Symposium — An anti-Christian barrage in the midst of the Middle Georgia Bible Belt? (With apology to Alexander Pope)

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Monday, January 18, 2016

Symposium — An anti-Christian barrage in the midst of the Middle Georgia Bible Belt? (With apologies to both Plato and Alexander Pope)

"A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain, and drinking largely sobers us again."
Alexander Pope,
An Essay on Criticism, 1709

For the past several months an unexpectedly ongoing and curious religious debate has been raging on the Opinion pages of my local newspaper, the Macon Telegraph. I write “unexpectedly” and “curious” because we are supposed to be living in the midst of the Bible Belt here in Middle Georgia, and one would expect, if anything as it relates to the realm of religion, a Judeo-Christian perspective to be promulgated on Sundays for the benefit of the majority faithful. This should be particularly true given the decidedly progressive bent of the paper the rest of the week; instead, we are presented every Sunday with an anti-religious column written by a former priest, Dr. Bill Cummings, who apparently has an ax to grind against Christianity and Western culture, in general, and his former Roman Catholic Church, in particular.

SymposiumI’m not a religious person, but since religion is one of the main pillars of Western civilization — a civilization which, like the Catholic Church itself, is so much under attack from within and from without — I believe both Western culture and the Judeo-Christian ethic deserve and need to be defended.(1) Dr. Cummings, incidentally, seems a very likable and intelligent person, except for this persistent  detractive obsessioon of launching anti-Christian barrages nearly every Sunday after Sunday. Moreover, he has staunchly refused to say whether he is still speaking as a Christian and whether he is still part of the Catholic Church. In unguarded moments, Dr. Cummings has tellingly referred to himself (or his website) as the “progressive heretic.” Nevertheless, because of his refusal to admit whether he writes as a Christian or as a “progressive heretic,” he has been defended by several naïve or so not-naïve writers(2,3), who believe him to be a Christian, including a respected former judge, Phil Brown, who incredibly does not seem to know who or what he was defending!(4) Cummings’ greatest defender, though, is a rabid atheist, Jim Sandefur, a local potter, who has written such statements as: “the only good church is a burned down church”(7); “I think all three Abrahamic religions are an insult to the intelligence of mankind, and I will never be able to understand how anyone intelligent enough to turn a doorknob can believe such stupid s***”(14); “If I could go back in time I'd kill Abraham, but the second guy on my list would be Paul. Without him Christianity would not exist today”(13); and repeatedly calls everyone who disagrees with him a “mental midget.”(7,14) This last accusation is not only arrogant but also humorous: Before he had digested his writings, Sandefur ascribed the sobriquet to the theologian-in-chief, Dr. Cummings himself. That was before Sandefur had his epiphany that Dr. Cummings was actually coming from his side! We may disagree with his progressive politics and his heretical theology, but Dr. Cummings is certainly no mental midget. and he very well knows what he is doing: attempting to shake the faith of those who still believe in the Christian God because he himself has lost his faith and has an ax to grind against the same Church that nurtured and instructed him.

Sandefur has also called me a mental midget, which is even more hilarious. Already being a physician at age 24 and having passed the Basic Science part of my neurosurgical boards in the first year of my residency at Emory University (with 4 more years still to go in my training!), roughly equates my IQ to at least 130!(5,6) I declare these admissions, not from arrogance or to beat myself on the chest, but to reassure the many commenters in the Macon Telegraph, who have been offensively and derisively attacked by Sandefur with such appellations as “mental midgets” and “ignoramuses,” either because they are professed Christians or simply because he disagrees with their opinions. Heaping such hateful scorn and derision by Sandefur upon his neighbors was not only done “to poke fun at the yokels of Middle Georgia,”(7,12) but also an attempt to silence them. Sandefur, I’m sure would not hesitate to call Wernher Von Braun (1912-1977) a mental midget if the rocket scientist disagreed with any of Sandefur’s opinions — so we have a theologian with several degrees, a brain surgeon, and a rocket scientist — all effectively (or potentially) call mental midgets by the local potter! By contrast all of those who write pieces with whom Sandefur agrees, no matter how poorly written, or semi-literate, Sandefur praises as “excellent columns” and the semi-literate luminaries are obsequiously invited by Sandefur to keep writing! Most amusing of all, perhaps, is that Sandefur had challenged me to respond to his personal insults (i.e., with his usual bullying vulgarities, "if I had the cojones"), but when I did, and I took him to task for such an irresponsible statement as "the only good church is a burned-down church," he complained I was stalking him. This accusation coming from the big bully of the Telegraph, as you will yourself ascertained (by his own written comments as shown below), is particularly hilarious!(7,12)

It is beyond the scope of this symposium to copy and paste the barrage of evidentiary Sunday columns by Dr. Cummings published in the Telegraph and the many columns written in response, both pro and con.(8) Suffice to say, Father Allan J. McDonald, the distinguished Pastor of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church,(9) and myself offered to write contrarian columns, but we were either not invited to do so or were denied outrightly the opportunity by Mr. Charles Richardson, Opinion Page editor of the Telegraph, who wrote me, “Frankly, I've devoted way too much newsprint to this subject already” [Dec 14, 2015]. But as we have seen, the ink continues to flow Sunday after Sunday.(10) One person who has been given the chance to respond more than once in the Telegraph has been the free lance journalist, David Mann. He has written three good contrarian columns on the subject, and his last one is posted below with the initial responsive comments.(11) Hopefully, Mr. Mann’s piece will serve as a launching pad for further reading on this ongoing curiosity in collaborative journalism.

References

1. Faria MA. Dismantling Christianity and Western civilization — and replacing them with what? Macon Telegraph, August 26, 2015. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/articles/dismantling-christianity-and-western-civilization-—-and-replacing-them-what 

2. Cullinan NM. Your Say: Comprehending Attacks on Cummings’ recent column. Macon Telegraph September 4, 2015. Available from: http://www.macon.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article33866856.html

3. Dr. Miguel Faria responds to Mr. N.M. Cullinan's letter in the Macon Telegraph. September 15, 2015. Available from: http://haciendapub.com/articles/dr-miguel-faria-responds-mr-nm-cullinans-letter-macon-telegraph

4. http://www.macon.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article49468310.html

5. http://haciendapub.com/about

6. http://haciendapub.com/articles/bioethics-and-why-i-hope-live-beyond-age-75-attaining-wisdom-%E2%80%94-rebuttal-dr-ezekiel-emanuels#comment-1420

7. Faria MA. Is "the only good church a burned-down church"? The Macon Telegraph, March 29, 2015. Available from: http://www.haciendapub.com/randomnotes/faria-only-good-church-burned-down-church

8. http://www.macon.com/search/?q=Dr.+Cummings

9. http://stjosephmacon.com

10. http://haciendapub.com/articles/dr-miguel-faria-responds-mr-nm-cullinans-letter-macon-telegraph#comment-1397

11. http://www.macon.com/opinion/readers-opinion/article55135520.html

12. Faria MA. Fighting Lost Causes in the American Civil War. HaciendaPublishing.com, December 7, 2014. Available at:http://www.haciendapub.com/articles/fighting-lost-causes-american-civil-war

13. Cummings: Paul was wrong but who cares. Macon Telegraph. Dec 26, 2015

14. Mann D. YOUR SAY: 'Cummings is anti-Christian' columnist answers criticism, Macon Telegraph, January 16, 2016 (comments)

Written by Dr. Miguel Faria

Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.) Mercer University School of Medicine. He is an Associate Editor in Chief and a World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International (SNI), and an Ex-member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 2002-05; Former Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (1996-2002), Editor Emeritus, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS); Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995); Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997); and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).

This article may be cited as: Faria MA. Symposium — An anti-Christian barrage in the midst of the Middle Georgia Bible Belt? (With apology to Alexander Pope). HaciendaPublishing.com, January 18, 2016. Available from: http://haciendapub.com/articles/symposium-%E2%80%94-anti-christian-barrage-midst-middle-georgia-bible-belt-apology-alexander-pope

Copyright ©2016 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D.


YOUR SAY: 'Cummings is anti-Christian' columnist answers criticism, Macon Telegraph, January 16, 2016

By David Mann

Because my ongoing exchange with columnist Bill Cummings about the nature of Christianity threatens to become tedious, this will be, I venture to hope, my last comment on the subject. But his Dec. 6 column, "David Mann's ideal Christian" (bit.ly/1S0SBwW), and Phil Brown's Dec. 13 tirade, "Who is to decide who is Christian or not?" (bit.ly/1PJnbcX), both deserve responses. But because space prohibits both and because the latter is the more pointed and straightforward of the two, I will confine myself mostly to it.

It would be far preferable if all critics actually read what they criticize before criticizing it, but that appears barely to have happened in Brown's case. He calls my conclusion that Cummings is not a Christian "something there is neither evidence nor reason to conclude." This is puzzling because, in my column, I provided my evidence and reasoning in enough detail that it had to be published in two parts over two days (bit.ly/1NZAoK5 and bit.ly/1OxJXPV). Dispute it if you choose, refute it if you can, but don't pretend it doesn't exist.

Some of what he says few could disagree with. He describes the salutary effects of churches on young people in inculcating positive values and keeping them off the streets. But then he denounces "ill-conceived attacks on the attendees' character as does Mann regarding Cummings," which is entirely a figment of Brown's imagination. Far from attacking Cummings' character, I said that "Of course none of this (that I wrote) makes him a bad person (he actually seems to be quite a good person)" and that "He may ... seek to live by (Jesus') words." Cummings' character is not in question and is not the issue.

Moreover, there is no logical reason to regard the terms "not a Christian" or "anti-Christian," as I used them, as attacks on anyone's character or anything else. My column was not an argument in favor of Christianity, an enterprise that would have been far beyond its scope; its focus was much narrower. I used the terms "not a Christian" and "anti-Christian" simply as neutral statements of fact. That he implies that anyone who is not a Christian thereby automatically suffers from bad character says more about Brown than he perhaps intended and is troubling in someone who served for many years as a Bibb County Superior Court judge. Were Jews who came before his court, for example, subjected to disparate justice because he believes they have lesser character than Christians? Let us fervently hope not.

Brown asks "What beliefs are required by Jesus in order for one to be a Christian anyway?" and apparently gives the astonishing answer that belief simply has nothing to do with Christianity, it being entirely a matter of conduct. "Jesus said we will know them by their fruit," he tells us — twice. But that doesn't mean Jesus meant for this to be the only criterion of being a Christian. Many atheists, agnostics, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus and so on lead exemplary lives. Does Brown take the absurd position that this makes them Christians?

Brown asks "Who has set belief in Jesus' divinity as a test for being a Christian?" and tells us — three times — that "Jesus never claimed to be divine." How then does he deal with John 10:30? Or Matthew 16:16-20? Or John 14:6? Or Mark 14:61-62? Or Luke 4:41? Or John 8:58? Or Matthew 11:27? Or John 11:4, among others? Probably by saying that these are inauthentic verses that were added later and corrupted the original message. But given their presence in our Bible today, if he is going to contend that divinity "was a non-issue for Jesus," the burden of evidence is on him to show that this is so. Surely a judge should know something about burdens of evidence.

Brown writes as if, rhetorically speaking, I waylaid Cummings in a dark alley. But I did not start this conversation. That anyone might think so is probably largely because of a headline I didn't write. Cummings and his critics have been going back and forth for years, reaching a culmination of sorts in October with a letter headlined "Telegraph's anti-Christian columnist," which he then laughed off ("The anti-Christian columnist," Oct. 18). On the column I submitted in response, my proposed headline was "Sorry, Dr. Cummings, but you ARE anti-Christian," with the emphasized word reflecting that this was simply the latest installment in an ongoing conversation. But an editor lowercased the "are," which altered the meaning to make it sound as if I was gratuitously making the "anti-Christian" assertion rather than responding to something already being discussed.

My original "open letter" (Oct. 4, bit.ly/1mC048k) was a challenge to Cummings to pursue certain implications of what he has written and address what I see as a profound contradiction in his view of the universe, namely regarding objective truth. (Unfortunately he didn't do this.) And my "anti-Christian" column, while written in the third person rather than the second like the "open letter," could be regarded as an implicit challenge to refute me if I was wrong. But surely Cummings, who holds a degree in philosophy and three advanced degrees in theology, who taught in three Catholic institutions of higher learning and who actually lived in the Vatican for two years while studying under the pope himself, is a "big boy" intellectually speaking and up to the challenge of discussing religion with someone who holds no advanced degree in anything. Indeed, he has called in the past for "honest debate and sincere objections," and I responded to that call. My columns, whether accurate or mistaken, were reasoned argument and not personal attacks, and I believe Cummings understands the difference even if some others do not.

Meanwhile, a most unusual and surprising thing has happened, which could turn this whole conversation on its head. In "David Mann's ideal Christian," Cummings brings up the Nicene Creed (which I never even mentioned) and straightforwardly acknowledges that, when it comes to being a Christian based on it, "I probably come close to flunking." But he also says something amazing. "I much prefer the Apostles' Creed," he writes. And the Apostles' Creed begins with the words "I believe in God the Father Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son our Lord" — clearly a declaration of the divinity of Jesus! And so, if he is saying he believes the Apostles' Creed, he is saying he believes in the divinity of Jesus. Could it be that, after all these words, Cummings turns out to be a Christian after all?

David Mann is a freelance writer based in Macon 


Comments

Wally Walters: A thorough and well-balanced response, including your comment below.

That such a venomous anti-theist [Jim Sandefur] supports Cummings so fully, with Cummings' appreciation in turn, gives real insight as to the objective of his columns.

David Mann: Dear Jim Sandefur . . . 

I’m genuinely puzzled as to why you’re so angry at me. Dr. Cummings (my chosen designation, out of respect, which The Telegraph insists on changing to “Cummings” because that’s its style) gets to write every week, while I’ve now written a grand total of three columns that were related in any way to his writings, and you call that “going on and on.” This might have some validity if my columns were indeed about the same subject, but they were actually about very different aspects of this matter, and if you don’t know that it’s because you haven’t read them carefully. You seem intelligent enough to have discerned that if you had. 

The first, in October, was mostly not even about religion but about a broader question of philosophy; the second (in two parts) was about Christianity; and today’s column above is mostly not about Dr. Cummings but a response to the tirade against me by Phil Brown published in December. Do I not have a right to respond to unfair and false criticism? 

The big question here is how you can be a committed, even militant atheist, who has mocked Christianity as “the dead-man-on-a-stick religion” and (I’m told) said that “the only good church is a burned-out church,” and also be such a militant partisan of Dr. Cummings and Mr. Brown, to the point of calling the latter’s obviously hastily written rant a “good column” (in a Comment to Dr. Cummings) and thanking him for “taking the time to write this piece” (in a Comment to him). You have made clear that you believe Christians are ignorant and naive. Dr. Cummings and Mr. Brown both evidently identify themselves as Christians. (See the last paragraph of the column above for a surprising development in this regard, something that is entirely new since my last column and further proof that my columns are not repetitive.) Mr. Brown writes at some length about the positive influence of churches and laments their declining attendance, which is something I would expect you to applaud. So what gives? How can you call a column about the New Testament “the best thing printed in the Telegraph” and tell us you like to read it? Why would you care? Why would you spend time reading about what you regard as nonsense? Why the seemingly schizophrenic views? 

I have a theory as to the answer. My theory is that you like Dr. Cummings’ columns because you know they irritate the yokels, and that, not anything to do with the truth or falsehood of anything being discussed, is for reasons unknown your main interest here.

Much more could be said, but I think it’s your turn!

Jim Sandefur: Enough already! You've pounded your puny point enough. Many of us just want to read Cummings' column because it is the best thing printed in the Telegraph and we're lucky to have someone like Cummings living here in Middle Georgia. For the mental midgets who don't understand or like what he writes, Don't f****** read it!

Jim Sandefur: The mental midgets I refer to above do not include Mann. He is an intelligent person but keeps going on and on about next to nothing.

Jim Sandefur: It's "The only good church is a burned-down church". You are partly right in that part of my appreciation of Cummings' columns is that they irritate the yokels, but that is just a small part. I really do appreciate his columns because I learn from them and they point the way for further study. I think all three Abrahamic religions are an insult to the intelligence of mankind, and I will never be able to understand how anyone intelligent enough to turn a doorknob can believe such stupid s*** but that doesn't mean that I don't find the study of those three religions, especially Christianity, fascinating.

Jim Sandefur: To explain a little more, I also appreciate Cummings' columns because even in a place where Sarah Palin would pass for an intellectual, there are a few people who think, read, and wonder. If his columns makes a few people realize that the King James translation of the Bible in ridded with mistakes and is one of the worst translations of all or that their preacher is not very bright and is full of s*** or that Christianity is just an adult version of Santa Claus then his columns have served the community well.

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Comments on this post

'Whateverism theology' a la Hollywood!

In "The Resurrection: Myth or Reality?” Dr. Bill Cummings’ latest column, in the Telegraph once again provides the Telegraph readership with a learned, intriguing, but woefully incomplete picture of the person of Jesus Christ.

We have, in the four Gospels, four accounts that emphasize four differing aspects of this most important person who ever lived.  In Matthew, He is the Jewish Messiah.  Mark, who is Peter’s amanuensis, emphasizes Jesus as the obedient servant of YHWH.  Luke was a gentile physician, who emphasizes Jesus’ humanity (“The Son of Man”), reflected in a genealogy traced back to Adam.  John’s gospel is the most distinctive, revealing the Christ’s true origin as the eternal “Word” of God.  There we find the most complete account of the risen Jesus as a spirit manifesting in our limited dimensionality, in somewhat the same way that a 3D cube manifests as a square in a 2-dimensional plane.  He is physical, able to eat (“…a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have”); yet possesses the ability to materialize in a 6-sided space (the “upper room”) without penetrating any of its sides.  

Jesus’ body “did not see corruption,” but it did undergo “glorification” — a transformation into an eternal state which is, at a minimum, “hyper-dimensional” to the space-time environment that we inhabit.  All believers are destined for this same transformation (1 John 3:2).  Dr. Cummings is correct in classifying them as Christ’s “body”; but a body without a head is dead.  Jesus is the head, not only of the Church, but of the Heavens and Earth of which He is the creator.  

In short Dr. Cummings chose to spread his un-blessed hope that Jesus' body rotted in an unmarked grave, but that He somehow lives through his and other heretics' self-congratulatory mutual admiration and $.02 worth of deference to an itinerant Jewish rabbi who ran afoul of the authorities.

One final note:  Mark 16:9-20 is not a “later addition”; rather, it was expunged by the gnostic-influenced Alexandrian school, and reincorporated into Textus Receptus.

W. Wade Stooksberry II

Dr. Faria: …Father McDonald of St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, myself, and others have complained to the Telegraph that we have not been allowed to answer Dr. Cummings pseudo-theological diatribes with specific rebuttals. I refer the reader to the articles below and the comments that follow in which I try to preserve all of this material chronicling and documenting these events taking place in such very colorful and interesting times:

Dr Miguel Faria responds to Mr. N.M. Cullinan's letter in the Macon Telegraph

Symposium — An anti-Christian barrage in the midst of the Middle Georgia Bible Belt?

Religious morality (and secular humanism) in Western civilization as precursors to medical ethics: A historic perspective

In your last letter Wade you have also espoused a concise scholarly theological counter argument, and I and countless others thank you.

It is incredible the Telegraph barrage still continues, Sunday after Sunday, and with limited replies allowed, except for Mr. David Mann, who unfortunately takes one step forward and two steps back in his long critiques, needlessly declaring with false modesty that after all he is not a religious expert. His "critiques" and particularly his comments and dialogues with Dr. C. all eventually end in an apologetic tone that further detracts from this critique. I have communicated my criticism directly to Mr. Mann, who vehemently denies his intellectual capitulations.

Therefore I value your theological knowledge and thank you for sharing it with our readers. And I apologize for all these links but I thought they may provide a small counterbalance to the McClathy paper’s biased pseudo-theology and progressive political blather!

Dr. Faria: ... My wife Helen (correctly in my opinion) says that Dr. C's theology is a "Hollywood theology" based on the popular culture and Hollywood cliches, ("The Body" 2001 film trash, etc.)! ...

Wade Stooksberry: “I think Helen is right.  Dr. Cummings expresses a vague "spirituality" that I call "Whateverism": a belief in something, nothing, anything -- "whatever.”  It is the religion of Hollywood, the music industry, and the news media.  It has roots in the "de-mytholization" movement in academic Christianity, which has pervaded the seminaries of the denominational church, even the Southern Baptists (until Albert Mohler performed a housecleaning several years ago).  It is a.k.a. "the search for the historical Jesus,” by which is meant the Jesus of their secular imaginings, who -- they hope -- rotted in a grave somewhere, so they can project whatever image of him is fashionable this season upon the screens of their spurious scholarship.  When I was a freshman at Mercer, many years ago (pre-Godsey, even), the first text assigned in my required Christianity 101 class was by Rudolph Bultmann, who was at the forefront of the "historical Jesus" movement in the 19th and early 20th century -- a movement which has spawned the nefarious and extant "Jesus Seminar.”

You are free to use my letter in any way you deem appropriate, and I am honored for you to do so.

W. Wade Stooksberry II

Interesting theology!

Letter to the editor, Macon Telegraph, March 26, 2016

Interesting theology

I read and re-read many of the columns on The Telegraph's Opinion page written by Dr. Bill Cummings. The more I read the more I am driven in the trustworthiness of the truthfulness of the Bible that Dr. Cummings is disintegrating.

Surely Dr. Cummings unites himself with those whom he claims in his 12/6/15 column are "Many good 'Christian' scholars (i.e., Crossan, Borg, Spong, and Cummings) read them as parables or metaphors — but not as history." He claims that the parables mean:

1.) Jesus is not God.
2.) Jesus was not born of the Virgin Mary.
3.) Jesus' atonement on the cross does not reconcile sinful humanity to God
4.) Jesus' resurrection from the dead was not in physical form.

The Jesus Seminar that I have much information about, includes many theological educators who gather together to discuss and reach their conclusions about the Bible and especially the divinity of Christ. The seminar includes Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong, Catholic priest John Dominic Crossan and Episcopal Marcus Borg. I don't know if it includes Dr. Cummings.

I quote only a few of their biblical beliefs and proclamations. Bishop Spong says "Saint Paul was a homosexual. Jews might be safer if we took Evangelical Christianity away. The virgin birth and resurrection were not literal events."

Priest Dominic Crossan says, "The atonement of Christ is incredibly obscene and transcendental child abuse. The virgin birth is a parable. We need open heart surgery on Christianity and our culture." Episcopal Marcus Borg says, "The Bible is a human product. Ascribing it to divine inspiration leads to massive confusion. There is a very bright future to mainline churches if they understood their traditions metaphorically and not literally. Christianity is not the only way to salvation."

Many biblical traditions can be understood metaphorically but not those including the gospel of Jesus Christ and the moral absolutes people are to live. I pray for Dr. Cummings. This is not to denigrate him. If he became a born again Christian with the assurance of his salvation, he could be a mighty man of God proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. I say this because in his 11/1/15 article he says, "Am I certain of my faith? No, I am not certain of my faith nor of my opinions and if I sound like I am, I apologize." — The Rev. Richard Aultman, Byron

Willy Bean: Rev. Richard Aultman, Cummings waters down the word of God until there's nothing left but water. Like the rest of us, he needs prayer.
Dr. Bill Cummings: Thank you, Willy; keep up the prayers! When I grow up, I may learn as much as Aultman!

March 27, 2016 in response on an article on the historicity of Jesus by Dr. Bill Cummings entitled "Did Jesus really exist?"

Marc Clarkson: Dr. Bart Ehrman's Jesus historicity book was near univerally panned. He is NOT a historian but a textual critic. He is going to debate Dr. Price and if he uses things like "Peter and Mary believed they saw Jesus after he was crucified" he will damage the historicity argument even further. At worst, the mythicist argument proves that the beliefs of most Christians are not based on history/fact. The argument for a historical Jesus always reduces to minutiae and trivial "facts" that get challenged at ever turn. None of the grandiose claims Christians hold have ever been defended to the best of my knowledge. Even still, most mythicists say that an agnosticism about whether Jesus existed is the best position due to the truth of his existence being lost to time (and the filter of the Christian/Roman Catholic church) barring time travel.

Dr. Bill Cummings: Thanks, Marc! I'm looking forward to this Debate on Oct.21 in Milwaukee. Both Bart and Bob are excellent scholars, and neither one is a "believer," so their arguments will be strictly historical. I can be swayed either way, I think.

Felton Swicord: Hey Doc…. your theology is as turbulent as a termite in a yo-yo. You must know time is getting shorter and it is coming down to the end. So, please don’t end up like old King Agrippa when he was coming down to the end of his journey, after hearing the Sinless Savior’s call all those years as you have, he declared,”…..ALMOST thou persuadest me to be a Christian.”(caps added Acts 26:28) So very sad!

Confronting Dr. Cummings anti-Christian Crusade head on!

Macon Telegraph selected intellectually meaningful comments (in response to Dr. Cumming’s article on “The Myth of Creation,” Feb. 27, 2016

Richard Scherer: Humanity has a sin nature and we seem to have had it from the very beginning. Why would a perfect being allow this to happen? He must have realized our "fall" would occur even before He created us. This contradiction bugs me.

Wade Trena-The Doves: Richard — that is a troubling one. If God is omniscient, and necessarily outside of the temporal reality that He created; and can thus see all of time and space spread before Him, as you could see an entire parade from a helicopter —then He foreknew that man would misuse the gift of free will, before He created.

Why create then? Why allow the suffering, pain, and the ultimate death that each of us faces?A very similar problem to “the problem of pain”: if God is good, and all-powerful, then why evil (and suffering and death)?

The most succinct answer to the first question I have encountered is courtesy of Ravi Zacharias: God also foreknew that a REDEEMED creation would be better than an unfallen one; i.e., that it would produce qualities that Eden (perhaps) could not: e.g., courage, fortitude, patience, and faith itself.

And Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, informs us of the tautological format of Redemption. ‘As sin entered the world through one man, and effects us all: so redemption (or justification, or salvation — whatever vocabulary you prefer) entered through one Man, and is available to all.

The answer to the second question has best been expressed — imho — by C. S. Lewis’ treatise, “The Problem of Pain.” Lewis’ profound and influential works are available “wherever books are sold”; and, of course, on the web.

I think you’ll find both more challenging, and much more informative, than the idle musings presented by Dr. Cummings. “Progressive heretic”, indeed. LOL. Hope this helps.

William Francis Cummings: Wade Trena-The Doves: hmmm. Idle musings? And what are your musings?

Wade Trena-The Doves: William Francis Cummings Well, since you ask, Bill — I muse that the problem with your perspectives is that they are hopelessly narrow and limited; and therefore superficial and simplistic.

I encourage you to consider the ramifications involved in the fact that our shared reality is dimensionally bounded — in terms of age, or time (it had a beginning); and in terms of size. It is not infinitely large, since it is not infinitely old: and, we now discover, it has limits in terms of “smallness”; our dimensional environment is composed of indivisible units, called “quanta”.

In short, we exist in a sort of “digital simulation” of a “higher reality” (Scientific American, ''The Inconstancy of Constants,'' June 2005, p. 57-63). Indeed, our cosmos is but a subset of an infinite “Metacosm”, which we refer to as “spiritual.”

This is what The Bible has maintained for over 3,500 years. Genesis provides a poetic — but true — account of that “higher reality’s” creative act in expressing our physical universe, from the contents of His “Mind” — a very important word.

An eternal (timeless) entity, with an infinite Mind: a pretty good working definition of “God” — wouldn't you agree? A universe “spoken” into existence, as it were, though His “Word” — the same Word that became flesh in the Person of Jesus Christ. I know — it’s a lot to deal with, right? (wink)

And to do so, you’d have to jettison almost all of the obsolete materialist nonsense you’ve been programmed with, and pride yourself on. As well as much of the Catholic dogma you've acquired -- and at no inconsiderable effort, I’m sure.

But it’s worth it, my dear friend. Whatever you stand to lose is worth precisely nothing, in relation to receiving the Truth, and entering into a personal relationship with it. Er, that is —HIM. God bless. WWS

The controversial Dr. Cummings!

The selected exchange that follows is in response to Dr. Cummings column about himself “DR CUMMINGS— The Controversial columnist” published in the Macon Telegraph, March 12, 2016

Wade Trena-The doves: Bill, I can’t speak for Wally, but your expression of my concern is a “swing and a miss.” My primary concern is that you use the bully pulpit of your newspaper column to express distortions, misinterpretations, and misinformation regarding The Bible and Christian doctrine. And that because of your impressive credentials, impressionable people are inclined to accept those spurious views as having authority.

My secondary concern — directly related to the first — is that you present yourself as a “Christian” while doing so. And while rejecting every foundational doctrine of the faith. That lends further credence and and an even more spurious credibility to your writings, to the hypothetical reader who us ‘confused’, ‘doubtful’, ‘questioning’, or ‘undecided’. I.e., “Well, here’s what Dr. Cummings says — and he’s a very well-educated Christian!”

I would have very little to say in response to your columns, if you were forthcoming enough to announce outright “I am NOT a Christian — I don’t believe any of the things those nuts believe. Incarnation? Virgin Birth? Atonement? Resurrection? Ascension? Come now! There may or may not be a ‘God’ — but there is certainly not any of those things!” Instead, you deceitfully promote the view that you can be a “Christian”, and not accept any of those doctrines. And that is dishonest.

So — nothing personal. I take you to be a very “nice guy”, as I have repeatedly stated. But your columns demand a response, in order to correct the misrepresentations of truth they are rife with — in fact, premised upon. And I don’t doubt that your desire to “help people” by sharing your views with them is sincere.

So is mine. My intention is to help those who are “helped” by you — and, Lord willing, to edify my fellow believers in the process. ( ^ ;

Dr. Bill Cummings: Wade … you seem concerned that I just ask questions and don’t give the answers, and you seem to mean “definitive answers” to “non-definitive” questions. You two have no difficulty explaining exactly what God wants of all of us, Christians, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Mormons, etc. You know the mind of God, and can quote SS to prove it. How wonderful!

Wade Trena-The doves: Well that was certainly a worthwhile read. A man spends an entire column congratulating himself on his agnosticism (literally, “without knowledge”) in regard to both questions and answers pertaining to the most foundational aspects of our existence. And for spreading that agnosticism to others. And admits that he chuckles over doing so.

Fair enough, Bill. We have had our exchanges, which I enjoy. You seem to be a nice fellow, and I’d be happy have an “adult beverage” with you any time.

As I have said many times, my only objection to your column is in your insistence upon labeling yourself a “Christian”, when you adhere to none of the doctrines of Christianity, such as are laid out (e.g.) in The Apostles Creed. You reject The Incarnation: Virgin Birth; the miracles; the Atonement; and the Resurrection. You therefore reject the Gospel (1 Cor. 15:3,4). And you have said that God created a universe of “cause and effect” — a universe that He neither interferes with, or has entered into in the Person of Jesus Christ — yet contradict yourself by saying that God is to found somewhere “inside us”.

All of which makes your columns of no nutritional content; merely the unserious musings and obsolete views of a nice guy. I have coined a term that I think applies to those who elevate niceness to the ultimate virtue; one that negates the need for a Savior, if practiced correctly, that is, “religiously”. I refer to them as “Nice-tians”. I hope it catches on.

Frankly — and I’m not trying to be insulting, just honest; which is more than your claim to be a Christian is — they are only worth reading, because they are read by so many people, having been awarded newspaper space. There are those of us who read them solely in order to rebut and correct the theological and hermeneutical errors that compose the bulk of their content.

You are right in one thing, however (credit where credit is due — wink): the traditional, denominational experience that has informed so many people’s “religious” life for decades, and even centuries — and which can aptly be termed “Churchianity” — has been an inoculation against saving faith for countless people.

A hint: if you have questions about God, or faith, and are told that you are not to have those questions, or that there are no answers — then you are not being told the truth…

Millennial thinking

Dear Miguel,

We are living in a period of darkness as society and ethics have crumbled,and the principles for which we stand are being trampled by those who do not understand what they are doing. They do not know what terrible events caused the
founders of our nation to draw up a government with protection of individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…

But society is growing. There are an expected 500 million projected citizens in the USA by 2050, making it the third most populous country in the world. It will be shaped by modeled technology, incredible scientific advances, and more. Unfortunately, I do not see how the economic collapse can be avoided. But the end result may be different than Russell predicts. Yes, history has shown that chaos is followed by dictatorship, but that knowledge may result in an attitude and formula that prevents catastrophe.

Right now we have a president acting as demagogue and dictator, as much as he is allowed to be. And you see the reaction of the public, anger, against the government, which I have never seen in my lifetime. Remember the Millennials are growing up with a different set of experiences than we did. So it is no wonder that they have a different perspective. In teaching and training them in surgery, they want to be independent but at the same time they realize that they need the wisdom and guidance of experience to be successful. I have seen this many times. So, that learning and adaptation do exist… it takes time for that teaching to sink in. It is “on the job” training for democracy and maturity that we see and that was not learned as we did. My father always said, “You do not need to jump off a bridge to see what it is like.” We did not jump. We knew and trusted our elders and experience. Today’s generations are jumping (i.e., with Drugs, in Communes, divorce from marriage too early, and the need to be with children to raise them… ) Generations X (post boomers, born 1960s to 1982) and Y (millennials, born between 1982 and 2000) have a great dislike for the boomers who are now 77 million strong and at an age when they are in power. That, too, will pass.

The millennials’ beginning thinking age is from 1994-2008. That is at the time of Clinton and his sex scandals, the lack of trust and lying that that represented, corruption in government, Hillary care, divorce and single parent families, liberal sex in the schools and parents who do not care about the curriculum, up thru the Bush era with the economic collapse that has continued into the present. That includes Twitter, Facebook and new ways of communication. So, comparatively their experience is far different from ours with multiple wars, cold wars and prosperity and good family values.

So they are seeing the world from a much different lenses. How can they gain unfiltered knowledge? Not by us being silent but by writing educated pieces as you have done. Millennials now prefer what they have been taught — i.e., gun control, no wars or confrontations, help the poor, take all the refugees, all of this without objective analysis of the results or where it leads — so their thinking is far different from ours. They do not have the hard knocks experience to make those judgments because they have never seen the results of acting upon those ideals. That also applies to religious values and the sexual scandals in the church and among the clergy is of not help. So, we have to judge them in the time in which they live and then figure out how to reach them. — Jim

James I. Ausman, MD, PhD, is Professor of Neurosurgery at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles (UCLA); Editor-in-Chief of Surgical Neurology International; President, Future Healthcare Strategies; Chairman of the Board, The Waymaster Corporation Productions; and Creator & Executive Producer of THE LEADING GEN® TV Series.

Dr. Cummings: Atonement is blasphemy!

Let me briefly state that with Dr Bill Cummings latest Macon Telegraph column,”The blasphemy called 'atonement,' ” I believe retired judge Phil Brown owes David Mann an apology and to himself a retraction; that is, if his theological column was sincere. By attacking Mann in his confused and misguided column, Judge Brown defended something that Dr. Cummings himself does not affirm or deny, while he continues his anti-Christian barrage that I discussed above. We live in interesting times!

Fr. Allan J. McDonald: Flaw critical historical method!

Father Allan J. McDonald responds to Dr. Cummings' Anti-Christian barrage in the Macon Telegraph, Jan 28, 2016

Critical historical method

Who am I to judge Dr. Bill Cummings' faith and Christianity? So I won't do that. But we can judge the method of biblical analysis to which he clings tenaciously. It is a methodology rooted in liberal Protestantism of the late 1800s called the critical-historical method. As an unbridled ideology of that period, it eventually pushed orthodox Protestants towards biblical fundamentalism and literalism by the 1920s.

Liberal Protestantism tended to deconstruct the Bible, which led to the denial of basic tenets of the historic church even to the point of denying the divinity of Christ in pursuit of the so-called historical Jesus.

When it was shown that this method could have some beneficial aspects, Catholic scholars were allowed to use the critical-historical method of interpretation by Pope Pius XII beginning in 1942. But by the 1960s many Catholic scholars were abandoning its sober approach and making some of the same disastrous mistakes of their liberal Protestant counterparts. This period of church's history is confused to say the least and heterodox Catholic academicians have pushed some Catholics toward fundamentalism as occurred in Protestantism earlier.

Pope Benedict in his book "Jesus of Nazareth" calls us to move beyond mere historical criticism to a more profoundly theological reading of scripture that does not deconstruct the historic faith and morals of the church or emasculate the divinity of Christ, although he acknowledges that a truly historical approach is necessary when used soberly. However, Pope Benedict rightfully points out the philosophical flaw that is embraced by those like Cummings when it comes to this method of biblical interpretation.

Many scholars have divorced the "Jesus of history" from the "Christ of faith." Some have also divorced the church from Christ and in doing so have severed theology and doctrine from reason and reality. Pope Benedict sees the logic of this ideology as disastrous: "Intimate friendship with Jesus, on which everything depends, is in danger of clutching at thin air." This is what Dr. Cummings does and it is truly the most unfortunate aspect of his use of the critical historical method applied to the Bible in an unbridled 1960s way.-- Father Allan J. McDonald is the distinguished Pastor at St. Joseph's Catholic Church in Macon, Georgia

Mental midget, who?

Dr. Faria,

Only on rare instances do I read the Macon Telegraph (MT) anymore. When I have checked the comments to letters feature it is pretty much the same stuff indistinguishable from one month to another. It seems the MT Viewpoints to have been taken over by a cabal of far leftists, with the exception of a couple of conservatives who have not yet abandoned the forum. In the beginning one lawyer amongst them, while obviously liberal, could be engaged somewhat academically. But at the point he asserted any disagreement with the meme was racist, any contrary commentary became pointless. It is interesting that his cohorts declare that he has won the debate of OPINION by virtue of being a lawyer.

Then we have the very angry fellow from somewhere around Atlanta that can’t let go of centuries old grudges, and another that professes to work with conservatives that, of course, are more open-minded than Viewpoints writers who are generally targets of sarcastic barbs. There is also the well-known troll from Chicago with a psychosis (am I practicing without a license?) who should simply be ignored.

And then there is Sandefur. What an angry, vitriolic individual! I recall a comment of his wherein he commented that he was threatened with a beating from his classmates for refusing to use the N word. I grew in a small town in a rural county, more black than white, and that word was not common usage, and in fact, my mother taught her children not to use such language. It would dis-ingenuous of me to say it was not used by some, but Sandefur overstates the use to make some point. I say the above to say this: Given his demeanor [bullying] on the MT pages, I have no doubt he was threatened by classmates, just for different and likely justified reasons.

As it so happens, I did check in to MT the other day, and there was a column by Dr. Cummings regarding quotes in the Bible on the role of husbands and wives. He seemed to have a problem, in his view, that too little was required of the
husband, but noted that it was in context with mores of the time. That is a bit like saying I am a believer in the prescription, but refusing to take the medicine. He seems at times to be a Christian as our Viewpoints Doctor friend [Elliot] claims to be a Republican. That is to say that he claims to be a Christian, while claiming almost none of it’s tenets.

As to Sandefur’s fandom of Cummings, what you and David Mann have written cannot be improved on. I will note that Sandefur shrugged off David’s inquiries, as one who is simply intellectually lazy or inept.

Finally, Sandefur’s “mental midget” reference is simply laughable. Your intelligence is not debatable, and even without your documented accomplishments, your writings are ample proof. Even you most adamant detractor would deny the obvious. I say that, not to ingratiate myself to you, but to point out the obvious, and recalling your sophisticated debates with “John Dewey” that Sandefur is an unworthy opponent. Sincerely, F.D. (P38)

Dear P38,

Re. "Sandefur. What an angry, vitriolic individual! I recall a comment of his wherein he commented that he was threatened with a beating from his classmates for refusing to use the N word. I grew in a small town in a rural county, more black than white, and that word was not common usage, and in fact, my mother taught her children not to use such language. It would dis-ingenuous of me to say it was not used by some, but Sandefur overstates the use to make some point. I say the above to say this: Given his demeanor [bullying] on the MT pages, I have no doubt he was threatened by classmates, just for different and likely justified reasons. "

You are right on target as you always were in Viewpoints! More than likely his assertion is a gross embellishment or even more likely a bold face lie! Being a bully in high school as he is today in Viewpoints, the kids got tire of his bullying and ganged up on him and ended his shenanigans, LOL!--- MAF



Diary of Dreams performs at the 2016 M’era Luna festival in Hildesheim, Germany. M’era Luna, “one of the biggest dark music events in Germany,” is held each year on the second weekend in August. Close to 25,000 people attend the festival annually to hear gothic, metal and industrial music performed on two large festival-style stages.