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Critical Deconstruction of CB Robertson’s Holy Nihilism, Chapter 2

Chapter 2 is titled The Nature of Christianity. CB makes a number of statements that are actually completely true, such as his definition of a Christian :

<“I define Christianity in the following manner: Christianity is a religion derived from the Bible, and which aims at reunification with the God Yaweh through the development of a relationship with his son, Jesus, in the hope that the practitioner may be granted eternal life with God after they die.”>

And his statement that any true Christian should be able to say and agree with the Nicene Creed, and his statement pointing out the absurdity of people who say that Christianity is a relationship and not a religion.

CB then makes this statement:

<“To this end, a believing Christian is the sort of person who does, has done, or is setting about doing, the following: 1. Has been baptized 2. Attends church weekly 3. Prays daily 4. Reads scripture regularly 5. Regularly seeks forgiveness for their sins 6. Makes an honest attempt to treat others as they would treat Jesus 7. Does not worry about this world” >

While I do agree with this list of behaviors generally, I suspect that CB is going to get sneaky with #7. CB’s central argument against Christianity is that we don’t care about anything outside of God and our own salvation, which is a misunderstanding of scripture and Christianity. While we are told to not worry about the world, its because our hope is not of this world. That doesn’t mean we are to neglect the world. We are instructed to be good stewards of whatever God has put into our care.

On page 36 CB makes correct statements that acknowledge that true Christian faith necessitates right action, because you cannot truly believe in Christ if you are not doing good in the world.

He then goes further to state what appears to be his main argument for this chapter:

“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. — Galatians” 5:24

<“It is difficult to overstate the significance of this verse. It amounts to an entire dismissal of the relevance and importance of everything in this world: the cities, the environment, the animals, the people, everything strong, authentic, beautiful, and lovely, all of these are things of the world and of the flesh. They are transient and passing and attaching oneself to them would be to allow yourself to be blinded by the “God of this world.”>

On page 38 CB talks about John 3:3-8 where Jesus tells Nikodemus that he must be baptized or “born again” to be saved as a way of supporting his argument, that Christianity requires that we die to our old life and all the cares of the world. This isn’t an accurate assessment of baptism, but it’s a common one from the “replica” churches that he grew up in. Without going off on too much of a tangent, baptism is first and foremost the mark of the New Covenant, like Circumcision was of the Old Covenant. It is what designates you as a Christian. And while yes, it is a putting off of your old un-Christian self and a rebirth of your new Christian self, its actual significance is putting to death the curse of Adam that we are born with, which is a satisfying of the wages of that sin. With that death satisfied we are promised immortality through Christ and His resurrection. But CB’s conclusion that baptism is to “kill off all of one’s attachments to the flesh and to this world” is wrong.

On page 39 CB continues down this rabbit hole by saying that the fruits of the spirit -love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control — are the result of having complete apathy toward anything else in the world. He specifically cites people expressing joy at a funeral of a loved one as an example of this apathy. While I’m certain that there are occasional “Christians” who behave in this way, it is not remotely normal in any denomination. To see whether or not this is actual Christian theology we need look no further than Jesus Himself when confronted with the death of his friend.

John 11:35 is known as the shortest scripture in the Bible. “Jesus wept.” Jesus is fully aware that he can command life and death. He knows what he is going to do. And yet he is moved by the emotions of his friends over the death of Lazarus. Jesus wept, despite full assurance that his friend would be resurrected, because the pain of his friends was very sad to Him. He had empathy for them. Was Jesus not practicing his own teachings? Was Jesus being a bad Christian for having such attachments to the flesh of this world? No, Jesus was not failing to follow his own teachings. The failure is in CB’s understanding of that teaching.

The fruits of the Spirit are not apathy.

On page 40 CB talks about the sack of Rome and how it caused some people to question whether or not they could have prevented the sacking if they had been pagan and more aggressive in their nature. I’m not sure where CB gets this anecdote from, but I am calling baloney on it. The people who sacked Rome were Christians. It was specifically their Christianity that influenced the decision to let them cross the Danube as they sought refuge from the Huns. This is where Vox Day gets his catch phrase “sink the damn ships”. Because it was allowing these refugees to settle, and then making allowances to keep them peaceful, and then attempting to make them more Roman by bringing them into the Roman legions, and then it was training them and even making them Roman Officers that directly lead to the sack of Rome. Rome was sacked by multiculturalism. -The Byzantine Empire, Ch3. Charles Onan.

But CB brought up the sack of Rome because he wanted to quote St. Augustine’s statements on it, where he summarizes from the book of Job:

“If those who lost their earthly riches in that disaster had
possessed them in the spirit thus described to them by one who
was outwardly poor but inwardly rich; that is, if they had
‘used the world as though not using it,’ then they would have
been able to say, with that man who was so sorely tried and
yet was never overcome: ‘I issued from my mother’s womb in
nakedness, and in nakedness I shall return to the Earth. The
Lord has given, the Lord has taken away. It has happened as
God decided. May the Lord’s name be blessed.’ Thus a good
servant would regard the will of God as his great resource,
and he would be enriched in his mind by close attendance on
God’s will; nor would he grieve if deprived in life of those
possessions which he would soon have to leave behind at his
death.” — Augustine, City of God

CB cites this as another example of Christian Nihilism, where if your city is burning you are to be indifferent to it.

As St Augustine was teaching from the book of Job, let us take a look at what was going on in that book. Job is often believed to have been the wealthiest man in the world. Whether or not that is true, he was evidently extremely wealthy. God cites Job as being a man who is “blameless”, or sinless. Any Prot reading this is likely to have had their head explode upon seeing me say that, but if God sees no fault in Job, neither should you. So, here is Job, a man who is perfect in all of his ways, a man with a large family and tremendous wealth. Very little is said on his relationship with his family other than he cared enough for them to make sacrifices on their behalf, just in case they happened to sin. So we can assume he was an attentive and loving father. In a single day Satan is loosed against Job and Job loses everything. His wealth, his home, and all of his children. When Job learns all of this he tears his robes and shaves his head, both are acts of extreme grief and mourning. Then Satan curses him with painful sores all over his body. The next time we see Job, his asshole friends are coming by to convince him that he must have had it coming. When they find him he is sitting in the ashes of his life, scraping himself with a pot shard. They are so overwhelmed by the sight of him that they join him in the dirt and spend 7 days weeping with him in total silence. Job finally breaks the silence with a lengthy curse against the day he was born.

““May the day perish on which I was born,
And the night in which it was said,
‘A male child is conceived.’
May that day be darkness;
May God above not seek it,
Nor the light shine upon it.
May darkness and the shadow of death claim it;
May a cloud settle on it;
May the blackness of the day terrify it.
As for that night, may darkness seize it;
May it not [b]rejoice among the days of the year,
May it not come into the number of the months.
Oh, may that night be barren!
May no joyful shout come into it!
May those curse it who curse the day,
Those who are ready to arouse Leviathan.
May the stars of its morning be dark;
May it look for light, but have none,
And not see the [c]dawning of the day;
10 Because it did not shut up the doors of my mother’s womb,
Nor hide sorrow from my eyes.

11 “Why did I not die at birth?
Why did I not [d]perish when I came from the womb?
12 Why did the knees receive me?
Or why the breasts, that I should nurse?
13 For now I would have lain still and been quiet,
I would have been asleep;
Then I would have been at rest
14 With kings and counselors of the earth,
Who built ruins for themselves,
15 Or with princes who had gold,
Who filled their houses with silver;
16 Or why was I not hidden like a stillborn child,
Like infants who never saw light?”

Now, it may just be me, but it doesn’t sound like Job is indifferent to the world or all that he lost. It doesn’t sound like he is indifferent to the burning down of his life and the literal sacking of his wealth. Even though he said “The Lord gives and the Lord takes away, Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Job is clearly not apathetic here or even content that he at least has the will of God as his great resource like Augustine says he should. Was Job a bad “Christian”? – I use this term because Christianity is the true and rightful continuation of the OT religion, and indeed Job makes reference to his Redeemer before God.- Did Job sin in his attachment to things of this world? No. Because the entire point of the book of Job is that he suffered the worst that any man can suffer, without having sinned to deserve it, and without sinning after it. God is so impressed with Job’s devotion to Him that He blesses him with more than he lost. Job suffered at his loss, but he never cursed God in it. Which is actually a great summary of all of these teachings that CB has misunderstood. But clearly the reality of the Christian religion is not one of indifference to the world for the sake of God. We are not of this world, but we still live here. Our hope is in the world to come because this world is full of pain and suffering and we want to know that making it through it without giving in to its evil will be worth it in the end. The scriptures that instruct us to have no cares for this world are speaking to this effect- Don’t let the world get you down.  

St Augustine is venerated in my church as a saint, but theologically speaking he is known as a bit of a knucklehead. Augustine couldn’t read Greek and therefore couldn’t learn from the fathers before him, so although he was well intentioned, he was kind of spit balling on a lot of things, which caused him to write things that would later lead to significant differences between Roman Catholic theology and Orthodox theology. So it doesn’t surprise me to see him saying things that would set CB off.

On page 41 and 42 CB quotes a couple of Prot preachers who completely get things wrong claiming that God wants to replace anything you ever loved and that your family is an idol. If I’m being frank, its because of idiots like these two guys that atheists exist, and CB has every right to appalled with what they are preaching. But neither their preaching nor CB’s conclusions about Christianity that are supported by their preaching are correct. Even though they are literally saying what CB is saying, I am willing to bet that if you confronted them with CB’s conclusions they would immediately back track and explain that they were actually talking about the hierarchy of love where God comes first. They were just doing it in a very stupid way because their church relies on rhetoric and emotional manipulation.

CB then acknowledges the hierarchy of love and the common Christian understanding of it that I showed in my deconstruction of Chapter 1. But he says that this quote form Jesus disproves the hierarchy.

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life? “And why do you worry about clothes? See how the flowers of the field grow. They do not labor or spin. Yet I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. — Matthew 6:25-34 44

CB then concludes his argument here with this statement:

< “This scripture lies at the heart of Christian spirituality, and requires that Christians do more than just put God first: there must be no other Gods at all. No other loyalties or values, except as reflections of one’s fealty to the one, true God. All else is vanity.”>

I’m not sure why CB saw this scripture as a command to have no loyalties or values beyond God. The context of the scripture isn’t to have no cares outside of God, but rather that if you rely on God and put Him first in your life He will bless you with all of these things that you would otherwise occupy your time in pursuing them. When Jesus gave this teaching simply surviving was a 24/7 occupation. You had to make your own clothes. You were always hungry because getting food was hard. This teaching isn’t about going around naked and hungry because you love God first. It is a promise that if you love God first He will satisfy your other needs. You won’t be naked and hungry. You care for clothing and food will be satisfied. The scripture acknowledges that you have other needs outside of God that need to be met.

On page 44, 45, and 46 CB rolls this scripture into a criticism of Christians investing in their futures and saving for retirement. Not that they do it, but that doing so is a direct contradiction of the scripture. To argue this I’m just going to quote scriptures about being good stewards (people responsible for material things).

  • Then the LORD God took the man and put him into the garden of Eden to cultivate it and keep it. ~ Genesis 2:15
  • Otherwise, you may say in your heart, “My power and the strength of my hand made me this wealth.” But you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who is giving you power to make wealth, that He may confirm His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day. ~ Deuteronomy 8:17-18
  • Matthew 25:14-30 The parable of the talents, a teaching about good stewardship and looking after all that God has entrusted to you.
  • Pay to all what is owed to them: taxes to whom taxes are owed, revenue to whom revenue is owed, respect to whom respect is owed, honor to whom honor is owed. Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.—Romans 13:7–8
  • But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.—1 Timothy 5:8
  • And as someone who spent most of his life in churches that put too much emphasis on tithes and offerings to the church, I can assure you that there are an abundance of scriptures about giving to those in need. Obviously you have to be responsible with your money and possessions if you want to have enough to give away to others on a regular basis.

Being financially responsible is not a sin. It is not making your money into a god, although many professing Christians sometimes do. Christ’s teachings were not against fiscal responsibility or even investing, they were against greed and self-centeredness.

On pages 46,47,and 48 CB switches his argument to sex and marriage.

“ Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. I say this as a concession, not as a command. I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that. Now to the unmarried and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. To the married I give this command (not I, but the Lord): A wife must not separate from her husband. But if she does, she must remain unmarried or else be reconciled to her husband. And a husband must not divorce his wife. To the rest I say this (I, not the Lord): If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband. Otherwise your children would be unclean, but as it is, they are holy. But if the unbeliever leaves, let it be so. The brother or the sister is not bound in such circumstances; God has called us to live in peace. How do you know, wife, whether you will save your husband? Or, how do you know, husband, whether you will save your wife? “— 1 Corinthians 7:1-16

CB then goes on to say this about the scripture:

<”Despite the first sentence clearly condemning sex as immoral, Paul condones marriage only as a “concession” which is the lesser of two evils.”>

Paul is not condemning sex as immoral. Paul is condemning sexual immorality. Sexual immortality is a blanket statement that contains a number of deviant sex acts including sex with animals, incest, and homosexuality, all of which are detailed in the books of the law but can be summarized as any sex outside of the sacrament of marriage. When it comes to sin, it is blessedly black and white. You’re either living according to God’s will, or you are separated from God’s will. As God instituted marriage in Genesis 2, and he instructed us to be fruitful and multiply, both before and after the Fall of man and before and after the global flood, it is ridiculous for anyone to suggest that Jesus or Paul are condemning sex as immoral. Paul is not telling people to take the lesser of two evils, and therefore sin as a concession. Paul and Jesus (Matt 19:10-12) both are simply saying that monasticism is what is best. They both acknowledge that it isn’t for everyone. Paul even instructs married people to have sex, satisfying their sexual desires with one another.

More than this in 1 Timothy we see the requirements laid out for the clergy where they must be both fathers and husbands.

“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the position of a bishop, he desires a good work. 2 A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach; 3 not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous; 4 one who rules his own house well, having his children in submission with all reverence 5 (for if a man does not know how to rule his own house, how will he take care of the church of God?); 6 not a novice, lest being puffed up with pride he fall into the same condemnation as the devil. 7 Moreover he must have a good testimony among those who are outside, lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.8 Likewise deacons must be reverent, not double-tongued, not given to much wine, not greedy for money, 9 holding the mystery of the faith with a pure conscience. 10 But let these also first be tested; then let them serve as deacons, being found blameless. 11 Likewise, their wives must be reverent, not slanderers, temperate, faithful in all things. 12 Let deacons be the husbands of one wife, ruling their children and their own houses well. 13 For those who have served well as deacons obtain for themselves a good standing and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.- 1 Timothy 3: 1-13

Paul would not be instructing the clergy, who held divine authority to administer the sacraments, to commit immoral acts by fathering children. Nor would he be assigning these sacred offices to men who had conceded to immoral marriage.

Now, I can’t be too hard on CB here because as it turns out there was a lot of confusion over those two verses from Paul and Jesus. There were occasionally heretical sects that would pop up and prohibit their members from getting married. And surprise, surprise, within a few decades they would die off without children to continue in their faith. People would get so caught up in assigning too much importance to these two verses that in the first ecumenical council they had to explicitly condemn the act of self-castration. They literally had to tell people “Hey! Quit cutting your dicks off dummies!” So yeah, CB isn’t alone in his desire to assign too much meaning to “better”, but he is wrong to think that “better” has ever meant “must” when it comes to Christian theology.

Finally, CB’s argument against sex here brings to mind the greatest crime of Martin Luther, that of doing away with the sacrament of monasticism in the Protestant churches. The sacraments are sacred gifts from God to mankind. The Orthodox Church recognizes 7 sacraments that are essential for Christian life. They are Baptism, Holy Communion, Confession, Ordination, Chrismation, Unction (anointing), and Marriage. Yes, Marriage is considered essential for Christian living. But you will notice that Monasticism is not included in this list of the 7 sacraments and that is because it is not considered essential. It is still considered a sacred gift of God, and a sacrament by definition, but it is a personal gift; not a gift that all Christians should have. Just as Christ and Paul both acknowledged that monasticism is not for everyone, neither is marriage for everyone. Without the sacrament of monasticism in the protestant churches you have a population of people who are unable to live up to the fullness of their faith.

On page 51 CB ties his argument into Romans 3: 10-12

< “ None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks God. All have turned aside; together, they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. — Romans 3:10-12

Your spouse is not good. Your parents are not good.

Your children are not good. Your friends, your family,

your country, all of these are worthless.”>

This isn’t a fair assessment of this scripture. First, Paul is quoting from Psalms 14 here. It is song lyrics, not necessarily directives from God. I would have thought that CB would have gone with the more well-known Romans 3 verse “for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” This is the verse that those who are theologically Calvinist use to convince people that they are cursed to sin against their will. But neither of these verses are saying what CB thinks they are saying, that we are all essentially garbage. This verse is describing the curse of Adam. We are born into a separation from God, which is against the perfection that he wanted for us when he created us. Because we are born apart from God and imperfect, it cannot be said that we are actually good, because we are not what God made us to be, which is the only actual objective good that there is. These verses are not truly saying that we are worthless garbage, they are acknowledging our need to be reunited to God through baptism and holy communion. It is by these things that we get restored to the objective good that God wants us to be.

On page 51 CB takes all of his earlier arguments about Christian love and crumples them up into a ball and throws them in the garbage can.

          < “How, then, do Christians love? Clearly, they do, and indeed, it is theologically mandated that they do. Let me explain how this can be. According to Genesis, God created man in his own image. This makes people — all people — into “imagebearers” of God. Others are reminders of God’s presence and carriers of his nature, albeit in a state that is heavily mitigated by sin. This is why the Church — and its constituent members — are considered the “body of Christ.” Together, they are, in a literal sense, a manifestation of God himself.”>

CB then cites a few verses that correctly support this position, but he goes on to say:

< “The Christian loves other people as a proxy for loving God. They are, in a sense, not really loving you, or at least ought not to be. They are expressing their love for their Creator by respecting His craftsmanship and image and recognizing a likeness between themselves and you. But this love expressed towards you has nothing to do with you. It is alien and unlike the varieties of love that non-Christians are familiar with which are always personal in nature. It is universal love; the fruit of a spirit grounded not in this world, but in the afterlife and in one’s relationship with a Creator God.” >

This entire section is really just conjecture. While we do hold that each life has value because they are created in the image of God, bearing immortal souls, it doesn’t necessitate a love by proxy for all of our relationships. If I am kind to a stranger, a person I have no personal connection to, then yes, I am showing that person love because of this reasoning. I am showing them love because they are a child of God. But as I have sufficiently shown, our personal relationships are described and instructed by scripture to be genuine love; for our wives, children, brethren in Christ, and friends. In insinuating that no Christian has genuine love in their personal relationships he is attempting to do a mass mind reading, based on his flawed understanding of a few scriptures, that he freely admits that most Christians do not actually adhere to.

Now as it so happens, I literally fed a homeless black man earlier this week. My family and I walked into a restaurant and the guy in line ahead of us tried a couple different payment methods to pay for his meal and they were all declined. He didn’t look dirty or raggedy, but rather like a guy who was trying to not look homeless. He had a backpack with a little too much stuffed into it to be simply a commuter bag. He wasn’t homeless because he was a drug addict or crazy, but because he had hit hard times. When I got up to the counter and the guy was walking away I told the cashier that I’d take care of him. The man was very grateful and thanked me after his meal as he was leaving.

Do you suppose that the message that he received was that I was indifferent to him and only feeding him for my own selfish salvation, or do you suppose that the message that he received was that this white stranger cared more for his well being than for the $12 that it cost to feed him?

On pages 54-63 CB describes 3 categories of “Christians” that I tend to agree with.

The Authentic Christian, which CB and I clearly have very different opinions of what this is. Where CB says that basically only actual Monks who have completely removed themselves form society are true Authentic Christians and I say that they are anyone within the varying shades between a new convert and a living saint so long as they are sincere in their faith and are seeking growth in their faith, or rather I say that the Authentic Christian is anyone who 1. Has been baptized 2. Attends church regularly 3. Prays daily 4. Reads scripture regularly 5. Regularly seeks forgiveness for their sins 6. Makes an honest attempt to treat others as they would treat Jesus 7. Puts God first.

The Cultural Christian, which are what I call Social Christians or Churchians, which are people who are only superficially Christian, where they claim Christianity and faith in Christ, but really don’t show any evidence in their lives to support this. It’s a social convention. They rarely go to church or sometimes they go to church very often but for reasons other than worship, don’t study scripture, and seldom pray except for selfish reasons.

And the Value Christians, people who are not professing Christians but hold moral values that are directly drawn from Christianity. I call these people moral vampires. They are atheists who think that you can be good without God, but then when you examine their lives they usually tend to be exceptionally shitty people.  

CB concludes this chapter with more acknowledgment that his personal interpretation of these few verses is not generally accepted by most practicing Christians. He confirms that he believes that his own outside examination of the faith is more accurate than those who have been living it their whole lives. He says that this belief is confirmed by scripture, but I have pointed out abundantly that his understanding of these few verses is not accurate.

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