Does God Change from the Old Testament to the New?

I started to leave this post as a comment on ratamacue0‘s recent post, What Started My Questioning? but decided to post it instead. Fellow blogger (and friend) unkleE left this comment as part of a conversation that he and ratamacue0 were having:

…most non-believers seem not to recognise that there isn’t one consistent portrait of God in the Bible – it changes through both Testaments – and then to choose the worst picture (which is often the earliest one) to critique. But if the claimed revelation of God is progressive, it would surely be fairer to choose a later picture.

I think most non-believers do recognize the difference; it’s just hard to forget that first impression given in the OT.

And really, how progressive is the picture the Bible paints? The NT points out that God doesn’t change, so those harsh characteristics he possessed in the OT are still being claimed by NT writers. The NT also repeats some things like “vengenance is mine, I will repay.” And it tells us not to fear those who can destroy the body, but he who can destroy both body and soul. The NT also gives us the doctrine of Hell, regardless of what that might mean.

I think some of the NT writers, like Paul and the author of Hebrews, are arguing that the method of salvation and the specific requirements God has for people are changing, and in that way the message becomes more progressive. More emphasis is placed on the mind and not just physical acts, for instance. But as to who God is, I don’t think that image really progresses from OT to NT. The same God that killed Uzzah for trying to steady the ark, condemns anyone who doesn’t believe in Jesus, even though it’s hard to blame many of the Jews for saying Jesus was a blasphemer, considering the teachings in the Old Law.

Such a God is irrational. Many Christians seem to agree, which is why they don’t believe in parts of the OT. But since the NT still claims the same irrational God, I see no reason to believe in him at all. And to me, that seems much more consistent than trying to hold onto parts of the mythology, while rejecting the unsavory parts. If that god were real, and he wanted people to know about him, I think he’d keep the one source of information about him pure. Since that obviously didn’t happen with the Bible, why continue to hold to it at all? Why not put faith in a god who isn’t concerned with petty dogmas, one who simply set things in motion for us? One that may inspire people from time to time, but is largely content to let us live our lives without interference? To me, that seems to fit the evidence far better… and while I don’t have any actual belief in such a deity, I can see why some would. Why mesh it with Christianity, when it seems so superfluous?

Advertisements

324 thoughts on “Does God Change from the Old Testament to the New?”

  1. That’s a good point, mak. I expect they would argue that it’s not so much that God’s nature is changing, it’s just his methods. But I think this is problematic as well, because it still means we’re dealing with a being who’s capable of all the atrocities mentioned in the OT. Either that, or he didn’t mind that people misrepresented him, because no one in the NT ever disagrees with the way the OT portrays God.

    Like

  2. The change is obvious. But it isn’t just between OT and NT. It also changes within the OT.

    I noticed this at around age 14. My pastor had encouraged me to read the Bible for myself, so I did, And I could not help but notice that God was changing.

    This suggested to me the possibility that it was man who created God in his (man’s) image. Culture evolves. And if a God who is supposed to be timeless is seen to evolve with culture, then it seems likely that God is a cultural construct.

    I guess it took me another 10 year to completely withdraw from religion. But that was when I started the questioning. I extended that to questioning whether Jesus ever claimed that he was God.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The Revelation of John is part of the New Testament, right? Isn’t that the book where God starts by killing a fourth of the Earth with sword and famine and with beasts, burns one-third of all the vegetation on the Earth, tortures men with stinging locusts for five months and makes it impossible for men to commit suicide to escape, tortures people over a slow fire who get an RFID chip so they can buy groceries, and then moves up from there to a real slaughter, with a river of blood 200 miles long, and as high as a horse’s bridle? Seems to me the OT God who just drowned almost everyone was much quicker and more merciful.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Okay….Christian-guy speaking…Reluctant as I am, I guess I’ll wade into the fray here. Could it possibly be that we, 21st century ‘Muricans (and other world alum) are reading the Bible through our 21st century minds instead of reading the works (NT at least) as 1st century writings, written to a 1st century culture, with 1st century references in which that culture would have been familiar? Could John, in Revelation for instance, been allegorical…i.e.”the beast” being an actual person, “the mark” being a literal mark that people needed to conduct business, buy goods, etc. A “mark” that denoted the people’s allegiance to the Roman king and/or government i.e. “the beast”? I’m not saying, if taken allegorically, that Revelation (and other writings) aren’t relevant to us today, but need to be understood through the culture and history in which is was written. I’m also not saying the Bible is without contradiction. On the contrary, there’s quite a few in there. But, what if they were put in there for a reason? To make us think? To make us question? Even to the point where it may mean that some of us walk away. Does God change from the OT to the NT? No, I don’t think so. But why are those harsh OT accounts in the Bible to begin with? If the Bible is the ‘inspired word of God’, why did he allow himself to be so badly represented? Why is he still allowing it today?

    Like

  5. “Could it possibly be that we, 21st century ‘Muricans (and other world alum) are reading the Bible through our 21st century minds instead of reading the works (NT at least) as 1st century writings, written to a 1st century culture, with 1st century references in which that culture would have been familiar?”

    So are you saying that 7 billion people need to go to seminary to understand what God was saying ? Probably not. If the NT was written for a 1st century culture, it makes a lot more sense to treat the bible as a literary work and nothing more.

    The god which Nate talks about would come much closer to describing a deity if one exists.

    Like

  6. “So are you saying that 7 billion people need to go to seminary to understand what God was saying?”

    Not at all. None of the cultural references and historical context is that hard to find. Believing and accepting may be a hurdle, but not finding.

    Like

  7. Hi friend Nate! 🙂

    Thanks for raising this topic. I think one thing that you all haven’t really addressed is that I didn’t say God is changing (though I think, Makagutu, that immutability is a silly and unBiblical concept) – I said the portrait of God is changing.

    If we are going to reach any reasonable understanding of this, believer or unbeliever, we need to start with some expert assessment based on an understanding of the culture and literature of the time. I offer two such experts:

    1. Based on his understanding of ancient literature and history, CS Lewis was quite definite that the revelation of God was very incomplete originally. I have put 5 quotes from Lewis here. Here is a brief flavour:

    “If you take the Bible as a whole, you see a process in which something which, in its earliest levels …. was hardly moral at all, and was in some ways not unlike the Pagan religions, is gradually purged and enlightened till it becomes the religion of the great prophets and Our Lord Himself. That whole process is the greatest revelation of God’s true nature. At first hardly anything comes through but mere power. Then (v. important) the truth that He is One and there is no other God. Then justice, then mercy, love, wisdom.”

    2. Old Testament scholar Peter Enns shows that the earliest parts of the OT aren’t too dissimilar to other ancient near east religions (though a little more refined), but the picture changes gradually until in Jesus we have something very different. Much the same as Lewis said.

    If you are going to seriously grapple with this question (and not just use it to ambush unsuspecting christians – which I know you don’t want to do, but some sceptics do) and discuss it intelligently, we need to start from this view of the experts as common ground. I don’t think you are quite there yet, but hopefully this discussion will lead that way.

    Like

  8. When I read your synopsis of Lewis’ (and Enns as well), Unk, my first thought was test marketing – seeing what the public will buy, and possibly the original introduction of the phrase, “new and improved”! It made me smile.

    Like

  9. Why not put faith in a god who isn’t concerned with petty dogmas, one who simply set things in motion for us?

    Nate, one doesn’t need special intelligence nor reliance on any scholarly opinion to recognize that this sentence of yours in the post is admirable. The Christian focus on dogma being the most important key for what is most important in life is why I would consider a handful of other religions way before ever considering returning to most versions of Christianity.

    Like

  10. I wonder why an unchanging God might create a world that is nothing but change. What was going on in her mind – boredom? 😉 What does an ‘unchanging God’ mean? o_O Change is existence is it not? If this putative God does not change, then she does not exist. Or if she does exist, as a changeless entity, she can never be known by humanity. Perhaps this is all far too simple; apologies.

    Like

  11. Was god once the tyrannical brute the OT often portrays, killing his servant’s children for their transgressions (david) or for a wager (job), and commanding the wholesale slaughter of other nations including the women and children (sometimes sparing the virgin girls – sounds like ISIL)?

    and is it that he just changed to a nicer guy god in the NT?

    or is it that the authors of the OT couldnt be trusted completely, but the authors of the NT have a more reliable version of god?

    if the latter, then why couldnt the OT god be the more accurate portrait? Why isnt it merely an arbitrary selection of which painting of god you like better by selecting that of the NT? why couldn’t it just as easily be the worst case as the best case?

    and if the former is true, then god was a tyrant. if he can change his mind and his character, what’s stopping him from altering the deal the believers think they have in heaven?

    or, why couldnt this all just be a clue that the claims, written by men, in the bible arent from a literal god or about a real god?

    Liked by 1 person

  12. if he can change his mind and his character, what’s stopping him from altering the deal the believers think they have in heaven?

    William, this is exactly right. It’s been my feeling since leaving the fold that if the god of the old or new testament truly is real then every single human being could possibly be in for a sad awakening no matter what their beliefs are. There are no assurances. I see no need to worry myself over such unknown “monsters in the closet” anymore.

    Like

  13. Nate-
    Great post. I am coming to a place not terribly far removed from what you posit in your final paragraph above, though it is more rooted in what I believe about Jesus than you suggest. I read a Robert Farrar Capon quote earlier this morning that came right to mind when I read this post.

    “It’s a bizarre proposition [that God is complicit in creating the potential for, and allowing, evil], and *The Third Peacock* revels in its bizarreness. God is not some divine Mr. Goodwrench in a nice, clean shop (pace all the bumbling preachers who hold up such a God for our admiration); he is a disreputable Lover who makes all his important assignations with us in seedy and terrible places. When I wrote the book, I had not yet come as fully as I later did into the awareness of the loving awfulness of grace. But the seeds were there, waiting only for the rainy season to water them into life: I had to learn the hard way that God in his grace does not run away from my evils, nor does he tell me that he will come to me only after I have gotten rid of my evils. Even back then, though, the idea of a God with dirty hands — of a God who, while we were still sinners, could throw away his claim to be a respectable God and die for us — struck me as more on the mark when it came to the problem of God and evil than all the slick attempts of theologians to get God off the hook [for evil]. Especially since it was God, on the cross, who put himself on the hook.”
    -Robert Farrar Capon, From the introduction of *The Romance of the Word*

    Like

  14. the problem, as i see it, isnt necessarily of evil, but of the fact that we must first have faith in the claims of the men who wrote the bible, before we could ever have faith in the god they tell us about.

    why believe them? The presence of errors and discrepancies in a criminal case tend to tip the investigators off that something is amiss, and they never just say, “well, it all works out somehow, because they said so…”

    jesus? he’s just a dead guy. a story and more claims about a dead guy. Where’s the body, christains will ask, as if that’s proof. Where’s jimmy hoffa’s body? did he ascend too? The fact that no one knows where jesus body is isnt proof as anyone could list a number of names and ask, “well, where’s the body?”

    “But why didnt his naysayers do more about those claims at that time,” other believers will ask in response. no one cared. the claims werent written until 30 or more years after he died. Romans typical custom was to let bodies rot on the cross, and they seldom, if ever took them down for burial. I find it much more likely that jesus’ body is now dust and by the time this legend of him flying into heaven came about, there wasnt enough of his dust laying around that was recognizably him, so someone just said, “well if he didnt fly into heaven, then where’s his body?” again, that’s horrible reasoning.

    then, to the problem of evil, the bible says that if a man knows to do good and doesnt do it, then it is sin. We also have the story of the good samaritan, which illustrates that doing good also encompasses helping people’s physical needs. But we see so many people, including children, suffer and die miserable deaths, in many cases by diseases and circumstances that only god could help – yet he does not. why not? isnt it good to do good, when it’s in your power to do it? The bible says it’s sin when you dont.

    But I’m not questioning god. I’m questioning the claims those men, whom i’ve never met, made thousands of years ago, during a time when most people held to some form of superstition.

    Like

  15. “…then, to the problem of evil, the bible says that if a man knows to do good and doesnt do it, then it is sin. We also have the story of the good samaritan, which illustrates that doing good also encompasses helping people’s physical needs. But we see so many people, including children, suffer and die miserable deaths, in many cases by diseases and circumstances that only god could help – yet he does not. why not? isnt it good to do good, when it’s in your power to do it? The bible says it’s sin when you dont.”

    You’ve got some great questions there, William. Let me put my two cents worth on a few of these. First of all “…many people, including children, suffer and die miserable deaths. In many cases by diseases and circumstances that only god could help…” Why is it that only God is on the hook for all this supposedly preventable disease and death? How much does a vaccination cost? How much is it to drill a well in Africa, providing fresh water and helping to eradicate many of these diseases? How many of these things could be provided for by one year’s worth of a typical professional sports contract? Or Hollywood picture budget? My point is that God HAS provided the means o help the world (disease, starvation, fresh water) if only WE gave enough of a shit to do something about it. What would provide more of a miracle? Him doing it Himself? Or a group of like minded people, worldwide, putting aside their own greed and gluttony, and banding together to solve these problems for the ‘lesser than’s’? “Sin” is nothing more than ‘missing the mark’. I don’t think finding a permanent solution to a lot of these problems is beyond our modern day grasp. How many of us (myself included) are ‘missing the mark’ because we’re too wrapped up in our own little world? How many days worth of coverage did Kanye West get on his Grammy stunt compared to actual news and atrocities and opportunities to “help” that happened and went wholly unnoticed?

    Like

  16. kent, what vaccines or african wells cure pediatric brain cancer?

    I get that a lot of people place every little stubbed toe and bad day on god, but am not doing that. I get that some pain will exist and do not question that. I get that people will when they’re old or even at the hands of someone else by someone else’s neglect – I’m not even talking about that.

    i’m mainly talking about the issues where god would be the only one to help; and to help in situations where him creating cancers, etc were the leading causes of these horrors.

    and yes, people can be very bad. how does that justify a perfect god to be the same?

    but again, my main point is that we dont know that this is god at all. the only reason people think it is, is because they read it in a book written by men. It’s all from the claims of men.

    Like

  17. Basically, the god (Yahweh) was simply a humongous, monstrous Dickhead, and Marcion recognised this and thought … ‘Wait a moment.’ Then went off and put together his own bible.
    When the Powers That Be got wind of what was going on they realised that without Yahweh there would be no Original SIn and umpteen other doctrinal issues -Virgins Giving Birth – that could ruin tea and cake on Thursdays’ at the Pope’s place so they declared Marcion a heretic, refunded his money and told him to ”naff off”’, and later declared him a heretic.
    Then it was a relatively simple matter of doing a snow job with the character,Yeshua, ”Let’s call him Jesus of Nazareth”, and everyone either went to heaven or hell depending on what the church decreed.
    More or less ….

    Nice to see you back, Nate,

    Like

  18. As I see it, the biblical god evolved from the Mesopotamian god, Amurru (look him up), and when the Jews, personified by the fictional Moses, united with the Midianites for a time, they encountered the obscure desert god the Midianites worshipped, YHWH, and merged the two concepts, creating the Yahweh that the rest of the Bible describes.

    But as time passed, and these pastoral nomads encountered other cultures, their world concept changed and so did their god, since he was an invention of human minds in the first place. Then, in 586 BCE, Jerusalem was destroyed and the higher-ranking Israelites taken captive to Babylon for fifty-seventy years (depending on who you ask), during which time they absorbed much of the Babylonian culture. Then Persians overcame the Babylonians, and knowledge of Persian culture was acquired.

    In the 300’s BCE, the Greeks conquered the Levant, bringing with them their own gods, culture, and beliefs, including that of an afterlife in Hades. The Greeks allowed the Israelites safe passage to travel freely, something they had previously not been able to do, and thus Egyptian culture was absorbed by some – the Torah was translated into the Greek Septuagint in Egypt.

    This, of course, was followed by the Roman occupation, once the Greek occupation had imploded, and still another culture, albeit one quite similar to that of the Greeks, was added to the milieu.

    So the god of the OT is the god of pastoral nomads, to which the Priestly Source, a group of Aaronid priests in captivity in Babylon, added their accumulated knowledge in roughly the middle of that last millennium BCE, while the NT was written by more recent, largely more knowledgeable Jewish authors, and their god was the result of all of the culture that the nation had acquired in the intervening thousand years, so yes, he’s going to be more sophisticated, more urbane – not exactly GQ cover material, but certainly not the saber-rattling, fire-breathing god of old.

    Like

  19. @unklee

    If you are going to seriously grapple with this question (and not just use it to ambush unsuspecting christians – which I know you don’t want to do, but some sceptics do) and discuss it intelligently, we need to start from this view of the experts as common ground. I don’t think you are quite there yet, but hopefully this discussion will lead that way.

    What a load of condescending tosh!

    If your god was such a stand up guy he would have made damn sure there was no misunderstanding from the first to the last Alpha Omega, right?

    Yet apologists have been queuing up to defend this make-believe narrative asshole since the day they put the book together and stamped ‘Holy’ on the cover.
    What sort of half wit worships a meglomaniacal genocidal despot and says: ”Don’t fret…. he becomes really nice in the next book, wait and see. And in the end he gets crucified to save us all.”

    This is the 21st Century, unklee. Hello!

    Liked by 1 person

  20. My point is that God HAS provided the means to help the world (disease, starvation, fresh water) if only WE gave enough of a shit to do something about it.

    I couldn’t agree more, Kent – the answer, as the Wizard once said, was within us all of the time, and for that reason, if for no other, we don’t need a Wizard.

    Like

  21. I actually agree too, Arch. We don’t need a god for us to ‘see a need, fill a need’ as I once heard in a kids movie. I just happen to believe in a God that asks me to do that…you know, all that ‘love thy neighbor’ stuff. My wonder is what kind of world would it be if we ALL did that? Sounds to me a little like, I don’t know, heaven…heheh!!

    And William, I understand your point, and I don’t know why there are such things as incurable cancers and earthquakes and on and on. I don’t have those answers and any Christian that claims they do is full of themselves (and not God). But I’ve seen some amazing strength and comfort come by faith to some of those people caught in the types of situations you describe, including one of my current home group members suffering from stage 4 lung cancer (the kind that many smokers get, although he’s never smoked a day in his life.) Why has he been afflicted with cancer? I have no idea. And sure, I could be mad at God as could his family (and they have been, trust me). But they have also, as many of us have, rallied around this guy and his family, just being friends–being shoulders to cry on and chests to pound on and sounding boards to talk through it all. Could you have all of that and be all of that, apart from God? Sure. But I choose to take some comfort in the strength I’m able to provide, the words I’m able to say, coming from more than just me. I also take comfort in the fact that, though we on this earth are gonna be sad and pissed and questioning long after he’s gone, that I’ll see him again some day, whole and healthy and without pain…’cuz that’s the spiritual world I choose to believe in.

    Like

  22. @kent
    “I’m also not saying the Bible is without contradiction. On the contrary, there’s quite a few in there. But, what if they were put in there for a reason? To make us think? To make us question?”

    what reason? to make us think what?
    that gawd is a manipulative liar playing mind games with us all because we are his pawns?
    that’s the only logical conclusion anyone could make if that were to be the case.

    anyway, Kent. thanks for the big LOL of the day
    and I’m glad that you can at least see the contradictions in the bible, many xtians are much more deluded and can’t see them at all.

    Like

  23. @ Kent

    “But they have also, as many of us have, rallied around this guy and his family, just being friends–being shoulders to cry on and chests to pound on and sounding boards to talk through it all. Could you have all of that and be all of that, apart from God? Sure. But I choose to take some comfort in the strength I’m able to provide, the words I’m able to say, coming from more than just me. I also take comfort in the fact that, though we on this earth are gonna be sad and pissed and questioning long after he’s gone, that I’ll see him again some day, whole and healthy and without pain…’cuz that’s the spiritual world I choose to believe in.”

    Muslims feel the same way about allah too.

    Like

  24. @ Kent

    Oh btw regarding how you rationalize that God purposely put contradictions in the bible – try arguing that the Koran is false because of inconsistencies and contradictions.

    In any case their system is more sound than Christians – later revelations overrides past revelations. At least to the best of my knowledge neither protestants nor catholics have such a doctrine in play.

    Like

  25. @kent

    So sorry for the multipost – haven’t commented on blogs for a long while (did you guys miss me? hee hee)

    Also, I would like to know what is the differentiating factor that made you know that your God is the one true God and is real while the other major religion are wrong?

    “I feel it in my heart” is not an acceptable answer even though you sincerely believe in it.

    Like

  26. Didn’t God smite Ananias and Sapphira for failing to declare the full income from their land sale? If the IRS operated that way Christian conservatives would be in an uproar.

    Like

  27. @Powell,
    No worries with the multi-posts (don’t think Nate would mind either).

    “Muslims feel the same way about allah too.”
    I don’t disagree that they do.

    “…try arguing that the Koran is false because of inconsistencies and contradictions.”
    Obviously, most all of us know what happens when you argue that any religion is false to those who are believers. I’ve always been willing to concede that I may, in fact, be wrong. (More on that in a second.) However, I am comfortable in my faith and beliefs despite the fact that I may not have it all figured out. I just wish more Christians were willing to admit they don’t either. To my knowledge there was only one guy who did, and the religious hierarchy had him killed for it.

    “In any case their system is more sound than Christians – later revelations overrides past revelations. At least to the best of my knowledge neither protestants nor catholics have such a doctrine in play. “
    I’m not quite sure what your meaning is here. Could you explain a little more what form of ‘doctrine’ you’re talking about?

    “Also, I would like to know what is the differentiating factor that made you know that your God is the one true God and is real while the other major religion are wrong? ‘I feel it in my heart” is not an acceptable answer even though you sincerely believe in it.”
    Sorry, I don’t have any other explanation for you (and see again what I said above about ‘religion’). I’ve never been a big fan of apologetics. IMHO, apologetics doesn’t ‘convince’ anyone of anything. It just adds fuel to the discussion/debate/argument, etc. All I can say is that I’ve seen things, experienced things, within myself, my family and friends, that I can’t explain apart from believing that some supernatural hand had a sway in it. I’m not talking about shining, angelic choir, down-on-your-knees miraculous things. I’m simply talking about circumstances, events, and so on that you could put down to chance, karma, luck, whatever, but I choose to see differently. We’ve had job opportunities land in our lives just when we need them. I’ve had friendships enter my life right when I needed (or even when they needed). I’ve had my my little girl (a miracle unto herself, but that’s a whole ‘nuther story) somehow sustained in a life-threatening situations that could have ended very badly. I survived a 70mph head-on auto accident years ago that I should have died in, let alone walked away from. That alone was a major turning point in my life. But, you see my problem. None of it is supported by any “doctrine” and could easily be put down to any number of things. I just choose to see God in the equation.

    Like

  28. @ Powell:

    (see, now you’ve got me doing these multiple comment things!~

    I did some editing on my first comments and realized that what I said about “what I said above about religion” may not make sense…as I deleted it. What I said was in regards to arguing whether a particular religion is false and was, “It isn’t about religion. Never has been, Never will be.”

    Like

  29. @ Unklee

    “If you check out the text, it doesn’t say God did anything. They just died, and we can draw our own conclusions as to the cause.”

    Seriously?

    I wonder what other conclusion can you draw then. Lets explore that –

    Since both husband and wife died instantaneously on separate instances, we can be relatively certain that it is a supernatural event – e.g. either God did it or Satan did it. So since Satan did managed to kill Job’s family (by causing the house to collapse), therefore it is indeed possible.

    Maybe it’s not even supernatural – perhaps the 2 of them have been evil and been planting small amount of cyanide to kill other people. Eventually this caught up with them and they died of cyanide poisoning after breathing in too many cyanide powder overtime. And it just happened that when they were being questioned separately the cyanide lethal dose kicked in. And God knew it since He is all knowing and all powerful and hence planned it such that the questioning will be just in time when they died. So essentially the 2 evil doers killed themselves.

    Or perhaps it’s simpler – just the 2 of them having heart attack because their parents were siblings resulting in genetic prone diseases such as sudden arrhythmic death syndrome. And actually they are siblings as well – following family traditions! And they just have natural death during the questioning because they were under high stress during the questioning and the SADS just triggered.

    Why don’t you tell us what is your own conclusion about why/how both of them died? Perhaps that may share light on how you think about this issue.

    Like

  30. Powell, if I even tried to tell you, I couldn’t, as the HTML symbols I would need to type for you, would disappear once I posted the comment. Scroll down to the very bottom, and click on Nate’s “How to format comments” – I think you’ll find everything you need.

    Like

  31. @Kent

    Thank you for your honesty about your faith.

    Unfortunately it is indeed not convincing to an ex-christian who has experienced all you’ve said sans the crash at 70 mph.

    Truth is not something you believe in. At least for me, you cannot simply “choose to believe” to see God in things. This is important even for Christians.

    Why?

    As a former church leader it is paramount that we see God and understand from Him what He wants us to do. As such, we cannot simply “choose” to see whether God is blessing this ministry or cursing it. For your own life maybe, but when you are dispensing life advice to people under your charge I personally would like to KNOW firmly. Unfortunately, traditions about “letting the holy spirit” guide you, or “you know you know cuz you JUST KNOW” in your heart cannot be good rule-brick about guiding people’s life – since we do know that the heart is deceitful while the ears are itching to hear what they want to hear.

    What about “touched” by the holy spirit or the manifestation of the holy spirit? Well, I come from an Asian culture and generally Asians are a superstitious lot. So I’ve known and seen manifestation of a lot of other religion even before I was a Christian. Sure you can simply conclude that they are from the devil or other demons, or simply deluded. But the same doubt can be drawn onto your own personal manifestation experience. Once again it boils down to – how do you know what you interpret and what you experienced is indeed from God, or is it Satan trying to distract you?

    A quote from late Rev. Peter J. Gomes –

    the more seriously one takes scripture, the more difficult becomes the problem of its several, often contradictory, voices, and therefore the more urgent becomes the development of a persuasive principle of interpretation by which the differences are reconciled, the authority of scripture maintained, and the moral and theological life developed from its teachings affirmed.

    To me this applies to Holy spirit manifestation too. So once again I must ask you – how do you differentiate? And if you haven’t thought about this question – why haven’t you? What makes you so sure that you are even reading/feeling/thinking right?

    Like

  32. “Seriously?”

    Hi Powell. You didn’t quote any text to show I was wrong, so I presume you actually agree with me that the text doesn’t say that? And that any conclusion we come to is an inference?

    As to what happened, my guess is no better than yours, so I don’t bother to make one. If it happened, then it was extremely weird, whatever explanation we offer, so why guess among a bunch of unlikely weird explanations?

    My point was simply that it is not factual to say that the text says that God did it. Agree?

    Like

  33. If you check out the text, it doesn’t say God did anything. They just died, and we can draw our own conclusions as to the cause.

    I’m not sure how you can type that with a straight face.

    The scripture in question is Acts 5:1-11.

    According to the story, Ananias and his wife Sapphira sold a piece of property, and pretended to donate all of the proceeds to the apostles, but really they held back some for themselves.

    Sometime while Sapphira was not around, Peter says to him, “‘…You have not lied just to human beings but to God.’

    “5 When Ananias heard this, he fell down and died. And great fear seized all who heard what had happened.”

    Later, when Sapphira comes back, Peter has her confirm the lie, and then, “9 Peter said to her, ‘How could you conspire to test the Spirit of the Lord? Listen! The feet of the men who buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out also.’

    “10 At that moment she fell down at his feet and died… 11 Great fear seized the whole church and all who heard about these events.”

    It seems clear as day to me that the immediate consequences following the judgement pronounced by the apostle is meant to indicate that their deaths were God’s judgement for their deceit. Moreover, the fear that subsequently seized the church indicates that they believed they had all better stay in line, or they too may be judged.

    Why do you propose that they died? What are your own conclusions as to the cause? If we’re not meant to believe that it was “God”‘s judgement, then why were all the church members afraid?

    Moreover, why would a good and loving god allow this story to remain in his “holy” message to us? If your (non)interpretation is correct, as an omniscient being, he would know how it would be misconstrued over the millenia, so either he doesn’t care about being understood, and/or he’s responsible for allowing Christians the world over to believe falsehoods about his (alleged) judgemental, overly-retributive character.

    …A cursory google search indicates that my understanding of the passage as “God”‘s judgement on Ananias and Sapphira is generally accepted among Christians. Below are excerpts. I did not cherry pick my sources; I just took the first four hits.

    Some speculate that these two deaths were from natural causes. Perhaps Ananias died from shock or guilt, but Peter pronounced Sapphira’s death before she died, and the coincidental timing and place of their deaths indicate that this was indeed God’s judgment.

    Why did God kill Ananias and Sapphira for lying? (gotquestions.org)

    First, we can confidently say this was a direct judgment of God upon them.

    Andrew Wommack Ministries commentary on Acts 5:5

    God did not think it a trivial matter: Ananias and Sapphira were punished by death on the spot [sic]

    The Lie That Brought Death — Ananias and Sapphira (simplybible.com, Australia)

    There’s no denying that the passage depicts the death of this couple as a divine judgment.

    How do you explain the violent judgement of Ananias and Sapphira?

    I believe I’ve shown good reason to think that the passage in questions indicates that the reader is meant to believe that the alleged deaths of Ananias and Sapphira were caused by “God”‘s judgement of their lie about their donation. If you mean to claim otherwise, it is incumbent upon you to demonstrate it.

    Like

  34. Nate put that together because I had the same questions, over a year ago – don’t thank me, thank him.

    Like

  35. @Unklee

    I’m seriously doubting your interpretative hermeneutics.

    And I’ll defer to ratamacue0’s respond to you regarding this issue about who killed Ananias and Sapphira.

    Like

  36. @ratamacue0

    I’m willing to bet a fiver that Unklee use his usual method of “they don’t represent what I believe” to weasel out of this.

    If any Christian is reading here I do really want to hear your thoughts – who is being obtuse here and nit picking on technicalities and who is more reasonable.

    Hmmmm obtuse…. where is Katy when you need her.

    Like

  37. “I’m seriously doubting your interpretative hermeneutics.”

    Hi Powell, but I didn’t offer any interpretative hermeneutics – I said I don’t know. My only point was one of correcting the facts, and it seems we agree on them. If you think clarifying the facts before having a discussion is “obtuse” then you have an interesting methodology!

    Like

  38. @Unklee

    Unfortunately that is a cop out.

    When you read it you can come out with a reasonable conclusion. For you to insist that you don’t know is trying to be obtuse.

    Like

  39. So are you trying to tell me that under your own interpretation – we can know nothing unless it is spelt out explicitly?

    Be consistent in your interpretation and application of text. I’m sure that in other areas of scripture you do not need explicit description to draw conclusion.

    Like

  40. Hi Powell, I’m sorry you resort to insult rather than just discuss. My main point was to establish that the text doesn’t say exactly what caused this bizarre event, so saying God did it is no more than a personal conclusion. It is important that be established, otherwise the discussion goes off on a wrong assumption.

    And it isn’t obtuse to say honestly that I don’t know, When I point the difficulty of explaining the start of the universe as a reason to believe in God, Nate says he is happy to say he doesn’t know. I disagree with him, but I don’t call him obtuse. It would be much more pleasant if you would do the same please.

    My view is this. As I said, this is a bizarre event that is difficult to explain on any view. I think there are several possibilities:

    1. The story has been misreported. Always possible, but Luke is generally very good historically so I’m reluctant to conclude that.
    2. God killed them both. But while that is characteristic of the view of God in the early OT, when there is good reason to believe the stories are at least partially legendary, it is highly unusual in the NT. And since the OT writers tend to ascribe events to God that we wouldn’t today (e.g. the Psalms – admittedly poetry rather than factual – ascribe snow storms to God), it would be unusual if God did it that Luke wouldn’t have said so. So I don’t think that is a reasonable explanation.
    3. Coincidence. This would be an amazing coincidence, highly improbable, though the improbable sometimes happens, and perhaps this was recorded because it was so unusual.
    4. Fear and suggestion. Perhaps Peter’s authority was so great and A & S so fearful that they died by suggestion like witch doctors might sometimes make happen. This seems too bizarre for me, but I suppose it is possible.

    Four explanations, all improbable. So I am unable to decide which might be true, and don’t feel under any compulsion to decide as it isn’t very important to me.

    “I’m sure that in other areas of scripture you do not need explicit description to draw conclusion.”

    You don’t know me, so I can excuse your assumption. There are in fact may parts of the Bible where I don’t draw conclusions.

    So, I just wanted to make sure the facts were pointed out before anyone got carried away on opinions, I have good reason not to understand or pretend to know the answer to this bizarre event, and I don’t think I was being obtuse at all.

    Do you think we can be friends now? 🙂

    Like

  41. @unklee

    Apologies if you think that it is an insult. Certainly in our previous exchanges I’m certain we were not riled up and definitely it’s not my intention to do so either. So yes friends then and still friends now. 🙂

    That being said, I take back the word obtuse as it is certainly not conducive to this discussion.

    Nonetheless, the principle of the matter still stand – it is very difficult to not draw natural conclusion when you do exegesis of the text, which Rata has shown many other christians doing so.

    I still maintain that by purposely pointing to the fact that the passage didn’t say “God did it”, you are avoiding drawing a natural conclusion and pushing for a caltrop argument based on the technicality.

    I think this argument is disingenuous (can I use this word? Please take my gentleman honor that it’s really just a description rather than a personal attack). Using your same logic – one could argue that everything is possible – because the text didn’t say so. And I could say Jesus could have done this and that because the Bible didn’t say He couldn’t/didn’t, and using your argument you will not be able to disprove me of my interpretation. This is not how normal people read books. Which is why I said I have serious doubt about your hermeneutics if you are consistent in your life. That’ll be a very strange way to read newspapers to say the very least.

    Regarding this:

    You don’t know me, so I can excuse your assumption. There are in fact may parts of the Bible where I don’t draw conclusions.

    My point still stand. You can have many parts of the bible where you don’t draw conclusion. But as long as you draw a conclusion – however obvious conclusion it may be – when the bible doesn’t explicitly says so, you are being inconsistent. Certainly I can only take your word for it that you say you don’t. I do find it unlikely though – we are all biased in our own ways and have blind spots that we don’t see.

    Like

  42. @Unklee

    And it isn’t obtuse to say honestly that I don’t know, When I point the difficulty of explaining the start of the universe as a reason to believe in God, Nate says he is happy to say he doesn’t know. I disagree with him, but I don’t call him obtuse. It would be much more pleasant if you would do the same please.

    I disagree with your statement even though I do take back the word obtuse.

    There are different degrees to which one can claim I don’t know.

    You see your wife naked in the house and sees a naked guy jumping out of the window the moment you enter? Well…. I don’t know I believe my wife is still faithful because I didn’t see the act. And she told me she didn’t cheat. She told me the man entered the wrong house and it’s a genuine mistake. She is naked waiting for me and the man appeared at the wrong place wrong time.

    Few possibilities – My wife lied or it’s really a genuine mistake.

    or

    I can say I don’t know.

    If I do say I don’t know, what do you think the common response would be? He’s just trying to lie to himself? He doesn’t want to think about it? Purposely ignoring it?

    This is very different from saying I do not know who shot JFK.

    If you don’t acknowledge the difference between the 2 then perhaps I think we’ll just have to end with yet another tipping of the hat and agree to disagree.

    Like

  43. And it isn’t obtuse to say honestly that I don’t know, When I point the difficulty of explaining the start of the universe as a reason to believe in God, Nate says he is happy to say he doesn’t know. I disagree with him, but I don’t call him obtuse.

    The difference between an nonbeliever (such as Nate, I’d imagine) saying he doesn’t know the origin of the universe, and a Christian saying he does know, is – not only is the Christian the one making the claim – he is also the one claiming to have divine revelation giving him those claims. If we don’t actually have such revelation, then we wouldn’t actually expect to have such answers. If we do have such revelation, and if the purported god cares about us knowing and believing it, I’d expect him to provide evidence to support the claims, so as to differentiate his claims from other false claims and religions.

    IMO, from such a vantage point, the discrepancies and lack of demonstration in the alleged revelation count as evidence against the propositions.

    Like

  44. Hi Powell, thank you very much for that response, I appreciate it.

    Look, I don’t see much reason to argue with anything you are saying now. The text doesn’t say God did it so we each have to make a judgment (assuming we care enough to bother). Judgment is a very personal thing. You as a non-believer and I as a believers will have different assumptions and different prior probabilities, etc.

    I have given my thoughts on the possibilities and why I find all options unlikely, and therefore why I remain mystified. I have been a christian for more than 50 years, I have read this passage dozens of times, I have thought about it a bit, and I am still mystified. Many christians would say God did it, but I have never been totally happy with that explanation. Like I said, if God had done it, I reckon Luke would have said so.

    I wonder what you think? I presume you think it is totally unhistoric?

    I am quite happy to speculate and draw conclusions – my work as a hydrologist and an environmental manager required me to make many assumptions and guesses – if we waited for scientific certainty, the rivers would have been dead before we took action to protect them. But I am also happy to remain agnostic if I think there is little reason to draw a conclusion. I am a reasonably practical christian, critical of those who spend all their time in theological discussion and never doing very much. I prefer to put a lot of that aside (although I actually have a theological degree) and get on with supporting justice action at home and abroad, so this is one issue I don’t think is really important.

    Thanks.

    Like

  45. @Powell:

    Unfortunately it is indeed not convincing to an ex-christian who has experienced all you’ve said sans the crash at 70 mph.
    That’s okay with me. As I’ve tried to make clear, both to you and other commentators on Nate’s site, I’m not trying to ‘convince’ anybody of anything. I believe what I believe and I respect that you believe what you believe. You merely asked me why I believe and I answered. If that is not ‘convincing’ to you, that’s fine, it was never meant to be. I’m simply relaying my story. I fully understand how someone can draw one conclusion from a set of events and someone else may draw something completely different. I don’t believe either person is “wrong” for either conclusion given whatever life experiences and ‘baggage’ they bring to that particular event.

    Truth is not something you believe in.
    I would disagree with that statement. Truth must be something you believe in, otherwise what is it? And why believe in anything?

    At least for me, you cannot simply “choose to believe” to see God in things. This is important even for Christians.
    Again, I would disagree. We all “choose to believe” what we believe. Atheists and agnostics “choose to believe” in more of the realm of what can be proven by science and intellect. I “choose to believe” that some things are dictated by a spiritual realm (whether proven or not). I also “choose to believe” that those to realms are not diametrically opposed.

    Once again it boils down to – how do you know what you interpret and what you experienced is indeed from God, or is it Satan trying to distract you?
    The honest answer is, I don’t know. But, as a believer, I would have to wonder why Satan would try to distract me with circumstances that have drawn me closer to my God? Of course you could say that I am being “distracted” toward the wrong God, but that is where I would have to rely on faith…yes, just as the Muslim or Mormon or Hindu or Buddhist or ad infinitum ad nauseum.

    So once again I must ask you – how do you differentiate? And if you haven’t thought about this question – why haven’t you? What makes you so sure that you are even reading/feeling/thinking right?
    First, let me assure you that there is nothing I can say that will sound convincing in this forum, even if it were. (as UnkleE is making clear) My belief hasn’t come because of doctrine, although I know them. It hasn’t been through evidences, although I’m familiar. It’s been through personal experience, gut feeling and context; something by your own admission that is wholly unconvincing to you and without merit. So I must ask, why does it matter to you how I differentiate? Or, whether I’ve thought it through, or sure that I am thinking right? If you are genuinely interested, I’ve already told you all I can. If you are looking to bait me into debate or argument, all I can say is goodnight and thank you for the conversation.

    Like

  46. @ ratamacue0

    No problem at all. I don’t think I’ve spoken to you directly in the past (omg first post!) but I’ve read in previous comments about your preferences. Apologies if I did use short forms earlier. Didn’t do it purposely as I’m typing this from my office oops so might have slipped my mind.

    In any case – http://galileounchained.com/2011/08/26/caltrop-argument/

    Not very sure if this is the “official term” though.

    Hope this helps!

    Oh btw, I went to your blog over the weekend and it linked me to surprisedbydoubt which gave me the Gomes quote. Beautiful!

    Like

  47. @Kent

    Not trying to bait you into saying anything on my last point. But i would urge you to think seriously on the implications of the way you think your faith works.

    Why?

    Just from what you’ve told me:

    “But, as a believer, I would have to wonder why Satan would try to distract me with circumstances that have drawn me closer to my God? Of course you could say that I am being “distracted” toward the wrong God, but that is where I would have to rely on faith…yes, just as the Muslim or Mormon or Hindu or Buddhist or ad infinitum ad nauseum.

    I do think there is a level of complexity that you’ve not explored previously. What does “draw you closer to God” even mean? Is it just feelings? What does obeying God’s commands mean? Follow the bible to the dot? When you add in all these, where does Satan comes in the picture? When something fails is it because Satan is sabotaging it or is God purposely closing the door? How do you know it is the holy spirit speaking to you instead of satan tempting you?
    etc etc etc

    Certainly you are not looking for an argument, and honestly neither am I.

    That being said, does seeking clarifications about one’s faith constitute making an argument? Especially when you were sharing your life online as a response to what Nate has written? So I guess we are not allowed to scrutinize it in order to further the discussion?

    You are definitely entitled to your opinion on the above matter, but to me that sounds very similar to this: http://jerichobrisance.com/2014/09/09/classic-christian-drive-by/

    Like

  48. @Kent

    If you are still interested in continuing the discussion/argument (your pick)

    Truth is not something you believe in.
    I would disagree with that statement. Truth must be something you believe in, otherwise what is it? And why believe in anything?

    I think we are on different definition of truth here. I’m using fundamental truth – whether you can fly or you cannot fly – whether you believe you can fly or not has nothing to do with it. E.g. you can believe all you want that Jesus rise from the dead. He might have or he might not have. There is only one correct answer unfortunately. Yes some people will say perhaps the truth is halfway there – e.g. Jesus fainted and woke up. So not exactly dead an risen again but certainly not dead and rotting.

    Fair enough, but regardless it is still factual.

    That is the truth I’m talking about. I’m assuming that when you say “truth” you are referring more towards the “poetic” definition?

    Like

  49. Kent – completely disagree with your beliefs (Surprise!), but completely agree that you have a right to yours, and I have a right to mine as long as neither of us tries to cram ours down the other’s throat. You and I have no problems.

    Like

  50. @unklee

    Thanks for the kind respond 🙂 (#bffforever)

    I’ll only be able to reply perhaps later (still at my day job!)

    So hope you don’t mind. (or perhaps there is nothing to reply at all heh)

    Like

  51. unkleE,

    While I disagree with your interpretation of the text, I do appreciate that you wind up a kinder person for it, at the very least when compared to the judgemental Christian types that many nonbelievers rail against.

    Like

  52. @Kent

    Hey hope no hard feelings between both of us. I do apologize if I come off too strong (I blame it on writing in a hurry and no chance to reread my tone etc).

    In any case have a great night and I do hope you stay around. It’s always good to have people with different beliefs coming together if not it’ll just be an echo chamber.

    Like

  53. @Arch

    Kent – completely disagree with your beliefs (Surprise!), but completely agree that you have a right to yours, and I have a right to mine as long as neither of us tries to cram ours down the other’s throat. You and I have no problems.

    Side track

    Can’t really say I fully agree with this sentence though, even though I do acknowledge the need for such statements for the good of society.

    Taken to the extreme, I can easily say that I have a right to believe that black people are inferior and stupid. Or perhaps say I have a right to believe that all 3rd child should die as humans are getting overpopulated and we should not have too many kids.

    There are people who say that sure you can believe but it is the actions that count. But to that I would argue that if your own kid is having bigotry beliefs would you not correct it using education (not asking you to whip him/her into shape)? Aren’t you impeding on his/her rights then? Therefore is it reasonable to say that everybody has a right to think whatever they want? There are those who believe that Obama is a Muslim, do they have a right to believe something that is factually wrong?

    I don’t have an answer to that. But I would agree with you – right now cramming into each other’s throat is not the way to move forward. I guess that is the pacifist approach that works for me – to each their own.

    Like

  54. @ratamacue0

    Haha I don’t have any blogs unfortunately. Not really the type to sit down and crystallize my thoughts in a straight forward coherent manner. Neither do I have the strength and patience to sit down and write. (ironic since I used to write for a living)

    I’ve read the article before. Quite funny 🙂

    Like

  55. Taken to the extreme, I can easily say that I have a right to believe that black people are inferior and stupid. Or perhaps say I have a right to believe that all 3rd child should die as humans are getting overpopulated and we should not have too many kids.

    And I would agree with you completely. What you believe is not my concern – what you DO about what you believe, is.

    Like

  56. ““Luke is generally very good historically – I’m surprised you would say that Unk, in light of the latest evidence regarding Luke:”

    Hi Arch. It is with some hesitation I respond to your comment, for past discussions between you and I haven’t always ended well. Can we both agree to avoid those endings this time do you think?

    My answer won’t surprise you, because it is the same as I have given you before. You have chosen scholars at the extreme of the range of views and suggested I should find them authoritative. The Jesus Seminar is not a fair summary of the scholarly state of play. For example, the late Maurice Casey, admittedly an irascible old historian at times, but an atheist/agnostic and claiming to be in the middle of the range between extreme christian apologists and extreme sceptics, said this of the Seminar:

    “The methods adopted by the Seminar were …. sufficient to prevent [its] aims being achieved ….. some of the best scholars in the USA …. were not members of it ….. [it included] people who were not in any reasonable sense authorities at all …. Their voting was so bizarre” and he describes their outcomes as “disastrous. (Jesus of Nazareth, p 20-21).

    So I have good reason not to even bother to read the Seminar’s works (though I have in fact read one book on the gospels).

    But here are a few quotes by classical historians:

    A.N. Sherwin-White in ‘Roman Law and Roman Society in the New Testament’, pages 189-190:

    “For Acts the confirmation of history is overwhelming …. any attempt to reject its basic historicity even in matters of detail must now appear absurd. Roman historians have long taken it for granted.”

    Expert reviews of Sherwin-White’s book agree:

    John Crook reviewed it in Classical Review 14 (1964) p198-200, and agreed that Acts is “an historical source talking about exactly the same world as Tacitus and Suetonius.” He thought that Sherwin-White’s work “support the authenticity in detail of Acts.”

    J. J. Nicholls, agreed with Sherwin-White that the Gospels and Acts “are to be treated as equally serious and valuable evidence” as other ancient historians, such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Tacitus. Journal of Religious History (1964): 92-95. According to Nobbs, other leading classicists–publishing in the Journal of Roman Studies and Classical Weekly–found Sherwin-White’s book a welcome and sober historical inquiry that was a corrective of the work of more skeptical theologians. Ibid., pages 286-97.

    Those are old references now, so a little more recent is Robin L. Fox, ‘The Unauthorized Version’, page 210:

    “I regard it as certain, therefore, that he [Luke] knew Paul and followed parts of his journey. He stayed with him in Jerusalem; he spent time in Caesarea, where he lodged with an early member of the Seven, Philip, who had four prophetic daughters, all virgins (Acts 21:8-9). It must have been quite an evening. He had no written sources, but in Acts he himself was a primary source for a part of the story. He wrote the rest of Acts from what individuals told him and he himself had witnessed, as did Herodotus and Thucydides; in my view, he wrote finally in Rome, where he could still talk to other companions of Paul, people like Aristarchus (a source for Acts 19:23 ff.; cf Acts 27:2, 17:1-15) or perhaps Aquila and Priscilla (whence 18). From Philip he could already have heard about the Ethiopian eunuch (Philip met him), or Stephen and the Seven (Philip was probably one), or the conversion of the Gentile Cornelius in Caesarea (Philip’s residence); from the prophet Agabus, whom he met at 21:10, could come knowledge of Agabus’ earlier prophecy in 11.28.”

    The most authoritative work on the topic may be Colin Hemer’s ‘Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History’, which found that Luke was a reliable historian whose background details can generally be verified as accurate (p 412), and who appears to have obtained much of his information by being present or by interviewing eyewitnesses.

    Now note that these are all classical (generally Roman) historians, not NT historians, one of whom is a christian (I think), one is an atheist, and I don’t know about the others. Classical historians have far less of an axe to grind in NT matters.

    So that is the basis for my claim that Luke is generally reliable.

    Like

  57. “While I disagree with your interpretation of the text, I do appreciate that you wind up a kinder person for it, at the very least when compared to the judgemental Christian types that many nonbelievers rail against.”

    Thanks. I do try, though it isn’t always easy when strong opinions are at stake. I appreciate your friendliness even though we disagree.

    Liked by 1 person

  58. kent, I can get finding comfort in the idea of god and all of that. If it comforts or strengthens you or others, then why not stay with it.

    …but it’s just that even to you, it’s an idea. Your idea gives you hope, other people give you support and on and on. like you said, without that idea of god, others also have strength and hope, etc… so what does god do?

    he doesnt cure the sick (at least all of them). he doesnt give you his shoulder to cry on. He may listen to you vent or offer praises to him, but wont bother speaking back. more often than not is answer is “no,” which looks a lot like he’s just ignoring you.

    I just think that belief in your god and in your book look too much similar to belief in any god or in any book. It looks like the good that god does looks too much like all the things god doesnt do too.

    I like to believe that all things will work out and will be okay. My belief in that, while it may give me some peace and comfort, does not make it true. people die awful deaths, others are maimed or disfigured for life, while others lose children or spouses, or whatever – so it doesnt all “work out,” yet I keep telling myself that it will, and you keep telling yourself that jesus cares.

    I’m not trying to be condescending, I’m just trying to point out that faith boils down to blind faith. You all may have anecdotes that illustrates god’s providence, and UnkleE may have some scholars who agree that there was a real guy names jesus who lived in Palestine in the first century, but there is nothing that points to jesus performing literal miracles or being the literal son of god any more than there is to validate Athena helping Achilles in the battle of Troy.

    so we boil it all down and it’s hope. I cant knock that. I just dont buy it when it’s wrapped up the way that it is.

    Like

  59. If you check out the text, it doesn’t say God did anything. They just died, and we can draw our own conclusions as to the cause. ~unkleE

    Sure. And, by extension, we can also draw our own conclusions as to the underlying cause behind the miraculous wonders performed by the apostles in Acts 5:12—right?

    Like

  60. “If you check out the text, it doesn’t say God did anything. They just died, and we can draw our own conclusions as to the cause. ”

    They didn’t “just die” unkleE , according to Peter.

    They lied to the Holy Spirit (verse 3) and they conspired to test the spirit of the Lord (verse 9)

    “Many christians would say God did it, but I have never been totally happy with that explanation. ”

    If this were a story you were “happy” with , you would be saying the logical conclusion points to God taking their lives.

    Hmmmm

    Like

  61. NIV’s when Ananias heard this does not do justice to the simultaneous action indicated by the present participle), suddenly he falls down and dies (exepsyxen, used primarily in accounts of death as a result of divine judgment–Acts 5:10; (biblegateway.com)

    The shame and agony of detection, the horror of conscience not yet dead, were enough to paralyse the powers of life. Retribution is not less a divine act because it comes, through the working of divine laws, as the natural consequence of the sin which draws it down. (biblehub.com)

    1. That the sin of this person was of no ordinary magnitude, else God would not have visited it with so signal a punishment. (sacredtexts.com)

    I think it is safe to assume that God took their lives, whether you are a believer or not.

    Like

  62. Amazing, but I agree with unklee. He is right on the money. The passage does not say Yahweh did it.
    There may be a tacit implication but there is no express mention.

    I mean, there is no doubt that Yahweh ordered Joshua to liquidate the Canaanites.
    There is no doubt that Yahweh ordered Noah to build a boat as he was going to annihilate humanity – as was his divine right, of course.

    In fact there are myriad places throughout the bible where Yahweh made his wish explicitly known and when compliance was not forthcoming he, like the savage, meglomaniacal son of a bitch that he was acted; swiftly and generally without mercy.
    All that’s left are a air of sandals with little wisps of smoke.

    Lot’s wife was turned in a lump of condiment, just like that. No messing about.

    So, although it galls me to say, this passage, as unklee rightly points out is somewhat vague and ambiguous.
    The alternatives are:
    1. The couple felt so wracked with guilt that they had each a spontaneous cardiac arrest.
    2. Peter killed them with his magical power.
    3. It is a simple plot device to scare the es aitch one T out of kiddies and Christians so they don’t short change the collection plate during Sunday Service and thus it didn’t really happen.

    Like

  63. Ark,

    On balance, I think I’d be repeating myself to address your comment. However, I’ll point out…

    3. It is a simple plot device to scare the es aitch one T out of kiddies and Christians so they don’t short change the collection plate during Sunday Service and thus it didn’t really happen.

    This is consistent with what I said. I’m not arguing for historicity. I’m arguing for apparent / intended meaning.

    Like

  64. “While I disagree with your interpretation of the text, I do appreciate that you wind up a kinder person for it, at the very least when compared to the judgemental Christian types that many nonbelievers rail against.”

    I can honestly say, hand on heart, Yeshua Ben Josef-strike-me-dead if I lie, that I am a kinder person & unklee has been winding me up for quite some time.

    Like

  65. @Ark

    I am a kinder person

    Actually I think I agree with you on this. Isn’t this a TV trope? The one with the harsh exterior tends to be the kindest person while the friendly calm guy almost always turned out to be the sinister main villain all these time.

    Like

  66. @powellpowers

    There is a tendency for the religious types to come across as all Sugar & Sweet, especially in the blogosphere.
    Meanwhile, one must bear in mind that they (Christians) fully believe you are going to ‘Hell’ should you not genuflect at the knee and bow to the god they have committed themself to.

    As with Eusebius of old, one gets the distinct impression that they are not above subtle manipulation of doctrine and dogma,(scriptural interpretation if you prefer) where it suits their needs – Christianity is a proselyting religion after all.

    I have bantered with unklee for a number of years until he banned me from his blogs over an issue regarding Nazareth.

    I find him, as with so many Christians of all stripes, to be condescending in the basest of fashion. His debating technique usually relies on exactitude when it suits him – as has been demonstrated by his interpretation of this particular piece, and his further views on Luke and Acts but he will bend this rule quite easily when it doesn’t suit.
    See if he will engage you with any degree of honesty on the Virgin Birth!

    His reliance on scholarly consensus is totally self-serving, ( he does enjoy mentioning Maurice Casey, does he not?) as he refuses to apply the same criteria for Old Testament consensus, considering it has little bearing on his Christian Worldview.

    His apparent openness and willingness to discuss these issues is a complete sham. He has absolutely no desire or intention to consider the possibly that his worldview is wrong, although he will smugly tell you differently.

    A quick perusal of his blogs will reveal his ”gentle” manner has a rather uncomfortable side and after one or two comments I for one was left with an unpleasant taste in my mouth.

    And similar views have been expressed by a number of those who have interacted with him.
    I consider he is a hypocrite who will use whatever means he sees fit to push his brand of religious diatribe.

    Like

  67. @Ark

    Didn’t really expect such a lengthy reply, but I appreciate the time and effort taken (or perhaps the disdain towards our subject at hand?).

    In any case, I must say my way of thought is closer to yours and I do admire your courage for the no-holds-barred style which I don’t think I have the flair nor the cojones for.

    That said, though I do agree with your conclusion above, I still believe in gentlemanly conduct towards people in general. Perhaps a good analogy would be a police officer administering reasonable force (or perhaps bad analogy given all the police brutality cases recently).

    If the guy is civil – fine I would accord to him the same level of civility even though I may think that he is talking utter trash. I guess as part of society we have to be tolerant to each other eh? If not I’m sure there may be a long line of people waiting to sock me at the back of my head.

    That is the pacifist me talking.

    Not sure if you see what I’ve spoken to Arch about earlier regarding rights to belief.

    I’m still not entirely sure every single belief is deserving of a right. Especially when a belief is based on falsehood. We do say that it’s not the thought but the action that matters. But to a certain extent I that is incorrect, especially since when it comes to children who may have extreme beliefs, adults do take sometimes drastic steps to correct them in their beliefs. So are we saying that rights of children can be violated? We certainly don’t tell them that they are entitled to their opinions and we respect it and stop there.

    Obviously there is a corrective intent on our end. Some may say children do not have good grasp of knowledge hence it is ok that we educate them and correct their thinking. That is all fine and dandy, but what about adults? Is there a difference between a teenage neo-nazi vs a 35 year old neo-nazi? Why do we educate one and “respectfully disagree” with the other? Is it because one group we have control while the other may punch us back in the face?

    Why this is important for me is because this actually change the ballgame with regards to civility and how we approach differences in opinions/beliefs. If there is indeed good case for rights to all beliefs without discrimination, then the right thing to do is indeed to be civil. On the other hand, if there is no so called “rights” to false believes, then it becomes paramount that we do our best to correct baseless thoughts (lets discuss what constitute baseless thoughts another day) and perhaps civility may and should be secondary in such a discussion.

    I don’t know, from your all brazen style I suppose you are closer to the latter? E.g. there is no need to respect stupid beliefs and it would be better to eliminate them altogether.

    Like

  68. @powellpowers

    Oh, I can discuss in a reasonable fashion ’til the cows come home, humorous or straight or go at it hammer and tongs. Each way I always try to approach in an open and honest manner.

    I object to the sycophantic fashion in which some bloggers, notably the religious kind, approach discussing their belief on the internet, especially with non-believers.

    When you have someone like Kathy or Brandon on the line you know up front you are dealing with an indoctrinated half-wit, and one is occasionally inclined to give them some slack.
    To paraphrase Yeshua Ben J ”Forgive them Father for they know not they are behaving like ignorant arseholes.”

    But when they come on gooey and nice, trying to behave all intellectual … well, I give short shift to this type and am inclined to piddle on their cornflakes.
    It must always be borne in mind that this rot is indoctrinated into kids … ask Nate.
    Think Ken Ham.
    And it all starts with the bible.

    So while the likes of unklee may believe they are being reasonable, one way or another they generally won’t stop teaching this filth to children. He has a theology degree, apparently,and although it is not worth the scroll it is printed on, one generally doesn’t take a degree unless one is planning on using it for some purpose.
    Everyone is entitled to believe what they like. Everyone. But the religious must simply keep it to themselves. But while children are exposed, then I will have my little say.
    And I do not give a monkey’s uncle who may get upset.

    Like

  69. E.g. there is no need to respect stupid beliefs” – My problem, Powell, is not so much the “stupid beliefs,” as it is the gall it takes to come onto an atheist board and peddle them. You stay on your own blog and sing hallelujah at the top of your lungs, I’m not going to take the trouble to come to your blog and tell you you’re full of it, but you come onto an atheist blog and do the same, you are disrespecting the opinions of the atheists who post there, and I have no sympathy for you. I will either treat you with the same degree of disrespect that you are showing us, or I will be over on your blog, showing your followers why I think your elevator doesn’t go all the way to the top floor (and I’ll be bringing facts with me, not pie-in-the-sky “feelings”) – or both.
    (You DO understand that that was the impersonal “you” –)

    Like

  70. @unklee
    Regarding Acts:

    So that is the basis for my claim that Luke is generally reliable.

    “Acts presents a picture of Paul that differs from his own description of himself in many of his letters, both factually and theologically.” biblical literature (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved November 25, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: [1].

    “That an actual companion of Paul writing about his mission journeys could be in so much disagreement with Paul (whose theology is evidenced in his letters) about fundamental issues such as the Law, his apostleship, and his relationship to the Jerusalem church is hardly conceivable.” biblical literature (2010). In Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc. Retrieved November 25, 2010, from Encyclopædia Britannica Online: [2].

    Like

  71. UnkleE, you write

    I think one thing that you all haven’t really addressed is that I didn’t say God is changing (though I think, Makagutu, that immutability is a silly and unBiblical concept) – I said the portrait of God is changing.

    Theologians and apologists like yourself made god immutable, you can consider it silly. What I think is silly is to go to a college to get a theology degree, now there we are talking silly.
    So when you say god’s portrait is changing, do you imply he is inspiring different writers differently about his character or is it that as the writers interact with more enlightened peoples, their ideas of god change to the point where at its apex, they have god dying to save mankind from itself or what was your point?
    Could you make it clear in a few words.
    And please spare us the trope that we must read some expert in biblical interpretation to see that it ain’t full of some very sick stories. What has a god that wants to rich humanity with double speak and coded language unless you mean to say your beloved deity had from the very beginning intended to stack the deck against a vast majority of the human race.

    Like

  72. “Theologians and apologists like yourself made god immutable, you can consider it silly. What I think is silly is to go to a college to get a theology degree, now there we are talking silly.”

    Hi Makagutu, do I detect from your comment here that you thought my use of the word “silly” was directed at you? If so, I am sorry, that wasn’t my intention. I was calling some theology “silly”, a view you may agree with – and presumably go further than I would! 🙂

    “So when you say god’s portrait is changing, do you imply he is inspiring different writers differently about his character or is it that as the writers interact with more enlightened peoples, their ideas of god change to the point where at its apex, they have god dying to save mankind from itself or what was your point?
    Could you make it clear in a few words.”

    Yes, both of those.

    ” What has a god that wants to rich humanity with double speak and coded language unless you mean to say your beloved deity had from the very beginning intended to stack the deck against a vast majority of the human race.”

    It is a basic principle of communication to start where people are at, and take them at a pace they can handle to where you want them to be If you can).

    Thanks for your questions.

    Like

  73. @unklee

    It is a basic principle of communication to start where people are at, and take them at a pace they can handle to where you want them to be If you can).

    Interesting. Then why, in you opinion, did your god manifest in a relatively obscure area of the Roman Empire with a literacy rate of around 3 percent?

    Would you consider it might have been better to manifest among people who were functionally literate or better? Or, do you believe literacy was likely a hindrance, and such a human manifestation from God was better directed at those more credulous and accepting of descriptions of supernatural occurrences?

    If you are afraid or feel uncomfortable to answer me directly you could always direct a reply to Mak; I am sure he would not mind.
    Or simply respond as an open comment.
    Thanks

    Like

  74. UnkleE you write

    It is a basic principle of communication to start where people are at, and take them at a pace they can handle to where you want them to be If you can)

    Why hasn’t there been a new revelation to the present age? What people like you are doing is reinterpreting old stories to make them make sense

    Like

  75. Plenty. But I think we may be talking at cross purposes. If you want to discuss this seriously, why don’t you clarify what you are asking please? If it’s just idle chat, lets do something better with our time.

    Like

  76. Let me explain what I’m thinking and you tell me what you think. You are an atheist I think, and I am a christian. Sometimes on blogs like this, atheists and christians have good discussions which everyone enjoys and sometimes we even learn things. Other times the discussions are just people sniping at each other from the trenches. I generally try to stay out of those “discussions”.

    I’m trying to check out whether you want to have a thoughtful discussion about revelation and what one christian thinks about it, but so far I’m feeling like you are just sniping – that’s what the comment “What people like you are doing is reinterpreting old stories to make them make sense” sounds like. But I may be wrong, so I’m checking with you first.

    So please tell me – is there something about revelation that you’d like to discuss with me, or are you just sniping?

    I would like to be friendly, but I’m just wary. Sometime it is best to check out the ground rules before we start. Is that OK? Thanks.

    To give you a clue where I was going with my comments, I believe in the trinity and the Holy Spirit, and I believe the Holy Spirit is active in revealing things to people.

    Like

  77. @unklee

    I believe in the trinity and the Holy Spirit, and I believe the Holy Spirit is active in revealing things to people.

    It is a statement such as this that perfectly illustrates that you have no genuine interest at all in uncovering truth as this is simply an issue of faith and has no basis in verifiable evidence.

    In fact, if you were to demonstrate an iota of integrity you would readily admit this doctrine was devised by the church.

    (Maybe I am being overly harsh and you are simply ignorant of the historical aspects of your religious doctrine? You have a degree in theology, so it begs the question:why are you unaware of this fact? The evidence is there. )

    Thus your penchant for attempting to sway arguments by packing your defense with supposed expert testimony is little more that disingenuous bunkum as faith precedes everything in your book and any claims you may make to suggest you would be swayed should the evidence support a non-theist view are balderdash.

    And we can know this simply by looking at arguments presented by any former Christian, who I am pretty sure, will read what you write,nod their head and admit:
    ”That’s exactly how I was. My god, now I realise how stupid I must have sounded!”

    It is the level of (unintentional) hypocrisy that causes many of those who choose to answer your fallacious nonsense to become ”snipey”.

    This is what Christian apologetics and religious indoctrination is all about , unklee and no amount of careful cherry-picking through scripture is going to alter this fact.

    Like

  78. UnkleE what I am isn’t relevant to this discussion. I interact with theists of whatever stripe mainly for their entertainment value.
    That check, I must say will not be useful to me, maybe for you. You see I don’t think there is anything that would qualify as revealed religion. I have no belief that gods exist and further what gods are. How such beings whose existence we don’t know could interact with men remains unproven. It is an idle fancy to believe some piece of writing qualifies as revelation.
    You don’t have to be friendly. You have no obligation to answer me, mostly because your answers will be laced either with the holy spirit tells me or such and such a person says this. And you see many times for me, whereas I value what those who have gone before us have written, I would like to hear what you think after reading what they wrote.

    Like

  79. [NOTICE!!! This comment is completely off-topic. If you’re interested in reading it, go for it. If you’d rather just stick to the conversation at hand, you can skip this one. — Nate]

    DID THE APOSTLE PAUL RECOGNIZE CHRISTIAN DENOMINATIONS? BY STEVE FINNELL

    Did the apostle Paul acknowledge the concept of Christian denominations? No, he did not. Denomination are created so Bible doctrine can be altered to meet the opinions of men.

    Romans 16:16 ……All the churches of Christ greet you.(NASB)

    The apostles Paul did not say all the churches of Judaizers greet you.— Galatians 2:4 But it was because of the false brethren secretly brought in, who has sneaked in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, in order to bring us into bondage. (NASB)

    The apostle Paul did not say all the churches of The No Resurrection of The Dead greet you.—1 Corinthians 15:12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? (NASB)

    The apostle Paul did not say all the churches of Rebellious Men and Empty Talkers greet you. —Titus 1:10-11 For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, 11 who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. (NASB)

    The apostle Paul did not say all the churches of Hymenaeus and Philetus greet you.—2 Timothy 2:17-18 …..Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some. (NASB)

    The apostle Paul did not say the churches of Shipwrecked Faith greet you.—1 Timothy 19-20 keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith. 20 Among these are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan, so that they will be taught not to blaspheme. (NASB)

    The apostle Paul did not say the churches of Worldly and Empty Chatter greet you. —1 Timothy 6:20-21 O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and opposing arguments of what is falsely called “knowledge”—21 which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith….(NASB)

    The apostles Paul did not say the churches of Savage Wolves greet you.—Acts 20:29-30 I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things , to draw away the disciples after them. (NASB)

    The apostle Paul did not say the Angels of Light churches greet you.— 2 Corinthians 11:13-14 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. 14 No wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.(NASB).

    The apostle Paul did not say the churches of Catholics greet you.

    The apostle Paul did not say the churches of Methodists greet you.

    The apostles Paul did not say the churches of the Communities greet you.

    The apostle Paul did not say the churches of The Salvation Army greet you.

    The apostle Paul did not say the churches of Calvinists greet you.

    The apostle Paul did not say the churches of Baptists greet you.

    The apostles Paul did not say the churches of Pentecostal greet you.

    The apostle Paul did not the churches of The Latter Day Saints greet you.

    There is only one body of Christ. (Ephesians 4:1-16)

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

    Like

  80. It’s true, no one here has to be friendly to anyone, but I think it’s much nicer when we are.

    I have no doubt that there are some apologists who are little more than liars — those who aren’t at all concerned with facts, but are only interested in using dogma for their own purposes. But honestly, there are people like that everywhere, even in skeptic circles. I don’t think unkleE fits that mold. I think he’s sincere in his beliefs, and to me, it seems evident that he’s put a lot of thought behind them. Of course, I don’t think he’s completely free of bias — but no one is.

    Back to the actual topics at hand:

    unkleE, you’re taking the position that God still reveals things to individuals today via the Holy Spirit. Mak is thinking more in terms of blanket revelation, like the Bible, Qur’an, Book of Mormon, etc. Do you have any thoughts on why we don’t see more revelation of that sort today? If you take the stance that the NT was the last reliable revelation of that sort, why do you think God’s waited to long to give us a new volume?

    Also, the argument that God had to meet people where they were has never carried much weight with me. If God created man and was with him at the beginning (depending on how much validity one gives the Adam and Eve story), how could things have gotten so bad? God had the opportunity to mold people right from the beginning. It’s hard for me to imagine that if the best parent imaginable had been involved with humanity from the beginning that they would get so screwed up. And if that is what happened, how would a progressive revelation change anything? Why think that people could get better if hands-on parenting failed so miserably?

    To me, this indicates that God was more like a deadbeat dad — someone who never showed his face around the family campfires. It’s hard to square the idea of progressive revelation and “meeting people where they are” with a god who’s very involved at the beginning. Do you have any thoughts on that?

    Like

  81. Hi Steve,

    I’m going to let your comment stand, but just as an FYI, it’s kind of a jerk move to hi-jack a thread the way you just did. We weren’t discussing anything related to the comment you just left. If you want to drive traffic to your blog, you would do much better by just engaging with people on different blogs and joining into their conversations. If they’re interested by you and the things you say, they’ll check out your blog. But just jumping in with something so off-topic is typically just going to get people irritated with you.

    Thanks

    Like

  82. unkleE wrote:

    “…I think, Makagutu, that immutability is a silly and unBiblical concept”

    “I am the LORD, and I do not change” Malachi 3:6 (NLT)

    “God is not like people. He tells no lies. He is not like humans. He doesn’t change his mind. When he says something, he does it. When he makes a promise, he keeps it.” Numbers 23:19 (GWT)

    That seems fairly biblical to me.

    Like

  83. Nate, I don’t think Steve is going to come to check what people say about his irrelevant comment. I have seen a number of such comments of his on my blog and they do have a relationship with spam or trash.

    You get the gist of my question. If whole bibles, Korans and book of Mormon could be revealed then, why not now.

    Nate you may have a soft spot for uncleE, all my previous interaction with him he always defers to scholar so and so said this and that’s it. He can hold his beliefs sincerely and I will not begrudge him for that, but to claim he is genuinely interested in exchange of ideas, that am far from buying.

    Ron, now I know why I missed you. You are a walking encyclopedia

    Like

  84. Well, you may be right about the exchange of ideas thing, I don’t know. unkleE obviously thinks his position is the right one, so he’s probably more interested in defending that position. But I think we can all be that way — I know I certainly think my position is the right one. I’m open to being wrong, but I don’t currently think I am. I think unkleE is much the same way. I could be wrong, but I prefer to give the benefit of the doubt.

    As to his use of scholars, I don’t mind that too much. At least he attempts to give reasons for his positions, and when he lists scholars, it gives me sources that I can check. So I don’t guess it bothers me too much, though I could see it getting old if someone went too far and started using the “appeal to authority” fallacy.

    Anyway, I do think your point about revelation is excellent. Things have certainly progressed quite a bit since the Bible’s canon was wrapped up. I would argue they’ve probably progressed more significantly than the period between the post-exile prophets and the NT epistles, so I should think we’re due by now. It would also be nice to not have to hear that “first century readers would have understood…” argument anymore. 🙂

    Like

  85. “first century readers would have understood…” argument anymore. 🙂

    at least we will have something current. At the moment we still have in the text they refer to commands such as thou shall not suffer a witch to live. Isn’t it time a revision was issued.

    Like

  86. ….Isn’t it time a revision was issued.

    These are the type of verses that have ordinary Christians frothing at the mouth and babbling ridiculous crap in defense.However, revision is happening, oddly enough, with subtle additions and changes to translation. Though I am unaware if this particular line about witches has undergone any recent scrutiny. Anyone got an answer?

    The belief that apologists are ”sincere in their beliefs” without any sort of serious rebuke from non-believers is to hat-tip to nonsense that all too easily develops into extremism.

    Would we be so accommodating to an AK47 wielding member of ISIS who is also sincere in his beliefs?
    He might well be inclined to kill you for them as well.
    Let’s see shall we? Flash him a Mohammed cartoon.

    The fact is, such extremism is borne at the knee of ”Gentle Jesus Sunbeam” or Mohammed pbuh(sic) type platitudes.

    ”Don’t forget to say your prayers. And remember, Jesus is watching, okay? And he listens and hears every word.

    Do normal people believe this? Of course not. We all know it is rubbish! But does someone like unklee believe in the efficacy of prayer? Oh, yes indeedy, he most certainly does!

    Being exposed to enough of this crap as a kid, one can easily see how fanatics are made.

    Yes, I have no doubt the likes of unklee are sincere in their beliefs. But they are wrong beliefs and indoctrination and a theology degree have merely cemented this attitude and equipped him and his ilk with the apologetic tools to do a comprehensive snow job.
    If he has no genuine answers for simple basic questions then he should simply be honest and state that his beliefs are based on faith and faith alone, for he has no evidence .
    Oh, and keep this tripe away from children.

    Like

  87. Mak, I have to ask … could we trust a revision any more than the original? Think about it. It too would be written by “men” …

    Like

  88. indeed to ask we be accommodating to all sincerely beliefs isn’t a very good idea.

    And Nate, we are all subject to be biased at one point or another. The Buddha taught not to believe everything you read, everything passed down by tradition but to question. Now there are areas where am going to defer to an expert. Like when people start talking quantum gravity, but when someone comes with a straight face and tells me that we die because some couple ate a fruit given to them by a talking snake and that there is a way of reading this to make it less absurd and that I must believe it or I go hell, then that is the time I dismiss him and his expert. He has simply abandoned common sense

    Like

  89. Nan, I like your question. I don’t trust the first one, ain’t going to trust the next one but my comment really was about this issue of god revealing himself gradually to people. It is only prudent that we have a current version of events.

    Like

  90. …revision is happening, oddly enough, with subtle additions and changes to translation.

    Unfortunately, some, if not most of that revision, is being done to clean up the image of the Bible’s god – for example, in one version (which I don’t have before me at the moment), the passage in Isaiah 45:7, that has this god admitting that he creates evil (KJV), has been revised to say that he creates misfortune – ergo, a kinder, gentler god.

    Like

  91. LOL….and Jeffrey Dahmer, Adolf and Josef weren’t ”evil” either … just the products of Yahweh’s misfortune!
    Love it.

    So when he … i’m sorry … He annihilated the world he wasn’t really being evil he was simply creating misfortune when all those millions died.
    I can’t wait for the undated WLC on Divine Command Theory.

    Maybe some of the Christians on this thread would like to comment on the new and improved Yahweh?
    ‘And that’s not all folks ….’

    Like

  92. Yes, the talking snake story is crazy — I see that now. But there were many years where I believed it was actual history. When you believe in a God that can do ANYTHING, then miracles are a piece of cake. I mean, why not? If he created the laws of physics, why can’t he break them?

    Again, I now see the problems with that position. But I can still empathize with people who believe that kind of thing.

    For me back then, ridicule wouldn’t have worked at all. I had the infallible Bible as my basis. I would have needed hard data showing the problems in the Bible. Or I might have been reached by examining the problems with morality in the OT, etc. But miracles were not a stumbling block to me at all.

    Not making any points with that — I just thought it was interesting, and mak’s comment made me think about it.

    Like

  93. good point, nate, and I agree. it was the same for me.

    as I began to really question things it suddenly clicked when i realized everything from the bible, the miracles, the stories, jesus, heaven and hell, baptism and church were all just claims of men.

    even if their claims were true, unless we actually know, beyond any doubt, then it’s just a claim – not a known or verified fact. a claim we can believe or disbelieve. and if we believe their claims, and then by extension believe in their god, i realized that this is still faith in the claims of man, and not a faith in god.

    500 people witnessed the resurrection? that’s cool, who are they, where are their testimonies? and why should I believe them even if i had that information? if 500 people witnessed a deer cross the road, i’d have no issue believing that, but this different isnt it? I’ve seen video and photos of bigfoot, and have read and seen testimonies of many how have seen them – but I dont believe in them. and even if I thought they may be real, that there may be something to all of those claims and that evidence, there’s no way i’d swear by it if a gun was to my head. I wouldnt KNOW, not for sure, that bigfoot was real until I saw one.

    that realization cleared it all up for me. It allowed me to fully consider that the bible was essentially just made over time by typical, albeit real guys, and that freed me.

    I mean sure, now I either laugh at myself or cringe with shame that I believed the ridiculous stuff, but i couldn’t even begin to see it’s madness until other steps were taken.

    Like

  94. on a slightly separate note, i saw an interview on a news network this morning regarding ISIL and a government analyst commented that ISIL wasnt Islamic, as no religion in history did or condoned the things that ISIL is doing.

    I thought that he was mistaken, as it reminds me a great deal of the Israelites’ conquest of canaan.

    either god has changed and ISIL is wrong, or god is the same and ISIL is his chosen people now… and then i guess, god’s got nothing to do with it, although religion does seem to.

    Like

  95. Again, I now see the problems with that position. But I can still empathize with people who believe that kind of thing.

    Then how would you propose re-educating a person that has succumbed to such indoctrination?
    Empathy is great, especially as you yourself went through this. But you walked away
    This is the key.
    Serious, Nate. You’ve been there, done that got the scars and the T-shirt.

    1) How do we prevent this from being indoctrinated into kids.
    2) How does one help a person such as unklee understand that what he believes is wrong and damaging to himself and those around him.

    Like

  96. you can lead a horse to water,. but you cant make him drink.

    if you point out the discrepancies and errors, as well as the similarities with other religions, and point out that any thing and everything, no matter how absurd,could be argued for the same way, and having done all that they still believe it?

    is there anything else that can be done?

    I guess the question is, what makes all those points more palatable, and more likely to be digested instead of discarded ?

    Like

  97. So, William, you are suggesting that societal religious belief simply has to run its course; that deconversion/change will happen ”naturally” ( if at all) and that such deconversion is wholly dependent on the (intelligence of the) individual/willingness or ability to be able to exercise genuine critical thought? ( more or less)

    Like

  98. pretty much, except I’m not convinced that society will ever be absent of religion or irrational belief systems any more than it will ever be without murder, crime, rape and poverty.

    ISIL needs to be eliminated, to me, they epitomize the dangerous extent religious extremism can reach. the violent or oppressive extremes should be dealt with one way, but not all religious people are so extreme, and those less extreme should handled a different way.

    the peaceful ones? why force them to do anything? can you force belief anyways? I think we show and educate and they can decide to use it or twist it.

    thomas paine could have been an idiot for being a deist, but i find it hard to believe that you’d criticize him as harshly as a member of jim jones cult.

    Like

  99. Ark , you have to overcome this line of thinking first.

    “I live in a World of Fantasy so keep your reality away from me. I see what I want, I want what I see and that is all OK by me. ” Itzah C. Kret

    Like

  100. These are good questions, and I wish there were easy answers.

    1) How do we prevent this from being indoctrinated into kids.

    I think keeping religion out of our schools is a big key. Or going the opposite route and having a class that teaches about all world religions. I also think kids that grow up around diversity are much less likely to be heavily indoctrinated. Or, at least their chances of breaking out of it are greater. If culture and the media continue to push for more multi-culturalism, as they tend to do, then I think that will make a big difference too. It may not result in huge numbers of nonreligious people, but it should at least substantially increase the numbers of people who are content to “live and let live.” That’s at least heading in the right direction.

    2) How does one help a person such as unklee understand that what he believes is wrong and damaging to himself and those around him.

    I have mixed feelings about this question, to be honest. I don’t want to presume too much that my position is the right one. I do think it is — but I also have to allow for the possibility that unkleE’s is the right one. Or that neither of us has it figured out. That’s why I think the bigger goal should just be acceptance of one another’s beliefs.

    I’m also not sure that unkleE’s position is all that damaging. I mean, let’s say that he’s wrong — then there’s always the downside that comes with making life decisions based on faulty premises. But what real harm comes from decisions that unkleE might make based on his beliefs? ISIL? Yeah, those guys do some incredible harm based on their beliefs, but unkleE is not a fundamentalist zealot.

    But leaving those quibbles aside, I think the way to reach people is just through having these conversations. Looking at the evidence. Making arguments based on reason. Like William said, you can’t force someone to believe something — the most you can do is help provide them with information.

    For what it’s worth, while those answers aren’t all that great, I do think society is trending in the right direction. Like MLK said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I think the next few decades will show record numbers of people moving toward moderate religion, or no religion at all. I consider that a win. 🙂

    Like

  101. @William.

    Fine.Peaceful?
    You mean like Creationists who wish to have their ”brand” taught in schools?
    Maybe you should discuss this with a person like Johnny Scaramanga and hear his impressions of ACE?

    If this is your take, then I don’t feel bad about the way I present my case against religious belief and those that push it.

    And no, I would not have criticized Paine. Deism has no doctrine, that I am aware of?

    Like

  102. For what it’s worth, while those answers aren’t all that great, I do think society is trending in the right direction. Like MLK said, “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” I think the next few decades will show record numbers of people moving toward moderate religion, or no religion at all. I consider that a win. 🙂

    I concur.
    I simply find that discussing these issues in a softly-softly fashion and then go away and come across an article where kids have been violently abused or people are being brutally slaughtered because of religion and then to read that those who ”claim” this is not representative of what their religion is about are maybe not doing enough (or even anything?) to right such action, let alone condemn it.
    And as I first mentioned. It all starts with the gentle meek and mild.
    Remember, I went to Sunday School as well!

    Like

  103. I dont like boxes, ark, dont put me in one.

    I’m fine going case by case. So far religions isnt allowed in schools around here, at least officially. I dont necessarily mind if some teachers express their beliefs as long as it’s prefaced with the acknowledgement that it’s their opinion.

    i dont care if someone believes in creationism, necessarily. bigfoot, aliens, nessie? i just dont care either – except I take a wide berth. the people who see the problems and believe anyways are harder for me to accept, but what’s the alternative?

    I think we’re on the same page as far as sensible beliefs, but do you suggest we kill them? grind their irrational bodies into a protein mixture so that their death will be far more nutritious then their theistic lives?

    I’m not advocating for religion, i just dont see what else can be done beyond intelligent education, without infringing upon freedoms and rights and all that.

    your suggestion? shall i sharpen my pitch fork and light the torch?

    Like

  104. I’m not advocating for religion, i just dont see what else can be done beyond intelligent education, without infringing upon freedoms and rights and all that.

    Agreed.
    No pitchfork required.
    We all have our blogging ”’style”, I guess.
    I simply prefer to call a shovel a spade and ding around the ear those who push this nonsense. 😉

    Like

  105. Accelerated Christian Education.
    Private Creationist schooling. Very big In the UK, Aus. and South Africa.
    Not in the US?

    Oh, gotcha. Actually, I don’t know… they could be big here, too. I’ll have to look into it.

    Like

  106. ” I don’t think unkleE fits that mold. I think he’s sincere in his beliefs, and to me, it seems evident that he’s put a lot of thought behind them. Of course, I don’t think he’s completely free of bias — but no one is.”

    Hi Nate, and thanks. It is strange to me that this even needs to be said – it’s not rocket science. Let’s hope it doesn’t need to be said again!

    “Do you have any thoughts on why we don’t see more revelation of that sort today? If you take the stance that the NT was the last reliable revelation of that sort, why do you think God’s waited to long to give us a new volume?”

    I think we need a little more imagination about this. Why should God keep doing the same old thing? Why is an authoritative book the only way he can work?

    This should be obvious because even within the book we have, God reveals himself in many different ways. These are facts which you know from Enns etc – the OT starts with legends similar to other middle eastern cultures, moves through a mix of history and legend to history, then history is interpreted by the prophets, then we have Jesus and the NT – all different, progressing all the time. Now we have the Holy Spirit who came to show truth, to guide ethical behaviour, etc. And all through there’s been revelation through the creation.

    A written textbook or rulebook is good for information that doesn’t change much – like history or basic facts – but it isn’t so good if culture is changing and flexibility is needed. And so the NT says that we no longer live according to rules of law but the freedom of the Spirit.

    And in the last century, God has been renewing christians’ interest in and involvement with the Holy Spirit. This has led to excesses, but also to the great growth of christianity in Africa, Asia and South America.

    It’s all revelation, just different types of revelation.

    “If God created man and was with him at the beginning (depending on how much validity one gives the Adam and Eve story), how could things have gotten so bad? God had the opportunity to mold people right from the beginning. It’s hard for me to imagine that if the best parent imaginable had been involved with humanity from the beginning that they would get so screwed up. And if that is what happened, how would a progressive revelation change anything? Why think that people could get better if hands-on parenting failed so miserably?”

    I can understand you thinking the way you do because that is the christianity you were brought up in. But there is a different way of seeing it, which is better in accord with the facts. Like I said, you understand the OT facts as per Enns et al. You interpret those (and other) facts as indicating there’s no God. I believe on other grounds the God of Jesus is true, so I interpret the same OT facts differently. We are both guessing to some degree, but here’s my take.

    I have 3 children, now in their 40s. When they were young, my wife and I controlled a lot of the details of their lives, but as they became teens we relaxed the rules and explained why we thought certain behaviours were good or bad. We encouraged them to think for themselves. Our aim all along was that they would grow to become independent responsible adults. And we succeeded – they are now mature and thoughtful people holding skilled and responsible jobs.

    Now you, and many christians too I think, seem to think that God wants most of all that we conform to certain behaviours and beliefs, and that we all believe in him and go to heaven.

    I think that is wrong and a misreading of the Bible.

    If you can get that, you can understand the rest, even if you disagree.

    I think God’s primary objective is not dissimilar to our aim as parents – to give us freedom to choose who we become. He gave us enough guidance to get us started, but not enough to force his views on us. He hopes we choose rightly, but his primary goal is to give us freedom to choose.

    So most of what you and others assume about how God “should” have behaved is based (IMO) on false premises. It also doesn’t accord with what we know about the world and the Bible. It is no wonder you gave up faith! That belief won’t stand for thoughtful people.

    But it all adds up. God created the universe via the big bang and created life via evolution to distance himself from the whole process and give us freedom. Without that distancing, we’d have no freedom. The history of the Bible growing from middle eastern legends to the historical fact of Jesus is another example of that distancing to give us freedom. And the gradual change from law to grace and Spirit is another example.

    It’s a messy process, and I often wonder why God allows so much mess and evil – couldn’t he have offered freedom without allowing so much mess? But despite those questions, this explanation fits the facts better than the fundamentalism you are familiar with and, I believe, better than the atheism you now accept.

    Doubtless you will disagree there, but hopefully you can understand that my views are not just something cobbled together, but ideas I’ve been questioning, grappling with, reading about and living for more than 50 years.

    Sorry this comment is so long, but your questions merited a decent answer. Thanks for everything.

    Like

  107. “I interact with theists of whatever stripe mainly for their entertainment value.”

    Hi Makagutu, thanks for being honest. I sort of expected as much. But I’m not really interested thanks – you can get your entertainment and any answers you want from my reply to Nate.

    Catch you later.

    Like

  108. …if 500 people witnessed a deer cross the road, i’d have no issue believing that, but this different isnt it?” – Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    Like

  109. How does one help a person such as unklee understand that what he believes is wrong and damaging to himself and those around him.

    Un is of the age, Ark, where he’s staring at Death across the abyss, and whether he’s aware of it or not, he’s playing Pascal’s Wager for all it’s worth – nothing is likely to change him.

    Liked by 1 person

  110. “Un is of the age, Ark, where he’s staring at Death across the abyss, and whether he’s aware of it or not, he’s playing Pascal’s Wager for all it’s worth – nothing is likely to change him.”

    Lol!! Look who knows so much! 🙂 Arch, your amateur psychology is about as bad as your NT history! But if it makes you feel better, please keep on believing your own evidence-free conclusions, and I’ll keep laughing!

    Like

  111. I think keeping religion out of our schools is a big key.

    Here are areas within the US where despite the 2nd Amendment, some form of Creationism is taught:

    Like

  112. As well you should laugh, Unk, as you’re a classical example that my conclusions are far from evidence-free. I think the irony is pretty funny myself.

    Like

  113. UnkleE, you suggest

    I think we need a little more imagination about this.

    but what you really want us to do is to accept the bybill as the word of god. You have refused to be imaginative yourself and see that book for what it is, a book by men trying to understand the world around them. You have decided to ignore facts on how Christianity was spread or the role of Constantine in giving it protection.

    And so the NT says that we no longer live according to rules of law but the freedom of the Spirit.
    You say this quoting Paul and ignore what Jeebus whom you believe in said that he was here to confirm the law not abolish it.

    But it all adds up. God created the universe via the big bang and created life via evolution to distance himself from the whole process and give us freedom.

    You really are a dreamer. Why assume that the world was created and specifically by your god? It is juvenile in my view to try to modify science to fit with whatever belief a person holds.

    You may have been questioning your views for 50 yrs or more unfortunately you seem to have been the same place where you must have began with a slight modification if adding the current scientific knowledge to your bible stories. You remind me of what Mark Twain wrote about search for truth. A man once he thinks he has attained truth never changes it. You are unlikely in my view to change your views concerning the bible regardless of what anyone would say plus you believe Enns word to be infallible.

    As to my entertainment value, don’t take life so seriously, you still die at the end.

    Like

  114. Makagutu,

    Like I said, I don’t want to play the sniping game, and I have little respect for an approach that uses mocking and infantile words like “bybill” and “Jeebus”. I have many things I could say in response, but I think I’ll pass thank you.

    Like

  115. LOL, laugh of the day:
    @unklee Makagutu,
    Like I said, I don’t want to play the sniping game, and I have little respect for an approach that uses mocking and infantile words like “bybill” and “Jeebus”. I have many things I could say in response, but I think I’ll pass thank you.

    unklee your entire comment is a snipe,
    but you end it with “I think i’ll pass”,
    as if you are the bigger person.
    well, you didn’t pass, you sniped.
    had you have passed, there would have been no comment for me to have cut and pasted.

    thanks for the laugh 🙂

    Like

  116. saying the democrats are waging a war on babies and on christians is just as dumb as saying republicans are waging a war on women or that christians are waging war on… whatever.

    cute little sound bites do little, if anything, to further a cause as they only resonate with those who already think that way. And like the above, they’re typically so skewed or typically ignore all the surrounding issues that they cease to have any relevance.

    Like

  117. Sorry there was no “LIKE” button for your last comment, I looked for one! So I’ll trot out my handy dandy do-it-yourself kit: LIKE!

    Like

  118. As much as unklee is a frustrating blogger to read – and for others to interact with – he prefers not to engage me as I ask too many pertinent questions 😉 – it strikes me as odd that he hasn’t yet realised he is on a hiding to nothing every time he ventures away from the comfort of The Way.
    Truth be told, he is on a hiding to nothing on his own blogs, but he is better able to filter out comments that rankle, and of course he always has Ignorant Ian to call upon should he become stuck in quicksand.

    However, that said, I would be genuinely interested to hear from any other blogger here on Nate’s site who believes unklee has ever made a single theological point that has been worth considering and why?

    Like

  119. SaintPaulie, you make a good observation.
    He claims am sniping because of two words and leave the rest of my criticism unattended just because I said at one point I do it for its entertainment value.
    Some people complain a lot

    Like

  120. So, Ark, “Ignorant Ian” is Unk’s equivalent of Colorstorm’s “Without-a-Clue Wally”? Funny how these guys seem to always have sidekicks.

    Like

  121. This isn’t his proper handle, but this is how I first read his name and I wasn’t feeling up to trawling through his blog for the correct spelling. I apologise for any offence.
    Yes, a bit like the Batman and Robin of the Apologetic World.
    I’m sure you or Paul can come up with a suitable one-liner?

    Like

  122. Gee, Ark, I’m so sorry. I really wish I could help you, but unfortunately, I can’t offer any evidence that unk has offered any theological points worth considering.

    On the contrary, I spent considerable time with him on one of my posts in which he actually devalued some of the sources I used for my book because they didn’t match up to his standards (although he’s quick to point to “other scholars” that agree with him).

    Like

  123. we are all here people of common sense or I hope we all are. Someone please tell me how a scholar, whatever his distinction is going to make talking donkeys, walking snakes, kangaroos in Palestine, woodpeckers in a wooden boat for a year’s voyage, whale transport among others conformable to common sense.
    And please for brevity’s sake, don’t tell me I should plough through 450pgs of rationalization to make sense of it

    Like

  124. @Nan.
    Yes I remember that particular post and commented on it as well.
    By the way, I don’t know if you ever did much research on Casey, but he is in a very small minority regarding the Aramaic gospel sources. (Sauces?) Of one , if I recall.

    Unklee could get a job as a groundsman at Old Trafford ( Manchester United’s ground)
    at the drop of a hat – he is quite an accomplished goal-post mover.

    Like

  125. Wow, I really don’t get all the trash talking at unkleE. There are a handful of times that I’ve read a comment of his and felt that he was being condescending, or dismissive, etc — but the vast majority of the time, I’ve appreciated the way he’s interacted with me and others. In this thread, I was a little surprised by his initial comment about Ananias and Sapphira, but that’s it — I think he’s been pretty courteous everywhere else, and honestly he wasn’t even being discourteous there. I think the rest of us, at least in this thread, have been the instigators, and I’d prefer we just move on to something a bit more productive.

    unkleE, thanks for posting the long reply about your position. You’ve probably said something similar to me before, but I think this comment really helped it click for me. Of course, like you said, I still find atheism or deism to be a better explanation of the facts, but I at least see your line of thinking now.

    I also have a couple of specific questions about your statements on revelation.

    1) Do you have any thoughts about why God (or the Holy Spirit) doesn’t choose to interact with everyone, if that’s the method that’s primarily used today?

    2) Is it possible for a Christian to have an incorrect view of what God wants? For instance, if Bob believes the Holy Spirit has told him something that seems to violate scripture, should he go with what the Holy Spirit has said? Or if two people believe the Holy Spirit has told them two separate and contradictory things, are both still right? Does God send different instructions to different people?

    Thanks

    Like

  126. I’m not a mathematician, but if a math wizard had 3 chalk boards filled with a sinlge complex fromula and what have you of very complicated things, should I believe the answer he arrives at if I’ve seen his work of 5+5=8 and 4+4=3, just as long as he has something like 2+2=4?

    I read a book, Lone Survivor, about a SEAL team that gets attacked by some Afghans and all but one SEAL is killed. As I was reading the book, nothing supernatural took place, but i still suspected that perhaps some of the story was at least slightly embellished. It was a good book and I’d recommend it, but I know that a person’s memory isn’t perfect and that estimating exact numbers of enemy combatants isn’t easy to do when you’re ducking for cover and all that, so I suspect that some of the things in that book, of an actual account, is not a perfect representation, even though it may be close.

    when i read the bible and see obvious errors, why on earth should I believe the supernatural claims that cannot be verified? And I think that those who support the bible and who have seen some of the errors, would not and do not accept that the other religious books could be wrong in parts, but are still overall works of a perfect god. to me, this seems inconsistent.

    If we cant trust a perfect god to get a genealogy right, then how are we to have confidence in a plan of eternal salvation or in a description of heaven? if we cant trust the authors to get a consistent story together, how can we be sure we can trust their claims of a god?

    if history supports that jesus was a real guy, that in no way begins to prove he was really the son of god or that he raised people from the dead and on and on.

    I feel like this is obvious. I feel like it is also obvious that bible believers who have seen the issues yet still believe, do so by holding the bible to a special standard, as they treat no other book or faith or claim that way.

    unless said scholar can produce new evidence, their leaps in conclusions mean very little to me. “jesus was likely thought of as healer and is believed by some to the son of god,” does not equal “jesus must have been a miracle working son of the one true god.”

    Like

  127. Nate, this is your house and I would not call your guests names.
    I don’t think I have talked trash to unkleE. In any case, his first response to me was to dismiss my question and then he intended to set the ground rules for engagement. If asking him to clarify a few issues here and there is talking trash, I apologize.

    Like

  128. It’s cool, mak — I appreciate the apology, but it’s not necessary. I don’t feel like anyone needs to apologize, and I don’t even remember who said what to whom for most of it. I just felt like we were getting too sidetracked from the actual issues.

    Thanks 🙂

    Like

  129. william, you have said it well.
    and that for me is my issue with every time telling me to read this or that scholar, that some absurd story will begin to just make sense

    Like

  130. Nate that said, since am certain I haven’t sidetracked from the thread any bit. I would be interested in why we should believe Enns.

    Was he given a manual for interpreting the bible? Do all of us need to understand dead languages to know what the bible is saying? What happens to my grandmother who spoke only one language, but believed sincerely, could her belief been misguided given it was based on a reading that may not be reliable?

    When we are asked to believe the so called gospel writers, is it god we believe in or in their word? What reason have we to trust them that they were honest?

    And finally was it impossible for an all powerful being to reveal himself continuously to people of all ages without deference to miracles?

    Like

  131. “unkleE, thanks for posting the long reply about your position. You’ve probably said something similar to me before, but I think this comment really helped it click for me. Of course, like you said, I still find atheism or deism to be a better explanation of the facts, but I at least see your line of thinking now.”

    Hi Nate, thanks for your support. Again, I appreciate it. And I’m glad it clicked. While we all may hope to change another person’s viewpoint, a more realistic goal is to achieve understanding of each other’s viewpoint.

    “1) Do you have any thoughts about why God (or the Holy Spirit) doesn’t choose to interact with everyone, if that’s the method that’s primarily used today?”

    Just to clarify – I think the Holy Spirit is active everywhere if we allow him, especially in interpreting the Bible. So I would say the Bible and the Spirit together are the primary method today.

    I have wondered the same thing. My guess is that (1) he’s more active than we know (we may not recognise some times), (2) we don’t always allow him (that includes christians), and (3) he’s God and he does things differently to how I would. Not much of an answer, I know, but …..

    “2) Is it possible for a Christian to have an incorrect view of what God wants? For instance, if Bob believes the Holy Spirit has told him something that seems to violate scripture, should he go with what the Holy Spirit has said? Or if two people believe the Holy Spirit has told them two separate and contradictory things, are both still right? Does God send different instructions to different people?”

    Obviously it’s possible (common even) to be wrong. That’s part of growing up, and how we learn. God could send different instructions to different people, but only about personal things that would likely be different. I think it is very easy for people to impute to God things they have thought of themselves. We each have to decide for ourselves (that’s also part of growing up), but the Bible suggests a few guidelines – if the thought is contrary to scripture then it may be wrong (but since scripture changed over time, that rule isn’t infallible), decisions made in consensus with others are more likely to be right, allow God to transform our thinking so we’ll think better (sort of like an education process), unloving and unfaithful actions are most likely wrong, if it glorifies Jesus than it’s more likely to be right (or perhaps we might say if it’s right then it glorifies Jesus!), etc.

    I think the process is far from infallible, but so is every human process. Scientific conclusions change over time, and we even have scientific fraud; Bible inerrantists can’t agree on interpretation; etc.

    I have concluded that God can tolerate us being wrong. He doesn’t want us to be wrong, but it is more important to him that we grow, fulfil our potential, choose to follow his ways and have a right attitude. Mistaken ideas can be corrected if our attitude is right, but true knowledge rarely trumps bad attitude.

    Thanks.

    Like

  132. “unless said scholar can produce new evidence, their leaps in conclusions mean very little to me. “jesus was likely thought of as healer and is believed by some to the son of god,” does not equal “jesus must have been a miracle working son of the one true god.””

    Hi William, I wanted to comment on this, for I agree with you, and I think clarifying why I agree yet we still disagree about belief might be helpful.

    I believe very few things in life are certain, so most of life is a blend of fact and uncertainty. When considering any issue (whether it be personal, religious, ethical, political, etc) a sensible person gathers as many facts as they can lay their hands on, and then makes the best decision they can. Some times that decision is to withhold judgment, but in the end we generally make a choice. If we are religious, we may call the jump from the incomplete evidence to a decision “faith” – in other areas we may call it something else.

    So I agree completely that the best evidence is that “jesus was likely thought of as healer and is believed by some to the son of god”. That is what the majority of scholars say, and that is therefore the best evidence we have. Then we have a choice whether we make the jump to “jesus must have been a miracle working son of the one true god.”, or the jump to jesus was not a miracle working son of the one true god, or we withhold judgment (which in the end will tend to drift into one of the other two conclusions. When writing as academics, few scholars say what their personal conclusions are – most stick to the historical evidence.

    I stress what the scholars say because without having the best evidence, we can’t make the best conclusion. But if anyone can agree on what the scholars say, I can then share why I have made the jump they have made, and they can share the same, based on the same evidence.

    I can understand that you cannot draw the same conclusion I have, and I am sad about that. But it is good that we recognise that there is evidence and we all end up drawing some conclusion. Thanks.

    Like

  133. @unklee

    I have concluded that God can tolerate us being wrong…. etc

    Oh, my goodness!
    You have no idea how disgustingly arrogant this sounds. You truly don’t do you?

    I think with this one sentence you may have cemented your place in blog annals.
    Is that spelled with one n or two? Can never remember.

    Like

  134. lol, william

    well I have certainly been enjoying reading this particular thread, good stuff.

    Nate, I wasn’t trying to be rude to unklee, I was just being moved by the holy spirit and pointing out the enormous plank in his eye.

    about public schools and churches,
    in florida, every public school in the district where I live becomes a christian church on sundays. for real.
    and I can’t tell you how many times I have called the local school board and complained about these churches pushing there agenda mon-fri by advertising on public school property their services.

    I’ve even gone so far as to remove the temporary church signs that are supposed to only be up on sunday, but somehow conveniently are up all week, off of the school property that my nephew attends.

    it’s fuqqin crazy.

    anyway, in answer to your question, does god change from OT to NT?

    yes, in the OT he was wearing a designer gown by Dior,
    in the NT he opted for a more casual off the rack blouse and shift skirt from calvin klein sportswear as it went well with his sandals.

    Like

  135. unklee,. thanks for the response, i see what you’re saying until I consider every other religious or superstitious claim in the world.

    proof for a man named jesus is not proof or even evidence for jesus the literal son of god. if it were, the discovery of troy would be evidence for the god zues as portrayed in the iliad. or we’d have evidence that mohammad was the literal prophet of god, etc.

    proof that others believed in jesus is not proof that their belief was correct. if it were, then all the children that believe in santa would be evidence that he was real…

    I just havent seen where any evidence supports the miraculous or the supernatural. but even if I had seen some, what do we do with all the things we’ve seen which were once believed to be supernatural in composition or in origin but have since been shown to be very natural?

    so even if “jesus was likely thought of as healer and is believed by some to the son of god” MIGHT mean there is evidence that Jesus COULD be the literal son of god, we still have evidence that would suggest that those supernatural beliefs that jesus was born of a virgin would also be mistaken, with very natural explanations.

    i just dont see the leap. I certainly dont see the scales tipping in its favor. I mean, i assume the bible says “walk by faith and not by sight” because if you were looking, you’d never arrive where it wants you to.

    Like

  136. So, there really isn’t a war on christians and babies?
    dammit!

    Is there a war on cows? On chickens? Pigs? Why would I want to go to war against a major food source?

    Like

  137. I had some refutations to his comments as well, Ark, but I didn’t want to offend the sensibilities of our visiting unkle, and since I’m not much of one to chat about the weather, chose to exercise my right to remain silent. Bravo!

    Like

  138. “i just dont see the leap. I certainly dont see the scales tipping in its favor.”

    Hi William, I wasn’t trying to present any information about why I have made the jump, but just agreeing with you that there is a difference between what the historians say and what anyone believes, and a jump to any conclusion. Of course I believe there are good reasons to make the jump, and not good such reasons to believe in other religious teachers, but we seem to agree on the situation at least.

    Like

  139. Nate, just one more clarifying comment re your questions – I don’t believe the Holy Spirit has replaced the Bible today, rather that the Spirit augments the Bible and interprets it.

    Like

  140. I would be interested in why we should believe Enns.

    Haven’t read all the comments yet, but wanted to reply to this one of Mak’s.

    Enns is a Christian, but he doesn’t try to sidestep any of the things that you and I would find problematic in the OT. I guess you could think of him like a Bart Ehrman for the OT. I’ve only read his book Inspiration and Incarnation, but I thought it was quite good. He readily acknowledges the role that the Epic of Gilgamesh played in Noah’s story, as well as the importance of early law codes like the Code of Hammurabi and the Code of Ur-Nammu. He also acknowledges the primitive view of the universe presented by Genesis.

    I part ways from him in that he views these things as evidence of a progressive revelation, like unkleE, whereas I view them as evidence that the Bible is of human origin. But I found his book to be a great resource when I was first studying through these things.

    Like

  141. unkleE said:

    I have concluded that God can tolerate us being wrong. He doesn’t want us to be wrong, but it is more important to him that we grow, fulfil our potential, choose to follow his ways and have a right attitude. Mistaken ideas can be corrected if our attitude is right, but true knowledge rarely trumps bad attitude.

    I can respect that. It’s actually similar to that Marcus Aurelius quote I use, in some ways. I mean, ultimately, none of us knows what the truth is — all we can do is try to figure things out to the best of our abilities. Some of us may get it right; many of us won’t. In the end, I think trying is the most important part, regardless of where one ends up (excepting fanatics who resort to violence, etc).

    Thanks again for continuing to comment on this thread. I really do think it helped me get a better feel for your position. While we don’t agree, I can easily see how you’ve come to your conclusions.

    Like

  142. I watched Laura Ingraham on FOX News last night say that Christians need to do a better job of showing the world that Christianity is the superior religion. I witnessed this first hand in Egypt where the Pharaoh was always depicted with a larger than life appendage to show his superiority. All you have to do is study Obelisks and Church Steeples. You get the idea.

    I think Nate said it right, “I mean, ultimately, none of us knows what the truth is — all we can do is try to figure things out to the best of our abilities. Some of us may get it right; many of us won’t. In the end, I think trying is the most important part, regardless of where one ends up (excepting fanatics who resort to violence, etc).”

    Like

  143. yeah, i feel sorry for her. all the other girls would laugh at her and mock her in the PE locker room because she had such a small penis.

    i’m sure it was funny, but i would have felt bad laughing. girls can be so mean, especially when it comes to another girl’s small penis.

    perhaps in heaven, her spiritual body will be better equipped. And then she could use two hands with pride, instead of having to use two hands with one parting the hair and the other holding the tweezers.

    Oh Laura, I’m sure your penis is a good size.

    Like

  144. Actually William, you brought up an interesting point and didn’t realize it. Your reference to Ezekiel 23 prompted me to read the entire chapter to get the full reference.

    The author has created an allegory – Samaria and Jerusalem (and by that, I assume he means the Northern Kingdom of Israel and the Southern Kingdom of Judea) are represented as sisters (which I found interesting, as Yeshua referred to Samarians, in the “woman by the well” story, as “dogs“), who went “whoring,” defiling themselves. In essence, he was saying that these two kingdoms sought to worship the gods of other countries (and are ultimately punished by having those countries take them over and destroy them), but the thing I find true about straying wives, is that wives typically don’t stray as long as things are good on the home front. In order to make a case, Zeke would need to explain why the god of these nations – Yahweh – was found to be less than satisfying, prompting them to seek other gods elsewhere.

    Like

  145. ah, good point. I mean, I did realize it was an allegory, but I had not considered why the “wives” would go a whoring if all was well at home, at least in this context.

    I have thought that israel’s perpetual falling away to other gods made of stone and wood illustrated how much the israeli god must have been like them. I mean, if one god rained fire down from heaven and slayed nations and parted seas, I dont think i’d find a statue to be that compelling of a god to worship instead.

    but I have thought that this passage was written with men in mind. to make the man think about a wife leaving him for a guy with a bigger dick, then he’d be pretty hurt, and so on, which makes me think it was written by man, for man. “leaving righteousness for sin is like your wife animalistically craving the carnal satisfactions of a bigger tool. dont be like a whore, do what’s right.”

    Like

  146. As the old commercial for Tarryton cigarettes once said, “It’s not how long you make it, it’s how you make it long —

    Like

  147. @Arch

    … the thing I find true about straying wives, is that wives typically don’t stray as long as things are good on the home front.

    Speaking from the woman’s POV, this is not necessarily true. Most women are more interested in how they are treated by their man than how things are in the bedroom. Even though the antics may be awesome, if he treats her like sh__ the rest of the time, then yes, she may stray. Especially if she meets someone who makes me feel pretty and sexy and desirable.

    Methinks your point is much more true of men.

    Sorry, Nate, for straying (no pun intended) off the subject, but I couldn’t let it pass.

    Like

  148. No apologies necessary, Nan. I’m glad you made the point. I actually thought that’s what Arch meant, but I may not have read it right. Either way, this should add some clarification, and I’m glad you chimed in about it.

    Like

  149. wives typically don’t stray as long as things are good on the home front.” – What part of that, Nan, restricted “good on the home front” to the bedroom?

    Like

  150. Arch, sorry if I assumed incorrectly, but I felt the conversation prior to had been leaning heavily towards s.e.x. … which generally occurs in the bedroom. (e.g. sizes of anatomical parts)

    Like

  151. I knew better than to use an analogy like that to the Friday Peanut Gallery ! LOL I was trying to point out that “superiority” seems to have been a central theme in some of the world’s religions (past & present) . (My God is better than yours) (I have more revealed knowledge than you) etc, etc, etc. And yes the penis as an example has been used to demonstrate this superiority. I again refer to the obelisk, steeple, minaret, which also tends to reinforce the argument that religion is man made.

    I also believe religions have to be divisive in order to survive. You’re not going to hear a Cleric, Priest and a Rabbi over coffee admit that their religion’s are just different roads leading to the same destination.

    I think I’ll leave analogies alone for awhile ! 🙂

    Like

  152. The wife presented me with this thought today and I thought it fit in well with this post on god changing.

    We are told that god is love in 1 John 4:8, in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 we get a great couple of verses that lay out some qualities of love:

    Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant 5 or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful;[a] 6 it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. 7 Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    In the Old Testament god is not patient at all, and very directly states that he IS a jealous god. He tells the Israelites many times that it is his way or the highway. In the name of god the Hebrew people do all kinds of cruel and unloving things to the people they encounter.

    I see only a few possibilities:

    1. God and his nature changes (even thought in Malachi 3:6 we are told he does not change)
    2. We don’t fully understand God, the OT people only saw a certain bit of His nature and now we have a fuller picture with Him being love but also a lot of very un love like things.
    3.The judeo-christian’s people’s perception of God grew/changed as they met other cultures and their society changed/evolved.

    I believe number 3 to be the closest to the truth and more evidence that the god the bible speaks of doesn’t exist.

    Like

  153. yes, i agree. the bible seems to give god certain definable attributes, and then claims that god partakes in actions that are contrary to those attributes.

    We can either act as if things like “love,” “mercy,” and “justice” are vague and hard to understand terms, or we can assume one of several other scenarios, like the ones that you’ve pointed out.

    I dint understand the positions that say that we can accept the god versions as true and discard the unpleasant versions as untrue or embellished. It seems a completely arbitrary way of selecting or nurturing your faith.

    I agree, this appears to be just one more hole in the bible basket, and mine no longer holds water.

    Like

  154. Hi Matt, I think that both #2 and #3 are correct in part, but I don’t draw the conclusion that therefore the God of the Bible doesn’t exist. For a start, if we accept that the Bible’s picture of God changes, which picture of God are you rejecting? All of them?

    But that doesn’t seem logical. The fact that you (and I) think that some of those pictures are not correct or complete, how does that mean that they all are? If we applied the same argument to scientific understandings of light, then we would regard the latest theories as just as wrong as the earliest ones, so that can’t be a correct principle.

    So we may agree that the portrayal of God in the OT, but what of the portrayal of God in the life of Jesus? That is surely the question we need to answer.

    I have been reading and discussing a little lately about how we arrive at our beliefs, and whether we can choose them (not just religious beliefs, but everything we think). One conclusion I feel is reinforced is that what we focus on is a major determinant of what we finally believe. Focus on the problems with theism and you’ll likely give up belief in theism. Focus on the problems with atheism and you’ll likely give up atheism.

    I think many christians and atheists know this instinctively, and choose to focus in a way that reinforces their current belief system, whereas I believe we should try to focus equally both ways. Thus I think a focus on the problems of the Bible, especially the OT, is a fairly sure way to disbelieve, but a focus on the historical, ethical and spiritual positives of the NT leads in a different way.

    Thanks for the opportunity to interact with your ideas.

    Like

  155. Perhaps it’s because I’m not a “true” atheist, but so far I haven’t discovered those problems with atheism” that you mention …

    Like

  156. Matt, it won’t surprise you to hear that I think that’s an excellent observation.

    I think unkleE’s point is worthy of consideration, but one of the reasons I disagree with him is that the claims of Christianity have one source. While the various books of the Bible were written by different individuals, Christianity’s god has allowed them all to be packaged together, and most people throughout the centuries have taken them as a whole. So to borrow his example, this would be like one science book making a whole bunch of claims, some if which end up being true, some which end up being false, and all the major ones are completely unverifiable. Is it really irresponsible to decide that such a book is untrustworthy?

    Personally, I agree with unkleE that one should examine both the pros and cons of one’s position, which is why I don’t rule out things like deism, pantheism, and panentheism. But Christianity is much further down on that list for me.

    Like

  157. I think many christians and atheists know this instinctively, and choose to focus in a way that reinforces their current belief system, whereas I believe we should try to focus equally both ways.

    There are way more than just 2 worldviews (interestingly there are about 7 billion currently although there’s a lot of overlaps). Perhaps we should focus equally all 7 billion different ways (as well as the ones which aren’t even thought of yet). I personally like to consider all worldviews myself but some will end up looking worse than others, and for me none of them seem to have all the answers.

    Like

  158. For me, if the Old Testament is sketchy at best, that only undermines Jesus. The whole idea of a need for a savior is rooted in our sin and inability to atone for it. Where do we get that thought system from? The Old Testament.

    For me if the OT cannot be trusted, my faith in the NT is destroyed. Its foundation isn’t there anymore, does that make sense?

    Like

  159. I think the events and letters of the NT are far more historically accurate than the OT. Where I stop at is the fallacies of the OT. If we can’t trust it to be in/errant, an actual letter from god to his people, then why are we to swallow the message it brings?

    Like

  160. Hi Matt, the idea that Jesus’ main message was about our need for a saviour is a truncation of his message by modern western evangelicalism, as you can find by reading most NT scholars. Even those who don’t believe in Jesus (say Bart Ehrman or Maurice Casey) agree that Jesus was on about something much bigger than that.

    Can I ask you why you think “if the OT cannot be trusted, my faith in the NT is destroyed”? You obviously know they aren’t all one book, but 66, so why should the accuracy of what Luke wrote be affected by whether Jonah is inerrant history? I really can’t see that.

    Like

  161. How much of the Jesus story is concocted, using OT “prophecies,” Unk? If they’re full of holes, what does that make the gospels?

    Like

  162. Can I ask you why you think “if the OT cannot be trusted, my faith in the NT is destroyed”? You obviously know they aren’t all one book, but 66, so why should the accuracy of what Luke wrote be affected by whether Jonah is inerrant history? I really can’t see that.

    I know this question is for Matt, but I thought I’d weigh in as well.

    There are many, many different religions in our world, and many of them have religious texts that they revere. Atheists and Christians typically agree that the non-Christian texts aren’t actually divinely inspired. So considering all the competition that’s already out there, I find it hard to believe that if the Christian god were real he would allow false messages into his anthology.

    Furthermore, the OT is interwoven quite heavily into the NT: Romans 5 draws parallels between Adam and Christ, in Matthew Jesus refers to Daniel, Jesus refers to Jonah in Matthew and Luke, Matthew teaches Old Law observance, Galatians and Hebrews say the Old Law is no longer under effect but still support its importance. There are many other examples we could point to. If the OT’s history is inaccurate in places, and if its portrayal of God is sometimes (maybe oftentimes) wrong, why does it find such support in the NT?

    I understand how progressive revelation tries to explain these problems, I’m just unconvinced by it. It seems too much like special pleading to me:

    Sure, the various parts of the Bible are very similar to other writings of those time periods, but that’s just God meeting people where they are.

    Yes God’s attributes are oddly similar to those of the false gods in the surrounding regions, but this is just an example of progressive revelation. People see what they want to see, after all, so it’s no surprise that they viewed Yahweh similarly other Canaanite gods, etc.

    I applaud the Christians who are able to see these issues, rather than just continuing to claim that God is perfect, unchanging, and the Bible is inerrant. But it still seems like they’re trying to fit a square peg into a round hole, when just moving to deism or pantheism, etc, would fit things much better for them. Again, that’s just my opinion, of course.

    Like

  163. Hi Nate, you don’t have to apologise for disagreeing – it is your blog after all, and anyway I always appreciate what you have to say even when I disagree in return.

    I think you have the logic the wrong way round. How can the accuracy of an old document make any difference to the accuracy of a newer document? I could reference Harry Potter in a comment about Jesus and that says nothing about the historicity of Harry Potter. In the end, what matters is what historians say about Jesus, and they say quite a bit. I can’t see how anyone can say otherwise.

    I also disagree with some of your examples. For instance, Matthew 5 does have Jesus’ statement about the law not passing away, but before interpreting that in the way you might, you need to consider in the same chapter Jesus several times saying “the OT law said this …., but I say to you this ….”. I think overall Matthew, as do Luke, John and Paul, clearly support the replacement of the OT law with a new ethic and a new relationship with God. That’s what the Last Supper is all about.

    Finally, the NT refers in several places to people and events that are not in the OT, but in Jewish “mythology” (not a good word, but it’ll do) – as you know from reading Enns. So there is no reasonable way anyone can argue that an NT quote implies OT historicity.

    So I don’t think fitting a square peg in a round hole is quite right. I think the truth is that there is good historical evidence for Jesus and the broad range of his life, teaching, death and believed resurrection. (The historical evidence for his healings and resurrection is pretty good, it is a metaphysical viewpoint and not history that prevent most people believing those things.) There is enough there on which to judge whether we believe Jesus was the son of God, or not. I believe it, you don’t. Once I believe that, I try to work out the rest of my beliefs from that base. I accept what the historians say (broadly) about the OT, and I find it doesn’t change anything I believe about Jesus because nothing I believe about Jesus depended on the OT in the first place.

    I’ll end with this quote from Greg Boyd:

    “The earliest disciples didn’t believe in Jesus because their scripture (Old Testament) proved to them that he was the Son of God. They were rather convinced by Jesus’ claims, his unique life of love, his distinctive authority, his unprecedented miracles, his self-sacrificial death, and especially his resurrection. …. The things about Jesus that convinced the earliest disciples that he was Lord continue to be compelling enough to convince open-minded people today that Jesus is Lord, and they do not presuppose the view that the Bible is the inspired Word of God.”

    I respect your decision not to believe in Jesus, but I think this particular reason is not reasonably based. Thanks.

    Like

  164. @Unklee

    “Focus on the problems with atheism and you’ll likely give up atheism.”

    Hi Unklee, not trying to seek an argument but honestly want to hear more from you on what are problems with atheism. Maybe just list a few of them and I’ll go take a look and dwell upon them.

    I kinda disagree with your claim instinctively as I think atheism is not really a belief – it’s more like a lack thereof. And since it is a quest for truth (my definition, not sure about others) I’m kinda skeptical whether atheists will purposely avoid the problems with atheism.

    As such, your lists will be greatly helpful for me to check my own blindspots and make sure I’m not committing the same logical fallacies which I abhor.

    Thank you in advance.

    Like

  165. Hi Powell, thanks for your question.

    I see things in terms of explanations – what is the best explanation of different things we experience and know?

    Sceptics critique christian theism like this all the time, asking questions like How can you explain the evil in the world? Or how do you explain apparent contradictions in the Bible?

    I think there are a bunch of things that atheism can’t explain too, for example:

    1. How does the universe exist without a cause?

    2. Why is the universe “finely tuned” in its physical laws and constants to an amazing degree?

    3. How can we explain all the ethical values and the dignity and worth of every human being in the universal declaration of human rights and other societal norms and laws? For example:
    * the claim to objective ethics
    * the value of human life
    * freedom of choice
    * conscience and ethics
    * consciousness
    * reason

    4. How to explain the historical facts about Jesus and the success of the early church?

    5. How to explain the apparent direct experiences of God via visions and miracles, including many for which there is strong medical evidence that something very unusual happened after prayer for healing?

    I haven’t seen satisfactory atheistic/physicalistic explanations for these things. Many attempts at explanation either deny or ignore the facts, or simply say we don’t know but science may explain it one day.

    I find many things about christian belief that I cannot understand, but they are not as many or as fundamental as these things which atheism cannot explain, and I can understand why I can’t understand them. So for me, the balance of evidence clearly indicates christian theism is the truth.

    Thanks for asking.

    Like

  166. @unklee

    Thanks for the quick response.

    To me your list doesn’t really shout “problems with atheism” but rather how atheism doesn’t debunk Christian claims.

    Was hoping for self-contained problems within atheism perhaps in similar line of say – God says He is merciful and yet He is just. This is paradoxical (at least for me, not trying to debate this now). Do you have something similar for atheism? Like something that is internally conflicting.

    Like

  167. Well I think they ARE “self-contained problems within atheism”, in that I don’t think atheism can explain those things satisfactorily. That’s what an intellectual or evidential problem IS – an inconsistency. So there is an internal conflict within atheism as an explanation of the facts.

    Like I said, it’s just the same as the paradox you mention about God – it’s (allegedly – I don’t think it’s an issue at all) something that can’t be explained.

    So how do you explain the cause of the universe or the design of the universe, or consciousness?

    Like

  168. @unklee

    I dunno, but at least for me atheism doesn’t attempt to answer who/what created the world. So I fail to see how that is considered an inconsistency or intellectual failure. This is rather different from the supposed paradox I suggested – both attributes are claimed by Christians. And thus theists will need to reconcile the “false paradox” and this is where we can see if there is any logical fallacies involved. Obviously you think
    that the theistic answers are to your satisfaction, while to me they are not.

    I’m hoping perhaps you could pinpoint certain tenets or claims of atheism that you said are problematic and I would like to see if I am at fault of doing mental gymnastics to resolve atheism contradictions.

    With regards to creation, I could throw back the same question at theists about who created God. But at the end of the day theists may simply say “I don’t know or I don’t care”, which is fine, since I don’t think who created God is a question that Christianity attempted to answer in the first place. And i think that is the same as atheism vis a vis creation – we’re just one level difference.

    Like

  169. Hi Powell, I appreciate what you are saying. In the end, we want what we do and think to reflect what is really the truth. We do science so we can know what the universe is REALLY like, and so we can live in it as well as possible. If, for example, our medicine doesn’t conform to reality, then we may die.

    So the test of a hypothesis is whether it conforms to reality, and the way we test that is to see what it explains and doesn’t explain. For example, the hypothesis that the earth was the centre of the solar system was initially plausible – after all, it sure looks like everything revolves around us. But as more data came in, that hypothesis became too complex mathematically and physically and still couldn’t explain all the data and a new hypothesis was developed.

    So you and I propose different hypotheses, and I’d be very surprised if you’d be happy to think that your hypothesis failed the test of explaining reality in a similar way that the old astronomical model did. I’m suggesting that in fact is the case – it does fail the reality test.

    The difference between God and creation is that the universe had a beginning whereas God is defined as not having a beginning. So God’s existence is explained by his being eternal and necessary whereas the universe is temporal and contingent. But there is no way in atheism to explain how a contingent universe had no cause. So there is no parallel, and the two explanations are not “one level different” but completely different – and only one makes logical sense to me.

    Like

  170. @unklee

    I would actually disagree with you on this –

    I’d be very surprised if you’d be happy to think that your hypothesis failed the test of explaining reality in a similar way that the old astronomical model did.

    As an ex christian, I was really trying very hard to believe in the christian model until I really couldn’t do it in the face of various facts (or how I interpret various facts according to you). I dare to say the same for Nate and many other ex christians that we would actually be happier if it is indeed proven that God is real and we are wrong about it (as long as this proof does not involve meeting God face to face after we die lol, we would be screwed)

    Hence I’m hoping to hear from you what you deem atheistic problems are, which tbh based on your previous list I don’t really see them, or at least not in the form of my problems with theism – namely contradictions and lack of biblical inerrancy etc. The so called problems that you have put forth are more in the form of unanswered questions – which to be fair I do have some naturalistic answers to all of them to various degrees based on my reading. Just as you have said – my set of answers to the questions you posed are essentially hypothesis of how the world works. However, at least from my current point of view I do not see any conflict between atheistic claims e.g. having a consistent worldview within itself.

    On creation (which is a separate topic of what my original question tried to achieve), I think this has been gone through numerous times by different people on this blog, and I do think you already know what my objections to a “prime mover” would be. So lets not go that path shall we?

    But related to that note am I right to say that according to you, you believe in existence of God because something/somebody must have had a hand in creation. And everything must start off somewhere. However, we can also accept that something must have always been there to begin with in order to make this equation work (just like how we define unreal numbers? bad analogy perhaps). And from there on, you believe in a creator, and subsequently by some other means you come to the conclusion that the christian God is the right one as oppose to some generic deistic belief?

    Like

  171. I find that if you read the bible, allow yourself to ask the obvious questions and then treat the bible as any other source, you’ll see that it has some serious holes.

    Sure, many will try to patch these holes by making explanations like, “the first century jews wouldnt have had a problem with this,” or “maybe there’s a good explanation that we just dont have yet,” or they’ll propose several potential scenarios, however unlikely and implausible, and suggest that those made up anecdotes solve the bible’s problems… but they dont. the issues are still there, the holes are still there, right where they always were, even if they’re now “covered” by whatever some person created to try and patch them. the bible still says what it says and is still missing what it’s missing.

    If god could speak directly to us all, then why doesnt he?

    if god could speak directly to every person, whom he loves dearly and without favoritism, why does he only do it through select people?

    if he gave miracles to vouch for these select messenger’s claims (that they do indeed speak for him), why is it that we only have claims of miracles that support their claims, and no actual miracles?

    are there any examples of a contradiction that cannot be “patched” or explained away in the manner than apologists “patch” or try to explain away the problems with the bible?

    Like

  172. A rancher’s horse is not well and has some, and needs a vet to find out what’s wrong and how to to treat it. The rancher, being frugal, decides to get treatment prices from the two vets who are in closest proximity.

    he calls the vets and says to each, “hello, my horse is sick. I need to know how much it costs to find out what’s wrong with him and to treat him.”

    vet 1: Well, since you’re horse only has an upper respiratory infection, it’ll be total of $2k.

    vet 2: without examining your horse, i cant be sure what the problem is, but my rate to visit you would be $100 to drive out and have a look, with treatments ranging in price depending on the problem. or you can bring him here for a $50 checkup, with treatment costs depending on the problem.

    the rancher thanks them both and after getting off the phone with vet 2, he shakes his head, and says to himself, “how can i trust a vet if he doesnt even know what the problem is? I’ll go with vet 1 because he at least has an answer.”

    sometimes “i dont know” is the only answer, and sometimes an answer that claims to be certain, is anything but.

    the bible claims to know how the heavens and earth were made, but what verifies those claims, made by the guy who wrote genesis 1, and confirms they are accurate? oh yeah, it has an answer where as science is still conducting its examination.

    Like

  173. So how do you explain the cause of the universe or the design of the universe, or consciousness?” – How do you explain the origin of god?

    Like

  174. what’s interesting is the origins of the bible are not a mystery, and are clearly not of supernatural means.

    it’s a book, written by men, who claims that god is a specific way and did certain things… so they must be right.

    Like

  175. whereas God is defined as not having a beginning” – By whom? Theists? Unsurprising. Upon what evidence is this definition based? Bear in mind that those who wrote the creation stories were anonymous, superstitious, scientifically-ignorant Bronze Age priests.

    Like

  176. UnkleE, atheism can’t explain many things. Atheism can’t explain why someone is short, another tall, why vanilla tastes like vanilla you know so many things but this doesn’t mean there is an inconsistency. Atheism is absence of belief in deities. It offers no explanations on anything.
    The beginning of the universe- cosmology
    consciousness- psychology and associated disciplines
    value in human life- a human question not anything to do with gods
    fine tuning of the universe- please! not you too
    Jesus and success of the church- history and anthropology
    direct experiences of god- neurology.
    You are most welcome. Am glad I could help

    Like

  177. “I would actually disagree with you on this –

    I’d be very surprised if you’d be happy to think that your hypothesis failed the test of explaining reality in a similar way that the old astronomical model did.”

    Hi Powell, I wonder if we are understanding each other here? Do you mean you would be quite happy if your worldview didn’t explain reality? I don’t think that you mean that, but I need to check if you do, or what exactly you do mean please?

    “Hence I’m hoping to hear from you what you deem atheistic problems are, which tbh based on your previous list I don’t really see them”

    I’m not sure I have anything more to say here. In science, history, detective work, etc, it is a general principal that the best hypothesis is the one that explains the most facts in the simplest way. Call it Ockham’s razor, or the principle of parsimony, or whatever. So if you don’t think it matters if atheism can explain those things well, then I have no more to say. If you think atheism can explain those things, then I can only say I’ve yet to see it.

    “namely contradictions and lack of biblical inerrancy etc.”

    The issues I raised are really far more important than these. We may (presumably do) disagree on the validity of (say) the cosmological or design arguments, but they are logically constructed, and if successful, at least prove something important.

    But arguments about Bible contradictions prove very little about God, they only have force if a person’s belief in God depends on the Bible being without error. I have been a christian for more than 50 years, and I have never believed the Bible was without error, and I have never been taught that – and I have been in some quite conservative churches. So demonstrating some inconsistency is generally irrelevant to my belief. You could probably hold your views about the Bible and still be a good christian.

    Yes, I am happy not to discuss the “prime mover God” argument further, but your last paragraph is pretty much correct for me, but of course my belief is based on the cumulative effect of all the matters I raised. Thanks.

    Like

  178. @unklee

    Yes that is what I meant. If my current worldview fail to explain reality for me, then wouldn’t that make the old worldview the correct one? Or at least there’ll be less objections. So actually I would dare to say that I set out to prove the atheist view as false, but unfortunately I’m unable to disprove it.

    In any case, I’m now more interested into finding how you moved from a deistic model to a theistic model. Because as far as I know that didn’t really happen right? You were already a Catholic to begin with since birth?

    Like

  179. Hi Powell, thanks for your reply. But I’m afraid it mystifies me.

    1. You are confirming that you are quite happy if your worldview cannot explain reality. I cannot understand that. And I cannot see how you could possibly criticise the views of a christian if you think their views are not evidence-based. If your atheist worldview cannot explain reality, then you have gone a long way to disprove it, whether you set out to or not. Are you sure that’s what you mean?

    2. How would “that make the old worldview the correct one?” There are more than two worldviews. Perhaps the old one is correct, perhaps something else. But in any case, believing something because you don’t want to go back to the old view seems to me to be a poor reason to believe, if I have understood you correctly.

    3. You must have me confused with someone else. I have never been a Catholic and I wasn’t brought up christian. I never was a deist, so I never moved from deism to theism. In my mid to late teens I chose to follow Jesus because I thought it was true. I have questioned all of my beliefs many times since then, changed quite a few of them, but stayed a christian all that time.

    LIke I said, I feel a bit mystified and wonder if I have correctly understood you. I certainly haven’t tried to misrepresent you.

    Like

  180. “In science, history, detective work, etc, it is a general principal that the best hypothesis is the one that explains the most facts in the simplest way.” – UnkleE

    this is sort of true. I mean, if it were literally true, then deism beats out Christianity, because it’s simpler than Christianity and explains just as much, yet you’re a christian and not a deist.

    but in reality, some “explanations” arent acceptable if they tip too far on the BS scale. A detective wont close a difficult murder case if an 8 year old provided the case’s only complete “possibility” with “the boogie man must have killed him and then disappeared back into the shadow world from whence he came.” it answers who killed the guy and explains why they cant find the murderer now, but it’s so retarded that I’d imagine a detective wouldnt give it much thought.

    having an “answer,” whether that answer is presented as absolute or not, doesnt make it absolute. And sometimes there are things where I may not know the right answer, but i do know what some of the wrong answers are.

    and when the evidence is sketchy, sure, i may still form an opinion, but it’s likely one that I am not seriously married to, and i certainly wouldnt use something so shaky in binding others to eternal consequences on.

    and besides, christianty presents far too many more questions than it answers.

    Liked by 1 person

  181. happiness isnt a motivator for me, at least in choosing a world view. It either makes sense or it doesnt. It either holds water or it wont. It works or it doesnt.

    of course, it’s not all that black and white, but get my meaning.

    happiness is nice, but it’s not what i’m looking for, when searching for truth. happiness is what i’m looking for on a vacation.

    and UnkleE, i know you were speaking with Powell, but i do not understand what mean by “atheist world view does not explain reality…” Atheism is just the absence of belief in a god or gods. and even if a christian is satisfied with the questions Christianity answers, sure;y you also see how many questions Christianity poses.

    Liked by 1 person

  182. …and for Christianity to make sense and answer your questions, you are forced to ignore certain parts, argue that other parts mean something other than what they say, and invent bridges between the gaps and discrepancies that exist.

    by the time you’re done with “god’s word,” it’s practically a different book and story.

    i just dont get how this is a compelling outlook.

    Liked by 1 person

  183. I’m super late to this party, but since I read 80% of the comments the bouncer at the door let me come in =)

    UnkleE wrote:

    The difference between God and creation is that the universe had a beginning whereas God is defined as not having a beginning. So God’s existence is explained by his being eternal and necessary whereas the universe is temporal and contingent. But there is no way in atheism to explain how a contingent universe had no cause. So there is no parallel, and the two explanations are not “one level different” but completely different – and only one makes logical sense to me.

    UnkleE, what about the explanation that the universe at large is actually eternal? Sure, our “local” universe may have had a beginning (big bang theory) – but what if the “all that exists” universe is way beyond the bounds of our local universe and has no beginning?

    Much earlier in this thread you made a comment about a mystery (the deaths of a 1st century couple) and I really liked it. The funny thing is that I give this same answer when presented with the mystery of the origin of our universe:

    UnkleE: “As to what happened, my guess is no better than yours, so I don’t bother to make one. If it happened, then it was extremely weird, whatever explanation we offer, so why guess among a bunch of unlikely weird explanations?”

    I am agnostic concerning the origin of the universe, but I’m an atheist when it comes to the origins of the Christian bible. I think this is an important distinction and I’m wondering if this kind of “atheism” has any problems which I should spend time giving focus/attention to?

    —-
    And now for something a bit unrelated that will make everyone go “hmmmm…”:

    Have you ever wondered why boundaries in time (origins) are given so much attention whereas boundaries in space are never really contemplated much?

    If we traveled in a single direction would we ever reach the end of space? Oddly enough I think most of us are happily agnostic on this question. I’m not sure why. No one is trying to invent magical barriers that hold all of space together. No one is arguing about the existence of one type of magical barrier vs. another type of magical barrier. No one is trying to confirm or disprove a “Big Barrier Theory”. And no one is claiming that the Great Barrier is going to “squeeze us all!” if we don’t behave properly. Interesting, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

  184. it is interesting, but i surmise that had the bible commented on such a boundary, that we’d be discussing it. we’d be arguing with Christians on why the boundary defined by the bible actually meant something other than what it said if it didnr match science, or if it was presently unverifyable, they’d claim that as a victory, “i’ll take an answer over ‘I dont know.'”

    Like

  185. @Unklee

    Hi hi,

    I think you might have misunderstood me but I the fault is mine for answering one of your previous question wrongly.

    When I said I’m happy, I mean that I wanted to prove the atheist worldview wrong. So if I see that the atheist worldview doesn’t answer questions of the universe, or is internally inconsistent, I would be happy as that would mean that my search for truth has not ended and perhaps there is still a chance (however that slight) that theism may be true.

    So that is what I mean by happy. On second read of your original question I realized that we were talking about different things, hence the confusion.

    With regards to your personal journey, I’ve always thought that you sound catholic due to the very liberal interpretations and way of thinking. This is generally true for catholics vs protestants who are definitely way more fundamentalistic.

    Anyway, from what you’ve said it seems that you have presupposed a God in the first place, and then the rest of the pieces fell in place after reasoning and logic. We can certainly debate whether it is right to presuppose a God or not, but I do agree with you that definitely if you believe then you will see, and indeed that makes sense.

    Like

  186. “UnkleE, i know you were speaking with Powell, but i do not understand what mean by “atheist world view does not explain reality…” Atheism is just the absence of belief in a god or gods. and even if a christian is satisfied with the questions Christianity answers, sure;y you also see how many questions Christianity poses.”

    Hi William, yes it is true, any question we get answered just opens up another question. We can always ask why? (and children often do!). To me, the important thing is to get answers to the important questions. So a detective ask “whodunnit”? If he or she establishes who the criminal is, they may then ask why they did it, and if they answer that they may then ask why did they get to that point, etc. But the important question was who did it, and the fact that it raises other questions doesn’t diminish the importance of that question.

    So yes, I have many questions as a christian, but the most important questions are answered – yes there is a God, I can relate to him, he expects certain behaviours of me, etc. So that is what counts for me.

    In the end, blogs like this are discussions of whether there is more truth in theism/christianity or atheism. How to judge that? Surely by which fits the evidence better, or which explains the evidence better. I have suggested there are numerous questions that cannot be adequately answered if there is no God, so I conclude that there probably is a God.

    “…and for Christianity to make sense and answer your questions, you are forced to ignore certain parts, argue that other parts mean something other than what they say, and invent bridges between the gaps and discrepancies that exist.”

    Surely the starting point for any complex matter is to get the views of the experts? That is a starting point whatever one’s viewpoint. And the experts can tell us lots about Biblical literature and history. They disagree about details but the basics are pretty clear. That doesn’t require ignoring anything, inventing anything. Of course we each will decide how to respond to those facts. I think too often people start with a particular conclusion about the Bible and react to that rather than start with the facts.

    Like

  187. “I’m super late to this party, but since I read 80% of the comments the bouncer at the door let me come in =)”

    Hi Dave. I’ve met several Daves online but I don’t know if you were one, so g’day!

    “UnkleE, what about the explanation that the universe at large is actually eternal?”

    It is very arguable whether that is even possible. An eternal thing within time doesn’t make sense to me. (1) You can’t count from here to infinity, so I don’t see how you could count back to minus infinity, so I don’t think a process of events in time can be eternal. (2) if a physical universe was eternal, it would have run down by now and be a thin cold soup incapable of doing anything. The only way eternal can make sense is if it is outside of time – which makes sense for God, but not for a universe where time is the 4th dimension.

    “I am agnostic concerning the origin of the universe, but I’m an atheist when it comes to the origins of the Christian bible. I think this is an important distinction and I’m wondering if this kind of “atheism” has any problems which I should spend time giving focus/attention to?”

    I guess that’s up to you. It seems to me that agnosticism doesn’t explain the universe any better than atheism does. But that’s only one part of the evidence for God – you’ve got the other 3 or 4 points I made – what do you think about them?

    “Have you ever wondered why boundaries in time (origins) are given so much attention whereas boundaries in space are never really contemplated much?”

    Yeah I think all that stuff is very interesting, but before I put much thought into it I’d want to read what the experts say. I’ve read Paul Davies’ book on Time, and a bit of cosmology, but that’s about it. I’ve certainly wondered about the limits to space – the ex[perts seems to say that we are thinking wrongly. Space is curved, and so we don’t reach an end but come back to ourselves (perhaps) and the question what is outside all that is meaningless mathematically. But I still wonder if mathematics is always meaningful – e.g. Davies talks about negative time, but can it practically occur??

    Like

  188. “When I said I’m happy, I mean that I wanted to prove the atheist worldview wrong. So if I see that the atheist worldview doesn’t answer questions of the universe, or is internally inconsistent, I would be happy as that would mean that my search for truth has not ended and perhaps there is still a chance (however that slight) that theism may be true.”

    Hi Powell, thanks for explaining that because I thought I must have misunderstood, and now it’s clearer. Do I infer from this that you are still undecided?

    “it seems that you have presupposed a God in the first place, and then the rest of the pieces fell in place after reasoning and logic”

    I don’t know if I “presupposed God” when I first believed, it is too long ago to remember, but I can say (1) I don’t think I said anything that should have given you that impression, and (2) whatever happened back then, I certainly wouldn’t say that now. Quite the contrary.

    This is how I see it now. Most of us grew up in nominally christian cultures, so the life of Jesus makes us think – was he really the son of God? The historians can tell us that a number of facts about his life and teachings are almost certainly true, and studies show that most of them think that the miracles and the resurrection are well attested historically, it is mostly our metaphysics (naturalism vs supernaturalism) that determine whether we can believe them or not. Further, most scholars believe Jesus saw himself as a messianic or eschatological prophet – some would go further and say he saw himself as the Messiah, some even that he saw himself as the unique son of God. So Jesus made claims about himself which the historians cannot agree on the detail, but agree on the basics.

    If there is a God and Jesus was his messenger, then the miracles and resurrection, and the claims to forgive sins and judge the world make sense, if not, then they don’t. So is there evidence for God?

    So then we come to the matters I have raised with you already – the universe, humanity and human experience. I find those matters convince me that God exists, but even if they don’t convince, they surely show it isn’t unreasonable to believe God exists. So that means it isn’t unreasonable to believe that the miracles and the resurrection occurred. You can’t prove them, but they’re not unreasonable. And it’s not unreasonable to believe Jesus was someone very special sent by God, perhaps even the son of God.

    That doesn’t make it true, but it shows it’s reasonable. So the question comes down to this – do we believe Jesus told the truth or not? I can’t answer that for you or anyone else, but I can quite clearly say I do believe that.

    So that is why I believe. I believe the evidence points to a world made by a God who looks quite like the God Jesus taught about, and who did miracles through Jesus.

    Does that explain things better? Thanks.

    Like

  189. “Surely the starting point for any complex matter is to get the views of the experts? That is a starting point whatever one’s viewpoint. And the experts can tell us lots about Biblical literature and history. They disagree about details but the basics are pretty clear. That doesn’t require ignoring anything, inventing anything.” – unkleE

    UnkleE, but a christian must ignore the contradictory passages. they must ignore the brutality of the OT. they must ignore the conflicts with history and science. they must ignore or at least down play the very human origins of the bible. They must ignore the failed prophecies and pretend that matthew’s claims fulfilled OT prophecies of christ are crystal clear. They must invent brides between these discrepancies. They must invent reasons as to why the brutal parts of the OT arent as bad as they seem, or why passages only appear to be in conflict and invent reasons as to how they’re really not…

    But what do the experts say? only that some of the people and places were or were likely real. This is not a verification that the miraculous events transpired or that god himself had a hand in any of it. this is why i often reference the iliad. certainly there are differences between in and the bible, but it also has undeniable similarities, yet no one argues that the gods are real, or that they literally intervened in the battle for troy – despite the experts saying that the place and the people were real.

    Like

  190. “So then we come to the matters I have raised with you already – the universe, humanity and human experience.” – unkleE

    I can see where these may be arguments for a creator or creators, but there is nothing in the universe or humanity that point to the god of the bible. I’d argue that our current knowledge of both argue against the bible, as the bible’s account of many of things dont match what’s been discovered.

    The only human experiences that may vouch for bible are not unique, and are found in every religion: a text, prophets, martyrs, visions, claimed miracles, etc…

    Like

  191. Hi UnkleE, g’day to you too!

    You wrote:

    It is very arguable whether that is even possible. An eternal thing within time doesn’t make sense to me. (1) You can’t count from here to infinity, so I don’t see how you could count back to minus infinity, so I don’t think a process of events in time can be eternal. (2) if a physical universe was eternal, it would have run down by now and be a thin cold soup incapable of doing anything. The only way eternal can make sense is if it is outside of time – which makes sense for God, but not for a universe where time is the 4th dimension.

    I don’t really see time as something you can be in or out of. You either have events (changes) or you don’t and time is just a way of describing the order of events. Going backwards in time we could find that either there was a first event (nothing happened prior) or that events have always taken place. If the universe (not our local universe) is eternal it would be no different than a God that was eternal (I’ll explain).

    You said, “An eternal thing within time doesn’t make sense to me”, but the word eternal is just a description of time. It is “time without end, always existing”.

    Does your God do anything? Does it think? Has it created something? These are all events. Was there ever a time when your God did not think or act? If so, he would have had a “first thought” or “first act” and would not be eternal. If not, then he is both eternal and “a process of events in time”. In other words, I think this leaves you with 3 options:
    A) God is not eternal
    B) God is eternal, but has no events (no thoughts, no actions)
    C) God is eternal, and is “a process of events in time”

    I think you’ll choose C, but then you’ll have to give up this statement: “I don’t think a process of events in time can be eternal”.

    Since eternal events are possible for God that means it is also possible for the Universe.

    Like

  192. I’ve been away for a few days and probably have some comments to respond to, but I first wanted to chime in with how much I agree with what Dave has said. That’s exactly how I’ve viewed eternity and the Universe.

    Like

  193. “UnkleE, but a christian must ignore the contradictory passages.”

    Hi William, I don’t see how you can say that. I don’t ignore those passages, the scholars don’t ignore them, as influential christian as CS Lewis didn’t ignore them. The passages all say something and mean something, and even if they are not literal history they still say something about the people and culture at the time. If we start with what the scholars tell us, we are not ignoring them.

    “But what do the experts say? only that some of the people and places were or were likely real. This is not a verification that the miraculous events transpired or that god himself had a hand in any of it.”

    That is all I expect of the experts – to tell me what can be reasonably known, on which I can base my conclusions.

    “I can see where these may be arguments for a creator or creators, but there is nothing in the universe or humanity that point to the god of the bible.”

    I don’t know if you read my reply to Powell, but in it I outlined how we can start with Jesus and what the historians tell us, and ask the question – was this man telling the truth and did he really rise from the dead? The historical evidence for those things is quite good, and God could do it, so the question is, is it reasonable to believe that such a God exists?

    My conclusion is that it is indeed reasonable.

    If the cosmological argument is successful, then God is very powerful and he created.
    The design argument suggests God’s creation is very tightly designed and he created for a purpose.
    The moral argument suggests God values ethics.
    The argument from reason suggests God values rationality.
    The facts of consciousness and choice suggests God values autonomous beings who can choose freely.
    The experience of people in healing suggest God cares about human beings.
    The revelation through Jesus confirms many of these things.

    So the reasons to believe in God do indeed point to a God very like the God Jesus taught us about.

    “The only human experiences that may vouch for bible are not unique, and are found in every religion: a text, prophets, martyrs, visions, claimed miracles, etc…”

    I wonder whether they are found to the same degree in every religion? Every one? I haven’t done the research to confirm or refute that, have you? (Remember we are to be evidence-based!)

    But even if it were true, which it may be for all I know, what would that prove? It might prove that there is some truth in all religions, or that God is gracious enough to overlook religious affiliation. I think it is easy to mention these things but before they can count for much you have to establish the facts and then show why one particular explanation is better than any others.

    I am not at all troubled that God blesses people in other religions – I would be troubled if he didn’t!

    Like

  194. “I don’t really see time as something you can be in or out of. You either have events (changes) or you don’t and time is just a way of describing the order of events. “

    Hi Dave, I have heard things like this said, but is it true? My feeling is that it is not. I think physicists define time mathematically, and I don’t think it depends on the order of events. But I don’t know.

    You have made this statement confidently, and several other have supported it, but no-one has offered any evidence. Are we not supposed to be evidence-based? I want to be, at any rate, so I have contacted a physicist whose blog I follow and who has written about time, and asked him what physics says about this. I will report back.

    “the word eternal is just a description of time. It is “time without end, always existing””

    I don’t agree with this either. The word eternal used in the Greek Bible means “related to the age to come”. It actually doesn’t imply “everlasting” at all. So if we describe God as eternal, the base meaning is that he lives outside this current age, however we might understand that. Statements about whether God exists in time or outside it (as I think) are no more than guesses. But what we can say is that if God created this space-time universe then he exists outside this space and time.

    So I think your three options don’t make sense (the definitions are unclear), they are based on misunderstandings (yet to be fully verified) and don’t exhaust the possibilities.

    Like

  195. “I wonder whether they are found to the same degree in every religion? Every one? I haven’t done the research to confirm or refute that, have you?” – unkelE

    Oh no, of course not. At least not to the depth I have researched the bible. No, I discounted those over far fewer issues than I’ve found in the bible.
    Sorry on advance for the length.
    And I don’t think you’ve made decisions based on what the experts or scholars have said, as they can affirm the likely hood of a man named jesus who had some followers. So then you are making a leap based off of that affirmation to then believe something that they cannot affirm, which is that that man also happened to be the son of god, and that he rose from the dead and flew into heaven, saving all of mankind from a fate that they’ll only encounter after death.

    I feel like that’s quite a leap. I feel like people in other religions make similar leaps.
    I feel like If the cosmological argument is successful, then God or some god or something else is very powerful and he or they or it created… unless it was the universe or something else that was eternal… unless there is some other, yet unknown alternative that would show something else…

    I feel like The design argument is an argument based on end products and trying to link it to an old superstitious book. It may suggest God’s creation is very tightly designed, with the understanding that there are indeed many variables and that “tight” may not be very accurate and he or they or it created for a purpose, which could be anything, even entertainment or to serve as an ego boost and way to get praise.

    I feel like The moral argument suggests the God of the bible changes in values and ethics and will do anything for any reason he sees fit in a :”do as I say, but don’t do as I do” sort of way..

    I feel like The argument from reason suggests God values blind faith, if we’re talking about the god of the bible as reason would make it evident that faith in the bible cannot be faith in god without first being rooted in faith for the men who wrote it.

    The facts of consciousness and choice suggests God values autonomous beings who can choose freely, except that he will destroy those who don’t choose his way. Esxept that freewill wont be heaven or else everyone there would be cast out the devil and his angels when they inevitably sin.

    The experience of people in healing suggest God cares about human beings and The sickness, suffering and death of young children suggests he doesn’t.

    The revelation through Jesus confirms many of these things, but only if we presuppose he is the son of god and that he created the universe, but couldn’t or wouldn’t write his own book or speak to them directly…. And only after re excuse the bad “prophecy” references and internal contractions and other errors.

    Once you accept that the problems may not really be problems, it certainly looks a lit a better, I must admit – but my problem is that I think that’s true of anything.

    Like

  196. “You have made this statement confidently, and several other have supported it, but no-one has offered any evidence.” – unkleE

    but isnt that similar to evidence you’ve given to there being no time?

    “outside this current age” argues time as “age” argues time.

    I dont care how we count it, but can you think of any way where there is no past, present or future? Where action 1 is exactly the same as action 1000?

    or what if you turn the stove on? you can turn it off, but can you make to where it was never turned on once you did it? even if you could travel back in time and stop yourself from turning on the stove, would really mean that you never turned it on? I think the answer would always be no. once you’ve done something, you’ve done it. I think that argues for time in the most basic sense of past, present and future.

    you do something in the present, and once it’s done its in the past and the future is where you will regret doing it… until you get there, as it then becomes the present…

    space and time are interwoven. is there no space where god is either?

    Like

  197. UnkleE,

    I was using the common definitions of the words time and eternal. If you want to use this Greek definition, that’s fine. For the sake of discussion, I’ll go along with this concept of time being something you can step out of and eternal meaning something outside of this time/age (even though it seems more hypothetical).

    Let’s assume that our current frame of time is local to us and that this God has the ability to look at it from an outside perspective and see everything at once (Like looking at every frame of a filmstrip at one time). This God would still be subject to it’s own time-frame. If it does anything, creates anything, or processes conscious thoughts then it is doing so in an event based reality. So, going back to my 3 options, we are still looking at option C, a God that is both “eternal” and is also subject to “a process of events in time”.

    Also, if you can create this special scenario for your God what’s wrong with applying it to a meta-universe? Why not say that the meta-universe is also outside of our local space and time? Getting back to your original point, the meta-universe (or multiverse) explanation should not be ruled out and your claim that atheism has no parallel explanation is not true.

    Like

  198. One would think that even someone like Unk could see all of the Special Pleading hoops one has to jump through to justify the existence of a god.

    Like

  199. @UnkleE
    Sorry to be so late responding, I’ve been swamped at work. A few days ago you wrote:

    Can I ask you why you think “if the OT cannot be trusted, my faith in the NT is destroyed”? You obviously know they aren’t all one book, but 66, so why should the accuracy of what Luke wrote be affected by whether Jonah is inerrant history? I really can’t see that.

    Let me expand on this a little, as I believe this is a mindset that most here have and I don’t know that it has be explained before.

    I would propose that there are 3 main ideas the NT tries to get across to its readers.
    1. A messiah has come giving new revelation from God. This new revelation includes God’s plan for humankind’s salvation though Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice. – This would be a summary of the gospels.
    2. There are guidelines for how Christians should live, and how they are to worship/conduct church. – This would be a broad summary of Paul’s letters
    3. That same messiah is coming again to earth to bring forth a new age for mankind. – This would be a summary of the book of Revelation.
    Now here is where Old Testament inerrancy comes into relevancy for the New Testament writings.
    Why did we need a messiah to begin with? – You’ll find that answer in the OT
    What system were the Israelites using to atone for their sin? – You’ll find that answer in the OT
    What is Sin, and why are humans sinful? – You’ll find that answer in the OT
    This god the ‘father’ that Jesus keeps talking about who is he? – you’ll find that answer in the OT
    In Galatians chapter 3 Paul goes into good detail linking Christ’s message to OT prophecy fulfillment.
    The NT isn’t just a separate writing that can stand on its own. It is a continuation of the OT, a new direction mind you, but still the same story line continued. All the claims that the writers make in the NT are in some way standing on OT prophecies or law. Without the OT none of the NT makes sense, the OT frames the background of the NT.
    If the OT’s validity is in question then by simple logic the message of the NT is as well. Notice I’m not saying that Jesus wasn’t an actual person that lived, or that the letters of Paul weren’t written. I’m saying that the message they preached is null and void if the OT is bunk.

    Like

  200. Hi Matt, thanks for that explanation. I understand what you are saying. I have three thoughts/questions ….

    1. What difference does it make if parts of the OT are legend or myth?

    History is only one way to portray truth – myth, poetry or parable can portray the same truth. The Good Samaritan makes its point the same whether it is parable or a true story. Job explores the issue of suffering just as well as a poem as if it was true (in fact probably better as a poem because it would be nasty if it was true).

    I don’t see how any of the NT is changed if significant parts of the OT are not literal and accurate history.

    2. Shouldn’t we start with how things are, not how we think they “ought” to be?

    I notice that many questioning christians and ex-christians have a view of how they think the Bible “ought” to be (inerrant) and how God “ought” to behave (give us absolute certainty). But surely the more rational approach is to find out how things are and then ask “could God have done it this way?” The Bible evidentially contains legend, poetry, “fictionalised history”, historical chronicles and “sagas”, letters, visions, mistaken ideas, etc – is there any reason to suppose God couldn’t have used all that to gradually reveal truth, beginning where those ancient people were at and gradually maturing and correcting their beliefs?

    I don’t think there is any reason why he couldn’t have done that, and when we look at the growth of the universe from the big bang, the evolution of human life, the growth of each human being from conception through pregnancy to birth, and the growth of children from total helplessness to maturity, I think there is every reason to believe that is in fact the way God has chosen to work.

    3. Why do people believe in Jesus?

    Imagine if the OT was totally lost and no longer existed. There would still be quite enough in the NT to justify believing in Jesus. Most christian apologetics makes little reference to the OT – certainly I virtually never mention it. So if anyone believes because of the NT, why should any “problems” with the OT make any difference to their faith? I think we can only properly understand Jesus by understanding the aspirations of the Jews for a Messiah, which comes from the OT, but it isn’t dependent on the OT being inerrant history.

    So for all those reasons, I think it is a misunderstanding to say “the message they preached is null and void if the OT is bunk.” – and in fact, the word “bunk” is far from a fair statement also.

    What would you say to all that?

    Like

  201. Hi William, thanks for your response. I don’t think I’ll respond to your statements about all the different evidences I put forward. I have shared briefly why I think they are strong evidences (cumulatively) and you have outlined why you don’t see them as so strong. I can respect your view while disagreeing with it, and I see places where I think your logic is wrong, but there’s too much there to go further here I think. But thanks. Eric

    Like

  202. Hi Dave, William, Nate and others,

    Dave proposed that “You either have events (changes) or you don’t and time is just a way of describing the order of events”, and many of you agreed with his argument. I now have the answer back from a physicist (see Time as the Forth Dimension) and he is quite clear:

    Time is not defined by change, “it is defined mathematically by the existence of a time dimension in the geometry”. Thus time can exist without change and does in some circumstances – and a universe with time and space but no matter and no change is apparently possible.

    I didn’t ask about whether change requires time because I have little doubt that it does in the space-time universe, although not in mathematics where discontinuities can occur.

    But once the nexus between time and change is broken, I think it would be foolish to insist on any particular statement about God, time and change if God is supposed to live outside the space-time universe. We simply don’t know, and everything is a guess.

    So I think this is another case where statements are made without anyone checking the evidence beforehand. You know it is supposed to be only christians who do that? 🙂

    Like

  203. “This God would still be subject to it’s own time-frame.”

    Maybe, maybe not! How do you know? Surely that is like an anaerobic bacterium insisting that humans must obviously not require oxygen to live!? Any argument based on such an unknowable premise is surely impotent!

    “Why not say that the meta-universe is also outside of our local space and time? Getting back to your original point, the meta-universe (or multiverse) explanation should not be ruled out and your claim that atheism has no parallel explanation is not true.”

    Of course the multiverse (if it exists) is outside our space and time, but have you checked to see if there are any physicists who say that it is outside all time? I doubt it is, though I haven’t checked either.

    But the multiverse changes very little in the arguments I presented. Physicist Paul Davies has pointed out that if the multiverse is the explanation of the fine-tuning of our universe, than you have to be able to explain how it is so finely tuned as to be able to turn out 10^500 (one estimate) universes all with different properties, as required to explain the fine-tuning of our universe. It’s the same problem with the disadvantage that we scientifically know very little about the multiverse, even if it exists at all.

    So it may be true that the multiverse “explains” this universe, which would be an enormous step forward in knowledge if it could be established as true, but it does nothing to remove the atheist’s dilemma that I described (in my opinion). Thanks.

    Like

  204. I now have the answer back from a physicist…and he is quite clear” – Interestingly, your physicist seems to operate a Christian website – does anyone else agree with his theory? Has it been peer reviewed? If so, where? – I would love to read the reviews.

    Like

  205. So, a couple of things:

    When we talk about origins, Christians and atheists are left in the same place: WE DON’T KNOW. Positing “God did it” is not an actual answer, because it can’t be demonstrated anymore than the multiverse can. The theist is still left with the problem of God’s origin. And if we say that “God is defined as having no cause,” that’s simply a convenient cop-out. We could say the same about a multiverse. That’s the thing about these assertions — they’re completely unverifiable, so we can claim anything we want. Look, we simply don’t know enough about the universe or what could have caused it to talk about it intelligently.

    The physicist you spoke to may be right, though he did say that he was speaking about mathematical possibilities. It’s hard to say if such a physical reality could exist.

    So I think this is another case where statements are made without anyone checking the evidence beforehand.

    No, I disagree with this, unkleE. We were each speaking from our own experiences of the world. As far as I understood, we were talking about the possibility of an actual God who could interfere with our physical reality, not a being who only exists in mathematics. Based on that, whether you call it “time” or not, if a thing can change, then past, present, and future are states that would apply.

    And I’ll refer us all back to my previous statement: “Look, we simply don’t know enough about the universe or what could have caused it to talk about it intelligently.” If you believe in a supernatural being that can somehow exist without experiencing time, that’s fine. But don’t be surprised when a number of us find it too hard to swallow.

    Liked by 1 person

  206. The Bible evidentially contains legend, poetry, “fictionalised history”, historical chronicles and “sagas”, letters, visions, mistaken ideas, etc – is there any reason to suppose God couldn’t have used all that to gradually reveal truth, beginning where those ancient people were at and gradually maturing and correcting their beliefs?

    Sure, such a thing is possible. But is it likely? I feel like there are a number of problems with the idea.

    It’s almost a certainty that Adam was not a real person, yet Paul seems to think he was. It’s also likely that Moses was not a real person, but Jesus refers to him as if he were, and the synoptic gospels say he and Elijah appeared to Jesus in person. The Sabbath Day is one of the most important parts of the Old Law, but it’s primarily tied to an event that never happened: the literal week of creation. And later passages also say it’s tied to the Israelites’ deliverance from Egypt, which also probably didn’t happen. Why would God incorporate these kinds of things into his laws if they weren’t based on actual events? What’s the point?

    The problem of evil in our world used to be explained by the “Fall of Man.” But we now know that the Adam and Eve story is mythology. So what explains evil in the world? Why didn’t God set us up with a paradise initially?

    Another problem, which I’ve mentioned before, is that I don’t understand why God had to use such progressive revelation in the first place. It’s obvious that humanity has always sought answers. It’s part of our innate curiosity — we want to know where we came from and if there’s a reason for us being here. All God would have to do is simply let us know he’s there. There would be no need for competing religions — they would all pale in comparison to the real thing. There would be no need to research the history of our world and the universe — God could simply reveal that information. And there would be no need for God to “put up” with things like slavery, blood sacrifice, genocide, and chauvinism, because he would have been there from the very beginning, teaching us how to be moral individuals. But that obviously didn’t happen.

    Furthermore, if God’s real, why would he rely on the slow processes of the Big Bang and evolution? Sure, time may be irrelevant for him, but it still seems like a very odd choice. In a way, the Genesis creation story makes more sense — just let God get right down to business. The problem is that we know from science that such a creation event didn’t occur. Instead, everything that exists right now seems to have gotten here through very natural, physical processes.

    And that’s really the problem with Christianity as a whole. It keeps losing more and more of its magic. Did God create the world in 6 literal days? Nope. Billions of years passed before our solar system began to form, and it took about a billion more before any life finally graced our planet. A couple of billion years of evolution then had to take place before our species finally arrived. Did God flood the earth and wipe out all of humanity except 8 individuals? Nope. Turns out if the story was based on an actual flood at all, it was local. Did God inflict 10 plagues on mighty Egypt until they “let [his] people go?” Not that we can tell. Did millions of people wander the wilderness around Sinai for 40 years? Doesn’t look that way. Did Joshua lead the Israelites on a savage invasion of Canaan, wiping out most of its inhabitants? If so, they hid their tracks pretty well. And we could do that with many more stories — even some in the New Testament, like Matthew’s zombie walkabout.

    Could God have just used these as stories to portray some “greater truth” in a slowly progressive revelation? I guess. But I’d have to view it as the least likely explanation.

    Like

  207. Nate, this comment of yours resonates quite a bit with me.

    A mind that exists outside of time and space is pure speculation and also seems to go against our human experience of minds as existing in time, being contingent, having a dependency on brains, and also increasing in abilities as brain complexities increase. And the mind that traditional monotheism posits (i.e. a mind that knows every single fact there is to know) looks to be reasonably ruled out by occam’s razor. Claiming something like that as “non-contingent”, “necessary”, “no need for explanation” is beyond me (and you know very well that I’m humble enough to admit that just because it’s beyond me is nowhere near proof – it’s just an honest statement of how I view things).

    Look I’ve got Unklee’s back if all he’s trying to do is gain some respect for having tried his best to come to his conclusions through evidence. In fact you’ve seen me back him up on your blog before. But I’m afraid Unklee ends up getting aggressive beyond that and turns the tables and starts to claim that all of us are not evidence based, as if that implies we are somehow faith based. If “not evidence based” means that there are likely places I’ve incorrectly interpreted evidence, or made some wrong guesses without having the time to fully investigate things (who does have the time to _fully_ investigate things anyways?) then I am always the first to raise my hand and say “yup guilty as charged”, but I don’t believe I have ever written anywhere on the internet that people should except my views based on faith. This is where I think his attempt to turn the tables doesn’t fit. It sniffs a little of the tu quoque fallacy.

    Like

  208. For the record, the verdict is still out on whether time actually exists or not. I’ve read a lot of different opinions on it from both philosophers and physicists. I don’t think this point matters anymore. We could have skipped the word altogether and just spoken about infinite events / actions just from a logical perspective. If it possible for one hypothetical entity to have an eternal process than it is also possible for another. I have to agree with what Nate just said – this is all extremely well beyond our grasp at this point. There is just not enough data to make a solid case about anything outside of our local universe.

    A mind that exists outside of time and space is pure speculation and also seems to go against our human experience of minds as existing in time, being contingent, having a dependency on brains, and also increasing in abilities as brain complexities increase. ~ Howie

    This is a good point Howie.

    Liked by 1 person

  209. Nate, I think our discussions might parallel those elsewhere, so I’ll try to be selective.

    “Why would God incorporate these kinds of things into his laws if they weren’t based on actual events? What’s the point?”

    If God had decided exactly how things were going to be, and this is what he chose, then it is reasonable to ask the questions (though probably unreasonable to expect answers!). But the evidence suggests that isn’t how he did things. As I’ve said several times recently, it looks like most things that happen in this world grow or evolve from smaller or less complete beginnings – think singularity to our universe, amoeba evolving to humans, sperm and egg growing to be Einstein, etc. So that’s how things are in the Bible as well.

    So why? If a parent controls and specifies everything a child does, that child doesn’t mature, but stays developmentally stunted. So the parent starts with rules and fairy tales (Santa, Easter Bunny, etc) and ends up with allowing their child to self learn via experience and free choice. It’s also how educators work – start with the little the person knows and build on that.

    So I suggest God has worked with humans in the same way. He didn’t incorporate all these things into laws, only some of them, we did some of them too. He inspired and oversaw the process, but people played a real part. He started with where the Jews were at (ancient Middle eastern legends) and gradually refined and educated until we get the full revelation in Jesus.
    Of course I don’t understand it all and have many questions myself, but I don’t see why God couldn’t have done it that way, ad plenty of reason to think that he did.

    “And that’s really the problem with Christianity as a whole. It keeps losing more and more of its magic.”

    I don’t feel that way at all. It loses some legendary feel I guess, but to me the life of Jesus is amazingly attractive and inspiring. I can’t get all that excited about Noah!

    Anyway, I think I’ve done this subject to death, so I might bow out. Thanks again for your comments and the opportunity to express my ideas.

    Like

  210. Hey UnkleE,

    I’ll try and touch briefly on your two questions to me:

    Hi Matt, thanks for that explanation. I understand what you are saying. I have three thoughts/questions ….

    1. What difference does it make if parts of the OT are legend or myth?

    The difference is the OT states that the things that happen are fact, not myth or legend. Christianity as a whole still teaches them as fact. (that really bothers my btw)

    I don’t see how any of the NT is changed if significant parts of the OT are not literal and accurate history.

    Would the movie Return of the Jedi make any sense if later on we found out Darth Vader wan’t really Luke’s father, that he had been sired by some random guy? The whole back story would fall apart and you’d be forced to try and make sense of something that just doesn’t fit.

    You wrote:

    I notice that many questioning christians and ex-christians have a view of how they think the Bible “ought” to be (inerrant) and how God “ought” to behave (give us absolute certainty).

    Well that is certainly how the religion is taught in the vast majority of denominations I’m familiar with.

    3. Why do people believe in Jesus?

    Imagine if the OT was totally lost and no longer existed. There would still be quite enough in the NT to justify believing in Jesus.

    I don’t agree. Yes enough to believe Jesus existed, but not enough to believe he was who he claimed to be. Too much of the NT focuses on Jesus being the messiah the OT foretold of, and too much time is spent tying Christ’s new message into fulfillment of OT law and doctrine.

    Like

  211. Hi Matt, thanks for replying. I understand where you are coming from, but I think it misses some important things that scholars have reported.

    The Jews of Jesus’ time were more fluid in how they quoted their scriptures. Within the writings of the time (not just the NT, but many other documents in the few hundred years leading up to that time) are references to the OT that changed the original meaning, or drew fanciful conclusions, or referred to events and characters that weren’t recorded in the OT. So saying that a reference to a person proves they believed that person and event was historical is not exactly right.

    A more extreme example comes from Australia’s indigenous people. They have been here for something like 60,000 years, and they have developed what is called the Dreaming or the Dreamtime. The stories vary across the different nations, but they describe events in the distant past that explain the present. They are referred to even now with great seriousness and respect, but an anthropologist would call them folk tales, legends, aetiological myths or something. I have never asked a modern aboriginal if they really believed them – I have never really had the opportunity, but I think it would be crass to do so anyway. Whether they are historically true isn’t the point. But before we classify them as “unhistorical”, we find that these stories tell of land being covered by a rising sea and hills becoming islands – which actually happened around 6-10 thousand years ago after the last ice age.

    So it is quite consistent with what historians and anthropologists tell us that God could have used ancient middle eastern stories which mixed myth and history to begin his process of revealing truth to human beings. If you judge that not to have been the case, then I don’t want to argue the matter, I just want to make sure you know there is indeed another way of looking at it all that fully respects the best understandings we have of Jewish literature and culture.

    Thanks for that opportunity. I think I’ll retire from this thread now. Best wishes.

    Like

  212. “So saying that a reference to a person proves they believed that person and event was historical is not exactly right.” – unkleE

    so it’s perfectly reasonable, then, to conclude it is also possible that those who wrote of jesus werent portraying him accurately as well.

    it’s entirely possible, and likely probable when considering everything else, that him being the literal son of god, or raising from the dead, or healing the sick and flying into heaven were all embellishments to convey a story and a broader lesson.

    Like

  213. “so it’s perfectly reasonable, then, to conclude it is also possible that those who wrote of jesus werent portraying him accurately as well.”

    Hi William, no I don’t think that is a reasonable conclusion. My comment refers to the beliefs of the person reading the text and says nothing about the text itself. The text may be historical or mythical or poetic, etc, but regardless, the reader (most likely a rabbi) may interpret or apply it literally or slightly more fancifully to suit their own purposes. But their response says nothing necessarily about the original. So what you said doesn’t follow at all.

    The way we know that a text is historical or not is determined by things like the genre and whether it fits with other known history. In the case of the OT, there is a mixture of genres and low support for historicity in the early stages to higher support in the later stages. So it is possible to identify to some degree (but with lots of uncertainty) which things are historical and which are less so (one term is “fictionalised history”).

    It is very different for the NT. Scholars say that the gospels are historical biography, a genre which was largely historical, but with some creativity allowed in the accompanying details and some commentary on the figure in question. They say Acts is very much good classical history. So this doesn’t make any of those books inerrant, but it does mean we can know that the authors intended us to know that what they write about really happened, with some fuzziness about some details where they are making a point rather than writing strict history.

    I know I sound like a cracked record, but it is all there in the writings of the scholars.

    Like

  214. First of all, you said you were gone – it would be SO nice if you would keep your word.

    Scholars say that the gospels are historical biography, a genre which was largely historical” – Which scholars?

    They say Acts is very much good classical history.” – the Westar “Acts Seminar” says that “Acts” was taken from the letter of Paul, and written at or after the turn of the first century – I fail to see how that qualifies as “good classical history.”

    So this doesn’t make any of those books inerrant, but it does mean we can know that the authors intended us to know that what they write about really happened, with some fuzziness about some details where they are making a point rather than writing strict history.” – No, it certainly doesn’t, and all it really means, is that each author had an agenda, and it was not necessarily the SAME agenda – they told stories that supported their own points of view.

    I know I sound like a cracked record” – Yeah, you do – at least a cracked something –.

    Like

  215. @unklee

    My understanding of the New Testament is that it is considered fulfillment of prophecy – that the character, Jesus of Nazareth is the embodiment of this Messianic prophecy.

    Without the Old Testament the New would be rendered meaningless, something the Catholic Church realised, hence their rejection of Marcion and his gospel and their ”rush” to put together a canon.
    However, the Virgin Birth prophecy quickly dispels the notion of fulfilled prophecy as this was simply lifted from Isaiah by the writer of Matthew and it bears no relation to a messiah at all, but rather to King Ahaz and the duel prophecy attempts by apologetics has generally fallen flat other that with fundamentalists/evangelicals.

    With the realisation that the Old Testament is nothing but historical fiction the entire notion of Original Sin is brought sharply into focus, for without the Fall Christianity’s raison d’etre is on even shaker ground. No sin, no need for salvation. No blood sacrifice.
    Furthermore, the character Jesus of Nazareth was a Jew as were the disciples. The notion/doctrine of Original Sin would have been anathema to them. They taught and upheld the Law.Mosaic Law.
    Which brings into play yet another scenario.
    Why would Jesus of Nazareth preach adherence to Mosaic Law, acknowledge Moses as a real person when it has been established that Moses was a mythological figure?

    As Jesus of Nazareth taught the Law, the only way to circumvent this was to suggest he had fulfilled the Law thus, such things as dietary prohibitions and circumcision were now unnecessary.
    Yet one of the major issues in the New Testament is the confrontation between Peter and Saul of Tarsus/Paul ; with the latter emphatic that Peter was wrong and he, Paul was equal to any of the other apostles.

    This indicates that the disciples were teaching what Jesus of Nazareth taught and Paul was off on his own agenda.
    Furthermore, as the disciples were supposedly filled with the Holy Spirit, why was Paul unable to recognise this and why did he refuse to acknowledge Peter’s superiority?

    Gentile Christianity is based largely on the teaching of Paul, and not Jesus of Nazareth. As doubt are beginning to be raised regarding the historicity of this character, and considering we know that some of his ”letters” to be forgeries and questions hang over the others, then far from being the rantings of a few conspiracy theorists, it is becoming not too outrageous to suggest that the New Testament is largely a fabrication of the church.

    Liked by 1 person

  216. I have ‘cherry- picked’’ (sic) these two comments from unklee as I believe they highlight perfectly
    where the ignorance, and subtle manipulation of theism lies.

    I’m not sure I have anything more to say here. In science, history, detective work, etc, it is a general principal that the best hypothesis is the one that explains the most facts in the simplest way. Call it Ockham’s razor, or the principle of parsimony, or whatever. So if you don’t think it matters if atheism can explain those things well, then I have no more to say. If you think atheism can explain those things, then I can only say I’ve yet to see it.

    From this, Unklee believes that atheism is the alternate to theism, the other side of the coin, and it must therefore answer all the questions it has concerning theism.
    No matter how often the theist is told that atheism is simply the absence of belief in gods they continue to attempt to hang a label of belief around atheism thus enabling them a platform to argue against.
    The opposite ( if you like ) of a theistic worldview is simply one that does not incorporate the supernatural.
    Atheism makes no claims to explain anything. Science is probably the best place to look for answers that explain in real terms the erroneous claims of a theistic worldview.

    Surely the starting point for any complex matter is to get the views of the experts? That is a starting point whatever one’s viewpoint. And the experts can tell us lots about Biblical literature and history. They disagree about details but the basics are pretty clear. That doesn’t require ignoring anything, inventing anything. Of course we each will decide how to respond to those facts. I think too often people start with a particular conclusion about the Bible and react to that rather than start with the facts.

    What the experts tell beyond any reasonable doubt about the Old Testament is almost all of it is historical fiction, and certainly the Pentateuch; its central character, Moses is completely mythological; a narrative construct..

    What the experts tell us about the New Testament is that much of it is fraudulent, Christian interpolation, historically inaccurate, geographically inaccurate, contains mythological elements, suffers from poor and inaccurate translation, the gospels are anonymous, there is not a single contemporary account of its central character, Jesus of Nazareth, neither for the disciples and its central doctrine, the teaching of the character Jesus of Nazareth is in conflict with those of the character Paul.

    Liked by 1 person

  217. we know that some of his ‘letters’ to be forgeries” – Only 7 of the 14 are considered to be authentic.

    Like

  218. @unkle

    Scholars say that the gospels are historical biography,

    Do they really? Pop into any regular bookstore and visit the shelves labelled ”Historical Biography” and see if you you find a single copy of the bible.

    I’ve got hundred bucks says the staff will look at you as if you’ve gone loopy if you ask.

    So this doesn’t make any of those books inerrant, but it does mean we can know that the authors intended us to know that what they write about really happened, with some fuzziness about some details where they are making a point rather than writing strict history.

    Do you ever read the utter tripe you write?
    Fuzziness about the details? Sheesh! We are talking about a supposed Man-God and his message of salvation for the entire world. Get it wrong and we are royally screwed and destined for hell where the women are frigid,the beer is watered down and the Muzac plays one Justin Bieber record …. for ever!
    Imagine if they were describing the correct wiring for a nuclear bomb.
    Would you be the one credulous half wit that said ”Oh, never mind the fuzziness of the details, I’m sure it’ll be okay. I said a prayer so go ahead. Just … plug it in or whatever you are supposed to do. I have faith.”

    If the writers intended for us to know the truth why didn’t they simply write the truth?

    Let’s see now … er… maybe because they were writing fiction?

    You and Lee Strobal should become pen pals.

    Like

  219. Unklee.

    Oh, I forgot. Have you read the latest on Nazareth, unklee?
    Your mate, Ken Dark has found Jesus’ house. That’s right …. where he actually lived!
    Although he says there is no archaeological evidence but he says it must be Jesus digs because a monk from the 7th century said so.
    How cool is that
    He is so clever!

    Now you and Tim O’Neil can have a party!

    Like

  220. First of all, you said you were gone – it would be SO nice if you would keep your word. – @Arch

    lol, laugh of the day, so true,
    so g’damn true,
    just like the time he said he was not going to snipe,
    all the while sniping away.

    “I know I sound like a cracked record”>/em> –
    Yeah, you do – at least a cracked something –.@Arch

    oh, roflmfao, I can’t take it , that’s too funny.

    Like

  221. Great summary of how most of us feel Nate. You put it in very simple terms, while pointing out the glaring inconsistencies with this view. I especially liked how you pointed out God’s unchanging nature, and his mean streak in the NT. The mention of Uzzah is one that resonates with me, as I never understood that passage even as a Xian. I agreed with King David, who protested God’s murder there.

    Like

  222. in the 16th century Calvin recognised something of this issue and developed what he called the Doctrine of Accommodation. He suggested that God revealed himself in ways that people could understand within their culture. Hence as culture advanced God’s self revelation became more sophisticated.

    I have not tested this against the Bible, but for it to be credible the self revelation of God would need to be moving in one direction.

    For some time I had puzzled how in the first five books of the Bible God has people killed just for grumbling or picking up firewood on the Sabbath, yet in the Book of Samuel King David commits murder and adultery and is not killed. In the New Testament we see that it is punishment in the after life that becomes the focus.

    Calvin clearly was aware of problems in interpreting the Bible, even in his day he saw the challenges posed by science. He argued that it was a mistake to see the Bible as a book of science. The early stories in Genesis were what Calvin described as God’s ‘baby talk’, that is explaining profound truths in ways that unsophisticated people could understand. Calvin’s explanation runs up against one major problem, Jesus and the apostle Paul seemed to argue that the early events of Genesis were actual history.

    In regard to the changing nature of God, or revelation, the most significant change is the concept of the afterlife, It hardly gets a mention in the Old Testament, but is frequently mentioned by Jesus and and the epistles. Interestingly Jesus was the teacher who really emphasised hell.

    Like

  223. Good points, Peter.

    you said,

    “in the 16th century Calvin recognised something of this issue and developed what he called the Doctrine of Accommodation. He suggested that God revealed himself in ways that people could understand within their culture. Hence as culture advanced God’s self revelation became more sophisticated.”

    and what is interesting to me about this view is that if it was this way, it still fails to accommodate everyone, as many of us look at it and dont understand the god of the early OT, compared to the god of the late OT, compared to the god of the NT.

    I’ve heard this a lot in regard to the opposing genealogies of Matthew and Luke. “Well, the first century jew wouldnt have had difficulty with it…”

    I find that to be very stupid. Would the 1st century jews not understand cohesive and matching genealogies? Why then would god not reveal matching genealogies?

    that’s just one example.

    Like

  224. In regard to the changing nature of God, or revelation, the most significant change is the concept of the afterlife, It hardly gets a mention in the Old Testament, but is frequently mentioned by Jesus and and the epistles. Interestingly Jesus was the teacher who really emphasised hell.

    I contend that to be because in the early Bible, the Jewish people were isolationists, but after the Babylonian Exile, in the 6th century BCE and exposure to Zoroastrianism, and the Alexandrian conquest in the 4th, with the Greek belief in a Hades, the Hebrews adapted their own religion accordingly. It had nothing to do with a god inspiring authors, but with priests deciding what was best for their flocks of sheeple (and their own job security).

    Like

  225. Yay, Nate! I know you don’t care about stats, but when you began the Kathy debacle last summer, you had 274 subscribers – you’ve since added 100!

    Like

  226. @Think Always

    Thanks for the comment! Yeah, the Uzzah story always bothered me… So did the story about the young prophet that was misled by an older prophet and subsequently killed by a lion. I always had a hard time with those.

    @Peter

    Thanks for the information! I didn’t know all of that about Calvin. It never ceases to amaze me how many different explanations and interpretations people are able to come up with in looking at the Bible. To think I used to believe there was one true ® way of looking at all of it…

    Like

  227. Near-eidetic memory here – I forget only those things I want to forget, which saves my sanity.

    I just quoted a poem, verbatim, on VioletWisp’s site that I memorized at 16.

    Like

  228. Nice. 🙂 I can remember pieces of poems that I memorized, but I think the only thing I still remember verbatim is William Wallace’s speech in Braveheart.

    Like

  229. Sorry, it wasn’t Vi’s at all, it was Zoe’s, which is why I say, NEAR eidetic memory —

    Like

  230. @Nate

    Hey, that’s cool! And I’m impressed that you’ve remembered that, Arch! 🙂

    They are probably all from unklee’s fan club sent to hassle Arch. They won’t rest until he gets banned from your blog, Nate.
    This happens fairly regularly I might add. He does have a reputation.

    Like

  231. Besides, everyone knows that I’M the good one! Even Tricia, on ColorStorm’s blog, said it was obvious that I was far more housebroken than you!!

    Liked by 1 person

  232. “For some time I had puzzled how in the first five books of the Bible God has people killed just for grumbling or picking up firewood on the Sabbath, yet in the Book of Samuel King David commits murder and adultery and is not killed.”

    Yes Peter, but what was David’s punishment ? It was actually 2 fold.

    1.) 2 Sam 12:11 “This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight. 12 You did it in secret, but I will do this thing in broad daylight before all Israel.’”

    What if David’s wives didn’t want to have sex with one of his close friends in broad daylight ???

    2.)2 Sam 12:13 Nathan replied, “The Lord has taken away your sin. You are not going to die. 14 But because by doing this you have shown utter contempt for[a] the Lord, the son born to you will die.”

    Here is a typical example of children being punished for their parent’s sins.

    I’ve never heard a satisfactory explanation let alone justification of these 2 punishments except, “God’s ways are not always our ways” Thank God for that !!! 🙂

    Like

  233. Great points kcchief1, I’ve always used king David to show others that god did in fact approve and even bless polygamy in the OT. The idea of god punishing kids for the parents sins seems horrible (and it is) but when you think about it this is the same god that punished his own son because billions of yet to be born people were going to screw up.

    Like

  234. “The idea of god punishing kids for the parents sins seems horrible (and it is) but when you think about it this is the same god that punished his own son because billions of yet to be born people were going to screw up.”

    How does a Christian wrap his mind around this ? Thanks for sharing, Matt !

    Like

  235. @kcchief1

    Thanks for your insight. Another thing that puzzles me is when David takes a census, 2 Samuel 24, God exacts the most terrible revenge on the people killing 70,000 people of Israel.

    Looking at the story with different eyes I could argue there was a plague in Israel and people struggled to explain it and concluded something must have upset God. So it could be putting a supernatural explanation on a natural outcome.

    Like

  236. @Matt

    I heard a talk recently where it was said that the Bible did not specifically endorse or criticize polygamy. However when you look at the stories of the people with multiple wives, the wives always seem to argue among themselves and cause the husband grief. Thus it was concluded that in its own way the Bible was telling the discerning reader that polygamy was not a good idea.

    Like

  237. @ Matt, “Thus it was concluded that in its own way the Bible was telling the discerning reader that polygamy was not a good idea.”

    I don’t think man needed the bible to realize that ! LOL

    Like

  238. UnkleE reminds me a lot of my former pastor. Very intelligent. Formidable in debate. Very educated…but…still views reality through the worldview that good ghosts and bad ghosts govern every aspect of our universe, and, at this very moment, these invisible beings are engaged in an epic struggle for control of our brains (“souls”).

    Unkle E and my former pastor are supernaturalists. We ex-Christian atheists and agnostics are naturalists; we reject the supernatural and the many superstitions associated with it. Unkle E and my former pastor may be talented debaters, but they can never prove the reality of the supernatural, just as we cannot disprove its existence.

    But let’s not forget their agenda: to drag us back into a world of ghosts and ghouls. And let’s not forget ours: to lead these misguided “souls” out of the darkness of ancient superstitions.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s