Is God a Good Father?

In my last post, discussion turned to the question of whether or not we need God. One of my regular contributors, William, posted the following comment, and I felt it deserved its own post:

I am just having problems understanding whether humans “need” a god.

Do humans “need” a father? it may be beneficial if it’s a good father, but we can see many who get along fine who have not had a father, so “need” is the wrong term.

And what if that father is never around, left before you were born, and only left a letter to you explaining (not always in the easiest or most direct of terms) how he expects you to behave and promises that he’ll take care of you and promises to severely punish you for disobedience or for leaving him?

is that a good father? is that a father we need? isn’t it laughable that such a father could even begin to threaten the child for “leaving him” (since the father clearly left the child) not to mention how absurd it is to think that such a father actually does anything to really take care of the child?

I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re ingrained to “need” such a father, or why we’d even call such a father good?

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543 thoughts on “Is God a Good Father?”

  1. Being raised as a Christian, I have struggled with this myself. I am inclined to look to this “Father / God” figure instead as a “Creator” . I believe there is a “Creator” who caused the “Big Bang” to ocurr and I also believe our Soul has a Blueprint for our lives. Beyond that…..we’re on our own. I also try to be a good citizen of this planet including but not limited to the Golden Rule, because I am thankful for my existance here and now, not because of some reward that many religions teach you will receive if you jump through their hoops. If there is a reward beyond this life, great ! If not, I want to make my time here count in a positive way for me and those I effect around me. I think this world would be better off if we knew we had to make our life here count rather than being allowed to live any way we want as long as we make a confession of faith with our last breath in order to inherit a reward in the afterlife.

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  2. The tone of these questions implies that this ‘father’ left us, individually, alone. And under that guise, I think these would all be very relevant, imperative questions if we, as humans, were supposed to do this thing called ‘life’ solely on our own. Fortunately humans are meant (some would say ‘created’) to live lives in relationship with one another, and the answers to these questions can most often be found within those relationships that we choose to form (or keep).

    What the ‘father’ did when he left you, if you want to go with that premise, is to leave you in the hands of his (and your) ‘relatives’; with various gifts and abilities to take care of ourselves and each other. That’s how this whole thing is supposed to work. Whether you choose to ‘help your fellow man’ or not is your decision. Likewise, if you choose to refuse help, again, that’s your decision.

    Unfortunately, the degree of desire to take care of one another varies as does the degree of greed, self-righteousness, self-centeredness, etc. The ‘father’ who ‘left’ you under these conditions may well have had the best of intentions. Or, he may be a sadistic bastard. We really have no idea. That’s why, for better or worse, it’s called faith and belief and not sight and certainty.

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  3. The tone is correct, i think. Where is the father? I feel like asking the questions that the prophets of baal were asked. Where is your god? is he sleeping? perhaps you should shout your prayers so that he might hear you.

    I know this may sound harsh, but i don’t really mean for it to. But what about the bible makes anyone think it’s from god other than they were raised or told to believe that it was?

    And so if the originally blogged “father” left the child with many siblings, does that make him a better father?

    We may be better served to use reason over faith. If my fellow siblings need help, perhaps I should help them because we depend on one another, not because our “dear, loving father” left conflicting instructions to do so.

    If I need help, should my fellow siblings help me directly, or help me according to the father’s example?

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  4. And kent, I agree with you on how it’s supposed to work – I just don’t see where we need god for that. It’s like that old simpson episode where they were building the monorail and Spock was there for the grand opening. Everything went to crap but disaster was ultimately averted and Spock says, “my work here is done,” before beaming away.

    It was the punchline because speck had literally done nothing.

    So when people attribute the work of fellow man to god, maybe we should just be recognizing our fellow man. When I’m hugged, it’s an actual person. when I’m picked up, it’s the actual hand of an actual person I grab. We don’t even see god’s footsteps in the sand.

    we have a collection of letters and books under one binding that claim to be god’s (the father’s) inspired directions for us. the all powerful all loving father couldn’t even deliver his own instructions to us? Why should we be so quick to trust that messenger – especially when considering the portrait of a “good father” they paint?

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  5. But what if God is a Good Father, but has been misrepresented by the church. Here’s something I wonder about -some churches place copyrights and sell their sermons after the service.

    If their message is so vitally important for all of humanity to hear, (and God doesn’t want anyone to perish) then why don’t all churches place these messages on the internet for free, so they are available to all, or even copy them on CD to give out for those who want them?

    Some churches have done this, but I don’t understand that if a message is meant to be so important for the salvation of people’s lives, then why are these very same sermons sometimes then sold for a price?

    I mean when John from prison sent two disciples to ask Jesus if He really was the one to come, Jesus actually used as evidence that He was the one by reporting back that the gospel is preached to the poor (included in Luke 7:22).

    On a sidenote: I think it’s impossible to validate that we don’t need God, because if God exists He has given us everything.

    He has given us a heart, and the blood to pump through our body, and the oxygen as well as the lungs to function. So if God does exist, and provides everything, we are only aware of what people are lacking because He has given us eyes to see, a mind to consider and hands to type.

    Tragedy can only really be defined because we have something better to compare it to. If God has provided both, then is this biting the hand that feeds? since if God exists we function and are held together because of Him every second of our lives.

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  6. Very insightful stuff here in the responses. I would add a couple of things: 1) The Father analogy in scripture isn’t perfect. God is an “exactly” like a human father. See the parables of Jesus for various other analogies. 2) Secondly he did not leave us with only a letter. He left us with the church which has continuously for 2000 years taught, ministered, loved and healed from sin. It is the church’s role to be the body of Christ until his return. There are nearly 2 billion of us daily loving, encouraging and serving each other and the world (imperfectly I understand that). Therefore, I think your premise is flawed. Having said that, sure it is still difficult to understand and believe sometimes.

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  7. “I’m having a hard time understanding how we’re ingrained to “need” such a father, or why we’d even call such a father good?”

    I believe we “need” a father God on many levels:

    1. Without God, there’d be no universe, no world, no us.
    2. Without God we’d be unsure about truth and morality.
    3. Without God, we’d be on our own, there’d be no future hope.
    4. Without God there’d be no rescue plan for this poor suffering world.
    5. Without God, if we wanted to do better, we’d have to do it all ourselves, there’d be no forgiveness, no spiritual power to change.

    Without God, I for one would be a miserable failure, rarely living up to my aspirations, lost in the mire of my own guilt and shortcomings. I am very thankful he made me, gave me a good life and offers me a purpose in living it, and hope that it will all work out for good.

    I feel sorry for anyone who doesn’t have God and has to either do without those things that God offers, who thinks somehow they can make up themselves for not having God.

    Like you in the last post Nate, I mean no offence, I’m just sharing what is honestly in my heart.

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  8. @William: Thank you for your further comments and questions William. I truly enjoy the discussion.

    ~But what about the bible makes anyone think it’s from god other than they were raised or told to believe that it was?

    That’s a really great question and honestly one I can’t, by evidence, answer for you. What I can say is that whenever I come to an understanding of something within the Bible, it is usually something in confirmation of what I hold as the ‘right thing to do’; something simple, straightforward and what I would view as ‘common sense’. Do I need God to understand that? No. But it is a comfort to me to have the confirmation. That said, there is still a lot in the Bible I don’t understand.

    ~And so if the originally blogged “father” left the child with many siblings, does that make him a better father?

    As opposed to leaving the child on his own, to fend for himself? Yes.

    ~If my fellow siblings need help, perhaps I should help them because we depend on one another, not because our “dear, loving father” left conflicting instructions to do so.

    And I agree with you. For my own beliefs, this is where I say that most everyone already knows ‘the right thing to do’. As far as the ‘instructions’; I can’t help but think of the early Jews at the time of Jesus’ coming. They had so bogged down their religion with ‘laws’ that, when asked, Jesus simplified it to only two: Love God, love others. The Christian religion of today has done a really great job of bloating that simple message right back up again. Do we need God to understand that? No. But again, it’s good (at least for my own understanding) to have that confirmation.

    ~If I need help, should my fellow siblings help me directly, or help me according to the father’s example?…..When I’m hugged, it’s an actual person. When I’m picked up, it’s the actual hand of an actual person I grab. We don’t even see god’s footsteps in the sand.

    And yet you have no idea the motivation behind that person’s hug or extended hand. Is the other hand also extended to help, or is it holding a knife to stab you in the back? Are they actually helping themselves, or are they truly following their god’s example? And, if so, what is that to you? Like you, I don’t mean to sound harsh, I’m just saying; if some people are ‘instructed’ or ‘motivated’ or ‘confirmed’ to do ‘good’ by the words of an archaic book or a distant ‘father’, what does it matter to those who are not? As that book says, “You will know them by their fruits”. If those ‘fruits’ are self-serving, or are hate-filled they are no more serving the Christian God than they are Baal. And if they are doing these good deeds through their own motivation; more power to ‘em. The one thing I believe we all can agree on is that the world needs more “good” shining through—whether some feel need to attribute it to God or not.

    @portal001: Love the comments; particularly on the church. I totally agree!

    @Nate: Sorry for hogging up the bandwidth my friend!

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  9. Thanks again for all the great comments!

    portal (Ryan), I think the biggest problem doesn’t come from misrepresentation by the churches, but from the fact that God is so hidden. He could dispel so many misconceptions if he only made himself known.

    Ben, you make some good points that merit consideration. The only thing I’d say about the church is that it’s so splintered, it’s hard to find much value in it as a whole. And you do mention that it does its job imperfectly — in some instances, it performed it pretty heinously.

    unklee, thanks for sharing your perspective. It’s funny, you and I really seem to have a lot in common personality-wise, but we definitely part ways over the 5 things you listed. I don’t agree with a single one! But again, I am glad you added to the discussion. Thanks!

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  10. Kent, you’re always welcome here — no need to apologize for writing good comments! 😉

    I still side with William on this one, but I appreciate what you’re saying. I guess leaving us a bunch of siblings is better than being completely alone, but why should we assume God had to leave us completely alone at all? According to the Bible, there are many instances where he had close relationships with people. Did he just get tired of us?

    And I think for William’s last point, he was saying that when we see someone in need, we usually get personally involved and help them (or we should). But what would happen if we followed God’s example and disappeared?

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  11. @ unklee: You remind me so much of myself when I was “serving Christ.” I was certain my life would be in shambles if I didn’t have a “father god” to guide me. I totally believed in each of the five things you listed. And, like you, I felt sorry for those who didn’t see things the same way.

    Now, however, I must agree with Nate.

    In your list, you indicated that without God there’d be no rescue plan for this poor suffering world — and if we wanted to do better, we’d have to do it all ourselves, there’d be no forgiveness, no spiritual power to change.

    My question is why do we need a rescue plan? From what do we need to be forgiven? For living? And why do we need a “God” to live a better life? In my former life, I had pat answers to all of these questions. Today, however, I believe each of us is capable of making our lives whatever we want it to be. We don’t need to rely on the instructions left behind by an absent “father-god.” We’re grown-ups now.

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  12. “It’s funny, you and I really seem to have a lot in common personality-wise ….”

    Hi Nate, yes I think you are right. I think that is why I have stopped following many blogs, but continue following yours.

    “…. but we definitely part ways over the 5 things you listed. I don’t agree with a single one!”

    I’d write “LoL!” except i think it is more serious than that! I didn’t expect you to agree, I just wanted to share an alternative view, something more from my heart than my head for a change. Thanks for the opportunity.

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  13. You remind me so much of myself when I was “serving Christ.” I was certain my life would be in shambles if I didn’t have a “father god” to guide me. I totally believed in each of the five things you listed. And, like you, I felt sorry for those who didn’t see things the same way.”

    I hope the reminder wasn’t too painfull! 🙂 Yeah, I suppose I came off sounding like a regular marching band christian. But it isn’t actually like that. I am very critical about orthodox christian belief and the church, and very self critical. And I have come to see myself as a very flawed human being. I’m not just talking the standard “I am a woeful sinner” stuff (though I think that is true too) but flaws that make far less well-adjusted than I’d like to be.

    why do we need a rescue plan? From what do we need to be forgiven?”

    I need a rescue plan. If you don’t think you do, then I guess I have little to say. You must either have a different ethic to me, or a different standard, or (which may well be true) you are a much better person than I am.

    The world needs a rescue plan. It is clearly a beautiful place badly stuffed up on occasion, as Nate’s last two posts point out. I think there are reasons for both those facts, and I think undoing the bad needs God working with us. Do you believe we can do it on our own?

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  14. unklee, I admit the world is in a sorry state, but IMO trusting “God” to make things better … to put a “rescue plan” in place … is futile. The question that needs to be answered is why did “God” let it get to this stage in the first place?

    I highly doubt I’m a better person than you are (or anyone else for that matter). I just don’t buy into the idea that we need some supernatural power to become all that we can be.

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  15. Hi Nan,

    trusting “God” to make things better … to put a “rescue plan” in place … is futile”

    Well obviously if there’s no God then trusting him is futile. But if he does exist, why would it be futile then?

    why did “God” let it get to this stage in the first place?”

    If there’s no God then the question is meaningless. But if God does exist, then I think there’s no mystery. There’s the old saying: “If you love someone, set them free.” A good parent gives their teens some freedom and responsibility, even while knowing they won’t always get it right – it’s the only way they can grow to be all they can be. Same with the world. Take out human freedom and you take out most of the evil, but you reduce people to robots made of meat. (Take out God and it seems you might do the same!)

    I just don’t buy into the idea that we need some supernatural power to become all that we can be.”

    I understand that. Like I said, you must either have more faith in the power and willingness of humans, including yourself, to live up to your ideals, or you have much “lower” ideals than I do. Which do you think?

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  16. Ah, but there’s a difference between giving your teens some freedom and abandonment. The Christian god has clearly done the latter, since we’re able to question his very existence.

    I agree with Nan that I don’t think humanity needs saving. Certainly we have some “bad apples” from time to time, but broadly speaking, I don’t think being human is anything we have to apologize for. I don’t think, unklee, that you and I have different levels of ideals. I just don’t think it’s so terrible when we sometimes fall short of our goals.

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  17. there’s a difference between giving your teens some freedom and abandonment. The Christian god has clearly done the latter, since we’re able to question his very existence.”

    This is an unusually strong and certain statement for you Nate. I wonder how you’d justify the jump from questioning God’s existence to abandonment? Perhaps you can outline the logical steps.

    It hardly seems to be abandonment when 2 billion people believe in christianity and about 80% of the world believe in a God. And 300 million christians claim to have experienced or observed a miracle. And most christians pray to their “heavenly father” regularly.

    I don’t think, unklee, that you and I have different levels of ideals. I just don’t think it’s so terrible when we sometimes fall short of our goals.”

    Clearly we do have different levels of ideals. I don’t think it’s all that terrible either, and I don’t think we have to apologise for being human, but I seem to think it’s more important than you do.

    The holocaust and the two world wars and the communist atrocities, all in the 20th century, seem to me to be more than “some bad apples”, and I think show that something needs fixing. The gross imbalance between the riches of the west and the poverty of the third world, the rather severe mess the world environment is in, both seem to me to be problems that are caused by human greed and desperately need fixing. Likewise the problems of terrorism and anti-terrorism this century. And imagine if we were all living eternally with the present level of greed, anger and inequality.

    So I think things definitely need fixing, including me. If you don’t agree then we definitely have differences in our ideals.

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  18. Hey there Nate! I’ll try to keep it short ‘n sweet with this one, hehe!

    ~ I guess leaving us a bunch of siblings is better than being completely alone, but why should we assume God had to leave us completely alone at all? According to the Bible, there are many instances where he had close relationships with people. Did he just get tired of us?

    Therein lies the crux of the issue, doesn’t it? I don’t think He got tired of us and I don’t think He’s left us completely alone. So unfortunately I can’t answer your question. I also don’t know why he doesn’t answer everyone’s prayers (at least with a ‘yes’). I don’t know why he allows tornadoes to strike. I don’t know why he allows killers to enter elementary schools. I don’t know why he allowed my daughter to be born with a disability. But he did, and does, so I assume his plans are bigger and/or better than whatever I could dream up to try and answer these types of questions with my own feeble, little attempts at explanation.

    I have just as many questions about the Bible as anyone. I have just as many questions for God as anyone (maybe more). Yet my faith remains; and each example I could give you of why I believe he hasn’t left us alone would be just that—MY example; MY experiences. And unless a person is open to the faintest possibility that this ‘father’ we’re talking about exists, is not absent, is not tired of us, and actually does care, nothing that I say from personal experience is going to make a whit of difference.

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  19. It’s very late here, so I’ll keep this quick too.

    I agree that it ultimately boils down to personal experience. I’ve never had a personal experience of God, which is why I don’t believe in him/her/it. And while I’m aware that many people claim to have had such experiences, I’m very skeptical. I can think of many other possibilities that might explain their experiences without having to venture into the realm of the supernatural. That’s not to say their experiences aren’t genuine; they just don’t pass my personal threshold for faith. A genuine experience of my own would. So the fact that I continue to miss out on such an experience only reinforces my doubt. Especially since it’s often claimed that God is “no respecter of persons.”

    All that said, I don’t think it’s too strong a statement to say that God’s absence is a lot like abandonment. We can’t call into question the existence of Barack Obama, even though none of us has ever met him. Yet people have disagreed about God’s existence since the beginning of theism. Even if people agreed that one existed, they rarely agreed on which one it was. This is why his status remains faith-based and not fact-based.

    As far as morality goes, it’s true that my “a few bad apples” remark was putting it too mildly. At the same time, the human race is definitely showing progress. Just look at the rights of minorities, women, gays, etc. Mortality rates are better. Environmental efforts are much better now than they were 100 years ago. There is still a lot of improvement left to go, but we seem to be heading in the right direction. And I think this has more to do with secularism and inclusion than it does with religion.

    These things aren’t proofs, and I’m not saying that religion is necessarily a bad thing. It can have a really positive impact. And guys like you are perfect examples of when religion is done right. Here’s what I am saying: there are times when I’ve heard people say that Christianity is true because it’s the only religion that offers true forgiveness of sin. I don’t even know if that’s accurate; regardless, I disagree with the entire premise, because I don’t think simply being human is anything we need to be forgiven of.

    And now for some sleep! 🙂

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  20. Thanks for being gracious in your answer Nate. I didn’t mean to come across as short, as it may have sounded; though, when one is dealing with personal issues, the answers tend to get…well, personal. 😉 I’ve always appreciated the tone of commentary on your site, and hope to continue to for as long as you choose to “Find Truth”.

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  21. Hmmm. The question of do we even need a father really stopped me in my tracks. As I was thinking about what different people believe, the best answer is one that is given because of personal experience. It seems as though most people are always searching, wanting and striving for more; more time, a better job, a better position, more money, more respect, the list goes on and on. Only to realize when one reaches the ultimate goal the search never ends. A sense of disappointment dwells within because even after all of the hard work and “success” their still is a void left inside and longing for purpose and true fullfillment.
    Through life’s crazy journey, past hurts and disappointments linger and imperfect people let us down. Through all of these experience true peace that last, a joy and love that is overwhelming, and a fullness of purpose and passion can be experinced through a relationship with God, our Heavenly Father.

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  22. Sorry, I’ve been away enjoying my holiday weekend.

    What is this relationship with the Father and Son like and is it really better than the relationships we have with imperfect people?

    Does the Father or Son hug you when you’re hurting? Comfort you when you’re scared? Do they even bother to make a phone call when you’re lonely or fearful?

    They didn’t even write you a letter, instead they purportedly had random, imperfect people write you for them.

    And Melissa, that sense that something is missing is something i know very well. I felt it when I was a fervent believer also. I guess we could begin to speculate on whether I had the right faith, or whether it was genuine, and I guess I can only assure you that it was genuine, but… Why did I, and others, still feel a sense that something was missing when we had the “love of the father” and “forgiveness of sins” if that is the very thing that our souls long for?

    I think people, humans have something inside of us that propels us forward. That makes us want to grow, to learn, to improve. For me and for now, I think that sense of something missing is just that – a motivator.

    Our genes and the human heritage want us to grow and improve and to learn.

    I see what the bible says about god and then measure it against itself. I find that when doing that, it paints a fairly absurd picture of a perfect, loving father. Far from it. God and Jesus were really there for Moses, for Abraham, for Gideon, for David, Saul, for Thomas, and for many others when they suffered trials or when they experienced doubt. God isn’t a respecter of persons? Then where is he for the rest of mankind when they doubt or when they endure trials?

    I’m a father, and I cant imagine a single act that would make me cast my child into outer darkness. I cant fathom a single incident that would keep me from extending my own hand to save my child. And I am admittedly very imperfect.

    Now how can an imperfect father have more mercy and exercise more love than a perfect one?

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  23. Welcome back, William. I have a couple questions for you, if you don’t mind. You said when you were a fervent believer with a genuine faith (and I’m not questioning that a bit), you still sensed that something was missing. What do you speculate that ‘missing’ thing was that you were feeling? And why do you suppose that was/is? You’ve also continued to bring up the concept of a father casting his child(ren) into outer darkness (i.e. leaving them utterly alone). There’s been several people that have attempted to address this, and possibly offer their own experiences, on how and why they don’t feel abandoned, yet this continues to be a point of contention. Why do you suppose that is?

    If you would like, I’d be happy to take this conversation private as I’m genuinely interested in your experiences but I’m sensitive to opening either of us up for ‘public’ scrutiny. My email is: bookslogger@gmail.com. I look forward to your answers.

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  24. “Healthy people don’t need a doctor—sick people do.” Then he added, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” – Matthew 9:12-13, NLT

    God, in Jesus, has offered proof that He has not abandoned me. He has offered the most tangible example of love I could imagine. This love and gift is free to ALL because it cost so much to Him. God, however, cannot force me to see my need for Him. If I see that I can be “good enough” on my own, then I will not see my need for Him. The entire Sermon on the Mount shows me how deeply I need Him. Yet, He loves us enough that He will not force Himself on me. If I believe I do not need Him, then I will not see my need for Him.

    “Until you see the mercy God requires of you [toward others, ALL others], you will never be broken to accept the mercy He offers you.” – Tim Keller

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  25. Kent, hello again. The comment I made referring to “outer darkness” was a reference to judgement as described in the bible for the unfaithful or for the sinners. The point i was attempting to make in that instance was that I , as an imperfect father, could not imagine a scenario where I would cast aside my child in eternal punishment. Temporary punishment as a lesson – sure. My question then was, how can an imperfect father be more merciful than a perfect one? Or is my understanding of ‘mercy’ imperfect as well?

    Having said that, I still cannot quite understand people saying that god hasn’t left us. The reasons they all say this revolve around people in their lives. people in their churches, or families or groups, etc. because other people are around them, they say that God is. Would we say the same thing about an earthly father? If our father was nowhere around, would it be justified to say that “father sure has looked out for all of my needs by making sure I had a lot of siblings?” No, we’d say that father was even more of a deadbeat since he not only neglected one child but many. Perhaps we’d marvel at how well the children are fairing without their father… I just don’t get it.

    What does god look like? what does he sound like? we couldn’t even pick him out of a crowd and the main reason we even “know” anything about the judeo/christian god is what men have written about him – not on what we’ve actually seen or heard firsthand.

    and Josh, you mention “proof” and “tangible examples” in regard to things aren’t proven and are literally not tangible. If the bible can serve as proof for itself, then anything can – the koran, the Tipitaka, etc. or, or maybe they don’t and we should carefully weigh and measure the worth of such texts, wherein are such bold claims, so that we are not taken in and so we do not become as the emperor in the children’s story, “The Emperor’s New Clothes.”

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  26. William – fair points. Only if Jesus is who He said He was, and did the things claimed in the NT is His life, death, and resurrection proof. I’ll still hold to the statement that I made: if you don’t think you need him, then you will not see any benefit in what is offered. This is strongly consistent with what Jesus taught in the Gospels, and the reaction that many had to Him (some worshipped Him, and some plotted to kill Him). He won’t (can’t? – maybe because He wants the free choice of love from us He literally has eliminated this option) force you to believe – He wouldn’t even do that for those who met Him personally.

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  27. But Josh, would Jesus take away our free will to love him by revealing himself to us? I mean really reveal. I don’t mean through the writings of random individuals a long time ago. I don’t mean our imagined interactions with him, or our one-sided conversations with him through prayer. I mean reveal himself to us the way everyone else has with whom we have real and tangible relationships.

    And I just reject the “he is there for those who want to see him” et cetera, et cetera. It is exactly what I’m talking about when I referenced the “Emperor’s New Clothes;” “only the wisest can see these amazing garments, and you are wise aren’t you?”

    And believe me if you can, I was once where you are now. I rationalized and tried my best to make it all make sense, to have it all work out. I used to feel wise in doing so. I used to feel like I was reaching enlightenment. But that journey never ended. for every “solution” I came upon, there was at least one new problem that needed solving or required ignoring. The more I learned, the more uncertain I really became.

    maybe we don’t have answers for some of these difficult parts because there is no answer. because it’s not from god. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a god of some sort, it would just mean that the bible isn’t his bestseller.

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  28. “only the wisest can see him”

    It’s exactly the opposite William – the neediest, the poorest, and the most broken see the hope that is offered, and want it so desperately they accept it.

    “And, believe me if you can, I was once where you are now…”

    This whole paragraph of yours speaks to your attempts to “find answers”, “have it all figured out”, “be wise”, and “reach enlightenment”. That is not what Christianity is about. To be sure, that is what some other religions/worldviews teach. Christianity, if I can even use that word without immediately causing a bad taste, is about seeing who we really are, and the condition we and the world are in. It is the opposite of reaching the things you mentioned. It is about recognizing we cannot, He can, and He already has reconciled everything to Himself. It is about seeing need, not becoming what we think He wants.

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  29. Josh, I may have been mistaken. I assumed we were both talking about the christian bible. I Tim 3:15 says to study to show yourself approved, the entire book of proverbs revolves around the idea of wisdom, and then there are the gems like, “you do err not knowing the scriptures.”

    The Bible demands the christian disciples to be very educated on the bible and James calls it “Wisdom from above.” I had always viewed the term enlightenment to mean just that, or at least to refer the the better understanding of truth. To say that the bible doesn’t require these things is just inaccurate.

    Now, it does warn against philosophies, endless questions, and wisdom of the world…

    And the “only the wisest” comment can be substituted for “pure in heart” or “righteous” or the “good and honest heart” on and on. Whatever you put in there, the point is the same. The bible has questionable stuff in it, from the moral, to the scientific, to the historical, to the internally consistent. But if i were only to have a “pure and honest heart,” why then I’d see that is all just perfectly from god. And since I want a good and honest heart, then It must be perfect as they say… Just as the children’s story. But i am sorry. My heart is honest and is just as good as anyone’s, and i don’t see it.

    I think the intellectually honest and brave will see the problems in the bible and will admit that their presence is in fact a problem.

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  30. “would Jesus take away our free will to love him by revealing himself to us?…”

    William – didn’t mean to totally ignore this question/paragraph. By revealing himself in the way your suggest – in a way that no one could deny the reality of what he was claiming – he would, by definition, be forcing us to believe in him. Even so, however, I’d suggest that some would still refuse to trust in him even if they did believe what he claimed. You can imagine there would be some who would resent him for that, would you not? That we cannot be free without him? That we cannot be reconciled to him without his intervention? That we can’t be accepted “just because”? Don’t you imagine a lot of people would hate knowing that those things were true, even if they were convinced they were true? So, even if he revealed himself beyond a shadow of a doubt, some would still not trust (despite believing, the difference is vital) in him unless he actually manipulated their thoughts and forced trust onto them. This is not how God, represented in Jesus, operates.

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  31. Well sure there’d some people who’d say, “thanks but not interested.” But then their rejection of jesus wouldnt and couldnt be based on questionable an flimsy evidence – it would actually be their own choice.

    “By revealing himself in the way you suggest – in a way that no one could deny the reality of what he was claiming – he would, by definition, be forcing us to believe in him.”

    But see, here again the bible disagrees with you. Hebrews 11, if nowhere else, says how all these people who had first hand experience with God still did things. Are you saying that Abraham and Noah didnt have freewill? And that would also mean that the apostles had a huge upper hand on the rest of us. Respector persons?

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  32. William – In response to “Josh, I may have been mistaken. I assumed we were both talking about the christian bible…” and following.

    You see yourself as honest and brave. That is fine. I don’t know you, apart from what Scripture teaches about all of us, so I will not question your character. Maybe you are everything you claim. All of the quotes you mention regarding who is acceptable in the Kingdom – “wisest”, “pure of heart”, “righteous”, “good and honest heart” – are all referring only to Jesus. No human apart from Him meets the qualifications for the Kingdom. All of the statements about how we “should be” are aimed at showing us we can’t be those things. Read Romans 7 for Paul’s explanation of what commands are designed for.

    “In fact, it was the law that showed me my sin. I would never have known that coveting is wrong if the law had not said, “You must not covet.” 8 But sin used this command to arouse all kinds of covetous desires within me! If there were no law, sin would not have that power.” – Romans 7:7-8

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  33. “But see, here again the bible disagrees with you. Hebrews 11, if nowhere else, says how all these people who had first hand experience with God still did things. Are you saying that Abraham and Noah didnt have freewill? And that would also mean that the apostles had a huge upper hand on the rest of us. Respector persons?”

    Can you be clearer about what you mean here? I’m not sure I follow the point you made. What do you mean by “still did things” and “upper hand”?

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  34. “But then their rejection of jesus wouldnt and couldnt be based on questionable an flimsy evidence – it would actually be their own choice.”

    You don’t think they’d find a way around the evidence to claim that it was flimsy? What about all the amazing things that can be done with cameras these days, or even in front of a live audience?

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  35. “But see, here again the bible disagrees with you. Hebrews 11, if nowhere else, says how all these people who had first hand experience with God still did things. Are you saying that Abraham and Noah didnt have freewill? And that would also mean that the apostles had a huge upper hand on the rest of us. Respector persons?”

    Oh, I do see what you’re saying here. At least, I think I do. There were plenty of people of Jesus day to whom he revealed himself and they did not believe him. Look at all of the things the teachers of the law witnessed him doing, yet they still found ways to condemn him to death. They saw as much of his miracles as others did, yet they claimed he “cast out demons by the power of Satan”. If you’re going from Scripture you simply can’t claim that everyone who saw Jesus personally, and witnessed his teaching and miracles believed him.

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  36. Jesus was all over the place in his teaching. If you don’t believe it , watch this youtube video that lists Jesus’ commandments in order to get into Heaven. You can’t get there !

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  37. kcchief1 – I’ll be interested in the video when you find it. But, still, to you and William, it comes down to whether you think you need reconciliation. If not, what does any of this discussion matter to you? If you do not believe you need reconciliation with God, and someone were to prove to you that Jesus was right and is God, all you’d have is resentment toward his presumption that you need saving. However, if you do believe you need reconciliation, then trust in Jesus is a formidable option.

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  38. There were plenty of people of Jesus day to whom he revealed himself and they did not believe him. Look at all of the things the teachers of the law witnessed him doing, yet they still found ways to condemn him to death. They saw as much of his miracles as others did, yet they claimed he “cast out demons by the power of Satan”.

    Then how can you claim that if he revealed himself to us today, we’d have no choice but to believe him?

    If you do not believe you need reconciliation with God, and someone were to prove to you that Jesus was right and is God, all you’d have is resentment toward his presumption that you need saving.

    This is just speculation — you don’t really know how they’d react. More than likely, if they were to truly see God or Jesus, they’d be much more inclined to listen to whatever they had to say. Then William and kcchief1 might be willing to believe that they need reconciliation from something.

    And hello again, btw. Good to hear from you again. 🙂

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  39. Hey Nate-
    “Then how can you claim that if he revealed himself to us today, we’d have no choice but to believe him?”

    I was speaking directly to William’s point about God revealing himself to everyone without room for doubt. I took William’s point to be about a revelation that would leave no choice but to submit to God based on His revelation. It’s a juxtaposition, and shouldn’t be taken to contradict what I think actual revelation is like.

    “This is just speculation — you don’t really know how they’d react.”

    True. But, so is the whole scenario.

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  40. kcchief1 – Watched the video.

    My only response is this: If you read a headline in the newspaper that read “Packers kill Bears on MNF”, I suppose you would take this to mean that the Packers literally killed all of the Bears’ players, coaches, assistants, etc on live television. Right? You would have to based on the way the author of the video reads scripture. There is never any room for non-literal language. I think we can agree that a basic understanding of the cultural mindset of the society in which something is written is necessary in order to determine meaning. Not just taking words off the page with only literal meanings as possible meanings.

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  41. In fact, the parables are NEVER meant to be taken literally. Parables are stories that make a point, not literal pictures of truth.

    For instance, if you take the story about Lazarus and the rich man (Luke 16:19ff) as a literal interpretation of what hell is like, then you have to take the parable in Matthew 18:8-10 about plucking out your offending eye or cutting off your offending hand literally.

    WAY too many men with two eyes and two hands sitting in churches these days, methinks. 😉

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  42. Josh, i point on god or jesus revealing themselves was only to the extent that everyone else has revealed themselves so that we’re not all wondering if god’s really there or not. Imagine your real father – the way you know he’s actually there.

    And you’re right about your response to kcchief1, but there is so much else wrong with the bible, people needn’t invent reasons to disregard it. There are plenty of actual reasons.

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  43. Ah, but William pointed to other biblical examples as a reference to what he was talking about. I think he was saying that if God interacted with all of us in the same way that he did with Abraham, Paul, Gideon, etc, they more people would follow the teachings of Christianity. He also said that this wouldn’t take away a person’s free will, unless you believe that Abraham, Paul, Gideon, etc didn’t have free will.

    So do you agree with William’s assertion that a level of interaction from God that matched what he supposedly gave in the Bible would leave our free will intact? And if so, do you think it would help more people become Christians?

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  44. I really do believe that all of this does come down to what you make of Jesus. You are looking for proof beyond a shadow of a doubt that Jesus is who he said he was before you are willing to trust him. You’re turning this into a transaction – Jesus, if you do this for me, I will trust you. Jesus did not come to offer a transaction. He came to bring us the good news that we have a relationship with the creator already. These conversations often boil down to “I want proof. And, until I have it I refuse to believe”. I just don’t think that’s the way things work in relationships. God has offered us love and relationship with him. It’s strange to expect that, by way of securing our response, he would force our hand in relating to him. Doesn’t it make more sense that he would allow us to choose whether we trust him? That, it seems to me, is more consistent with the idea of love than forcing someone’s submission.

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  45. “He also said that this wouldn’t take away a person’s free will, unless you believe that Abraham, Paul, Gideon, etc didn’t have free will.”

    This argument assumes that no one would accept God’s offer without God removing their choice. I don’t accept that assumption. I think some will accept and some will not. And, the one’s who will not would only accept if God changed them at a fundamental level.

    “So do you agree with William’s assertion that a level of interaction from God that matched what he supposedly gave in the Bible would leave our free will intact? And if so, do you think it would help more people become Christians?”

    I think it would leave our free will intact. No, I don’t believe it would increase the number of people willing to accept Christianity. There were people who had this level of interaction, and hated God for it (Jonah, Pharisees) and many others who had direct experiences of God and still feared their human enemies, which you would think illogical.

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  46. “Yet didn’t he work that way with Paul and Thomas?”

    Paul heard a voice from heaven and was blinded. It was his choice to believe this as a message from God or not. Would you necessarily believe based on this? I bet a lot of people wouldn’t. So, I wouldn’t count that as forcing Paul.

    Thomas requested proof and got it. He also didn’t have to believe based on this. At least, my reading of it does not necessitate an overriding of free will.

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  47. No, I don’t believe it would increase the number of people willing to accept Christianity.

    Then how do you explain Paul’s conversion? How do you explain Thomas’ unwillingness to believe unless he had a “hands on” experience? How you explain the passages (specifically at the end of John) that say miracles were given so that people would believe? How you explain God giving signs to Moses so he would go to Pharaoh? How do you explain virtually every example of the supernatural that occurs within the Bible if they have no effect in persuading people?

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  48. Josh, i think you’re creating exceptions for the bible. Do you believe in Muhammad without iron clad proof? or anyone/anything else?

    And here, with god and jesus, we don’t even know that they’re real – at least in the way the bible makes out.

    I could go on and on about my great relationship with Cindy Crawford. How she supports me in what I do and how I lean on her for strength and how I know she loves me… that sounds nice until you know that i have never met her. She has never actually spoken to me. It sounds weird and stupid, yet people talk this way all the time about supernatural and eternal beings. It’s a one sided relationship with jesus and the biblical god at best, and strangely resembles imaginary friendships.

    So yes, some proof would be very nice. And by the way, i’m not rejecting jesus’s words or even god’s words. I’m questioning the claims of the MEN who wrote the bible. Why do you trust them so readily without proof? And then why dont you trust what other men have said about god (apart from the bible)? Miracles you haven’t seen, but they have only told you about? This great one-sided relationship?

    I dont know, josh. The more we lay it all out, the more it seems so off…

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  49. Nate – “Then how do you explain Paul’s conversion?” and following:

    You’re still assuming that everyone who has a direct interaction with God has to believe. This is not what is presented in scripture, so if you’re going to use scripture in a conversation you can’t hold that position.

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  50. The bible exists outside of reality. That’s the only position I can come to, josh, if what you keep saying is right. The rules of logic and principles of reason cease to exist and do not apply to its pages. It’s from god after all, and we know that because it says it is…

    Paul had a miraculous revelation (if it were true) and it did change his mind on jesus. It’s right there in the bible. Thomas and really the rest of the apostles, didn’t believe jesus had resurrected until they saw him face to face. If seeing jesus werent enough, seeing him after he came back from the dead seemed to be for them. But yeah, seeing a guy you saw killed and buried walking around with the death wounds still on him is unbelievable, but an old book written by random dudes bears much more weight.

    I’m sorry, this is laughable.

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  51. Okay, I just watched the video. I laughed all the way through it. Sorry to the person who made it. The reason Jesus did not give the same answer to the question is first and foremost simply because all of us are so different. Each of us has a different struggle, a different problem, and a different path. There is no pat answer for finding God, period.

    It occurred to me that there was something missing (glaringly so): the rest of the story. Anyone can pull stuff out of context and make it say whatever they want. Certainly all of these verses taken out of CONTEXT and then put together as if they are a step-by-step way to heaven is ludicrous. But when you start to look at the texts cited within their context AND as conversations about SPIRITUAL things and not LITERAL, EARTHLY things, the conclusion of the video-maker is seriously called into question.

    One of the things I have wanted to point out since the beginning of the discussion is the difficulty of a supernatural being revealing himself to natural beings. How does a God who inhabits infinite dimensions reveal himself to creatures who cannot perceive beyond 3 of them?

    For me, Rob Bell did a great job of dealing with this question in his 1-hr. long video “Everything is Spiritual”. He uses an illustration of 3-dimensional intersecting 2-dimensional (he calls the 2-dim. world ‘flat land’) and considers what that intersection might look like. I have always believed that Revelation was a good example of someone trying to describe color to a blind man.

    What IF we simply cannot perceive God as He is? What IF He has to use word pictures and faulty illustrations to describe Himself to us – not because He is limited but because WE are? This is how I come at the Scriptures these days … they do not provide answers to our questions, in fact, the Bible has produced more questions in me than given me answers. But there is something that pulls me in anyway. Not a desire to know, but a desire to be known. I talked about this a lot more in a recent blog.

    Anyway, too long-winded, as usual. Thanks for another GREAT discussion thread, Nate!! 🙂

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  52. William – You assume my relationship with God is one-sided. It is not. However, my experiences would provide no more proof to you than what is recorded in scripture. I know, despite how good I want and try to be, how evil I can be at times. Scriptures accurately describe the need we have, and Jesus provides the only failsafe resolution. Mohammed provides no resolution. Just more things we have to do to please God. It is the Roman/Greek/OT understanding of God all over again. Jesus seals the deal – for me.

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  53. Josh, jesus and god literally walk and talk with you?

    or are you referring to your own thoughts as in, you prayed for wisdom in making a decision and then you made a decision and seemed to be a good one, therefore god interacted with me?

    and true, I’d be skeptical if you said God or jesus actually talked with you or showed themselves to you or even talked to you through a burning bush or bright light from heaven.

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  54. You’re still assuming that everyone who has a direct interaction with God has to believe. This is not what is presented in scripture, so if you’re going to use scripture in a conversation you can’t hold that position.

    That’s not what I’m saying at all. I’m saying the Bible shows that miracles and interaction with God and/or Jesus led to more conversions. I maintain that the same would hold true today. If people today could experience God/Jesus in the same way that they supposedly did in the Bible, more people would be saved. The only real question is why God doesn’t work that way now, if he wants as many as possible to be saved.

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  55. William – “jesus and god literally walk and talk with you?”

    Yes. Not in the way you’re imagining, I’d think. But, answers to my questions and deliberations and arguments with God come in many forms.

    Nate – “I’m saying the Bible shows that miracles and interaction with God and/or Jesus led to more conversions.”

    I still don’t grant this. Interactions and miracles led to SOME conversions, but your leap to MORE is unwarranted. Some people who interacted with God in the OT believed and trusted. Some did not and rejected God. Some who interacted and saw miracles of Jesus in the Gospels believed and trusted. Some hated him and plotted to kill him. I don’t see how you can conclude that interactions and miracles would lead to more conversions. We must conclude that it was not the interactions or miracles that solidified the responses, so those could not be the key ingredients.

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  56. William – ” i think you’re creating exceptions for the bible. ”

    I may be. But, I can assure you, if I am doing that I’m not doing it intentionally. I absolutely believe what I’m telling you. I could be wrong and misled. That’s certainly a possibility.

    “The bible exists outside of reality. That’s the only position I can come to, josh, if what you keep saying is right. The rules of logic and principles of reason cease to exist and do not apply to its pages.”

    This is most likely true. “The wisdom of God is foolishness to man”, etc, etc. Paul says again and again that belief seems foolish from the outside. And, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all. I’m willing to accept that possibility, as was Paul.

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  57. Good point Nate ! Many Christians would say God has shown miracles in recent times through people like Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, Peter Popoff, Benny Hinn, Todd Bentley to name a few. Most of these people have been proven to be fakes or without Medical Evidence but 2000 years ago ….maybe not. What would differentiate these Modern Day Miracles from the ones ancient people saw Moses, Elijah, Jesus, The Disciples, etc perform in those days ? Curious to hear your thoughts.

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  58. Interactions and miracles led to some conversions — fine; I agree with that. It seems to me that if it had not been for these miracles and interactions, those individuals would probably have not converted. Therefore, such miracles and interactions today would lead to more conversions.

    It’s really not very complicated. Interacting with God or receiving miracles from him qualifies as very strong evidence — we all make certain decisions based upon evidence. So it only follows that stronger evidence will convince people who have a higher threshold for belief. This explains why Paul, though familiar with Christianity, did not convert until his experience on the road to Damascus, and why Thomas needed to see and touch the wounds to believe Jesus had risen, when the other disciples didn’t seem to need that same level of evidence. And again, the Bible itself says that the miracles were performed to confirm the message.

    So to say that those weren’t important factors seems to completely ignore the Bible’s evidence.

    As an aside, you point to the gospels’ claim that some people saw miracles but still didn’t believe as evidence that miracles would be dismissed by many people. It could also be evidence that no actual miracles took place.

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  59. “The bible exists outside of reality. That’s the only position I can come to, josh, if what you keep saying is right. The rules of logic and principles of reason cease to exist and do not apply to its pages.”

    Jesus resurrection defies logic and reason. So, if true, this statement would be an accurate assessment.

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  60. This is most likely true. “The wisdom of God is foolishness to man”, etc, etc. Paul says again and again that belief seems foolish from the outside. And, if Jesus did not rise from the dead, Christians are to be pitied above all. I’m willing to accept that possibility, as was Paul.

    But this is probably one of Paul’s most absurd statements. If God loves everyone and wants them to be saved, and he created all of us, he can’t use the excuse that we just don’t understand him, because our ability to understand things was given to us by him. He would have to be incredibly inept to create us, and then write instructions to us that we likely won’t understand. It would be like building a toaster that runs on electricity, but trying to power it with coal.

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  61. “So to say that those weren’t important factors seems to completely ignore the Bible’s evidence.”

    I wasn’t trying to say they weren’t important – only that they couldn’t have been the principle factors, since some didn’t believe.

    “you point to the gospels’ claim that some people saw miracles but still didn’t believe as evidence that miracles would be dismissed by many people. It could also be evidence that no actual miracles took place.”

    That is certainly a possibility. But, we’re talking about accounts in scripture and what they indicate about conversions, so dismissing them in the midst of the conversation is not really fair 🙂

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  62. “But this is probably one of Paul’s most absurd statements…”

    But, Nate, some do understand and accept. So, your point cuts both ways.

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  63. Hi kcchief1 — yes, I definitely suspect that the “miracles” talked about in the Bible were actually nothing of the sort. I think that’s why so many people still didn’t believe even after witnessing a miracle.

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  64. That is certainly a possibility. But, we’re talking about accounts in scripture and what they indicate about conversions, so dismissing them in the midst of the conversation is not really fair

    I’m not trying to dismiss them — just pointing out that they indicate two possibilities.

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  65. Josh, does it not bother you at all that in order to have stronger faith, you must also have a weaker grasp of reason? What else in your life works that way?

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  66. William, I do not feel that strong faith necessitates weak reason. I find God to be quite logical (I’m not saying that about the Scriptures per se or taken at face value). Let’s just say the universe is orderly and logical (a+b=c), and I believe God created order and logic. That we cannot understand Him is not so much His limitation as much as it is ours. Your assumption this entire conversation is that God COULD reveal Himself in an irrefutable way. What if that assumption is false because of the way WE are not the way HE is? Just sayin’. 🙂

    What if one day you will enter a broader dimension in which you will be able to perceive Him? You may not be there just yet, tho. And if that is true, then don’t you think God knows that? The nonsensical Evangelical god who loves us if we have faith in him and punishes us if we don’t is simply not the God I believe exists but the one human beings invented out of their inability to perceive rightly. The God I ran into 30 years ago bears little resemblance to anything the church has interpreted to be god. But that’s just me.

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  67. If we’re discounting the Christian God, then you may be right about us not being able to understand him. But if we’re talking about a God that expects certain things from us or we’ll be punished, then he would be quite evil to hold us to such a standard yet create us with an inability to understand him.

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  68. Judahfirst, I get you, I do. But I’m really just saying if we take god as a good and caring father, like the bible claims, and weigh that against what the bible says of god (all of it), and then compare it still to what we know good fathers actually do here on earth (I think this is fair since the bible makes the comparison) then I fail to see the reason or logic in that notion.

    We’d have to ignore our reason and logic to look at everything the bible says god has done, and look at his current interaction with man today to still find him a good and loving father – to find him as anything other than a deadbeat dad.

    “the wisdom of god is foolishness to man.”

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  69. Nate and William, correct. 🙂 I’m with you, sort of.

    The difference between us is that I believe that Jesus, as God in the flesh, lived, died, and rose again, and that the Scriptural passages which do not jive with a loving God who looks like Jesus are either the writer’s misinterpretation or an error in translation, or interpretation, or what have you. I certainly cannot make the contradicting Scriptures make any more sense than you can, but I have had enough encounters with what I consider to be the real God that I cannot walk away from my faith in Jesus. Again, that’s just me. 🙂

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  70. P.S. to Nate:

    What you said above is exactly what drove me out of the 4 walls we call church. Evangelical Christianity makes as much sense as demanding that a man with no legs walk on water. That version of Christianity I categorically reject, as my blog clearly attests.

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  71. JudahFirst,

    I may have agreed with you too hastily. 🙂 I believe in God, but don’t see where I need a “Middleman” (Jesus) . When God has to have a “Middleman” , that’s were mankind becomes “Exclusive” and “Divisive”. I know that many use the Trinity to tie Jesus in. The Ancient Egyptians had the Trinity Concept with their Gods first. 🙂 We are on the same page with your other comments about Evangelical Christianity however.

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  72. William- “does it not bother you at all that in order to have stronger faith, you must also have a weaker grasp of reason?”

    I don’t believe this is true. I believe that if something supernatural exists it will, by definition, defy reason. The two are not mutually exclusive. There are good reasons to believe. But, there are also things that must be accepted, if you believe, that defy reason simply because they are beyond our comprehension.

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  73. I understand where both of you are coming from, I think. For me, it’s hard to take anything from the Bible, which is why I stopped identifying as a Christian early on in my deconversion. But before becoming an atheist, I did spend some time as a deist. I definitely think there are some good reasons to believe in a God, even though I don’t currently share them.

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  74. “But if we’re talking about a God that expects certain things from us or we’ll be punished, then he would be quite evil to hold us to such a standard yet create us with an inability to understand him.”

    This description of god is one I would not believe in, either. This is not the way Jesus represents God. He has accomplished everything.

    Additionally, I probably shouldn’t have used the word “understand”. I’m not claiming understanding. I’m claiming I don’t understand it all, and I am willing to accept that, if God exists, I will not be able to comprehend him.

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  75. KC, I don’t see Jesus as a “Middleman”. I see God is the Trinity and Jesus is the human manifestation of that Trinity. He showed us the lengths God would go to in order to walk in relationship to us (NOT that God was angry and needed a sacrifice or anything like that). I see it this way: Jesus is the exact representation of God in human flesh so to reject Him is to reject God. This does not mean that to reject Jesus is to cause God to reject you. That is the Evangelical view, not mine.

    Thanks for the comments and clarifications.

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  76. LOL, Josh, maybe you don’t understand or comprehend him because it’s all rubbish and fairy tales.

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  77. “LOL, Josh, maybe you don’t understand or comprehend him because it’s all rubbish and fairy tales.”

    Could be. If it’s a fairy tale, it’s a pretty darn convincing one. I’ll take it over the other options.

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  78. JudahFirst,

    Where this becomes confusing is that Jesus himself says in John 5:24, “John 5:24
    New International Version (NIV)
    24 “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.”

    Here Jesus simply says if I believe in “The One” who sent him (meaning God). He’s not asking me to believe in “Him” (Jesus) I do believe in “The One” who sent him. (God)

    That’s why I say the Bible is all over the place. You can make an argument for just about anything. Thank you for your comments.

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  79. “The Bible itself says that the miracles were performed to confirm the message.”

    The question that I ask myself is, why do I want a sign?

    I thought Matthew 11:20-24 is kind of confronting:

    Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent.

    “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

    And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

    ________________________________

    – Which kind of bothers me, since if I got what I asked for, and I did recieve a sign, would I then be judged more by God if I did not accept these signs.

    Which brings me to the other questions I ask myself,

    – What is actually the sate of my heart, why do I seek a sign?

    – Is it simply that I don’t want certain things to be true even if they are?

    This cuts both ways, but if this is so – is God being merciful for not showing me a sign, since He knows my heart?

    Am I not ready to see a sign, since maybe showing me a sign would do more damage? If I was shown and then rejected that sign, wouldn’t I be in a worse position than before?

    It’s like that Joan Osbourne song –
    “If God had a face what would it look like
    And would you want to see
    If seeing meant that you would have to believe
    In things like heaven and in Jesus and the saints and all the prophets”

    Kind regards,
    Ryan.

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  80. Ryan,

    I think that’s an important question that people should ask themselves. But I feel like I know you well enough to say that you don’t have to worry too much about that. You want to do what’s right — so if God exists and he gave you an unquestionable sign, you’d believe in him. I’ve very confident of that.

    Take care,

    Nate

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  81. Plus, those passages also say that had miracles been performed in Tyre, Sidon and Sodom, they would have made the people in those towns believe. So the bible does say that miracles can and do and would have an impact on people…

    that being said, all of this now looks like someone trying to sell their outrageous story without having to provide proof. It reminds me of the “miracle working” evangelists of our times who do some questionable “exorcism” or “healing” and then blast the people who dont believe it was real, and then when someone asks them to do a miracle to demonstrate that they are who they say they are, they respond with, “you shall not temp the Lord you God,” or “it wouldn’t work for you because you do not have faith…” The skeptic then smiles and takes those responses for what they are, excuses and diversions.

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  82. “So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense.” 1 Corinthians 1:20-23

    Demanding satisfying answers to every question is to miss the point of the good news. If you think you must know everything in order to trust something you will never do anything. Is there anyone you trust about whom you know everything and understand everything they do? If you can’t have this kind of knowledge even about other finite humans, how can you expect it of God?

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  83. Demanding satisfying answers to every question is to miss the point of the good news. If you think you must know everything in order to trust something you will never do anything. Is there anyone you trust about whom you know everything and understand everything they do? If you can’t have this kind of knowledge even about other finite humans, how can you expect it of God?

    That passage in 1 Cor is primarily talking about the notion that the son of God would come and allow himself to be killed as a sacrifice for mankind. It went against the Jews’ notion of a powerful king that would reinstate the nation of Judah, and it went against the typical Greek notion of gods as well. It certainly went against the Greek philosophers’ movement. And while he makes a solid point, he’s not saying that the story of Jesus should be accepted without investigation.

    I don’t know you personally, but there are many things you could tell me about yourself that I would readily believe: maybe you’re married, maybe you spent some time in the military, maybe you’re a wicked guitar player. But if you told me that you’re also a werewolf, I’d be quite skeptical. And I would need some really good evidence to persuade me to believe you. Or if you told me that you were born on January 1st and then later told me that you were born on June 15th, I’d know you were wrong about at least one of those. And it’s perfectly justifiable for me to feel that way.

    If God wants us to believe things of that caliber without being able to understand or explain the associated problems, then he did a poor job of creating us. He should have made us much dumber.

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  84. That may be what Paul was directly talking about, but the point he makes is made throughout the OT and NT.

    If I said I was a werewolf in some contexts you may know exactly what I mean (losing control of myself, etc). I could also refer to two birthdays without contradiction: one the day I emerged from the womb, and the one I was baptized/adopted/recovered from a potentially fatal seizure as an infant. Your holding scripture to the literal level you do is unwarranted. I realize its just one opinion, but this is not how we analyze other speech or communication. People, if held to literal standards, make bizarre and contradictory statements all the time. I know you want God to communicate perfectly to Nate in 2013, but that communication would make no sense to Joe in 3075. You have to give more leniency and careful reading to the scripture as you would anything else.

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  85. No, I think my point still stands. You agree that a person can’t have two birthdays, unless they’re using one of them figuratively. And more importantly, no one would be expected to understand that unless it was explained to them. You also seem to agree that it would be silly to believe someone’s a werewolf — unless they were speaking figuratively about their personality/behavior.

    I’m not saying that the Bible shouldn’t use figurative language. I’m saying that if it’s doing so, it should explain that, just as you explained how you could have 2 “birthdays” and describe yourself as a werewolf.

    Furthermore, if it’s impossible for God to communicate perfectly to people across great periods of time, why did he try to? He seemed to have a pretty good communication system going when he spoke to individual people directly. Why not go back to that? Was it too tiring?

    By the way, do you think it’s impossible for God to communicate perfectly to people who are separated by such great periods of time in one writing?

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  86. But Josh,
    You’re asking US to do something most Christians and Churches won’t do…..which is to be lenient when it comes to the Bible. You can’t have it both ways.

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  87. Nate – “By the way, do you think it’s impossible for God to communicate perfectly to people who are separated by such great periods of time in one writing?”

    Yes. I could totally be wrong about that. Here’s how I see it: I think the limitations we have as finite creatures makes perfect communication to us impossible. You might see this as splitting hairs, but I would not say the communication is imperfect. Just that the repository is. God’s communication to Adam and Eve was pretty clear. Yet, they had the choice to disobey.

    “I’m not saying that the Bible shouldn’t use figurative language. I’m saying that if it’s doing so, it should explain that”

    This is an assumption on your part. There’s nothing requiring this.

    “You also seem to agree that it would be silly to believe someone’s a werewolf — unless they were speaking figuratively about their personality/behavior.”

    I agree with you that it is silly because I don’t have any reason to think otherwise. I have oodles and oodles of reasons to believe that the narrative set forth throughout scripture is true.

    kcchief1 – “You’re asking US to do something most Christians and Churches won’t do…..which is to be lenient when it comes to the Bible. You can’t have it both ways.”

    I don’t have to have it both ways because I’m not demanding that you are strict in that way with scripture.

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  88. “I’m not saying that the Bible shouldn’t use figurative language. I’m saying that if it’s doing so, it should explain that”

    This is an assumption on your part. There’s nothing requiring this.

    If God doesn’t require me to believe it, then I agree with you.

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  89. Josh: I don’t have to have it both ways because I’m not demanding that you are strict in that way with scripture.

    Good ! So I don’t have to stick with the Bible interpretation that says Jesus is the only way. I can be lenient and say Jesus is just one of possibly many ways. Right ?

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  90. “If God doesn’t require me to believe it, then I agree with you.”

    This is still an assumption on your part. You’re leveling these conditions with no grounds to do so.

    Additionally, I wouldn’t grant the statement that God “requires” you to believe it. He’s given you the freedom to not believe. Just as he’s given me the freedom to believe, yet also be a total $%*&-up and miscommunicate him to others. Why has he allowed that level of freedom? Your guess is as good as mine.

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  91. Josh, you confuse me. It seems like to me you’re coming in all over the place. You have said that you cant understand the bible (paraphrasing) yet you speak as if you understand it all better than we do.

    Now you’re saying that god doesn’t require belief. maybe you mean he doesn’t “force” belief? It is a requirement of his. without it, you’re not acceptable to him according to the bible – that’s a requirement isn’t it?

    do this or I’ll torture/punish you forever. Still sounds like a requirement.

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  92. No. Your taxes are already paid. Your choice is to accept that they are paid and live in the freedom, or to refuse to believe they are paid and continue trying to work off your imagined debt.

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  93. If Christ were the only way, it’s too bad that billions of Asians, Europeans, North & South Americans died over the past 2000 years without ever hearing about this.

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  94. Wililam- “without it, you’re not acceptable to him according to the bible – that’s a requirement isn’t it?”

    No, it isn’t a requirement. You are still acceptable even if you don’t believe it. Jesus has wiped out any guilt/sin debt.

    “You have said that you cant understand the bible (paraphrasing) yet you speak as if you understand it all better than we do.”

    I don’t have answers to some of the questions that have been asked, so it is true I don’t understand it all. It is also true that I think I understand the core of what it teaches about grace. The things I think are clear are what I’m communicating.

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  95. Josh, I’m not sure that I follow. I’m not trying to pay any spiritual taxes and I already pay my own real taxes.

    let’s start over. Let me apologize for being a bit of a jerk. I do that sometimes and I am sorry. I just don’t get this. It appears to me that many believers use conflicting arguments when it suits their current argument, changing arguing points as often as needed. It’s frustrating because it seems elusive and disingenuous. I find it practically pointless to have a discussion with people who seem to change the rules when it suits them.

    Now maybe the bible is from god and maybe the man jesus is really the literal son of god – but maybe the man authors of the bible were lying or misinformed or just mistaken despite their best intentions. We (presumably you as well) don’t accept these types of claims from everyone. Why?

    Why do many bible believers treat the bible as if it is the ONLY “known” and use it to validate science, archaeology and history, instead of the other way around?

    Why put so much faith in men you have never met, who make claims about things you have never seen or witnessed? And I’m not talking the exact events, but other supernatural events like them.

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  96. Josh, if Jesus has “wiped out any guilt/sin debt” why must I worry about my eternal destiny? Based on this statement, I’m sinless and thus will go to “heaven.” Where does the teaching come from that says I must “accept Christ” in order to avoid eternal punishment? Oh wait. I know. From Paul, who, in my estimation, has dubious credits.

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  97. “Additionally, I probably shouldn’t have used the word “understand”. I’m not claiming understanding. I’m claiming I don’t understand it all, and I am willing to accept that, if God exists, I will not be able to comprehend him.”

    this is kind of what I mean… Didn’t you say this just yesterday?

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  98. Josh, I think I see where your coming from, and I like how you take the time to discuss these things. Thanks for your contribution, it helps me understand.

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  99. The tax illustration is only applicable to the version of Christianity which says you owe God something in the first place. I don’t believe any of that premise, therefore the Evangelical idea of salvation has lost any meaning for me. God isn’t looking for any type of payment for anything. There is not punishment beyond the natural consequences around us (if I jump out of a 10-story building, I doubt my body is going to survive the force of gravity). I would like God to be able to transform me (you know, the caterpillar/butterfly thingy?). Maybe that kind of change feels like punishment … ? Wonder what the caterpillar feels in the crystallis? (wonder how you spell that word in the first place…?)

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  100. If there’s no punishment, then fine. God can be as mysterious as he wants, because it doesn’t matter if we don’t figure it out. But if that’s the case, I’m not sure why we’re debating the Bible so much. I mostly write against fundamentalism…

    Josh seems to dislike my take on the Bible, but I have trouble seeing how he can agree with much of it if he doesn’t believe there’s any kind of punishment in the afterlife?

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  101. Having had the privilege of spending time in Egypt and Greece , I got to see first hand how heavily Judaism and Christianity borrowed from them. Baptism, Circumcision, The Trinity, Eternal Life….it goes on and on. This is when I had to own up to the conclusion that all Religions were Man Made and Borrowed. I still believe in a Deity as the Cause of this Big Bang but what He wants to show us beyond this, I have to be like the Agnostic , “I cannot know”

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  102. William – “Why do many bible believers treat the bible as if it is the ONLY “known” and use it to validate science, archaeology and history, instead of the other way around?”

    Because they are mistaken. As we all are to one extent or another.

    “Why put so much faith in men you have never met, who make claims about things you have never seen or witnessed?”

    I’m not putting my faith in men. I’m putting my faith in God. The description of human nature found throughout scripture is consistent with what I know is true about myself and others, and Jesus is the only sure-fire hope offered by any worldview. No other gives any way to know you’re acceptable to God. Jesus tells us we all are, and that he has paid the price he paid to show us that.

    “this is kind of what I mean… Didn’t you say this just yesterday?”

    Maybe. I can’t claim I’m always consistent. Just doing my best. I stand by what I wrote just a while ago.

    “And if Jesus paid my taxes, why is God still trying to collect from me?”

    He’s not.

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  103. Josh – “I’m not putting my faith in men. I’m putting my faith in God. The description of human nature found throughout scripture is consistent with what I know is true about myself and others, and Jesus is the only sure-fire hope offered by any worldview. No other gives any way to know you’re acceptable to God. Jesus tells us we all are, and that he has paid the price he paid to show us that.”

    but you’r getting that knowledge about god from a book that men wrote. men copied it and translated it. men handed it to you. even The bible itself literally states that god’s fingerprints are not on it. These men claim to be speaking for god. To believe those men’s claims is faith, first and foremost, in those men’s claims – not in god.

    you may have faith that there is a god, but it’s all based on the claims of man, or faith in the claims of man, rather.

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  104. Nate – “So Josh, you don’t believe in Hell?”

    Probably not in the sense that you are thinking. I don’t know if you’ve read CS Lewis’ The Great Divorce, but I’d recommend it.

    “God can be as mysterious as he wants, because it doesn’t matter if we don’t figure it out. But if that’s the case, I’m not sure why we’re debating the Bible so much.”

    I don’t think God is “being mysterious”, I just think there are things about him that we just can’t understand. We’re debating the Bible because, even though I hold to the things I’m saying about grace, I think there are ways in which you’re misreading the Bible.

    “Josh seems to dislike my take on the Bible, but I have trouble seeing how he can agree with much of it if he doesn’t believe there’s any kind of punishment in the afterlife?”

    Because there’s benefits to understanding the way that these things are true ALREADY, and not just how they will be true in the future. There is joy in standing on the foundation now, as I experience it. I’m trying to share that. You can stand on the foundation or not.

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  105. Too, if what the Bible says about human nature is consistent with what you know through your own experiences, isn’t it at least possible that the people who wrote the Bible looked no further than their own experiences to write that? Why would they need divine inspiration for something we already know about ourselves?

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  106. “Why would they need divine inspiration for something we already know about ourselves?”

    I didn’t always know it about myself, and I still don’t know all of it. And, I know plenty of people who don’t know it.

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  107. Ah, but there’s joy in my worldview as well. you’re trying to correct a problem that doesn’t exist — at least, it doesn’t exist for me.

    And if we can’t understand some of the things God’s relating to us, then he could have made us in a way that we would understand.

    It seems completely obvious to me that the fact we don’t understand God, the Bible is filled with problems, God doesn’t interact with us personally, etc, simply shows that he’s myth. I find that to be, by far, the simplest explanation of what we see.

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  108. “you may have faith that there is a god, but it’s all based on the claims of man, or faith in the claims of man, rather.”

    It’s not all based on claims of men. I tried to point that out. Looks like I failed.

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  109. “Why would they need divine inspiration for something we already know about ourselves?”

    I didn’t always know it about myself, and I still don’t know all of it. And, I know plenty of people who don’t know it.

    Then how do you know it’s true? Does this not seem a bit circular to you?

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  110. so your faith has nothing to do with the bible, but with your own personal experiences then?

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  111. Josh,
    You could have conceived of a God Figure in your mind like others before you, but you didn’t conceive a Jesus Figure. You had to read about him from a book written by men.

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  112. “Ah, but there’s joy in my worldview as well. you’re trying to correct a problem that doesn’t exist — at least, it doesn’t exist for me.”

    I’m not trying to correct a problem. I’m responding to your posts, which invite debate and discussion.

    “And if we can’t understand some of the things God’s relating to us, then he could have made us in a way that we would understand.”

    Probably. But, again, you’re placing requirements on God.

    “It seems completely obvious to me that the fact we don’t understand God, the Bible is filled with problems, God doesn’t interact with us personally, etc, simply shows that he’s myth. I find that to be, by far, the simplest explanation of what we see.”

    Fair enough. I agree we can’t completely understand God. I disagree with you on each other point. I agree that it is rather simple to come to that conclusion. I’m not sure that simple is the point, though. Relationships aren’t simple.

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  113. Relationships?!

    I’ve never seen God, and he’s never spoken to me. How is that a relationship? You and I — who only know one another from these discussions — have a closer relationship than I (and I would wager you as well) have with God.

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  114. According to you, Nate and William, I make about as much sense as scripture (probably less since anything I write is uninspired). I’ll take that and go home for now. I’m losing the ability to keep going here 🙂

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  115. I think Nate is referring to Occam’s Razor, josh. I doubt you’re arguing that the most complex solution is often the correct one…

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  116. Thanks for talking with us, Josh. I know it’s not easy to have these conversations — especially when there’s no one else in the discussion that sees it your way. I’ve felt that way at Humblesmith’s blog before.

    Anyway, I hope you’ll come back when you can, whether it’s on this thread or another.

    Thanks

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  117. Of course, Nate. I was just having trouble keeping up while at work (don’t tell anyone), and was thinking if I just left it for several hours until tonight there would be 30 more posts to respond to 🙂

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  118. Josh, I also appreciate your willingness to participate in these discussions.

    I cant speak for you, but this has reminded me of my own past in the faith. As I said before, I used to try a figure the problems of the bible out. To me, the bible simply was “perfect” or “all correct” and the “inspired word of god.” there was no question on that for me and as a consequence I never debated that with myself. It was right, so it all must make sense or all must work out.

    I eventually realized, though after years, that my attempts to “solve” or “rationalize” the issues in the bible, only brought on more issues to fix. More holes to plug or more divides to bridge over. I realized that the issues still existed whether I tried to patch them up or not. Underneath whatever I created to rectify the problems were still the problems themselves.

    When I finally sat back and for the first time and questioned the source of the bible, questioned the author’s claims and it finally all started to make sense. I found it so interesting that after saying it my entire life as a christian, i actually now felt like I had once been blind, but now see.

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  119. William – “so your faith has nothing to do with the bible, but with your own personal experiences then?”

    Just found this comment. Sorry I missed it. The Bible gives “flesh and bones”, if you will, to what I believe. This world needs redemption. I hope for the redemption of all the things inside me that I wish were not there. Jesus is the only option that tells me these things are paid for, redeemed, and their reparation will be revealed in time. My experience does not fuel my faith at all. My experience tells me I’m doomed. My hope grasps for something like Jesus. The Bible gives life to what I would hope for if there were no Bible. When I sit with The Bible and I sit with Jesus he is real. Fantasy? Maybe. But, it offers hope where otherwise there would be none.

    “If your beginning is meaningless, and your end is meaningless, then your middle must be meaningless as well.” – Tim Keller

    So, I guess I basically hope that quote is not a representation of reality.

    Why not other religions? I admit I can’t have understood everything about other religions. However, I find none that offer the hope Christianity does. All others tell us to work to get better and earn “god’s” favor. That sounds flimsy at best.

    To answer your question about what my faith “has to do with”, in one word: Hope.

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  120. I appreciate that last comment of yours, William. I don’t see the Bible the same way you, and I think Nate, see it. You both seem to have trouble with the idea that the Bible, even though it communicates truth about God, can be communicated to us through fallible human beings, and, therefore, be subject to all the mistakes we make. I simply don’t hold the same requirement.

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  121. Josh: ” All others tell us to work to get better and earn “god’s” favor. That sounds flimsy at best.”

    In our everyday lives aren’t we suppose to work to get better ???? And isn’t it suppose to help us find favor with others? That doesn’t sound flimsy to me but a real truth.

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  122. kcchief1: How would you know, if a merit system is how god operates, that you had done enough to earn his favor?

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  123. I guess that’s fair. I do have trouble accepting a fallible end product as the divine word of a perfect being.

    There seems to be too many problems with that. and one is, if the bible has flaws in it, then maybe one of them is that God is in fact perfect and another is that maybe they got Jesus wrong as well.

    And I still cant seem to shake the notion that since man wrote the bible, trusting anything they say is actually faith in them more than it is faith in god.

    Like, if Luke Skywalker said he’d save you. If you hoped that were the case and trusted what he said then you’d in fact have faith that he’d save you. But if Jim Cary told you that Luke Skywalker would save you and you trusted that and hoped that were the case, you’re trust and faith are really in what Jim Cary (Jim Cary of all people) has told you _ Not Luke.

    Especially if Luke didnt save you. Are you going to then confront Luke and say, “I trusted you, Skywalker.” he’d be like, “I never told you I’d do anything. go talk to Jim Cary, i’m going to get some power converters…”

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  124. Josh,

    I would rather try the merit system and say I’ve done my best. Christianity teaches you can do anything you want or nothing. As long as you make that “Confession” with your last breath, You can spend eternity with God. That’s hardly an incentive to do anything in this life to please God or your fellow man. Paul and James were divided over this very same thing.

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  125. “Especially if Luke didnt save you. Are you going to then confront Luke and say, “I trusted you, Skywalker.” he’d be like, “I never told you I’d do anything. go talk to Jim Cary, i’m going to get some power converters…””

    Then, I’d have placed my faith in the wrong thing. I’d likely be dead since there wasn’t a true savior, so the conversation couldn’t take place. Luke was also probably just a dude like me, so he’s not around to have the conversation, either.

    “Matt 7 and other places seem to indicate the bible god expects something of us.”

    God expects everything from us. That’s the beginning part of the narrative leading to Jesus. Romans lays out pretty clearly that the Law (God’s expectations) are designed to show us what sin is. Romans also tells us that no one can meet the Law, and that was the intention of it all along (don’t think that God left everyone hanging – he promised salvation through Abraham’s line long before any of the Jews agreed to keep the commandments). No one can meet the expectations, and God has always known that. He saved us through “the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world”.

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  126. “I would rather try the merit system and say I’ve done my best. Christianity teaches you can do anything you want or nothing. As long as you make that “Confession” with your last breath, You can spend eternity with God.”

    I believe this to be as close to the truth as I could come up with myself. And, a lot of people would side with you on trying the merit system.

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  127. God promised that all notions would be blessed through Abraham’s seed, not that they’d all be saved through his seed. This may sound like I’m splitting hairs, but it could be that the author of genesis was thinking of Joseph’s food stores during the large famine talked about it genesis. This is really an aside and off topic – my fault.

    and you don’t have to have the conversation with Luke or Jim in order to be able to discuss who you may have been trusting in in either given situation. Remember, this is just an analogy. Do you disagree that that you’re putting at least some trust and faith in the claims of the biblical authors? Do you disagree that the things you quote from scripture were written by them?

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  128. William – The promise to Abraham could mean anything – air travel even :). I guess I never start with the OT because I see the NT as the fulfillment of it. Plus, there’s a ton more debate on whether the OT is even historical. It’s just a bad place to start. And, yes, I do trust the NT writers were reporting on things that had actually happened. There’s a fair amount of good reason, in my opinion, to believe that.

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  129. I shouldn’t say “I never start with the OT”. I get sucked into a good discussion like anyone else. I like to think I never start with the OT 🙂

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  130. And yet God started with the OT…

    I think the point William is making through his Jim Carey and Luke Skywalker analogy is that your trust would have been in Jim Carey all along. Even though he may have told you that Luke Skywalker would save you, your faith is not actually in Skywalker — it’s in Jim Carey. You’re putting your trust in his claims.

    In the same manner, you’ve put your trust in the claims of the Bible — yet who wrote it? We don’t even know. Most Christians acknowledge that the gospels were anonymous, some of the epistles were likely forgeries, and we don’t know who most of the OT authors were. So regardless of whether or not they’re right in their claims, your faith in Christianity is based on the authors of the Bible, not God. The world around us (creation, etc) can lead to a faith in God, but there’s no way to get to the Christian God without the Bible. Therefore, the core of your faith is in men.

    I believe that’s what William is saying.

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  131. As I write this, there have been 156 comments. I have followed the rather frenetic (but wonderfully polite!) discussion without comment, but I can’t resist being No 157!

    For the record, I find myself pretty much in agreement with Josh. So, Nate, your empathy for him being on his own in the discussion is admirable, but he has at least one supporter (for what that’s worth!).

    Nate said: “If God doesn’t require me to believe it, then I agree with you.”
    I think there are many truths, but very few things God requires us to believe. The thief on the cross knew very little; Romans 10:13 (quoting Joel in the OT) says “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”; and the OT faithful jews didn’t know anything of Jesus

    If I may be permitted an observation that is not intended to be personally critical, there are two things I observe in your viewpoint (and that of many other non-believers) which I think are major factors in your disbelief (from my perspective):

    1. I agree with Josh that you make assumptions about how the Bible and God “ought” to be, when really we have very little basis for many of these. If we just take things as they are, and decide on them without those assumptions, disbelief may not appear to be so true. The obvious example is Biblical inerrancy. Nothing else we know is inerrant, not even the transmission & translation of the Bible,yet we know heaps of things. Why should the Bible be either inerrant, or nothing?

    2. Most atheists (probably coming from a scientific mindset) seem to think that God’s main purpose is to reveal knowledge, like some cosmic professor. Knowledge is good, but it isn’t the only or even the most important thing. I think the Bible clearly teaches we are judged by what we know (see John 9:41 for example), and that “heart attitude” and response to Jesus are more important than knowledge.

    I’m not suggesting if you accepted these things you would suddenly believe, but I do think much of the disagreement here comes down to these two things.

    Best wishes.

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  132. “So regardless of whether or not they’re right in their claims, your faith in Christianity is based on the authors of the Bible, not God. The world around us (creation, etc) can lead to a faith in God, but there’s no way to get to the Christian God without the Bible. Therefore, the core of your faith is in men.”

    Nate, this is another example of an either-or assumption. The most reasonable conclusion, I believe, is that the Bible authors were inspired by God but not made perfect by God. So it isn’t either-or but both-and.

    So the core of my faith is in God, who works through people to give us sufficient understanding to respond to him, but not perfect understanding. That’s how we live all the rest of our lives, why shouldn’t it be enough here?

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  133. Here’s the issue, as I see it. It all boils down to consequence.

    If, as traditional Christianity teaches, there is a judgment after this life, then a loving, merciful, and righteous God would ensure that we could know what we need to do to pass that test. This is what I’m referring to when I say “If God doesn’t require me to believe it…” If he does require I believe something in order to be found pleasing to him, then it needs to be very clear and believable. Obviously, it’s not, because many, many people in the world are not Christians. And even among Christians, none of them can seem to agree on what Christianity even is.

    On the other hand, if you guys are right that there’s no punishment for non-Christians after death, then fine. The Bible can be murky and inaccurate, and God can be hidden and mystical. It doesn’t really matter, because there would be no eternal consequences for not believing.

    Make sense?

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  134. Nate, this is another example of an either-or assumption. The most reasonable conclusion, I believe, is that the Bible authors were inspired by God but not made perfect by God. So it isn’t either-or but both-and.

    But it’s still either-or, because you can’t know anything about Jesus without the Bible. True?

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  135. Nate,

    I would like to share one last Christopher Hitchens video before the night ends. It’s 13 minutes long but I would hope Christians and Non-Christians alike would view it and offer their feedback. It certainly made me do a lot of thinking several years ago.

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  136. “if you guys are right that there’s no punishment for non-Christians after death, then fine”

    I didn’t say that. I said knowledge wasn’t the prime requirement, heart attitude and response to Jesus is (IMO). So what is your heart attitude? What is your response to Jesus? I cannot judge that, and you know I respect and like you as much as anyone I have met on the net. But I honesty can’t see that you have responded rightly to Jesus (yet), and I’m not sure if you have the right attitude. I think you are closer than most, but closer isn’t there (yet).

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  137. “Make sense?”

    Yes, it does make sense (at least to me 😉 ). I believe that it is fair enough to say that if we are going to be held accountable for not believing in a particular worldview then the truth of that worldview should be obvious to us. And I also believe it is fair to say that it is even more important if the consequences are eternal. I suppose one could reply that “it is obvious but we are avoiding admitting that”, but like you Nate, I really don’t think that is a reasonable statement to make.

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  138. “But it’s still either-or, because you can’t know anything about Jesus without the Bible. True?”

    Again, I don’t think its so black and white. (1) I know a couple, not raised as christians, who felt, after a series of slightly strange events, that God was communicating with them. So they read up on all the religions and decided that the God of Jesus seemed like the one they were in contact with. They are now Quakers. (2) Thousands of Muslims are becoming followers of Jesus (often without leaving Islam, which is more than just a religion to Muslims, because Muslims regard Jesus as a prophet) because of dreams and visions. (3) I had a friend who was a missionary/Bible translator in the Pacific region. He told me many years ago that the people he lived amongst had many dreams and visions until he translated the Bible, and then there were far less.

    So God can and does communicate outside the Bible, and enough for people to choose to follow Jesus. Of course the Bible tells us a lot more that is helpful. But the question remains – do we need the detailed knowledge of Jesus to be “saved”? I don’t think so, or Abraham, Moses, David, Isaiah and Ezekiel would be “lost”.

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  139. Nate – you’re so focused on the punishment end of this, I think it’s clouding most of the rest of what’s out there. I’ll just make one last comment, and leave it there as far as my commenting on this :). When we read the parables of Jesus we often miss completely what he’s saying. Take a few for example: the Prodigal Son, the generous farmer, and the Good Samaritan.

    In the prodigal son we often take the meaning to be that we ought to be like the prodigal and return to our home. But, the prodigal didn’t return until he was completely out of other options, and only returned so he wouldn’t have to starve. The point of the story is the father who hiked up his clothes and ran to meet his son BEFORE his son said a word. The generous farmer is the same. We focus on the fact that even the last workers to arrive did something. The real point is the ridiculous generosity of the farmer, paying everyone the same simply because he wanted to. The Good Samaritan: we read this and think the message is we ought to not be like the priest and Levite who stepped around the guy, and be like the Samaritan. We are actually the dude on the ground, unable to do anything for himself. Jesus is the Samaritan, putting himself at risk by rescuing someone who is from a group of people that hate him.

    So, my point is that Jesus ministry was about showing how incapable we are to earn God’s favor, and that we don’t have to earn it because Jesus came on God’s behalf to show us how stupidly generous and loving God is. Yes, unkleE is right, you can still choose to say to God “Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take my own road.” I guess I don’t believe so much that God “punishes” you for that as much as he simply allows you to make the choice of living apart from his tangible presence. To Jesus, who is God and knows the incredible joy of God’s presence, this thought was an unimaginable horror. Thus, the references to Gehenna.

    I know you’ll have a hundred counterpoints. And I’ll not muck up the comment section anymore here. I’ll just leave it there.

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  140. Josh, you keep saying “tangible.” I’m not sure you know what that means.

    And Unklee, you say that we’re making assumptions about what the bible ought to be or what god ought to have done. I’m not sure that statement is perfectly accurate. The bible makes some pretty bold claims. It makes claims of things that I’ve never witnessed and claims of things that if any other book or person made, I (and likely the majority of us) would be very skeptical of at the least.

    I assume you don’t hold the koran in the same regard as the bible. Why? is it because you make assumptions about how many books god would provide, or on how his sequel would appear? I don’t think so. Based on its claims and source and everything else you know, you’re able to dismiss that book with good reason.

    Similarly, the bible doesnt even seem to agree on what the character of god is. You admit it has errors and contradictions in it (not unlike works of man). And man has written every other book we have without god’s inspiration, why is the bible different?

    And to say that because people who were not raised as Christians but still converted to Christianity is some sort of evidence of its divinity isnt perfectly accurate either. We can point to the Christians who are converting to Islam or some other faith. We can point to people like nate who were once devout Christians (of one form or another) who left it to be non-religious.

    If anything, all this is evidence for is that religion is complex and murky as are people.

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  141. William, let me just stick to what I said for now.

    “The bible makes some pretty bold claims.”
    My point was that it doesn’t make the claim to be inerrant. So if Nate or you assume that it “ought” to be and judge it accordingly, then you are not judging it on its own terms.

    “And man has written every other book we have without god’s inspiration, why is the bible different?”
    I believe it is inspired, and said so when Nate asked me a specific question, but I don’t ask you to start from that belief. I suggest you treat it as if it’s not different, as a bunch of historical documents, without any assumption of inspiration. Then you will hopefully not be in the mindset of if “it’s not inerrant then it’s not anything”.

    “And to say that because people who were not raised as Christians but still converted to Christianity is some sort of evidence of its divinity”
    I didn’t say that, or anything like it, you are reading something foreign into what I said. Check back. Nate asked me a question about whether the Bible was necessary to know Jesus. I said not necessary though helpful, and gave examples. No other claim.

    I’m sorry, but you have taken my answers to specific question from Nate, and interpreted them to say things I didn’t say. Thanks for your interest, but we need to be on the same page before we can move forwards. Best wishes.

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  142. William, you make some good points. If you look at all the studies being done on the growth rates of World Religions, Islam will surpass Christianity in 14 to 44 years. Does this mean that Islam is right and Christianity is wrong ? As far as unkleE’s comments about the Missionary story, when I used to belong to a Church , my Pastor would caution visiting Missionaries to tone their stories down and at least make them sound believable. I still believe in a Creator of the Big Bang (cause & effect) but I can no longer buy into the stories shared here on this site with an open mind. And yet….I will always be fascinated by the stories of the “Ancients” I still read the Bible often, but without the rose colored glasses.

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  143. UInklee: “Again, I don’t think its so black and white. (1) I know a couple, not raised as christians, who felt, after a series of slightly strange events, that God was communicating with them. So they read up on all the religions and decided that the God of Jesus seemed like the one they were in contact with. They are now Quakers. (2) Thousands of Muslims are becoming followers of Jesus (often without leaving Islam, which is more than just a religion to Muslims, because Muslims regard Jesus as a prophet) because of dreams and visions. (3) I had a friend who was a missionary/Bible translator in the Pacific region. He told me many years ago that the people he lived amongst had many dreams and visions until he translated the Bible, and then there were far less.

    So God can and does communicate outside the Bible, and enough for people to choose to follow Jesus.”

    I dont think I inferred too much outside of what you said. But either way, if you misspoke, or I misunderstood, i think i follow you now… I think.

    But i’m still not following you on the assumption thing. I think I am treating the bible the same as every other book. If I’m making an assumption about it, it would be that there needs to be something pretty significant to support its outrageous claims. otherwise, to me, it looks like a book written by men, compiled by men, distributed and translated by men, just like many other works of literature. I see some truths in it, but I also see some problems in it – much like many other works of man. I have read many books where I haven’t seen contradictions inside that no one claims are from god.

    To me, it looks like you’re not treating the bible equally with other books and texts. That’s why i asked if you’re making assumptions about the koran.

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  144. I’ll admit it. I’m a sucker for being called out 🙂

    William – “Josh, you keep saying “tangible.” I’m not sure you know what that means.”

    I know what tangible means. I was simply trying to create a word picture for you by using that term. Similar to how you keep typing that I “keep saying” things. I’m not actually “saying” anything – I’m typing. But, I know what you mean when you type that I’m “saying” things. It’s much easier to communicate if we don’t have to hold everyone to strictly literal communication.

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  145. I’m just going to make a broad statement to address some of what Josh and unkleE have said. Maybe it will help clear up my position.

    First of all, yes, I think the punishment aspect of Christianity is a major factor. And unkleE made a comment recently that makes me think he and I are on the same page about this:

    I believe that it is fair enough to say that if we are going to be held accountable for not believing in a particular worldview then the truth of that worldview should be obvious to us. And I also believe it is fair to say that it is even more important if the consequences are eternal. I suppose one could reply that “it is obvious but we are avoiding admitting that”, but like you Nate, I really don’t think that is a reasonable statement to make.

    Now, unkleE and Josh don’t believe in eternal punishment, so much of what I write about won’t apply to them. I spend most of my time writing against fundamentalists, who definitely believe in a literal Hell.

    I get the feeling that even if Josh doesn’t believe in the most literal form of Hell, he holds to the CS Lewis position that it’s a place of separation from God, which would supposedly be quite horrible, but at least it’s not like God is directly torturing people. I still think this is just as problematic as a literal fire-and-brimstone Hell for many reasons. One, it implies that the best form of parenthood is to hide from your child the moment they’re born, since God “in his mercy” hides so well from us that we can question his very existence. Speaking as a father, that’s utter hogwash. Secondly, it’s problematic in that God still set up this form of punishment, when he didn’t have to do things that way. But to keep from getting too off-track, I’ll leave it there for now.

    Next point: unkleE also said this:

    I said knowledge wasn’t the prime requirement, heart attitude and response to Jesus is (IMO). So what is your heart attitude? What is your response to Jesus? I cannot judge that, and you know I respect and like you as much as anyone I have met on the net. But I honesty can’t see that you have responded rightly to Jesus (yet), and I’m not sure if you have the right attitude. I think you are closer than most, but closer isn’t there (yet).

    My response to Jesus is that I don’t believe in him. As far as I can tell, that is responding rightly to him. Maybe there are people that have had direct experiences with the divine or supernatural, but I’m not one of them. Until I have the same kind of experience, I’m not going to believe in Christianity, because all the other lines of evidence that are available to me fall far short. At least, that’s how I see them.

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  146. Josh, i get your point. Again, i should probably apologize for my tone… I’m a jerk sometimes… But still, referring to a point someone has made by saying or typing that that “said” or “typed,” while subtly different, doesnt change the discussion.

    while claiming such things are “tangible” when describing things that are literally the exact opposite of “tangible” is incorrect and, at least in my mind, makes the discussion invalid and maybe even pointless if we can claim incorrect notions are true just because…

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  147. I take back my comment about not posting anymore! I can’t resist.

    William – I think you and I are on different planes of communication. Your last paragraph honestly baffles me. I really can’t see how you would hold to that kind of communication, especially if talking about supernatural things. Anyway, I think we’re just talking past each other at this point.

    Nate – “I get the feeling that even if Josh doesn’t believe in the most literal form of Hell, he holds to the CS Lewis position that it’s a place of separation from God, which would supposedly be quite horrible”

    Where I’m at right now in my understanding, I guess I’m not sure that I agree with the statement that it would be “quite horrible”. I think Jesus’ perceives that state as “quite horrible”, and I think I, looking into the possibility of eternity apart from the presence of God, see it is “quite horrible”. But, in my view, assuming what I believe is true, and assuming you retire away from God’s presence, may very well not perceive it as horrible. You, in fact, may perceive eternity with God as more horrible.

    “it implies that the best form of parenthood is to hide from your child the moment they’re born”

    I see God’s way as allowing your children to come to their own decision of whether they choose to live with you or not.

    “Secondly, it’s problematic in that God still set up this form of punishment, when he didn’t have to do things that way. ”

    God set up this form of “punishment” knowing that he would pay the “punishment” himself.

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  148. But he didn’t. I don’t want to be offensive, because I know crucifixion would be an overwhelmingly horrible way to die. But it’s not as though Jesus was the only person to ever be crucified. Furthermore, he went into it knowing exactly what awaited him on the other side. No other person has ever had that kind of comfort when facing death, because no one else could really know what the afterlife is like.

    So to compare it with Hell, even if it’s a non-traditional version of Hell, is just not fair or accurate.

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  149. Nate-

    The crucifixion was not the punishment he endured. I mean, it was punishment. But, the separation of himself from God “why have you forsaken me?” was the punishment he bore for us.

    Reading Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, how could you conclude that his knowing his fate was comforting?

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  150. Josh, maybe we are speaking past each other. You baffle me as well. You were saying that god had a tangible presence… I think that’s incorrect. If he had a presence at all you could only say it was intangible. How is that hard to understand? If it were tangible, you’d be able to touch god, to see god. We cant – therefore it’s not tangible… what am I missing?

    and this – “God set up this form of “punishment” knowing that he would pay the “punishment” himself.”

    If the punishment from God was temporary death, then we’d all probably agree, but since the punishment for for the rest of us (after jesus supposedly already settled that debt for all) is quite different, then we don’t. Jesus was a great example of self control if the bible is right, but he also had a huge advantage if in no other way than he knew, beyond a doubt, what heaven looked like, what god looked like, and he knew exactly and specifically what god wanted. no doubts. No uncertainty. Painful death? absolutely, but he also knew what was on the other side first hand and knew he wouldn’t stay dead first hand. Advantage over us all.

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  151. and if we believe the bible,. Crucifixion wasnt the fate of Christ, it was one small bump in the road to his fate of returning to the “father” to rule beside him. In the garden, christ was anxious over that bump in the road, not what lie on the other side of it.

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  152. The crucifixion was not the punishment he endured. I mean, it was punishment. But, the separation of himself from God “why have you forsaken me?” was the punishment he bore for us.

    Reading Jesus’ prayers in the Garden of Gethsemane, how could you conclude that his knowing his fate was comforting?

    No one looks forward to a painful death. But to know what comes after is more comforting than not knowing.

    I also don’t buy the “why have you forsaken me?” thing. First of all, I don’t really think he said anything like that. Secondly, it’s a quote of Psalm 22. If Jesus really had been the son of God, I don’t see why God would forsake him when he’s doing what God wants. I wrote about that long ago as a Christian, so I won’t go into it further here. You can search for it if you want.

    But even if Jesus had been separated from God, it’s no different than what most people feel on a daily basis. Even if you think Christians have some kind of wireless connection to God, I doubt you think that everyone else does.

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  153. Not to assault you, but this goes back to the original post.

    Josh – ““it implies that the best form of parenthood is to hide from your child the moment they’re born”

    I see God’s way as allowing your children to come to their own decision of whether they choose to live with you or not.”

    If any real father here on earth followed “God’s” fathering example, would they be considered a better father or a worse father?

    Did you or any of your siblings wonder if your farther was real? Did you have conversations with your father, get actual hugs from your father, or did you speak into the air hoping your absent father heard you? Did you get comfort by thinking your non-present (intangible) father was caring about you?

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  154. “I also don’t buy the “why have you forsaken me?” thing. First of all, I don’t really think he said anything like that. Secondly, it’s a quote of Psalm 22.”

    Jesus said a lot of things that were in the OT. Do we 86 everything on that list? He was the fulfillment of the OT.

    “If Jesus really had been the son of God, I don’t see why God would forsake him when he’s doing what God wants.”

    So, you’d buy that, even if he was the son of god, he was insulted, tortured, and crucified, but not that he would be forsaken?

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  155. According to mathew jesus even fulfilled a lot of OT prophecies that weren’t even there. Truly miraculous.

    Go back and look up the “prophecies” in the OT that jesus supposedly fulfilled…

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  156. So, you’d buy that, even if he was the son of god, he was insulted, tortured, and crucified, but not that he would be forsaken?

    Yes. The former things were done to him by humanity — the latter would be done to him by God. So why would God act that way?

    My point about it quoting Psalm 22 is that I think the gospel writers are simply having Jesus quote that opening line as a reference, not because God actually forsook him. If you remember, he dies right after saying it, which would imply that God has mercy and ends it for him. Just as you complained earlier of taking things to literally, I think this verse has been taken literally to a fault. At the very least, it’s complex enough that it shouldn’t be relied on as a major point; ie, that the separation was literal and a form of torture.

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  157. Josh: “Jesus said a lot of things that were in the OT. Do we 86 everything on that list? He was the fulfillment of the OT.”

    You won’t find many Jews over the past 2000 years who agree with this.

    Geza Vermes has written several books on the Birth, Resurrection and Crucifixion which uses OT scripture to refute these claims.

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  158. Nate, you and I are on the same page about Psalm 22. In those days, by quoting the first line of a Psalm, the entire Psalm would have been brought to the hearer’s mind. The Psalm in its entirety is quite victorious (“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; Nor has He hidden His face from him; But when he cried to Him for help, He heard.” v. 24). God never forsook Jesus or turned away from Him, though the human side of Christ may have felt that way for a moment, thus the prayer and reminder of God’s faithfulness.

    If God and Jesus were not in on the deal together then we have a picture of an angry god literally bull-whipping His only Son in our place – sounds a bit schizophrenic for the Trinity to me and an awful lot like every other pagan god being worshiped around the world. We also have Jesus saying to the Father, “Don’t hurt them, murder ME instead!” Utter nonsense. Like Jesus loves us but the Father is experiencing murderous hatred towards His creation. Not buying that paradigm anymore. Jus’ sayin’.

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  159. Josh, I recommend you check out some of Baxter Kruger’s work. My favorite book by him is “Jesus and the Undoing of Adam”. I think there would be LOTS of stuff in there you would agree with. However, you’d have to bring into question the validity of the penal substitutionary view of the atonement. And I know from your Keller quotes, that’s going to be tough. 😉 (I sat under Tim in Hopewell, VA for about 3 years in High School and then again at Westminster Seminary – New LIfe Church – when my husband was there in ’88).

    C.S. Lewis, however, was not much on penal substitutionary atonement but held a view closer to mine – that we were not ‘saved’ from God’s wrath, but from imprisonment to the principalities and powers of anti-Christ (the deep magic talked about in the Narnia series).

    Anyway, something to think about that relates to this discussion, methinks.

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  160. Nice blog article, Nate! Yeah, it has always struck me that the idea that God couldn’t look on sin would eliminate Christ’s ability to walk on the earth for a second, much less 33 years! 🙂 But, then, I don’t think most Christians REALLY believe that Jesus was God in the flesh… yet another blog topic.

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  161. Read your article on Psalm 22, Nate. Really interesting.

    JudahFirst – interesting points.

    I believe once you start hacking away at what happened on the cross – that it wasn’t penal substitution, that God did not forsake Jesus, etc – you start traveling down a road that will eventually lead to the disregard for any meaning in Jesus’ substitution. The cross and what happened there – physically and spiritually – is the central focus of the entire NT. You start taking away that and everything crumbles down around it. I believe a lot of what I have been saying (which, is taken from the likes of Robert Farrar Capon, Internet Monk, Brennan Manning, Rod Rosenbladt, etc) infuses more love into what happened on the cross. Chipping away at that does not make God more loving. The less God cares about who we are and what we do and how we treat others, the less loving he becomes. When you start steering him toward a God who needed less and less to be accomplished on the cross, you make him less and less interested in what happens to us. It’s because he cares so much about who we are in his image that he demands payment for our shunning him. It is because he loves us enough to want to be with us that he pays that price himself in our place. The less serious our rebellion becomes, and the less God pays on the cross, the less I am inclined to believe he cares.

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  162. Josh, I hear what you are saying, I really do. But the only way you can come to those conclusions is to hold to a view of an angry god – whose wrath must be satisfied in some way. I hope you will read my 3 atonement articles (on my blog) about the difference between forgiveness and getting paid. If Jesus paid God then there is nothing for God to forgive, and He in fact, does NOT forgive. The picture of God which penal substitutionary atonement paints is not only completely absent from the N.T. as well as the writings of the early Fathers (try some Athenasius on for size), but I believe it is a character assassination which completely removes love from the equation.

    When you begin to understand wrath in terms of passion for something better for the creation, then God’s love and wrath begin to gel. But as long as you see God’s wrath as an anger towards sinners that must be appeased, you are worshiping a pagan god – no different than all of the god’s enumerated in the O.T.

    God’s wrath is directed at sin itself and our sin was dealt with when He allowed us to take it to its full conclusion in the murder of His Son – and yet forgiveness is the response. I don’t believe the N.T. is lying when he asserts that the death of Christ has reconciled the entire creation to the Father (Colossians 1 and many other verses). The key to the reconciliation is not that Jesus’ death changed God, but us. That is the whole crux of the argument regarding what happened on the cross: what changed? God? or me? According to Scripture God does not change. Has to be me. 🙂

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  163. Josh, I think you might be taking our comments further than we intend. I fully agree that the Bible says Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice for sins. Hebrews goes through in great detail to say that he was the perfect sacrifice, because he was without blemish. And his sacrifice brings meaning to all the OT sacrifices that came before. It also teaches that he was the perfect high priest, because he was high priest of the order of Melchizedek, not Levi. Melchizedek was a high priest because of his great character, not because of his lineage. And the fact that Abraham paid homage to him made him “better” than Levi, Abraham’s great-grandson. Finally, Jesus could claim to be king, because he was a descendant of David.

    So even if God did not literally forsake him, all those teachings would still remain intact. It still speaks of the absolute importance of Jesus and makes him the central figure of the Bible. I suggest thinking through all the implications a bit more before coming to a conclusion on it. It’s a complicated subject, and it’s true that mainstream Christianity views that passage as a literal forsaking by God. But how much sense does that really make? And honestly, how often do mainstream Christians really think that deeply about details like this?

    In fact, I’d say that it displays more of God’s love if he was with Jesus every step of the way during the crucifixion. And I think JudahFirst makes an important point when she reminds us that Christian theology says Jesus and God, while separate, were also the same. So how could God forsake himself? Or spend so much time in a sinful world? Or listen to the prayers of those who are sinful (Cornelius, etc)?

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  164. “According to Scripture God does not change. Has to be me.”

    Agreed. I don’t think any of what I wrote indicates God changed.

    “But as long as you see God’s wrath as an anger towards sinners that must be appeased, you are worshiping a pagan god”

    Not if he intended to pay the price all along “the Lamb that was slain from the foundation of the world”. And, I don’t believe his anger is toward us – I believe it is toward our sin, as you wrote as well. If his anger was toward us he would not have suffered to remove the stain of sin from us.

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  165. Nate, the only place I would disagree with your sacrifice imagery is in terms of who Jesus was sacrificed TO. In the O.T. system the sacrifice was being given to God. But in the N.T. Jesus is offered BY God as a sacrifice TO mankind (read some of the N.T. texts in Hebrews and other places a little closer and you will see this is true). We did not sacrifice Jesus to God as an appeasement of wrath – that is the penal substitutionary view (relatively “new” in terms of history). It gets really interesting when you begin to see this truth.

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  166. If God truly wanted to reconcile the World to Him, why did He choose a Jewish Profit exclusively to do so ? There might be 2 billion people at best who believe this but there are almost 5 billion people who do not and according to the Scriptures will be Lost. This doesn’t sound like a very good plan for an All Knowing Deity .

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  167. “It’s a complicated subject, and it’s true that mainstream Christianity views that passage as a literal forsaking by God. But how much sense does that really make?”

    I think it makes a lot of sense. If Jesus was not separated from God, then he suffered nothing more than anyone else who was crucified. You said yourself the crucifixion is not, by itself, a remarkable death. People suffer that all the time. You’d think, if that was the suffering being referred to, then no on else would suffer the same or worse physical punishment. We know that is not the case.

    “So how could God forsake himself? Or spend so much time in a sinful world? Or listen to the prayers of those who are sinful (Cornelius, etc)?”

    I agree with the statement about God and Jesus, while separate, were also the same. In answer to your questions listed here. 1) I don’t know, but I believe it happened. 2) I don’t know that either, but he did. 3) I don’t know that either, but he does. This comes back to my point about not understanding a being that is clearly beyond us. These questions presume we should be able to understand how he operates. I don’t think that’s the case. And, to be fair, I’m not trying to claim that I can give a detailed description of what is implied by “why have you forsaken me?”, but the general principle of what I’m talking about makes sense.

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  168. 1) I don’t know, but I believe it happened. 2) I don’t know that either, but he did. 3) I don’t know that either, but he does. This comes back to my point about not understanding a being that is clearly beyond us. These questions presume we should be able to understand how he operates. I don’t think that’s the case. And, to be fair, I’m not trying to claim that I can give a detailed description of what is implied by “why have you forsaken me?”, but the general principle of what I’m talking about makes sense.

    So the more ridiculous the better?

    This is where you and I keep parting ways. I’m not saying that we would have to understand every aspect of God or his nature. But if he is communicating something to us (the Bible), and he wants us to believe it (as countless scriptures attest), then it needs to be a bit more coherent than it is. At least, it needs to in order to gain wide appeal. There are always people who are willing to believe things, even if they make little to no sense, but these people often end up on the wrong side of things. And the Bible usually doesn’t speak very positively about them, since they’re “carried about by every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4). We should eventually reach a point where we’re capable of digesting “solid food,” not just “milk” (Heb 5). You can’t do that if the stuff doesn’t make any sense.

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  169. “There might be 2 billion people at best who believe this but there are almost 5 billion people who do not and according to the Scriptures will be Lost. ”

    Like unkleE pointed out, there are countless stories that indicate God has worked to reveal the truth of Jesus in the lives of people who have not heard the direct story about Jesus.

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  170. “At least, it needs to in order to gain wide appeal. ”

    This appears to be a demonstrably false statement.

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  171. Josh, “Like unkleE pointed out, there are countless stories that indicate God has worked to reveal the truth of Jesus in the lives of people who have not heard the direct story about Jesus.”

    5 billion stories ??? And what about the countless billions who have died over the past 2 thousand years ?

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  172. “At least, it needs to in order to gain wide appeal. ”

    This appears to be a demonstrably false statement.

    No, it’s not demonstrably false, because the majority of the world population has always been something other than Christian.

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  173. “it’s not demonstrably false, because the majority of the world population has always been something other than Christian.”

    I didn’t know you meant “majority of the world population”. I misread what you meant by wide appeal.

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  174. “5 billion stories ??? And what about the countless billions who have died over the past 2 thousand years ?”

    Possibly. If he’s done it for one, and more than one person has told this story, then you can’t disallow the possibility he’s done it for that many.

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  175. kcchief1 – don’t you want the merit system, anyway? What does it matter to you if God communicates to people in ways you don’t know about?

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  176. “But if he is communicating something to us (the Bible), and he wants us to believe it (as countless scriptures attest), then it needs to be a bit more coherent than it is.”

    This is the basic assumption you’re arguing from, Nate. I don’t agree with it. Maybe we ought to just let it rest there? I don’t know. I can keep going if you want, but I think most of what we’re talking about boils down to our disagreement here.

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  177. Hi Nate – I’ve only had time on my break at work to read through a small handful of the latest comments here, so I’m not sure you have corrected this yet, but the comment that started with “I believe that it is fair enough to say that if we are going to be held accountable for not believing in a particular worldview then the truth of that worldview should be obvious to us” was actually my comment and not Unklee’s… I was wondering last night if that was why you wrote to Unklee that you love it when you guys agree! 🙂 I’m hoping to have time tonight to read through the next 100 comments and possibly be able to throw in a short comment of my own. 🙂

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  178. Josh – ““5 billion stories ??? And what about the countless billions who have died over the past 2 thousand years ?”

    Possibly. If he’s done it for one, and more than one person has told this story, then you can’t disallow the possibility he’s done it for that many.”

    huh? is this another demonstrably tangible thing?

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  179. Josh – ““But if he is communicating something to us (the Bible), and he wants us to believe it (as countless scriptures attest), then it needs to be a bit more coherent than it is.”

    This is the basic assumption you’re arguing from, Nate. I don’t agree with it. Maybe we ought to just let it rest there? I don’t know. I can keep going if you want, but I think most of what we’re talking about boils down to our disagreement here.”

    What is it that you dont agree with or that you think the assumption is? that god is communicating something he wants us to believe, or that it should be coherent to do so?

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  180. “huh? is this another demonstrably tangible thing?”

    William – Alright, I have to say I’m getting a little annoyed with your “tangible” stuff. I apologize for using an imprecise word with you. I will do my best not to do that in the future.

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  181. “5 billion stories ??? And what about the countless billions who have died over the past 2 thousand years ?”

    Possibly. If he’s done it for one, and more than one person has told this story, then you can’t disallow the possibility he’s done it for that many.

    Josh: Here is where you have set aside All Logic .

    Josh
    May 30, 2013 at 12:18 pm
    kcchief1 – don’t you want the merit system, anyway? What does it matter to you if God communicates to people in ways you don’t know about?

    Because if God for example communicated a simple Merit System to the World, He might have eliminated the millions of people killed as a result of Holy Wars. We wouldn’t be having these discussions either. We would be busy helping our fellow man instead of trying to convince him there is only one way to God.

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  182. no, there I go again, but you keep not making sense and it’s getting hard for me to keep up. Without any sarcasm this time, it seems like you’re making stuff up to suit whatever point you’re trying to make at the time – changing the rules when it helps you.

    So while I should apologize for being antagonistic, I am also annoyed at your disregard for simple reason and fair play.

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  183. Now ya’ll are makin’ me laugh. 😉 Just remember that the internet (typed communication without the benefit of any tone of voice or facial expression) is THE worst communication medium ever invented when it comes to the possibility of misunderstanding. Try to give each other the benefit of the doubt (and a little sarcasm, of course). 🙂

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  184. William, staunch evangelicals have to change the rules as they go … it’s the only way they can make sense of a loving God punishing a human being just for being human. 😉 (A little tongue-in-cheek, there, Josh, don’t take offense.)

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  185. I gotta echo JudahFirst’s comment, guys.

    It speaks highly of Josh that he’d even discuss this junk with us. William, I know you’re a good guy too. So I know that these rising temperatures are due more to misunderstanding, and the frustration that comes with trying to relay ideas like these that are infinitely complex. If necessary, just take a break for a bit. No need for things to escalate.

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  186. Hey, Josh, have you ever heard Rob Bell’s talk, “The God’s Aren’t Angry”? Hopefully you’re not one of those who has written him off just because John Piper did… Surely not. 🙂 Anyway, it’s a GREAT video!! And I can say that after 30+ years of listening to preachers expound the Bible, I have never found anyone who clearly explains the Hebrew culture like Rob.

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  187. Howie, thanks for setting me straight! I don’t know how I got confused by that last night. And once again, you and I completely agree 🙂

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  188. Yeah, sorry Nate and Josh. I’ll back off a bit. I’m not gonna do what every thinks I’m gonna do and FLIP out….

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  189. I wonder if the “rules” being broken aren’t ones that were set in place by humans in the first place? God, in his very nature, defies our reasoning. His being cannot be logically deduced or concluded. If you’ve come to believe in a God who is the beginning and the end, is three distinct individuals within one entity, was fully God and fully Man in one human, was dead and resurrected, etc, etc, etc, then you already believe in something that is completely unreasonable. I think the error we make is that we can reason to him in the first place. I said this earlier, and quoted Paul. I know Nate rebutted that verse, but again, I think it’s stated several times throughout scripture that our wisdom and ability to reason cannot “find” God.

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  190. I agree it’s frustrating on both ends – I think we are really coming at this from two completely different understandings, and expecting to communicate the same language. As I just mentioned, I am already beginning from a God who defies our understanding. So, I’m not as bothered by getting tripped up, or mistaking, or re-evaluating, or trying to state something a little differently. Maybe that’s insanity. Who knows.

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  191. To dovetail on that last comment I made. I can’t really answer Nate’s question about why the Bible isn’t clear to everyone. I wish it was. But, I know it’s not. A lot of that I attribute to our human inability to clearly relate things over time and culture. Here’s another place where I trust – I think there are a lot of people who do not represent the love that Jesus came to show. And, if God can’t see past our failures to communicate in order to forgive and love, then he is not the God I believe in.

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  192. Josh, do you ever question whether or not Christianity is really true, or do you just accept it a priori? I’m not asking to be rude or make a point — I’m just genuinely curious. It’s hard for me to understand how you can see that so many of these things don’t make sense and don’t have an explanation, yet never seem to waver in your conviction that they’re true.

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  193. “do you ever question whether or not Christianity is really true”

    Of course I do. I do that a lot. I’d imagine we all doubt sometimes whether what we believe is the truth. I’ve done what I feel is a reasonable amount of digging into other worldviews, and I continue to do so by reading blogs like this, and books, and listening to lectures by Harris, and others. I usually come away thinking that their viewpoint makes even less sense than my own. This may sound outrageous, but I do know how ridiculous some of my beliefs sound to other people, and myself sometimes. If I didn’t believe it down to my core, I wouldn’t defend it for a second.

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  194. In the end, Nate, I think the best answer I can give is to stand with the writer of Hebrews:

    “Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

    I have faith in things that are unseen, unproven, and sometimes unbelievable. I can’t tell you why I continue to have faith at times, as my doubts seem overwhelming. I believe like a child, as Dostoevsky put it. I think, when you look at things through the eyes of faith you see things differently than when you are looking for reason and logic to guide your path. And, like I said, I can’t answer why I maintain that faith or why you don’t seem to have it. Maybe it’s just a joke I play on myself. But “believing like a child” gives me the hope that Jesus has accomplished, and will bring to total fulfillment, everything promised in the NT.

    “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.” – Dostoevsky

    That’s the best I got, Nate 🙂

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  195. Thanks for sharing your perspective, Josh, even though we vehemently disagree.

    I think the kind of faith you’re describing is exactly what keeps people rooted in the religions they’re raised with. How can a Muslim ever leave Islam if he refuses to examine its problems? The same goes for every religion.

    I strongly disagree with Dostoevsky’s quote. To bemoan human contradictions, when the Bible is rife with them is extremely hypocritical to me. We should either be trying to unravel all contradictions, or we should stop complaining about them. And to call Euclid small, when his theories form some of the core principles of mathematics is unthinkable. At least math is one of the few things we can actually prove.

    We live in a rational universe that operates logically. We learn more, understand more, and make better decisions when we rely on reason. To say that the author of the universe can only be understood by abandoning reason is a position I can’t understand or agree with. Such a god is a liar, as I see it, since everything else he’s authored runs completely counter to that idea. I don’t think there’s much else you and I can say on this, because we’re approaching it from such different perspectives that we might as well be speaking different languages. I wish it was different.

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  196. Josh, this where our (yours and mine) misunderstanding lies, I think. In our everyday life the use of logic and reason help us, they make life easier and typically better – and usually if we or others disregard both logic and reason, the opposite is true; things usually get harder and don’t workout as well.

    It seems that we should use logic and reason to our benefit all the time, except when it comes to “god’s word?” It seems odd that our perfectly loving and perfectly perfect creator would make the only exception to the use of logic and reason when it comes to understanding his inspired word… that he had men write for all of us…

    And “I believe like a child…. that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage…” Okay, but even so, the contradictions in the bible will still be there. If contradictions are problematic for humans, why aren’t they for the bible as well?

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  197. Hey JudahFirst
    Rob Bell is one of my favorite Authors. I just finished, “What we talk about when we talk about God. His writings have been a big influence. Adam Hamilton is another great Pastor/Author. “Seeing gray in a World of black and white” also, “When Christians get it wrong”

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  198. KCChief1, I have “What we talk about when we talk about God” on my ‘to-read list’. I’ve read all of his others and still think “Jesus Wants to Save Christians” is the best so far. While I liked “Love Wins”, it was not something so eye-opening for me since my husband and I had already been believing that stuff for 6 years prior to the book’s release (and felt the effects of our having moved out into left field from the utter rejection of our evangelical friends).

    I was not surprised to see Rob leave his church soon after the book’s release. I didn’t imagine his community was that much different from the rest of them I’ve seen… Shame, really. For a group that claims to be preaching love, Christians are some of the most hateful people I know! 😦

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  199. Although Adam Hamilton has not left his Megachurch in Kansas City, he did lose several thousand members after his book “Seeing gray in a world of black and white” came out. He tried to be inclusive of homosexuals and people of other faiths in his book and you know what “Hit the fan” 🙂

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  200. No DOUBT! Same thing that happened to us when we came out believing in Ultimate Reconciliation of All (since in Romans 5, all really means ‘all’). 🙂

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  201. Nate & William –

    Yeah. We are definitely coming from different places. Logic and reason have their place, but I would hardly say that they make me happy, or I use them in everything I do. I make a lot of decisions in my job (as a social worker) that come from my gut and defy anything resembling logic and reason in order to reach some of the people with whom I work. If I dealt with them only on a logical and reasonable basis I would fail a majority of the time. Compassion and instinct win out a lot of the time. I don’t base what I eat on logic or reason, either – I know this because my doctor frequently tells me so.

    One question I do have for you both: It seems to me, in a world that is completely and utterly without meaning (no purpose in being created, and nothing left at the annihilation of the universe), illogical and unreasonable to continue moving forward and trying to “better” yourself when, ultimately, there is no point to our existence. How do you both reconcile your firm grip on logic and reason with your continued work to accomplish things that, in the end of the universe, will mean nothing? Seems a lot like Sisyphus’ dilemma.

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  202. Hey, KC, have you ever heard of Peter Hiett? He’s a teacher out of Colorado who was excommunicated from his denomination for coming out believing what we do. He wrote THE most beautiful letter in response that I have ever seen. If you can find it, it should be somewhere on his church website: http://www.tsdowntown.com. Enjoy!

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  203. No, I have not. But I will check him out. Thanks ! I do follow John Shelby Spong who sounds like this other person you described. He retired as a Bishop from the Anglican Church.

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  204. um, yeah, I see your point, josh. I guess ‘ll begin by saying that while I think nate claims to be some type of atheist, i see myself as agnostic. There could be a god, and I’d even like for there to be, but i am convinced it is not the god of the bible.

    but even so, pointless? that’s a bit of an assumption too I think. regardless, if the long term is pointless because of no afterlife, the short term has much purpose. Our genes evidently want us to move forward so that is one reason I do. another reason is curiosity and another is doing as much as i can for my children and loved ones.

    and also, i am here. i do in fact exist today, just as i did yesterday. I can sit and become stale because I dont know if i’ll be around tomorrow, or because i dont think there have been mansions prepared for me in heaven, or because I dont think Abraham is waiting to welcome into the afterlife, or I can do all that I can while I am here to better myself and to leave a mark for my children, etc. and also because I enjoy it. I dont find life miserable or torture. I enjoy myself. and like being very hungry leads to the tastiest of meals, I think it’s the unpleasantness of life that makes us really appreciate the goodness of life.

    I found your response to logic and reason interesting. i dont think that compassion and instinct have to oppose reason or logic. And as far as people go, i know that we dont always use logic or reason – and, as you pointed out with your diet, to our detriment. but i do think we should try. One reason most of us wouldnt blindfold ourselves and sprint into traffic – it’s just not good sense.

    Humans depend on one another. It’s the way we were created or the way we evolved or whatever. We need compassion to better live with one another and consequently to better survive. so using logic and reason probably should lead toward compassion

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  205. Josh, you didn’t ask me because I haven’t been an active participant in this discussion, but I hope you’ll allow me to answer your last question.

    The fact is, the only time we have is NOW. None of us know the future. You and others may rely on the Bible and its promises for a future life, but there is no proof that this will ever come to pass. I think those of us who rely on logic and reason do so because we have come to the place where we believe it’s our present life that counts. Thus, to us, it is not illogical or unreasonable to better ourselves and do what we can to make this world a better place to live in.

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  206. Yes, I agree with what Nan and William have said. First of all, logic and reason do not preclude compassion or emotion. Even in your job as a social worker, I doubt that you never use logic and reason. Don’t you look at someone’s lifestyle to better understand how to help that person? While their predicament may pull at your heartstrings, you’re also using logic and reasoning to determine the causes and possible solutions to their situation.

    When it comes to looking for the ultimate truth of existence, I fear that if we leave logic and reason in the dust, we’re doomed for failure. I know that earlier, JudahFirst mentioned how beautifully you had written your position. I was shocked to read that, because I thought it was depressing. I’m not trying to be rude or dismissive — I just can’t imagine having a worldview in which I believe the creator of the universe operates illogically. I think that would be a frightening way to look at the world. How would you know what to expect from an all-powerful, but utterly incomprehensible individual?

    In a way, I think I give God more credit than that. If he exists, and he created our universe, then he would have to be brilliant and logical. If he wanted me to understand something, then he would be able to communicate it to me in a way I understand, since he designed me with a purpose in mind. And if I strive to use logic and reason in my own life, how could he be disappointed by that?

    But I digress. As to purpose, I find that my life has a lot of purpose. It’s the purpose that I put into it. If all I have is this life, then my life-span is my eternity. After all, in a true timeless eternity, there’s no way to measure time, because there’s never an end to it. So eternity becomes the sum of your existence. In that way, both of us believe in “eternity” — I just believe that mine happens now.

    And if you’re positing that our life has no meaning because we don’t have a “higher” purpose, then even if you were right, what meaning would God have? By definition there’s no higher purpose than he, but according to you, that’s not enough to give a life meaning. He should have a higher purpose.

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  207. Nate-
    I don’t take what you wrote as rude or dismissive. I find your worldview just as depressing as you find mine :).

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  208. Nate & Josh
    Though I am a Deist, I am probably closer to Nate’s end of the spectrum . I feel better now than I ever felt being a Christian. I feel liberated from guilt most of all. I do believe in God but no longer feel afraid of him or that I have to have a relationship with Him. My desire to do good and make others and myself happy is because of my gratitude for being here and experiencing as much of His Creation as life has to offer. If there is an afterlife and God wants me to spend it with Him, Great ! If not, I am no longer worried about an eternal punishment. My desire is to concentrate on the “Now” . Be all I can be “Now”

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  209. I’m not sure I believe in “God” any more (certainly not the Christian God!), but everything else you said, I totally agree. I’ve also been on the guilt route and it’s soooo nice to be FREE!

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  210. “It is in giving that we receive, it is in loving that we are loved, it is in forgiving that we are forgiven and ultimately it is in death that we live.” John Shelby Spong

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  211. Nate,

    You found THIS to be depressing??:

    “I believe like a child that suffering will be healed and made up for, that all the humiliating absurdity of human contradictions will vanish like a pitiful mirage, like the despicable fabrication of the impotent and infinitely small Euclidean mind of man, that in the world’s finale, at the moment of eternal harmony, something so precious will come to pass that it will suffice for all hearts, for the comforting of all resentments, for the atonement of all the crimes of humanity, for all the blood that they’ve shed; that it will make it not only possible to forgive but to justify all that has happened.” – Dostoevsky

    There is great hope and peace in the utter reversal of everything that has ever been wrong with the world. This is what Jesus started: the great reversal. I bet for those who have really suffered something (rape, the death of a child, a terrorist attack…) this would be good news! We live in a MESS, but it’s hard to see that sitting in America, I grant you.

    I heard a comedian today talking about how in America we have it so great that we have to invent problems to complain about. He contrasted a guy at the ATM complaining about having to choose English by pushing a button to a community in the Sudan where the day’s woe was that the government was chopping off heads. This world is screwed … even if we stopped all the horrors today, what do you do with the millennia of sorrow up to now?? (It’s irritating to me that my computer is saying I’m misspelling millennia.)

    The greatest hope we have is that someday, someHOW God is going to make everything right. I know that is not in my power, although I can do what I am able each day to make my world a better place. Too little too late to say the least.

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  212. kc-
    Excellent quote.

    JudahFirst-
    I agree wholeheartedly with what you wrote. If this was the Facebook I’d give you a huge Like on that one 🙂
    And, I appreciate so much that you felt what I wrote was beautiful. Thanks 🙂

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  213. (((Josh))) Look me up on FB if you get the chance: Cindy Ameen Welch. Make sure you ID yourself if you friend request me. I never accept people I am not familiar with. Oh, and please don’t tell Tim what a heretic I’ve become! hehe

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  214. Yes, I did find it depressing. Look, who wouldn’t want an end to suffering? But that’s the only part of it I agreed with. I think the kind of outlook that was described in Josh’s comment — not just this quote, but the whole thing — displays this negative view of humanity that’s been beaten into us by Christianity. We’re taught that we’re awful creatures in need of redemption, when most of us are actually trying to be pretty decent people. There’s nothing wrong with being human, but Christianity needs us to think there is so we’ll want what it’s peddling. It’s almost like a pusher, in that way.

    The other part I found depressing was this:

    I have faith in things that are unseen, unproven, and sometimes unbelievable. I can’t tell you why I continue to have faith at times, as my doubts seem overwhelming. I believe like a child, as Dostoevsky put it. I think, when you look at things through the eyes of faith you see things differently than when you are looking for reason and logic to guide your path. And, like I said, I can’t answer why I maintain that faith or why you don’t seem to have it. Maybe it’s just a joke I play on myself. But “believing like a child” gives me the hope that Jesus has accomplished, and will bring to total fulfillment, everything promised in the NT.

    This seems to make a virtue out of credulity. 1 Peter 3:15 says a Christian should be able to give a defense for the hope within them. That does not mean they should talk about how unbelievable it all is, yet for some reason they’re unsure of, they somehow maintain belief. It seems to me that it would be frightening to live that way.

    I know why I believe what I believe. When I was a Christian, I knew why I was a Christian. To carry on any other way does not seem noble to me, it seems ignorant. I don’t mean that with any offense — I like Josh very much, and I believe he’s sincere. I’ve just found through the course of this discussion that we’re more different than I first imagined.

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  215. Yes, I definitely am not about believing everything even if I can’t understand it. But there are TONS of things I’ve come to be okay with saying “I don’t know” about. I don’t think anyone has the ability to figure out all the answers, be they atheist or Christian. For me Christopher Hitchens was no more convincing than Josh’s defense of penal substitutionary atonement (sorry, Josh, just as example). Actually, Hitchens was less so just because of the obvious arrogance he exudes. I can’t stand arrogance, in the church or out of it. Everyone I know puts their pants on one leg at a time, and NO ONE has a corner on Truth.

    But one need never darken the door of a church to be aware of the utter evil in the world around us. From the Sadam Husseins of the world to the Ted Bundys, this place reeks. Did you ever consider that the one thing you will NEVER have to teach your child is to lie? That one’s inborn. The Bible didn’t tell me that, experience raising 3 kids did.

    I don’t proclaim the evil of the world in order to make people feel guilty or peddle any version of Christianity – I don’t have to. Evil proclaims itself and it permeates our world. What I’m peddling is hope. The idea of trying to overcome the evil of the whole of humanity on my own in my very (relatively) short lifetime is the most daunting thing I can think of! But the hope that God can and will make this mess right – now that is something I find worth exploring – staking my life on, even. In my 49+ years so far, I have not found anything else worth doing that.

    So, if in some small way, I can participate in reversing this mess into something amazing, then that is what I want to do. I peddle hope and it’s a WAY better message than anything I’ve heard from any other quarter, be it another religion or an anti-religion.

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  216. I could be taking that last comment of yours a little wrong, Nate. But, it seems you’re taking just the one comment I wrote and siphoning it off from all others. I think I have – at least I’ve tried – to give reasons why I believe what I believe. This comment was meant to address, primarily, the mysteries of a being beyond my comprehension. You have made clear that you require detailed explanations at every level of revelation. I’ve decided I can take the evidence that is there, add it to the faith I have in things I cannot explain, yet also seem to make good sense to me, and come up with a complete picture. That post you reference was detailing only one piece of that puzzle. Apologies if that makes my communication seem misleading. I’m just trying to address the questions as they come.

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  217. No worries Judah. I know at least some of what I believe is probably wrong (agreed none of us has all the answers), and I know that I contradict myself as I try to rethink, restate and clarify what I believe. Sometimes I modify the way I think about something in between comments (GASP!). I know that’s poor form, but that’s the way it goes sometimes. 🙂

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  218. JudahFirst
    Nothing wrong having the Hope for things to get better . Yes this World is somewhat of a mess. As long as we indoctrinate children with Exclusive Religions that teach their way is the “Only Way” , we will have people willing to fly planes into buildings and march at Military Funerals proclaiming “God hates Fags” Indoctrinating Children with “Love” will not solve every problem but what a Heck of a start ! Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

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  219. Sorry Josh, you’re right that your comment was really talking about something more specific, and I took it too general.

    To be clear, I still think that if we claim God wants everyone to believe in him, but then can’t explain why he doesn’t make it clearer, that’s a problem. And I still think it should make one question their premise very heavily.

    JudahFirst, I agree that world has its problems. But we can work to make those things better as individuals. If God’s going to set them right, he hasn’t done a great job so far, or you wouldn’t have had such a long list to work from. It would be nice to think that there’s an afterlife where everything’s perfect, I just see no reason to think that’s so. Hope it’s so? Sure, I guess. But no reason to think it is.

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  220. 264 comments. You know you’ve got a good blog, and some good discussion, when you’re pushing 300 comments in one thread, Nate 🙂

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  221. @JudahFirst – I really like what you’ve said here in your first paragraph, especially the part about “there are TONS of things I’ve come to be okay with saying “I don’t know” about. I don’t think anyone has the ability to figure out all the answers, be they atheist or Christian, or Bahai or Buddhist, etc.” (I added a little to it 😉 ). And I’m also turned off by arrogance no matter what the person believes.

    As far as the utter evil in the world goes, I see a lot of bad stuff in the world too, but for all the Saddam Hussein’s and Ted Bundy’s, we also have the JudahFirst’s, Nate’s, William’s, Unklee’s, Josh’s, KC’s, Nan’s etc. (not purposely missing any names!) I think I see the world a little more through a Yin-Yang type of philosophy. In fact whenever I hear someone say that the Christian or Muslim worldviews are the best explanation of the state of our world I always think that the more eastern philosophies and religions actually describe things a bit closer to the way things look.

    You are right that I have never had to teach my kids to lie, but I’ve also never taught them to speak truth and they do that as well. They’ve always done both.

    @Nate: I agree with you as well that we should work together as humans to try and make the world’s problems better. I wouldn’t stop anyone from praying too of they think that helps, but it should never stop us from giving the effort on our own as well.

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  222. “But i’m still not following you on the assumption thing. I think I am treating the bible the same as every other book.”

    HI William. If you are not making the assumption about the Bible that I referred to, then my comment isn’t directed at you. I didn’t actually include you in it. My comment was directed at Nate, and anyone else who takes a view somewhat like: “If God wrote the Bible then it ought to be …..”, especially if the thing it “ought” to be is inerrant. There are reasons to believe the Bible and to disbelieve it, or to believe parts and not others, but I don’t think our expectations of what it ought to be are a very good guide to anything except us, unless we can offer a good reason supporting our expectations.

    “To me, it looks like you’re not treating the bible equally with other books and texts.”

    No I don’t now, because i have decided I believe it is inspired by God, if we understand “inspired” correctly. But I don’t suggest you or Nate or any other unbeliever starts there, because you couldn’t do that honestly. So I suggest you start taking it just as a secular historian would take it – a document written by people at the time, to be analysed by normal historical methods. If that is done, you can’t make much of the Old Testament but you can certainly make a lot of the New. I think that the NT, simply as a normal document of its times, provides enough reason to believe in Jesus. And if you get to that point, then you may start to think differently about the Bible as a whole.

    Hope that makes clear what I think. Thanks for the questions.

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  223. My response to Jesus is that I don’t believe in him. As far as I can tell, that is responding rightly to him.”

    Nate, I am certainly not in any position to make a judgment about you, so this comment is just my ideas of what may be true, so we understand each other. I hope that’s OK. There are two suggestions I want to make:

    1. The character of Jesus and him being the son of God (or not) are two separate facts about him. I think if I didn’t believe he was truly the son of God, I would still believe he was one of the greatest persons who ever lived, and more worthy of being followed than any person I have ever heard of. if you don’t think of him like that, it wouldn’t make much difference if you could believe in him in some way, because you still wouldn’t want to follow him.

    Put it another way, you can believe in Jesus without following him, and you can follow Jesus without believing he is/was the son of God. If you don’t want to follow him, then believing in him is pointless. I’m feeling you fall into this category. And that is not (IMO) a right response.

    2. I think this is even clearer in an ex-christian. Let me give an example. Suppose I am married to a woman I love deeply and then I find she has been cheating on me and has no intention of stopping. If I didn’t love here, I wouldn’t care all that much, but because I love her deeply, I am devastated. I might quit the marriage, but it would be obvious I remain devastated because I really did love her.

    Now when I observe (from an internet distance, I admit, so I may be dead wrong) you and many other ex-christians, I don’t see any devastation, generally only relief to be out of there. Granted the way most churches are, I can understand some of that, but surely the relief would be mixed with a real sense of loss – you really did love that guy, and were following him because of it, and not the bubble has been pricked. You can’t believe in him any more, but it’s like a bereavement.

    So it seems to me that you (and many others) were genuinely believing in the christianity that you were taught, but it seems not to have had a strong connection to Jesus. I am not a very demonstrative christian, but if I had to give up belief now I would be different to what I see.

    None of that is to be critical – I repeat how much I respect and appreciate you – but it is making me at least question if you have responded to the light you have been given – which was the question I originally raised. I hope that isn’t hurtful.

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  224. Great comments, Howie. I’m probably pretty close to what you are saying as well. I don’t believe that everything or everyone is evil and everyone is a mixture. As a matter of fact, one of my favorite teachers right now is quite Eastern in his thinking: Anthony De Mello. Check him out on youtube if you want to hear some great stuff! He is not focused on Christianity but on people.

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  225. Hi Uncle E – hope you don’t mind me replying to your talk with Nate. I realize your suggestions are put as things that _may_ be true, so I’ll give a lot of leeway here. I think Jesus was another human like you and I, and everything written about him is written by people I’ve never met (and not to harp too much on a common thread – but there seems to be agreement that the gospel writers were anonymous). That is how I view him. As someone who a lot of people wrote about – some of what they wrote may have been things he actually said and some not. There are some things they wrote that sound positive and there are some things they wrote that don’t sound so positive. Other people that have been written about in time have similar characteristics.

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  226. Howie, I think you’ve made sound points and i find myself in agreement.

    JudahFirst, i guess I’d like to echo Howie’s remarks on the sinfulness within the world. For every individual participating in a terrorist attack or mass shooting, there are many more individuals who risk their lives to help others, who rush into the fray to see how they may help. I am comforted that those people represent the word I live in. And I see people helping others, I haven’t seen god do it.

    I think we’ll always have good and bad. And Although I am no longer a christian, I think back on Romans 8:28 often, although I now exclude the “for those who love the Lord” part – actually i guess I just exclude “the Lord” part. If we don’t give up and if we keep pressing forward, keep loving our fellow man, things do work out.

    Sure people die and building crumble, over a long enough timeline, nothing can prevent that.

    Unklee, I agree with Howie here as well, in that I can agree that Jesus was a real man that people followed. But just as Howie pointed out, there were many people in history who were followed by others and who were written about, yet we do not believe any miraculous tales regarding them… That is how I also take jesus, and I find that to be very compatible with I take the rest of history.

    And what if nate followed the good moral principles that jesus is reported as teaching, but nate follows them out of his own desire to be good, rather than because jesus said to? As much as the bible speaks about humility, etc, does jesus really care more about people giving him credit and recognition than he cares about people living morally?

    And this is really going back to the original post, the bible says certain things about god. what he did, what he does, et cetera. If we take those things and lay them side by side, we find problems, contradictions and errors ranging from science, to history, to archaeology, to some just plain ole internal inconsistency. These are the reasons I dont see my position or nate’s as being the result of assumptions. The bible itself is pointing out its own flaws. the bible itself says that god is not the author of confusion, that god is perfect, that god wants everyone to heed his words, his plan, and that god is not a respecter of persons – yet within the bible we see confusion (as is demonstrably portrayed in all the varieties of Christians), we see that not everyone has a fare shake at even seeing the bible much less believing it, and the list goes on and on. Those arent assumptions, those are just the facts.

    To me, it is an assumption to say that all those problems really arent problems, and since we’d be incapable of understanding everything about a god anyways, all of these problems are just some of those things we cant understand. You may as well be saying that the bible and the koran are both right at the same time, that they only appear to be in contention to those who want to see them in contention, but to those who recognize as them both as the inspired writings of god, then they are. It doesnt have to make sense, because I have faith in god and because we cant understand all of his ways. Anyone who disagrees is making assumptions about what books god would inspire and what they’d look like. anyone who disagrees is putting conditions on god.

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  227. And Unklee, i nearly forgot. You made what I thought was a great point about ex-christians and their lack of feeling loss and how that may be an indication of what true love they ever had for christ. It is a good point and you may be on to something there, but even when i was a christian I always wondered withing myself if i would ever be worthy because I was always unsure if i really love jesus and god more than my loved ones I interacted with here on earth. I mean, I actually interact with them.

    With jesus and god, there was no real interaction. I read about them and I believed in them. I prayed to them and thought i was blessed by them, but that we never any more real interaction than there is between a boy dropping fish food into a tank for his goldfish.

    When i discovered that the bible wasnt from god, i felt foolish, more than I did a sense of loss. I even felt a little betrayed and angry, but i dont recall so much feeling alone or melancholy. maybe I struggled with purpose, but i think I may have always struggled with that to some degree. Even as christian, if the next life was what really mattered, what am i doing here? – sort of thing. I guess I still think on biblical topics always and that may never change.

    I’m curious to see nate’s take on it.

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  228. William, I wish I had more time to participate in this whole discussion because if I did I’d be able to many times express that you have had many awesome points that fit right along with my own views. Your last paragraph starting with “To me, it is an assumption to say” I think hits it especially on the nail for me, and you express this often (and I think we should express it often because it is such an important point that seems to be forgotten or missed by a lot of people.) I’ll repeat it too – there are people of so many different religions and beliefs (and many of these differing beliefs contradict each other) who are so incredibly sure that their belief is the right one and they all use the same kinds of justifications for the problems within their beliefs. Justifications like “it doesn’t make sense because you are using human reasoning and not the correct reasoning of my own belief system”, or “just ignore those contradictions and see how many good points are written about in the other parts of my inspired books (pick your book)”, or “I know my god is real and my book says that you really know too so just admit it” (ok that may be a little off topic). These kinds of views do frustrate me, because when I come across difficulties in my own belief system then I claim that it is just something that I haven’t come to a good conclusion about yet – “I simply don’t know”. I don’t say “well that doesn’t make sense, but I know it to be true anyway”. I wouldn’t feel good about saying stuff like that.

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  229. You know, after reading William and Howie’s recent comments, I can’t improve upon them at all. I found myself agreeing with everything they wrote. So unkleE, I’d have to say they’ve summed up my own thoughts perfectly.

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  230. Throughout this entire discussion, one fact stands out that I don’t think any of us can deny: Believers cannot understand how non-believers are unable to see the “truth,” just as non-believers are astounded that believers are taken in by the words of a book that simply does not stand up under the scrutiny of logic and reason.

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  231. At the risk of starting yet another discussion on Nate’s blog, I have to ask why? I was not “naming names.” It was just a general statement that seems to be the way it is whenever a discussion takes place between believers and non-believers.

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  232. Nan, maybe Judahfirst could better accept your statement if you placed a few more quotation marks, like:

    “Throughout this entire discussion, one fact stands out that I don’t think any of us can deny: Believers cannot understand how non-believers are unable to see the “truth,” just as non-believers are astounded that “believers are taken in by the words of a book that simply does not stand up under the scrutiny of logic and reason.””

    Judahfirst, does that make it better? Where now the believer’s and non-believer’s point of view are placed within quotes?

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  233. LOL, no quotations did not help. I am not a believer who “cannot understand how non-believers are unable to see the “truth”. Nor do I really think you non-believers are “astounded” at the rest of us being “taken in”. I don’t know, I felt that statement was unnecessary and a little presumptuous. 🙂

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  234. I understand why people believe in a God. KC, for instance has called himself a deist, and that’s a position I strongly identify with, even though I don’t consider myself one. I also understand why some people believe Christianity, if they’re the sort of person that’s never really closely examined their own beliefs before. But to be honest, I do have some trouble understanding how people that have studied it deeply continue to believe Christianity. Deism, I could get. Maybe even theism with an “unknown” God. But belief in Christianity (or any other revealed religion) is hard for me to understand.

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  235. I guess I viewed Nan’s comment as generic, almost like a heading of sorts. sure there will be some exceptions. I can see how believers see it my way, and like you (nate) said, i can get Christians if they haven’t seen the problems yet, or deists, etc.

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  236. Believers cannot understand how non-believers are unable to see the “truth”

    – I guess I wouldn’t say this at all. Most of the non-believers I’ve had exchanges with, including on this site, come from a position dominated by logic and reason. I think logic and reason can build a foundation, but I do not think they get you to the “truth”. Whatever the “truth” is, it is bigger than us, bigger than this galaxy, bigger than the universe. The universe is not eternal, and my perspective is that it’s nonsense to think that the universe exploded out of absolutely nothing. The ability to reason how the universe got here stops at that, as far as I’m aware. So, whatever it is that is out there defies our ability to reason to it. Anyway, the point being I don’t share the premise that logic and reason can take us all the way “home” to the “truth”. Non-believers bank on something that is inexplicable as well as believers do, as far as I can tell. They might be able to tell me why their version of god doesn’t make sense, but they usually can’t see my perspective that a universe full of all this “logic and reason and lawful operation” coming out of complete nothingness by some huge accident also doesn’t make sense. At some point we must trust in whatever conclusion we’ve decided on, and take that to the bank. Some will get cash back. Some will have their money bag blow up in their face.

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  237. “I do have some trouble understanding how people that have studied it deeply continue to believe Christianity.”

    I’ve met atheists who’ve converted to Christianity through studying the evidence who would take offense to this. I’m just not convinced that the “studying deeply” is the key ingredient. Based on what I know from people I’ve talked with it isn’t the deciding factor.

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  238. Josh – “They might be able to tell me why their version of god doesn’t make sense, but they usually can’t see my perspective that a universe full of all this “logic and reason and lawful operation” coming out of complete nothingness by some huge accident also doesn’t make sense.”

    But a universe full of all this “logic and reason and lawful operation” coming out of complete nothingness by some huge all knowing all perfect god that we cant see or hear does “make sense” because an old collection of letters and books (which are quite flawed) claims it to be so?

    And i’ve heard people ask before, “if, by the shear complexity of the universe, a god or creator is needed, then wouldnt it stand to reason that the creator would need a creator since the creator would have to be more complex than its own creation?”

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  239. I guess I’d like to see the last points by Howie, nate and myself (from earlier this morning directly following UnklE’s) addressed before we get off on another tangent though….

    however, this isn’t my blog, so I’m not setting any rules – just giving my opinion.

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  240. “But a universe full of all this “logic and reason and lawful operation” coming out of complete nothingness by some huge all knowing all perfect god that we cant see or hear does “make sense” because an old collection of letters and books (which are quite flawed) claims it to be so?”

    No. It makes more sense because everything coming out of nothing doesn’t make sense to me.

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  241. “I’d like to see the last points by Howie, nate and myself (from earlier this morning directly following UnklE’s) addressed before we get off on another tangent though”

    Ok.

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  242. thanks and out of my own compulsive, I’m not sure that the singularity is categorized as nothing. And I get that because everything we see around us has a cause and effect, was produced by something, etc. Just as everything we see has a beginning and an end and doesn’t last forever or before forever…

    if complex needs a creator, then complex needs a creator… but even if not, one can believe in a god and creator without the bible – which is, at least to me, the main point of discussion. It’s not “either bible is from god, or atheist.” there are far more than those two simplified choices.

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  243. Josh says, “At some point we must trust in whatever conclusion we’ve decided on, and take that to the bank. Some will get cash back. Some will have their money bag blow up in their face.”

    I have to disagree with this statement. The beauty of Science is that as we gain new knowledge that disproves something else we previously thought to be true, we replace it with the new knowledge. Religion frowns on this in general. If it was true 2000 years ago it still has to be true today.

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  244. bah, proofreading! “Compulsiveness” and I neglected to add, “people think that there must have been a creation event,” to my second sentence.

    forgive the error, please.

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  245. William and Howie-

    I guess I wouldn’t try to argue something like “it doesn’t make sense because you’re using human reasoning and we can’t reason to a being we can’t understand”. Before you jump on me, yes, I know I’ve said something similar that. And, I don’t find it at all problematic that we can’t understand completely a being who is beyond us. But, I digress.

    To the points about the Bible’s problems, though. I think a lot of this has been said, so I’ll try to be quick. unkleE and I seem to come from the same perspective: it is not at all problematic for us that the Bible, though inspired by God, can be subject to the same mistakes that would accumulate over time in any text. I’ve looked at a lot of the problems people raise – not all, I’m sure – and there are ways of resolving the issues raised against the text to my satisfaction (you can accuse me of being biased, but there are plenty of people who have been convinced to convert by looking at these answers). Regardless, they do not change the message. I think the message does make sense.

    The other question is, why would a god who wants us to believe in him communicate in an imperfect way that is misunderstood. This is a presumption disguised as a question. What you’re saying is “God should have communicated in a way that would be understandable to all without room for mistake”. This is a positive claim that must be established before it can be addressed. Because I do not believe we have exhaustive knowledge that would include how God “should” behave, I don’t see that this claim can be established at all. By the way, if you do claim we have exhaustive knowledge I would think you’d need to establish this as well. No?

    And, this last point, about how God “should” behave, I believe is the foundation of any discussion about sin. There’ve been points made about how there are “good” people and “bad” people in the world, and we all can’t be lumped into certain kinds of people. But, “sin” is not just talking about the behaviors we engage in. Sin, at its root, is the belief that we can be equal to, or better than God if given the opportunity, or make our lives complete without God or his instructions. That’s the point of the Fall narrative in Genesis. If you look at sin as humans having their own ideas about how God “should” have done things, and believing they know better, and that they can be complete without him, then you may begin to see that this condition is in us all.

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  246. William-
    “one can believe in a god and creator without the bible – which is, at least to me, the main point of discussion. It’s not “either bible is from god, or atheist.”

    True. But, you’d have even less reason to believe in God if there’s no reliable text addressing him. So, if you’re gonna hang on to logic and reason you really can’t go that route.

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  247. kcchief1-
    Your understanding of scientific knowledge, and everyone else’s, is limited to what is known at the time you are incapable of processing more knowledge (death, or sooner). At the end of your life you will have banked on something that science itself tells you will likely be retested and disproven or modified in the future.

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  248. “True. But, you’d have even less reason to believe in God if there’s no reliable text addressing him. So, if you’re gonna hang on to logic and reason you really can’t go that route.”

    Not so fast , Josh ! As a Deist, the Universe and all of Creation are proof to me there is a Cause / Creator / God. If there is no reliable text, which there isn’t, you should be the one less likely to believe in God than me. 🙂

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  249. “As a Deist, the Universe and all of Creation are proof to me there is a Cause / Creator / God.”

    I was mainly addressing points about logic and reason. So, you would say a god who created all this and left no communication or redemption plan is more reasonably believed in than one who did communicate a redemption plan?

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  250. what reliable text is there?

    and I think I’ll wait for UnkleE’s response to the other. I’m not sure that you’re aware of the problems I’m speaking about. I’m referring to explicit contradictions. I’m not talking “what does heaven look like?” or “do angels really have wings?” I’m asking why is this book, which has actual and literal contradictions within it, which has scientific, historical and archaeological inaccuracies inside of it considered “reliable” at all?

    and again, you may have missed this point, “To me, it is an assumption to say that all those problems really arent problems, and since we’d be incapable of understanding everything about a god anyways, all of these problems are just some of those things we cant understand. You may as well be saying that the bible and the koran are both right at the same time, that they only appear to be in contention to those who want to see them in contention, but to those who recognize as them both as the inspired writings of god, then they are. It doesnt have to make sense, because I have faith in god and because we cant understand all of his ways. Anyone who disagrees is making assumptions about what books god would inspire and what they’d look like. anyone who disagrees is putting conditions on god.”

    I feel like some of my earlier responses that weren’t directly addressed by you just now, may answer some of your points.

    you may have missed others as well. there is a lot to cover in all this, but the above is the best i can do at pointing what i see as an inconsistency with many believers. the way many things are argued for the bible can be used to “excuse” any contradiction, and error or problem. It’s an attempt to make the bible fit and workout despite obvious issues. Anyone can say, about anything, that “it’s not really a contradiction because there may be a good reason it gave two opposing accounts of the same thing.” If we used that for everything, then there wouldnt ever be any contradictions.

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  251. Josh – “I was mainly addressing points about logic and reason. So, you would say a god who created all this and left no communication or redemption plan is more reasonably believed in than one who did communicate a redemption plan?”

    when the plan is both unreliable and unreasonable, then yes.

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  252. Yes Josh I definitely believe this. And who says I need to be redeemed ? From what ? I popped out of my Mother’s womb through no fault of my own. Although my life has not been perfect, I am quite happy to be here and make the best of it. With or with any directions in writing.

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  253. “I think I’ll wait for UnkleE’s response to the other.”

    Me too. He’s way more eloquent and thoughtful than I am.

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  254. Hi Uncle E – hope you don’t mind me replying to your talk with Nate.

    Of course not. It seems like maybe we should start a forum!

    I think Jesus was another human like you and I… There are some things they wrote that sound positive and there are some things they wrote that don’t sound so positive.

    It is hard to keep track of different comments when there’s more than 300, but the chain of conversation I thought I was commenting on was this. People were discussing whether God had given us enough knowledge to respond if he was going to judge us on our response. I said God judges us on our response and attitude, not our knowledge. Nate expressed the view that if God was halfway reasonable, he would accept his (Nate’s) genuineness (those are my words, not his). And in that context, I described where I felt his reaction didn’t seem to me to be what God would want.

    To clarify, even if Nate can’t in conscience believe Jesus was the son of God, I think that God would want him to at least believe Jesus was a good man worthy of belief if Nate could find sufficient reason. I base that view on Luke 11:23, 12:8-10.

    So I wasn’t discussing the reasons one should believe in Jesus, just what assessment of his character might be acceptable to God. So I won’t offer any comments here on the rest of what you said (much as I am happy to discuss) to keep these comments within reasonable bounds. Perhaps another time. Thanks.

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  255. I think Nan was really just trying to say that we are all having a difficult time seeing opposing points of views which is fair enough – I think that happens in a debate on practically anything in life. However it was perhaps inadvertently overstated, and I’d like to express my own perspective on this. Like others on this blog, I used to hold beliefs pretty similar to Josh and so I _can_ actually in some sense understand that point of view. While I don’t come to the same conclusions at this point in my life, I truly believe Josh and Unklee when they express what they believe – I don’t think they are suppressing something down deep that tells them that it’s wrong – they truly believe it. Sure they may have doubts sometimes, but that doesn’t change that they truly believe it. We all have different experiences in life and we all work our best at trying to figure out what really is true. At least it seems to me that all the commenters on this post are doing that.

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  256. “To clarify, even if Nate can’t in conscience believe Jesus was the son of God, I think that God would want him to at least believe Jesus was a good man worthy of belief if Nate could find sufficient reason.”

    I’d like to understand your view on this a little further if possible. What if someone really just thought that the writings of the gospels were far removed enough from the time that Jesus lived that it is way too difficult to really determine anything solid enough to even form an opinion of his character? I realize you don’t think that is a good conclusion, but for now let’s just assume that someone really believes this. What then? Or do you just think anyone who concludes this is really not telling the truth about what they believe?

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  257. Jesus is the culmination of a long history of God choosing the weak, the enslaved, the broken, the second-born, the prostitutes over the wise, first-born, and the apparently righteous. Jesus, God with us, was born into a poor family in Podunk, Nowhereville. He lived a life of poverty, ridicule, and kept company with “sinners”. I mention these things to point out the message that Paul did in 1 Corinthians “Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.” I’ve been pondering whether this might shed some light on why God chose to allow human error to creep into the communication of his word. It definitely seems that he is in the business of overturning our expectations – the first will be last, he who loses his life will save it. There’s been discussion that God “ought” to have communicated more clearly. However, I think a look at how the OT and NT present God’s actions indicates that he has always chosen to act in ways that are opposite to what we expect. I find myself identifying as a broken person in need of redemption – one who has tried his entire life to become what is “expected”, but failed miserably time and again – which seems different than what some others here feel about themselves. I cannot speak for what others are, or what they may think of themselves. But, this God – The One who, instead of giving us lists of things that we ought to do, condescends to our broken level in the form of a man who is willing to kneel in the dirt to heal a blind person to show us that he is willing to come to us instead of demanding we come to him – this is the only God who is accepting of what I know myself to be. Jesus, by his words and compassion and grace, shows that he knows me. No other God offers this.

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  258. what if nate followed the good moral principles that jesus is reported as teaching, but nate follows them out of his own desire to be good, rather than because jesus said to? As much as the bible speaks about humility, etc, does jesus really care more about people giving him credit and recognition than he cares about people living morally?

    That is a good question, and one I am not sure about. My thoughts are these.

    1. I don’t think Nate, or anyone else, me included, actually follows the teachings of Jesus. No looking at women with lust? No anger? Always loving enemies? Not putting wealth too high on our priorities? Always caring for the poor? So by Jesus’ standards, we all fall short and we all need help and forgiveness.

    2. But at the same time, Jesus offers forgiveness, grace and freedom very readily, and perhaps (this is where I’m still working things out) doing our best to live up to those standards opens us up to that grace and forgiveness just as much as if we actually asked for it. Perhaps, I don’t know.

    3. I don’t think Jesus cares about “receiving recognition” in any pride sense, but giving him recognition is necessary for our sakes.

    If we take those things and lay them side by side, we find problems, contradictions and errors ranging from science, to history, to archaeology, to some just plain ole internal inconsistency. …. Those arent assumptions, those are just the facts.

    Right, this is how it appears to be. But that isn’t the viewpoint I’m criticising. I’m simply saying that the argument that the Bible can’t be inspired by God if it appears to contain errors, is not a good one if we are seeking the truth. That is one way to look at things, but it isn’t the only way. So better to start with the Bible as a bunch of historical documents, in which case all the apparent errors and inconsistencies don’t matter – all historical documents have them. And then judge Jesus on that basis. Then we might (or at least I have) come to the view that Jesus is true, the Bible is inspired and it is our definition of “inspired” that is at fault. That is my point all along.

    Thanks.

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  259. Throughout this entire discussion, one fact stands out that I don’t think any of us can deny: Believers cannot understand how non-believers are unable to see the “truth,” just as non-believers are astounded that believers are taken in by the words of a book that simply does not stand up under the scrutiny of logic and reason.”

    Nan, a few others have criticised this comment, but I think you are close to the truth, and I think it leads to some important conclusions, or at least questions. If it is true that we at least find it difficult understanding each other, why is that? There are doubtless many possible answers, including the trite “You’re rebelling against God.” and “You’re delusional.” Perhaps:

    1. Each side is using different understandings of reasons and evidence.
    2. Each side is coming to the conclusions it deep down wants to be true.
    3. People have different experiences and these explain the different beliefs.
    4. Some people want a greater level of certainty than others (i.e. like 95% confidence limits vs 75%).
    5. Many people only consider part of the evidence (generally the part favourable to their view).
    6. Different people weight the evidence differently.

    I think all of them may be true sometimes, perhaps most times. It’s why I generally prefer to not argue about my beliefs, but either (1) argue about facts or (2) share differences in belief without pressing the other person.

    Thanks for the thought.

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  260. belief in Christianity (or any other revealed religion) is hard for me to understand”

    Again, Nate, this reveals what I believe is a core difference between you and I. Even if I stopped believing Jesus was the son of God, and was just a well-intentioned but failed Jewish prophet (which I think from the scholars is the only other viable view), I would still understand why people would believe him, and follow him even if it meant death. I have trouble understanding why a sincere ex-christian such as you couldn’t “get” that.

    So I still can’t help wondering if your christianity must have been somehow more based on religion and church and Bible than on Jesus, though we haven’t explored that enough for me to feel confident of that conclusion.

    I think these questions are well worth exploring further. Thanks.

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  261. You could ask why a world renown humanitarian, Doctor and Theologian , Dr Albert Schweitzer after studying Jesus came to this conclusion. It surprised me when I read his book. . Schweitzer, however, writes: “The Jesus of Nazareth who came forward publicly as the Messiah, who preached the ethic of the kingdom of God, who founded the kingdom of heaven upon earth and died to give his work its final consecration never existed.” He obviously didn’t get it either.

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  262. I’m not sure that you’re aware of the problems I’m speaking about. I’m referring to explicit contradictions. I’m not talking “what does heaven look like?” or “do angels really have wings?” I’m asking why is this book, which has actual and literal contradictions within it, which has scientific, historical and archaeological inaccuracies inside of it considered “reliable” at all?”

    This isn’t really the point I am discussing, but since I have been mentioned ….. William, let me make one statement and ask one question please.

    I am a christian. My faith is based on the New Testament. I think we would need to be careful making statements from the 21st century into a set of writings 2-3 millennia old and from a totally different language and culture. So “problems” with the OT are no big deal to me, because I don’t know enough to know how properly to interpret it (though I am doing some reading on that right now), and because it isn’t key to my faith.

    So, can you outline please some of the “actual and literal contradictions within it, which has scientific, historical and archaeological inaccuracies” you find in the NT, or were you just referring to the OT?

    Thanks.

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  263. Right, this is how it appears to be. But that isn’t the viewpoint I’m criticising. I’m simply saying that the argument that the Bible can’t be inspired by God if it appears to contain errors, is not a good one if we are seeking the truth. That is one way to look at things, but it isn’t the only way. So better to start with the Bible as a bunch of historical documents, in which case all the apparent errors and inconsistencies don’t matter – all historical documents have them. And then judge Jesus on that basis. Then we might (or at least I have) come to the view that Jesus is true, the Bible is inspired and it is our definition of “inspired” that is at fault. That is my point all along.

    I think you’re right that people should approach the Bible in this way. Personally, I think that I have, and I’ve just reached a different conclusion than you. I haven’t found the gospels compelling enough to make me think Jesus was anything more than just a man. A good man, probably, but a man just the same. Again, that’s how I see it.

    Again, Nate, this reveals what I believe is a core difference between you and I. Even if I stopped believing Jesus was the son of God, and was just a well-intentioned but failed Jewish prophet (which I think from the scholars is the only other viable view), I would still understand why people would believe him, and follow him even if it meant death. I have trouble understanding why a sincere ex-christian such as you couldn’t “get” that.

    Because of the statement I just made: I don’t see enough evidence to think Jesus was really the son of God. And I find the Bible to be too problematic to genuinely be the revelation of a perfect, loving, rational, just, and merciful deity. Even if we say that he allowed human error its transmission and translation.

    So I still can’t help wondering if your christianity must have been somehow more based on religion and church and Bible than on Jesus, though we haven’t explored that enough for me to feel confident of that conclusion.

    That may be true. But again, without the Bible, I think it’s really hard to get to Jesus. So once I lost faith in the Bible, I didn’t see much reason to hold onto faith in Jesus. Faith in God stuck with me a bit longer, but I didn’t believe it was the Christian god.

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  264. I’d like to understand your view on this a little further if possible. What if someone really just thought that the writings of the gospels were far removed enough from the time that Jesus lived that it is way too difficult to really determine anything solid enough to even form an opinion of his character? ….. Or do you just think anyone who concludes this is really not telling the truth about what they believe?”

    Hi Howie, fair question.

    My comment was particularly directed to Nate who, as an ex-christian, is not in the situation you describe. He once had a view of Jesus, and to some degree it must inevitably still colour his views even now he doesn’t believe. So I am suggesting (certainly not asserting firmly) that Nate doesn’t seem to have had a strong response to Jesus as a person and a leader, but more to a particular form of christianity in which Jesus was a sacred object (mentioned in creeds etc) and sacred person, but not necessarily a leader we should all follow.

    If we generalise to the case which you raise, I have said I believe we are all judged according to the light we have received, and how we respond to it. So I certainly would not say that “anyone who concludes this is really not telling the truth”. God is the judge, not me, and I believe there will be many who have been given little light, including never having heard of Jesus, and responded as well as they could.

    Hope that explains things better.

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  265. You could ask why a world renown humanitarian, Doctor and Theologian , Dr Albert Schweitzer ….. He obviously didn’t get it either.”

    Schweitzer wrote more than a century ago. Scholarship has moved on heaps since then.

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  266. So, can you outline please some of the “actual and literal contradictions within it, which has scientific, historical and archaeological inaccuracies” you find in the NT, or were you just referring to the OT?

    William probably won’t get back to you on Monday — I’ve gotten used to his commenting patterns. So I’ll be a bit presumptive and offer you my idea of how he might respond.

    When he talks about scientific, historical, and archaeological inaccuracies, he’s probably talking most about the OT. In 1 Cor 15:35-36, Paul says this:

    But someone will say, “How are the dead raised up? And with what body do they come?” 36 Foolish one, what you sow is not made alive unless it dies.

    That’s scientifically inaccurate. If a seed dies, then it won’t grow into a plant. I guess the worst part about it is that Paul calls the person a fool, and then goes on to say something foolish himself. Not a big deal if you aren’t an inerrantist, but still something to think about.

    Historical and archaeological inaccuracies of the NT aren’t as glaring. There are possible problems with Luke’s reference to Quirinius. And I know the existence of Nazareth has been questioned. Also, Luke’s census that requires everyone to travel to the hometown of an ancestor that lived centuries earlier is highly questionable. But the biggest issues are probably the internal contradictions — and you’d already be familiar with those. You can always check out the 10 part series I did on them that are linked in my About section.

    William, if I’ve misspoken, please correct me.

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  267. So I am suggesting (certainly not asserting firmly) that Nate doesn’t seem to have had a strong response to Jesus as a person and a leader, but more to a particular form of christianity in which Jesus was a sacred object (mentioned in creeds etc) and sacred person, but not necessarily a leader we should all follow.

    I may have given you a poor impression of my time as a Christian. It was certainly much more legalistic than what you’re used to, but it was still absolutely Christ-centered. I took my beliefs very seriously. Feel free to read my old blog posts, if you want. I spent a lot of time discussing deep doctrinal issues, that you would no doubt have disagreed with me about. But I had a deep conviction that drove every aspect of my life. I loved Jesus and wanted to serve him, be pleasing to him. We took the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, and I always tried to keep my thoughts focused on the agony he must have endured for my sins and the magnitude of his amazing sacrifice. Of course Jesus was who we were supposed to follow! He was the whole point of everything!

    You won’t hear me gush about those things now, because I no longer believe it. In fact, I sometimes feel bitter about it, because I built my life around something that I now consider bogus. So sometimes I might be more critical of it than I should be. I know that the writers of the various books of the Bible weren’t purposely lying to anyone. They were essentially the commentators of their day. But after being fooled by it for decades, it sometimes hard for me to see it so benignly.

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  268. I may have given you a poor impression of my time as a Christian.”

    No, I’m not basing it on what you have said, but what it seems to me you haven’t shown. But I don’t think I want to take this any further. Your responses seem different to what I would expect in some cases, but it is tiresome for me to suggest I can say anything much about this. I have made a suggestion, you assure me I’m largely mistaken, let’s leave it at that.

    That’s scientifically inaccurate. If a seed dies, then it won’t grow into a plant.”

    I think this shows another way in which we’re different. Paul wasn’t a scientists and clearly wasn’t making a scientific statement. But as soon as we understand it to be a metaphor, it is quite reasonable. The seed may not die in a biological sense, but we all know what he means. It is impossible not to speak in metaphorical language sometimes. I find this “Objection” almost farcical (I’m sorry).

    There are possible problems with Luke’s reference to Quirinius.”

    Yes there are, but this is hardly major. The matter isn’t fully resolved among scholars, though most think Luke got some details wrong here. But there are plenty of scholars who would contest some of the things you allege as errors.

    I think the alleged errors in the NT are not very great, especially as most of them are not incapable of being resolved, and so may be resolved one day. They are certainly within the parameters of historical documents of the day. And therefore not really validly used as arguments against drawing reasonable historical conclusions, although obviously good arguments against inerrancy. But we were talking about history, not inerrancy (at least I was).

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  269. unkleE
    Here is a little NT discrepency I would like for you to explain away. The apostle Paul says that Jesus “was born of the seed of David” (Romans 1:3). Here the word “seed” is literally in the Greek “sperma.” This same Greek word is translated in other verses as “descendant(s)” or “offspring.” The point is that the Messiah had to be a physical descendant of King David through the male line. That Jesus had to be a physical descendant of David means that even if Joseph had legally adopted Jesus (as some apologists have suggested), Jesus would still not qualify as Messiah if he had been born of a virgin – seed from the line of David was required.

    Women did not count in reckoning descent for the simple reason that it was then believed that the complete human was present in the man’s sperm (the woman’s egg being discovered in 1827). The woman’s womb was just the soil in which the seed was planted. Just as there was barren soil that could not produce crops, so also the Bible speaks of barren wombs that could not produce children.

    This is the reason that although there are many male genealogies in the Bible, there are no female genealogies. This also eliminates the possibility put forward by some apologists that Jesus could be of the “seed of David” through Mary.

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  270. The bible stories are not a collection of claims or, better yet, a collection of propositions. The Bible does not claim God made the world; it tells a creation story. It does not say Jesus rose from the dead, it tells a few stories, none of them consistent, about a resurrection. Certainly, specific sects try to systematize their teaching as dogma and doctrine, but, even still, their teaching is an interpretation of an inconsistent collection of stories that were not presented as a set of logical conclusions about the world, although these Biblical stories are discussed as if the Bible is some sort of proof-text for an all-encompassing doctrine. The Bible evolved, not propositionally, but emotionally and imaginatively. The idea that the Bible is a book of claims will, inevitably, lead one to error. New atheists and fundamentalists are alike in this regard in that they both view the Bible as a collection of propositions. One says, ‘Jesus rose from the dead.’ and the other says, ‘No he didn’t. People don’t do those things.’ The much more reasonable option is not discussed–that Jesus lived at a time when people were thought to rise from the dead. My point succinctly put is that the Bible is a collection of stories; not arguments.

    As for biblical interpretation, I would say that nothing, meaning not anything, is clear in the Bible. Everything is up for interpretation, even the verses that are most unambiguous to me. And this approach is not at all novel. It has a storied history in Christianity, specifically, and religion generally. As Feuerbach reminded us God is what we make Him. The prophets did just that and so did Jesus and so did the early church Fathers and so did the Schoolmen and so did the Reformation Protestants and so did the relatively recent evangelical movement. Christianity has a long history of reinvention, remodeling, and reinterpretation. Martin Luther’s Treatise of the Freedom of a Christian is a great example of intellectualism and individualism in Christianity, although I fear Luther would have regretted its broader appeal. The age of priestcraft has passed and people determine for themselves now what is important, disgusting, and noble about Biblical passages. This idea that the Bible makes claims about the world is faulty reasoning. It doesn’t. It tells stories that represent some of the best in human experience and imagination. Of course, a number of people like their dogma and doctrine, but you won’t find that dogma and doctrine spelled out propositionally in the NT. It developed over time, more than likely as social teaching based, primarily, on vague biblical references, the origins of which are difficult to locate. In my opinion, the early Christians did not accept Jesus because they believed he lived or died or because they read Paul–they couldn’t read–but because they believed the Gospel, which was a summary of things believed by early Christians. It is in the very late first century and early second century that we get the beginning of the image of Jesus as he is now portrayed.

    Furthermore, the canon was not a spontaneous development. The canon is the regulation of sources that supported a growing consensus about who Jesus was, or rather, what was to be believed about him, which became non-negotiable on certain points. And they found their support for this view in a fairly small number of sources that they believed dated from apostolic times.

    In my mind, admitting that the Bible is errant does not, necessarily, destroy the Faith or Jesus–it took me a fair amount of time to realize this–and this approach is not at all novel or radical. Augustine noted that if a Christian takes the Bible literally he should not be surprised if a non-Christian laughs. And Origen pilloried the anti-Christian Celsus for his lack of imagery and allegory concerning the NT. Origen even believed that certain portions of the Gospels were false like the temptation of Jesus by the devil; the writer of the Epistle of Barnabas preferred an allegorical approach to the OT–the Church of the Middle Ages took a similar spiritual interpretation approach with the NT, at least to a certain extent–and the writer of the Epistle of Diognetus highlighted the ‘follies of Judaism’ as ‘too nonsensical to be worth discussing;’ Paul, while a proponent of Scripture, was integral in separating Christianity from Judaism–he self-identified as ‘the apostle to the gentiles.’ Hardly, a person overly concerned with the law of Moses; C.S. Lewis’ even acknowledged that much of the early OT was ahistorical. This idea that the Bible must be interpreted literally and must be without error is a fairly new theological concept, a concept that I find dangerous and unthinking. It is the same sort of theology as the preacher who claims to speak for God. It is intellectually easy and black and white, but a cursory study of history, philosophy, theology, and life shows us that the black-and-white portrayal of human existence and spirituality being propagated by the ‘fundamental’ adherents isn’t an accurate representation of human experience nor the Bible.

    Also, the idea that Jesus was mistaken about some stuff seems to be a fairly weak objection, since, from my understanding, Jesus was not omniscient, so I am sure he had wrong beliefs. Just like he didn’t address a number of very important social issues e.g., war, capital punishment, gambling, justice, law, equality of sex, equality of color, tyranny, freedom, slavery, or self-determination. If Jesus knew all truths–omniscience–then he would have been incapable of learning. Jesus learned. Therefore, he was not omniscient.

    I am not sure if the Bible is God’s word, but the original teachings of Jesus contain five major precepts: love God, believe in Jesus, love man, be pure in heart, be humble. This is Jesus’ message, as best as I can understand it, and anything that is added to it is a later development in the Christian tradition. Consequently, if what we mean by Christian is what Jesus taught according to the synoptic gospels, then there is a great deal that Christians must work out for themselves. And that, in my estimation, facilitates and, perhaps even encourages differing interpretations and beliefs, which will, inevitably, lead to disagreement and personal opinion on the matter.

    On this account, most objections to theism that refer to biblical contradictions and mistakes seem to be fairly weak, since the cumulative case for God’s existence is much stronger than most people realize and the Bible was not written like a science or logic textbook. For me, the entire case for Christianity lies with the historicity of the Resurrection. Did it happen or not?

    Regards

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  271. … (not always in the easiest or most direct of terms) how he expects you to behave and promises that he’ll take care of you and promises to severely punish you for disobedience or for leaving him?…

    Gods words aren’t always direct when translated to English, true. Much figures of speech, yes. Rich still, yes. Meaningful, yes. Expectations on behavior, only in his power. No expectations on one who does not understand or know. Punishment for disobedience, no. Punishment for leaving him, anomaly, impossible paradox.

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  272. Well put, Persto ! The late Geza Vermes published a book in 2008 “Resurrection in History and Myth” Every Christian and Non-Christian should read it.

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  273. Persto, thanks for the comment. You know I always appreciate hearing your perspective.

    I agree that the cumulative case for God’s existence is pretty strong. To me, the issues with the Bible and the tenets of Christianity don’t make a case against God at all — they just make a strong case against Christianity. I would not be overly surprised to find out that God exists in some fashion. But I would be completely flabbergasted if it turned out to be the Christian god.

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  274. Persto, we obviously disagree about many things, but I think there is a lot of truth in what you say. I think you slightly overstate the case – I think the Bible is primarily stories, but I think there are truth-propositions too – but I think we agree that we should recognise (1) that the Bible is a diverse bunch of books written over a long period of time, (2) that it contains many different genres of writing, each of which should be read appropriately, (3) both christians and sceptics have been known to make statements about the Bible that go beyond what it actually says.

    Hi kcchief1, you say “Here is a little NT discrepency I would like for you to explain away.”. I’m sorry, you’ve got the wrong person. I’m not really interested in explaining anything away and I’m not highly concerned if there is a discrepancy. To be blunt, I think explaining things away is as tiresome as magnifying trivial things out of proportion. It is quite clear from the text that the genealogies are not strictly accurate and the gospels writers and compilers didn’t seem to care about this. Matthew even makes his list nice and symbolic with 3 groups of 14. They didn’t seem to find the issue you raise important and so neither do I. Sorry, not to play that game. 🙂

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  275. “I think the alleged errors in the NT are not very great, especially as most of them are not incapable of being resolved, and so may be resolved one day. They are certainly within the parameters of historical documents of the day. And therefore not really validly used as arguments against drawing reasonable historical conclusions, although obviously good arguments against inerrancy. But we were talking about history, not inerrancy (at least I was).”

    unkleE, you say the alleged errors in the NT are not very great. I think this one is. You also say you were talking about history. So am I.

    As a side bar, you talk about Matthew’s 3 groups of 14. It’s actually 2 groups of 14 and 1 group of 13. Count them.

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  276. unkleE, This was not a trick and I mean no disrespect. But if you are going to make statements like you did above, I think it’s only fair to expect someone might challenge them.

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  277. unkleE, you say the alleged errors in the NT are not very great. I think this one is.”

    I’m sorry, but I’m not sure which one you are referring to. Are you talking about the genealogy?

    My point is this. When I read the scholars, I find (1) a lot of places where they conclude certain things are likely true or likely not, and (2) a few places where they are fairly agreed there are inaccuracies. I accept their judgment as a starting point, but I note that items (1) are not “known errors”, just places where their historical judgment, by no means unanimous, is against the historical truth of that fact. When it comes to (2) there are only a few I’m aware of – the birth stories, the harmony of the resurrection stories and a few minor details like names – and most of these are still open to interpretation. So I don’t know of any serious discrepancies that throw the general historicity of the NT into doubt like there are for chunks of the OT – and this is what the scholars say. But perhaps you can be more explicit about what things you are referring to?

    you talk about Matthew’s 3 groups of 14. It’s actually 2 groups of 14 and 1 group of 13″

    I’ve already said the list is symbolic (and may even be related to numerology, I don’t know), so this isn’t important. Besides, there are various explanations on offer for those who find it important – see Wikipedia. I’ll leave you to it!

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  278. unkleE, This was not a trick and I mean no disrespect. But if you are going to make statements like you did above, I think it’s only fair to expect someone might challenge them.”

    Hi kcchief1, thanks for your assurance here, but I infer no trick nor any disrespect. It’s a free world and a free blog (until Nate gets sick of us all! 🙂 ). I’m not sure which statement you are referring to, but I try not to make any statements lightly, and am happy to be asked how I would justify them. If I cannot, I am happy to withdraw and apologise – well, not entirely happy of course! 🙂 Please feel quite free – I only ask for courtesy, which is generally a hallmark of this blog, and which you have offered. Thanks.

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  279. Thank you unkleE. Earlier you made the statement in a response to Nate , “I think the alleged errors in the NT are not very great……” That was your oppinion which is not shared by me and I doubt that I am alone.

    Again, I think the one I mentioned earlier IS very great . Yes it had to do with genealogy but more importantly the arguement I copied and pasted challenged the reliability of Jesus being the Messiah period. And it used Historical evidince to argue the point ie: the man’s seed, the woman’s egg and the genealogy.

    I was asking you to respond to it, that’s all. Your earlier response concerning the Authors of the Gospels was, “They didn’t seem to find the issue you raise important and so neither do I. Sorry, not to play that game.

    I’m sorry, but of course they didn’t think it was important. They weren’t too concerned about being challenged as 90% of their audiance couldn’t read. The manuscripts that make up the Bible were not read by the masses until hundreds of years later. Earlier because they couldn’t read, later because “The Church” wouldn’t allow them to. This is History.

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  280. Nate, many Christians aren’t aware of the “Redactor’s Pens” which were used to “Harmonize” the Scriptures. They have no idea how altered what we call the Bible has been from the beginning.

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  281. Very true. I know I wasn’t. By the way, I meant to add that I thought you made a good point earlier about the incredible illiteracy rate back then (and all the way into the Enlightenment).

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  282. Thank you, Nate ! I think you and I do share a similar history. I too was a devout Christian for many years. When I couldn’t get answers to troubling questions I had about the Bible and my Faith, I started reading and thinking “Outside the Box”. Reimarus, Strauss, Weiss, Schweitzer to name a few really opened my mind through their writings. Unlike you, I still believe in a Deity. I hope you reconsider this some day too, but I certainly won’t question why you don’t today. I’ve certainly enjoyed being a part of this discussion and hope I haven’t overstepped my boundaries. I try to have respect for everyone here and their oppinions. Thanks for allowing me to be here!

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  283. @Josh: You said:

    I guess I wouldn’t try to argue something like “it doesn’t make sense because you’re using human reasoning and we can’t reason to a being we can’t understand”. Before you jump on me, yes, I know I’ve said something similar that. And, I don’t find it at all problematic that we can’t understand completely a being who is beyond us. But, I digress.

    Sorry to jump back a bunch of comments, but I just wanted to say that as you have worded this above I am in agreement. I also don’t see that as problematic. If someone were to feel that they are using good reasoning and evidence to conclude that a particular God exists then the fact that they don’t completely understand every aspect of that being would not be a problem. None of us have all the answers when it comes to our worldviews so this seems fine to me. Obviously I or others might disagree on whether the reasoning or evidence is good enough, but that would be a different issue. Also, if there are certain descriptions of the being that you believe in that don’t make sense then that too could become problematic depending on how you deal with them. I’m being a bit general here because I can’t remember the specifics of this discussion after 335 comments. Just wanted to let you know that I don’t really disagree with your statement above.

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  284. Nate,
    Ironically, I am currently reading “A History of the Synoptic Problem” and I’m on Pg 42 where it mentions Tatian and the Diatessaron.

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  285. Thanks, kc! It’s been great having you here! 🙂 And that’s pretty funny that you happened to run across a mention of the Diatesseron just now. It’s certainly not something that pops up in everyday conversation…

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  286. Earlier you made the statement in a response to Nate , “I think the alleged errors in the NT are not very great……” That was your oppinion which is not shared by me and I doubt that I am alone.”

    Yes that is my opinion. I have asked you for examples, so far we have two.

    The first is the genealogy and the “argument” about the Messiah. But since I think pretty much everyone agrees the genealogies are symbolic (even if they think them literal they recognise they are incomplete) that can’t be an “error” at all. I’ve never come across the “argument” before, but it isn’t in any way an error, just a fanciful argument someone has come up with, so I don’t see how that example makes any case at all.

    Then you have said variously: ““The Church” wouldn’t allow them to. This is History.” and “the “Redactor’s Pens” which were used to “Harmonize” the Scriptures. They have no idea how altered what we call the Bible has been from the beginning”, hinting at something that you haven’t made clear. Perhaps you would like to explain, with some reputable references, so I could comment. Thanks.

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  287. unkleE, I think Nate made a comment about the Diatesseron written by Tatian in between our most recent posts. This was a document he wrote to try and harmonize the errors and inconsistancies he saw in the Gospels. Redactors Pens and Church History are things you can look up yourself. I’m not sure I could provide what you would call reputable references. You seem to trivialize any point I make, so I doubt that it makes any sense to continue down this road. When you don’t see errors for what they are and you call other people’s arguments “Fanciful” , that doesn’t seem to leave much for conversation. No worries, the best to you.

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  288. Actually, KC, geneology is only dependent upon the mother in Jewish culture: http://www.jewishanswers.org/ask-the-rabbi-category/the-basics-of-judaism/?p=933

    The geneology in Luke is Mary’s lineage. Matthew’s account (Joseph’s line) is meant to convey the symbolic generations of HIS-tory. The Bible is not mainly a historical text, but rather is limited to a history of redemption itself.

    As to women not being considered to pass on the genes, this is ridiculous considering the mention of both Rahab and Ruth in one or both of the geneologies. The seed or sperma came from the Holy Spirit supernaturally; and so, through Mary Jesus is established as a Jew, and through the Holy Spirit, Jesus is fully God come in the flesh.

    I am aware that many Bible teachers do not believe in the virgin birth (Rob Bell questions it as well), but I don’t have a problem with the supernatural intersecting this world. However God intersects the world would have to be supernatural. 🙂

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  289. JudahFirst, I think the link you provided is giving the definition of lineage from Contemporary Judaism not Ancient Judaism. I don’t think you will find any genealogies in the Old Testament using women. Let’s assume you are right for the moment. If Mary passed her genes on to Jesus as you claim, then wasn’t Jesus born a sinner like all the rest of us ? After the discovery of the female egg in 1827 isn’t this when the Catholic Church came up with the idea of the Immaculate Conception making Mary’s birth sinless ? Mary must have thought she was a sinner because in Luke 1:47 she says, “How my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior” . If she didn’t think she was a sinner, she wouldn’t need a Savior. I am not a Theologian and this is just my oppinion.

    Here is something I found on the Internet as well: The absence of literal blood relationship between Joseph and Jesus, the fact that the Jews never introduce women as direct genealogical links, and the loose way in which Bible writers use the terms “son” and “father” are probably responsible for the seeming discrepancy by which Matthew lists Jacob as Joseph’s father, and Luke gives Heli. Either Luke or, more probably Matthew, uses the expression “son of” (in Lk 3:23) or “begat” (in Mt1:16) in a strictly legal and genealogical sense rather than in a strictly literal sense, since Joseph, the husband of Mary, could not be the literal son of both Heli and Jacob. This seeming discrepancy has been explained on the basis that Luke presents Jesus as the actual blood descendant of David through Mary (cf. Rom1:3, 4), but without listing Mary as a link in the chain of progenitors, whereas Matthew gives the royal and legal line of descent through Joseph, who was Jesus’ father by Jewish law. Joseph could have been the literal son of either Jacob or Heli and the adopted son of the other, perhaps through a levirate marriage by either. Horn, Siegfried H., Seventh-day Adventist Bible Dictionary, (Washington, D.C.:Review and Herald Publishing Association) 1979.

    Thank you for your comments and links.

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  290. JudahFirst, I stand corrected about not listing women in the OT.

    Perhaps the most interesting facet of the genealogy is the inclusion of women—and unexpected ones at that. While it is not unprecedented to include women in a biblical genealogy (see, for example, Genesis 11:29, 22:20–24, and 1 Chronicles 2:18–21, 24), it most certainly is unusual and, generally, women are not included in genealogical lists in the Bible. What’s more, the women who are included are not the matriarchs (Sarah, Rebekah, Rachel, and Leah, who are Jesus’ ancestors) but rather women whose stories are, truth be told, fraught with difficulties, at least at first reading.

    I don’t mind admitting if I made a mistake. 🙂

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  291. He has not left us, he has been here always and is always here for you and you have the choice whether you want him in your life or not. It is just like your real father in the sense that when you are a child you don’t really have a choice in the matter, children are not accountable for their religious beliefs or whether or not they have a relationship with their father, they are not old enough to decide but once you become an adult if you have a father, and a father I might add who does want more than anything to be in your life and who loves you unconditionally and is perfect and does not make any mistakes and you choose not to allow him in your life and suffer for it, it is not him making you suffer you are choosing to suffer, you are choosing to have no father or to not trust your father or believe in him. God is not punishing you, you are punishing yourself. It is not a matter of punishment it is a matter of choosing his Love or denying it, it is a free gift, if you don’t want anything to do with your creator than you will have nothing to do with him for an eternity, If you want to be all-knowing like him and don’t trust him or think your way is better than his this is like the Devil did in the Bible. it is not a punishment to allow you a choice, punishment would be to force you to when you do not want to, it if your choice and what you wanted no matter what happens to you after this. I actually had a real father who was like the God described in this blog and I assure you God is nothing like him. Separation from God is sin and we have all seen sin on this Earth and suffered from it and there is only one way to make it stop if you want it to stop, just accept his Love and trust him. Talk to him have a relationship with him, that is all he wants, why is that so awful? That being said I have had all the same questions in all of these blogs before and have worked through them in the past almost becoming an atheist myself and definitely agnostic at one point, not even wanting to live anymore at one point so I do understand everyone’s doubts. Once I worked through them I had more faith than before. It is good to question things and seek out the truth so I am glad to see a lot of you doing that. I believe God wants that and wants it to be a true choice. Just imagine if you had very loving parents but rebelled as a child but they were always willing to forgive you all you had to do was ask, but imagine if you never asked forgiveness, never wanted it, never wanted their love or their help always questioned them to the point that you never trusted them, they may continue loving you regardless unconditionally but until you decide to accept their love you will suffer not because they are punishing you, again because you are choosing to. They are trying to save you from suffering they are they are the solution to it not the cause of it unless you just want to blame them for bring you into the world and then you choosing to rebel, that never would have happened had they not brought you into the world (and yes I have actually prayed this before like Job that I wish I had never been born so I do get this but no longer feel this way). . .

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  292. Nate: I just looked at your list of books you’ve read since 2010. I have read several but have marked several more to go onto my “Read List” Thanks for sharing !

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  293. once you become an adult if you have a father, and a father I might add who does want more than anything to be in your life and who loves you unconditionally and is perfect and does not make any mistakes and you choose not to allow him in your life and suffer for it, it is not him making you suffer you are choosing to suffer, you are choosing to have no father or to not trust your father or believe in him.

    Actually Amanda, the relationship is entirely up to him. I’m here, and I’ve been looking for him my entire life. If he wants a relationship with me as badly as you say, he knows where he can find me.

    But thanks for the comment.

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  294. “…he knows where he can find me.”

    Nate, I have every confidence He will do just that. 🙂

    “If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them wanders away, what will he do? Won’t he leave the ninety-nine others on the hills and go out to search for the one that is lost? And if he finds it, I tell you the truth, he will rejoice over it more than over the ninety-nine that didn’t wander away! In the same way, it is not my heavenly Father’s will that even one of these little ones should perish.”

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  295. You seem to trivialize any point I make, so I doubt that it makes any sense to continue down this road. When you don’t see errors for what they are and you call other people’s arguments “Fanciful” , that doesn’t seem to leave much for conversation.”

    Hi kcchief1, then it seems I have no charge to answer!! Everybody’s happy! 🙂 But if you think I understate errors, all you have to do is offer the evidence I ask for. And you haven’t done so.

    the Diatesseron written by Tatian … a document he wrote to try and harmonize the errors and inconsistancies he saw in the Gospels.”

    My reading indicates that it was written mainly to provide a chronology for the 4 gospels, which are not written in strict chronological order. The only “error” I’m aware he harmonised is the chronology – this statement based on the fact that “Only 56 verses in the canonical Gospels do not have a counterpart in the Diatessaron, mostly the genealogies and the Pericope Adulterae.” (Wikipedia). If the verses remain, the errors cannot have been removed. So in this discussion, we still only have the genealogies as ‘errors”.

    Redactors Pens and Church History are things you can look up yourself. I’m not sure I could provide what you would call reputable references.”

    Do you mean you rely on disreputable sources? 🙂 I honestly don’t know what you mean here. Textual study of the NT is in a very good position because we have so many copies to compare. But in more than a million pages of copies, there are about 400,000 textual variants, less than one every two pages. Since the majority of variants are simple and obvious copying errors, the number of possible redactions is very low.

    So I suppose you will say I have again “trivialised” your points – but I have simply written what I understand are the facts, and those facts negate your points – at least until and if you offer examples to discuss. I can only discuss what you mention.

    Thanks and best wishes.

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  296. Sorry, “chronology” in “harmonised is the chronology” in my second paragraph should have been “genealogy”.

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  297. You always say you don’t know what I mean. I think I have been quite clear. I’ve had this conversation with other Christian Apologists . It always ends the same way. Let’s agree to disagree and be done with it.

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  298. I’m OK with that, but you need to know that my question was genuine. I looked up “Redactors Pens” and “Redactors Pens and Church History” on Google, and I got nothing sensible. So I guessed you might be talking about changes in the text since they were written down, and I gave some facts on that, suggesting that your veiled inference wasn’t based on facts. If I was wrong, you can always show me, and everyone else reading this. But I think I was right (obviously!) and I don’t think you have any “killer” examples to back up what you said. But I guess we will never know. I’m genuinely sorry it has come to this, for I dislike polarisation, but the ball’s in your court. Best wishes.

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  299. unkleE, there are hundreds of sites on the Internet when you Google , “redactors in the bible” . When I referred to the Redactor’s Pen in my post to Nate, I obviously was referring to the Bible. If you Googled, “redactors pen” I doubt that you did find anything credible. Here is a description from one of the first sites I “Googled”

    “The redaction of the New Testament was a politically and theologically charged affair that began in the fourth century in a series of synods, most notably the Synod of Hippo in 393 C.E. The churchmen — at this point, they were all men — met to choose the canon some 350 years after the death of Jesus in what had by then become the imperial church of the Roman Empire. They selected the texts to be included, and they resolved discrepancies between different copies of the same text, remembering that these manuscripts were all hand-copied over many generations. The result thereof, an anthology touched and transformed at many stages by the hands of poets, philosophers, partisans, and politics, is now immortalized, widely translated and mass-produced. ”

    What we are reading today is a result of what they did. We are not reading original manuscripts of the orignal authors (whoever they might be). We are reading copies of copies of copies which have been redacted. I know you can find Chrstian Apologist websites who will say these redactions were only to harmonize scripture but never changed its original meaning. This is what people will be arguing over until the end of time.

    When I mentioned the Church in the same post I wrote to Nate, it was about the fact that historically the Church quite often banned the possession of a Bible by a commoner . Why did they do this ? They wanted to retain their power over them. When they were finally able to read the Bible, that’s when questions started being directed to the Church about is validity. This fairly recent period is referred to the Enlightenment Period. Here is a link to a site which provides this history and notates its sources.

    I have repeatedly said I am a former Christian and still remain a Deist. Although only an amateur, I have spent much time reading the Bible and Books on the History of the Bible and the History of Christianity. I know I can’t win arguements with Christian Apologists because they are not open to reason. All I try to do is get them to think outside their beleif system whether they admit it or not. My question to them is simply this. If Christianity is the only one and true religion why has their history been stained by the blood of those who refused to accept or believe? The Crusades, the various Inquisitions, the Dark Ages, etc. Countless thousands of non-believers were given the choice to accept Christianity or Die. Many of them died. Religion by force is not something my God would endorse.

    Thank you for your time. I hope I have cleared some things up. For some reason this site is not letting me post this. I hope it goes through this time.

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  300. I also realized this site wouldn’t let me list the link to the Church History I mentioned above. Just google, “A TIME WHEN THE BIBLE WAS BANNED
    AND BURNED” and you will find it.

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  301. unkeE, I was reading an article from a Christian writer, Steve Douglas about redactors in the Bible. I found his closing thoughts interesting, “I’m afraid that this contention that the ancients could live with more tension and uncertainty about historical details than we nowadays prefer will not make enough inroads among modern Christians who have swallowed modernism hook, line, and sinker. They have vilified post-modernism so much that they won’t recognize in it the cure for the disease they are trying through desperate apologetics to overcome: no, we don’t have all the facts, can’t look at everything as objectively as we’d like, undoubtedly get even key points of our theology wrong, and our sources of knowledge are likely screwed up even in important areas — but that’s ok. We live with the tension by making the best we can of what is available to us, and as Christians, we trust God with the rest.” I suppose if one is going to remain a Christian, this would be the attitude to have. I think if the word “Christians” was replaced with “Deist” in the last sentence, it could pertain to me too ! 🙂

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  302. kcchief1, thanks for that clarification. Let me see if I can summarise what you have said, putting things in chronological order, and then comment.

    1. “We are not reading original manuscripts of the orignal authors (whoever they might be). We are reading copies of copies of copies which have been redacted.”
    Yes, we only have copies of copies, but we have many thousands of copies of copies, so we can test how accurate the copies have been, and the answer is – amazingly accurate. Less than one variant every two pages, and almost all of them obvious and don’t change the meaning. At most about a dozen passages have anything significant, and most of these have been sorted out in modern translations of the Bible. So if any redaction occurred, it must have been very early, before any copies were made, and/or very minor.

    2. <i”The redaction of the New Testament was a politically and theologically charged affair that began in the fourth century ….. They selected the texts to be included, and they resolved discrepancies between different copies of the same text”
    The earliest complete copy we have of the New testament, the Codex Sinaiticus. was written about 340 CE. But complete, or almost complete, copies of most individual books date earlier – for example, most gospels have almost complete texts dating from 200-250 CE.

    The first church council was in 325 CE, long after we have copies of most books. So when did this redaction take place? It had to be very early to satisfy the evidence in my answers to Q1 & Q2, which makes it indistinguishable from the actual writing and editing.

    I think the only sensible claim that can be made is that the early church councils selected which books should be included, and clearly there could be significant doubts about a few. But not about the gospels, which most scholars agree (with only a small minority disagreeing) that the four we have are by far the earliest and best attested. The only dissent from that is Thomas, which most scholars believe is second century, but perhaps based on some early material, but a very few scholars disagree. But that isn’t “redaction” as far as I understand it.

    3. “historically the Church quite often banned the possession of a Bible by a commoner . “
    Maybe. I have no reason to defend anything the church did, especially as we are talking about the period 500-1500 CE according to the site you referred me to – far too late to affect the texts we have.

    4. “If Christianity is the only one and true religion why has their history been stained by the blood of those who refused to accept or believe? The Crusades, the various Inquisitions, the Dark Ages, etc. Countless thousands of non-believers were given the choice to accept Christianity or Die. Many of them died. Religion by force is not something my God would endorse.”
    People are nasty, sometimes. Every nation, most major movements (communism, fascism, democracy, etc) have dark chapters. Religion by force is certainly not something Jesus would endorse either, but unfortunately it happened when people put greed and power above Jesus.

    So what have we got, kcchief1? Some textual variants that amount to about a dozen of any significance, most of which have long since been corrected in the Bibles we read, the selection of the four earliest gospels for inclusion in the canon, and ….. what else?

    I honestly don’t see anything there that (1) most educated christians don’t know, and (2) in any way justifies the statements you have made. Have I missed something? Have I misrepresented anything? Is there more evidence? I have used Wikipedia and scholarship to come to these assessments, and I think it is now time for you to make the running and present hard evidence rather than allusions, because so far there is no case to answer.

    Thanks, and best wishes.

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  303. unkeE, I was reading an article from a Christian writer, Steve Douglas about redactors in the Bible

    I don’t think his approach is that far from mine.

    I suppose if one is going to remain a Christian, this would be the attitude to have.”

    This is where I part company. I think the correct statement would be “granted all that, christian belief seems to me to be the option best supported by the evidence.”

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  304. KC, thanks for your comments regarding the genealogy. Too bad I can’t spell that word correctly, isn’t it? 😉

    Anyway, it has always astounded and delighted me that the Bible includes the women “whose stories were fraught with difficulty” in the lineage of Jesus.

    As to whether or not Mary was a sinner, most certainly! To me, this shows that God was actually Jesus’ Father, else He would not have had victory over the human part of His nature. That He was fully God AND fully man is crucial to the entire story!

    Again I’m reminded of Baxter Kruger’s book, “Jesus and the Undoing of Adam”. For Jesus to ‘undo’ what Adam did (whether or not you take the Genesis 1-3 account literally, which I do not necessarily do), Jesus would have to be fully man. Most scholars would disagree with me that He would have had a sin nature. But I don’t have an issue with that. To me, if Jesus had a sin nature which is deity overcame, so much the more amazing! 🙂

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  305. JudahFirst, No worries on spelling. I am probably the worst on this blog. I know how to spell, but I tend to type faster than my brain. LOL I always appreciate your comments because I know you have given them thought first and they seem to come from your heart as well. Thank you for sharing. 🙂

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  306. Going back to the question on what in the NT has errors in it (historical, scientific, internally consistent, etc), I appreciate nate stepping in during my absence. And yes, he gave many of the examples I would have.

    I would only add this, that when i was a Christian, i always viewed the OT and NT together. I mean, I knew they were separate, but the NT references back to the OT frequently and and makes a point about how the OT was the schoolmaster that brings you to the NT. So, I was referring to both OT and NT when I asked my original question or made my original point. I think to shrug off the OT is cherry picking, but even so…

    To nate’s examples of problems in the NT I would only add Mathew’s mis-attribution of a “prophecy” to Jeremiah when it should have been Ezekiel. This kind of goes to another problem though (and Mathew seemed to be the worst) many of the “prophecies” he cites as evidence, turn out not to even be “prophecies” looking of fulfillment when you turn your pages back to the OT. That at least looks like a problem. who knows, there may be more – absence of evidence isn’t evidence of absence… isnt that how it goes?

    And I think kc is right. The genealogies in mathew and Luke are severely problematic. I know that you say they arent literal or that they are symbolic, but that’s all you can say about them if you’re trying to defend them – because they don’t do a good job of lending credibility toward the man jesus’ linage. they’re certainly not accurate. and just wanted to add that Luke’s never says anywhere that it is a linage through mary.

    With all of the defenses I’ve seen for the problems in the bible, it truly makes me wonder what contradiction couldnt be “reconciled” in such ways. And actually, when I first started having doubts and questions, a big factor in my awakening was the “answers” people would provide to these problems. could anyone give an example of a real contradiction, because I am obviously having problems understanding what a real example is?

    and just one more thing, and sorry for back tracking so much here, but UnkleE this goes back to a much earlier point of yours, but you had made and analogy between leaving christ and leaving a wife, or something similar. I just wanted to say that I think the analogy would be much more accurate if it had been a wife that had never spoken to the husband and had never actually visited the husband, and who had never been seen by the husband.

    I wonder how much differently such a husband would be from me or nate or howie if it turned out that his wife either wasn’t real or was leaving him… just a thought.

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  307. Josh,

    looking back over the past comments and after some reflection this weekend, I do want to apologize to you. If I’ve been harsh or rude to anyone on here, it’s been you. I am sorry, for what consolation that may be.

    I actually do like you and I do not doubt your sincerity or devotion. I do feel like you’re side-stepping certain points and irrationally dismissing others, but I know I have my own issues as well and I am also aware that I could be totally mistaken. You and I, like everyone else here, are doing the best we can with the information we have at hand. I cant begrudge that, and shouldn’t ridicule it.

    here’s to your search for truth. may you reach it in good health.

    William

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  308. I think to shrug off the OT is cherry picking, but even so…

    Hi William, here we go again! 🙂

    There are many passages in the NT that say that the OT is past – see The Old Testament Law and Christians.

    many of the “prophecies” he cites as evidence, turn out not to even be “prophecies” looking of fulfillment when you turn your pages back to the OT

    An understanding of 1st century Jewish approaches to interpreting their scriptures would help here – see Interpreting the Old Testament.

    The genealogies in mathew and Luke are severely problematic. I know that you say they arent literal or that they are symbolic, but that’s all you can say about them if you’re trying to defend them

    But I don’t have to defend them. I am not troubled by the discrepancies. I think most of you here judge the Jewish scriptures by 21st century western standards. I remember coming across these and other issues decades ago, so I researched them myself, read up scholars who could help me, and found that understanding first century Judaism made a lot of difference to my understanding of Jesus – and showed most of these are minor or even pseudo problems.

    But let’s not keep going, this could go on forever, and nothing we say is going to make any difference do you think?

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  309. UnkleE I think you’re right in that we may as well cease. I think you’re just dismissing the issues and pretending tending that they’re not significant. at least we agree there are indeed problems. and I guess you think i’m being too literal and missing the overall point.

    I also recognize that the OT is no longer in affect, i even believed that as a believer. But the NT still references the OT as a tutor and that it is a forerunner of the NT, presumably as some evidence of god, of jesus, and their nature. so I still think the errors in the OT cant be so easily discarded simply because they’re problematic or the first edition, so to speak. I realize the problems dont bother you as they have me, although i dont understand why, since you and I agree there are errors.

    and the defense on the genealogies seems weak to me. I’ve heard them and read them before, but there is such an easy way to avoid even the appearance of a problem. had they simply been written correctly and accurately, i imagine the 1st century jews could have still understood it and then anyone born after that time and outside of that culture could have understood it as well. Easy fix, but god may not have seen the problems that may have arisen so far down the road… i guess I dont know. what I do know is, is that the genealogies dont jive when read straight from the bible, outside sources and personal creativity have to be utilized to make up for the problem – yet no matter how much we try, the bible still has them mismatching and contradictory.

    again, i think you may as well be arguing that the koran and the bible are both god’s inspired word. It doesnt have to make sense to us and god can do anything he wants…

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  310. It REALLY gets interesting, William, when you start to see how the N.T. writers completely re-interpreted the O.T. texts they quoted – sometime completely reversing their meaning (Paul did that a LOT). It begins to become clear that interpretation is the key, not literal meaning.

    It helped me a lot when I found out that there were so few Jewish scholars during Jesus’ day who could come to any sort of agreement on which books in the O.T. were inspired. Christians assume the O.T. is all inspired, but first century Judaism begs to differ.

    Which brings me back to where I am now … everything through the lens of Jesus’ character and work. If it doesn’t jive with that, it’s not inspired. I apply this principle to N.T. and O.T.

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  311. JudahFirst, sure, i get you, except that I have trouble with the presupposition that the NT is inspired, which means that I have a hard time swallowing what the NT authors claimed that jesus did or didnt accept.

    Even so, jesus quoted daniel, and that book has some issues and is pretty suspect. jesus quoted many of the prophets that also had issues.

    and maybe the translations arent as off as the gospels author’s understanding…

    If i took jesus as the starting point, i may agree with you. i just find it hard to do that. I find it so hard to take something so flawed, and something that men are capable of doing and just “knowing” god is behind it. I just dont see people gaining such confidence when it comes to anything but their own religion or faith.

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  312. William-

    “Josh,
    looking back over…”

    I accept your apology. I’m sure there are things I’m sidestepping, as I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a well-read apologist. I can only speak to so many questions with any reasonable amount of understanding. All of us here are on a search for truth, which is the most of we can expect of each other. There’s a hefty amount of back and forth, particularly on this post, and it is clear to me that, much of the time, there is a lot of “talking past each other”. I appreciate that Christians are often biased in the way they look at things – I know that I am. However, I think there is value in the skeptic admitting they are also biased. There are points to be made about the difficulties in scripture. There are also reasonable points to be made about the veracity of scripture. What some skeptics argue, that there is no reasonable justification for believing Christianity, is, in my opinion, a huge overstatement.

    Thanks again, William.
    -Josh

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  313. Portal001, if the biblical god made it clear that he was actually a god and especially the only god, then absolutely. I have no problems submitting when i need to. this isnt rebellion on may part. I can only assure you.

    I was a fervent believer for many years, and now that i am not, i dont live any differently – except for church…

    a question for you, what makes you believe in the biblical god despite the problems with the bible?

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  314. If the Biblical God asked me to offer up my Son as a sacrifice to Him, then the answer would be no.

    Gen 22:2, ” And He said: ‘Take now thy son, thine only son, whom thou lovest, even Isaac, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt-offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of.’

    Jer 19:5 , “They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!”

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  315. KC, I do not believe God was asking Abraham to offer his son. That was a common pagan practice (as you see in Jeremiah) at that time. Instead, God was taking Abraham through a lesson in what He is NOT like (the other pagan gods). 🙂

    Portal, “Perfect love casts out fear.” I’m sorry that you believe out of fear. I have come to believe that God is not angry and we have no need to fear Him (the terrorizing, paralyzing kind of fear). Respect is one thing, fear completely another. Fear involves punishment due to lawbreaking, but if God is all about grace and forgiveness then where is the punishment? Where is the fear?

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  316. JudahFirst, The lesson also involved Abraham holding a knife to Isaac’s throat. Had God kept silent, would Abraham have slit Isaac’s throat ? What a horrible way to teach a lesson if you are correct. I can’t think of a situation where I would ever hold a knife to one of my children’s throats. That’s just my opinion.

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  317. KC, you have to consider how common a practice this was in those days.Abraham was not surprised when God “told” him to go up and offer Isaac. He watched people around him do it all the time. It may seem horrible to you, but it was likely not that horrible to Abraham (a really good example of how we need to consider the audience when working at interpretation).

    I would go so far as to say that Abraham expected God to ask this of him, simply because it was so much a part of the culture in which he lived. (I would think if it wasn’t, Isaac at 13 would have simply overpowered his elderly father and high-tailed it outta there…)

    You may think this a cruel way to teach a lesson, but imagine this scenario:

    You live in a world where the gods demand appeasement, often asking for a blood sacrifice of someone you love dearly. Abraham was old and knew he was only going to have the 1 son. He lived in constant fear that one day God would ask him to sacrifice Isaac – what if Abraham had made God angry? What if he had not done enough to appease him already? What if Abraham really didn’t love God enough? When would God demand his only (and beloved) son??

    And then the day comes. Consider the resignation probably in Abraham’s demeanor and voice as he put the things together he would need to kill his ONLY son in sacrifice to the only God he understood (a perfect, violent, demanding God who lusts after blood). (I’m always amazed when I read this story that Sarah let him take Isaac!) Now we get to the sacrifice.

    Abraham was completely ready to do this! He really BELIEVED this is how the world worked. (Contrast, you in no way, shape, or form have ever believed this – but Abraham REALLY did!) Now at the very moment when he was going to do what he believed was normal – God stops him. And teaches him a lesson he could not have learned any other way. I mean, think about it. What if God had just told Abraham that He didn’t want his son sacrificed to him. 1. I imagine Abraham would think for sure that he wasn’t hearing things correctly – in his world this was the way things worked. 2. There is nothing more powerful that the intense lesson God put Abraham through – imagine Abraham’s relief and SURPRISE! to find that the God talking to him was NOT like all the other gods around!!

    This was merely the beginning of the deconstruction of what mankind believed God was like. I believe the sacrificial system was the same – a picture of what God is NOT like (“I do not delight in sacrifices or the blood of lambs or goats…”) God had to take Israel (beginning with Abraham) through the traces so to speak, in order to teach them and then He did the ultimate: came to them and then HE sacrificed Jesus to US putting to death forever the idea that God needs a sacrifice.

    Anyway, that’s my take on it. 🙂

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  318. JudahFirst,

    “I have come to believe that God is not angry and we have no need to fear Him (the terrorizing, paralyzing kind of fear).”

    I don’t want to offend you, but is that wishful thinking?

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  319. Portal, nope. Jesus loved me with perfect love. I have nothing to fear from Him or His Father. I may yet need to fear the natural consequences of my own sin (if I shoot someone, I’ll likely spend the rest of my life in prison), but I fear no punishment from God. Seriously.

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  320. If the biblical God does exist then doesn’t He hate the wrong doer? doesn’t He demand at least Israel to obey? doesn’t He desire us to follow? Will He not judge us all according to our works?

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  321. Portal, we judge ourselves by our works. God doesn’t judge us that way. He understands our weakness. He does not demand obedience because he knows we can’t keep even our own laws (when’s the last time you tried to give something up or made a New Year’s resolution and actually accomplished it … if you did, you are rare!). God is not like us. But we are trying our best to make Him so.

    I heard once time: “On the sixth day God created man in His own image and mankind has been returning the favor ever since.” 🙂

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  322. JudahFirst, I am glad you are at peace 🙂 but to me the bible is confronting, and it is unsettling. What Jesus teaches is confronting (and I’m not just talking about the loving others bit) what He calls us to do is full on. He even asks us to consider the cost. I want God to be real, a loving God to be real. I hope He is real, but not to get into heaven if others don’t. I don’t know, Im only a human, but why does this God experiment even have to happen, if it is true?

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  323. KC, for more on how God worked against the cultural norms with Abraham, you can check out my blog called “Walking through the Pieces”.

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  324. What is God proving? that we are fallen? He knows that? maybe He’s not proving anything. But whats with this whole comedy called life? the beauty? the cruelty? what is God showing us? that He is just? Why does He need witnesses besuides Himself to witness He is God?

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  325. JudahFirst, It may have been common for Pagans to sacrifice children to their Gods but it wasn’t common with the Bible God. I refer again back to Jer 19:5 , “They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!” Since Jer 19:5 was probably written after the Genesis story, the Bible God has to be lying here. Am I missing something ?

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  326. Portal –
    I believe, correctly read, the NT answers your questions like this:

    1. “If the biblical God does exist then doesn’t He hate the wrong doer? NO.
    2. “doesn’t He demand at least Israel to obey?” Demand? NO. Desire? YES.
    3. “doesn’t He desire us to follow?” YES.
    4. “Will He not judge us all according to our works?” NO. He will judge us according to HIS OWN work.

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  327. While Jesus does often confront people, He is really confronting them – within their ideology. I doubt He could have convinced the Pharisees that God was a loving Father, simply because they were so steeped in the Law that Jesus had to actually die to show them that. His final words on the cross have convinced me that heaven is not a place where some get in and some don’t (I don’t actually see heaven as a place, per se, but we can discuss that another time), “Father, forgive them, they don’t know what they are doing.” We crucified Jesus (we, not God) out of our violence and rejection of love, but Jesus’ words show us that God’s love has no limits. He was praying forgiveness for the ACTUAL people crucifying Him, which is much more astounding.

    The upside-down Kingdom is one in which God is not like what we think (violent, vindictive, punishing) and we are not what we think (peaceful, loving, forgiving). The crucifixion is the “crux” of all of history and everything I believe hinges on it (and the resurrection).

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  328. “What is God proving? that we are fallen? He knows that? maybe He’s not proving anything. But whats with this whole comedy called life? the beauty? the cruelty? what is God showing us? that He is just? Why does He need witnesses besuides Himself to witness He is God?”

    Portal – I recommend you read:
    Between Noon and Three
    The Mystery of Christ…And Why We Don’t Get It
    The Parables of Judgment
    all By Robert Farrar Capon

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  329. KC, yes, God did not demand that Abraham sacrifice Isaac. They knew the end of the story. 🙂 The Jews still believed (even in Jeremiah’s day) that the way to appease the gods was through blood sacrifice. They let themselves be enticed by the pagan nations around them and they started believing that God must be like that too (since they were in exile, God had to be angry at them, right?).

    In Abraham’s day, there was not “Bible God”. God was just beginning to reveal Himself. All Abraham knew was the surrounding pagan gods and what people believed they were like. His assumption would have begun with that and he would have thought the God talking to him was just like the other gods.

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  330. Portal,

    You wrote:

    “What is God proving? that we are fallen? He knows that? maybe He’s not proving anything. But whats with this whole comedy called life? the beauty? the cruelty? what is God showing us? that He is just? Why does He need witnesses besuides Himself to witness He is God?”

    Um, beats me! 🙂

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  331. JudahFirst, where do you find this in your Bible ? “KC, yes, God did not demand that Abraham sacrifice Isaac.” My Bible says he did . Confused…….

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  332. I think at the end of the day, unless someone has encountered a direct revelation, we are all doing the best we can with the information we are given, and then choose who to trust based on that information.

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  333. Portal-
    “what do you make of the bible when it says things that seem to go against what your saying?”

    I go back to God as revealed in Jesus. I really recommend you read the books I listed, especially The Mystery of Christ and The Parables of Judgment. We are already in the Stadium, my friend. You can choose to stay and watch the game, or leave and keep trying to purchase your ticket.

    “God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.”

    “The time for judging this world HAS COME, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out. And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw EVERYONE to myself.” He said this to indicate how he was going to die.”

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  334. “We are already in the Stadium, my friend. You can choose to stay and watch the game, or leave and keep trying to purchase your ticket.”

    I like that, and I love your attitude 🙂

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  335. Portal-
    That’s from Robert Capon. I can’t claim originality.

    Another way to challenge what you think is this. Go back and read through all of the parables that seem to express judgment (The Ten Virgins, The Farmer employing workers, The Wedding guests, etc, etc). Try to notice that every time someone is “excluded” at the end of the parable they were already “included” at the beginning. No one ends up on the outside who wasn’t already presumed to be invited to the party. Even in the Sheep and the Goats it’s the ones who never for a second presumed they were invited who get let in. It’s the ones who thought they were shoe-ins because they earned it who were out. It’s never that we’re not included. It’s that we put ourselves on the outside because we hold on so tightly to the belief that we HAVE to earn it and CANNOT just enjoy it.

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  336. KC, God never asked Abraham to actually go through with it. Work with me here. 🙂 In the end God did not ask Abraham to sacrifice Isaac. Telling him to take his son up the mountain to be sacrificed was an invitation to learn something NEW about God. Before it was all over, did Abraham THINK God was asking him to sacrifice his son. Certainly. Wouldn’t have been much of a lesson if he hadn’t. My point was that this was normal to him whereas it is horrible to you.

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  337. when you read the bible it talks about god’s love, god’s mercy, god’s wrath, god’s vengeance. it talks about the splendors of heaven and the terrors of hell. It talks about obedience and punishment for disobedience. Christ talks about love and also pitting father against son, etc (Matt 10)

    And I think KC makes a fair point regarding the human sacrifice. I mean, we can excuse the WWII Nazi Germans if we dismiss it as the common practice for that time and place. While I know some human sacrifices did in fact take during that time, i am skeptical that it was rampant.

    JudahFirst made a good point, that you could look at that Abraham/Isaac event not as god testing Abraham, but teaching him that human sacrifice was wrong, but then the passages themselves make it seem like a test from god and not a lesson to Abraham.

    and I wonder how wonderful heaven will be when not all of my children would there, or my friends, or family, or just knowing that other people missed out, or worse, burning in everlasting torment – jesus taught that as well, if we believe the bible’s claims.

    And I’d rather everyone not be punished forever. Does that make me more merciful than god?

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  338. KC, I want to clarify my statement that offering Isaac was “normal” to Abraham. I do not mean to imply that it was no big deal to him. Not at all! Quite the contrary in fact! My earlier statement was that Abraham had likely spent the first 13 years of Isaac’s life in utter terror that God was one day going to ask this of him (because it was COMMON – that’s what I mean by normal) in those days. That God did not turn out to need Isaac as a sacrifice to Abraham would have begun to put to death Abraham’s fears of what God might be like (the gods the pagans around him worshiped – the ones Abraham was not certain were like the God he was hearing or not).

    Portal, my blog “Walking Through the Pieces” deals with the issue of law versus grace (reference your discussion with Josh). Be blessed!

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  339. JudahFirst, I am trying to work with you 🙂 But God did ask him to sacrifice whether he made him do it or not does not negate what he said in Jer 19:5 , “They have built pagan shrines to Baal, and there they burn their sons as sacrifices to Baal. I have never commanded such a horrible deed; it never even crossed my mind to command such a thing!”

    God DID command it and it DID cross his mind . I think any Jury in the country would convict God of lying here. I’m sorry JudahFirst, but I can’t work with you when it requires me to ignore what I’m reading. I still like you, however. 🙂

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  340. William, EXACTLY! I’m absolutely for sure certain that I am not more merciful than God. That fact alone made me start looking harder at what the Bible really does say. I deal pretty extensively on my blog with the issues of heaven/hell, punishment, etc. and hate to keep repeating myself here (although the Abraham illustration is something I love to talk about and have not blogged about yet).

    Meanwhile, interpretation really is everything. I wonder have you ever tried reading the N.T. without chapters and verses? I think you might be astounded at what you find there. When you take entire books in context rather than 10 or so verses, you start to find that verses we take out of context aren’t saying what we thought they were. For instance, if people understood that the passage about the rich man and Lazarus is preceded by 3 other chapters in Luke and that the heading for the entire section is (my paraphrase): “Because the Pharisees were lovers of money” or some such, then you begin to understand that Jesus is not trying to give us a literal picture of hell (or ANY picture of hell, actually), but he was instead confronting the Pharisees idea that poor people had been abandoned by God and rich people were on God’s favorite list … all of it starts to have a completely different MEANING though the words have not changed. Interpretation, interpretation, INTERPRETATION!

    Another example:

    Modern Evangelicals think that when Jesus used the word “hell” he was talking about a place of eternal punishment or separation from God. But we can be almost certain that is NOT what Jesus was saying by simply understanding what the Jews who were hearing him thought He meant by the word Gehenna (Jesus used that word exclusively, everywhere you see it translated “hell”, Paul used the word “Sheol” or “Hades” which simply means “the unseen” or the “place of the dead”, almost exclusively).

    The Jews had absolutely no understanding of ECT (eternal conscious torment), and believed when you died you went to sleep until the judgment. Even post judgment they would not have had any inkling that Jesus meant anything like what we have come to believe “hell” is.

    Interpretation is first and foremost a function of the original audience. If we cannot start there we are in danger of going sorely awry (as almost every church in America today attests).

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  341. KC, if God had commanded Abraham to go through with it, then yes. The point of the Jeremiah passage is to say that God has never required such a thing and it has never crossed His mind to need, demand, or command anyone to do that – and follow through. God was not about to let Abraham kill the next in line in the lineage of Jesus. That Abraham BELIEVED God commanded him to do it I will allow. The only way God would have commanded it is if He had required Abraham to do it, which He did not.

    As to it “entering into His mind”, the idea did that every time He saw one of his children sacrificing an idol to a pagan God. He was asserting through Jeremiah to the people that He was not the god they were worshiping when they did that – they were worshiping pagan gods who DO require blood.

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  342. JidahFirst, I have only read parts without verse or chapter designations, although I try to take into the account the whole context when reading that’s a good point.

    and it also seems like the jew’s notion of hell changed as they became influenced by the Persians and then the greeks. I guess that’s on reason that jesus used the word “Gehenna,” because there was no hebrew word for it – although it was supposedly always there? Always there but but god’s chosen people didnt have a word for it until they were surrounded by greeks?

    And I can and actually do agree that the bible was written for specific people at a specific time – it’s of the reasons I no longer think it’s for all people of all time and that it’s not of god.

    But good thoughts.

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  343. Portal-

    “Trust, thats what I struggle with”

    Everyone does. 🙂

    “I just wish he’d just accept us all, because we all need Him.”

    He does.

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  344. Peace, Portal.
    Blessings on your continued journey, wherever it leads. God knows we all need it 🙂

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  345. Its horrible to lose faith, to lose foundation, and depending to how you see the bible, those people (including me, are already lost). Those who read the passage you know what I mean. I just struggle to trust without direct instruction. and if this is not true, then this has wated my time, my life, those precious moments, because this has been a fixation. I can’t understand how others gleam over this. Maybe they don’t. I just don’t know, my grandparents are gettingolder, I don’t wanmt them to go to hell. I used to evangelise to my Grandmother before she died, I expressed to her the prayer of salvation, I believe she was saved, because if I don’t believe that, thats horrible. God judges best doesn’t He? These are just my honest thoughts.

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  346. you could do that portal, but how would you decide what to place your trust in? In allah, jehovah/Jesus, Buddah, something else, all of the above…?

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  347. I don’t understand why this isint deadly serious, this is life Jesus says He is the Life. thats it, and i don’t follow Him, I have never followed Him, because Im lazy. I abstain from sin, but in my own effort. If Jesus is the Son of God, this is serious

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  348. Why dont people take this seriously? I dont take it seriously enough by far. Id rather live a life of escape. but really, does anyone? or are we more focused on everything else?

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  349. very true. If the bible is god’s word and jesus is indeed his son, then it is serious indeed. but what if it’s just like all the other religions in the world? a nice try, but not from god…

    What does the evidence point to?

    I used to pray for guidance on this issue… still do. It only became clearer to me that the bible is not god’s. and old fouled up book makes as much sense a fruit from god, when writing the words on stone would at least have preserved the originals and speaking to each of us directly would do even so much more.

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  350. This is a serious question for some people, some people can’t move, some people are trapped in their doubt. This isin’t a game.

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  351. Portal, sounds like your on the edge of discovery but dont trust your own eyes. be brave and walk through that door. see what you find there.

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  352. if the emphasis is always on us, to trust, to believe, I have done not enough. But I still hope God we’re true. How terrifying it is.

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  353. William,

    Gehenna was the Valley of Hinom which was located right outside the walls surrounding the city of Jerusalem. It was a place of notoriety to the Jews – the location where they burned their children to the god, Molech and it had become the constantly burning trash heap outside the city … quite stinky.

    Here’s a link: http://www.thefreedictionary.com/Gehenna

    I find it interesting that this dictionary’s first definition is “a place or state of torment or suffering”. Where in the world did they get that??! (Oh, right, the CHURCH! damn) It was just the trash heap outside of Jerusalem. I think when you understand that along with O.T. references to fire (usually cleansing rather than destruction – even in Sodom & Gomorrah’s case, since it is prophesied that they will be restored), then our idea of “hell” becomes silly nonsense used to control people (much like the Pharisees used to do by threatening to put people out of the temple).

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  354. William: “and it also seems like the jew’s notion of hell changed as they became influenced by the Persians and then the greeks.” In fact, the word “hell” is nowhere to be found in the Hebrew bible. All the Jews knew about was sheol. The word itself did not even come into existence until around 725 CE and was an Old English word (hel, helle) used as a reference to the netherworld of the dead. Its core meaning is “to hide, conceal.”

    The word the gospel writers used (where they said Jesus talked about hell or hell-fire) was gehenna, from the Greek word geena, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew ge-hinnon (literally: the valley of Hinnom). It was in the valley of Hinnom that King Ahaz made molten images to the pagan god Moloch and then performed the abominable practice of burning his own sons for a sacrifice (King Manasseh did the same.) Eventually, Josiah (a righteous king) abolished these practices and in later years the area became known as the Valley of Slaughter, a burial place for the corpses of those who did evil in god’s sight. When Jesus used the word gehenna, the Jews immediately recognized it as a very bad place, but not the place of “eternal punishment” as it is understood today.

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  355. those who believe, is your faith all different? or do you all have a common belief? Im so tired of being fixated on this, I want truth, and this is all so directly hidden. Why? what is the point? Like I said before this isin’t a game by far

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  356. I know what you mean. If Allah’s true and Muhammad is his true prophet then I’m in bad shape. If thor is real, then he’ll really be after me for making fun of his pretty hair – he has a nice beard though.

    if buddah’s real, then no big deal, i’ll just have to go through it all again, but i dont think i’d complain about it.

    if zeus is real? And if dracula is real, then I’m in danger too since I discarded my cross long ago.

    there could be so much to fear, but there could also be nothing to fear. A lot of people on here like to act like god accepts people soo easily, but that’s not what I ever read in the bible either. There never seemed to be a good measure as to whether you made the cut.

    but that’s really beside the point. once you step back and really look at it, it’s no more believable than the greek mythology, and everything starts to make much more sense.

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  357. JudahFirst … I posted before I read your comment. It seems we’re both explaining the same thing, although I don’t agree with the part about the trash heap. From my reading, this is not necessarily fact. But I’m not going to hard state it.

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  358. Im so tired, I mean that, I just want God to accept us, were all messed up in the sense that were trying to work it out, or at least we’re trying to be active in living. I mean all that I have wrote before, all of it. Im never going to figure it out without God

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  359. nan, JudahFirst, thanks. that is also my understanding.

    and that’s also my point. jesus used a place on earth, the greek name for a place on earth. It seems to me that gehenna was the term used because the jews didnt use that term.

    my under standing, and you can correct me if I’m wrong, is that the hebrews and and ancient Mesopotamian viewed the afterlife as an underground dwelling, where their comfort or rest depended on how many family members they had returning to their graves or retelling stories about them.

    If they didnt have relatives, then they fell deeper into the pit and essentially vanished… that is, if i understand it correctly.

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  360. Willaim, You asked me, what makes you believe in the biblical god despite the problems with the bible?

    and i shared that it was a fear of God, but I wanted to know why you asked?

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  361. Yeah Im fine 🙂 Im just tired, in more ways than one 🙂 but I’ll be here tomorrow, ive got work today, and commitments, so ill be back to the same questions after

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  362. well hang in there. It will all workout. It always does. Do your best. I know that’s part of the problem because we feel like we could and should always do more, but we’re only human, with only human bodies and minds. If god made us, he’d be aware of that.

    And search out the best you can. I think we should be fair, consistent and honest, though. If we make any mistake out of the best of intentions and out of our best human efforts, then what more could we have done?

    Hang in there and be brave, man. what do you see? what does it look like to you? follow the signs and never quit looking for them. what more can you do, than that?

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  363. ah, well I am just curious why people believe anymore. I sued to, but that was before I saw the problems.

    Do you keep garlic in your pockets in case dracula is real?

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  364. thanks, I really appreciate that, i don’t understand why this isn’t one of the only questions.people seem to go through the day just not focusing on this, but I guess thats my own ignorance showing 🙂 I will always be here, I will never take the easy way out. so don’t worry 🙂 I couldnt do that anyway, since God judges that, but also, Id be wasting myself and not caring or loving others.

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  365. Even if God wasn’t there I wouldn’t do that, since its selfish, and I should focus on cering for others, whether Providence exists or not 🙂

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