made in these articles to link wrong-doings to Jesus' actual teachings or example.  Nor do any of them rise within a hundred miles of the level of public harm that we should bother with here.  

(6) Hector Avalos wasn't sure about the precise nature of the challenge, but entered into the spirit of the thing.  He replied to me by e-mail, of which I quote part:

It so happens that I have started a new book tentatively called The Bad Jesus, which will expose all the ways in which Christian biblical scholars have whitewashed Jesus words and deeds, and will included detailed discussions on Matthew 25:41ff, Luke 14:26, John 2:15, John 8:44, etc.

As for your question, I suppose I need more methodological information about how you would count "influence." For example, I can see at least two ways:

A. There is a clear parallel between some directive or action of Jesus and some action taken by some later figure.


 B. A later figure specifically attributes the performance of an action to Jesus' teachings or Jesus honor, etc.

"First, to set fire to their synagogues or schools and to bury and cover with dirt whatever will not burn, so that no man will ever again see a stone or cinder of them.  This is to be done in honor of our Lord and Christendom, so that God might see that we are Christians, and do not condone or knowingly tolerate such public lying, cursing, blaspheming of his son and of his Christians...."

So does that count as negative influence or would you just say that Luther is misinterpreting Jesus (e.g., John 8:44), and so that should not count as influence at all?

I replied, again in part:

What I'm looking for is actions by people who were deeply and directly influenced by Jesus' reported teachings or example in the gospels, even if not Christians, in a way that caused great harm (or blessing) to many people.  There has to be a credible link between what the canonical gospels actually report about Jesus, and the harmful (or beneficial) act.  And the harm (or benefit) of the act also has to be manifest.  So that would be closer to A.  Yes, I do see difficulties in citing Luther's repulsive comments as an instance of this, which I hope you can see as well.  Possibly an in-depth study of Luther and his impact might persuade me -- though I doubt I'll be the only person for whom you find that an uphill battle.

The passage Avalos cites does, indeed, admit of other, and obviously preferable, interpretations than that Jesus was instructing his disciples to burn down the synagogues of Germany.  In fact, it doesn't look as though he wasn't talking to his followers at all or even to Jews in general, but rather to Jews who were trying to kill him.

Let's read a bigger chunk of the passage:

"If you were Abraham’s children,” said Jesus, “then you would do what Abraham did. 40 As it is, you are looking for a way to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things.  You are doing the works of your own father.”

“We are not illegitimate children,” they protested. “The only Father we have is God himself.”

Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I have come here from God. I have not come on my own; God sent me.  Why is my language not clear to you? Because you are unable to hear what I say. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

This passage would seem more plausibly interpreted as implying that people who tell their followers to torch synagogues are acting like children of the devil, even while they claim to be children of Christ.  As a matter of fact, that's almost exactly what Jesus did say to his disciples when they met with rejection, and fell into the same arsonistic mood that Luther lapses into here:
And when his disciples James and John saw this, they said, Lord, will you that we command fire to come down from heaven, and consume them, even as Elias did? But he turned, and rebuked them, and said, You know not what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of man is not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them. And they went to another village. (Luke 9)
Certainly Avalos is welcome to try to prove that Jesus was "really" advocating the forcible destruction of his religious heritage and the buildings in which it was maintained, and not just rebuking particular assassins.   He is also welcome to try to prove that the Sun really revolves around the Earth, if he can find a willing publisher.   As Avalos evidently feared, I do find this linkage almost as dubious.

Of course people do commit poor exigesis from time to time, and it is therefore possible that as an historical fact, Martin Luther actually was influenced by John to write his intemperate letter.  But again, given how stretched that interpretation would be, and how common temper tantrums are, one would need to see solid historical evidence that Jesus' words in John really did make Luther hot under the collar in this case. 

(7)  Richard Carrier answered my challenge with two e-mails.  He gave the most interesting response so far, with some philosophy of history mixed in, and also two of the more credible candidates to date.  I won't quote all that he wrote, but this part is helpful:

Well, this isn't really my focus. I know a lot of atheists dig up negative historical examples like you're looking for, but I generally don't find that a fruitful exercise, so I only bother knowing the standard examples (Torquemada, Fred Phelps, Hong Xiuquan, etc.) that I'm sure you've already collected. You might try asking this question in some big online forums where atheists congregate and talk about this kind of thing (somewhere with decent moderation; Reddit is a cesspit).

However, I have to say, I don't fathom the point of your exercise.

Your requirement that the inspiration be specifically from Jesus and not Christianity seems hard to manage, or even impossible, since there isn't any clear way to tell the difference, and certainly no non-laborious way (it's not as if Fred Phelps doesn't repeatedly cite Jesus as his imagined exemplar; and are we really going to pour through all writings by or about Torquemada to confirm he *didn't* get any bad ideas directly from Jesus, even if we solved what "directly from Jesus" meant?).

It's also an epistemological tangle, since one can only be inspired by Jesus through the Bible and what later Christians said Jesus meant or said or did. Thus, for example, are you going to count all the Pentecostal fathers and children killed by snake bites, and who encouraged and thus caused others to be, because Jesus told them they were immune to snake bites and if they weren't it's their fault for not having enough faith? (Mark 16) And to what extent can you say Jesus' saying that blasphemers will never be forgiven and were judged by him to deserve eternal torment *wasn't* a significant cause of the horrors of Torquemada? And what about the long history of violent child abuse to prevent masturbation in response to Jesus' condemnations of (and even recommendations of mutilation for) merely feeling lust? And so on. It seems to me, one cannot tease out what Jesus "actually said and did and meant" from what any later Christians *believed and came to conclude* he did. Because, at the very least, a real Jesus would have corrected them (one of Loftus' key points), whereas if we are going to concede there is no living Jesus and all we are interested in is the legacy of the mere mortal man, that legacy is a constantly evolving contrivance of later Christians, and not reliably traceable to the actual man (if such there was). Again, Mark 16 is a case in point.

Another problem is that to be taking the OTF, you'd have to complete this exercise just as fairly for Confucius, Epicurus, Lao Zu, Socrates, Ingersoll, Mohammed, the Dali Lama, Hume, Sanger, de Beauvoir, Nussbaum, Wollstonecraft, etc. etc. Then compare. And a fair comparison requires weighting for publicity (Jesus has been far more widely publicized than Wollstonecraft and for much longer, so one must estimate what Wollstonecraft's influence would have been *had she been publicized as widely and as long*).

Finally, your list of positives might be open to challenge based on begging the question about what counts as good. Augustine promoted self-loathing, suppression of natural sexuality, and the condemnation of curiosity. He also promoted the economic exploitation of pilgrims through saints' relics and contributed substantially to one of the grosser forms of corruption in the medieval Catholic Church. And he supported the murder and physical coercion of heretics and thus gave lasting support to one of the most horrific sustained crimes of the medieval Catholic Church (a legacy we had to secularly abolish with our very first amendment to the U.S. Constitution). And that's just to pick one name from your (1) list. I see no utility in distinguishing these evils as if somehow they weren't in any way inspired by Jesus. That is meaningless, since the historical fact is Augustine did more harm to the world than good. And his religion is in large part to blame for that. And the legacy of Jesus is in large part to blame for that religion. That's all that really matters in the end.

I replied:

Thanks.  Torquemada probably works.  Phelps poisons a few minds, and irritates a lot of people, but is too small a cheese for this list.  Hong had an enormous impact, but Liang Afa's OT-based portrait of Yahweh and his own dreams , which he prioritized ("the things heard are not equal to the things seen"), seem to have inspired his rebellion.  He was also deeply influenced by Confucian ethics and folk religious beliefs, more maybe than the gospels, which sometimes he found irritating, and finally stopped printing the Bible.   But I may include him, too.

At the moment it's just a line of thought, not an argument, and not so involved that I need to start comparing Lao Zi and Epicurus.  I made the first list for something I'm writing, then reckoned (perhaps partly inspired by your "Jesus told us not to wash our hands" argument) it would be good to consider the other side.  I'd rather ask skeptics who know some history and can keep their imaginations in check, than random on-line debunkers, who will just send the query down rabbit trails.

Limiting myself to fairly direct influence limits scope, as it needs to be limited.  Maybe everyone who lived 2000 years ago impacts everyone who lives today, by the Butterfly Effect, but that's too nebulous to analyze.  But I also won't "tease out what Jesus really meant," because that would be opening Pandora's box.   So I stick with the obvious. 

On Augustine, no doubt we disagree about whether the Medieval civilization that arose in the ashes of the invasions of the former western empire that occurred for several hundred years after his time, was on balance an embarrassment or the greatest civilization the world had yet seen.  (And not marked especially by want of curiosity.)  We therefore also disagree on how to evaluate the role of Augustine (which we apparently agree was vital) in forming that world.  But I think most historically-informed people would lean my way on that one. 

To which Richard responded, in part:

Phelps is still a symptom of a wider disease (there are surely thousands like him who don't make the news, for example, and hostility and bigotry against homosexuals among Christians is a similar broad based symptom that has led to appalling statistics of murder and abuse). Limiting myself to fairly direct influence limits scope, as it needs to be limited.  Maybe everyone who lived 2000 years ago impacts everyone who lives today, by the Butterfly Effect, but that's too nebulous to analyze.Cloud Atlas, writ large.

True. But then the question returns to what use the data you are compiling will be.

For example, Marxists are always telling me Marx can't be blamed for all the evils of Marxism because they didn't listen to what Marx actually said. And then, of course, "what Marx actually said" becomes a matter of their subjective interpretation of what he said, which is always distorted by hindsight and post hoc reasoning (re-interpreting what he said in light of data he didn't have access to, in such a way as to make what he said sound suited to the 21st century, even though of course he can't ever really have meant that, not having any of the knowledge we do).

It seems to me, Jesus is in the same boat.

But I also won't "tease out what Jesus really meant," because that would be opening Pandora's box.   So I stick with the obvious. 

But Pandora's box is still in there. And just anyone can come along and immediately open it. (Per my Marx example.) I don't think you'll be able to avoid this, as soon as you start using the data you compile in any productive way.

On Augustine, no doubt we disagree about whether the Medieval civilization that arose in the ashes of the invasions of the former western empire that occurred for several hundred years after his time, was on balance an embarrassment or the greatest civilization the world had yet seen.  (And not marked especially by want of curiosity.)  We therefore also disagree on how to evaluate the role of Augustine (which we apparently agree was vital) in forming that world.  But I think most historically-informed people would lean my way on that one. 

I disagree with that last statement (and if your target group is non-Christians you want to persuade, even more so). And that was the general problem I was illustrating with that example.

In answer to Carrier's reasonable methodological objection, well, one does the best one can. If Torquemada was honestly reading the gospels and was inspired by Jesus to recognize the urgency of eternal choices, and that is why he committed torture and murder, even if by doing so he overlooked the hundreds of passages on love in the gospels, I think it would probably be fairest to include him in the list.  If, on the other hand, Jim Jones or Marshall Applewhite grabbed on to some esoteric doctrine or kinky sexuality and then tried to sprinkle a few Bible verses over their new doctrines, or Adolf Hitler had a speech he wanted to give in Bavaria and threw in a few references to Providence to get votes, I don't think they should be included just for that. 

A plain reading of Marx reveals a lot of hatred, authority issues, contempt and a fair degree of megalomania.  A plain reading of history shows that Marx was read, and did inspire leading Marxists, to some extent.  Even if Mao was careless in his reading, the centrality of Marx determined that the Chinese Communist Party would be deeply inspired by Marxist concepts, as it certainly was, even if those concepts were developed in novel ways.  (As they had to be, the originals being unsuited for Russian or Chinese or really any on-the-ground reality.) 

This could be a vast study in its own right, but I think Augustine's influence was mostly for the good.  And I do think a lot of informed non-Christians recognize that, and the glory of Medieval civilization.  Rodney Stark was not, after all, a Christian when he began writing on this subject, and wrote several books essentially defending the historical impact of the Christian synthesis.  Works like Barbarian Conversion (Richard Fletcher), The Genesis of Science (James Hannam), Freedom: A History (Donald Treadgold), and many more, have I think made that case pretty resoundingly. 

I also often find Augustine cited with delight by non-Christians, including even in the preface to one translation of the Upanishads.  While he had his flaws, and his final willingness to countenance oppression of the Donatists was no doubt the greatest of those flaws, and does seriously count against him (as Luther's nasty letter about the Jews counts badly against him), the greatness of both men is evident, as is the greatness of their contribution to human civilization, letters, thought, language, and even music. 

The point about Phelps being a "symptom of a wider disease" is well-taken. Though I don't want to include people just for symbolic purposes, and this particular fixation doesn't trace to Jesus, anyway, I do include people, like Torquemada, whose important deeds were part of a larger whole, but do not try to include lesser figures in the same movement. 

Phelps' name also brings up a difficult point that Carrier does not seem to have considered.  What was the net effect of Christian theology discouraging homosexual liasons?  One reads the story of Peter Tsaikovsky or Mel White and recognizes the sadness and loneliness that being homosexual in a heterosexual society can cause.  I feel sympathy for such men and women.  On the other hand, gay sexual practices also have their own biological and epidemiological consequences.  I am a little nonplussed to find White mourning the lost sexuality of his youth, growing up an evangelical Christian, and never reflecting that had he enjoyed what he now misses, he might have died of AIDS long since.  I recall two Christians I met who were both Jesus People in San Fransisco, one of whom told me, "I can see the faces of the people we shared Jesus with.  Those who left that lifestyle, are still alive.  Those who did not, are now dead." 

What is the net effect of Christian teachings against homosexuality?  This is not a simple calculation to make. AIDS is not the only factor on the other side. 

So, in sum, we have a three somewhat plausible candidates for inclusion on our Hall of Infamy, possible disciples of the "Bad Jesus." 

Hong Xiuquan
The Reverend Moon

While I know quite a bit about Hong, and a little about the other two, I would need to read their biographies with this question especially in mind, to decide for sure.  (I am leaning against including Hong.) 

Martin Luther may still be considered a dark horse candidate, if one can tie him to the Holocaust, as Avalos wants to do, and Jesus' words in the Gospel of John to his irritability towards Jews in old age. 

My Hall of Fame, which is also tentative in some cases, now includes the following:

(Saint) Alcuin: Softened and educated Charlemagne’s empire, counseled kindness. 
(King) Alfred: helped invent England at its best. 
Horace Allen, medical missionary to Korea. 
(Saint) Ambrose: Rebuked Theodisius when he got to murdered thousands of protestors, .            helped to establish the principle of separation of powers. 
(Saint) Anselm: along with innovative thinking, encouraged humane treatment of the young, and was I think also involved in legislation against the slave trade. 
Benigno Aquino: Died to bring new life to the Philippines.
(Saint) Augustine: Laid the foundation for the Medieval world and for much of the best of
         modern thought. 
Johann Bach
(Saint) Benedict: See above.
Francis Bacon: Helped inspire modern science.
Roger Bacon: Helped fathom the nature of light. 
Bartelome (Des Las Casas): Stood up for Native Americans. 
William and Catherine Booth: Liberated women. 
Rudy Bridges: Prayed for racists and helped integrate the South. 
Robert Boyle: Helped invent modern chemistry and experimental science.
Paul and Margaret Brand: discovered the causes of damage from leprosy, and helped rehabilitate         thousands of lepers and cure eye illnesses, ultimately aiding millions. 
John Bunyan: Spoke out for free speech, wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. 
Jean Buridan: Studied the nature of motion.   
John Calvin
William Carey: Helped create modern India, reforming science, language, and society. 
Clement (of Alexandria)
Charles Colson: Founder, Prison Fellowship, prison reformer. 
Fyodor Dostoevsky
Jean-Henri Dunant: Founded Red Cross.
Michael Faraday
Francis of Assisi
Millard Fuller: Founded Habitat for Humanity
Mohandas Gandhi
Wilhelm Grimm
Robert Grosseteste: Helped invent modern science.   
Hans Hague: Reformed and helped enrich Norway. 
George Handel: You have to ask? 
Paul Hewson (Bono)
Justin (Martyr)
Johannes Kepler
John Paul II: Helped overthrow the Evil Empire, and so much more. 
Martin Luther King
Benjamin Lay: One of the first to challenge modern slavery.
C. S. Lewis: Inventor of worlds. 
David Livingstone
Martin Luther
Lin Yutang: One of the most beloved modern Chinese writers.
Methodius: Developed written Slavic, educated, his disciple Clement also introduced fruit
      to Bulgaria. 
John Milton: Defended free speech, and made excellent use of it. 
George Muller: Cared for orphans.
Nelson Mandela: Brought justice to South Africa with little violence. 
Isaac Newton
Blaise Pascal
(Saint) Patrick
William Penn: Founded Pennsylvania. 
Jackie Pullinger: Liberated hundreds of drug addicts in Hong Kong, no doubt preventing thousands of  crimes. 
Mateo Ricci
Pandita Rumabai
Ram Mohan Roy: Father of modern India. 
Mary Slessor: Brought more peace to Nigeria, less murder. 
Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Sun Yat-sen
Hudson Taylor
(Mother) Teresa
J. R. R. Tolkien: Sub-creator. 
Leo Tolstoy
Cameron Townsend
Alessandro Volta
Lech Walensa: Helped end communism in Eastern Europe. 
Dan West: Founded Heifer International.
William Wilberforce: Helped end slavery. 
Wulfila: Wrote the Gothic language. 
Richard Wurmbrand
John Wycliffe: Conducted and inspired biblical translation. 
Xi Shengmo: Helped Chinese overcome opium addiction. 

Of course, I still welcome new suggestions from both sides.  I'm sure this is just the tip of the iceberg, probably in both cases. 


Anonymous said...

Dear David Marshall,

Just throwing this out there in order to be slightly controversial, but in the "positive" column of people influenced by Jesus, I wonder if you should think about including some military heroes of Christendom. For example, Charles Martel and King Jan III Sobieski, both of whom arguably saved Western Civilization from invading Muslim armies, thus certainly being instrumental in the preservation of the very Civilization that gave us science, beautiful art, freedoms and liberties, etc. I am not sure if these men fit your criteria sufficiently, but they should at least be considered.

At the same time, and once again in the "positive" column, I wonder if you should not include more philosophers and Christian thinkers in this list. After all, ideas have consequences, and many of the most influential, deeply-argued, and positive ideas were developed from a thinker's understanding of Jesus's words and actions. Heck, I even think that, for a modern example, you could put William Lane Craig in this column. His arguments and debates have certainly increased the sum of human thinking and intellectual discourse, which is positive from a cerebral perspective, and based on his personal testimony, he was clearly influenced to do this based on an inspiration to spread the gospel as Jesus commanded.

Anyway, just some rough/quick thoughts.

RD Miksa

David B Marshall said...

Thanks. I'd agree that those first two gents qualify in terms of doing the world good. But for this particular comparison, there'd also have to be evidence that the good they did was directly inspired by Jesus.

The difficulty with Craig would be proving positive impact here on earth. I'm not shutting the door on those folks, just leave it open until more evidence is forthcoming.

Anonymous said...

Dear David,

Well, King Jan III Sobieski was very devout, fought the battle in major part to defend Christendom, and dedicated his victory in battle to God, saying: "I came, I saw, God conquered!"

But anyway, my primary point is that some military leaders / heroes should be considered as potentials in the "positive" column. In fact, to be very controversial, I would argue that certain Crusaders, or Crusader groups such as the Templars or Knights Hospitallers, should be considered for the positive category, seeing as they were inspired by Jesus, helped develop hospitals, banking, etc., defended pilgrims, defended Christendom from Muslim aggression, and so on.

Next, concerning Craig, I just used him as a quick example, but my point was that Craig has positively influenced the world in an intellectual sense. I would say the same about such thinkers as St. Anselm, St. Thomas Aquinas, Alvin Plantinga, etc. These thinkers were inspired by their Christian faith, and positively influenced the world in an intellectual sense, for their writings increased our knowledge, philosophical ideas, and also had indirect positive contributions to such things as the development of universities, schools, etc.

Anyway, just something to consider.

Take care,

RD Miksa

David B Marshall said...

Sure, I fully agree that some who fought for Christ and justice probably belong -- Don Juan of Austria also came to mind, at least Chesterton's version in Lepanto. Although I consider myself an historian, I have to admit I don't know their lives and motivations well enough to judge in such cases, though.

I think St. Anselm was also involved in the law against the slave trade passed when he was Archbishop of Canterbury. I have looked for historical details, but have not been able to track them down, yet. In any case, he was certainly a "doer of good" as well as an innovative thinker (for one thing, he counseled school masters to punish students gently), and probably does belong in the fold.

Anonymous said...

One more:

Blessed Gerard Tongue. Founder of Knights Hopitaller, who, in turn, created countless hospitals and hospices over a 900 year old history as well as defended Christendom from Muslim invasion numerous times.