Agnosticism, Atheism, Bible Study, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion, Truth

How Do You Navigate Christianity Without a Compass?

My friend UnkleE and I have been having a wide-ranging discussion on several topics related to Christianity that ultimately come down to epistemology, or how Christians know God’s will. The discussion began in my last post, which critiqued a doctrine common to more moderate circles within Christianity. UnkleE had more to say on the subject than could reasonably fit within a comment, so he decided to do his own post in response, which is worth reading. We conversed a bit within that comment thread, where I said:

The President of the US and his spokespeople now regularly say things that are factually untrue. Yet plenty of his supporters are content to ignore reputable sources and only listen to the sources that they want to agree with. Where do you go from there?

It seems to me that the view you have of Christianity is similar. Why does the New Testament speak so much about false teachers, if it’s perfectly fine to get your beliefs from private revelation? If Paul and Hymenaeus have a disagreement, perhaps Paul is the one who’s wrong? Or maybe both of them are right, simultaneously? How can one use scripture to “teach, reprove, and correct” in such a system?

In the end, isn’t such a religion just anarchy? How can there be such a thing as “truth” when each person’s version is just as good as someone else’s? At least as an atheist, I can point to my understanding of reality and the physical world to try to reach a consensus with others. And if they can provide data that invalidates some position I hold, then I can change. But if I took my own random thoughts and feelings as revelation from the supreme creator of the universe, how could I ever be convinced of anything else?

Once again, this opened a big topic that was better suited to a full post, rather than a comment, so UnkleE offered his response here. And as my reply to that post grew and grew, I realized that I needed to offer it as a post as well. What follows will reference and borrow quotes from UnkleE’s latest post.

What Is the Gospel?

Under a section called “Another Gospel?” UnkleE gave this introduction:

Nate references Galations 1:6-9, which warns of accepting another gospel. But what does Paul mean by “gospel” (or “good news”)?

He then listed out 5 main points that he views as central to what the gospel is:

  1. Jesus, the “son of God”, lived and taught about the kingdom of God.
  2. He died to deal with human sin (how that happens is very much up for debate!).
  3. Jesus was resurrected and so conquered death.
  4. We need to change our thinking, turn away from behaviours that displease God, and seek forgiveness.
  5. Our new way of life should include loving God, loving neighbour, and even loving our enemies.

But it seems to me that the New Testament spends time referring to false doctrines that are ancillary to those 5 points. The entire book of Galatians has Paul accusing the Galatians of turning their backs on the gospel and trying to follow the Law of Moses, when it really just sounds like they were trying to follow both:

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you. I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law. You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we ourselves eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
— Gal 5:2-6

To me, that sounds like something that we’d view as a matter of personal preference, today, certainly not something that would qualify as a “different gospel.” And look at 2 Cor 13:5-10:

Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test! I hope you will find out that we have not failed the test. But we pray to God that you may not do wrong—not that we may appear to have met the test, but that you may do what is right, though we may seem to have failed. For we cannot do anything against the truth, but only for the truth. For we are glad when we are weak and you are strong. Your restoration is what we pray for. For this reason I write these things while I am away from you, that when I come I may not have to be severe in my use of the authority that the Lord has given me for building up and not for tearing down.

We don’t know the specifics of what Paul is criticizing here, but if these individuals were still present in the congregation to see Paul’s letter, then it’s likely they still held to the basic principles that UnkleE outlined above. What else could they be lacking that would make them “fail the test”?

In 2 John 7, it was considered heresy to question whether or not Christ had actually come in the flesh (like docetism, I guess):

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.

To me, this seems kind of minor in many ways, though it was a huge deal back then. If someone still believed that Christ was the son of God and brought salvation in some way, should it have mattered if they didn’t fully understand how that happened? But 2 John shows that some early Christians had a huge problem with the doctrine.

2 Tim 2:16-19 talks about another form of false teaching:

But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have swerved from the truth, saying that the resurrection has already happened. They are upsetting the faith of some. But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: “The Lord knows those who are his,” and, “Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.”

To me, this also seems like a minor quibble that runs outside the principles UnkleE laid out as the core of Christianity. Again, exactly what people believe about how/when the resurrection works, or even exactly what the writer means by “resurrection” here seems minor if an individual still believes Christ is the avenue for salvation, etc. Incidentally, there’s an interesting discussion of this passage here.

And if God is unchanging, it’s hard to overlook some of the judgments he supposedly handed out in the Old Testament, like killing Nadab and Abihu for not getting their sacrificial fire in the right way. Killing Achan and his entire family when he didn’t follow the command about not looting Jericho. Honestly, there are tons of OT examples, and I won’t take up any more space with going through them. But they each show how particular God was in seemingly minor things. Now, I agree that most of the New Testament argues that such legalism is no longer necessary. But I think the passages I listed above show that it still isn’t just free rein, especially if God’s character is unchanging (Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17).

The New Testament gives parameters about divorce and remarriage that are pretty strict. In Matthew 19:9, Jesus is speaking, and he says:

And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery.

That’s a rigorous standard that most Christians don’t really apply today, in that a large number of Christian marriages are actually adulterous, according to Jesus. Marriage and remarriage does not fall within the 5 precepts of the gospel that UnkleE laid out, but it still seems like it would be a big deal. After all, we’re told in 1 Cor 6:9-10 that adulterers can’t “inherit the kingdom of God.” What does that mean, exactly? I think it’s referring to salvation itself, and I think 1 Cor 5 bears that out. In that passage, Paul is telling the Corinthians to cast out the member among them who is sleeping with his father’s wife “so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.”

Apparently, this Christian was in danger of losing his salvation if he didn’t repent of his wrongdoing. And to go back to 1 Cor 6 for a minute, we see that far more than just adulterers would be in danger of the same fate:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

That’s quite a laundry list. Those sins might fall within the 4th and 5th points from UnkleE’s list, so does this include married couples who didn’t divorce their previous spouses for infidelity? For consistency’s sake, I would think that they would have to be included, yet very few churches make an issue of it.

In the end, I think when Paul uses terms like “the gospel,” he’s not always strictly speaking about the 5 basic points that UnkleE outlined. I think he’s also talking about any specific instructions that he (or other apostles) laid out in their epistles. Yes, passages like Romans 14 and 1 Cor 8-10 talk about issues that individual Christians may have differences of opinion over, but that’s because those were issues that no specific instruction had been given about. But today, there are so many issues, like divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and women’s roles in the church that are considered minor by moderates today. And this is where the idea of authority comes into play. How do they justify their positions on these things?

Principles Not Rules

UnkleE goes on to argue that the New Testament focuses more on principles of how to live versus hard and fast rules. I do agree that it focuses more on principles than the Old Testament did, but I think the passages we’ve already looked at show that hard and fast rules still played a part.

UnkleE offers the following supporting points:

We serve God not according to a written set of rules, but guided by the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:6, Romans 7:6). Note that he uses as his example in the latter case nothing less than one of the Ten Commandments!

But I don’t think these 2 passages really illustrate UnkleE’s point. He makes it sound as though Paul is saying that written sets of rules no longer apply, but that’s not at all what he’s saying. He’s specifically talking about the Old Law (the Mosaic Law) in those passages, and UnkleE and I already agree that Paul argues the Old Law (including the 10 Commandments) has served its purpose and is no longer binding to Christians. That doesn’t mean there’s no longer any kind of written law — what about all the teachings in the New Testament, including the gospel?!

We can legitimately hold different views on moral issues. Paul gives several examples, some of them significant issues in his day – the eating of meat that had been offered to pagan idols (1 Corinthians 10:23-30), and the keeping of rules about Sabbath days and “unclean” foods (Romans 14:1-23). But he says quite definitely (Romans 14:13): “Therefore let us stop passing judgment on one another.”

But as we saw above, these passages are dealing with issues about which there was no direction given in the New Testament. They were true matters of personal conscience. Paul does not give permission to make these same kinds of judgments on things like divorce and remarriage. And while Paul says that they shouldn’t judge one another about these kinds of things, 1 Cor 5 talks about how they’re supposed to judge the actions of fellow Christians.

UnkleE’s third supporting point is:

Therefore, Paul’s conclusion on even important matters of behaviour is that we are free to decide (1 Corinthians 10:23), we should leave the judgment to God (Romans 14:4) and it is not rules but faith that will decide, for whatever is not done in faith is wrong (Romans 14:23) and all should be done to God’s glory (1 Corinthians 10:31).

But again, all of the passages here come exclusively from 1 Cor 10 and Romans 14, which discuss issues that are merely matters of personal preference.

The Holy Spirit

This is really where my biggest concerns lie. UnkleE has this to say about it:

A key fact, which many christians as well as critics can forget, is that christians believe we have been “given” the Spirit of God. Again, I don’t pretend to fully understand how this works, but it is clearly taught in scripture. Each believer has the help of the Holy Spirit in following Jesus in our lives and – crucially for this discussion – in guiding us to truth.

The Spirit is God, which means he is above the Bible, not lesser!

This is exactly what I was trying to get at in my initial questions to UnkleE. If the guidance of the Holy Spirit can trump scripture, how can any position ever be tested? If a man is married, but strongly believes that God wants him to be with his next door neighbor, who’s to say he’s wrong? Sure, the Bible contradicts his feelings, but the Holy Spirit has authority over the Bible. Yes, common sense contradicts his desire, but “God’s ways are higher than man’s.”

UnkleE also says this:

This merits a longer discussion than I can give now (but will post on soon), but we are told that the Holy Spirit will guide us into truth (John 16:13), so we can even know God’s will for us (Romans 12:2). We see examples of the Spirit guiding the believers in Acts (e.g. Acts 11:1-18, 13:1-3, 16:6-10). But we do, I believe, need to ask (James 1:5, Matthew 7:7-8).

So far from being “random thoughts”, if we pray, and take the precautions that the Bible gives us, we can have faith that God guides us (not just me, but his whole church) through his Spirit into true understandings – not infallibly, but steadily over time.

But to me, such a system looks exactly like “random thoughts.” How could anyone tell the difference between his own thoughts and the Holy Spirit? How could Paul rail against false teachers and false gospels if guidance from the Holy Spirit carries more weight than scripture? If 1000 different Christians all believe God has given them personal revelations that happen to conflict, there’s no way to sort among them to separate the true revelation from all the false ones.

In effect, it seems to me that such a religion can end up saying everything, which basically means it says nothing.

One More Thing

I know this post is painfully long, but I wanted to add one more thing. In his closing, UnkleE makes this point:

I suggest we should always start with what the scriptures say and expert knowledge about what it means – what would this or that passage have said to the people of the day, what do the words actually mean and how do experts understand them? We must read more than one viewpoint.

Then we must pray, consider, wait if necessary, and see if we receive guidance, and see how the Spirit is working and leading the body of believers as a whole. Our own experience and thoughts (if we are allowing God to transform our thinking) will help us.

Isn’t this exactly what we, as atheists, do as well? I’m quite familiar with the Bible (more so than many believers that I know), and I try to pay attention to what Biblical scholars have to say. I consider more than one point of view. I don’t pray, but I used to. And I believe that I’m open to being wrong — I’m even open to guidance. And I would love for God to give me some kind of message, personally. Used to plead for it, in fact. What else is there for me to do?

Closing

Let me stress that I really appreciate UnkleE’s willingness to discuss these things with me. As he knows, I was raised within a very fundamentalist version of Christianity that believed in biblical inerrancy. UnkleE has a very different perspective, and it’s difficult for me to fully understand it. My arguments here are how I try to come to terms with his beliefs. If I’ve missed some obvious answer to some of my questions, it’s solely due to ignorance, not obstinacy.

542 thoughts on “How Do You Navigate Christianity Without a Compass?”

  1. Your example of a man receiving a private word from the Spirit that God wanted him to leave his wife and join with another woman was exactly the situation I faced when I used to be a pastor.
    He had persuaded his daughter on the point, too, and so they together maintained that God wanted them to do this, and no evidence from the Bible could trump their private word from the Spirit, which was untestable and beyond challenge.
    We parted in disagreement.

    But I wanted to add my voice that the points you raise are not merely ‘hypotheticals that could never happen in real life’.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Hi Nate,

    I’ve thought a lot about these issues. I have an apologetics website where I try to give a defense of the faith. I’ve posted my latest book online so it can be read for free. The chapters are short and easy to read. I think you might find the book interesting because it’s an attempt to understand what is required for salvation. For example, if a slaveowner was a Sunday School teacher in the morning, and then went home in the afternoon and strung up his slave and beat him, even though he has known and taught “the gospel,” how does that “Christian” stand before God? Is he saved? What about false teachers? How can we know they’re false? How can we scrutinize extrabiblical revelation? And so on….

    https://narrowwayapologetics.com/2016/10/14/will-you-be-found-faithful-caring-about-the-heart-of-god-in-an-age-of-apostasy-chapter-one/?preview_id=5118&preview_nonce=1c9b41395a

    I just toss it out there as something that you could skim over (and dismiss it if you’d like). It’s more of a polemic than a detailed theological exposition, but it may be helpful to you.

    Blessings in your pursuit of truth…

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  3. Hi Nate, thanks for this. It is an excellent discussion. Let me say right from the start that I don’t think at this stage we are arguing about what is true. I think christianity and the Bible, rightly understood, are true, and you don’t, but we are not arguing about that. Rather you are probing what I believe, (1) to understand it, and (2) to critique it. I welcome that. Here’s my clarifications and comments.

    1. I disagree with your title. We may lack certainty, but we don’t lack for information to guide us. In that it is very similar to life.

    2. You argue that the core gospel is much wider than I think. But none of the 4 passages you reference says they are talking about the “gospel” like the two passages I quoted do. Rather they are talking about other matters of belief and behaviour. As you say, right thinking and behaviour may come under my #4 and #5, but the specifics of that may vary. After all, Jesus’ command was to love God and love neighbour, but a lot of the specifics are up to us.

    3. You discuss passages that say people who do certain things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. But if the unrighteous cannot enter the kingdom, then the same Paul who called himself the chief of sinners, and says everyone has sinned, would be saying none can make it. Now that clearly cannot be what he thought, so something must be wrong with your interpretation. We may perhaps discuss this further.

    4. You say “But today, there are so many issues, like divorce and remarriage, homosexuality, and women’s roles in the church that are considered minor by moderates today. And this is where the idea of authority comes into play. How do they justify their positions on these things?” I think you are still thinking like the church you were once part of. There is a graduation of matters from core and general to trivial and personal, and clearly not everything is going to be written in stone. There have to be some things that are matters of judgment. I suggest you are just arguing where the line should be, which I don’t think should be a major problem.

    5. You say that some passages “are dealing with issues about which there was no direction given in the New Testament.” But there was no NT when these things were written, it came later, so ALL issues are ones where they had no universal, written new covenant guidance. So that distinction you make is actually anachronistic.

    6. You ask “If the guidance of the Holy Spirit can trump scripture, how can any position ever be tested?” But I didn’t say one trumps the other. I said we use appropriate methods of knowing, which always includes scripture, we ask the Spirit for guidance and we “take the precautions that the Bible gives us” in interpreting, and so arrive at truth (though not infallibly because we are only human!).

    7. You discuss how guidance by the Holy Spirit can be abused, and ask how we can tell the difference between the Spirit’s guidance and random thoughts. But everything can be abused – the Bible can be abused, even by inerrantists, our state laws can be abused, science and logic can be abused. That’s not a reason not to use these things! But if we use all the approaches I mention, and follow some of the Biblical commands, I think the truth will be separated from the random in time.

    8. Finally, you ask “What else is there for me to do?” CS Lewis once wrote words to the effect that if we find God and truth to be diverging, we should follow truth, for we would find in the end that was where God was all along. This blog is about finding truth. Your first step in that journey was departing from your church and the beliefs of that church. I think this was a good step. So keep searching, keep questioning, especially your own assumptions. Let’s keep discussing. If I’m right, one day you may find that your journey takes another unexpected turn. If you’re right, it may not. But the game isn’t over yet.

    Sorry, that was long too. But it is a worthwhile discussion I think, how do you feel about what I’ve said here?

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  4. Still dancing around the bigger issues … of the five points for determining what a gospel is, #2 and #3 are: “He died to deal with human sin (how that happens is very much up for debate!). Jesus was resurrected and so conquered death.” This is a form of human sacrifice which is actually a sham is … if Jesus is actually God as Christians are required to believe, and gods are immortal, then His death is just a bit of mummery. For those who claim that the human Jesus still underwent the torture and death, I suspect that a guarantee of being revivified by a god residing temporarily within you helps somewhat, but it still comes down to a bit of play acting: “Look I will allow this human to be killed and then bring him back to life: abbracadabra!” And it is still a human sacrifice!

    If an all-powerful deity wanted to change the rules in His creation, all he’s need to do is think it it to “make it so.” One thought and Original Sin (a rather silly concept in the first place) not only no longer exists but it never existed in the first place.

    We keep dancing around, discussing details without getting at the core issues of the power of blood magic larded in the Bible. Why is that so if it is divinely inspired? Human sacrifice: why outlaw it in the Bible if it is the centerpiece of Act 2?

    All of the whole thing (Christianity) falls apart if Original Sin was a made up thing and, it was. (We teach children the difference between right and wrong if we are good parents. Adam and Eve receive no such instruction and in fact only learned about right and wrong from eating the fruit of that tree. And yet, Original Sin is based upon Adam and Eve’s doing wrong, something they couldn’t even conceive of before the eating of the fruit. And not only are A & E are punished but so are all of the unborn children? Bizarre. All of this bushwah was made up, created by men as a mechanism to exert power over other men and until we recognize that obvious fact, the rest of the discussion is moot.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Hey Steve,

    You’re right, though there are some sects of Christianity that don’t adhere to the Original Sin doctrine. The branch I was raised in was one of those, and I’m pretty sure that UnkleE doesn’t buy into that doctrine either.

    At the same time, it’s true that many Christians do, and I think you’re right that it’s something we need to be pushing back against.

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  6. Thanks for the reply, UnkleE.

    5. You say that some passages “are dealing with issues about which there was no direction given in the New Testament.” But there was no NT when these things were written, it came later, so ALL issues are ones where they had no universal, written new covenant guidance. So that distinction you make is actually anachronistic.

    True, but I was thinking of it from our modern perspective. I simply meant that Paul was not telling Christians that they had such liberty in matters where they had been given clear instruction, like all the passages I quoted at the beginning of my post.

    2. You argue that the core gospel is much wider than I think. But none of the 4 passages you reference says they are talking about the “gospel” like the two passages I quoted do.

    But does that really matter that much? Ananias and Sapphira were struck dead by God in Acts 5, though they hadn’t actually done anything against the gospel itself. If the NT lays out a “command,” for lack of a better term, isn’t it still important to observe it?

    3. You discuss passages that say people who do certain things won’t inherit God’s kingdom. But if the unrighteous cannot enter the kingdom, then the same Paul who called himself the chief of sinners, and says everyone has sinned, would be saying none can make it. Now that clearly cannot be what he thought, so something must be wrong with your interpretation. We may perhaps discuss this further.

    I don’t think this is a very complicated distinction. Christians (like Paul) had been forgiven of their past sins, but if they began to engage in them again, disregarding the teachings they had received, then I think the Bible teaches their salvation would be forfeit.

    6. You ask “If the guidance of the Holy Spirit can trump scripture, how can any position ever be tested?” But I didn’t say one trumps the other.

    You said, “The Spirit is God, which means he is above the Bible, not lesser!” If I misunderstood you, how did you mean that statement?

    7. You discuss how guidance by the Holy Spirit can be abused, and ask how we can tell the difference between the Spirit’s guidance and random thoughts. But everything can be abused – the Bible can be abused, even by inerrantists, our state laws can be abused, science and logic can be abused.

    Yes, those things can all be abused. However, the difference is that we can always go back to the source in question as a check. That’s why peer review is so important in science, it’s why courts decide what laws mean when there are questions about them, and it’s why the writers of the Bible always stressed going back to scripture to test teachers’ claims. But you can’t do any of that with private revelation.

    But it is a worthwhile discussion I think

    I totally agree! 🙂

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  7. @unklee

    I said we use appropriate methods of knowing, which always includes scripture,

    And exactly how does one know which are ”appropriate methods”?
    If we include scripture then one is relying on largely erroneous and fallacious text. The entire Pentateuch for example.
    Acts is also historical fiction. Revelation is nonsense and the gospels are anonymous and full of interpolation, copying, error, and outright lies in some cases. And we know this to be fact. So why would anyone consider these texts appropriate?

    we ask the Spirit for guidance and we “take the precautions that the Bible gives us” in interpreting, and so arrive at truth (though not infallibly because we are only human!)

    Exactly how does one know that one has been guided by the Holy Spirit in certain matters?

    How does the average Christian differentiate between what they consider true guidance by the Holy Spirit and simple delusion brought on by extreme anxiety or stress?

    Example: It would be quite ludicrous to suggest the Holy Spirit would direct someone to commit suicide (though I would not be surprised if some have, and claimed in a note they were in fact guided) and anyone would counsel against this realising the individual was suffering some form of severe depression or emotional trauma/breakdown.

    However, how would you counsel someone who claimed they have been guided by the Holy Spirit after several days of solid prayer and are now adamant they will not allow themselves or their children to be vaccinated or take a blood transfusion, or maybe an organ transplant even if you knew that not to do so, especially the transfusion, could result in the person’s death,
    What if that individual was one of your own children?
    Of course you can rationalize your way around this I’m sure, but the fact remains we are dealing with delusion and fallacious text. A very dangerous combination in anyone’s language.

    Liked by 4 people

  8. Steve,

    yeah, one of the things that stands out to me now is when the faithful criticize the atheist for seeing all of the great wonders of life and thinking that it happened by chance, when Christians believe it’s wonderful that God created Hell that he needed to save us from, where he then decided to create a rule that meant he had to take his own son (which was also himself), put him in a mortal body, birthed by a virgin, so that he could be sacrificed to himself, in order to rid his creation of their sins that would lead them to eternal hell fire… eternal hell fire that he created… for them….

    So yahoo, God made the rule that meant he had to sacrifice jesus, when, if he were all powerful, could’ve certainly made a different rule – one that didn’t require torturing someone to death on a cross or that didn’t require a place of eternal torture for everyone else for that matter… oh, and God is love…

    Yeah, accidental chance is starting to sound less crazy…

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  9. And to doctrine, I think Acts 15 :20 would apply, where the apostles are deciudeing what to make the gentile converts adhere to – ” but that we write unto them that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood.”

    and they repeat it several more times throughout Acts and mention a few of these in a few other places as well.

    cant eat meat offered to idols, cant eat meat from animals that were strangled, and cant eat blood.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Ark, I think those are really good questions. I know UnkleE doesn’t interact with you directly, but I hope he’ll consider posting a general response to your questions — I’m also curious as to how he would view those situations.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Mountains and mountains of complicated theology and philosophy…all based on a two thousand year old claim by a small group of wild-eyed, superstitious peasants that they had seen a ghost.

    We really must stop giving respectability to this nonsense.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Gary,

    To reduce Christianity to a claim made by peasants who saw a ghost reveals your lack of knowledge concerning the Bible and its supernatural character. The entire Bible points to the Lamb of God. Every story from Genesis to Leviticus to Isaiah to Matthew to Revelation points to the Lamb. He was God who came to redeem humanity who had sinned and deserved death in the universal court of justice. I feel sad for you because you flippantly misrepresent the great drama that has been played out on the earth through the course of history. For two thousand years the message of the cross has rung out across this planet and those who have rejected and corrupted its message have been a scourge on history. Why would you join them in mocking and scorning Christ who died for your sins?

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  13. Diana,

    I understand where you’re coming from. While I no longer agree with that perspective, I (as well as Gary) was once a devout and believing Christian, and I don’t mean the shallow, pew-warming kind either.

    But Christians also dismiss all other religions the same way. When the OT & NT criticizes idol worship as bowing down and worshiping rocks and logs, one could complain that such a phrasing does a gross injustice to what was really going on, or how the idolaters were really conducting themselves or their worship…

    And the OT all leads to the Lamb, as long as you look at it a certain way, while never looking too close. One must stare at select passages, often without any consideration of the immediate context, and force connections to Jesus. But to me, now, these methods seem like the sort that help us see shapes in the clouds.

    Under scrutiny, I have seen no convincing OT prophecy of Christ, but instead I have seen where 1st Century cult/movement followers were shocked and dismayed when their leader and proclaimed messiah was killed. While trying to make sense of how and why they were wrong, they begin seeing shapes in the clouds of scriptures, making random connections that weren’t really there, in their effort to understand… Mistaking their creativity for wisdom and understanding…

    But ultimately, men wrote the people, and they merely claimed to speak for god or to have firsthand knowledge of god. Why trust them any more than Muhammad or Joseph Smith? Faith in the bible is first and foremost faith in the men who wrote it – how could it originate anywhere else, since you must first trust what those men have claimed before you can trust in the god they make claims about.

    Gary may be over simplifying it a bit, especially in the eyes of a believer, but when boiled down, Christianity is essentially the claims and stories that men have told, with no supporting evidence, but mostly persisting with the power of influence and suggestion like we see in the Emperor’s New Clothes, like a person is wicked or stubborn if they do not believe…. by questioning the claims of these humans, the religion tries to make it the same as challenging God, which seems a lot like a means to control as opposed to enlighten.

    And even the NT excuses this by saying the educated and wise will reject the religion (as if they’re too arrogant or whatever), but the uneducated and simple see the truth in it (stroking their egos – now they’re smarter and better than the higher class).

    But granted, these are just statements – the devil is in the details. Look at the bible as you would any other book, or any other religious book.

    Liked by 4 people

  14. Diana,
    I’m sure Gary feels sorry for you because you’ve been completely bamboozled. As many of us were.

    Like

  15. @Diana
    As you are obviously a devout Christian how would answer the specific questions I posed in my comment to Unklee regarding being guided by the Holy Spirit?
    I would be very interested to read your answer.
    Thanks

    Like

  16. Bamboozled?

    The Gospel has influenced the greatest societies in the world. The greatest heroes in history–from Frederick Douglass to John Huss to Corrie Ten Boom to Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Martin Luther King, Jr. have loved the Word of God and opposed the darkness of the false religions of their days. The explosion of science with all of its blessings can be contributed to Christianity. Political and economic blessings have come through Christianity. Jesus said the truth would be known by its fruit.

    Jesus is found in the Feasts of Israel. He’s found in the Exodus. He’s found in Isaiah 53. He’s found in Psalms 2 and 22. He’s found in the story of Abraham and Isaac. I could go on and on. No other religion in the world has fulfilled prophecies…or such intricate writings that they can weave so many types and shadows into the historical record of a certain people’s story.

    The Bible is supernatural. It stands outside of time. For example, Israel has been regathered after 2000 years just as it was prophesied thousands of years ago in Ezekiel 37. When I study the scriptures my heart burns within me. What other religion has prophets like this? What other religion gives us so much EVIDENCE for its truthfulness?

    As I see it…the history of Israel was a way for God to reveal who the true God is. What if a god just appeared in the sky and claimed that he should be worshiped and submitted to? How could I trust that claim? What if he is evil? Because the history of Israel was written down as a record of the interaction of Jehovah with the people of the earth, we can see his nature. Jesus said when we see him we see the Father.

    A million people saw the pillars of cloud and fire in the desert. At least 500 saw the resurrected, flesh and blood (not a ghost) Jesus. No writer at that time in history has denied the story of Jesus. You can say that some writers or historians made up his story, but you can’t find any writers who deny the story.

    One fact caused men to die for him: he was dead for three days and then he appeared alive in the flesh. They would rather die than deny something that was a fact for them. They didn’t believe in some esoteric teaching. They believed in a hard fact–and were thrown off buildings, boiled in oil, slain with swords, and crucified rather than deny the fact that they saw Him alive. Other religions, such as Islam, may cause men to die in order to gain brownie points with their god, but Christianity caused men to die because they wouldn’t tell a lie and deny the truth of what they saw with their physical eyes and touched with their physical hands.

    As John the Baptist proclaimed, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” John knew he would come the first time as a suffering servant, but he still has to fulfill the rest of the prophecies…and he will when he appears in the sky. Because he revealed his heart in the scriptures…I know I can trust this God that is coming in the clouds. And he suffered and died for me and you because there is a demand for justice somewhere out there in the universe.

    I know that he is good because He has been the greatest force for kindness and goodness the world has ever known. Taking care of the sick, the orphans, abolishing slavery, opposing Hitler, starting schools, and so many other good deeds were birthed out of the ministry of Jesus. Jesus came into a world of infanticide, slavery, blood sport, torture, cannibalism, and cruelty. How did the nations change? Jesus! And when did the nations cause massive death and destruction? When they denied the truth of the Bible.

    Like

  17. Hi Diana,

    I appreciate the passion with which you make your case, and I used to feel much like you. But I also know that you should already be aware that there are some problems with your claims, because I know we’ve conversed before, though it’s been quite a while. Can you explain why you aren’t bothered with the problems that are found within the Bible? Or why the moral atrocities attributed to God in the Old Testament don’t cause you to question?

    Thanks

    Oh, and the questions Ark asked can be found here:
    https://findingtruth.info/2017/05/10/how-do-you-navigate-christianity-without-a-compass/#comment-33196

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Try this one first –

    “Exactly how does one know that one has been guided by the Holy Spirit in certain matters?”

    Like

  19. Diane,

    in your comment, this stood out to me:

    “What if a god just appeared in the sky and claimed that he should be worshiped and submitted to? How could I trust that claim?”

    God manifesting himself for all to see, you’re saying, would be harder to believe than random men making claims about a god? But arent there tons of examples of men who write claims about god(s) that you dont believe? Isnt the bible, in fact, the only book you believe these sort of claims about? But really, do you really think it would harder to believe in god if you saw him and spoke to him yourself?

    and then you also asked this,

    “What if he is evil?”

    do you mean evil like commanding the genocide of small nations, killing women and infant or nursing baby boys, and demanding that they keep the young girls (as long as they were virgins) as spoils of that conquest?

    Or evil like killing a servant’s baby to deliver a message and punishment to that servant?

    or evil like killing all of the children of one man over a wager?

    evil like that, or some other way?

    and what about Ezekiel 37 is it that stands out to you so much?

    Liked by 3 people

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