I thought this post tied in nicely with the last two I’ve done on morality. Please read this over at Chief of the Least and then come back to see my thoughts on it. I’ll post a quick thought in the comment section below.

Chief of the least

In some circles, a thought is posited as to cast a skeptical light on Scripture’s veracity as a moral authority/guide:

Many written moral codes predate the Bible and even the Ten Commandments (IE Hammurabi Code)

What’s interesting about this argument is that the Bible itself explicitly confirms it. The Bible account displays a moral code that predates its own writing and even predates the stone tablets of Mt Sinai. From the beginning a moral code was expressed in the garden, with God’s displeasure of Cain’s murder of Abel. Not long after that Noah and Enoch were portrayed as righteous men long before a written moral law could show them righteous. Certainly, all manner of foreign ancient civilizations lived by some sort of common moral code.

This is how it should be.

There is a beautiful reality called “common grace” which would include God’s care to protect and preserve all sorts…

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36 thoughts on “”

  1. Okay, so did you read Chief’s post? Good. Now we can talk about it.

    He makes a lot of good points, but a few questions sprang (sprung?) to mind as I read it. If God set up all of humanity so that we’d have his law “written on our hearts,” why did he need to do anything else? If the really bad people who wouldn’t follow that law needed to be punished, then he could take care of that. For the rest of us who are pretty decent people and don’t purposefully cause harm, why couldn’t he just forgive us?

    If you scratch my car, I can simply forgive you of that. Or I can have you pay to fix the damages and then wipe the slate clean. But if I do that, I’m not forgiving you; you’re just making things right.

    But let’s say you can’t afford to fix my car, so someone else (my son, let’s say) steps in and pays the damages for you, which makes you and I square. Have I forgiven you? Nope. I’ve just taken payment from someone else.

    So why did God need to make it so complicated, if everyone already had a moral law? Why not just actually forgive us of our faults? Wouldn’t that have saved more people in the end? After all, there are many people who lived morally but died under Islam, Hinduism, paganism, etc. If there hadn’t been the complications with introducing a separate religion (Christianity), then people could have simply been saved off their ability to remain moral.

    Thoughts?

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  2. Two points I thought of while reading your comment, Nate. 1) In the “scratch my car” example, you only give two possibilities; forgiveness and restitution. Why can’t you have me pay to fix your car AND forgive me?

    Then let’s add another scenario: Let’s say you wanted to invite me to dinner. If I banged your car up, and did it purposely, would you still want to invite me to dinner? Would I deserve to be there after knowingly harming your property? I wouldn’t think so because my actions are thumbing my nose at your hospitality

    But, lets say I paid for it. Now you’d be a lot more inclined to keep your invitation open, and with your forgiveness, I would feel more comfortable . . . like I belonged and was welcome at your table more so than without it. If I was unable to pay, and your son made restitution for me . . . same scenario in my mind.

    The tricky part is if I unknowingly banged up your car, therefore had no idea that I was to make restitution of any sort. Now its up to you: payment, forgiveness and invitation. Would you still have or want me over for dinner? No one (other than you) would have a clue.

    I don’t think that’s too complicated . . .

    BTW, nice can of worms you opened up with your Absolute Morality post! 🙂

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  3. BTW, nice can of worms you opened up with your Absolute Morality post! 🙂

    No kidding! 😉

    If you pay to fix my car, then I no longer have anything to forgive you of. To me, real forgiveness is seeing exactly what someone has done against you, and then letting it go. Being okay with it even though the problem hasn’t been resolved. We’ve all done that with others in the past. As parents, we do it quite often with our kids. If we’re God’s children, then why so many stipulations just to be “forgiven”? That’s how I see it, at least.

    Thanks for the comment!

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  4. Hmm, this has the feeling of a trick question… 🙂

    I think the Bible teaches the forgiveness is for all, but then specifies that it only applies to Christians.

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  5. @Nate

    @Kent

    I guess christians would say that they are forgiven because they have asked for forgiveness, where the others have not.

    I think the question is, can forgiveness be given without the request of the offender? I think so.

    I can understand withholding forgiveness until someone asks for it, I suppose, unless the offender doesn’t realize they have made offense.

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  6. Ha ha, sorry Nate, I truly didn’t mean it as a trick question. My thought was simply twofold: I personally think restitution and forgiveness are two separate things, although there are some situations that may require restitution without necessarily needing forgiveness (my banging up your car for instance), and some things needing forgiveness that restitution cannot be sought or is woefully inadequate (my harming a family member of yours).

    But my main thought was that, again personally, I believe forgiveness often is more for the person doing the forgiving than for the offender. There are certainly situations where a person may not either know or care if they need forgiving, but in order for the “forgiver” to move on in life, it may be a necessary step (again, if a family member is harmed). I’ve even heard of people forgiving others after those offenders have passed away (basically forgiving a gravestone) but it was never for them in the first place. That was my only point. No tricks! Honest!

    @William: good comments. Re: your comment about Christians saying, “that they are forgiven because they have asked for forgiveness, where the others have not.” I would add not only the necessity of an “ask” for forgiveness but a demonstration of movement away from the wrong/habit/sin/whatever that they sought forgiveness for in the first place.

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  7. Nate,
    The name of your blog, Finding Truth, seems to imply that you seek truth.
    And you claim you were a Christian, but are now an atheist.
    This cannot be according to Biblical Christianity.
    If you ever were a Christian you still are.
    Since you now deny Christ, Biblical Christianity says you never really were a Christian.
    If you want to Find Truth, I am more than willing to answer any question you may have.
    Including questions about Hebrews 6 and 10 in regards to what Christ says to unbelievers in Matthew 7.
    Sincerely,
    C. C. T.

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  8. Hi CCT,

    Yes, I do seek truth, and I believe Christianity is not it. As to whether or not the Bible teaches that Christians can fall away, I’ll do a post on that soon, and we can have a discussion there. I assume you’re subscribed to the comments on this thread, so I’ll leave a comment here when the post is up.

    Thanks!

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  9. @Christ Centered Teaching
    By the way, if you’re interested in what led me away from Christianity, you can check out the posts I have linked in my About section. I’d be interested in any answers you could provide to those questions.

    Thanks again.

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  10. Hi Kent!

    But my main thought was that, again personally, I believe forgiveness often is more for the person doing the forgiving than for the offender. There are certainly situations where a person may not either know or care if they need forgiving, but in order for the “forgiver” to move on in life, it may be a necessary step (again, if a family member is harmed). I’ve even heard of people forgiving others after those offenders have passed away (basically forgiving a gravestone) but it was never for them in the first place. That was my only point. No tricks! Honest!

    I do agree with you here. I know of situations like this as well. Since I started out the example making an analogy to God’s forgiving us, do you think this might apply to him too? Does he gain something from forgiving us? And I don’t mean this as a trick question either, I’m just curious to hear what you think. 🙂 I wonder if saying that God gains something from it might provide difficulties with the passages that say God needs nothing from us, etc. I’m not sure how I feel about it, and I wonder what you think.

    @William: good comments. Re: your comment about Christians saying, “that they are forgiven because they have asked for forgiveness, where the others have not.” I would add not only the necessity of an “ask” for forgiveness but a demonstration of movement away from the wrong/habit/sin/whatever that they sought forgiveness for in the first place.

    Yeah, this is what I thought when I was a Christian too. But it’s these stipulations that seem to chip away at the greatness of God’s forgiveness — at least it seems that way to me. He’s a perfect being that creates imperfect humans. He then holds these imperfect creations to a perfect standard, though by definition there’s no way they could meet it. At this point, he could simply forgive them for their failures. But because of his perfection, he doesn’t — even though we imperfect humans do it for each other all the time. Instead, he sends another perfect being to earth who is able to live up to the standard perfectly. But then this being must be sacrificed in order to pay for all the humans’ violations of the perfect standard. Yet even that isn’t enough, because this sacrifice only applies to people when they say they believe that all this happened, and they try to live their lives more closely to the standard (which most of them were already trying to do anyway, since the bulk of the standard is pretty much the same as basic human morality). So if we receive God’s forgiveness only when all of this has happened, is it really forgiveness at that point?

    Anyway, just some thoughts… Hope you’re having a great weekend!

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  11. I love these discussions! The only trouble is, by the time I’ve formulated an answer, I’m tapped out as to ideas and energies for my own posts 🙂

    “Since I started out the example making an analogy to God’s forgiving us, do you think this might apply to him too?” ~ In this case, I don’t believe the seeking of forgiveness is for Him. I believe it’s more for us in recognizing we’ve strayed from a right path and acknowledging our desire to return to it. “Hey, I’m sorry, I screwed up and I don’t want to do that anymore.” And God goes, “Okay, then show me you mean it.”

    “He’s a perfect being that creates imperfect humans.” ~ In the beginning (“In the beginning”) he DID create perfect humans, two of them, and chose to walk with them. He only asked one thing of us NOT to do . . . which we did. Thus, the “imperfection”, if any, is ours and not his, and I don’t think its an imperfection as much as the result of free will. In creating us in his image, he chose to also give us free will–so that we too could choose him. We didn’t.

    I mean, the OT shows example after example of our inadequacy as humans to “live their lives more closely to the standard”. But, I think that was the point; including the writing of the ten commandments. God knew full well we couldn’t live up to his standards and no amount of our rituals and sacrificing would cover that fact. So He sent one that would; again, all as a part of his original plan.

    Honestly, the most important thing Christ did in his life and death was to do away with the need of sacrifice and ritual (a hopeless, circular pattern) and introduce hope. Now, in order to “choose” God, we don’t need to demonstrate that choice with dead animals and grain offerings but simply believe that Jesus’ sacrifice was sufficient.

    “So if we receive God’s forgiveness only when all of this has happened, is it really forgiveness at that point?” ~ Asking God for forgiveness is us telling him of our desire to repent from straying off course in our lives. Us acknowledging and accepting what Jesus did on the cross is our choosing to reconcile ourselves with God eternally–as it was originally meant to be, before the whole “eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” thing. Two different things. Related, but different.

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  12. @Kent
    Awesome! Good stuff, indeed. 🙂

    I think the episode in the Garden of Eden simply showed that Adam and Eve were NOT perfect. If Hasbro makes a toy that’s supposed to perform a set of actions (like A & E were supposed to leave the tree alone), but the toy doesn’t perform those actions, is that the fault of the toy or the makers?

    This is where Paul is mistaken when he asks “can the pot ask the potter ‘why did you make me like this?'” If the potter made a pot that was imperfect, that’s fine. The pot should be thankful for its existence. But if the potter makes an imperfect pot and then becomes angry at the pot for being imperfect, then yes — the pot would be justified to ask “then why did you make me this way?”

    We often say it’s a really bad idea for a person to marry another with the intention of changing him or her. That person should have paid attention to whom they were marrying. The same is true of the old story about the woman picking up the frozen snake and thawing it out. When the snake bit her, and she was surprised, he responded “you knew what I was when you picked me up.”

    The same is true here. If God created us with our human nature, then he can’t justly complain when we exercise it.

    Now sure, maybe all this is because of free will. But if God can’t give us free will without our messing it up, what will Heaven be like? Will we be perfect but lack free will, or will we have free will yet somehow not use it incorrectly? If it’s the latter, why didn’t God do that the first time?

    I still think my last point is a pretty good one. If God set us up to fail, but only “forgives” us when Jesus pays our price and when we accept that price, then I don’t think that’s true forgiveness. That’s reimbursement, because Jesus paid it for us.

    Anyway, thanks for all the great comments — my wife says I’m addicted to this stuff! 🙂

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  13. @Persto
    Can we forgive God? Yeah, I think so. I think that would be an example though of forgiveness being more for the forgiver than for the forgiven. In a way, I kinda feel that’s similar to asking if we can get mad at God. Sure we can. If God is the one who gave us these feelings, these emotions, then I don’t think it surprises him when we use them . . . even at him.

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  14. @Nate
    “But if God can’t give us free will without our messing it up, what will Heaven be like? Will we be perfect but lack free will, or will we have free will yet somehow not use it incorrectly?”
    ~ That is an excellent, excellent question and, in all transparency, I’ve asked that one myself. I truly wonder at times what the difference is going to be.

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  15. @Nate

    Have you watched any more of warningthepeople youtube videos?

    I find his videos so interesting because he seems so sincere and he adresses person relationship with God.

    I asked him a number of question on the youtube thread. This was his response:

    I still havent forgotton about those questions you have asked me, I plan to respond soon 🙂

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  16. Although these videos I find to be quite interesting is because this guy seems to be actually diligently seeking God. Of course, I have only seen this guy’s videos and posts on youtube.

    But if this person is diligent in seeking God, and God responded to him the question I have for myself is: Is the reason I don’t hear from God is because I am not diligently seeking after Him? Do I DILIGENTLY seek Him?

    John 14:21-23, KJV reads:

    He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

    Judas saith unto him, not Iscariot, Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?

    Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.

    ————————————–

    I am obsessed with the idea of god, but the question is am I interested in ever knowing God? I think personally, part of me is scared of God ever responding to me. Part of me is very uncomfortable about this. In order for God to reveal Himself to me (according to John 14:21-23) I need to seek to follow Christ and to keep Christ’s commandments. However, with all my words and debating am I actually prepared or even willing to do this?

    when it comes to the crunch, it seems that according to this Scripture that those who follow the actual teachings (commandments) of Christ and keep them are those who love Him. and that person who follows these teachings will be loved by both Christ and by His Father and THEN (according to John 14) God will manifest Himself to that person.

    However, am I prepared to do this? If I am serious (and not just all talk) about desiring a relationship with God then it seems that these things are required. Obedience is required. Because we obey those we love (also those we fear I might add)

    However, like the Bishop character in The Great Divorce by C.S Lewis, I love discussing concepts of god with other people, I love to consider the IDEA of god. But is that as far as I go? I wonder (to be frank) if I myself actually even want to have a relationship with God.

    Do I actually Love God? If so am I prepared to at least try this sincerely according to – John 14:21-23. IF I’m a sincere seeker of the truth am I willing to first find where they are in scripture and then actually diligently follow the Commandments of Christ? It’s not just about demanding God to show; apparently we are also expected to be obedient in order for God to reveal Himself.

    And THEN after living like this, THEN patiently and diligently asking Christ to manifest ( reveal) himself to me. To persist in asking this. Has anyone done this, and what had honestly happened? btw Im not talking about thye coomandments in the OT but the Commandments taught by Christ (and yes there are overlaps, but not in all)

    I mean there’s a difference between struggling with sin and just sinning. I wonder if what I’ve been calling struggling has been just in fact giving into sin?

    Want I want to know is has anyone else thought about this? Has anyone followed sincerely the Commandments of Christ and then asked Christ to reveal Himself. What happened?

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  17. I don’t think I have explained myself clearly,

    If we are “not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead” am I willing to follow Christs teachings, and THEN while living this way then to patiently ask Him to reveal Himself. And not to just give up, but to continue to ask Him. However this requires a decision to trust His teachings, and therefore to trust Him.

    ——————————

    Hebrews 11:6. KJV:

    But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

    ——————————-

    what I was trying to ask is has anyone here committed themselves to these things, and what happened? did Christ reveal Himself to you?

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  18. Nate,

    Sorry for jumping around and not being very clear in my last three posts. I plan to make any future posts on here more concise, to save clogging up your blog. I apoligise for those last three posts I have made – they were too long and I was insufficiently trying to address too many topics at a time.

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  19. Hi Ryan (portal)

    I watched the video, and I agree that this guy seems very sincere. My initial impressions: dreams are highly subjective and often completely irrational. We typically dream about things that we’ve been thinking about, and as hard as this guy had been trying to seek a revelation, it’s easy to see how this could have all just been in his head. His dream had elements of Ezekiel, Revelation, and Youtube all wrapped up together. Of course, there’s no way to know for sure whether or not this was legitimate, though this was obviously an experience that was real to him. But for someone like me, his revelation does not count as evidence.

    This is the problem I have with things like that. He received a revelation from God even though he already believed in God and was worshiping him. On the other hand, Jesus and the apostles used signs to confirm their message, so they were performing signs for unbelievers, not believers. God gave a sign to Moses to show him who he was. God gave many signs to Pharaoh to show the same thing. Jesus appeared to Paul in order to change Paul’s mind. So why wouldn’t God give revelations to unbelievers? Wouldn’t that give him much more bang for his buck? And why does it take so much work for us to hear from him? Why does the guy in the video have to bang his fists on the floor and pray all night just to receive confirmation that God is there. If I make my child call for me all night before I finally respond to him, what kind of parent would I be?

    Ryan, I think the fact that you have so many questions about God is less a problem with you than it is with God. You read your Bible, you pray, you worry about serving God correctly, you read Christian philosophers like CS Lewis, you even read the points of view of skeptics to make sure you’re not missing something. In other words, you are doing exactly what you’re supposed to do, according to Jesus’ statement in Matthew 7, “seek and you shall find.” You’re seeking very hard, and that’s all it should take.

    Of course, if the Christian God doesn’t exist, then you won’t hear anything despite your efforts. Just like the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18, you can call on your god all day, even beat and cut yourself, but you’ll get no response. Elijah mocked them for this; does God now use the same tactic? Or is this just mythology, just like Zeus, Apollo, and Thor?

    The problem is not with you Ryan. Either God just doesn’t answer today, or he never did to begin with. I know the struggle and the search are difficult, but hang in there with it, and try not to get so down on yourself. If God’s there, he’s pleased with your efforts.

    Thanks

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  20. @Nate
    “Does it ever strike you that Heaven may be a logical impossibility?”
    ~ No. My “wonder” is exactly what it is–wonder.

    I have admitted, and will continue to admit, that there are things I don’t claim to understand. There are things I may NEVER understand. Call me ignorant, a sheeple or brainwashed, but I’m really okay with not “getting” it all. God says, “My ways are not your ways, and my thoughts are not your thoughts.”, and I take him at his word.

    I guess my experience with God is kinda the pendulum swing of yours. The more time I spend with him, his son, and in his word, especially over the last six months, the closer I’ve gotten to him. Ironically, I’ve got a post coming out tomorrow (5/21) that talks a little about my experiences–a lot of which I can’t adequately put into words (which is extremely frustrating for a writer). But,through those experiences I just know he’s there. And, if I know he’s there, I’ve got to believe heaven’s there too.

    As far as the heaven questions go; I’m working on a post now that I’ll put up, hopefully by the end of the week, that explains my beliefs and understandings of heaven, hell, how free will fits into it all and so on. I have a page (sub-page actually under “A Little More Thought”) called “On Hell” that deals with some of it, but I’ll expand the heaven part in the post I’m working on.

    Cheers!

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  21. @Persto
    “Well, what does god need to be forgiven of?”
    ~ I would defer to my answer to your previous question of “Can we forgive God?” Again, I don’t see why not because within that scenario the forgiving is more for us (the forgiver) than Him (the forgiven). If you’re asking if God NEEDS to be forgiven, then no I don’t believe so. I believe what’s written in scripture that, a) all things are under his control; b) He works out all things for his good purposes; and, c) His ways are not our ways and his thoughts are not our thoughts.

    But as to whether or not there may be instances where we may feel the need to forgive God for whatever circumstance, tragedy, or life-altering event may have occurred in our lives–that would an individual decision/discussion between the person and God. I can’t say that an instance like that has or has not ever occurred in someone’s life, but I can see it happening. And I believe he’s a big enough God to accept our desire to forgive.

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  22. Nate, you make a lot of compelling points. The problems you point out with “forgiveness” in the Christian paradigm are part of the reason I can no longer go back to the faith. It just doesn’t make sense anymore, and calling it a “mystery” seems like a convenient cover for absurdity.

    I think the whole notion of the atonement is one of Christianity’s biggest problems (aside from the lack of evidence for the Bible’s divine authorship). You’re right, if Jesus took the penalty humankind deserved, there is nothing left to forgive or punish, sins have allegedly been punished already.God doesn’t forgive anyone, he’s just blown off his wrath on someone else. But I’m more concerned with the fact that Christianity posits a God who punishes the innocent for the sins of the guilty. If God’s “justice” requires that sinners must be punished, then justice cannot have been satisfied by Christ crucified, because Jesus never committed the sins he submitted to being punished for. That’s not justice, it’s just bloodthirsty revenge.

    Things get even trickier when you take the Trinity into account. God punishes himself for the sins committed against him,and that’s justice? He accepts the sacrifice of himself as propitiation for sins? And, if God died on the cross, as Jesus, then the Trinity was broken until the resurrection. Unless Jesus stopped being God on the cross…which brings its own sort of complications and heresies.

    I apologize if I’m derailing any conversation here, or clogging up your blog, but I thought these issues were important to point out. Also, I want to thank you for your writing. I’ve been following your blog for some time, and it’s helpful to know I’m not alone in realizing the faith I once held to be the truth is anything but.

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  23. @Daniel S.
    Thanks for the great comment! And feel free to add your two cents anytime.

    I think you bring up a lot of great points. You’re absolutely right: not only is it a problem for God to still punish people once the debt has been paid, but it’s immoral to accept the death of an innocent person in order to pay for the crimes of someone else. One who would offer himself that way would be a paragon of selflessness, but the one who would accept it would be a brutal monster.

    And really, when we think about it, it’s obvious that it’s just a holdover from the superstitions of human sacrifice that almost every culture has followed at some point in its history. It’s just the barbaric notion that the gods must be appeased by the one thing we can offer — our lives. I suppose the early Christians were stuck with this practice, since they believed in the Hebrew god. If you want to move away from the sacrificial model, you need the mother of all sacrifices to appease God.

    Your point about the Trinity is thought-provoking as well. I’ve really never thought about those particulars before.

    Anyway, thanks again for the great comment! Feel free to “clog up my blog” any time. 🙂

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  24. @Nate
    The christians were probably also trying to make sense of their “messiah’s” death, when he was suppose to assume the triumphant throne. Since he was crucified, I can see where a devout believer might try to make that problem into part of the plan. Christians seem to do that sort of thing today with inconsistencies and contractions. The issues dont make sense, until they invent “possibilities” (unlikely or irrational possibilities are no problem since god can do anything) that resolve them. Problem abated.

    But since Jesus was dead, figuring out that it was “part of the plan” kept the faith alive.

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  25. @Kent

    So, we want–not need–to forgive god; not because god has merited forgiveness, but because we, as docile humans, possess an instinctive impulse to communicate wittingly unwarranted forgiveness–btw, this notion redefines the word forgiveness–for divine acts that appear to contravene the Judeo-Christian-Islamic disposition of god? Doesn’t make much sense to me.

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  26. @ Persto
    I believe what I said was that someone, at sometime, may feel they have need to forgive God for whatever circumstances may have befallen them in their lives, that they themselves felt unwarranted (the circumstances, not the forgiveness). Other than that, it is what it is. I’m sorry, I can’t make it make sense to you, my friend. Cheers!

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