KISS

Keep it simple, stupid. One of my college professors reminded us of that acronym constantly whenever we were discussing programming or system design. It tends to be good advice. I was reminded of it earlier today when I heard some people discussing the Sabbath Day.

The Ten Commandments tell us that the Sabbath Day is the 7th day of the week, and Jews were to keep it holy by doing no work on that day. What day of the week is the Sabbath? It’s Saturday. That’s why some Christian groups like the Seventh Day Adventists gather for worship on Saturday instead of Sunday. Of course, other Christian groups consider Sunday to be the Sabbath Day, though I’ve never really understood why.

The kind of Christianity I was raised under realized that the Sabbath was Saturday, but we didn’t believe we had to observe it. We believed that the New Testament (specifically books like Galatians and Hebrews) taught that the Law of Moses was done away with when Christ was crucified; therefore, no one was held to it anymore. The New Testament also gives examples of Christians coming together for worship on the first day of the week — Sunday. That didn’t mean that Sunday had become the “new Sabbath,” just that observance of the Sabbath was no longer necessary.

So why do I bother bringing any of that up? It just struck me as I listened to that conversation today that the Bible does not adhere to the KISS method. How simple would it have been for Jesus or Paul to take a moment and explain the Sabbath situation? They could have laid it out so clearly

Under the law of Moses, we kept the Sabbath Day holy. We rested on the last day of the week just as God rested on the seventh day of the week of creation. But now God has given us a new covenant, and observance of the Sabbath is no longer necessary. Instead, we will come together to worship God on the first day of the week — the day that Christ rose from the dead.

Or maybe they could have said something like this:

Just as Moses instructed you to observe the Sabbath Day and keep it holy, so shall we also observe the first day of the week as the Lord’s Day — the day that the Lord Jesus rose from the dead. For two days each week we shall worship the Lord and glory in all the things he has blessed us with.

Phrase it however you like. The point is, the issue could have been handled so simply. And the same could be said for any other issue. What is required for salvation? Is it faith alone, as many Christians believe? Is baptism also necessary, as some other passages indicate? Can salvation be lost, or are we eternally secure? Do we go straight to Heaven or Hell when we die, or do we first go to some kind of Hadean realm? Is Purgatory real? Is Hell real, and if so, is it literal torture or just separation from God? Will people who never knew about Jesus be saved or damned? Will there be a rapture? What about a period of tribulation?

We could go on and on. And if you get a room full of theologians, you’ll get many different answers for each one of these questions.

Why? If Christianity is the only true religion, and it’s the brainchild of the most supreme and perfect being in existence, why in the world is it not any clearer about issues of such importance? Why does every person with an opinion have to support their beliefs by cobbling together a series of passages taken from all over the Bible just to support one of their specific doctrines? Why can’t you pick one of these issues and go to just one passage that plainly lays out its explanation?

To me, it’s just one more glaring piece of evidence that shows Christianity’s just a myth.

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56 thoughts on “KISS”

  1. Why does she cry at roms coms and football games? Seriously, who does that? Are her eyelashes real? I’m certain those nails are a bald-faced lie. Why can’t I understand what she says even though she talks to me in English? Why does she do all of my laundry perfectly, but forces me to make my own coffee? What the hell is all that crap in her purse? Do I have to buy flowers for Valentine’s Day, and have them delivered to her desk at work, so everyone knows I bought her flowers for Valentine’s Day? Why is it she can find every single thing I’ve lost almost instantaneously? Is our relationship going to last forever, or will it fall apart? Does she really love me? Why doesn’t she just tell me what she’s thinking?!? It’s like she just expects me to read her mind! Hmmph. Women.

    Maybe she’s just a myth, or a figment of your imagination…

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  2. @rodalena,

    I don’t really follow, i mean we’re talking apples compared to rocket ships, aren’t we?

    For starters, we can all see women (all the senses are intended here) so we know they do indeed exist. Plus, I’m not sure of any eternal consequences, such as hell or obliteration, if I don’t understand the mind of a woman. Women (humans in general) are known to be imperfect and fallible, so an inability to provide adequate explanation for their thoughts is well within reason.

    God, on the other hand, cannot be seen, tasted, touched, heard (with physical ears) or smelled. God is also supposed to be perfect, incapable of lie or failure. If the bible were god’s word, and he wanted his creation to understand it and follow it, then why avoid a presentation that would resolve and eliminate many of the problems, contentions, divisions, perceived contradictions and errors people have with it? Why make it more difficult than it has to be and then impose eternal torture or obliteration as a consequences of not reading god’s mind, not fully comprehending his vague and overly complex guidance and instruction? Why even take the human authors at their word when they say that god told them to write their books of the bible?

    There is an unmistakable distinction between excusing fallible people for being hard to read or understand, and excusing a “perfect guide book” for not being perfect.

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  3. “Why?”

    Nate, you take your unanswered questions as somehow “evidence that shows Christianity’s just a myth”. But how can “I have unanswered questions” = “it’s a myth”? Rodalena’s answer shows brilliantly that is a poor piece of logic. Unanswered questions, in science, in criminology, in life, are just pointers to new knowledge over the horizon. Only when we have answered the questions, or shown they are unanswerable, can we say that the thing we are considering is a myth, or fact.

    So I suggest it might be worth discussing Why rather than assume the answer without discussing, what do you think?

    Best wishes.

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  4. @rodalena
    ~ Brilliant! Laughed my head off!

    @ Nate
    ~ You want simple? How about Matthew 22:36-40 “Teacher, which is the most important commandment in the law of Moses?” Jesus replied, “‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ The entire law and all the demands of the prophets are based on these two commandments.”

    And Paul concurs in 1 Corinthians 13, summing it up nicely in verse 13: “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

    Jesus KISSed it pretty well, distilling over 600+ laws at the time down to TWO. Yet I’ll be the first to admit, we Christians have done an outstanding job of blowing ’em right back up again. It ain’t Him, its us.

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  5. Hi unklee,

    I really meant “why” rhetorically. I don’t think there is a good answer, which is why I view it as evidence against Christianity being true. But if you have an answer to why the Bible isn’t clearer, when it obviously could have been, I’d be interested in hearing it.

    Thanks!

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  6. Hi Kent,

    Always good to hear from you. You bring up an interesting point that I’d like to explore a little more. When Jesus said that all the law is summed up in loving God and loving our neighbor, how exactly did he mean that? Did he mean that merely a love for God and a love for our neighbor is all that’s required? If so, I guess most people would be saved, as long as they’re religious (all religions are an effort to reach God, after all) and love their fellow man. In that case, I guess the rest of the Bible is more or less unnecessary fluff.

    Or did he mean that if one had a genuine love for God, that he would be motivated to observe the Sabbath, tithe, offer sacrifices, teach his children and others about God’s will, live morally, etc? And if one truly loved his neighbor, then he naturally wouldn’t covet, steal, lie, or inflict harm on anyone. In other words, was Jesus saying that proper motivation would inspire people to follow all the other laws as well? If that’s the case, then the problem I identified in this post still remains: what are the other laws? No one can agree because the Bible’s so unclear.

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  7. Nate, I think a good way to approach this would be to actually try to set out a logical argument that gets from your premise to your conclusion. Here is an attempt:

    1. If God exists, he would want to tell us all sorts of information.
    2. I can think of all sorts of questions which the Bible doesn’t answer.
    3. Therefore God doesn’t exist.

    Once I set it out like that, it doesn’t really look a very logical argument, does it? Why would God want to tell us all sorts of information? And why should he answer your questions and not mine, or a billion other peoples? Maybe he shouldn’t tell us about the Sabbath, but about how to cure cancer, or whether there is a multiverse, or how I could write like Shakespeare or how my local football team can win the competition (they never have yet)!! There are more questions than the Bible could realistically answer.

    So we have to modify the argument. Try this:

    4. If God exists, he has a purpose for creating us.
    5. Therefore he should tell us what his purpose is and how we can conform to his purpose.
    6. The Bible doesn’t answer these questions.
    7. Therefore God doesn’t exist.

    Now once we express it like that, we have narrowed down the sort of questions we should expect God to answer, but that may well leave out most of the questions you asked.

    I think that is the case. You haven’t really stated what God’s purpose should be in your view, and therefore you have no real criterion for saying he hasn’t answered things he should have answered.

    So, over to you. What do you think God’s purpose should be? And what questions should God have answered?

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  8. Nate, I’m sorry, but I must weigh in on this too.

    “When Jesus said that all the law is summed up in loving God and loving our neighbor, how exactly did he mean that?”

    I wonder what you are looking for here? A cast-iron legal document in triplicate? A set of rules with boxes to tick, so we know exactly how much we need to do, so we can do that, but not a skerrick more? I suggest that asking that question is missing the point. If I love God with my whole heart, I should be willing to go all out to express that love. Of course I don’t achieve that, but that’s the idea. remember Jesus’ answer to a similar question about how many times to forgive? Effectively the answer was – don’t stop.

    “what are the other laws?”

    For the christian there are no other laws. Just love God and love people. The details are ours to decide, in consultation (by prayer) with the Holy Spirit. It is the heart (intention) that counts.

    I really hope you can see that your understanding of christianity, while undoubtedly true to what you have been told or grown up with, quite misses the point of what Jesus taught. These misunderstandings are not a real basis for rejecting God.

    PS I hope you know I am not being rude to you, who I regard as a friend, just earnestly hoping you can start to see what Jesus’ actually taught, and is therefore “real christianity”. Best wishes.

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  9. PS I hope you know I am not being rude to you, who I regard as a friend, just earnestly hoping you can start to see what Jesus’ actually taught, and is therefore “real christianity”. Best wishes.

    Thanks unklee. I know that’s your intent, and I completely understand where you’re coming from. If your beliefs are right, I’d like to see “real Christianity” too!

    Right now, I still feel like my original points were fairly clear (and valid). I don’t think I have to begin with premises like the ones you laid out, because it seems to me that the Bible gives us its own premises.

    The 4th Commandment tells us to keep the Sabbath Day holy. The law of Moses also tells the Israelites that they were to kill anyone that didn’t keep that command. So if we’re still supposed to follow the Old Law (as a decent portion of Christianity proclaims), then it’s vital that we understand what we’re supposed to do here. But now we should consider some of what the New Testament says. Here’s Galatians 3:19, 24-29 (I’ve bolded a few words for effect):

    Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary… So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.

    I can see where this passage might not be completely clear to just anyone who happened to read through it. But if you’re closely following Paul’s point, it’s fairly clear that he was teaching the Old Law was no longer binding. I know this is something you believe too, but many Christians don’t.

    Now to further complicate the issue, Jesus said this in Matthew 5:17-19:

    Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    So which is it? Are we under the Old Law or not? The New Testament also shows examples of Paul teaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath. But it also shows the Christians meeting together on the 1st day of the week. So are we to do both?

    And we could do the same thing with any number of issues. I’m under the impression that you think salvation is achieved through faith and grace. But we also have passages on baptism like Acts 2:38:

    And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

    and 1 Peter 3:21:

    Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ

    and Romans 6:3-4:

    Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.

    Now maybe all that can be reconciled in a way that explains why baptism isn’t a necessary step in the salvation process. But that really only proves my point further, because it shows that these things are anything but simple.

    So now we want to point everything back to loving God and loving our neighbor. I used to do sermons on that as well. But understanding what Jesus meant by it makes all the difference. I know you guys have a “kinder, gentler” Christianity than the one I was raised with, but it seems to me (as an outsider) that you don’t really want to fully commit. Because if we say that Jesus literally meant that you only have to do those two things to your fullest ability, then that opens the door of salvation to practically everyone. Sounds great! But instead of leaving it there, you also want to believe that one has to be a Christian. Well that’s not really what Jesus said in that passage. So if you’re now saying that other things are required, then it’s no longer just loving God and loving your neighbor.

    My point is this: the checklist is already there. It’s present in your Bibles, even if you’re just following the New Testament. But it’s not nearly as clear as it could have been, even though its stated purpose is to communicate God’s divine will to us, because we’ll all be judged by it at the end of time. To make such an important message needlessly confusing is either malicious or incompetent.

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  10. LIke most Christians, the respondant’s answers are always somewhat disingenious.
    You make a perfectly sound arguement: Why, if the Bible is the Word of God, is it so darn ambiguous? And nobody ever gives a direct, honest answer.
    They always sound as if they are hiding behing their faith or having to defend their own god. Which seems an odd thing to have to do for an omnipotent being.
    Good post.

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  11. I haven’t been able to check in on this post until now. William brings up the obvious flaws in my analogy, but the thought is still there: understanding something does not have any bearing on its literal existence. And God *is* ambiguous, to the extreme. His word is maddeningly ambiguous, even to those who can’t deny His existance. I can’t give a decent answer to the why of that, except to say that God seems to enjoy working through people, and people screw stuff up.

    Good post, Nate…lots to ponder…

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  12. Nate, thanks for your ideas and your grace. I’ll try to pick up on the key points.

    “it’s fairly clear that he was teaching the Old Law was no longer binding. I know this is something you believe too, but many Christians don’t. Now to further complicate the issue, Jesus said this in Matthew 5:17-19:”
    Yes, that is Paul’s point. Jesus was talking to Jews, Paul later to gentiles, so they emphasised different things. But Jesus said the same thing in Luke 16:16-17. So its a clear teaching. The OT law remains for any Jews who want to obey it, but the new covenant is better and open to all. I think your “problem” is that you’re still not allowing for <progressive revelation.

    Think about it. We don’t know how long the world will go on for, but since Moses it is 3000 years+. The culture and knowledge was way different then. How does God communicate across all that time and more? If he gives modern scientific type facts like you seem to want, it would mean nothing to them. (For my take on this, please read Moses learns science.)

    The obvious sensible choice is to reveal truth progressively, just like our parents and teachers did for us – new knowledge and understandings replace old. If you get that idea, then a lot of what you say is not relevant.

    “So which is it? Are we under the Old Law or not?”
    Clearly not, the new replaces the old.

    The New Testament also shows examples of Paul teaching in the synagogues on the Sabbath. But it also shows the Christians meeting together on the 1st day of the week. So are we to do both?”
    Another clear principle: descriptions are not prescriptions. Peter denied Jesus but that’s not an example for us to follow.

    “loving God and loving our neighbor. ….. if we say that Jesus literally meant that you only have to do those two things to your fullest ability, then that opens the door of salvation to practically everyone.”
    Why should we be worried if the door is opened wider??? But you have underestimated the passage – it says to “love God with our whole heart and mind, etc and love our neighbour as ourselves” Is that easy? Do you do it (even the second bit)?Do I do it? That is actually not a very wide door. But it leads to the realisation that we all need God’s forgiveness, and that’s the wide door.

    “you also want to believe that one has to be a Christian”
    I have never said that, and indeed the Bible says contrary to that as well. I think we all have to respond to God with whatever light we have, and to anyone I’m speaking to, that means believing in Jesus. But some who’ve never heard of Jesus will receive God’s grace.

    I’ll stop there and take up another point in another comment (sorry about the length, but these are important issues). Thanks.

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  13. Just a few more points:

    “it’s not nearly as clear as it could have been, even though its stated purpose is to communicate God’s divine will to us, because we’ll all be judged by it at the end of time. To make such an important message needlessly confusing is either malicious or incompetent.”

    1. We agree that the Bible isn’t an easy book, especially for modern western scientific people who are looking for a text book. It just isn’t that. So you and I have a choice to say either “it’s too hard, it can’t be right”, or to investigate a little further. I showed (IMO) that your argument doesn’t stand up at present by spelling it out in a formal logical argument, but you seem unworried about that. That is obviously your privilege, but it remains that you are using an argument that you haven’t yet justified.

    2. Many, many people read the Bible and find that it tells them enough to show them what they should do, yet you find it lacking. I refuse to think either you or they are stupid, so I can reasonably assume that you’re each expecting something different. As I’ve said before, you seem to want a clear list of requirements, itemised. But that’s not what God is looking for.

    So I am distressed. You are a nice guy and have always been gracious and friendly. I respect you. Yet you continue to focus on a form of christianity that I think I have and can show is not a sensible response to the evidence (one based on rules rather than relationship), and you continue to insist that God should do it your way rather than consider that he could do it a different way That’s a big call! If you want to know the truth, I honestly think you have to be more flexible.

    I think I will blog myself on some of this, and send you the link, so I can say a bit more than I can here. Thanks for the opportunity to comment. best wishes.

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  14. To argue ‘God’s’ existence almost guarantees one is on a hinding to nothing. As the Christian god is also considered to be the biblical charcter of Jesus, it would be more fruitful to discuss ‘god’ (Evidence of hIs existence, etc) from the jump-off point of Jesus’ existence.
    Establish one, then one establishes the other.
    Using this approach one can dispense with metaphysics, analogy, philosophy and even metaphor.
    After his histroicicty has been established – or not, as the case may be – then everything else should fall into place.
    Or…”All bets are off”.

    So, was Jesus a real historical character as portrayed in the bible, or was he merely a narrative construct?

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  15. G’day arkenaten

    Are you a fan of that Pharaoh? I am, and I use the exact same graphic as my “avatar” in other places (piece of trivia!).

    “LIke most Christians, the respondant’s answers are always somewhat disingenious.”
    I guess that’s me you’re talking about. Are you interested in explaining why you find me disingenuous? I thought, within the limits of a blog comment, I had explained myself quite clearly.

    “Why, if the Bible is the Word of God, is it so darn ambiguous?”
    (1) Where does the Bible say it is the “word of God”?
    (2) It is ambiguous (IMO) because it is not aimed at giving you the sort of information you expect, but aimed at speaking to many different people and cultures over a long period of time. To do that requires a different form of communication than you are expecting.
    (3) Is that direct and honest enough for you?

    “To argue ‘God’s’ existence almost guarantees one is on a hinding to nothing.”
    I half agree with you here. And I agree with your method regarding Jesus. But why not do both? Cumulative evidence is good.

    Best wishes.

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  16. @ Unlkee

    I think Nate’s post was clear, albeit I suspect the brand of Christianity that I left was more akin to what he was a part of than the brand you subscribe to, so I may be biased.

    Do you believe the bible is Not God’s word? I only ask because of the question you raised in the post above mine, here. You must be aware that the majority of “christians” do indeed beleive the bible to be the “Word of God.”

    I think Nate’s point is this:

    1) If god exists, he’d want to present his message (if he chose to present one in text) clearly and concisely so that people would know how to be pleasing to him. Not merely so that they can only do the minimum, but so that they can know that they would not guilty of adding to his Word (doing things that he does not approve of) or in taking away from his Word (failing to the things that he expects us to do).
    2) the bible has mixed messages about what it wants us to do to be pleasing to god. this evidenced by all the different varieties of Christianity as well as the atheist/agnostics who sincerely disbelieve. It fails to answer it’s own questions clearly. It is at best ambiguous about what is expected of mankind.
    3) therefore, I think this is one more piece of evidence that the bible is not god’s word.

    The above is at least how I understood the point. Forgive me if i am mistaken.
    But Unklee, if you don’t feel like the bible is god’s word either, then I guess you agree with this post?

    And I have a question that I often ask, and I guess I usually ask it rhetorically, but I really would like to the answer to it, from anyone:
    If you believe the bible is from God, Why do you believe the bible is from God? The bible was written by man, compiled by men, and delivered to each us by men as well. Are we to simply take those men at their word? believe the supernatural claims they make at face value, with no other evidence?

    It just seems to me that faith in the bible is nothing more than faith in man. “I believe that the bible is god’s word because it claims to be…”

    Sorry of these questions seem stupid, but they actually were the threshold to my deconversion. All the questions I had and perceived errors and apparent contradictions were all answered when i realized that god never told me a thing, never showed me a sign. I had taken the authors of the bible at their word without questioning their claims like I would of any other religion or outrageous, larger that life claim.

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  17. G’day William, thanks for your comments and questions.

    “I think Nate’s post was clear …. I think Nate’s point is this:”
    Yes I agree it was clear, and I think you have summarised it well. It’s just that I think it is a poor argument. God could have many purposes in having the Bible written, but Nate hasn’t given any reason to think he understands these reasons, and in fact I think he is quite mistaken in his assumptions.

    The Bible is clearly not concise like a textbook – it is a rambling group of narratives interspersed with other material. So starting with an assumption of what it “ought” to be like (if we were God!) is clearly not a sensible place to start. We should rather look at what it is and ask if that could possibly be what God might have done, or not? One of the first rules of reading a document is to take it on the author’s terms and judge it from there. He (and you) have begged the question.

    “Do you believe the bible is Not God’s word?”
    I have checked, and the Bible never clearly makes that claim. Jesus is described as the “word” in John. It is important because calling it “God’s word” can easily imply God authored it word for word, which it doesn’t claim and doesn’t seem to be the case.

    “if you don’t feel like the bible is god’s word either, then I guess you agree with this post?”
    Lol !! No, obviously I disagree with it. This isn’t a binary situation – either God’s word and inerrant, or just another book. There are many other possibilities. I believe it is what it claims to be (a written revelation of God, inspired by God and to be understood in context under the Guidance of God’s Spirit).

    “If you believe the bible is from God, Why do you believe the bible is from God?”
    I believe it is inspired by God but written by people. That’s what it claims to be, and that’s how Jesus and his apostles treated the OT. It reveals God, but doesn’t tell us everything we’d like to know (and there are good reasons for that, IMO).

    “Are we to simply take those men at their word? believe the supernatural claims they make at face value, with no other evidence?”
    Not at all. I am a christian and I start with Jesus. The historians tell us Jesus existed and we can know quite a bit about him – enough to enable us to make an intelligent choice whether to believe in him or not, but not enough to force that choice upon us. Only after I draw those two conclusions (the evidence of the historians and my faith in Jesus) do I draw any further conclusions about the Bible – that the NT is basically trustworthy and the OT is less literal and no longer authoritative
    (as Jesus and the apostles show by not always taking it literally). So that’s the basis of my conclusions.

    “Sorry of these questions seem stupid, but they actually were the threshold to my deconversion.”
    I think they are good questions, I just don’t agree with your answers.

    “I had taken the authors of the bible at their word without questioning their claims”
    But I wonder if you read the historians? It seems you have accepted your conclusion in the same way you didn’t want to accept the christian view – without adequately considering the evidence.

    Best wishes.

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  18. Unklee,

    I appreciate the reply and i think i can see where you’re coming from. You’ll have to forgive me, a lifetime of seeing something a certain way has undoubtedly impaired my ability to completely step outside of myself and let me perfectly see things from a differing angle. I try, but realize I often fail.

    History does tell of of Jesus and does support some of the claims in the bible, although i am unaware of any that support the supernatural claims. Archaeology has found ancient Troy and evidence of a siege that lends support to Homer’s Iliad. This bit of historical evidence does not lend proof to the Greek God’s that Homer says intervened in that battle, during that siege. It lends evidence that the Iliad was based on a true story or based upon actual events. King Arthur might have been real, but I don’t think anyone really believes that a watery tart threw a sword at him. I view the historical support for the bible in the same way, in that the historical data only supports what it actually shows, and none of it to my knowledge actually show evidence or proof of any supernatural occurrence.

    The bible, claims to have the instruction in obtaining eternal life, whether it was meant to be assumed every word was dictated by God or not. I could accept that the sense of God’s direction was given and each human author put that in their own words, but why is it still so murky?

    Some will answer that by saying that if it were written to make sense to us today, then it would have been over the heads of those in the first century (or something to that affect). But i disagree with this. For one, history also shows that there were different sects of Christianity, each holding to different gospels (many of which werent included in the cannon). But let’s take the discrepancy with Christ’s genealogies in Mathew and Luke. Had they been written where they actually agreed with one another, or had the reason as to why they are different, and why neither agree with the OT, then everyone would have been satisfied. there would have been absolutely no contention with that whatsoever. There are other examples where this is the case. Examples where the bible could have been more clear, could have been simplified so easily, yet it did not. I find that asking “why” is a good question.

    the Bible claims that God wants everyone to be saved. It claims that the scriptures are the guide to eternal life. How? How does the guide tell us to get there? We can all take a passage here and there and say, “see, it’s so clear right here…” and that’s right, if we take a single passage and look at it alone. it’s when you take all the passages and look at the together. One passage seems to say one thing, and another seems to give a different meaning.

    If the bible is from god, then what is he trying to do with it? If it was just intended to be taken as a general group of principles and all we’re meant o do is to love god, then why does it say so much more than that? Why are there multiple warning about adding to or taking away from the scriptures? Why does the NT refer back to the OT as a schoolmaster, if we weren’t meant to glean anything from it – and what should we glean from it?

    And that’s right, god can write or inspire his text or book of ideas the way he wants, and that’s not for me to question god. What s for me to question, is if the bible is what it claims to be, if it is was really inspired by what it claims to be inspired by.

    Sorry this was long, but I guess I am somewhat confused in your position. The bible says what it’s there for, and who it’s inspired by, yet it contains issues that could have easily been cleared up and made it where there was zero problem at all, but yet it does not. It seems to list several contradictory things, whether it be in events or in doctrine. maybe all of these perceived issues can be easily explained and i am mistaken, but why doesn’t the bible do that for itself (correct the issues or explain why they look like issues), if it claims to be perfectly equipped to show us the way and claims to be inspired by a perfect, loving and merciful father god?

    It just seems to me at the moment that god is either not perfect, or not loving and merciful, or not the author of the bible. I could be wrong, i’m just not seeing any good explanation so far…

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  19. William, I really appreciate what you are saying here and how you say it. A blog comment isn’t really sufficient to answer them all, but I’ll give a brief response to each question and see how far it gets us.

    “the historical data only supports what it actually shows, and none of it to my knowledge actually show evidence or proof of any supernatural occurrence”
    I didn’t say that the historical data “proves” the supernatural, only that it showed who Jesus was and what he said and did. From that I said we could conclude (or not) if we trusted him. That is the main thing, the rest can follow or not.

    “why is it still so murky?”
    I don’t know, and I think it is a good question. I just think we shouldn’t assume the answer to the question. Here’s my guess. It seems to me that it is mostly “murky” to those who are expecting a textbook of answers, but is quite understandable to those who are looking to connect with God. It is a story, and stories only give answers indirectly, but most people read them and understand them better than they do boring propositions.

    “the Bible claims that God wants everyone to be saved. It claims that the scriptures are the guide to eternal life. How? How does the guide tell us to get there?”
    I think on this, we have quite sufficient answers in the NT. The answer is given in different forms to suit different people and situations (e.g. Jesus gave each recorded enquirer a different answer). But there can be no mistaking it, except if we want a list of requirements from 1-9. There aren’t requirements so much as an attitude that leads to appropriate responses – to trust Jesus and follow him in changing the world, to be willing to forgive and ask for forgiveness, etc.

    “If the bible is from god, then what is he trying to do with it?”
    Communicate in a way that ordinary people can most understand – by story, parable, example.

    “Why does the NT refer back to the OT as a schoolmaster, if we weren’t meant to glean anything from it – and what should we glean from it?”
    It is progressive revelation. It shows what God was doing with the Jewish people, and how they responded (often inappropriately). We can learn from that, but the truer picture of God is in Jesus.

    “It just seems to me at the moment that god is either not perfect, or not loving and merciful, or not the author of the bible. I could be wrong, i’m just not seeing any good explanation so far…”
    I can understand that, and I feel for you. Your final choice is yours, and not mine to criticise – I can only try to explain and point out bad assumptions. Here is my summary.

    1. Start with Jesus. If you can believe in him, you can get by without fully understanding the OT; if you can’t then the OT doesn’t matter.

    2. God aimed to create autonomous (freely choosing), loving, ethical, rational, physical beings – “little gods” – so he gave us a world where we have freedom to act and choose. Hence he doesn’t interfere as much as you seem to expect, and respects our choices.

    3. God isn’t interested in rules (they’re for robots, not little gods) but character and attitude. So he doesn’t give us precise rules. (Yes, he did back then, but not now.) So looking for precise answers won’t get you very far. (Imagine making love to your partner, or future partner, by numbers!)

    4. The Bible communicates to ordinary people as well as academics, and communicates in mostly indirect ways that require us to interact with God, not just tick off boxes. Some people say it is more like a love letter than a textbook. Others that its a giant “meta narrative” (a story that explains everything else).

    5. In the end, I believe, and I think the NT teaches, that everyone who wants God will get him, or rather God will get to them. The problem is most people want their own ways. But if you really want the truth, you will find it.

    I encourage you to keep asking questions, but also (1) to canvass a wider set of options, and (2) ask God (if he’s there) to show you. That’s an important part of it. I hope that helps. Best wishes.

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  20. Unklee,

    I just don’t know. Whether the bible is a story or a set of fundamental rules and regulations, it is still vague and contradictory in parts.

    When i was a believer, i thought its message was obvious to those who looked at it honestly. overtime I found many others who really seemed devoted and extremely sincere in their faith as well, however they viewed the bible differently than me. Why was that? Were they really not sincere? Was it that they liked living morally, going church, depriving themselves of many things, enjoyed reading the bible but somehow just really wanted to go to hell – and that’s why they did things different than what I believed was right? There are many who see the bible very differently but are all seeking the enlightenment that they believe it offers, many are sincere. The bible, whether story or text book, is not easy to understand. If it were, i don’t think that so many well meaning people would all have such differences in interpretation.

    I do like the way you describe how the bible should be taken, but I am just not sure it really changes the problems with it. So even if we say it’s a story and should be taken as such, it’s a problematic and confusing story.

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  21. William, I think I have little more to say on this topic. I really appreciate how you feel and your friendly approach. I think I can only sum up.

    “I just don’t know. Whether the bible is a story or a set of fundamental rules and regulations, it is still vague and contradictory in parts.”

    Yes it is, I don’t disagree. But so is life. So is quantum physics. So are history and relationships. And so is Jesus. He is so often deliberately cryptic, and his explanation for using parables (quoting Isaiah) is telling:

    But to those on the outside everything is said in parables so that, “they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!”

    The meaning of that passage is much debated, but taking it as a quote, I understand Jesus to be saying that his use of parables and cryptic language is not designed to stop people believing but to allow people the freedom to choose for themselves whether they want to know more or not.

    So all this is at the core of christianity, and if you can’t accept that, then I find it difficult to say anything that will answer your questions.

    So let me end by giving you a reference to a blog post by Jeremy Myers, where he discusses how history and the Bible are a big story, God’s story, which we are in. We can learn the truth if we stop seeing it as a bunch of rules to follow or requirements to keep, but as a story in which we have a part; a 5 act play where we have to write our own script, guided by the Spirit and the teachings of Jesus. I hope that helps you.

    Best wishes. I am happy to keep discussing if you think I can explain anything more.

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  22. “You make a perfectly sound arguement: Why, if the Bible is the Word of God, is it so darn ambiguous? And nobody ever gives a direct, honest answer.”

    Because it is not the inerrant Word of God, but simply (or merely?) the inspired and sufficient Word of God. It is in many ways a difficult set of books, but it doesn’t have to be very clear on all points. On the most important issues, it is sufficiently clear.

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  23. Personally, I would change the last line. Instead of saying that Christianity is a MYTH, I would say that Christianity is a MESS.

    Why can’t they keep it simple? They could just say that the Bible is a book of principles and that one shouldn’t hang on to little things that matter not. They should just cafeteria style choose the verses that talk of god’s love and end there.

    But no, they love to argue about everything and to prove that they’re right and everyone else is wrong. Who the heck gives a … you know?

    And why do people get offended when it’s said that the Bible is a myth? Myths are beautiful. All cultures have them and they’re helpful at explaining ancient beliefs. Saying that a book such as the Bible is a myth is actually a compliment.

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  24. “what are the sufficiently clear issues?”

    Jesus is the Messiah, Son of God and Son of Man, as a devout Jew he preached a gospel of love and forgiveness to one’s fellow humans, that included a commitment to provide support for the poor-off, advocated a type of faith and holiness that conflicted with strict adherance to purity laws, he attractted the ire of the Temple aristocracy, instituted the Lord’s Supper/Eucharist/whatever you call it in two kinds before he was arrested, was crucified by Roman authorities, but was resurrected as witnessed by several people, which provided divine vindication of his ministry. He made it possible for humans to move beyond errors and imperfections.

    That is the basic outline of the Christian faith, of course there’s more that’s clear enough. But I think this is the most relevant part.

    Other issues, like exact type of atonement, the nature of Christ, doctrine of the Eucharist, etc. do not have to be as clear, since they do not form the core and too much focus on them might distract us in livingthe gospel.

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  25. Ignorantianescia

    Spot on! That’s pretty much what I would say too (if that’s any comfort!!). I would add that Jesus came to establish God’s kingdom on earth (i.e. an opportunity for each of us to be part of God’s plan and God’s way of doing things, and that we all need to give and receive forgiveness, including, most importantly, forgiveness from God, which he offers freely. I think my additions are implicit in what you have said, but merit spelling out.

    The important thing is that most everything else is somewhere between peripheral and helpful, but not essential. How we respond is much more essential, as you say.

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  26. I admit that it is clear that he NT says that Jesus said he was the son of god. Jesus clearly talked about love and clearly talked about torturous hell. He clearly said to observe the OT, and clearly told the disciples to wait for him in Jerusalem at the same time he told them to meet him Galilee. Many different things seem very clear to many different people. that’s one of the points trying to be made. Of course you find your view of Christianity to be right, most do, including myself.

    I still dont quite understand your position though. The “clear” things that you pointed out were not about what anyone must do, or even if they had to do anything. It was basically that jesus was the son of god and liked love and mercy… and set up a kingdom that we could all find redemption within.

    So, what are the clear ways that jesus tells us to respond to his invitation? do we have to in order to enter his kingdom? are the consequences clear? Are they clear enough to show and convince others of?

    also, not to be argumentative, but out of really trying to understand where you’re coming from, can you give a example what a story that claims to be from a god, or a divine plan would look like if it were not true? how we could tell, etc?

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  27. Hello William, thank you for your reply!

    Re sufficiently clear again, I would disagree with your list on a few points. I don’t think that his teaching of torturous hell fits the bill: the only unambigious statement is a parable in Luke, which might not have been intended literally as a teaching of torture in hell. There are clear discrepancies in the appearance narratives in the different gospels, probably the result of a confusion of traditions, so I would consider this a more difficult, scholarly issue. If there are such discrepancies in the gospel, I don’t think the issues can be called sufficiently clear.

    You’re right that most points I mentioned were statements (or facts if one believes them), though some did have clear consequences. I think the most important parts are a commitment to Christ, asking for forgiveness, forgiving others and following the gospel Jesus taught and for which he sent followers out to teach (this includes practical things as well, feeding the hungry, etc).

    So, what are the clear ways that jesus tells us to respond to his invitation?

    Commitment to his gospel, converting from our old way of live, asking for and giving forgiveness, participating in the Lord’s Supper. I don’t think this is a 100% hardline, HXC checklist, there obviously room for shortcomings.

    do we have to in order to enter his kingdom?

    I think that entering the kingdom is independent from our deeds and rests entirely with God’s decision, but I think that is a position (Augustinianism) that Christians can reasonably disagree on.

    are the consequences clear? Are they clear enough to show and convince others of?

    I think it’s either resurrection in the kingdom or continued non-existence, but I don’t like do convince other with reasons like that. It never gets anybody anywhere except by inciting fear of death or by arousing a craving for eternal life. That does not seem a very moral ministry to me.

    also, not to be argumentative, but out of really trying to understand where you’re coming from, can you give a example what a story that claims to be from a god, or a divine plan would look like if it were not true? how we could tell, etc?

    An untrue plan or story claiming to be from God? Well, if it is intended to be a factual story, having convincing evidence against it would be one criterion. Then there are other issues that would make it likely untrue, like claims that kings are literal sons of Gods opposed to all people made in God’s image. Is that what you had in mind?

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  28. William, again I agree pretty much with ignorantianescia, but I have a couple of extra comments.

    Jesus didn’t teach about a “torturous hell” – rather he used imagery from his day to warn about the end of life (“destruction”) in the age to come (“eternal”) – see Hell and Rob Bell.

    “what are the clear ways that jesus tells us to respond to his invitation?”

    I think it is clear enough that Jesus calls us to follow him in his mission, and that means believing him, receiving God’s grace and forgiveness forgiving and serving others and living lives motivated by love – “love God and love your neighbour” was his summary.

    I have recently come across a number of non-believers and former believers who want a much more detailed prescription, and the New Testament does give us some of that, but in a fairly unsystematic manner as to suggest that God doesn’t want to pin things down too much.

    Perhaps it’s like a man proposing to his lady love – his question is simple and at that point he is not expecting a detailed manifesto in reply, but just a heartfelt commitment – the rest will (hopefully) follow.

    Best wishes.

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  29. Just found your blog and have gone back and read many of your postings. I to like you have lost a faith that I held for 30 years. A new contradiction that I have found is where jesus said that Abiathar was the high priest at the time David took the bread even though (according to 1 Samuel 21: 1 – 7) it seems like the high priest was actually Ahimelech. Have you come across this one?

    One other comment I wanted to make was when I read your blog about depression I just about went through the roof. Do you know how many christians have thrown those comments at me yet would not if I had broken my arm. Depression is an illness just like a broken bone and needs to be treated by a medical doctor who is very informed about depression.

    Love your blog and look forward to reading more of your posts. I am one of those skeptics that has chosen not to come out for fear of hurting family. I admire your courage and your wife’s courage.

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  30. But if a man proposes to his lady, she knows he’s doing it — and there’s no really horrible repercussion if she turns him down. But with Christianity, we don’t have God “proposing” to us directly — just some guys we never met claiming that he told them he proposed to us. How do we know we can trust them?

    That’s the whole thing, and it’s probably an issue we aren’t going to agree on. The Bible is filled with examples of people being shown miracles just so they would believe the message that was being presented to them. We don’t get that today — we don’t even get a book that’s so perfect its very existence seems miraculous. So why believe any of it? How is it any better than any other religion? And before you say it’s because no other religion has Jesus, that still doesn’t prove anything. Every adherent of every religion can take their favorite part of their own religion and say that no other religion has that; therefore, their religion is true.

    If God ever speaks to me, I’ll be happy to accept his invitation. But I’m afraid the varied stories of anonymous ancient people just isn’t enough to convince me. However, I have no problem with those who do find it persuasive, so long as they’re not the fundamentalist variety.

    Thanks for all the great comments.

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  31. Hi Margaret!

    Yes, I’ve also noticed the Abiathar/Ahimelech problem. I wrote about it here, if you’re interested.

    And sorry if the post on depression offended you. I was still a Christian when I wrote that. There’s a lot of stuff in those old posts I no longer agree with.

    Thanks for the encouraging comments. I completely understand where you are with your family. My wife and I did the same thing for as long as we could, and after we came out, the fallout was pretty bad. I wish you luck as you continue to cope with it!

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  32. “Thanks for all the great comments.”

    Nate, I laughed when I got to this – not for any other reason than that I appreciated how you could quite strongly disagree with me and still be friends and welcome my comment. It is a rare thing on the internet and I appreciate it.

    I won’t go over old ground, for you know what I would say. So I’ll pick one thing:

    “How do we know we can trust them?”

    1. We don’t “know” very much at all, we are human, we can only go with what seems most likely.
    2. The historians tell us we can know a reasonable amount.
    3. It still seems strange to me to have as a reason to disbelieve that you need more certainty. It always seems best to me to make the decision on the information we have.
    4. I do believe the Holy Spirit gives assurance to those who ask and keep on asking him. That means I must think that either (a) you haven’t asked and kept on asking, or (b) that you haven’t been listening, or (c) that you’ve been expecting, even demanding a different form of answer or (d) that you will still get an answer one day. I’m inclined to think (c).

    You obviously disagree with me on all that, but hopefully it is at least helpful to clarify some of where we differ. Best wishes.

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  33. True, I disagree — but I’m also glad that we can do that and still be friends. 🙂 Best wishes to you as well!

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  34. This title and so much talk about love and still this hasn’t been posted!

    All right, now in seriousness, I agree with your additional comments, unkleE. I don’t think the Bible would have been much better if it laid out necessary beliefs in the form of theses.

    Nate, I think I understand where you’re coming from with your statement about totality, but it’s not the way I would look at it. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus are the reason I am Christian, so I would place my focus on the writings about Jesus and the early Christians. The rest of the Bible is important, but I don’t think as important when it comes to doctrine.

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  35. Nice video post 🙂

    I hear what you’re saying about the central importance of Jesus, and it is something I’ve considered. But I just don’t find the gospels reliable enough to make me believe all the miraculous things about Jesus. He may have been a real person, and he may have been crucified, but I just don’t feel there’s sufficient evidence to say anything more about him. I realize of course that others feel differently. I can’t throw too many stones at that — after all, none of us can know for sure. But for me, the gospels and the secular sources we have about Jesus aren’t enough to make me think someone ever really rose from the dead.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts, though.

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  36. @ ignorantianescia,

    the bible is supposedly god’s word, whether directly dictated or loosely inspired and is meant to teach mankind about god, how to live, and how to get to heaven. It has contradictions in it. It has errors. In places it lauds amoral actions (at least that we consider wrong today). No one completely agrees on its interpretation. Yet people, when confronted with these issues, will say that your either not looking at it right, or that the problems within it are not important parts, but the good stuff is what is true and what we’re expected to focus on. People still cant quite agree on what the “good stuff” is, but to me, the fact that people can differentiate between the good and bad within the bible says that people don’t need the bible to know what good and bad are.

    Additionally, I fail to see how those answers, or excuses, to the problems of the bible are any different than the ones that could be given for any other religious text. How do we know the Koran is not god’s inspired word? Is there any contradiction or error that could not be explained away by saying “cant question god” or “it shouldn’t be taken literally here” or “it is written poetically to those who want to believe” and the list of excuses goes on and on.

    It seems to me that any contradiction or error could be excused in such a way. The indisputable facts are these:
    1. The is collection of books and letters
    2. These books and letters were written by men
    3. These books and letters were compiled by men
    4. While being compiled some books were accepted and others discarded (even though they had been accepted and used by some)
    5. It has contradictions within it
    6. It has errors within it
    7. It tells people about god, this life and afterlife – as do many other books and religions
    8. It parts it claims to be from god – as do many other books and religions
    9. it condones (at least in the OT) genocide, oppression, and kidnapping

    “An untrue plan or story claiming to be from God? Well, if it is intended to be a factual story, having convincing evidence against it would be one criterion. Then there are other issues that would make it likely untrue, like claims that kings are literal sons of Gods opposed to all people made in God’s image. Is that what you had in mind?”

    What I wrote above is more in line with what I was thinking. Even in your quoted portion here could be excused in such a way. If a text did say that a king was God or God’s son, an apologist of said religion would simply have to say that you cant take that literally, or say that “in a manner of speaking it is so” or any number of things to excuse what is actually written.

    How above prove that it is true, instead of waiting for proof that it is not? I’m sure you’re heard this before, but can you prove that there is not a tea pot that orbits the sun? if not, then are you ready to believe it does until proven otherwise? probably not, a rational person would need proof before they believed a claim such as that… right?

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  37. William, just a brief comment. Most of the problems you describe arise because you have placed the Bible in a category as “word of God” (or at least, claimed to be).

    But it doesn’t actually claim that. It mostly doesn’t claim very much explicitly for itself at all. The NT writers used the OT as sacred text, but they weren’t very specific about what it was.

    It is mostly christians in the west in the past 200 years who have made the strong claims on behalf of the Bible, I’m not saying all those claims are wrong, but I don’t think they are all right either.

    I suggest (possibly not for the first time) that the correct approach is to take the Bible as a collection of historical documents believed by some to be sacred writings, and able to be assessed by normal historical and literary analysis. Read the contents and assess them on their merits. Read what the experts say. Then decide if you agree with the claims made on its behalf by christians and/or historians.

    I think such an approach sidesteps a lot of the problems that arise from making a black and white judgment (either inerrant word of God or nothing), and allows the writers to speak for themselves. I think that is sufficient basis for belief. You may not, but if you want to understand, I think that is the only route to follow.

    Best wishes.

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  38. @ unkleE,
    You’re right, and I know you keep saying that, but I still don’t really understand it. I don’t know how to take the bible any other way.

    I get that it’s a collection of stories and letters. I get that it can be taken literally in some places, figuratively in others, and I get that some people take it completely literal or completely figurative. What I have trouble understanding is having a text that has plain problems with it, and using that flawed text as some evidence for god’s plan, god’s directly inspired plan, or anything to do with god? I mean, I feel like I take the bible for what it is – a collection of manmade stories and letters that credit god with a lot of stuff that god had nothing to do with.

    I still don’t understand why the bible can be explained in such a way, but other religious texts shouldn’t be… or would you say that the Koran must be taken in its correct context and also gives… whatever it is that people say the Koran gives?

    But even if you’re right about the bible, and again I am still confused as to what that exactly is, how can you be sure, or how can anyone else be sure that your view is correct? You must know that people feel certain that their views on the bible are correct, even those who hold it in a different light than you do. Is this something that can only be known once someone dies? And if faith is the answer, do you think that any faith would do? And if not, then the question repeats itself – how do you know, how can anyone know which faith is right? Especially if all we have as a guide is flawed… what make one flawed text superior to another?

    Again, I’m not trying to be argumentative or difficult, but I really don’t quite grasp what you’re saying. To me, it looks like an explanation that is only excusing, or bypassing the problems and errors within the bible.

    William

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  39. William, I certainly don’t think you’re being argumentative, and I agree that once we delve into these things, they are not simple.

    But I think it all comes down to this: what is the right way to assess something of this nature? You and Nate (and others) seem to have chosen (1) to judge the existence of God by your assessment of the Bible, and (2) to judge the Bible by your expectations of what you think God should have done.

    That seems to me to be a wrong methodology. It is sort of circular, for a start. But more importantly, it makes assumptions about God that, by definition, we are unable to make. We just don’t know how a God (if he exists) would operate. I don’t judge quantum physics but what I would expect to find, but by what is actually found, and it should be the same with the Bible, and with God.

    So I suggest that the correct methodology is to take the world we see, the life we have and the Bible as it is understood by scholars and by common sense (not assuming it is holy writ or anything), and then ask – which hypothesis best explains all these facts? Now the questions you have of the Bible will be part of that assessment, but they won’t be so crucial because you are approaching it neutrally.

    When I do that, I find the God/Jesus hypothesis seems clearly the best. That does indeed leave me with some of the problems you raise, but any other hypothesis leaves me with many more unanswered questions.

    I think you are focusing on the problems of one viewpoint, when you should be looking more holistically, at the problems and positives of all viewpoints.

    “would you say that the Koran must be taken in its correct context”
    I would approach the Koran in exactly the same way. I have read parts of it, and it contains truths, but I don’t think it stacks up against the truths of the gospels.

    “how can you be sure, or how can anyone else be sure that your view is correct?”<
    No-one can be absolutely sure, we can only do the best we can. But mostly differences are not all that important. And I believe that the Holy Spirit guides people of good will towards the truth, not in a coercive way, but like a shepherd with sheep.

    “how can anyone know which faith is right? Especially if all we have as a guide is flawed… what make one flawed text superior to another?”
    This could be a key question. In the end, the guide isn’t a text but a person. God, in Jesus and in the Holy Spirit, is the guide. Somewhere between God and us, the message inevitably gets a little garbled, because we are fallible receptors – so it doesn’t really matter where the “garbling” occurs, in the Bible or after we read it, the result is the same.

    We have to decide on the basis of what we have. God will help us if we are open to it. That’s what I believe.

    I’m sorry that was so long, I hope it helps at least understand what I think. Best wishes.

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  40. I don’t think our approaches are all that different. I too feel like I’ve stepped back and tried to look at the Bible for what it is. To me, the most logical hypothesis is that it’s simply a collection of books that impart spiritual teachings — some of them good, some of them bad. But I see nothing to make me think there’s an actual divine core to any of it. I don’t find enough information to make me think that Jesus was really divine. So just because we reach different conclusions doesn’t mean we haven’t been objective and open-minded.

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  41. Nate, I didn’t say you were not “objective and open-minded”, and I hope you don’t think I believe that about yo (or William). I said you were using an inappropriate and mistaken methodology. I think I can show this by setting out some logical arguments.

    You say: “There are reasons to believe the Bible is not a divine book, and not inerrant”.

    If there are people who think an inerrant Bible is the starting point, their argument would be:

    1. The Bible is inerrant.
    2. Therefore we can believe everything in it.
    3. The Bible says God exists.
    4. Therefore God exists.

    Your statement stands in direct contrast to #1, and if you can defend your statement, you have disrupted this argument, no question.

    But I’m not starting there, and I note even William Lane Craig, who believes in some form of inerrancy, doesn’t start there, but with the Bible of the historians. So our argument would be something like this (obviously in more detail):

    5. The Bible is a collection of historical documents which historians have analysed.
    6. Their conclusions include conclusions about the historical Jesus.
    7. On the basis of those conclusions, I believe Jesus was divine.
    8. On that basis, I conclude certain things about the Bible beyond #5 & #6 – that it is “divine” or “inerrant” or whatever.

    Now your statement above only contests #8, and so doesn’t bear on this sort of argument for the existence of God. To combat this sort of argument, you need to contest # 5, 6 or 7.

    That’s why I say that the arguments you use affect how we think about the Bible (they have certainly affected how I think about the BIble) but not the existence of God.

    Thanks.

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  42. I agree with statements 5 and 6. But on the basis of those conclusions, I don’t believe Jesus was divine.

    I was just trying to make the point that I’ve also examined what the historians have to say, and I don’t think Jesus was anything more than just a man. Sure, the Bible fails the inerrancy test, but that’s not the only thing I’m basing my conclusion on.

    Thanks!

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  43. That’s fair enough. But I suggest it means the inerrancy argument is pretty useless, and the argument against # 7 is what’s important. And I guess that’s for another time! : )

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  44. Not at all — they’re both important, because people believe for different reasons. If we were trying to convince someone that Santa Claus isn’t real, we might spend all our time explaining the impossibility of a man traveling the world in one night, going down every chimney in the world, etc. But if the person we’re talking to believes because of the presents he receives on Christmas morning, then we’re probably wasting our time. We need to explain how those presents get there.

    Inerrancy is not a big deal to you, but it is probably the most important factor to many people in the US, especially in the South.

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  45. Yes, it may be. But you ended your post with “In the end, it’s just one more glaring piece of evidence that shows Christianity’s just a myth.”

    Now I think laying out the propositions as I did in my last post shows that your argument doesn’t get you to that conclusion. Yes, it might show that basing faith on inerrancy is not logical, but I was pointing out that your stated conclusion didn’t follow. That’s really all. If you were willing to change that conclusion, then we’d have no disagreement. : )

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  46. Haha! 😀

    Well, I’ll probably leave the post as is. I actually think my statement is still right — “it’s just one more piece of evidence.” After all, the points I listed in my post certainly don’t help the idea of inspiration.

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  47. Yet Nate, your conclusion above (“the points I listed in my post certainly don’t help the idea of inspiration”) is different to the conclusion of the post (“it’s just one more glaring piece of evidence that shows Christianity’s just a myth.”).

    The two can only be equivalent if the evidence for christianity reqwuires the idea of inspiration. But neither I, nor WL Craig for example, use it that way.

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  48. You may not, but other Christians do. But either way, it is another piece of evidence. It’s not complete proof, but the fact that the Bible (which is supposed to be an extremely important message from our creator) is neither inerrant nor straightforward definitely calls its legitimacy into question. And that does raise some difficult questions for Christianity as a whole.

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  49. Yes it does raise legitimate questions, but just not, in my opinion, the conclusion you draw. But I think we have reached an impasse, and it is time to draw the curtain. Thanks, and best wishes.

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  50. unkleE, I’m very intrigued by your apparent stance. I’ve never met a self-proclaimed Christian that doesn’t believe that the Bible is God’s word/inerrant. Could you expand on your view of what exactly the Bible is and why you feel it gives you a basis for your faith? I know it’s slightly derailing the conversation, but I’m sure some of the other readers of Nate’s blog are curious as well. Thanks, and I look forward to your reply.

    Graham

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  51. G’day Graham, I’m intrigued that you’re intrigued, so we’re even! : )

    “I’ve never met a self-proclaimed Christian that doesn’t believe that the Bible is God’s word/inerrant.”<

    This is surprising to me, for heaps of christians don't believe in one or other of those things. For example: CS Lewis, most historical scholars (e.g. NT Wright, Craig Evans, AM Hunter, etc who are all christians), the Presbyterian (i.e. reformed) faith I was converted within, would all not hold to inerrancy.

    “Could you expand on your view of what exactly the Bible is and why you feel it gives you a basis for your faith?”

    It is important for me that my faith is well grounded in reality, truth, evidence. So I approach the Bible in two steps. (This wasn’t how it happened historically, but it is how I now think.)

    Step 1: Before we can believe the Bible is a special book, we have to have reasons. And they can only come by looking at the evidence impartially.

    So I read (a) what the Bible says about itself and (b) what the scholars tell me. And I find (in very brief summary):

    (a) The Bible isn’t one book but 66. It doesn’t claim to be inerrant or the “word of God”. Some parts claim to be inspired, or the words of God (e.g. the prophets, Jesus). Some parts read like legends/myth (most of the early parts of the OT), others like poetry (e.g. Job, Song of Songs), etc. The New Testament reads like people telling the truth. There is clear progression through the OT into the NT, as teachings and concepts are revised, updated, applied differently or brought into focus. Most importantly, Jesus and the NT writers treat the OT as sacred and authoritative, but not always inerrant or literal, and they are sometimes quite flexible in their interpretations. Jesus promised the Spirit would lead his followers into all truth, implying they didn’t yet have “all truth”.

    (b) The scholars confirm all this. Significant chunks of the OT cannot be confirmed as historical, and some seems not to be. By the exacting standards of historical research applied to the NT, much of it can be accepted as historical and very little can be considered not to be, but much cannot be either confirmed or rejected by secular history. Jesus was a real person, he was known as a miracle worker, he believed he was the Messiah, the son of man and son of God. He was believed to have risen from the dead.

    Step 2: All of that is pretty much fact, which most scholars would agree with whether they are believers or not. On the basis of those facts I find it compelling to believe Jesus and his disciples told the truth and it is recorded reasonably accurately. So I am willing, as an act of faith based on all that evidence, to believe that God set the whole thing up. The only question is how did he set it up?

    Nate and others believe if God planned it all, the Bible would be 100% perfect, but I can’t see how that is any more than one possibility. After all God set up the universe and it isn’t 100% perfect either. (I think there are reasons why both universe and Bible are as they are, related to God giving us humans and the entire universe autonomy, and anything autonomous from God must, by definition, be less than God and less than perfect.) The evidence indicates that the Bible is inspired by God but written by humans. God has kept it sufficiently reliable to give true information to those who seek it, but allowed the standards of the day (e.g. the mixture of history with saga and the non-literal) and the idiosyncrasies of the writers to be expressed. The Holy Spirit enlightens and gives faith to those who will receive his ministry.

    So that is the basis of my belief. First, the plain facts and evidence; second, faith in Jesus; third, faith in the Bible as reliable if understood for what it is and not for what it isn’t.

    Sorry that’s so long, but how could I say any less? Thanks for the question.

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  52. What about “Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one, you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” [Mark 12:30-31] and “You shall love your fellow human as yourself.” [Mark 12:32]? 😉

    We might find that too obvious in our time, but we must keep in mind that it wasn’t all that obvious at the time – and that, even today, it is a demanding ethic (I can tell I fall short of such a seemingly simple one).

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