Open Conversation Part 1

So I’ve decided to bring the “Kathy” series to an end. However, we’ve had some fun in those threads when the conversation has gone off into interesting tangents, so I’d like to keep that part of it going for anyone who’s interested. These new threads will no longer focus on Kathy or the things we were discussing with her. So thanks for your time, Kathy! Take care.

There are no real rules for these threads. But to kick off the conversation, I’ll go back to the discussion on Paul that a few of us were having. Laurie views Deut 13 as a prophecy about Paul, so why don’t we take a quick look at it?

“If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. 5 But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has taught rebellion against the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you out of the house of slavery, to make you leave the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

6 “If your brother, the son of your mother, or your son or your daughter or the wife you embrace or your friend who is as your own soul entices you secretly, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which neither you nor your fathers have known, 7 some of the gods of the peoples who are around you, whether near you or far off from you, from the one end of the earth to the other, 8 you shall not yield to him or listen to him, nor shall your eye pity him, nor shall you spare him, nor shall you conceal him. 9 But you shall kill him. Your hand shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. 10 You shall stone him to death with stones, because he sought to draw you away from the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. 11 And all Israel shall hear and fear and never again do any such wickedness as this among you.

12 “If you hear in one of your cities, which the Lord your God is giving you to dwell there, 13 that certain worthless fellows have gone out among you and have drawn away the inhabitants of their city, saying, ‘Let us go and serve other gods,’ which you have not known, 14 then you shall inquire and make search and ask diligently. And behold, if it be true and certain that such an abomination has been done among you, 15 you shall surely put the inhabitants of that city to the sword, devoting it to destruction, all who are in it and its cattle, with the edge of the sword. 16 You shall gather all its spoil into the midst of its open square and burn the city and all its spoil with fire, as a whole burnt offering to the Lord your God. It shall be a heap forever. It shall not be built again. 17 None of the devoted things shall stick to your hand, that the Lord may turn from the fierceness of his anger and show you mercy and have compassion on you and multiply you, as he swore to your fathers, 18 if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, keeping all his commandments that I am commanding you today, and doing what is right in the sight of the Lord your God.

I can see how one could apply this to Paul. However, I can also see how Jews could have applied it to Jesus as well, especially if he was claiming divinity for himself. And I’m sure this could have applied to lots of people during Israel’s history. Why should we think it’s pointing to Paul specifically, and why wouldn’t it also apply to Jesus?

1,090 thoughts on “Open Conversation Part 1”

  1. Powers,

    “Maybe I just have a softer heart than most. Maybe it is in my genes. Seeing as how science has indicated that different chemicals can illicit different emotional response, coupled with the fact that there are some studies about some mental defect that prevent pple from feeling empathy, I would think that saying there are people borned nice or borned dickish may be possible.”

    sometimes I wonder if we influence the chemical production in our brains by behavior and activity, etc., or if it’s the type of thing we are helpless against. Personally, without conducting any meaningful research, I think it’s a combination of the two.

    your thoughts?

    as to Portal’s question?

    well, it’s hard to answer. god and the bible were heavy influences and were brought up daily as I was a child. So i am sure I was influenced by them. But as we studied and learned those things, we reinforced them with reason, often saying things like, “and we understand these principles because…” or “we can see why god would say to do this and that because…” and then we’d present our logic as why morality was rational.

    We never sat in wonder or complete disbelief as to why morality was moral – it makes sense. So I think people can be very moral without having faith or without the bible if they study and meditate on good things, and i think we all know of some who have grown up with religion and the bible and a faith in god and the bible who were not as moral or ethical as they should have been.

    The point being, I believe it is instruction, meditation and consistency that lend a person to ethical behavior more than a single book would necessarily.


  2. In fact, that’s one of the many, MANY problems I have with with the Bible – what supreme being is so egomaniacal that he will give us a mere 70 years, then inspire a book so convoluted that it takes at least the entire 70 to decipher all of its riddles – and imagine those 97% of residents of the Levant who were illiterate! I bought a Weedeater, whose instructions were MUCH simpler than that, left me time for many other things – it would seem that my time is more important to an anonymous writer of Weedeater instructions, than to the skyDaddy who loved me so much that he sent his proxy to be tortured and die.

    Yeah, this is what it always comes down to for me too. Laurie can find some passages to make a really compelling case for her side — and Brandon can do the same thing.

    It really helps to step back and think about who wrote which books (and why). Your point about the Acts Seminar is probably right. Furthermore, I don’t doubt that the writer of Matthew was trying to say that the Law of Moses would last forever, because he seems to push for it quite a bit in his gospel. But the other books have different agendas.

    So for nonbelievers, the state of the Bible actually makes quite a bit of sense. But I think it has to be a bit tougher for those who are trying to make a cohesive message out of the whole thing, and that’s why I’m curious how Laurie takes the passages in Acts that seem so supportive of Paul.


  3. Hey Ryan,

    Thanks for the question! First off, I agree with the answers that Powell and William gave.

    I do think that my upbringing had an awful lot to do with my view of morality and ethics. And my parents used Christianity as the basis for those things. If I had grown up in an environment that didn’t stress the importance of morality, I likely wouldn’t have the same character than I do now. However, I think my parents could have still stressed those things without using Christianity as a basis.

    For instance, while my children are still pretty young, they are kind, compassionate, well-behaved kids so far (ages 5 – 11). My wife and I stress the importance of treating other people with respect and dignity — basically, we espouse humanism. And so far, it seems to be working out pretty well.


  4. Arch and Nate,

    I’m right along there with you both in your comments about the convoluted and difficult to decipher bible. I also think both Laurie and Brandon have made good points. When we also add to Laurie’s points the fact that the Hebrew Scriptures consistently mention how important and perfect God’s laws are and how the mosaic law is to be followed forever, never to be added to or subtracted from then we have ourselves a major dilemma with Paul’s writings as well as other new testament passages. The fact that the early church was dealing with this conundrum seems to bleed out into some parts of the new testament, and there have been many books written about the splinter groups in the early church regarding mosaic law.

    You are both right – the bible makes much more sense when viewed as another work of art that is very human, much like the myriad of scriptures of other religions.

    This all reminds me of what I had told Kathy back in episode #4: the book of James warns that faith without works is dead – if you don’t follow what his God believes is right then you are not truly saved. Merge this together with the difficulties in being able to figure out exactly what this God believes is right (e.g. is the law abolished or not?) and we have a very troubling conundrum. Surely you know that there are many different denominations which believe that everyone except themselves are going to hell because they are the only ones following the correct rules of God. This was one of the toughest things I dealt with as a Christian, and it finally made me realize the futility of Pascal’s wager – no matter which way you chose you still had the worry that you would burn in hell. True assurance of salvation does not really exist unless you just dig your heels in the ground and say “I’m right in my interpretations and all those others are wrong”. Those who believe they are saved are declaring themselves as more capable than all the others in their own deciphering of a puzzling bible. At some point I realized that the unknowable is not worth the worry, because there is no assurance anyway.


  5. @ Nate,

    The discussion about Paul is very interesting. I’m following along.

    @ Ryan,

    While I was growing up (during my pre-teen years) I don’t remember my parents using Christianity, per se, as a basis for learning morals and ethics. I did know there was a God, but we weren’t brought up with God as a basis for right and wrong. We didn’t go to church and, while there was a Bible in my house it wasn’t cracked open that I know of. We were taught to do what’s right because it was the right thing to do. I’d definitely say looking back on it we were taught humanism. Was that humanism influenced by Christianity? That’s kind of hard to say. It’s been said here over and over the Western Culture and Civilization has it’s roots in Christianity, but if you’ve read any of the Hammurabi Code (which predates the Bible or Christianity) it’s easy to see that other cultures and civilizations had similar ideas about morality and ethics.


  6. Something that may interest some here, is a little morsel I acquired from Laurie – The Didache.

    I found this quotation from Eusebius particularly interesting – apparently he didn’t hold The Acts in very high regard:

    The Didache is mentioned by Eusebius (c. 324) as the Teachings of the Apostles following the books recognized as canonical:

    “Let there be placed among the spurious works the Acts of Paul, the so-called Shepherd and the Apocalypse of Peter, and besides these the Epistle of Barnabas, and what are called the Teachings of the Apostles, and also the Apocalypse of John, if this be thought proper; for as I wrote before, some reject it, and others place it in the canon.”

    (emphasis, mine)


  7. Hmm – apparently “strong” doesn’t work within Nate’s “blockquote” – probably because he’s a LIBERAL!


  8. while my children are still pretty young, they are kind, compassionate, well-behaved kids so far (ages 5 – 11). My wife and I stress the importance of treating other people with respect and dignity — basically, we espouse humanism.

    Children Learn What They Live
    By Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.

    If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
    If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
    If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
    If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
    If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
    If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
    If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
    If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
    If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
    If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
    If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
    If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
    If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
    If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
    If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
    If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
    If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
    If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
    If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.


  9. I found this amusing, from A History of Celibacy by E. Abbott, New York, 2000 (not that I’m considering it):
    An early Christian saying from the Middle East:

    ‘With wine and boys around, the monks have no need of the Devil to tempt them’


  10. … and a master debater. he can go on and on. It’s quite impressive.

    Arch, don’t you ever get tired or ashamed at how much you do it? and you make the rest of us look bad with how well you do it too.

    does it make you feel big doing it the way you do?

    he mostly does it at the computer, and i imagine he works up quite a sweat.

    a cold shower would no doubt do him some good. You’ve earned it, arch, master debater.


  11. I want to agree with Howie. I think Laurie and brandon both make good points regarding their positions, and each uses scripture to do so.

    Laurie has used a lot and I’ve been thoroughly entertained reading her responses. It does give the bible a good twist ending.

    But like Howie and Nate and others, this only reaffirms the notion that the bible is anything but clear. If a lot of people can argue their differing points effectively about the bible with the bible, then this seems to align with what nate said, that the bible makes mores sense from a nonbeliever’s view point.

    Laurie/Brandon, why and how are each of you so convinced that the bible and your positions on it are correct while all others are wrong?

    Obviously we’re all familiar with the “because the bible says so” argument, so please understand I’m looking for more, as in “why the bible at all?”


  12. Re: Portal’s question – Do you think you would be as morally or ethically informed, if it wasn’t for your biblical family upbringing?

    For me, there was no “biblical family upbringing.” My mother was pretty much anti-god/religion. Even though she never actually said she was an atheist or anything like that, as I grew older it became obvious that she had no use for church. My dad was a (very) lapsed Catholic. So religion was not part of my upbringing in any way.

    Nonetheless, I was definitely taught ethics and morality, along with a concern for others. In fact, regarding the latter, I often get criticized because some think I’m too concerned about other people’s feelings.

    So, for me, the argument that you can’t be “moral” without god is a bunch of hooey. I think it has a lot to do with the way you’re raised plus your innate personality (genes). Besides, I think we can all cite incidents where the god-fearing person was less “moralistic” than the non-believer (e.g., some political individuals).


  13. Nice? I’ll be more careful next time arch, wouldn’t want you to think I was trying to compliment you. I originally typed dork, but then I thought calling you the largest male reproductive organ on earth might actually seem like a compliment to you, so I erased, and weirdo was the best I could come up with.

    I was also on my first cup of coffee 😉


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