The Gospel According to Jason Brennan

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Philosophy TV posted several reflections on issues related to Christmas during Christmas week last year. Jason Brennan's contribution presents the Christmas story (i.e. the gospel) as a bad story about an immoral divinity.

I chose not to post this actually near Christmas, but when I saw this I thought it would be a great exercise to identify exactly where Brennan gets the gospel message wrong (and Brennan's final question actually invites that).

In particular, there seem to be two general kinds of responses to a criticism like Brennan's. You might disagree with his portrayal of what the gospel message actually says, or you might think he gets the message right but applies a problematic moral framework. (And you might think he makes mistakes in both arenas). But if you're a Christian, you ought to think he does at least one of the two. The question is exactly which elements does he get wrong in what the gospel says or in the moral theory he applies to it, and I'm curious what people would say about that. What do you think?

[cross-posted at Evangel and Prosblogion, whose commenters will likely have very different things to say in response to this]


I think he gets them both wrong in several areas but I am prone to wander so here's what I picked up on the one hearing.

One: he basis all his examination purely on common sense morality but the discussion is definitely more complex than that flattening would allow. Maybe there is a divine moral theory going on since, maybe, this is about God.

Two: he conflates what is going on in the Gospel account with vindictive retribution. Yes people die, and yes God permits them to die, but he’s not going after them and their children to kill them. They were cut off from him, the source of life. A plant not in the sun withers but we don’t charge the sun for killing it.

Three: he downplays the solution which might be more complex than he makes it. I mean, what if the problem is that God is Spirit and we are Humans and that’s why he sends his Son to become incarnate, set off death’s trap, and then rob death of its power? That’s what some in the early church thought and it’s a possible reason. Be that as it may, we shouldn’t wind up downplaying the answer just because it wouldn’t work in our situation. The fact is that our situation might be more complex than what we expect.

Four: the fact that evil exists in Uncle Theo’s world and God’s world are different. Given God’s foreknowledge, the fact that there is evil and a very complex solution to that evil should tell us that it may just be that this was the only solution that mattered (or was feasable). I mean, maybe there are other possible solutions, but the fact an omniscient God chose this solution should give us pause. Uncle Theo, on the other hand, is not omniscient at all. He reacts instead of acts.

Five: The Story ending is different. Uncle Theo’s story is contained and his reasoning explained (quickly). But This Story, our Story (reality) is ongoing. To charge MORAL EVIL at this point of the story is exceedingly negligent especially when part of the story is God saying “all these things are working together for Good”. We might not see it but we also have a fairly limited scope of vision.

Six: He says that Aaron and Eva are not moral agents because they’re like little kids but the Genesis account has Eve reasoning, thinking, working things out—likewise Adam. They didn’t have experiential knowledge of good and evil but they knew that The Good was to obey God and the Evil was Not To Obey Him. Uncle Theo is vindictive to children.

Seven: God didn’t fly off the handle. He told Adam and Eve exactly what would happen.

Eight: I thought the Gospel was exactly peace on earth, good will towards man. He confuses this, though, with helping the physically poor which completely ignores what God is really doing in the Gospel!

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