What Did the Original Books of the Bible Say? (Part 2)

Part 1 of our journey from today’s New Testament back in time to Jesus looked at the problems of translations, canonicity, and finding the best copies. The next problem to crossing this gulf is textual variants. There are 400,000 differences between the thousands of New Testament copies—more differences than there are words in the New Testament. Almost all are insignificant, but thousands of meaningful differences remain.

Historians use several tools to resolve these differences:

  • Criterion of Embarrassment. Of two passages, which one is more embarrassing? We can easily imagine scribes toning down a passage, but it doesn’t make sense for them to make it more embarrassing. The passage that is more embarrassing is likelier to be more authentic. For example, different copies of Mark 1:40–41 has Jesus either “moved with compassion” or “moved with anger” (for more, see the NET Bible comment on this phrase). A copyist changing compassion to anger is hard to imagine, but the opposite is quite plausible. The Criterion of Embarrassment would conclude that “moved with anger” is the likelier original reading.
  • Criterion of Multiple Attestation. A claim made by multiple independent sources is preferred over one in a single source.

In addition, a contested passage in an older manuscript is preferred, the one contained in more manuscripts is preferred, and so on.

The weak link

Notice that these tools need multiple manuscripts to work. They ask: given two manuscripts with different versions of a particular passage, which is the more authentic one?

Consider the long ending of Mark, for example. Given a manuscript of Mark ending with verse 16:20 (version A) and a manuscript ending with 16:8 (version B), the historians’ tools can be applied to determine which is the likely older and more authentic version. But what if you don’t have multiple versions? Suppose we only had Mark version A, with no copies of B and no references to it. Scholars wouldn’t even know to ask the question!

Consider the three most famous of these embarrassing scribal additions: the long ending of Mark, the Comma Johanneum (the only explicit reference to the Trinity in the Bible), and the story of the woman taken in adultery. Apologists will argue that these are neither embarrassing nor problems because they’ve been resolved. We know that they weren’t original. But this is true only because historians happen to be lucky enough to have competing manuscripts without these additions. What about added biblical passages where do we not have correct manuscripts to make us aware of the problem? Are there dozens of instances of these untraceable additions? Thousands? We don’t know.

There are consequences. Pentecostal snake handlers trust in the long ending tacked onto Mark (“In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new languages; they will pick up snakes with their hands, and whatever poison they drink will not harm them”). What additional nutty demands in our New Testament do we not know are inauthentic?

Of several manuscript categories, our oldest complete copies are Alexandrian manuscripts, including the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus mentioned in the last post. That’s not because they’re necessarily better copies but because they were preserved better. The dry conditions of Alexandria, Egypt preserved manuscripts better than many other places where New Testament documents were kept—Asia Minor, Greece, or Italy, for example. We accept these manuscripts simply because anything that might refute them has crumbled to dust, which is not a particularly reliable foundation on which to build a portrait of the truth.

Read the first post in the series here: What Did the Original Books of the Bible Say? or continue on to The Bible’s Dark Ages

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe,
but in proportion to their readiness to doubt.
— H.L. Mencken

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 4/19/12.)

Photo credit: Wikipedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • Ozark

    The link to Mark 1 actually goes to Matthew 1 on Netbible

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Give it a try again. It seemed to work OK for my browser (Chrome).

      But thanks for pointing out bad links–they’re easy to make.

      • Greg G.

        It worked for me with Firefox. I tried Internet Explorer and it went to Matthew. I think IE doesn’t like the colon in the URL hash.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Hmm. I haven’t seen a browser-specific problem in a while. Thanks.

        • Greg G.

          I tried it on my Android smart phone. It went to Mark 1 but not to 1:40. The mobile version doesn’t have the commentary.

      • Ozark

        Aha. I used firefox and it did go to Mark, but on Safari it went to Matthew.

        BTW – I’ve been lurking a while and love the blog. Comments section can be pretty great as well. Originally found it through a realclearreligion link.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Thanks for the compliment!

  • Greg G.

    Some interpolations are detected without textual variations. Richard Carrier discusses a couple here. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16 (some say 13-16) is one case. Bart Ehrman thinks it is authentic and mentions it in a few books as evidence that Paul blamed the Jews for Jesus’ crucifixion, including in Did Jesus Exist?. It seems like a no-brainer since the passage speaks of God’s wrath coming in the past tense but the last verse of the previous chapter speaks of God’s wrath coming in the future tense.

    Carrier also discusses 1 Corinthians 14:34-35, which says women should shut up in church. Some manuscripts have the passage a few verses later with some marks that usually denote that the scribe questioned it. It seems to be a no-brainer since three chapters earlier Paul gives rules for how women should speak in church.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Good point. I should’ve added this to the post.

      The last chapter of John is clearly tacked on, and you don’t need other copies without it to know that.

  • MNb

    “which is not a particularly reliable foundation on which to build a portrait of the truth”
    Well, yes, but this is a problem of science in general. According to Jerry A Coyne we have fossills of less than 1% of all the species that ever inhabitated the Earth. Are you going to say here as well that this “is not a particularly reliable foundation on which to build a portrait of the truth”? I know a few creationists who will be very happy if you do so.

    “We accept these manuscripts simply because anything that might refute them has crumbled to dust”
    Yup – we accept the tree of life (remember the link that postulated how text criticism inspired Evolution Theory?) as proposed simply because anything that might refute it has crumbled to dust.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The incomplete evidence for evolution points in a plausible direction.

      The incomplete evidence for gods is completely implausible and demands a far firmer foundation than, “Well, we can look at things a certain way to come to that conclusion” or “It might’ve worked that way.”

      • MNb

        That is an inappropriate comparison. The scientific method, also called methodological naturalism, a priori excludes any evidence for god, whether it’s the fossil record or ancient manuscripts. Evidence is even defined in such a way that it can’t say anything about the existence of any god – that’s why we use the word supernatural.
        No Historian of Antiquity will ever claim that any document ever can provide any “evidence for god”, so if this is your aim you’re fighting a strawman. If you at the other hand aim at those christian apologists who think they can use historical documents to prove god your piece is rather irrelevant – even if we had had the originals we couldn’t use them as evidence for any god. So this

        “demands a far firmer foundation
        to have any meaning should at least be described in much more detail. Because I simply cannot imagine any historical foundation that’s firm enough.
        You once asked what I would accept as evidence for god. Historical documents never.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The scientific method, also called methodological naturalism, a priori excludes any evidence for god, whether it’s the fossil record or ancient manuscripts.

          I’ve heard it defined that way. That’s not a problem when we continue to find natural explanations for phenomena. But if we started to see a flood of new phenomena for which a supernatural explanation suddenly seems pretty reasonable (the movie “Ghost Busters” comes to mind), I think most scientists would follow the evidence.

          that’s why we use the word supernatural.

          Doesn’t “supernatural” change? Before 1896, seeing through solid, opaque objects was supernatural. Not anymore.

          No Historian of Antiquity will ever claim that any document ever can provide any “evidence for god”, so if this is your aim you’re fighting a strawman.

          Ditto what I said about scientists. Some maverick saying, “Hold on, I’m as skeptical as the rest of you, but I think that the supernatural claims in this document really hold up” and then doggedly proving it (the slow battle eventually won by plate tectonics comes to mind) is conceivable. If your quibble is with definitions, I don’t have much interest in that.

          If you at the other hand aim at those christian apologists who think they can use historical documents to prove god your piece is rather irrelevant – even if we had had the originals we couldn’t use them as evidence for any god.

          Irrelevant to them, I agree, since they are beyond convincing with evidence. Showing that their argument is empty, however, is a useful exercise IMO.

          I simply cannot imagine any historical foundation that’s firm enough.

          Firm enough to convince me of the gospel story? I agree.

        • MNb

          “Before 1896, seeing through solid, opaque objects was supernatural. Not anymore.”
          Do you realize this contradicts your example of Ghostbusters?

          “but I think that the supernatural claims in this document really hold up” and then doggedly proving it is conceivable”
          Of course. Don’t look further than Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins. But as soon as they do this they leave the scientific method behind.

          “Showing that their argument is empty, however, is a useful exercise”
          I agree, but this is irrelevant for my criticism. Which is

          “Firm enough to convince me of the gospel story? I agree.”
          This confirms my point:

          “The incomplete evidence for gods is completely implausible”
          As soon as you use the scientific method this becomes a meaningless statement.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Do you realize this contradicts your example of Ghostbusters?

          I don’t see it, though I’m not sure this is worth much discussion. Ghostbusters was fiction; Roentgen’s discovery of x-rays was history.

          Don’t look further than Kenneth Miller and Francis Collins.

          I was imagining supernatural claims that actually held up and swept through science. Roentgen’s “I can see through solid wood!” was quickly accepted, I understand.

          I visited the ESP/paranormal lab at Duke University when I was in high school. Those claims might’ve swept through the scientific world, but they didn’t. That lab is no more.

          As soon as you use the scientific method this becomes a meaningless statement.

          And if your definition of the scientific method precludes the supernatural, that’s fine. But you can imagine new testable, supernatural data that slowly convinces the entire scientific establishment that, just like the religious kooks were saying, the supernatural is real. You can define that as unscientific if you want, but the evidence for the supernatural would still be compelling.

        • smrnda

          Actually, if claims made about god or gods were falsifiable, then they could be tested with the scientific method.

          If I had a ritual written by Zeus worshipers that would result in a thunderbolt from Zeus in answer, zapping some sacrifice, then I’d have a falsifiable hypothesis about a god to test.

          Science doesn’t exclude god, it’s just all the claims made about gods by religious people are unfalsifiable, therefore outside of the realm of science.

        • MNb

          “Science doesn’t exclude god”
          Of course it does. Or more precise: it doesn’t say anything about gods. You show yourself why: “the claims made about by god by religious people are unfalsifiable” exactly because god is defined in such a way (an immaterial entity) that the scientific method becomes impossible. You should read Herman Philipse’s God in the Age of Science about this issue, because you’re incoherent and like BobS in this piece, rather shallow. That doesn’t mean your conclusion is wrong; your arguments are.
          The interesting thing is that Mormons define God and Jesus as material entities; only the Holy Spirit is immaterial. That allows us to tease them in two ways: they have to show how the Holy Spirit interacts with our material world and they have to tell us how we can measure the physical characteristics of their god. From experience I can tell you they don’t like this approach.
          You can also learn from Herman Philipse how to tackle liberal christians with their “other ways of knowing”. But you only can do so if you get that science says zilch about god by definition.

          “I’d have a falsifiable hypothesis about a god to test”
          Like I wrote, shallow thinking. This only shows at best that this particular hypothesis about god is wrong, not that there isn’t a god. At the other hand, if such a correlation between sacrifice and thunder was shown, the scientific method would require to look for a naturalistic explanation. In fact you’re falling for the same false dichotomy our friends the creacrappers like so much: they think they can prove their creationism by showing Evolution Theory wrong. Well, a cat fossil from the Cambrian in no way argues for a god who created the whole thing. Neither does, from a scientific point of view, sacrifices resulting in thunder argue for Zeus. Neither can any amount of original documents for the First Century prove scientifically that there is a christian god – and that was what BobS seemed to imply.

        • smrnda

          My point was that science cannot be blamed for excluding god. The statements made about gods by religious people are unfalsifiable, so they’re the ones who brought unfalsifiable hypothesis to the table.

          Overall, I consider gods to be outside of the realm of systematic knowledge, and that they are, at best, pure speculation, so it’s nothing I think anyone should really base any serious decisions on.

  • ctcss

    Bob

    Although what you are bringing out here is somewhat interesting, you seem to be missing the point of what the Bible is for, IMO. It is not an idol to be worshiped. It is also not a puzzle left behind by God to confuse or worry people.

    What it is, is a collection of narratives and texts relating to people’s experiences searching for, and grappling with, the concept of God. As such, it is valuable just as it is. It is not a stenographic transcript of history, even of religious history. A lot of it is oral history, captured after the fact for posterity. The point of it is to tell future generations that important events happened and important ideas were encountered. But all those events and ideas serve to point to the subject of God. In other words, the destination to be seeking is a better understanding of God, not a better set of texts.

    People who are seriously involved in religion usually realize that they are on a journey. There is no on/off switch that designates a sudden state change in a person. Engaging in the journey transforms a person, and the transformation is an ongoing process which takes as long as it takes. The Bible is part of this journey and is there partly as a guidebook, a diary, a collection of inspired writings, etc.

    Reading a guidebook, a diary, or a collection of inspired writings is not a substitute for making the actual journey one’s self. Undertaking the journey helps to open up the book to a person because the experience offers insight into what the book is about. Might there be mistakes or omissions in the writings? Perhaps. But even a partial guidebook, diary, or collection of writings is enough to get started with. Remember, the point is to go on the journey, not to engage in an armchair critique of someone else’s recollections of the journey.

    Lewis and Clark set out on the expedition to survey and explore the Louisiana Purchase. Did they have all of the accurate information that they needed before they started? No. But they had enough to begin their journey. Everything else was about finding out what was there to be discovered and trying to record what they found for posterity. But simply coming back with their records wasn’t the end point either. The record of what they encountered served as an impetus for others to follow.

    The Bible, at least for those of us who like it and find it to be useful, prompts us to go on (or to continue on) our journey of discovery. For us, it doesn’t matter that there may be mistakes or omissions. We expect that engaging in the journey will fill in the missing bits as we go along. But the reason we are going in the first place is that we were (and are) intrigued by the records of those that went on the journey before us.

    So questions about the texts is not a show-stopper for us. They are simply questions that we hope may be answered on the journey. But the journey is the main reason we are doing it.

    • Greg G.

      I agree with much of what you said about the Bible. We can learn a great deal from it. But I say we should use the Bible as a guide to the belief traps we should avoid instead of using it to experience the same wrong paths the ancients took.

      • ctcss

        we should use the Bible as a guide to the belief traps we should avoid
        instead of using it to experience the same wrong paths the ancients
        took.

        Anything in particular you consider to be glaringly dangerous traps or wrong paths? I am a Christian (very non-mainstream), am not a literalist, and find value in both the positive and negative things I see in the Bible (i.e. pursue the positive, avoid the negative.) I try to learn from both.

        • Greg G.

          Archaeologists have been all over the place trying to verify the events of the Old Testament but so much has been disconfirmed they had to stop caling it “Biblical Archaeology”.

          Matthew, Luke, and John draw on stories from Mark but everything Mark says Jesus did had been done by someone else in the most-imitated literature of the day. Perhaps we can take some small details added for verisimilitude as true but the rest is fiction.

          The epistles talk about Jesus a lot. Romans, 1 & 2 Corinthians, Galatians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philippians, the six Pauline letters that tell about Jesus that are generally accepted as authentic, use “Lord Jesus Christ”, “Jesus Christ”, “Christ Jesus”, “Jesus” or “Christ” about every fifth verse but never say anything about him that can’t be found in the Old Testament. The same holds for all the other early epistles.

          1 Corinthians 7:10-12
          10 To the married I give charge, not I but the Lord, that the wife should not separate from her husband 11 (but if she does, let her remain single or else be reconciled to her husband) –and that the husband should not divorce his wife. 12 To the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her.

          Paul is telling Gentiles who are not under Jewish law, about Deuteronomy 24:1-4, where there is no provision for women to divorce. When Mark has Jesus say the same thing

          Mark 10:11-12
          11 And he said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; 12 and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery.”

          it makes no sense because he is talking to his disciples who are Jews. Matthew 5:31-32 and Luke 16:18 drop that line.

          Another poor argument Mark has Jesus make is Mark 2:23-28. Pharisees, who apparently had nothing better to do on a sabbath than hang out in a grain field pop up to challenge Jesus and his disciples for doing something on the sabbath, but it isn’t clear what the problem was. Jesus uses the example of David from 1 Samuel 21:1-9 to justify whatever he and his boys were doing. But Jesus got nearly every detail about the passage wrong. Even if he had been right, the Pharisees would point out that the incident got the whole village killed in the next chapter, so they would have used that example for why the sabbath should be obeyed.

        • ctcss

          Perhaps I am missing the significance of your citations, but they whatever they are saying, they certainly don’t lie at the heart of my religious practice. Also, you seem to be implying that you think that Jesus did not even exist. Even Ehrman thinks that Jesus existed. And I am not sure why you are referring to Jesus’ works as not having merit simply because there were other people who had done similar things. That would be like saying that Hank Aaron’s record was untrue (and that he didn’t exist, as well) simply because his record was very similar to Babe Ruth’s record. Of course it was. They were both focused on trying to play baseball as well as they could. Jesus was trying to follow God. I assume that the other people were, as well. Why should similarities to other people disprove a person’s existence, or their contributions?

          And from what I understand, the divorce statements made by Jesus are pointing out the importance of the seriousness of marriage and what it stands for. (In other words, Jesus’ main point is to tell both the men and the women in the audience that they need to take the marriage covenant much more seriously.) And I don’t get your Sabbath citations at all. The incident with David was strictly political/military in nature. There seemed to be nothing about God in it at all. (The priest was simply concerned about the propriety of allowing David’s men to eat the sanctified bread.) The main point that Jesus was trying to make to the Pharisees was that man was not supposed to be subservient to the Sabbath. The slaughter in the next chapter was brought about by Saul’s anger about David, not God’s anger over what David did at the temple.

          You appear to be quibbling about minor details in the narratives. (My post was trying to point out that minor details aren’t really an issue, at least to me.) The main ideas (at least as I see them) are perfectly fine. But then, I am not trying to find reasons to disbelieve. I see reasons to want to understand what Jesus was teaching about God. You seem to see a series of minor issues that would prevent you from accepting Jesus’ existence. To me, that’s a bit like not seeing the forest for the trees.

          I guess we may need to agree to disagree.

        • Greg G.

          The main ideas (at least as I see them) are perfectly fine. But then, I am not trying to find reasons to disbelieve.

          Perhaps that is the problem with your methodology. You ignore the details by calling them minor so that you can maintain the main ideas you want to believe. If the reasons to disbelieve are valid, you should stop ignoring them.

          Jesus was using the 1 Samuel passage as a justification for for doing things on the sabbath. If you read the back story of 1 Samuel 21, you will see that David was running for his life because Saul was paranoid. David was lying about the secret mission and that he had companions. Jesus got right that David was hungry but other than that, Jesus had misread the passage. David didn’t share the bread. Abiathar was not the high priest, his father was, but he became high priest when David was king. (Matthew and Luke drop that but I’m willing to grant that it was interpolated after Matthew and Luke copied the story from Mark. I find it hard to believe M & L would correct only that error but none of the others.) Jesus said David ate “the bread of the Presence”, but 1 Samuel 21:6 tells us the bread had been replaced on the sabbath as instructed in Leviticus 24:8-9. Jesus said David entered the House of God to eat it but that is not what it says in 1 Samuel. The bread had been removed, there was a sword behind an ephod. Neither of those would be in the tabernacle so David and Ahimelech were not there. Furthermore, there is nothing in the passage that says David was there on the sabbath, only that the bread had been removed on the sabbath.

          So if Jesus of the Bible cannot even properly relate a simple story that we can look at, why would you expect him to be able to tell you anything reliable about God?

          Lots of baseball players hit homeruns. A suitable analogy would be Aaron repeating the same miracles that Ruth performed. The deeds that Jesus is said to have done are fictional accounts performed by people who may or may not have existed.

          A few years ago, I thought the scholarly consensus for the existence of Jesus was based on some evidence or combination of evidence that eluded us in the sub-scholar level. It was Ehrman’s book that showed me that the scholars really didn’t have a good argument for the existence of Jesus.

          To me, that’s a bit like not seeing the forest for the trees.

          I think you’re not seeing the desert for the mirages.

        • Pofarmer

          fwiw, Ehrman has recently come to the conclusion that Paul may have exclusively been talking about a celestial Jesus. If the conceptions of revelations as astrology would be true then a whole lot of things would start making sense, and all of it is superstitious, not supernatural.

        • Greg G.

          Where does Ehrman say that?

        • Pofarmer

          It’s in the comment section at Carriers blog.

          http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/5409#more-5409

          “I just finished Bart Ehrman’s new book “How Jesus Became God.” Here
          is a selection from it that I think would very much agree with the
          Christ Myth Theory. Ehrman talks about Paul’s view of Jesus as an angel.
          Ehrman writes:

          “I have read Paul’s letter to the Galatians hundreds of
          times in both English and Greek. But the clear import of what he says in
          Galatians 4:14 simply never registered with me , until, frankly, a few
          months ago. In this verse Paul calls Christ an angel … Paul writes ‘Even
          though my bodily condition was a test for you, you did not mock or
          despise me, but you received me as an angel of God, as Jesus Christ’ … I
          had always read this verse to say that the Galatians had received Paul
          in his infirm state the way they would have received an angelic visitor,
          or even Christ himself. (But the verse is actually not saying) that the
          Galatians received Paul as an angel or as Christ; it is saying that
          they received him as they would an angel, such as Christ. By clear
          implication, then, Christ is an angel.” (How Jesus Became God,252-253)

          Ehrman then goes on to explain his interpretation in terms of Greek grammar and the rest of the Pauline corpus.

          Ehrman concludes that for Paul, Christ is God’s chief angel, “Christ
          is a pre-existent being who is divine; he can be called God; and he is
          God’s manifestation on earth in human flesh. Paul says all these things
          about Christ, and in no passage more strikingly than in Philippians
          2:6-11.” (How Jesus Became God, 253)”

          I thought you might be interested.

        • Pofarmer

          Combine what you’ve already been saying, with this post from Vridar http://vridar.org/2011/06/05/born-from-a-woman-in-heaven-the-cosmic-origin-of-the-messiah/ And it becomes entirely more like that the whole Jesus thing was a mythical/astrological creation that got turned human with Mark. I wish I new more about the Mracionites and gnostics, but it certianly looks like they may have been the ones interpreting the early works correctly, but, for what ever reason, the beginnings of the Catholic church needed/wanted a flesh and blood literal image.

        • Greg G.

          It’s hard for me to get my head around the astrology aspect. I suppose they may have used celestial events as Rorschach inspirations to direct them to certain passages.

        • Pofarmer

          It just sounds like the ancient Jews had their own signs of the Zodiac, like the Greeks and bablylonians did, and they wove these into a tale of celestial beings and celestial Jesus. I think the main problem is, we probably don’t know today what those signs and symbols would have been. I am wanting to read revelations again in light of this.

        • Greg G.

          After I posted that, I started thinking along those lines. Some ancient Greek tried to explain the band of stars across the sky and made up a story about Hera’s milk squirting out to form it. A few generations later, the sight of the Milky Way confirmed the story.

          Likewise, a story from the Jewish literature can be construed to be explained in the constellations and later, that constellation confirms the story in scripture.

          In Romans 1:18, Paul says “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven” where “heaven” is translated from “ouranos”, which means “the vaulted expanse of the sky with all things visible in it”, according to the concordance on blueletterbible.com. So that might support the astrology hypothesis.

          I’m just thinking out loud, or I should say, through my fingers.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, I’m thinking of the passage of Mary giving birth in the stars, and then the one about the Saints gathered round offering prayers and incense. I’ll try to tease out the exact passages I’m thinking of, but, supper, and COSMOS.

        • Greg G.

          Genesis 1:14 And God said, “Let there be lights in the dome of the sky to separate the day from the night; and let them be for signs and for seasons and for days and years,

        • Greg G.

          How about Mark 14; 13 about the man carrying water? Isn’t that Aquarius?

        • Pofarmer

          Rev 1, 9-16 sure reads like a constelation.

        • Pofarmer

          Rev 6 reads like 5 constelations and vs 12 onward reads like an eclipse.

        • Pofarmer

          Rev 8 6-12 are all celestial events.

        • Pofarmer

          Rev 12 all constelations.

        • Pofarmer

          YA know what I think? I think the core of revelations is old, probably some of the originsl Jewish mythology, and it got written down and rather repurposed.

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, this may be a little off base, but the writer of Matthew did feel the need to throw in the “we have seen his star in the East” bit for guiding the wise men. That sounds pretty astrological to me.

        • Pofarmer

          You might even be able to interpret the wise men as a procession of planets or something. Not sure.

        • Greg G.

          Thank you very much! Now if he would look at everything Paul knows came from revelation and everything he says about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament, he might conclude the revelations were from reading the scriptures only. 1 Corinthians 15 uses the same words for the Paul’s revelation as for the revelation of Cephas, The Twelve, the 500 and for James, so Paul thought their revelations were no different than his own, meaning they only knew Jesus from scriptures, too.

        • Pofarmer

          I thought you might appreciate that.

        • hector_jones

          Ehrman apparently goes on to say “Christ is a pre-existent being who is divine; he can be called God; and he is God’s manifestation on earth in human flesh.” Personally, I’ve often wondered how christians think we are supposed to conceive of Jesus prior to his birth. What was he doing? I suppose I didn’t dwell on it for long because the usual reply I got was that Jesus was God a la the trinity, so he was god before he was born. And yet it is frankly impossible not to see Jesus as a separate being from God when you read the Gospels, even if you swallow the concept of a trinity.

          I know that Carrier’s view is that Paul thought of Jesus as never having been on earth at all and that his crucifixion took place somewhere in the heavens. I’m now starting to wonder if there was an intermediate view in the days of the early church, a view that is now lost to us, whereby Jesus was conceived of as a pre-existent deity, God’s chief angel if you will, who came to earth as an angel not as a man and was killled by someone here on earth, perhaps the Romans, perhaps the agents of Satan, I don’t know, and that it was this intermediate view that lead to his full euhemerization in the NT. Sadly the evidence for this is lacking, but I find it an intriguing possibility.

        • Greg G.

          John 1:1-4
          1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

          The Wikipedia article on “Logos” shows the concept goes back to the Greeks at least 500 years. See also the paragraph on Philo.

        • hector_jones

          Ok it’s coming back to me. John 1:14 specifically says that “the Word was made flesh” and hence he is saying that the Word is Jesus. It doesn’t really explain why we hear no mention in the Old Testament of what the Word was up to before he became Jesus, but at least it does show there were early christians concerned about what Jesus was before he came to earth. The other 3 gospels don’t seem to be concerned with it at all.

          Alas, I don’t really know what it all means, but I doubt there is a single christian out there who has any intuitive grasp of what this is supposed to mean either. I’ve never met one who has been able to explain it, instead of just repeating it.

        • Greg G.

          Christians think it all comes from the Big Guy. It’s hard to explain in those terms. Each gospel was a different theology.

          I think Philo thought all those references to “the Angel of the Lord” was about the Logos as if he was synchretizing Hebrew philosophy with Greek philosophy.

        • hector_jones

          Sure. Even when I was young and reading the Gospels for the first time I had to wonder why God needed 4 of them.

        • Pofarmer

          Ehrman wrote a book called “lost Christianities.”. The jist I get is that early christianity was very diverse.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’ve heard Christians say that before creating the world, the Trinity just hung around loving each other. (You can’t have love without an object of that love, y’know.)

          Sounds pretty bizarre to me. The old kindergarten try, I guess.

        • hector_jones

          Ehrman apparently says “… and he is God’s manifestation on earth in human flesh.” So he hasn’t gone all the way to believing that Paul was ‘exclusively’ talking about a celestial Jesus.

          But now Ehrman needs to show that Paul was ever talking about a Jesus ‘in human flesh’. I think Carrier’s position is there is only one phrase in all of Paul’s letters that can be construed this way, where Paul refers to meeting “James the brother of the Lord”. Carrier argues that ‘brother of the Lord’ simply means ‘a Christian’ but it could be argued, and has been, that it means that James was literally a biological brother of the human Jesus. But other than this passage there is simply nowhere in all of Paul in which he can be said to conceive of Jesus ‘on earth in human flesh’.

        • Pofarmer

          In one on the articles at the vridar link, it talks about how “born of a woman” could have plausibly been the constellation Virgo. Not sure about “under the law” though.

        • hector_jones

          Ah yes, the ‘born of woman’ passge. Good point. It seems that at the very least Paul envisions Jesus as undergoing some
          sort of transformation in preparation for his sacrifice, even if the
          transformation doesn’t involve actual birth as a human being. I know Carrier has a position on this but off hand I can’t remember what it is.

        • Greg G.

          Everything Paul says about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament. This verse seems to come from Isaiah 7:14.

          The word translated as “born” is ginomai. The concordance at blueletterbible.com gives this for the meaning:

          I. to become, i.e. to come into existence, begin to be, receive being
          II. to become, i.e. to come to pass, happen
          A. of events
          III. to arise, appear in history, come upon the stage
          A.of men appearing in public
          IV. to be made, finished
          A. of miracles, to be performed, wrought
          V. to become, be made

          Strong’s Number G1096 matches the Greek γίνομαι (ginomai),which occurs 709 times in 636 verses in the Greek concordance of the KJV.

          Modern translations use “born”, possibly for theological reasons.

          Galatians 4:4 (KJV)
          But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law,

        • hector_jones

          Everything Paul says about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament.

          Which modern scholars are the main proponents of this view?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Everything Paul says about Jesus can be found in the Old Testament.

          Which modern scholars are the main proponents of this view?

          Mainly “scholars” who think there’s something really weird about Paul combing the OT for things that he could use to support the brand-new Suffering Messiah myth that had to be concocted in the wake of Yeshua’s failure.

        • hector_jones

          What is the point of this comment?

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I’m just pointing out that there’s nothing weird about Paul quoting from the OT to support his new Suffering Messiah myth. The Yeshua cult had to redefine the Messiah because of the failure of his mission, and Paul was trying to lend scriptural legitimacy to the concept.

          There are very, very few professional scholars who support mythicism. When something is more popular on message boards than in academia, I hear alarms. YMMV.

        • hector_jones

          I’m well aware that there are few professional scholars who support mythicism. I’m also aware that the historicist case is poor. Currently I consider myself an agnostic on the question.

          There is of course nothing wrong with Paul quoting the OT in support of his views. But don’t you think it is a bit odd if absolutely everything Paul claims to know about Jesus is just a quote from the OT and not from something Jesus himself actually said and did?

          I wanted names of scholars so I could do some reading about this. I wasn’t asking for your vague, snide editorializing.

        • Greg G.

          A few weeks ago, Shem was saying mythicists were relying on factoids so I posted the complete list of Paul’s references with information about Jesus with the corresponding OT passages with the full text so he wouldn’t have to look them up. He complained that it was a wall of text. His argument has changed because he is now arguing that it is to be expected of Paul to do that.

          I took the six epistles of Paul that he talks about Jesus (that excludes Philemon) that are generally acknowledged by scholars to be authentic and counted all the mentions of “Christ Jesus”, “Jesus Christ”, “Christ” or “Jesus”. There was one for every five verses, so Paul mentions Jesus a lot, but he gives no information that can’t be found in the OT. Now, I used a computer script to do the count and eliminated the longer phrases first so there were no double counts. I didn’t count “Lord” or pronouns because that would require determining whether he meant God or Jesus for “Lord” and anybody for pronouns, so the count for the references is on the low side.

          How can he talk about Jesus so much without giving a hint of information about an anecdote or a teaching?

          But it isn’t just Paul who does this. It’s all the early epistles. There’s the pseudo-Pauls, James, the author of 1 Peter, Jude, and 1 2, and 3 John. Titus even quotes the Book of Enoch but gives no first century information.

        • hector_jones

          I don’t know what you do for a living, but have you considered publishing this? Perhaps the next step would be to look at Paul’s use of the word Lord as well.

        • Greg G.

          I admit that I’m pretty much a crank. I try to stick to what I can show. I got interested in the New Testament after Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus came out and I’ve read a dozen of his books. I’ve branched out from there. I was aware of the arguments for and against the historical Jesus before reading Did Jesus Exist? I expected to see the best possible case for the historical Jesus but there was nothing new. It showed that scholars didn’t have a good argument. Then I read Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle and Price’s The Christ Myth Theory and saw much stronger arguments.

          If I am wrong, I would be happy if someone would show me where I have gone wrong. Shem has tried but his main argument is scholarly consensus. I don’t think most scholars have ever questioned or tried to prove the historical Jesus since they were indoctrinated as children.

          I wondered how many times Paul referred to Jesus and did a search. I found a Christian Bible scholar who said that Paul referred to Jesus in some form or another about once every three verses. He included 2 Thessalonians but excluded Philippians, though.

        • hector_jones

          The scholarly consensus once was that the OT Patriarchs were real people. Now the scholarly consensus (except among xtian scholars working at bible colleges) is that they are all mythical.

          Scholarly consensus can be a good heuristic, but it can never be the final argument on any subject.

          In reading that exchange you had with Shem I think you hit the nail on the head when you said:

          How many scholars became Jesus historicists after they became scholars? None would be a fairly accurate estimate. How many were indoctrinated with that belief as children? All would be a fairly accurate estimate.

          This is why scholarly consensus fails spectacularly on the historical Jesus question. Bart Ehrman seemed to seal the deal with his terrible book in defence of historicity.

        • Greg G.

          There was a recent article on vridar.org about how forty years ago, when it was first suggested that Abraham and Moses and their stories were not real, the scholarly consensus attacked the same way they attack the Jesus myth, by questioning qualifications and picking off a few minor errors and saying it would take too long to refute all the errors, but strategically avoiding the stronger points. Now the scholarly consensus is that Abraham and Moses are fictional.

          Twenty years ago, the scholarly consensus made the same type of attack on those who questioned whether David and Solomon were major kings in their day. Now that is the scholarly consensus.

          The evidence for Jesus is no better than the evidence for Abraham, Moses, David, or Solomon.

        • hector_jones

          Max Planck knew what he was talking about when he said ‘science advances one funeral at a time’.

        • Pofarmer

          I read that too.

        • MNb
        • Greg G.

          I didn’t say David and Solomon didn’t exist, only that they weren’t as big as once believed.

          What am I missing in the links? The first tells about the stele but also the problems with it. The second link says the stele isn’t useful for dating. I’m not sure what the third is. I’m using my smartphone and some of those fonts are too small to read well.

        • TheNuszAbides

          so David’s basically Israel’s Arthur?

        • Greg G.

          What an interesting idea for my first thought of the day! Actually, my first thought was, “Why the hell am I checking email before getting out of bed?” My third thought was then to compare the love triangles of David, Bathsheba, and her husband, Uzziah (IIRC), with Arthur, Guinivere, and Lancelot.

          Thank you for this insight!

          PS: They both acquired swords in remarkable ways that involve stones as a boy when other men had failed.

        • TheNuszAbides

          it also makes Brit Christians look extra presumptuous, with the “Jesus spent his childhood here” schtick and “’til we build Jerusalem on England’s green and pleasant land”…

        • Greg G.

          Ha ha. Maybe there could be something like those Lincoln – Kennedy comparisons.

          Arthur lived in Camelot.
          David lived next door to a used camel lot.

        • TheNuszAbides

          i just experienced a desire to not discover “used camel salesman” jokes.

        • Greg G.

          Not even a “one hump or two” joke?

        • TheNuszAbides

          there oughta be a law.

        • wtfwjtd
        • hector_jones

          A very interesting and eye-opening read. It’s bizarre to see Shem resorting to the same rank psychologizing as scholars of the past who were trying to defend a now-overturned consensus, while claiming he has no particular horse in the race or skin in the game.

        • wtfwjtd

          Agreed. Why the red-faced hysteria trying to defend a dogma that has so fragile an underpinning? I’m willing to give both sides a fair hearing. When the the HJ crowd has to resort to insults and personal attacks, I have to wonder just what it is that they’re trying to defend–the actual historicity of Jesus or just their cherished expressed belief of said historicity?

        • Greg G.

          Much of what I do is to aggregate what others have done for other purposes. Catholics use the OT Apocrypha (they call it the deuterocanon). Some sites show lists of correlations between verses in those and verses in the New Testament. I compare them and look to see if the New Testament verse has an Old Testament reference. Sometimes it looks like both the Apocrypha verse and the New Testament verse came from the same OT verse, sometimes the Apocrypha verse looks like it came from the OT but the NT verse looks more like the Apocrypha verse.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          I’m just saying the same thing I’ve always said about this vague Jesus Myth construct.

          Mythicists make it sound like we should expect Paul to have written at great length about the life story of Jesus, and I think there are plenty of good reasons to doubt this expectation. Paul never met Jesus and was in competition with church leaders who knew the guy when he was alive. What better reason to emphasize the Risen Christ and downplay the human Yeshua? Plus, the audience Paul was trying to attract included gentiles who were less sympathetic to the life mission of a kosher, circumcised rabbi. All the more reason to emphasize the “divine” Jesus and forget about the human one.

          I think a failed Messianic mission from a podunk rabbi serves pretty well as the core of the myth that later got elaborated and decorated with all sorts of mystical trappings. The mythicists can’t account for the sudden appearance of this Suffering Messiah myth with anything more plausible than that. The way mythicism has become an article of millennial atheist dogma, and the way a lot of their rhetorical tactics are taken right out of the conspiracy-theorist handbook, makes it reasonable to remain skeptical.

        • hector_jones

          I’m not here to defend mythicism or historicism. But I have to question right off the idea that a Messianic mission from a podunk rabbi serves so well as the core of the myth. It seems to me far more likely that such a failed mission would be almost entirely forgotten. Indeed there are a number of examples of messianic missions from that time period that failed, didn’t lead to any surviving religious movement but did leave surviving historical traces of their messianic leaders. Yet christianity, the most important ‘failed messianic mission’ of all left almost no historical trace of Jesus whatsoever.

          In a way you are arguing for mythicism though, just not in the way you realize. You are essentially saying that Paul believed Jesus was a man, but mythologized him specifically in order to downplay his failures as a human being. So what did Jesus accomplish specifically that made him so worthy of worship, especially by someone like Paul who never met him and even persecuted his followers for a time after Jesus alleged death?

        • Greg G.

          Hi Shem,

          Thanks for the reply.

          Paul did write at great length about Jesus. He just never said anything useful that would prove your contention. Paul argued a lot and quoted the Old Testament and even Rabbi Hillel, but never quoted Jesus, which would have made his arguments stronger. But I don’t ask for him to write a great deal about Jesus, I’m just surprised that he never mentioned anything about him at all besides the OT references. Instead of going to Isaiah 53, he could have given details about Pilate or any details like that. Why would those details be less attractive to that one generation while being so attractive to every generation ever since?

          The Jews had been waiting for the Messiah for a few hundreds of years. They were looking for reasons why it hadn’t happened. If one sect started reading the Suffering Servant as a historical event and that he had been resurrected, the fact that it was being revealed to them would have seemed to be a sign that the Messiah was on his way.

          There were many sects of Judaism that came and went. This one probably would have as well if the Romans hadn’t destroyed Jerusalem which would have been taken as an omen by the superstitious first century people within the Roman Empire. They would have been interested in the religions of the country to try to explain why the gods allowed the city to be destroyed. I don’t know this is what happened, I’m just trying to look at it from the other direction. From here, Christianity is the dominant religion. Back then it was just a tiny one. The destruction of Jerusalem is probably the biggest event in first century so it would have magnified certain things that could be associated with it. It became significant but it didn’t really take off until Constantine found it useful.

          But you are not taking into account that Paul was not the only person who didn’t write about the human Jesus. Even the apostles who were working with the Jews didn’t write about Jesus or quote him. There are the psuedo-Pauls, the writer of 1, 2, and 3 John, Jude, James, and even Titus who don’t write about the earthly Jesus.

          I think we pretty much agree on the late second century events. It’s just a matter of whether the early to mid first century people had the ideas attributed to them by post-destruction first and second century people. Your theory requires a conspiracy among the competing apostles/evangelists to suppress any talk about the historical Jesus and they would all have to do that flawlessly. If one slipped up and mentioned an anecdote or a teaching, that letter most likely would have been the most treasured of all.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Your theory requires a conspiracy among the competing apostles/evangelists to suppress any talk about the historical Jesus and they would all have to do that flawlessly. If one slipped up and mentioned an anecdote or a teaching, that letter most likely would have been the most treasured of all.

          Oh, come now. This just demonstrates the extent of the hysterical fantasism inherent in the mythicist position. “Suppress any talk about the historical Jesus”? Even you admit there was no shortage of Jewish radicals executed by the Romans in that day and age, but you think it’s wildly implausible that one (or a few) of these rebels served as the model for the Jesus story?

          Quite the contrary. The mythicist proposes a ridiculously improbable conspiracy. For some unknown reason Paul redefined the age-old Conquering Messiah construct to be a Suffering Messiah, for some unknown reason the Gospels created a fake life story for a man no one thought really lived, then for some unknown reason there was a complete about-face and the Church started teaching that there was a real Jesus but didn’t bother amending Paul’s letters (as they had for many other trifling reasons) to make it clear he thought Jesus was real, and all this is supposed to be more likely than that some Yeshua guy actually lived?

        • hector_jones

          Oh, come now. This just demonstrates the extent of the hysterical fantasism inherent in the mythicist position.

          Can you discuss this issue without resorting to this kind of blatant axe-grinding? You really don’t come across as the no-skin-in-the-game type that you claim to be.

          Why did they have to amend Paul’s letters to make it clear they thought Jesus was real? They’ve got you convinced and you’re an atheist.

          For some unknown reason? Just off the top of my head I can think of the very obvious reason that a Conquering Messiah is a character you really can’t fake, but a suffering one is easy.

          ‘Serving as the model for the Jesus story’ is a heavily watered-down and even circular concept when you can’t point to a single individual outside of the New Testament itself who served as this model.

        • Greg G.

          You are making up some reasons that Paul wouldn’t give any details of Jesus life but you are ignoring that the other writers also talk about Jesus but never say anything about the first century Jesus. Either they had some agreement to not do it, which makes it a conspiracy or they each independently but unanimously made that same choice. Which are you saying, the improbable conspiracy or the fantastically improbable coincidence?

          The excuses in the OT about why David’s throne was lost was blamed on some of his descendants not following the law. When the Jews were following the law as best they could under the rule of other powers, they expected the Messiah to come and set things right. But that never happened. It would not be improbable for a sect here and there to rethink what the Messiah message and go over the scriptures with a new view.

          If the epistle Jesus was one of the crucified, it seems unlikely that none of the epistle writers would try to say he was innocent of the charges that got him crucified. The gospels do that.

          The church didn’t amend the epistles, not just Paul’s letters, because by then, they were reading the gospels back into the epistles, just like Christians do now.

          Before you start accusing me of hysterical fanaticism, please elaborate on how all of the early epistle writers mention Jesus so often but never mention a detail of his life, a teaching or an anecdote. Is it a conspiracy or an amazing coincidence?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          the early epistle writers mention Jesus so often but never mention a detail of his life, a teaching or an anecdote.

          Or a healing. Or indeed any miracle. Or anything to connect him to history (no Herod, no Caesar Augustus). Or Great Commission.

        • MNb

          Plus, as BobS likes to bring up, we laymen rather should accept the scientific consensus, which is definitely not a fictional character.

        • hector_jones

          Except that the historical Jesus consensus is not scientific.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          From the standpoint of making an argument for atheism (or against Christianity), the Jesus Myth is a sideshow. Richard Carrier even wrote a post to this effect recently.

        • hector_jones

          I agree. But within the field of New Testament scholarship, the mythicism vs historicism debate is the most interesting thing going.

        • wtfwjtd

          To me, the Myth vs Historical debate is much like viewing a Red Sox vs Yankees game. I enjoy watching, and I like to see a well-played, hard-fought contest, but I don’t really care who wins. The way I see it, if Mythicism eventually wins out, Christianity is false. If the Historical camp manages to hold sway, Christianity is false. It won’t have an effect at all on the way I live my life. But, I still find the question interesting, perhaps because I spent a good portion of my life as an actual believer.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Right, but if the non-Mythicist Jesus-wasn’t-supernatural camp wins out, that’s another win for atheism, too.

        • avalpert

          I don’t think it is a win for atheism. It is a loss for Christianity but the argument for atheism is independent of the falsity of christianity (sure atheism would fall if christianity were true but that has such an infinitesimally small possibility it isn’t a situation worth worrying over).

          Atheism’s real competition are various weak degrees of deism.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          OK, fair point.

        • hector_jones

          Sure. If they found the actual tomb of Jesus and it contained a body that could be established as belonging to the Jesus of the New Testament that would be major, and a big win for atheism. But I’m not holding my breath.

        • MNb

          Well, then atheism wins by default (and I totally think it does), simply because the only reliable method to approach this issue is the scientific one and that excludes supernatural explanations at beforehand. The consequences are quite serious. For instance my compatriot the philosopher of religion Emmanuel Rutten uses philosophy to argue for god and then argues for christianity “because scholars agree on the empty tomb”. Even if we grant him the first part (which I don’t) the blunder (ER having a MSc in mathematics I don’t hesitate to use this word) is obvious. My point is that every theist (WLC and Plantinga are other examples) who tries to use science to back up his/her belief system will commit a blunder like this.
          The next step is from methodological naturalism to philosophical naturalism. It’s not a difficult one – and it’s what philosophy has done for you. It’s why the percentage non-believers among philosophers (philosophers of religion excluded; according to Chris Hallquist “regular” philosophers look down on that branch) is about as high as among physicists.

        • hector_jones

          Mythicism winning out, whatever that means exactly, doesn’t necessarily entail that christianity is false, merely that it has been altered over time, which is something we already know. Christianity already believes in a mythical God.

          The best mythicist theories merely claim that Jesus was never human, but incorporeal like his Dad, not that he was a back room fabrication designed in a conspiracy to cheat the rubes.

        • Kodie

          This is where I’m at. If Jesus really lived, he was just a man. If he didn’t live, he is a made-up story character. Either way, doesn’t matter to me. I think Christians want to prove the man was real and they think that’s important proof for them. Let’s look at the year zero. I’m sure there were guys back then. And some of them probably had a group of friends and got executed for one reason or another. Many of the details given of Jesus’s life seem typical, so why would they make a story about this one guy?

          Think about most stories, novels, tv shows, and movies, and how they are generally picking up nobody special at a moment in their ordinary life and giving them an unusual circumstance, triggering a series of unusual adventures. Some of them defy reality, and not just the supernatural or sci-fi ones. The details of their life are often borrowed from one or a composite of actual people and give them dimension of a person who could be real and embellished to make the story interesting.

          This doesn’t compel me to believe this character had the ability to rise from the dead or perform a self-sacrifice on my behalf. It’s the part about sin and martyrdom that snaps me out of it. A real live Jesus does nothing to support that angle the way Christians hope it would. It is just as easy to believe he was a legend to begin with, but I think legends are more elusive. It’s easier to think he’s based on an actual person than to believe he is a total figment. Santa Claus is based on a real person and made into a legend. Johnny Appleseed was based on a real person and made into a legend. I can’t really think of completely imaginary people who never existed and yet were invented for the purpose of storytelling, that people think was a real person. I think that is a difficult feat to pull off. People I guess use a character to explain something, like the Pied Piper, or as a composite, like Rosie the Riveter, and people think they were based on a real person. It’s possible Jesus is such a totally fictional character, and the story did stick – I think it’s not impossible for such a story to stick and to spread, but I think it happens more easily on the basis of a real person.

        • MNb

          “Let’s look at the year zero.”
          You better don’t, because there never has been a year zero. The number wasn’t invented yet back then.
          Of course this is nitpicking, totally irrelevant for your argument and hence I’m pedantic.

        • Greg G.

          Many critics of the Jesus Myth Theory don’t understand what it is about. The early epistle writers were not writing about gospel Jesus. They were just Jews who were impatient for the return of the Messiah and were rethinking it. They search through the scriptures for clues about when he would come. But they found some verses about a suffering servant who was betrayed, crucified, and rose on the third day by reading the passages out of context, thinking they were long, hidden messages about an event in their ancient past, and the fact that these messages were being revealed proved to them that the Messiah was coming within their lifetime. Paul mentioned “Jesus” and/or “Christ” about once every five verses (not counting when he just called him “Lord” or used a pronoun) but never said anything about him that can’t be found in the Old Testament. If the early epistle writers knew of a historical Jesus, one or more should have mentioned an anecdote or quoted him in an argument.

          Mark wrote a generation later, after the city of Jerusalem was in ruins. Nearly every passage seems to be taken from the literature of the day, so that every deed Jesus did had been done by Moses, Elijah, or Elisha in the Hebrew literature or Homeric characters in the Greek literature. Even the Gospel of John depends on Mark’s fictions.

        • wtfwjtd

          Greg, what about the parables and some of the stories? Were these also mostly borrowed from the literature of the day?

        • Greg G.

          New Testament Narrative as Old Testament Midrash That link is the main part of Robert M. Price’s The Christ Myth Theory. He takes the works of Bible scholars, most of whom are not mythicists, who have independently traced the roots of Mark to various sources. Independently, they are not controversial. Combined they pretty much show almost all of Mark comes from various other sources.

          I went through and checked the parts Price, et al, didn’t account for and found that the parables weren’t included but they corresponded to the Gospel of Thomas. It seemed unlikely that Thomas would have concentrated so heavily one the parts of Mark that we can’t identify a source for, but since we know Mark used other sources, it would be likely that Mark copied Thomas. The following link is a Gospel of Thomas scholar who argues that Mark used Thomas:
          Mark’s Use of the Gospel of Thomas – Misericordia University

          There are several sayings in GThomas that appear to have been based on passages from Romans, 1 Corinthians, and Galatians, but no other Pauline epistles. That could be an indication that GThomas was written before the whole Pauline corpus was collected.

          Mark also relies heavily on those three epistles but there are a few passages that could come from other Pauline epistles. Mark 10:11-12 made more sense when Paul wrote it in 1 Corinthians 7:10-12 when he was trying to explain Deuteronomy 24:1-4 to Gentiles, but Matthew and Luke dropped the part about women divorcing their husbands when Jesus said it to his Jewish disciples. Much of Mark 7 comes from Paul and Peter arguing in Galatians 2 but Jesus had Paul’s part. There are others. The idea in Mark 9:1 appears to come from 1 Thessalonians 4:15.

          The three main characters besides Jesus are the three called the pillars in Galatians. Paul ridicules them in the first 2 chapters and Mark makes those characters the foil time and again.

        • wtfwjtd

          Thanks for the links Greg, looks like I’ve got some reading to do!

        • wtfwjtd

          “Santa Claus is based on a real person and made into a legend. Johnny Appleseed was based on a real person and made into a legend. ”

          That’s a good point, although…AFAIK, the elves were just a made-up part of the story. Question is, is Jesus more like Santa, or more like a head elf?

        • Kodie

          I read somewhere probably not academic that future generations may come to understand someone like Elvis Presley as if he were our god, and I could be wrong, but I think that’s what they’re trying to do to Chuck Norris (although I haven’t heard that meme in a while). Imagine thousands of years from now what scholars of the day try to debate are the credible sources on the true facts of could-be gods that we know as celebrities but mortal men with perhaps remarkable talent or skill but not singular or magical. Santa Claus seems like as absolutely fabricated as elves, once you grow up and find out there is no Santa Claus, only to later find out there was a real guy, and furthermore, probably had helpers. It’s somewhat conceivable that he hitched reindeer to a sleigh, although I am thinking that part came from another addition to the legend, but it is something that people did/do. The flying, not so much.

          Elves are a fictional creature altogether, but they’re portrayed as the least strange part of the story – they build toys. That’s it. Maybe they’re slaves, maybe they’re volunteers, they’re anthropomorphized, but maybe they are more like using horses or dogs to do jobs, but they don’t do anything magical other than their job title belongs to a category we consider magical, and may be a different species of which it’s ethical to exploit their toy-building abilities. That would simply make them a mythical creature, a human-like animal. I suspect Klaus had volunteers in the charitable effort, while Claus has slaves.

        • Greg G.

          Maybe if when we are gone, the next generation might write a story as if Luke Skywalker had been a contemporary of us and the next generation take it as history. That would be analogous to how I see the Jesus myth evolving. Cephas, James and Paul wrote about Jesus long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away. Mark may have simply written an allegory as a fictional tale, and Matthew, Luke and John believed it..

        • Pofarmer

          “Paul never met Jesus and was in competition with church leaders who knew the guy when he was alive”

          What about King Arthur? I don’t think anybody really knows if he lived or not. Heracles/hercules, I assume is entirely fictional. Romulus, the supposed founder of Rome? It seems to me that the Greeks(who did a lot of the writing) had a lot of fictional entirely fictional Charachters.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Heracles/hercules, I assume is entirely fictional.

          And yet Tacitus and Josephus (two non-Christian historians that apologists often point to for support) both referred to a historical Hercules!

          They may not be the most reliable historians …

        • Kodie

          Of course, fictional characters may be thought to be real people also. I don’t know how that happens, but when people have no TV or whatever, they probably made up more stories on the fly, and didn’t write them down. It seems pretty common for some interested in history and literature to try to pin down the origin of certain stories. Obviously, King Arthur is fiction, there’s Merlin, there’s Excalibur, the whole thing about the boy king, and it has romance. I mentioned the Pied Piper… the origin of it is lost. 130 real children (according to wikipedia) went missing or died and nobody now knows what happened to them. A real person who took them to safety, bought them from their parents who couldn’t afford to keep them, or recruited them are plausible explanations (I guess?), but a merry man getting children to follow by playing a flute? That’s the story they made up. Is it made up from a real person or just a pleasant explanation than some form of disease that killed them all in a short period of time. Was King Arthur a real person or a fictional construct?

        • Greg G.

          To me, the Myth vs Historical debate is much like viewing a Red Sox vs Yankees game.

          For me, the debate is more like industrial league softball. It’s fun to play, but no matter who wins, we can still drink beer and have a good time.

          Normally I would go with the scholarly consensus but the more I see of their methodology on this question, the less I trust it. The scholarly consensus seems circular as most have never considered the question because of the consensus. Those who do argue the question, tend to question the credentials of the opponents but they tend to rely on imaginary evidence like, Q, M, and L. If somebody wrote those sources, why couldn’t it have been Matthew for M and Q and Luke for L?

        • Pofarmer

          I think the consensus has been on the order of “who would worship something for xxoo years that was made up.” Mormonism tellz us plenty.

        • hector_jones

          One way in which I think it could really matter is this – if the mythicist position becomes the scholarly consensus, then Christianity owes the Jews a major apology, even bigger than the one it already owes them. It’s hard to say what kind of impact this could have on Jewish relations with the world, but I hope it would be a positive one at least.

        • wtfwjtd

          “For me, the debate is more like industrial league softball. It’s fun to play, but no matter who wins, we can still drink beer and have a good time.”

          Yes, that probably is closer. Like softball, sometimes the fans–and the players–can get a little rowdy.

        • MNb

          It would if JM’s didn’t use a methodology that sucks – a problem RIchard Carrier has addresses as well.

        • hector_jones

          It still is, even though there are JMs who use a methodology that sucks. There isn’t a single historicist out there that doesn’t also use a methodology that sucks. Methodology is a part of the debate that makes it interesting.

        • Pofarmer

          Who cares, it’s fun to speculate on and drives Theists nuts.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Who cares, it’s fun to speculate on and drives Theists nuts.

          The problem is that it drives atheists like me nuts, too, because it makes us seem like the kind of credulous, agenda-driven creeps that we’re supposed to be battling. If a creationist responded to sensible push-back on his ideas by saying, “Who cares, it’s fun to speculate on and drives atheists nuts,” we’d all think he’s a dick. And we’d be right.

        • hector_jones

          Why on earth do you take it so damned personally what Pofarmer thinks? Who appointed you the arbiter of atheist orthodoxy? Stop letting things ‘drive you nuts’ and try engaging with the actual issues. Having allowed yourself to be driven nuts has made you behave like a dick yourself.

          To your credit your are at least finally explaining why you behave like such a dick. But you would do better to make arguments about why Pofarmer shouldn’t behave that way instead of constantly being a dick about it.

        • Pofarmer

          With creationism, 100%of the weight of the evidence goes against him, yet he still believes. With mythicism, even those who talk of a historical Jesus now talk in probabilities for the most part. Who would have thought that Moses is almost certainly myth? Hell, the modern archaeological consensus is that the entire enslavement and exodus is probably myth, as the evidence is very, very thin on the ground for the enslavement, and non existant for the rest of the story.

        • https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/SteveFarrell Shem the Penman

          Well, if mythicism is all about evidence evidence evidence, why is it so important to you that it pisses off Christians?

        • Pofarmer

          It’s not. Just a happy side benefit.

        • Pofarmer

          “Paul never met Jesus and was in competition with church leaders who knew the guy when he was alive”

          And yet, when Paul confronts them, THEY never respond with anything Jesus said when he was alive, either. Not in the responses in Paul and Acts, and not in the writings that we have in the NT.

        • Greg G.

          I took everything Paul said about Jesus, the references in the footnotes of the NIV, and the alleged fulfilled prophecy list of various Christian sites for the relationships.

        • hector_jones

          So you’re saying you did this on your own? Are you aware of any professional scholars who’ve written on this?

        • Greg G.

          No, I don’t know of any who make that claim.

          This should go to Shem’s reply of the verses I posted. I use this because the link was easier to get from my email than the link to my own post.

        • wtfwjtd

          Another very important point to note, Paul never talks about Jesus coming “back”, “returning”, or his “second coming”. Paul always talks of Christ being revealed, or his appearing, or his coming, but doesn’t use phrases like mentioned above. Paul was looking for Jesus to be “revealed”, or to be made known (on earth) for the *first* time. This is a big deal, in my mind.

        • Greg G.

          Paul does talk about Jesus returning. Here are the three passages and the OT verses he stole his ideas from:

          1 Thessalonians 4:15-17; 1 Corinthians 15:51-54; Philippians 3:20-21; Isaiah 26:19-21; Daniel 7:11; Daniel 7:13; Daniel 12:2; Isaiah 25:8

        • wtfwjtd

          Exactly. Paul speaks of Jesus and his *coming*, but not his *returning.*

        • hector_jones

          So do you think Paul threw the phrase ‘born (or made) of a woman’ in there specifically to refer back to Isaiah 7:14? If so why? I don’t have an interpretation of my own, other than to say that Paul seems to be wanting to make a point about the law of inheritance and that being born of a woman plays some role in that, but I don’t know what.

        • Greg G.

          I’m not sure that any of the early Christians had a complete and consistent theology worked out. If he found a passage that suggested X, he believed X.

          There are many clear prophecies that the David’s seed would always be on the throne. When the Babylonians came, the prophecies were of a Messiah who would be from David’s seed would come back. “Under the law” would be anybody from Abraham. See Hebrews 8:1-10 to see how loose they could be with talk of “seed”.

          Hebrews 8:9-10
          9 One might even say that Levi himself, who receives tithes, paid tithes through Abraham, 10 for he was still in the loins of his ancestor when Melchizedek met him.

          Even Paul’s eschatology comes from the OT. He talks about the Rapture in 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54, and Philippians 3:20-21 but nearly every idea comes from Isaiah 26:19-21, Daniel 7:11, Daniel 7:13, Daniel 12:2, and Isaiah 25:8.

        • Pofarmer

          SO, then, it sounds like the translators changed the meaning of the passage, because even they didn’t understand, or didn’t want to emphasize that Paul was talking about a celestial Jesus.

        • Greg G.

          I suspect they wanted to harmonize it with the gospels.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Perhaps we can take some small details added for verisimilitude as true but

          is that referring to the typically unduly-touted geographical/political references (to places, tribes, factions ‘always’ or since known to have existed)? or are there any more compelling (and/or relevant to The Story Itself) examples?

        • Greg G.

          The one I find most compelling one is John 18:13 where we are told that Annas was the father-in-law of Caiaphas.

          Josephus tells us that Annus was the first high priest after Herod’s son was deposed and the Romans took over. He was in office for 13 years. Then a couple of his sons held the office for short terms with a few others mixed in. Then Caiaphas got the office just before Pilate came to town and held the position for 18 years until right after Pilate left. Then the five sons of Annas cycled in and out of the office until just before the destruction of the Temple and the city.

          It seems unlikely that Annas ben Seth’s family could maintain influence like that in Temple politics for sixty years while being out for nearly two decades in the middle of it. But if Caiaphas was an in-law, it is easier to believe.

          It seems to me that Luke turned around John’s Lazarus story and turned it into the Lazarus and the Rich Man parable. In John, the chief priests wanted to have Lazarus killed again to shut him up. Luke has Lazarus with Abraham speaking to a rich man who wanted Lazarus to be raised from the dead to go to “his father’s” house to warn his “five brothers”. The last line from Abraham in that parable shows that Luke thought John’s Lazarus story was ridiculous.

        • Greg G.

          Then there is the trap the literalists are in and the trap the non-literalists are in. Our government is being controlled by people who think God listens to them so they can pray away environmental problems.

          Our actions are informed by our decisions. Our decisions are informed by our ideas. Our ideas are informed by our beliefs. The worst thing we can do is inform our beliefs from the most misunderstood writings in the history of the world.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          If you’re “very non-mainstream,” why even call yourself a Christian? It sounds like you’re more of a spiritual scholar, eager to learn more about why the Bible says what it says, the history of the times and the competing worldviews, and all that.

        • ctcss

          If you’re “very non-mainstream,” why even call yourself a Christian? It sounds like you’re more of a spiritual scholar, eager to learn more about why the Bible says what it says, the history of the times and the competing worldviews, and all that.

          I call myself a Christian because a Christian is someone who is trying to follow the Christ. And although I am interested in the history of the times to some extent, I consider the truth that God offers to His children to be timeless in nature and thus, applicable anytime and anywhere, to anyone. (Note: Please do not make the mistake that I think that God’s truth is focused in any way on human culture and human values. God’s truth applies equally to humans, Martians, Klingons, Vulcans, Vogons, what have you. It has everything to do with that which is spiritual and nothing whatsoever to do with that which is material.) And no, I am not interested in competing world views, I am interested in God’s view. Jesus seemed to have a useful take on that. That’s why I am interested in following him. He seemed to understand God very well. I would simply like to understand God in the same way he did.

        • Kodie

          Note: Please do not make the mistake that I think that God’s truth is
          focused in any way on human culture and human values. God’s truth
          applies equally to humans, Martians, Klingons, Vulcans, Vogons, what
          have you.

          I don’t know why you bring up fictional alien species and suspect that god’s truth would apply when there are millions of species on earth to which you don’t suppose it applies? Especially when some of these aliens are characterized as not having the same psychological make-up as humans do and sometimes drastic differences as to highlight a distinct lack of a god creator.

        • ctcss

          Kodie, I think we are talking past one another. The fact that I mentioned fictional aliens was meant as a way to illustrate that God doesn’t just care about humans, or a specific tribe of humans, He cares about everyone. And going along further with that line of reasoning, that means God also cares about everything in His creation as well.

        • Kodie

          But you picked out what you consider “human-equals”. “God cares” and “god’s truth applies” are two different things. You suspect on habitable planets that god has some form of species that is “intelligent” as humans and those are the creatures to whom “god’s truth” applies, the “truth” you are trying to fill yourself with in your quest. Look, everyone is trying to learn something…. no, not everyone. Some people don’t care, and some people already know everything, so already I am talking about other humans. How does “god’s truth” differ from “truth”? Because “god’s truth” is a metaphorical description you use in place of “human experience”, which of course is different than mouse experience or tree experience. It’s human-centric of you to suppose the universe has to have other intelligent life to which “god’s truth” aka “human experience” applies, when they’re not human. You have a value system in which at or above a certain intelligence like humans have, all creatures are like humans in a way that “god’s truth” applies.

          Not for nothing, but humans didn’t even exist on earth until a short time ago, relatively speaking. You think the earth was made for humans or what? The human experience has some commonality with other species that you ignored in your post and many difference, owing to whatever makes us humans and not squirrels. ALL creatures share experiences within their species, and they’re not all “goddy” about it, but how would we know?

          Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, The Cosmic Calendar

          Wait But Why: “Meet Your Ancestors (All of Them”

          Religions act like humans are the goal, and now that we showed up, it’s us forever, it’s species similar to us from other planets with differences you seem to think are merely cultural. We have species on this planet that are unlike us, and the differences are not a product of culture. Do you think like a whale thinks? Do you think that’s just because they’re in the water that they’re different, like coming from another country, another planet, it’s all the same to god, but animals are different.

        • ctcss

          Kodie, we really are not on the same wavelength. You are talking about humans and creatures and planets, etc. as somehow being created by God.The God I was taught about never created anything material at all. Whatever you are talking about is thoroughly grounded in matter and materialism. What I am talking about (at least as it relates to God and what God creates/expresses) is entirely spiritual. IOW, I am talking about something that has nothing to do with matter, energy, time, or space.

          You and I are looking in very different directions.

        • Kodie

          You are the one who said it applies to Klingons, overlooking, say, dogs, and the span of time since life arose on earth and the part of the human experience that makes humans the kind of humans you’re talking about.

          You are talking entirely about the human experience and where your personal experience lies in it. You are also talking like this experience came from outer space in the form of thoughts and baby smiles (or whatever). I don’t know why you think you are so different a Christian than other Christians, it’s another way of saying you don’t have a religion, you have a relationship. You are following Jesus and you make it sound more like a cult than usual Christians do. Like, it’s not what it says in the bible, man, it’s some groovy ephemeral sensation!

          Maybe you aren’t getting me, man. I am drawing you a diagram and how little humans mean in the scheme of things. It’s kind of interesting to study humans, like psychology or anthropology or whatever, but I just sit in traffic watching cars pass through lights when they turn green, taking turns, got somewhere to go the same time as I do, and we’ve just organized ourselves. I look upon us as animals with habits just like any other animal. Theism is the hope that there is a grand purpose to this and to yourself, and you want to know which part you play. There are 7 billion of us eating and pooping and throwing garbage out every day. The music just makes it fun.

        • ctcss

          it’s another way of saying you don’t have a religion, you have a relationship.

          In many ways, yes. But that’s the whole point of it. Jesus was trying to teach his students about their relationship to God and what that means. You don’t appear to find such a concept useful or interesting. That’s cool. However, I do.

          Once again, to each their own.

        • hector_jones

          God’s truth applies equally to humans, Martians, Klingons, Vulcans, Vogons

          Very POEtic.

          Jesus seemed to understand god very well? Uh, according to christian theology Jesus WAS god.

          Sounds to me like you don’t really know very much at all about the basics of your own religion. It’s almost as if you just picked up a bible you found lying around the house and decided it was as good a book as any to go on your lackadaisical journey, in your spare time. Pretty well any guidebook would have done the trick it seems.

          Call me crazy but if I were setting out on a journey and I had a map that was as full of flaws as you admit your map is, I would be looking for a better map.

        • ctcss

          Sounds to me like you don’t really know very much at all about the basics of your own religion.

          No, you sound like you don’t know very much about the basics of my religion. I said I was very non-mainstream.

        • Kodie

          Another way of saying “we’re not all like that”. You don’t want to take the bible literally, you don’t believe in creationism, I don’t know what that has to do with the main gist of it, which is Christ died on the cross to provide you salvation which you can’t cash in until you die. Your approach to the bible (not what you personally get out of it) is in no way dissimilar from other Christians. It’s a book for all personal interpretations, it’s an extravaganza of whatever you personally want to be true, god agrees with.

        • ctcss

          Christ died on the cross to provide you salvation which you can’t cash in until you die.

          Suit yourself. But I notice you keep bringing up mainstream Christian concepts even though my religion has a different take on it.

          To each his (or her) own.

        • Kodie

          You believe there’s a god and he has qualities you decide. You follow Christ by picking out passages in the bible that suit you personally. How is that not mainstream? I wrote some other posts earlier this evening that you totally ignored or willfully misunderstood to fit your protestations that you’re not like the others.

        • ctcss

          You seem to be getting peeved here about my use of the word “mainstream”. I am simply using it to distinguish my beliefs from the more typical Christian beliefs such as Jesus Is God, there is a hell and a devil, humans have original sin, humans have souls, some people will be saved and others will be damned, etc.

          People can believe what they wish. Jews think Christians have it wrong. Christians think Muslims have it wrong, Muslims think Hindus have it wrong. Varying theologies are everywhere. Nothing new here.

          Once again, to each their own.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So you go into the quest knowing that the Christian god exists. You’re flexible and open minded, except for that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What if it still didn’t make sense to you in that pristine state? What if it actually took walking on the author’s pathway for a good long while in order to approach the author’s level of understanding?

          You’re focused on the details. I’m focused on the step before that: how do we know we’re even on the right road?

          If you have such proof, please bring it forward. Being skeptical about things is fine, but playing the cynicism card doesn’t help anyone.

          I never suggested I had truth. I’m simply zooming out to a wider view and questioning your certainty that you’re on a journey with something real at the end.

          You don’t like Wizard of Oz? Take a baseball fanatic—they know lots of trivia, just like a Bible scholar. Why is the Christian seeker on any more noble path than that of the baseball fanatic?

          Bob, saying something like this makes me think you are just trying to be deliberately obtuse. You’re obviously intelligent. But unless you are going to persist on your “hoax” theory, you should realize that the purpose of The Wizard of OZ and the purpose of the Bible are very much different.

          Thought experiment, dude. Relax. Tell you what: when I actually propose hoax for real, I’ll scream that fact out to you, OK?

          You seem to be blithely on a journey for which you’ve provided no justification. If that’s how you roll, that’s fine. I’m just encouraging you to share your reasons for being convinced that this is for real.

          The analog fo r the Bible student, as I see it, involves real work in the real world.

          This is your belief. I’m asking for justification.

          “I think you’ll agree that most religions are bunk.”

          Actually, I think such a statement is a rather cynical take on religion. Myself, I would say that most people who are religious have sincere beliefs and have hopeful expectations.

          You’re a tough guy to please. Must I submit questions in triplicate?

          Yes, they’re sincere. No one cares about that. They could still be deluded; that’s what we’re talking about.

          the question for anyone to ask themselves is whether or not they think they are (1) being well taught by knowledgeable, discerning, and insightful teachers and (2) whether or not they are trying their best to dig deeper on their own and to put what they are learning into practice.

          ??

          The devoted Scientology students could have insightful teachers and be trying their best. Still, some spiritual journeys are idiotic. I would hope that these students pause and think if they’re on a reasonable path. Top of my head: no, they’re not.

          What would it have taken for Lewis and Clark to encounter a showstopper and give up? They had a mission, and they did everything that they could in order to see it through to completion.

          Huh?? Lewis and Clark had a tangible mission. It shares only the barest similarities with a spiritual journey.

          Lewis and Clark never looked down and wondered if they were deluding themselves about the river or path beneath their feet. Yep, it’s really there. The spiritual traveler, however, could quite easily be deluding himself. Millions have.

        • MNb

          “It has everything to do with that which is spiritual”
          Hence it has everything to do with baked air.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I’m curious. I hear theists use the word “truth” in unclear ways. By “God’s truth” do you mean “accurate information provided by the creator of the universe”. I like to break words down, mostly because religious apologists often play word games (not that I am accusing you of doing that). “God’s truth” sounds poetic, but I’d really like to know what that term means as specifically and non-poetically as possible if you’d be so kind.

        • ctcss

          I’m curious. I hear theists use the word “truth” in unclear ways. By “God’s truth” do you mean “accurate information provided by the creator of the universe”. I like to break words down, mostly because religious apologists often play word games (not that I am accusing you of doing that). “God’s truth” sounds poetic, but I’d really like to know what that term means as specifically and non-poetically as possible if you’d be so kind.

          By “God’s truth”, what I mean is that which God understands and knows as being true, vs that which is perceived from the limited, and often inaccurate and inadequate human mental framework. However, please be aware that what I was taught regarding God states that only God and God’s kingdom is truly real. (Conceptually speaking, that is what would make sense if God is truly a capital “G” God.) In other words, this is probably a rather different view of things than what you might be thinking it was.

          Basically (as I was taught it) God is Spirit. Thus, what God creates/expresses has to be entirely spiritual because it is an expression of God’s nature. (This is similar to the concept of Beethoven’s music being an expression of Beethoven’s musical nature. Beethoven’s music is therefore the natural and logical outcome of Beethoven’s being. Seen in this way then, God’s kingdom is the natural outcome of God’s being.)

          Furthermore, God, being Spirit, is entirely perfect and harmonious. (Unlike matter, Spirit has no attributes that embody or foster conflict.) Thus God’s kingdom also has to reflect that perfection and harmony. No aspect of God is in conflict with any other aspect of God. Thus, everything expressed by God must be in harmony with every other thing expressed by God. And, of course, everything expressed by God quite naturally has to be in harmony with God Himself. Thus, there are no conflicts in God or in God’s creation. (This is obviously very different from what is seen from the human mental framework.)

          What this boils down to is that God’s understanding of His creation is often very different from that which is seen from the human mental framework. Basically, it is question of that which is correct (what God knows and expresses) vs that which is incorrect (the view from the human mental framework). So God’s truth is that which is truly real because it is that which God has created/expressed. Which means that the goal of someone such as myself is to try to gain a clearer sense of what it is that God knows. It’s basically a question of learning (or waking up to) God’s understanding of His creation.

          So your statement “accurate information provided by the creator of the universe” is correct, but you would need to accept that the universe created/expressed by God is an entirely spiritual one.

          Does that help explain my use of that phrase to you?

        • MNb

          Yes, but I also have a few questions. I have asked liberal christians (liberal doesn’t necessarily refer to politics here) before, but never got a decent answer.

          “that which God understands and knows as being true”
          What sense does it make even to think about what god understands and knows as being true if our human and mental framework is too limited, inaccurate and inadequate to get it anyway?

          “what God creates/expresses has to be entirely spiritual because it is an expression of God’s nature.”
          “Furthermore, God, being Spirit, is entirely perfect and harmonious.”
          “God’s understanding of His creation is often very different from that which is seen from the human mental framework.”
          How can you maintain this given your limited, inaccurate and inadequate human mental framework?

          “So God’s truth is that which is truly real because it is that which God has created/expressed.”
          That’s circular logic.

          “Which means that the goal of someone such as myself is to try to gain a clearer sense of what it is that God knows.”
          How do you know that you will get a clearer sense and not an unclearer one given your limited, inaccurate and inadequate human mental framework?
          To me you sound like a religious nihilist.

        • ctcss

          “that which God understands and knows as being true”
          What sense does it make even to think about what god understands and knows as being true if our human and mental framework is too limited, inaccurate and inadequate to get it anyway?

          The whole point (as St. Paul has it) is to put off the old man and to put on the new. In other words, the reason the human, mental framework is inadequate is because it is a mental outlook framed by the belief that one is actually human. But the point is, God made man in His image and likeness. As I stated in my response to DigaagWaRiz, God is Spirit. Therefore if God made man, that man would have to be entirely spiritual, not material. Man, at least as I was taught it, is not the descendent of Adam (or even of Charlie the Australopithecine), but is the direct expression and outcome of God. The Adam dream (a non-existent, suppositional state of being) is the only place where the belief in human existence lives. And just as a person who is asleep and dreaming can hear people who are awake talking to them, and begin to incorporate that talking into their dream until they fully wake up, what we seem to be in is a state of dreaming that needs to respond to the Christ, and thus wake to our true identity as the image and likeness of God.

          “what God creates/expresses has to be entirely spiritual because it is an expression of God’s nature.”
          “Furthermore, God, being Spirit, is entirely perfect and harmonious.”
          “God’s understanding of His creation is often very different from that which is seen from the human mental framework.”
          How can you maintain this given your limited, inaccurate and inadequate human mental framework?

          One theological point that I share with other Christians is the concept of divine revelation. What this means is that (just as the dreaming person in the above paragraph can apparently recognize and perceive and incorporate speech from people around them in their dreaming state, the Christ is always there to speak to us, voicing God’s word. And just as darkness must give way to light, the human and mortal ignorance masquarading as God’s man must invariably give way to the truth of man as God knows and expresses him.

          “So God’s truth is that which is truly real because it is that which God has created/expressed.”
          That’s circular logic.

          No, it’s actually unified reasoning. If God is the ONLY cause and creator, then everything that exists must be an expression of God. Which means that only what God knows/expresses is actually real since there is no other creator. And since God is perfect and entirely good and harmonious, His creation must also be perfect and entirely good and harmonious. So anything that doesn’t match up with the nature of God must be purely suppositional, that is, the result of ignorance.

          Consider, from the perspective of the rules of mathematics, there are no mistakes or errors. But the student who is still struggling to understand the rules of mathematics, mistakes and errors seem to be everywhere. But are those mistakes actually real (as seen from the perspective of the rules of mathematics), or are they just the result of ignorance of those rules? In like manner, are the problems witnessed from the human mental framework real, or are they just the result of ignorance of God’s creation, created/expressed according to His rules/laws?

          “Which means that the goal of someone such as myself is to try to gain a clearer sense of what it is that God knows.”
          How do you know that you will get a clearer sense and not an unclearer one given your limited, inaccurate and inadequate human mental framework?
          To me you sound like a religious nihilist.

          As I pointed out above, the Christ is always speaking God’s truth and is bringing out a clearer sense to the dreaming mortal state. The question is, are people willing to listen? And just as someone with a candle can help to dispel the darkness for someone else, the Christ can help to dispel the darkness of the human and mortal suppositional belief about itself.

          So, no, I don’t expect more unclarity to come about from listening to the Christ. As long as one is willing to listen, the dream will have to give way to the light of God’s creation and His truth

        • Pofarmer

          Shitcanning any theology related to the doctrine of The Fall would be a good start.

        • Greg G.

          A “food start”? Where does the line form?

        • Pofarmer

          Damned thumbs.

        • hector_jones

          Dunno about you, but I avoid any food that involves shitcanning.

        • Greg G.

          If you had to choose between the shitcan and my cooking, you wouldn’t be so picky.

        • MNb

          Well, great. Since the Bible was completed quite a few other books on “pursue the positive, avoid the negative” have been written. So why not move on?

      • hector_jones

        I prefer Hector Avalos’s approach – we’ve learned all we can from the bible and it’s long past time to move on. It’s now a cultural relic.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      it is valuable just as it is.

      I agree. Convince all the other Christians, and problem solved.

      the destination to be seeking is a better understanding of God, not a better set of texts.

      I guess, though removing that extra layer that separates us from the original autographs would be helpful in understanding at least those authors’ sense of God. Sounds like discussing this layer is worthwhile. Don’t you agree?

      Might there be mistakes or omissions in the writings? Perhaps. But even a partial guidebook, diary, or collection of writings is enough to get started with. Remember, the point is to go on the journey, not to engage in an armchair critique of someone else’s recollections of the journey.

      What if the entire journey were bogus? What if it were a hoax or a joke or a novel? What if someone took The Wizard of Oz as a sacred book and devoted their life to using Dorothy’s journey to guide their own. Would that be noble or stupid?

      Lewis and Clark set out on the expedition to survey and explore the Louisiana Purchase. Did they have all of the accurate information that they needed before they started? No. But they had enough to begin their journey.

      Is the Corps of Discovery Expedition—a journey to learn real, objective information—a good analog to the student of the Bible? Or is the reader of Wizard of Oz a better analog?

      The Bible, at least for those of us who like it and find it to be useful, prompts us to go on (or to continue on) our journey of discovery.

      But do you ever lift your head and take a break and see if you’re actually tracking something real? I think you’ll agree that most religions are bunk.

      So questions about the texts is not a show-stopper for us.

      And what would it take for a problem to be a show stopper? Or are you saying that your belief is unfalsifiable?

      • ctcss

        I guess, though removing that extra layer that separates us from the original autographs would be helpful in understanding at least those authors’ sense of God. Sounds like discussing this layer is worthwhile. Don’t you agree?

        You seem to be assuming that you would immediately grasp what an author wrote if you actually saw their original, unadulterated text. What if it still didn’t make sense to you in that pristine state? What if it actually took walking on the author’s pathway for a good long while in order to approach the author’s level of understanding? You may not regard it as such, but religious understanding and practice are non-trivial in nature, and don’t necessarily fit comfortably in with the typical worldview. Said another way, the words themselves are just the beginning. Without understanding what they are about, a person could easily regard them as worthless.

        What if the entire journey were bogus? What if it were a hoax or a joke or a novel? What if someone took The Wizard of Oz as a sacred book and devoted their life to using Dorothy’s journey to guide their own. Would that be noble or stupid?

        Bob, I am not aware of any reputable Bible scholar who would say the the Bible was a practical joke, a hoax, or was an intentionally fictional story written by someone thousands of years ago strictly for popular entertainment, but which was then mistaken by people of the time as something serious and holy. If you have such proof, please bring it forward. Being skeptical about things is fine, but playing the cynicism card doesn’t help anyone.

        Is the Corps of Discovery Expedition—a journey to learn real, objective information—a good analog to the student of the Bible? Or is the reader of Wizard of Oz a better analog?

        Bob, saying something like this makes me think you are just trying to be deliberately obtuse. You’re obviously intelligent. But unless you are going to persist on your “hoax” theory, you should realize that the purpose of The Wizard of OZ and the purpose of the Bible are very much different. The Wizard of OZ was written purely as entertainment. The Bible, OTOH, seems to have been written with the intent of preserving valuable information regarding the relationship of God and man. The Wizard of OZ is simply telling a fanciful tale. The Bible tries to instruct and direct behavior. So, as a Christian, I could read the Sermon on the Mount and realize the demands it makes on a follower of Christ. Trying to follow those directions, trying to reform one’s life as Jesus requested, is definitely a non-trivial affair. That Bible text makes serious demands on a person. But the text in the Wizard of OZ makes no such demands on a person.

        So, just as Lewis and Clark had serious demands laid on them with progress measured by how well they were accomplishing their objectives, the Bible, likewise, also makes serious demands on a person and the person’s progress in following those demands can likewise be measured. The analog for the Bible student, as I see it, involves real work in the real world.

        But do you ever lift your head and take a break and see if you’re actually tracking something real?

        Actually, all the time. I am not someone who is waiting to die in order to see if I am on the right track. But that said, the track I am on is a very long one (infinite and eternal, actually), so it will take just as long as it takes. But so far, I have not yet encountered anything on that path that makes me want to ditch the journey as foolish or ill-considered. So, just as Lewis and Clark persisted on their journey despite difficulties along the way, and spouses persist in working on their marriages despite difficulties along the way, and parents persist in working with their children despite difficulties along the way, I intend to keep working on my religious journey despite sometimes encountering difficulties along the way.

        I think you’ll agree that most religions are bunk.

        Actually, I think such a statement is a rather cynical take on religion. Myself, I would say that most people who are religious have sincere beliefs and have hopeful expectations. But since religious practice should be something that requires more than just a professed statement of belief, the question for anyone to ask themselves is whether or not they think they are (1) being well taught by knowledgeable, discerning, and insightful teachers and (2) whether or not they are trying their best to dig deeper on their own and to put what they are learning into practice. Every student (of any subject) should realize that one needs to do more than simply show up in the classroom in order to master a subject. Actual effort to learn needs to be made. And for those items of learning that are incorrect, they will, no doubt, be uncovered and corrected over time as a person persists in their effort to learn and to put into practice what the subject comprises.

        And what would it take for a problem to be a show stopper? Or are you saying that your belief is unfalsifiable?

        What would it have taken for Lewis and Clark to encounter a showstopper and give up? They had a mission, and they did everything that they could in order to see it through to completion. At what point do you think that they should have just given up when things got tough, frightening, or discouraging? Do you think they were fools for pushing through despite the setbacks, and persisting until they achieved their goal?

        It is rare for something worthwhile in life to just be dropped in one’s lap. Usually a lot of effort is involved, and often, the path taken can be a bit lonely. But persisting past the rough patches towards a desirable and worthy goal sounds like a pretty good approach to me.

        • Pofarmer

          “What if it actually took walking on the author’s pathway for a good long while in order to approach the author’s level of understanding? ”

          That would actually be a worthwhile exercise, though probably more uncomfortable than you think.

        • Pofarmer

          “Bob, I am not aware of any reputable Bible scholar who would say the the Bible was a practical joke, a hoax, or was an intentionally fictional story written by someone thousands of years ago strictly for popular entertainment,”

          Are you aware of the archaeological evidence, or lack thereof, surrounding the exodus, plus the historical unlike lines of it given other ongoing events?

        • ctcss

          I also don’t understand this comment. How is what you said an indication of a practical joke, a hoax, or an intentionally fictional story written for popular entertainment? Whatever Jewish authors wrote about the Exodus certainly don’t appear to be doing it as a practical joke or a hoax against their own people, nor does it seem like it was written as popular entertainment for them. So if it is not historical in nature, it would most likely be for religious instructional purposes, to help illustrate something relating to God and His people.

          Are you going for cynicism here, or do you actually believe what you are saying here?

        • Kodie

          nor does it seem like it was written as popular entertainment for them.
          So if it is not historical in nature, it would most likely be for
          religious instructional purposes, to help illustrate something relating
          to God and His people.

          What is the difference between entertainment and religious instruction, exactly? Someone made up an epic tale to draw in the audience to a particular intent. If you have ever seen any movies, ever, they are often touching and portray a struggle that was all fictional. The odds were against “god’s chosen ones” and they persevered! How is that not resembling the plot of a movie? Any Given Sunday seems about like that kind of movie, just off the top of my head.

        • ctcss

          What is the difference between entertainment and religious instruction, exactly? Someone made up an epic tale to draw in the audience to a particular intent. If you have ever seen any movies, ever, they are often touching and portray a struggle that was all fictional. The odds were against “god’s chosen ones” and they persevered! How is that not resembling the plot of a movie? Any Given Sunday seems about like that kind of movie, just off the top of my head.

          To me (and perhaps only to me) I would guess the difference between entertainment and religious instruction is the difference between reading (or listening to) a story, and learning about the things that were written about in the story. For instance, John Grisham writes legal thrillers that are very entertaining. But I doubt very seriously that any law school would have as it’s curriculum, the study of Grisham’s novels as being the equivalent of the study of law. Law students need to be familiar with the actual instruction of law in order to be able to successfully argue a case, or successfully work within the legal system. What they do needs to be a practical study, not merely an entertaining one.

          Personally, I am interested in finding out the practical side of following God. Thus, I want to learn about how to rely on God, not just be moved by stories about God. So for me, religious instruction is about focusing on that aspect.

        • Pofarmer

          It appears to be a mostly or entirely fictional account explaining how a particular people got to a particular place. At this point in history, people used Gods to explain everything.

        • ctcss

          It appears to be a mostly or entirely fictional account explaining how a particular people got to a particular place.

          Being fictional does not necessarily mean “false” or “untrue” or “inaccurate”. I’m quite certain that Jesus didn’t have to keep repeating to himself (while telling his parables to an audience) “This is all fake. This is all fake. I’m lying to them. I’m lying to them.” The point is, Jesus knew that what he was trying to convey to his listeners was true. He was trying to get them to repent (rethink, reconsider) about an area of thought they may not have explored as much as they needed to. He was trying to give them a better sense of the God they had always had as part of their culture. He seemed to want to give them a clearer concept of who and what God ought to be to them.

          So even if the Exodus story was not stenographic account of a literal history of the Jewish people, it may have been a very heartfelt attempt at trying to explain to the people why it was so important to listen to God and to be in obedience to God’s commands. If one views God as evil, then it would make a lot of sense to avoid God at all costs. But somehow I am not getting the idea that Jews viewed God as evil. Rather, they seemed to regard God as looking out for them. But when they wandered away from God and went after other gods (or simply abandoned God altogether for worldly pursuits), they seemed to run into trouble. Thus the impassioned pleas by the prophets to the Jewish people to stay on the right track for their own safety.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Does the slavery-loving genocidal maniac in the OT look like a real god or something that was the result of centuries of myth making?

        • ctcss

          Does the slavery-loving genocidal maniac in the OT look like a real god or something that was the result of centuries of myth making?

          Bob, how about it simply being the result of human ignorance of God trying to grasp what God is all about, but filling in the blanks of ignorance with the kind of stuff humans are all too familiar with, such as genocide against one’s enemies (the “others”).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It could be that, but I can’t imagine that hypothesis coming from someone who is honestly following the evidence.

          Yes, we could keep patching this leaky boat every time a new puzzle comes up, but at some point I’d have thought that you’d pull back and wonder if this is anything more than just legend and mythology.

          What does it say that the god of the OT looks exactly like a super version of the authors of those books?

        • Kodie

          As I tried to explain before, you are studying human nature. You are looking for something divine there, but really you are just choosing what you think is good and trying to copy it for your personal improvement. Good for you. You’re not any closer to knowing god or guessing what that god wants than anyone else. You are on a quest to be at peace in the world, to find the goodness in people, to be the best role model you can be without your ego interfering. Why don’t you just call it that?

          And what does that have to do with this topic? It seems like you just want a chance to justify your own existence. You interpret the bible what you call a non-mainstream way. If you suppose you’re non-mainstream (and I don’t really think that you are, in essence, very different from other Christians), what does this topic have to do with you? Every Christian interprets or has interpreted for them the bible in one way or another, and whatever they value personally is what they get from it – not the other way around. Bob is talking to the mainstream, if that’s not you, I don’t think how you personally choose to interpret the bible, if it’s radically different from that old mainstream, is not topical. You are just talking about yourself, you want to share, you want to prove that Christianity is true and worthwhile to someone other than yourself.

        • Pofarmer

          “I intend to keep working on my religious journey despite sometimes encountering difficulties along the way.”

          Then why are you even bothering to post?

        • ctcss

          I’m not sure I see the connection you’re making. Why is posting mutually exclusive with continuing on my journey?

        • Pofarmer

          If you aren’t willing to even be minimally reflective about the “journey you are on, and the materail used on that “journey” then why bother coming here to defend it? There’s nothing particularly holy or insightfull about the bible. Lot’s better books have been written on pretty much everything it touches in 2000 years.

        • ctcss

          If you aren’t willing to even be minimally reflective about the “journey you are on, and the materail used on that “journey” then why bother coming here to defend it?

          What makes you think I am not being reflective about my journey? I think about it a lot. All I am saying is that I am not put off by the Bible as a lot of other people (including you) seem to be. But I think that is because I am not trying to read it as a stenographic transcript of history. And something I wrote several years ago on Beliefnet put it this way.

          I find myself a bit surprised, especially by those who find the Bible discouraging and horrific. I certainly don’t claim to know all there is to know about the Bible, but in general, I find myself encouraged and uplifted by the book rather than discouraged by it. But even more relevant than my take on the matter, I find Jesus’ take on the Bible encouraging. He only had the OT to study, but he wasn’t discouraged or horrified by it. If he and we are basically looking at the same text but his take is positive and ours is negative, then it would seem that the difference lies in our perspectives. And if I were going to choose which perspective is the more helpful one, I would choose Jesus’ perspective.

          The point for me is, I want to understand God the way Jesus seemed to. And that would include understanding scripture the way Jesus seemed to as well. So even if you don’t wish to pursue this pathway because you don’t find the Bible to be of value, I do and I am very much interested in continuing on my journey.

          No biggie. To each their own.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I find Jesus’ take on the Bible encouraging. He only had the OT to study, but he wasn’t discouraged or horrified by it. If he and we are basically looking at the same text but his take is positive and ours is negative, then it would seem that the difference lies in our perspectives.

          Huh? It’s just legend + fiction. The author of a gospel puts his hand inside the Jesus puppet and makes him say, “By golly, the Jewish Law is darn good stuff!”

          It’s hardly surprising when the author of a gospel has Jesus praise the OT.

        • ctcss

          Huh? It’s just legend + fiction. The author of a gospel puts his hand inside the Jesus puppet and makes him say, “By golly, the Jewish Law is darn good stuff!”

          It’s hardly surprising when the author of a gospel has Jesus praise the OT.

          Bob, you’re not even trying here. If you’re going to make a case for saying such a thing, maybe you might want to find out whether Jews actually had the horrified sense of God you seem to think that they must have, or perhaps they had a different take altogether on how their scriptures were meant to be viewed?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I agree! We’re repulsed by the genocide, slavery, and other bad stuff from the Creator, but the Jews of the first century might’ve had no trouble with that. I don’t know what made you think that I thought anything else.

          The shock comes from modern sensibilities. And that shock is justified (what a modern person would obviously say, admittedly).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          (Wait–did I reply to the correct comment? I don’t think so. Let’s try again.)

          What if it still didn’t make sense to you in that pristine state? What if it actually took walking on the author’s pathway for a good long while in order to approach the author’s level of understanding?

          You’re focused on the details. I’m focused on the step before that: how do we know we’re even on the right road?

          If you have such proof, please bring it forward. Being skeptical about things is fine, but playing the cynicism card doesn’t help anyone.

          I never suggested I had truth. I’m simply zooming out to a wider view and questioning your certainty that you’re on a journey with something real at the end.

          You don’t like Wizard of Oz? Take a baseball fanatic—they know lots of trivia, just like a Bible scholar. Why is the Christian seeker on any more noble path than that of the baseball fanatic?

          Bob, saying something like this makes me think you are just trying to be deliberately obtuse. You’re obviously intelligent. But unless you are going to persist on your “hoax” theory, you should realize that the purpose of The Wizard of OZ and the purpose of the Bible are very much different.

          Thought experiment, dude. Relax. Tell you what: when I actually propose hoax for real, I’ll scream that fact out to you, OK?

          You seem to be blithely on a journey for which you’ve provided no justification. If that’s how you roll, that’s fine. I’m just encouraging you to share your reasons for being convinced that this is for real.

          The analog fo r the Bible student, as I see it, involves real work in the real world.

          This is your belief. I’m asking for justification.

          “I think you’ll agree that most religions are bunk.”

          Actually, I think such a statement is a rather cynical take on religion. Myself, I would say that most people who are religious have sincere beliefs and have hopeful expectations.

          You’re a tough guy to please. Must I submit questions in triplicate?

          Yes, they’re sincere. No one cares about that. They could still be deluded; that’s what we’re talking about.

          the question for anyone to ask themselves is whether or not they think they are (1) being well taught by knowledgeable, discerning, and insightful teachers and (2) whether or not they are trying their best to dig deeper on their own and to put what they are learning into practice.

          ??

          The devoted Scientology students could have insightful teachers and be trying their best. Still, some spiritual journeys are idiotic. I would hope that these students pause and think if they’re on a reasonable path. Top of my head: no, they’re not.

          What would it have taken for Lewis and Clark to encounter a showstopper and give up? They had a mission, and they did everything that they could in order to see it through to completion.

          Huh?? Lewis and Clark had a tangible mission. It shares only the barest similarities with a spiritual journey.

          Lewis and Clark never looked down and wondered if they were deluding themselves about the river or path beneath their feet. Yep, it’s really there. The spiritual traveler, however, could quite easily be deluding himself. Millions have.

        • ctcss

          how do we know we’re even on the right road?

          Bob, haven’t you ever looked down a road, saw an intriguing vista, and wanted to see what was down that road? Granted, it’s nice to have all the information one might desire beforehand, but sometimes one doesn’t have that luxury. Daniel Boone went out looking for the Cumberland Gap. He didn’t have AAA to guide him. Hudson (and others) went out looking for the Northwest Passage. They had no GPS to tell them where they were. Lewis and Clark went out to explore a vast region that never been mapped out and explored by Europeans before, despite it having been claimed by them.

          Some people are willing to pursue paths that most other people are content to stay away from. But those people are generally ones that have a reason to go looking in the first place. They are seeking something that will make a difference in their lives. They are not content to say where they currently are. You seem to be the kind that is content to stay where you currently are. But I am guessing that is because you feel your needs are being met right where you are now. Cool. To each their own,

          I’m simply zooming out to a wider view and questioning your certainty that you’re on a journey with something real at the end.

          Mostly because I have other testimony that strongly suggests that there is. And because of (what I regard as) the strength of that testimony, I want to journey on that path myself. I am certain enough that there is a “there” there to want to commit myself to it. It’s really that simple.

          Why is the Christian seeker on any more noble path than that of the baseball fanatic?

          I’d say it’s because the (conceptual) expanse covered by God is much more encompassing than the expanse covered by MLB. Baseball is a fine sport, but it doesn’t answer all human questions and needs. Conceptually speaking, God does.

          I’m just encouraging you to share your reasons for being convinced that this is for real.

          I think I have done that before on this blog, at least in passing. But what I am engaged in is not unknown to any number of people out there. And the vast majority have decided to pass on exploring it themselves. So the only people who require convincing are the ones who are interested in the journey themselves. (Which is, to say, they don’t very much like where they are currently, thus their desire to journey elsewhere.) The ones who think the journey is worthwhile, go. The ones who don’t, don’t go.

          some spiritual journeys are idiotic. I would hope that these students pause and think if they’re on a reasonable path. Top of my head: no, they’re not.

          Bob, which spiritual journeys do you think are not idiotic? And I agree with you that it is wise to pause and ask whether or not one is on a reasonable path. But please note, just because a path may be difficult does not mean that it is unreasonable. If “easy” was the only qualifier for when a path is judged to be reasonable, then the Olympic games would be composed of tiddlywinks and chair-sitting.

          Some paths simply require rather major effort.

          And BTW, please realize that not every issue can be resolved off the top of one’s head. Some things require a lot of study and experience before a fair judgment can be arrived at. Armchair critiques are not in a position to offer a whole lot of value for everything that comes up.

          Lewis and Clark never looked down and wondered if they were deluding themselves about the river or path beneath their feet. Yep, it’s really there. The spiritual traveler, however, could quite easily be deluding himself.

          And I don’t spend a lot of time questioning my surroundings either. But it takes actual effort and mental discipline to pursue a religious pathway because it usually involves changing both thought and behavior. For instance (once again) trying to live up to the demands made in the Sermon on the Mount are non-trivial. I don’t think most people would have a problem identifying who their enemies were. Their problem would most likely be in learning how to love them.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Bob, haven’t you ever looked down a road, saw an intriguing vista, and wanted to see what was down that road?

          Sure. However, I’ve never been on a road and wondered if it actually were a road and then decided to take it anyway.

          Daniel Boone went out looking for the Cumberland Gap. He didn’t have AAA to guide him.

          And let me repeat yet again, this analogy is poor. Boone actually was on land. He actually could go west. Maybe he’d get somewhere good or somewhere bad, but he was on real land. That fundamental question is unanswered in your case.

          What do you think of the Scientologist or follower of [fill in the blank with a religion that you think is bogus]? When they talk with passion about their journey, I’d think that it’s just mental masturbation.

          Maybe years in the future they’ll abandon their search. Like any research, those years weren’t 100% wasted—they’ve at least learned what’s not correct. And maybe their research skills are more practiced. But the journey uncovered zero spiritual truths.

          Mostly because I have other testimony that strongly suggests that there is. And because of (what I regard as) the strength of that testimony, I want to journey on that path myself.

          Hang out with Hindus or Muslims or Mormons or Scientologists, and you’ll get lots of other testimony. What I hear you saying is that this is just how you were raised, or you’re just a product of your environment. Is that it?

          Baseball is a fine sport, but it doesn’t answer all human questions and needs. Conceptually speaking, God does.

          You mean: Christianity claims that it does. That’s a bold claim.

          You might say that your journey to date has validated your initial faith. But I bet you’d have said that regardless of the road you took.

          Lots of atheists have walked your path and belatedly realized that there was no there there.

        • ctcss

          I’ve never been on a road and wondered if it actually were a road and then decided to take it anyway.

          Boone actually was on land. He actually could go west. Maybe he’d get somewhere good or somewhere bad, but he was on real land. That fundamental question is unanswered in your case.

          Bob, you keep bringing up this point and I am always mystified by it. Could you clarify what you mean regarding my posts when you use “road” and “land” in this instance? (i.e. what “otherworldly” term or phrase am I using that you think your chosen words are the logical (but mundane and solid) substitution for?)

          Just to make my points clear:

          1. I live in the same world you do.

          2. I’m quite sure I see the same sorts of things you see.

          3. When faced with dilemmas, I (like you) try to make a reasoned choice about what to do. However, my reasoning is simply based on different premises (and experiences) than your reasoning is.

          To illustrate it another way (one which neither of us is likely to personally experience), women can have a natural childbirth, or they can choose to use an epidural for pain relief. Both choices are rational choices in that reason is used to choose them. The person who is using chemical pain relief is relying on that method for succor. They don’t have to think about it. What occurs is mindless. They’re letting the chemistry do its thing. OTOH the person who is doing natural child birth may be using breathing exercises or meditation or something else, but the likely thrust behind their method is a conscious mental effort they are engaging in. It is not mindless.

          Guess what approach is used when consciously following a religious path? (Hint: It requires active thought.) So when you are slamming a religious pathway as not being there in the same way a road is there, you are slamming a thought process, which just makes you come across as ignorant. (And I know that you are not.) Thought processes are real, they’re just not the same thing as stone or concrete. But without those very real thought processes, we would be mindless creatures incapable of achieving anything other than perhaps eating, excreting, and reproducing. We wouldn’t be able to achieve anything greater without the ability to think and reason. And when people use thought processes to achieve a real end, I fail to see any logical/practical distinction between walking on a physical path to reach a desired destination and traveling a mental one to reach a different sort of desired destination. Both ways are important, but for some reason, you seem to think that thought processes rank below physical processes. I find that to be very odd.

          What I hear you saying is that this is just how you were raised, or you’re just a product of your environment. Is that it?

          Nope. I’m saying that I (and many others I know of personally, and otherwise) have found this approach to be helpful. Helpful enough to make this their first resort in times of need. If other people in other faiths find their religious practices helpful in the same way, more power to them. However (with regard to making informed choices), I don’t need to divorce my wife and choose another one because someone else says to, or questions my choice in spouses. Ditto for my choice of what to believe (or not.) I think I can tell whether something is helpful or not. I assume you can too. So let’s not disparage each other’s methods. You really don’t know what it is that I do, and I am not all that familiar with what you do. But I am sure we both do what we do in order to achieve practical ends for ourselves.

          You might say that your journey to date has validated your initial faith. But I bet you’d have said that regardless of the road you took.

          And that’s probably why Daniel Fincke says that he is still an evangelical Christian, right? Because it is obvious his journey so far has validated his initial faith. (/sarcasm)

          Bob, that’s rather patronizing and insulting. You appear to be saying that if someone chooses atheism, they are obviously intelligent. But if someone else chooses to stay with their religion, they could only be doing it for foolish reasons. And for the record, Dan dumped his religious beliefs while in his early 20’s. I’m 62. And while he has definitely thought long and hard about his faith and decided to leave it, I have also thought long and hard about my faith and decided to stay with it.

          Why the two different paths? I would guess it was because Dan had negative experiences on his path and could no longer justify staying with it. (An entirely honest and reasonable decision on his part, given his rough path.) In my case I had a mix of experiences. But despite having a mix, I realized that I couldn’t honestly deny the helpfulness and solidity of the positive experiences I had, so it was a question of either dumping everything (and thus favoring only the negative experiences), or making the choice to apply myself more wholeheartedly to something that I had often only gave lip service to. Because if there was anything I was sure of (other than having both positive and negative experiences), it was the fact that I was lazy in my efforts. (This was a trend in all parts of my life, not just religion.) And since I cognizant of many other positive experiences by people I knew (both in my familiy and outside of it), to simply dump my religion would be me being lazy yet again. So I persisted. And here I am decades later having become far more confident for making that effort.

          Lots of atheists have walked your path and belatedly realized that there was no there there.

          I’m quite sure they have walked a number of paths, perhaps even mine, but I have not heard of very many walking mine, and I doubt that many have. I say that with some measure of confidence because even most religious people don’t feel comfortable walking mine. It’s not something a person should (or would) approach lightly or half-heartedly. But as to whether or not there is a “there” there, well, only those who attempt the journey are going to find out.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Bob, you keep bringing up this point and I am always mystified by it.

          Dan’l Boone was on land. He never looked down and wondered if his eyes were reliably reporting land beneath his feet.

          By contrast, the spiritual seeker must wonder if his spiritual quest is based on absolutely nothing—if the “journey” would be a waste of time.

          3. When faced with dilemmas, I (like you) try to make a reasoned choice about what to do. However, my reasoning is simply based on different premises (and experiences) than your reasoning is.

          Further, we can point to many people on bogus spiritual quests. You’re on a spiritual quest and I’m not—that’s the difference. I wonder whether yours is as bogus as those other poor fellows’.

          you are slamming a thought process, which just makes you come across as ignorant.

          What I’m slamming is a spiritual “quest” that is based on wishful thinking. No there there. Mental masturbation. (You see my point, I assume.)

          Thought processes are real, they’re just not the same thing as stone or concrete.

          And the thought processes that Conan Doyle went through when he was sucked into the fairy business were real, too. They were just wasted.

          Maybe all you’re saying is that any cerebral journey has value. Is that it?

          I don’t need to divorc e my wife and choose another one because someone else says to, or questions my choice in spouses. Ditto for my choice of what to believe (or not.)

          Those are two quite different things.

          You appear to be saying that if someone chooses atheism, they are obviously intelligent.

          No. Someone smart who lives in an environment suffused with some false religion can be excused for adopting that religion.

        • MNb

          “You really don’t know what it is that I do”
          Then tell us. Which methods do you use? Induction? Impossible. Deductin? Not enough on its own. Faith? We reject it. Do you have something else? I’d be eager to learn.

          “You appear to be saying that if someone chooses atheism, they are obviously intelligent. But if someone else chooses to stay with their religion, they could only be doing it for foolish reasons.”
          You appear to be saying that intelligent people never accept foolish reasons. That’s quite an overestimation.
          You may be more intelligent than I am as far as I know, but your analogy “spiritual journey” is like “Daniel Boone’s:” journey is false, because DB could empirically observe and you can’t.

        • MNb

          “those people are generally ones that have a reason to go looking in the first place.”
          Yes. When I look into the same direction as you I only see a void, while Boone, Hudson, Lewis and Clark at least saw something. If I look into the exact opposite direction I see something too: the promise of knowledge and understanding. That’s the reason I look into that direction. I expect it to make a difference indeed, like it made a difference to me in the past.
          That’s basically where your assumption is wrong: I’m not just content at staying where I am. I started out as an agnost and dualist; now I’m a hardcore atheist and materialist.

          “it’s because the (conceptual) expanse covered by God is much more encompassing than …”
          “Conceptually speaking, God does.”
          How can you say this given your limited inaccurate and inadequate human mental framework?

          “Which is, to say, they don’t very much like where they are currently, thus their desire to journey elsewhere.”
          Weird attitude. I have always liked where I was, until someone (it might even have been myself, but I’m not that smart) provided me with a reason to think it less attractive. Then I moved on. It never was the other way round.
          It’s a very enjoyable road I walk. It was even more enjoyable to observe that my atheist son begun his walk at a point I needed 10 years to arrive at.

        • ctcss

          Yes. When I look into the same direction as you I only see a void, while Boone, Hudson, Lewis and Clark at least saw something. If I look into the exact opposite direction I see something too: the promise of knowledge and understanding. That’s the reason I look into that direction. I expect it to make a difference indeed, like it made a difference to me in the past.
          That’s basically where your assumption is wrong: I’m not content at staying where I am. I started out as an agnost and dualist; now I’m a hardcore atheist and materialist.

          Boone, Hudson, Lewis and Clark didn’t see something. They went looking for something. If they had already seen it, there would have been no reason to leave it and go somewhere else. For whatever reason, you “look” in (what you think to be) my direction and see a void. I “look” in that direction and see something I want to find out more about. You, likewise, are also seeing something in your direction you want to find out more about. I, for my own reasons, may not necessarily want to This is what people do. They travel where their interest takes them. Or, in Bible terms, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

          Weird attitude. I have always liked where I was, until someone (it might even have been myself, but I’m not that smart) provided me with a reason to think it less attractive. Then I moved on. It never was the other way round.

          That’s exactly what I was getting at. People are content to stay where they are until they find a reason not to be content. Then they want to go elsewhere.

        • MNb

          “Boone, Hudson, Lewis and Clark didn’t see something.”
          Oh? They traveled all the way with their eyes closed? They didn’t see mountains at the horizon? A blue sky? Trees in front of them?
          Tell me – had they stopped up their ears too?

          “I “look” in that direction and see something I want to find out more about.”
          But now you are seeing something, while Boone etc. didn’t! You don’t know anymore what you’re arguing for, so it seems. Well, that happens when an analogy falls apart.
          Tell me – what are you seeing? Mountains? A blue sky? Trees in front of you? Which organs of sense do you use?

          “That’s exactly what I was getting at.”
          Thanks for confirming that your attitude is not the prerogative of spiritual people like you – because I can assure you that my journey was anything but spiritual. That point of yours is shown to be irrelevant as well.

        • MNb

          “The Wizard of OZ is simply telling a fanciful tale. The Bible tries to instruct and direct behavior.”
          How do you know The Wizard of Oz doesn’t try that? If we take another example, the Harry Potter series, it’s in fact easy to maintain that it does try, because Rowling has reflected on its morality more than once.
          So BobS’ questions are relevant, not just cynical.

          “But persisting past the rough patches towards a desirable and worthy goal sounds like a pretty good approach to me.”
          Agreed. The Sermon of the Mount and some other stuff has convinced me that imitating Jesus is not a desirable and worthy goal – at least not in the 21st Century.
          I think higher of Franciscus of Assisi for instance.

    • Kodie

      Although what you are bringing out here is somewhat interesting, you
      seem to be missing the point of what the Bible is for, IMO. It is not an
      idol to be worshiped. It is also not a puzzle left behind by God to
      confuse or worry people.

      You seem to be misunderstanding how the bible is commonly used, IMO. If you have a criticism to make, it’s for (mainstream) Christians.

      • ctcss

        Just because something is commonly used in a particular way does not mean it is being used correctly. So, yes, I am criticizing the less-than-helpful use of the Bible by people of whatever stripe. But that complaint can also be applied to me. Basically, everyone needs to figure out how they are going to approach the study of the Bible and then see how that method works for them over time. And if they find what they are doing is not helpful, they can always change their approach, hopefully for a more productive one.

        • Kodie

          The way you describe your relationship to the bible is something more like a fan than a devoted follower. Hey, I didn’t like the book. What’s your problem with that? Surely, you can see there’s a lot of problems with it, so why use it anyway? You sound like someone who really liked a movie because your favorite actor was good in it, but you can ignore how much the plot stunk just to admire this actor at his craft. Then when someone says they didn’t like the plot, the story was terrible, the message was directionless, it didn’t have a lot going for it. Sure the actor was good, but I’d rather see him in that other movie that was actually good. You are defending a bad movie.

          You admit there are problems with the bible, and that’s not a good enough reason to disbelieve? To recognize its many flaws and still claim it has enough value to structure your life on it is probably the worst reason to believe it. Bob’s blog mainly doesn’t concern itself with how to use the bible, it’s instructive mainly towards the kinds of people who use it the way you don’t. So I think your criticism of Bob’s analysis is off-base. It’s not what Bob thinks, it’s what he thinks in opposition to a lot of Christians who think that it is a code book with secrets to puzzle out. You go on and do your own thing, but you do seem to be in a heap of denial to me. Your beliefs sound like excuses to ignore what’s wrong with the bible because if you sift through it and don’t think at all, at least the parts you think are true, in essence, make a lot of sense to you. If that isn’t twisting what it means to be a Christian past the point of “why bother?” I don’t know what is. You’re wringing the bible for a drop of truth. Nobody said the whole thing didn’t relate to the human story at all, in any way. The part where Jesus rises from the dead and saves your soul today if you just ask him, AND NOTHING ELSE, is ridiculous enough reason to ignore it as a source of personal meaning.

        • ctcss

          Kodie, you seem to have a very different take on this stuff than I do. I make the assumption that, as a limited and flawed human (not in a “I’m a sinner” way, but in the simple way which realizes that limited humans can and do mess up), I will only be able to go forward as I learn more. And that learning will take as long as it takes. Which is OK, I have no deadlines built into my theology.

          Look, you apparently don’t like the Bible. I do. You think it is mostly (or entirely) useless. I find it to be quite useful. You think you know enough to reject what you think the Bible is saying. I am trying to understand what it is that God was saying to the characters in the Bible narratives because I feel that those things will apply to me as well. You appear to be viewing Jesus in a mainstream Christian way and reject both Jesus and that view. I was taught to view Jesus rather differently from the mainstream Christian way and am quite comfortable with the view I was taught. I am looking at things very differently than you are. Probably high up on the list is that I am not viewing the Bible as a stenographic transcript meant to be taken literally. Thus, I am probably not even looking at the same areas and focusing on the same questions you have in mind. That’s probably why my approach makes no sense to you. No biggie. To each his own.

        • Kodie

          It is really hard to tell from what you write if you even believe there’s a god or just regard the bible as a useful life improvement study guide. Obviously, if you believe there’s a god, the Christian god, you’re going to refer to the bible as a way to learn what he wants from you or his opinion on certain matters. But almost as obviously, it’s written by humans and it’s really a book about their opinions. As a book written by humans, it is one among many that weigh in on human psychology and morality, both fiction and non-fiction. It is, as I understand it, a window into the human experience in a certain time period, and being written from many voices, must have some interesting (not to mention contradictory) perspectives. To me, that’s fine, if that’s what people like to read. If people just read modern authors, and threw the bible onto the heap, I think it would probably be a loss for our culture.

          But. The way you regard it is very weird to me. It’s not just your favorite book. If the whole world regarded the bible as a work of fiction and legend, I can believe it would still be some people’s favorite book. You don’t have to read the whole thing to like parts of it, and it’s not like you have to read it from the beginning to understand something from the middle. Short chapters. Don’t be mad, but it seems like a good fit for reading on the toilet, and that doesn’t mean because it’s bad.

          What’s weird about it is, you regard the bible as a way to know god. You know it has flaws. You know parts of it are in direct contradiction to reality. That doesn’t deter you, because you believe at the heart of this book is an author who is also a deity, rather than the voices of dozens of people telling stories, and many that are generally relatable to people as fiction often is, why people love books and storytelling and reading. Why does this book tell you more than any other book? Because, at the root of it all, you still think there’s a magical creator that tells people things in their head so they can write it down.

          You sound like you’re extremely interested in the human experience and that’s great. That’s what you’re getting from the bible, except you think it applies to living more than any other work of fiction or non-fiction that is available to you. But don’t you think it’s kind of arrogant for you to tell Bob he’s reading it wrong? The bible is a book that serves every purpose, and many, many people are reading it for clues and history. The core of religion is that every human is an eternal epic inside a mega-epic of human history, and not merely an animal with hunger and sexual urges, or a temporary, unremarkable existence that ends and what for.

          And you are basically reading into it what you want to get out of it, which is what all Christians do in one way or another. If it can be twisted and interpreted for every purpose that any Christian can use it for, they will read it for their own purposes and pleasure. That’s just the kind of book it is. Because people take it literally there’s a god, of course what god says and what god wants will be derived from that book according to its reader’s agreement, and easily disregard or handwave parts that are disagreeable or contradictory. In essence, you’re a cherry-picker, not so different from those others. It’s interesting to me how you like to find clues while reading the bible, but your curiosity does not extend to your contemporaries who apply it differently and their human behavior and experience. You think there’s a deity and you read the bible with that in mind. So?

        • hector_jones

          How do you know that your way of interpreting the bible is the correct way?

    • Pofarmer

      I’ve been on the journey, it’s over rated, I’ll pass,.

    • wtfwjtd

      You do make a few points that are definitely worth consideration:

      “It is not a stenographic transcript of history, even of religious history.”

      I totally agree, as a collection of ancient tales and anecdotes it tells some amusing stories, but it’s certainly not useful for studying actual ancient history or events.

      …”there may be mistakes or omissions.”

      Once again, absolutely, the bible as a whole is filled with mistakes, omissions, and contradictions. Because of this, it’s certainly ridiculous to consider it “divinely inspired”, just written by fallible men like ourselves, trying to relate to their world just as we would.

      “questions about the texts is not a show-stopper for us.”

      For sure, just read and enjoy the bible for what it is–an ancient collection of religious stories, written in another time and another place, for our amusement and entertainment. It would certainly be ridiculous to take it literally or seriously, as it’s only meant to inform us of how the ancients tried to relate to their world in a pre-scientific, primitive culture.

    • Norm Donnan

      Hooray,someone who gets it.
      In Rick Joyners latest book The Path,he portrays the spiritual journey so well,but it wont make sense if you dont recognise that you are on a journey in life in the first place.
      One of the main reasons I carnt wait to get to heaven (and no its not a depresive,suicidal thought) is to see and understand things that we are unable to comprehend at this point on the journey of life.
      So look down people,there is a path beneath your feet.If you do see it,and its wide and straight,look around for the narrow,rocky,uphill one and take that one.The destination is so much better.
      What I do recognize is with blogs such as this,whilst you are in denial of the truth,you are on a path searching,but your looking in the wrong direction.

      • Kodie

        That is just a part of the lie that Christians tell themselves while they keep spinning in place. You want to believe something so moronic, you have to make it have a purpose in the end. Good luck, when you die, you won’t know you never found out what you wondered your whole life to learn, and spent all your life climbing uphill to gain a reward. Ha ha.

        • Norm Donnan

          Trouble is Kodes when you die and the spiritual blinders fall off,its then you will realize what you failed ,your whole life to comprehend.That doesnt make me feel glad at all,even for you.

        • hector_jones

          What about when you die and the spiritual blinders fall off and you realize you should have been a muslim? You are in for one hell of a surprise.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Not Muslim–Mormon! Didn’t you see that episode of South Park?

          http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=123_1190395606

        • Kodie

          Horse manure still isn’t chocolate ice cream, no matter what you wish were true.

        • Greg G.

          Keep it simple. Start by explaining Shinola.

        • busterggi

          Just go to YouTube and watch the clip from Steve Martin’s ‘The Jerk’.

        • Greg G.

          You were reading my mind. I was thinking of that scene when I posted.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Ah, more empty dogma. That’s helpful, thanks.

        • MNb

          “you will realize what you failed”
          Well no, countless christians have extensively told me. I pass. For one thing I don’t want to run the risk to spend eternity with bigots like you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          And they can’t simply celebrate how fabulous it’ll be giving Jesus back rubs in heaven. They must also tear everyone else down. They say, “And you’ll be sorry! You’ll see! You’ll see that I was right all along, and you’ll have eternity to repent and wonder, ‘Why didn’t I listen to old Norm?'”

        • Kodie

          and you’ll have eternity to repent and wonder, ‘Why didn’t I listen to old Norm?'”

          Don’t forget that Norm conveniently avoids talking about things worth listening to. He knows we would not believe his evidence or testimony, so it is wasted, and I would agree, he is right, there, probably. If he believes that atheists are wearing blinders and unavailable to receive his message, whereas he knows the type who is stupid enough to convert, and he will talk to them, and they will believe him. He doesn’t think we are smarter than he is, he believes (because he’s been told yet another lie about atheists that Christians can confirm only by speaking to us) that atheists have a dark character that is blocking the wonderful signal. We won’t hear it because we’re stubborn, so he doesn’t bother. Yet, he continues to entice us to his beliefs by hating atheists and thinking wrong things, and then threatening us. That’s so beautiful, isn’t it? All that, by itself, is plenty to wonder what’s behind the curtain, so I can behave like such an asshole as Norm.

      • smrnda

        I’m on a path in life. It’s one in which the direction is, more or less, up to me, but also largely a product of random circumstances. God or gods seem totally irrelevant to my life, or anyone’s life.

        Life isn’t much of a mystery to me; there are things I don’t understand like say, physics (it’s an area I never really explored) but life seems pretty simple and uncomplicated. People don’t like being treated like garbage, and that pretty much sums it up as far as I can tell. Religions just add a bunch of unnecessary nonsense. I feel that the role of religion is pretty well understood – it’s easily explainable without anything supernatural being needed at all.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          People don’t like being treated like garbage

          Quite earthy, but no more true when rearranged into more flowery language. I don’t know that the Bible has anything to top that in terms of usefulness (and it has plenty of very bad advice on the other side of the scale).

        • Greg G.

          “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn.” –Rabbi Hillel, Pharisee, first century BC

        • Norm Donnan

          Yep your pretty well right here,a lot of people get through life just like you describe and yes there is a lot about religion that is a bunch of nonsense.
          Truth is though there is a spiritual realm that you can generally ignore and there will come a time in your life when you will have to deal with it,like it or not.

        • Greg G.

          You should mention what religious perspective you are speaking from because what you posted could have been posted by any believer of any faith. Other believers have the same internal feedback that you have, such as confirmation bias, so it cannot be a reliable form of evidence. What shows that your beliefs are more accurate than a Muslim, a Hindu, a Buddhist, or a Sikh?

        • MNb

          My guess: Norm has a sciencey wife whom he can rely on.

        • Norm Donnan

          What I do know Greg is that we all have our biased understanding,me included.We are all influenced by our culture and upbringing what ever that is in this point in history.
          I also know God judges the heart of man,all of us.
          While I do believe that no person will enter heaven except through Jesus,what that actually means is where I personally would clash with some other Christians.
          The general belief among evangelical Christians is that you need to say the sinners prayer of confession.Whilst I believe that is true,what that means and how it is done is what Im flexable on because I know God to be loving and just.
          So where does that leave those in other religions and cultures who have no hope of hearing about the saveing grace of Jesus?
          In the hand of a rightious and loving God thats where.
          Now this could be a fearful thing or an amazing thing,it all depends on the condition of your heart.
          In the west where people have acess to infomation and freedom of religion I would be fearful,
          On the other hand at earlier times in history,primative cultures and now in controlled countries I think the Grace of God will abound.
          What I see going on around blogs like this is mere men,with an extreamly limited understanding of the spiritual realm and God Himself to the point of denial, having the audasity to be saying,”If God exists He should do things like I think He should”.
          It doesnt work that way ,He’s God ,your not and one day when you stand before Him you will start to see the big picture and know you can trust Him.

        • hector_jones

          It doesnt work that way ,He’s God ,your not and one day when you stand before Him you will start to see the big picture and know you can trust Him.

          It doesn’t work that way because God’s not there, or because he’s not all-powerful, or because he’s not all-good. If you want to posit that there is some unknowable reason for why god acts this way (god works in mysterious ways yada yada) then you need to stop claiming you know god, because you obviously do not know what you cannot know.

          Earlier you said when we stand before him it will be too late and we’ll wish we had had faith. Now you say we’ll know we can trust him. So which is it? Trust him to send us to hell? That’s not what I call trust.

          Lord help me, why do I waste my time on you Norm? You are obviously a religious lunatic. I should really just go back to reading your comments for the comic relief unworthy of a response. Enjoy the hell that is your mind.

        • Kodie

          So every time you tell someone about Jesus and you happen to meet someone who has never heard of Jesus before, you are actually taking a chance that you are cursing them to hell? I am telling you this because you don’t have the most credible pitch.

        • wtfwjtd

          ” a rightious {sic} and loving God”

          We must be reading different bibles Norm, the Christian god is demonstrateably neither of these things as shown in this bible. He’s more like a psychopathic lunatic who enjoys killing and sowing confusion.

        • Greg G.

          I’ve been there Norm. I understand the feelings. Your testimonial is just like those from Muslims. Just change about half of the theological verbiage. There should be an enormous difference a fake religion and the one true religion. The difference should be like night and day.

        • Norm Donnan

          No not at all,even Satanism and witchcraft should be the opposite of Christianity but use a lot of the same principals.

        • Greg G.

          Now I’m sorry I didn’t use those examples. Prayers and spells are not that different from one another or from superstition. All come from confirmation bias. If one had real power, there would be no need to remember a similar coincidence as a hit while offering excuses like “mysterious ways”, ” it hasn’t happened YET”, and “sometimes the answer is no” for all the misses.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yeah, I know God exists. Problem is, I’m just too wedded to my hedonistic lifestyle. Oh yeah–and I’m too proud to bend my knee to the creator of the universe.

        • Kodie

          Where is the spiritual realm? Why do you say “truth is” when you are merely speculating and don’t actually know? If you do know, why don’t you tell us all about it? Also, I would like you to state your purpose here. Why are you hanging around and what do you hope to accomplish?

        • hector_jones

          I’ve been wondering the same thing. What itch does Norm have that gets scratched by coming in here and preaching to us the same old same old and peppering his dogma with threats of hell?

        • Greg G.

          He might have a nagging doubt that he wishes to get rid of. By arguing against it, he hopes to dissuade. If not then he is a good object lesson for others who are questioning and checking out opposing arguments. I’m trying to show that doubt is a better path to truth than faith.

        • MNb

          Oh yes, nothing better than debating a creacrapper if you need a crashcourse in logical fallacies.

        • Norm Donnan

          See above.
          Doubt is a better path than faith,youve got to be friggn joking.
          Thats like saying sarcasm is better than kindness.

        • Greg G.

          No, it’s that accepting reality is better guide to truth than make believe.

          When you think you have the truth, you stop looking. If you happen to be wrong, you’ll never know the truth. If you doubt, you’ll keep coming back to where the evidence leads.

        • Norm Donnan

          How sad.To most people that would lead to an insecurity complex Ide say.For me God continually reafirms my faith,there is no doubt,even following atheist blogs for a few years has only affirmed my faith.

        • Kodie

          Here is an example of the Christian arrogance. You would feel so lost without god and yet he doesn’t exist. You think we’re missing something you would lack, you’re just insecure. You have come here with a bias against atheist, it is sour grapes. It affirms your faith because you aren’t listening to us, you are confirming your bias because it’s what you were taught. You see things that aren’t there, everywhere, even on an atheist blog.

        • MNb

          “To most people that would lead to an insecurity complex Ide say.”
          What you say is so often wrong that you safely can assume you’re wrong here too.
          For instance Greg G describes how all scientists work. But of course you’re anti-science too.

        • Greg G.

          We live in a complex society where we hwve eliminated many life-shortening risks, at least more than have been added. We should expect a confluence of beneficial events working in our favor now and then. If you take those as blessings from God, you will have your faith shored up by false attributions. If believers were actually being blessed, there should be an significant and obvious disparity between the followers of the one true religion and those who don’t follow it. They should recover from diseases that kill everybody else. The believers just pretend.

          Feng shui is a big superstition in Asian cultures. They do things that are supposed to bring wealth. Their beliefs are fervent. Every time they get an extra yen or yuan, it affirms their belief. If it worked, they would all be rich. Their faith is affirmed the same way yours is, by confirmation bias.

        • Pofarmer

          What lead to the dramatic decrease in both infant and maternal mortality in the 20th century? Science. Why, when the world was the most religious, was it so prevalent? Why did disease kill so many? Why did the Church initially stand in the way of vaccination and many beneficial advances and technologies? This alone, to me, puts the lie to religious claims.

        • Kodie

          People are just egocentric. “God” keeps them in their place. Anything can happen. The thing I get from theists is a lot that the earth is a perilous place. God made it perfect and then it was ruined. News on the TV is always bad somewhere. In industrialized countries, most of us behave as taking comfort for granted day after day, and as nothing bad can happen to us, and then god grabs us by the throat and gives someone cancer or sends a tornado. “I heard about this happening, but I never thought it could happen to me.”

          Even though we have passed some dangers for the most part, they still exist in other impoverished places. Every instance of a school shooting or hurricane or swine flu keeps people on edge. To say there is a scientific solution for everything is maybe going too far, and in daily life, doesn’t apply – I mean, where people think scientific explanations are bare and clinical and their emotional response is the first response. When something bad happens to someone else in another state, we get to imagine that happening to us. We could be this close to this whole rather comfortable experience backsliding to where everyone is hungry, and some mysterious new illness spreads and kills epidemically.

          The response makes us (as a group) think and do stupid things. Clinging to religion is only one of them. It is like the soul is a fragile piece of paper, and we think of paper in many uses, mostly disposable, but some of our most precious relics are written records on paper, and some of the most valuable antiques are made of paper, many irreplaceable items about each of us are original certifications or photos on paper. The game of life for these people is to get to the other end of your life with your paper ticket to heaven intact. May be why children are automatically in – they haven’t been jaded enough to destroy their paper.

          Obviously, as humans have overcome, through science, many obstacles and hardships, we continue to suffer other problems that won’t go away permanently, and are constantly reminded that it could be worse, “there but for the grace of god go I” etc. The world can be a dangerous place, and I see people taking risks either consciously or unknowingly, all the time. I mentioned before the pedestrians who cross the street in the dark – the egotistical perspective that they can see me coming in my car, so they know they have enough time. Without taking concern for me and scaring me that I might not have stopped in time, they go along their merry way, and had they been hit, it would all be my fault. This is how comfortable people are with the dangerous world – a car is coming and I need to dodge it rather than wait. It is one thing they have control over, and accidents usually don’t happen no matter what dangerous things people do. The rest of us are watching out for them almost all the time.

          And every time they live is because god lets them live. All of life is because god makes life. He demonstrates that he can take it away, and the 99.999% of your life that you escape with your life (even if severely injured) is god granting you the continued privilege of living. This is because people are egotistical and think the whole world is about them all the time.

          That’s where religious beliefs persist. That’s what I hear most in the thoughts shared by theists about what god is like, and why he’s good. Life is great, the earth is a terrible place to live, and god could strike you down any minute but he mostly doesn’t.

          People who die are angels, people who don’t die (yet) are especially blessed, nobody loses if they’re in the framework of god. I notice they never worry about the souls of people who die in large, newsworthy incidents. They worry about you and me because we still have time and yet are stubborn and blind. They don’t seem to be all that worried about the souls of people who just ran out of time, since they also assume there are no atheists in foxholes (or other life-threatening situations), and so of course, if they hadn’t already, turned to Jesus in their last moments. If that’s ok with them, I think they could just leave us alone instead of threaten us.

          It’s because they’re pawns. They don’t just get a special place in heaven, they get special attention at church for bringing new people to Christ, to pay their tithes.

        • Pofarmer

          Actually Norm, it leads to the exact opposite of an insecurity complex. Deeply religious people that I know are also some of the most insecure. Why? They don’t know who THEY are. Their lives are shrouded in this cloud of religious bullshit to the point they don’t know what they are responsible for and what they aren’t. “Give it up to God” is the most deleterious phrase that I can think of. It’s saying, I have no power, no mind, no consciousness worth worrying about, so I’ll just count on something unseen and unknowable to control my fate. What a horrible, horrible, insecure way to live.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, I’m sure you can believe more impossible things before breakfast than an atheist can. Is that worth bragging about?

        • hector_jones

          Well said, Norm. Put your faith in Allah!

        • Norm Donnan

          I have thanks Hector,God,Allah,Jehovah,YHWH, there is only one after all.

        • hector_jones

          Not to mention Zeus, Thor, Flying Spaghetti Monster, Shiva, Gnishu. They are all one!

        • MNb

          Don’t worry, Norm. I have absolutely no doubt that you are wrong over and over again. I don’t even need faith for it – you show it yourself about every single comment you write.

          “I guess your stuck with me.”
          Trust me, I’m happy with you. You are an expert in constructing the rope you hang your own belief system with.
          As for sarcasm: you long ago have given up to offer something substantial. Not that I’m surprised; it’s the way all creacrappers go. They – and you are no exception – have a limited amount of “arguments” and “evidence” they think totally convincing. And why not, with your god at your side? How can you fail?
          But on a site like this – and again you can trust me, I’ve seen it happen many times before – creacrappers like you shockingly learn that not only your “arguments” and “evidence” don’t convince at all, but that they are worse than manure. Left with empty hands there are only two options left:
          1) ignore the rebuttals and repeat the “arguments” and “evidence” ad nauseam;
          2) stop repeating, stop bringing up anything substantial and dive deeper into the horse shit.
          You have chosen option 2. So for us nothing is left but ridicule and sarcasm. Don’t worry – I like that. You do me a favour everytime you comment and everytime you become sillier. I enjoy you. And not only you: over at A Year without God there some other bigots like you.
          Do you want to surprise me? Show some doubt indeed. Admit you don’t know something, that you may and can be wrong. My bet is that you can’t emotionally afford it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Instead of wishing something into existence, atheists typically follow the evidence.

          Wishful thinking is appropriate for children, not adults.

        • smrnda

          I doubt things for which the evidence is weak, and I believe things for which the evidence is strong. So far, the evidence for any world religion is rather weak, and none of them seem to produce good results, not even the ‘personal relationship with Jesus’ which just seems to be a different sort of ritual with a different label slapped on, but as much a ritual practice as any of the other ones.

          Sarcasm is often more *useful* than kindness.

        • wtfwjtd

          Doubt allows for what we believe is truth to be examined and scrutinized, to help us make more certain that it really is truth. Faith. by definition, forces us to blindly accept what others have told us is truth, without scrutiny or examination. Is that what you are trying to say?

        • Greg G.

          Yes. In a followup reply, I said:

          When you think you have the truth, you stop looking. If you happen to be wrong, you’ll never know the truth. If you doubt, you’ll keep coming back to where the evidence leads.

        • Norm Donnan

          Its right beside you,a parallel dimention if you like.
          Its so obvious at times there is no speculating nessasary.
          This is why I grace you with my presence,to see a group of people talk with such confidence and derision about something they know nothing about breaks my heart.All the mocking,bitchy comments and snide remarks are like water off a ducks back as you well know.
          What I do know is that at some stage in your life you will,often shortly before or shortly after you die you will know the truth that you wont be able to deny.
          Heaven might seem like wishful thinking to you,( Im speaking about it next sunday if you happen to be in Australia)but its my destination, but its not yours.
          This is why I carnt sit back and say nothing if I truly do believe that.
          I may not have the education,intelligence or good looks that some have here,but sit back and say nothing…no.
          Other people Ive shown these blogs to just laugh at peoples ignorence and wonder why I waste my time with it and yes there is others who I know would totally woop your arses academically but they have better things to do so I guess your stuck with me.XX

        • avalpert

          Please don’t bother. Until you accept Allah as the one true lord your idolatry is leading you astray – you are wasting your life chasing the wrong phantom.

          If the people aren’t laughing at you they aren’t laughing at ignorance they are laughing from ignorance.

        • MNb

          “breaks my heart.All the mocking,bitchy comments and snide remarks are like water off a ducks back”
          How do you do it? Surpassing yourself again and again, I mean? This is the most blatant contradiction you ever pulled off and you frigging don’t even notice yourself! Only a fundie like you, who holds the truth and knows his god is on his side can switch off enough cognitive faculties to postulate that his heart is breaking by water flowing off a ducks back.

        • Kodie

          He’s sort of a masochist.

        • hector_jones

          One day your invisible god is going to whoop our asses and you even have invisible academic friends who could whoop our asses too. But neither are going to do it any time soon. Yawn.

          I may not have the education,intelligence or good looks that some have here …

          I detect some really deep-seated resentment in you toward humanity. No wonder you love to threaten us all with hell so much (practically in everything you post). You probably love the part of the bible where god destroys every last living creature on earth with a flood except for Noah and his ark. You really think you are Noah, don’t you?

        • MNb

          He has even a wife who’s an expert in science, but apparently hasn’t actually studied some branch of it, as Norm refuses to tell us what study she actually did.
          It’s a nice bunch, those allies of Norm.

        • Norm Donnan

          Actually I rarely mention hell Hector.Ide say its more like your not around much so it might seem like that to you.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What truly has Norm excited is the prospect of looking over the ramparts of heaven every day at you and me roasting on a spit and screaming.

          What good, clean Christian fun!

        • Kodie

          Finally, you answered a question honestly. I want to give you credit, but, you see, it’s such a basic thing and I shouldn’t have to appreciate it like a giant favor. You should be more honest all the time instead of just once in a while.

          What I’m fairly certain of, you have not got the capacity to get through to anyone here, nor do you try. All you do is serve a warning, and not in a good way. Christianity has you falling all over yourself as to compete with how gullible can you get. Maybe more? Maybe even some more? Next time, just go for it and be gullible the most. (Are you freakin’ watching this guy go?) You keep beating your own records, it’s sort of amazing. There is nothing you can do but sit back and watch the horrors of nice atheist people using rational sense to pick apart what you insist is so obvious that it could not be imaginary. That just goes to demonstrate just how brains can be talked into illogical things, if you just look at it the way you want it to be instead of how it really is. But never stop being honest. If someone asks you a question, just answer the fucking thing, ok? Don’t care if you don’t want to or it won’t change anyone’s mind. If you’re willing to waste your time spectating and making the odd comment, you have time to answer a question and not worry if nobody believes it.

          For, like, 2 years, I’ve been trying to teach you how discussions work, and you finally made a step. You want people to be nicer to you, have the common courtesy to participate in a discussion.

        • Norm Donnan

          Well now thank you(i think)
          Thing is I generally am nice to people until they prove im wasting my time,then I ignore them.
          I chose to answer your question this time because you changed how you asked from rude and condesending to normal,well done,its not that hard.
          Now heres the thing,I realize Im not going to change anybodys mind here.
          I find most are closed minded,few are searching for the truth or evidence for that matter but on the contrary are only encouraging each other that you are right and everyone else is wrong which is fine,but as for me I will mutter under my breath”bullshit”.
          What you think are convincing “rebuttals” convince no one but yourselves,what you think are good arguments or good science I find embarassing and sad.
          The problem with these sort of things is if you surround youself with all like minded people,you all think that your right,thats why I annoy you.

        • Kodie

          Well, no, that’s not why you annoy me and others. It’s that people can explain things to you with sources and everything and you just keep babbling like you are rocking huddled in a corner and can only repeat yourself. If you surround yourself with different minded people, you sure as hell don’t seem curious to find out more of what we think or why we think so. You are here to confirm your own bias against atheists and believe we all need to be saved, and feel sad for us, and that’s kind of a shitty way to say “i’m not here to listen and be open to changing my own mind”. You are the most close-minded of them all. You believe what other Christians tell you about atheists and you aren’t really listening to our personal testimony. That’s how far deep you are in your delusions, you think Christians know everything about us, and you’re here meeting us and you still believe them.

          That’s why you’re so fucking annoying. Besides the part where you fail to support your arguments and don’t participate in discussions. You could grow and learn a lot, but you just would rather stick with what you already know and repeat it with no evidence. That’s not making yourself part of the discussion. To put it Norm’s way, it’s like two grown-ups are having a discussion, and you, the child, are tugging on your mother’s skirt for attention, she says, “what is it dear?” and you say “I saw a doggie” or “my feet are at the end of my legs”. Your contribution is irrelevant. You’re not listening, you have nothing better to do but draw negative attention for being a bad listener, and then sharing your inane thoughts.

        • MNb

          “if you surround youself with all like minded people”
          See what I mean, Kodie? Norm very well knows that I live in a religious community – that I’m the only atheist in town. Still he needs this to bring his point home. So fuck honesty.

        • Norm Donnan

          I think your flirting with Kodie there Mark,I did say you two should get together with her Dutch heritage and all.

        • Kodie

          If you didn’t say so many dumb things, that might be one of the dumbest. If you mistake two adults having a conversation as “flirting” you must be a child with no contribution to the conversation. You want people to stop talking to each other about this idiot Norm, you might want to cut back on this sort of shit.

        • MNb

          That tells something about you, Norm. As you know I have a more than satisfying relationship with a muslima, so I don’t have to contemplate adultery. Apparently you do.

        • Pofarmer

          If Norm is in Australia, then he is probably surrounded by quite a few unbelievers. My understanding is that Aussies aren’t real religious. It’s a different experience here in the U.S. bible belt. Churches on every corner, religious signs everywhere along the highways. I never really noticed all the signs until I started to doubt. But it’s everywhere here.

        • MNb

          Depends. According to reports of atheist Aussies the northeast, ie Queensland, ie the native state of Ol’Hambo, the ayatollah of the Appalachian who runs AIG, is full of fundies too. The USA are not the only country with a bible belt; there is a Dutch version as well.

          http://www.couriermail.com.au/news/queensland/intelligent-design-to-be-taught-in-queensland-schools-under-national-curriculum/story-e6freoof-1225872896736

        • wtfwjtd

          Holy smokes, who knew? I would point out one key difference between Aussie fundies and USA fundies though:

          “In Queensland schools, creationism will be offered for discussion in the subject of ancient history, under the topic of “controversies”. ”

          In the USA, fundies want creationism taught as literal science, in science class. At least there, it’s in an ancient histories class, a much more appropriate venue.

        • wtfwjtd

          Ugh, how true!

        • Kodie

          I think he was talking about the internet and how he observes atheists just agreeing with each other, like Christians don’t do that, and they censor atheists offering perspective. Most atheists you’d meet online, especially from the US, are very likely the only atheist they know about in the town where they live. One more thing I forgot to put in my answer was how affirmed in my atheism I am every time I go look at what they’re talking about on Christian/Catholic blogs. Oh man, the stupidity there is impenetrable. I just wait for them to come here.

        • Pofarmer

          “and they censor atheists offering perspective.”

          That’s the telling thing. Most of the Christian, and pretty much all of the Catholic blogs on Patheos heavily censor comments. I’ve been outright banned(as far as I can tell) from at several Catholic blogs for making respectful, pointed, comments. They know that there story is full of holes, and I love to punch at them. Alas, they can’t allow that. The level of delusional stupid on the Catholic blogs is really saddening. But, they start out with a TON of false assumptions and then build on them, until the world they construct, though real to them, is really nothing like the real world.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, they’re very thin-skinned on all of those Christian and apologetic blogs, with comments being moderated and heavily censured. That’s the reason I don’t bother even trying to comment, if you express the slightest amount of doubt or disagreement you are quickly banned and your doubt-laced post is quickly taken down, no matter how respectful or thoughtful it is.

          “They know that their story is full of holes, and I love to punch at them. Alas, they can’t allow that. The level of delusional stupid on the Catholic blogs is really saddening. But, they start out with a TON of false assumptions and then build on them, until the world they construct, though real to them, is really nothing like the real world.”

          Right on! It’s almost as though you’ve tried posting on some of those blogs….!
          Personally, I do check out my relative’s apologetics site from time to time, just to see what new form of stupid they happen to display at any particular time. Invariably it’s the same old debunked nonsense over and over, maybe tweaked a bit or restated a little differently. Nothing challenging at all, that I’ve found so far. I’ll keep looking….

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I don’t want to be closed minded, but given this (and I agree with your last sentence), I’m often tempted to simply call the case closed. The Christians have given us their best, and it sucks. We can expect continued spin but no actual compelling arguments.

          Where is everyone on the weak atheist (I have no god belief) vs. strong atheist (I’m certain there is no god) question?

        • wtfwjtd

          Well, let me put it this way: I’m *certain* there is no Christian god, or at least the god as described by Christianity (and therefore, Judaism) and I’ve long since given up on the other ones since I used to be a Christian. Could there be a deity out there somewhere? I hesitate to use the word “certain” for this, but “almost certain” there isn’t, is accurately descriptive of how I feel right now. I’m open to evidence, but I’ve seen nothing even remotely useful so far.

        • Norm Donnan

          WWWWWhat did you say something,No truth is I dont hear anyone say anything about atheism except what I read hear so I draw my conclusions from what I read hear and how people relate and respond to me being a Christian.
          There seems to be a few good people here who enjoy the discussion topic but on the whole its mostly “yeh your so right those stupid Christians are so,so ,stupid”
          You said yourself nobodys listening but say it anyway and then rage about me not listening,”whats that kodie,your feet are at the end of your legs…thats nice dear”

        • Kodie

          In order to fortify your beliefs, you have to make up dirty lies about people who, for reasons you refuse to comprehend, don’t believe it. It’s a fairly common trope among your fellow Christians and it comes from the bible. Your “god is so obvious and not speculation” to us appears to be your delusion. We see the same things you see, we just don’t imagine more is there than there is. You don’t see god, you see “creation” and imagine a “creator”. How stuck you are, and how angry and awful that makes you, as far as company goes.

          It’s possible to be an interesting and thought-provoking Christian, and the fact that you and most Christians are not gives me a lot of perfectly good reasons not to believe. These are the fools Jesus sent to persuade me? The weak arguments you and your kind think are strong is supposed to make me think “intelligence” is associated with religion? If there is something to it, I think I would have heard it by now. It is a brain trick – a Christian “proves” his religion is true to a person who is “open” to it by suggesting the mark play a mind trick on himself. If you just see everything a different way than it is, you’re bound to fall for it. If you’re not “open” to playing this game, a Christian like you won’t even bother. You lie to yourself and say we’re not “open” to it. The fact is, once you can see how the illusion is created, then that’s what you look for.

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRCMdnCr6h0

          You tell us that we only have to look at it from the right angle and we’ll see things as you do as clear and the impossible becomes possible. And yet, it’s only an illusion of perspective, the eye tricking the mind to believe what it looks like is real.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          it’s like two grown-ups are having a discussion,
          and you, the child, are tugging on your mother’s skirt for attention, she says, “what is it dear?” and you say “I saw a doggie” or “my feet are at the end of my legs”.

          Brilliant!

        • Pofarmer

          You might be surprised at who is, or has been, searching for the truth. Don’t deprecate yourself and then call us closed minded and ignorant. Oh, and send some of the smart people over. My guess is that they are scared their argjments won’t hold up, either. The well is only so deep to draw from.

        • avalpert

          “I find most are closed minded,few are searching for the truth or evidence for that matter but on the contrary are only encouraging each other that you are right and everyone else is wrong which is fine,but as for me I will mutter under my breath”bullshit””

          Oh the rich irony in that.

          Your buried so deep in the crap you can no longer tell which smell is the bad one.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I find most are closed minded,few are searching
          for the truth or evidence for that matter

          And what do you make of the fact that we’ve been hammering on you for some frikkin’ evidence and you never provide any? Give us a chance to be closed minded! Give us some evidence so we can reject it.

          So far, you’ve given us childishness. The cute is wearing thin.

        • MNb

          “But never stop being honest.”
          You’re asking the impossible. Norm is a fundie and fundies can’t afford to be honest – their worldview would fall apart.

        • Kodie

          In all the time I’ve seen Norm on blogs, since before I started posting on CE, I have never seen him answer a direct question with his honest answer. His voice even sounded different. I am calling it progress. If he insists on hanging around for no reason, I prefer it to his usual.

        • wtfwjtd

          “there is others who I know would totally woop your arses academically ”

          Even if that were to happen, so what? Christianity is still just another one of the world’s thousands of man-made religions, and nothing you or your “others” ever do can change that.

        • Norm Donnan

          No it’s the best way to get to know God there is,and there is nothing you can do to change that.

        • avalpert

          You are just in deep denial. Until you abandon you silly story of the poor bastard who got himself nailed to a tree you will never be on the right path to a true understanding of God – ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo is the only way to true enlightenment.

          You are wasting your life in pursuit of false gods.

        • hector_jones

          I think I see why Norm comes to this blog now. He’s one of those christians who thinks that being mocked and ridiculed for his beliefs serves to prove just how correct his beliefs really are. He may even think that he’s scoring points with the man upstairs by putting up with our comments. He’s the type of christian that not just atheists but many christians despise for his sneering self-righteousness and fake humility.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          ?? Google translate is stumped by that one.

        • Kodie

          Try google google.

        • avalpert

          It’s Pali for the Noble Eightfold Path of Buddhism

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We know nothing about it … but you do? What evidence do you have for this conclusion?

          Wait–never mind. You’ve never given any evidence before. You don’t care for evidence. Unfortunately, the rest of the world outside Fantasyland does.

          You’ve encouraged other Christians to drop by? Do they have better arguments than you do? Tragically, I suspect not.

        • TheNuszAbides

          if you assume that anyone identifying as atheist is simply lacking in the paltry imagination that post exhibits (presenting some ‘parallel dimention if you will’ like some mediocre youth group leader), no wonder you’re so comfortable with your worldview.

        • MNb

          Norm is banned.

        • TheNuszAbides

          for the best, i guess. Bob’s patience finally wear thin?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          IMO, I let annoying people hang out longer than I probably should. Still, there comes a time when the time wasting has to stop.

        • TheNuszAbides

          as snarky as i get with folks like Wick, or the super-clueless John, or extra-arrogant ideologues like Asmondius, i’m sure i too would struggle with the question of how many ‘fair shakes’ to give each one.

        • MNb

          Yes and it took Norm a lot of effort.

        • MNb

          “yes there is a lot about religion that is a bunch of nonsense.”
          Don’t worry, if we atheists here tend to forget we always have you to show it – like in the very next paragraph about your spiritual realm. I guess it’s inhabitated by Santa Claus, the tooth fairy, Tolkien’s elves, the Boogey Man and of course YHWH. Hey, I have concrete evidence for you, straight from the spiritual realm:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsa2F9F1BBk

        • Norm Donnan

          Yey Mark,at least you have good taste in music.

        • MNb

          Thanks. Then you might be interested in an improved version of Genesis 1 and 2 as well, brought forward by some compatriots of yours:

          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5lsLNx1KM9c

        • Norm Donnan

          Never was much into AC/DC,Pink Floyd,Bob Dylan,Led Zepplin.Now more Norah Jones,must be getting old.

        • avalpert
        • smrnda

          I see no evidence of this spiritual realm, and I will probably, just like many other people, get through life seeing no evidence for it at all, all the way up to the end.

          I do run across people who believe in some form of it, but none of these people show much in the way of good reasoning ability. Those that do believe in things so vague as to be meaningless.

        • wtfwjtd

          The spiritual realm can’t be shown to exist with evidence, because there isn’t any. It just exists by “faith”, or blind guessing, or wild conjecture, which of course is what “faith” is.

          “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so”.–Mark Twain

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        As usual, lots of dogma and zero evidence.

        I wonder if you’ll get scolded at the Pearly Gates for giving empty, useless exhortations for Jesus. “You gotta follow Jesus” is, to me, as compelling as “You gotta become a Buddhist” probably is to you.

        • Norm Donnan

          Truth is Bob,your not looking for evidence or open to truth. You have it all worked out so there is nothing left to say. There will come a time when you will wish you could have faith though.

        • hector_jones

          Truth is Norm, you are not looking for evidence or open to the truth. You have it all worked out so there is nothing left to say.

          Unlike you, I won’t threaten you with hell over it. The worst that will happen is you will continue to dwell within the prison of your own ignorance, and then you will die. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

        • Greg G.

          We beg theists for evidence but all they offer is faith which is fine if you start with truth but faith works just as well for lies. We ask for evidence that can let us distinguish truth from mistakes. Faith is for people who don’t care about truth.

        • wtfwjtd

          Like Mark Twain said: “Faith is believing what you know ain’t so.”

        • TheNuszAbides

          or don’t realize that the thing they very much care about that they call truth is horribly flimsy.

        • Kodie

          There will come a time when you will wish you could have faith though.

          You keep saying this as if it is true. There is a difference between what is true and what you have been told by people with a vested interest in keeping you irrational. If you want to step up and share what you do know about it, we’ve been waiting. All we hear from you is that you know something and it’s somehow beneficial to all of us (including you) for you to just hang around saying we’re wrong but you can’t talk about it, and we’ll wish we asked you to show us the way, but you refused on the basis that we wouldn’t believe it anyway. Maybe you’re just not credible, so why, if we won’t believe you anyway, do you think you have any more to add to the conversation?

          We’re looking for evidence, we’re open to truth. You’ve been asked to contribute to the discussion, and you continue to avoid providing a place to start. Ray Comfort’s video has already been debunked, and roundly. You are basically a moron if that’s your best argument.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          As usual, lots of dogma and zero evidence.

        • hector_jones

          There will come a time when you will wish you could have faith though.

          Why would anyone have to wish that they could have had faith? Why doesn’t God just give us faith? Or at least give us some solid proof of his existence so we can make an informed decision about him? Why does the all-mighty creator of the universe want so much for us to believe in him while remaining so profoundly hidden from view? And what makes you so special, Norm Donnan, that god gave you faith, but he didn’t give it to, say, Richard Dawkins?

          And before you go blaming it all on Satan, please tell me why it is that your all-mighty god can’t just smack Satan upside the head and tell him to get lost? God is a pretty poor father if, having the power that he allegedly has, he lets a creep like Satan molest his children.

        • Norm Donnan

          You were given faith ,you were born with faith but as you grew you threw it all away.
          Its true some people seem to be given more or find it easier to have,(women generally so)but it was never the case that I was and Dawkins wasnt.
          Even if you find faith difficult creation screams theres a creator.What seems blindingly obvious to people of all religions is there is a creator,evolution is an embarrasment.
          Satan does have a part to play for a while yet and he will be smacked down in the Fathers time,why not now? I dont know,He’s God ,He will work it out.
          Truth is when you people who loose your faith because of being offended at God,what He should do and shouldnt do fail to comprehend is if He did operate like that then He would need to disipline each of us for tax evasion,lieing,fornication and adultery ect,how would that work for you then?

        • Kodie

          The human brain can “see” things that aren’t there. You look at it from a very narrow perspective, and you can be fooled that it’s real, that you are seeing something most won’t bother to look for. “Creation” doesn’t scream “creator”, you just fill in what you don’t know with an ignorant supposition. You’re the one who isn’t looking for a real answer. You are the one who is stuck with what you wish were true. To a child playing “peek-a-boo”, can’t see where his mother has gone. And if that’s the faith you think we were born with, at least that is what you describe. It doesn’t take very long for the child to figure out his mother is still there and only covering her face with her hands. You are still behaving as though she has disappeared and worry but she reappears and you’re not interested in learning how that game works. You are happy with the game, and you think we should all forget our senses. A child isn’t taught or trained or indoctrinated what the explanation for his mother’s disappearance is, it’s a mysterious world for a new earthling, but that doesn’t mean we’re incapable of figuring out the trick of peek-a-boo.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You were given faith ,you were born with faith but as you grew you threw it all away.

          You mean in Father Christmas?

          Even if you find faith difficult creation screams theres a creator.

          You couldn’t make it scream a little louder, could you?

          evolution is an embarrasment

          Y’know, now that you’ve said it without evidence 523 times, I’m starting to come around to your point of view!

        • smrnda

          I don’t recall ever having any sort of faith in god or anything (and I’m a woman too.) It wasn’t difficult for me to figure out that most religions could just be seen as cultural practices.

          Biological life would scream of an incompetent creator, evolution makes more sense since there are signs of it everywhere. Our bodies are, from a functional standpoint, an embarrassment.

          Given that I think people deserve to have input into the rules and laws that govern them, if I actually had to, I’d probably owe some fines or something based on times I didn’t do the exact right thing, but they would probably get waived for community service.

        • MNb

          BWAHAHAHAHA! You are not capable of recognizing evidence even if it dances naked in front of you wearing a hat (thanks, Rowling). The only evidence you accept by definition is what seems to confirm your predetermined conclusions, founded on your personal interpretation of your favourite and since 2000 years not updated Holy Book.
          It’s for people like you that your big hero Jesus said something sensible about splinters, logs and eyes.

        • Greg G.

          Do you believe Matthew 7:21-23? There will be people who have enough faith to cast out demons in Jesus’ name but not enough to get into heaven. How do you know if you have enough? You may be surprised when Jesus says “No pie in the sky for you. I decided intellectual integrity is more worthy than blind faith. Away, you evildoer!”

      • MNb

        Oh, I totally recognize that I’m on a journey in life. It’s just not a spiritual one.

        “The destination is so much better.”
        If that destination is christian heaven, no thanks. I don’t want to spend eternity in boredom. I hardly can think of worse torture.

        “you are on a path searching,but your looking in the wrong direction”
        So are you, because once again you have totally forgotten about Matthew 7:1. I’ll decide for myself which direction is the right one for me, I haven’t asked for the advise of an arrogant christian like you.

    • hector_jones

      So you’re making this journey yourself, and the bible is just a guide book. What about the Koran or the Rig Veda or the Jewish holy books not included in the bible? What about Dianetics? How did you decide that the bible was a suitable guide book for your journey whereas these other guide books were not?

      • ctcss

        You are missing the focus of my post. I was trying to point out that I don’t need an absolute, rock-solid thing to BEGIN my journey. I just need a reasonable expectation that it will be useful as I go along. The point is, I trust (what I believe to be) God and I expect God will help me to understand things as I proceed on my journey.

        So, why the Bible and not other books as well (or in place of)? Well, I was brought up with the Bible, so I have familiarity with it. I also find it to be useful when studied/utilized as I have been taught to use it. So, since it is something familiar to me and something that I have good experiences with, I am pursuing my journey with it to see where it takes me. In like manner, I did not spend my entire life surveying every female on earth before I met and married my wife. When I met her, I saw a number of qualities in her that I admired and felt blessed by. So I am sticking with her as I make my way forward in life as well. And since I expect my marriage and my religious journey to pretty much take the rest of my life, I don’t see any way I can drop either one and go wandering off in some other direction and consider that I have done justice to them.

        Human, mortal life is messy and far from perfect. It comes with no guarantees. Thus we work with what seems to produce good results, or has very solid or encouraging potential. I chose both my wife and my religion on that basis. (My wife was new to me, but had very encouraging potential. My religion was familiar to me, and provided me with a track record in which I could see further potential to explore and experience.)

        And once again, I am not worshiping the Bible, I am worshiping God. The Bible just serves as a good place (IMO) to BEGIN to learn about God and to gain experience with God.

        • hector_jones

          I don’t need an absolute, rock-solid thing to BEGIN my journey. I just need a reasonable expectation that it will be useful as I go along. The point is, I trust (what I believe to be) God and I expect God will help
          me to understand things as I proceed on my journey.

          I’m confused as to whether you are ON this journey or waiting to BEGIN it. You are married, you were brought up with the bible, so why aren’t you at the point where the journey has long since begun, the bible was abandoned at the first service station, and your buddy God is sitting in the passenger seat next to you acting as your guide? I suspect this confusion arises because you don’t really know either. That can happen when you choose to talk in metaphors but lack the literary talent.

        • ctcss

          I’m confused as to whether you are ON this journey or waiting to BEGIN it. You are married, you were brought up with the bible, so why aren’t you at the point where the journey has long since begun, the bible was abandoned at the first service station, and your buddy God is sitting in the passenger seat next to you acting as your guide? I suspect this confusion arises because you don’t really know either.

          I very much on ON the journey. But it is a very long journey and will entail putting off all the mortal aspects of life and replacing them with the divine. And perhaps I am misreading what you are saying, but you seem to think that wholesale change in a person is a trivial accomplishment. Even on a strictly human basis, change usually occurs slowly. It’s usually very hard to replace old habits and ways of thinking. Furthermore, one doesn’t know what one doesn’t know. And the perspective that one has from a limited, human framework of understanding is likely to be vastly different from the perspective that God has. So the journey takes as long as it takes. Even human education doesn’t occur overnight.

          So even though you think I should have abandoned the Bible at the first service station because you think it has no value, I think that this is because you have a rather jaundiced view of the Bible. But then, since you don’t think that God exists, you very likely don’t think that anything that the Bible might offer about God is worthwhile at all. In which case, we are on very different journeys and looking at very different vistas.

          Which is fine. To each their own.

        • Pofarmer

          what kind of track record are we talking about?

        • ctcss

          what kind of track record are we talking about?

          Unlike many people, I actually have come to rely on God’s help through prayer. And by “rely on”, I mean that if there was a situation where most people would feel it wise to visit an emergency room, or dealing with potentially fatal conditions, I would be relying on prayer instead. Since I was raised this way, and have found this to a practical approach throughout my life, I would have no problems continuing to go forward based on the track record I have experienced. The thing is, not everyone is comfortable pursuing such a pathway. That’s cool. But myself, I have no real problems with it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          You’re an adult. It’s your call. Or funeral.

          Society rejects parents’ “rights” to impose that on their kids, so as long as you’re not imposing this approach on others, OK.

          This sounds like a learning opportunity. Do people who pray for healing do any better than those who get conventional treatment? Than those who get no treatment at all and don’t pray?

        • Pofarmer

          Ya know, I was thinking through this big long post. It was gonna have links, and citations, and detailed explanations of a couple things. Then I thought, “I wonder during which one of these not going to the Emergency Room situations the brain damage occurred?” Probably saved me a lot of time.

        • ctcss

          This sounds like a learning opportunity. Do people who pray for healing do any better than those who get conventional treatment? Than those who get no treatment at all and don’t pray?

          Bob, I think we’ve been over this before. I don’t know of any way to do such a study because in order to do an apples to apples comparison, the control group would have to have absolutely nothing done for them. And unlike the STEP study where prayer was used in ADDITION to medical treatment, I am talking about prayer used INSTEAD of medical treatment. Which means no matter how serious the condition being treated, the control group would, in effect, be abandoned. I can’t imagine any group of individuals (or doctors) who would be willing to participate in such a study.

        • Kodie

          Forget about a study – medical treatments aren’t miracles, but they have been proven to increase most patients’ chances of survival. Prayer doesn’t seem to have such an effect on whether someone lives or dies. If you think it does, then you must not have suffered a serious illness. Did you take OTC medicine rather than going to the ER? I have been to the ER a couple of times and received poor enough care or “better safe than sorry” talked myself into going, that I might as well just stayed home and waited it out or waited to see a regular doctor in the morning. I didn’t pray, but I’m still alive after all this time, and so are you. You mean to say that you think you prayed when you were ill and experienced a recovery that would not have happened had you not prayed, I say bullshit. You weren’t sick to begin and you probably think OTC home remedies aren’t interfering with god’s will at all. Human bodies in fair health tend to fight off illnesses most of the time with enough rest and fluids.

          Anyway, one of these days, something will kill you dead, and you would rationalize this as god saying it’s your time, like he picked you out, tapped you on the shoulder personally and said, let’s go. That is superstition. Everyone dies due to a cause. The body wasn’t strong enough to fight, the medicine wasn’t strong enough to help, or you didn’t get to help/help didn’t get to you in time. It is statistics.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes, I agree that that would be difficult. And unethical.

          You might think it’s A-OK, but the rest of society wouldn’t. (I wonder what you make of your belief that no individuals would be willing to participate in such a study!)

          But you already know that your views about medical treatment are in a minority.

          Let’s not do an actual experiment. Let’s just make it a thought experiment. You tell me: You’ve got two equivalent cities, and you replace medical treatment with just prayer in one city. How will the results differ?

        • Kodie

          I would just assume an average number of patients are prayed for and/or pray for themselves in all cases. I would also assume the amount of prayer does not go down per patient when medical treatments are introduced, as people still want to express concern and have little control as they wait and see. Medical treatments can only do so much, but if you take any given disease or injury that used to be life-threatening or normally fatal, and start coming up with effective treatments, the survival rate goes up. Where many illnesses used to be a death sentence no longer are, like AIDS is a great example. I guess god wasn’t trying to punish homosexuals after all. You would think those guys would have a very low prayer rate compared to those suffering from pancreatic cancer, which is pretty much all up to prayer at this point and has a low survival rate. Once a medicine is introduced to be an improvement over the old method, you have to assume prayer does nothing.

          This doesn’t even begin to cover why people get sick in the first place. A lot of illnesses and injuries have a definite cause and effect, while many seem to simply appear for no cause. I think these people think their prayer helps the medicine. God picked out a person to get hit, and these people’s reaction is to sacrifice a virgin into the angry volcano to appease their god. What can we do to plead strongly enough for god to clear it all up? We’re sorry! Don’t take my beloved friend/family member! Undo! Undo! It’s desperation. And then the person pulls through with a lot of rehabilitation or whatever, and they think their pleas helped.

          I think people were probably more comfortable with death in the past. I’m sure they still mourned, but if a condition was normally fatal, they probably prayed for the person’s soul, a decision that can only be made by god. The person was not going to recover, and they kept them comfortable. We are culturally very used to survival now, like we are with computers. I think everyone here is old enough to remember a time when they didn’t have a computer in the home, if anywhere, even at the bank. Medicine is a technology we’re accustomed to – you get sick, you get well. When someone gets sick and they don’t get well, and they die, and they’re not even old yet, it’s hard to handle. You weren’t expecting that ending to the story and it’s more tragic by contrast because it isn’t common anymore for that to happen.

          Why does anyone think prayer helps? You can pick out diseases that people have died from, if not 100% of the time, before medical treatments were introduced, and compare that to after medical treatments were introduced. Some things are 100% curable and nobody dies from them anymore unless they are relying on prayer alone, or live in a country with little to no access to medicine. When people talk about the flu, there is no cure for the flu. The flu still kills people every single year in the US, but people aren’t used to that. People don’t get their flu shots and then they catch the flu and beg the doctor to prescribe antibiotics. A flu could kill a lot of people, we’re just not used to that. We know how the flu spreads, and we mock people for washing their hands and being “germophobes”. Do people like being sick? The flu is common, incurable, and typically doesn’t kill healthy adults, even if they wish it would at some point. I am just saying – here we have a perfect example of a common disease that affects people you know every year, and doesn’t kill them, although one year, it might kill everyone. What are the prayer people going to do then?

          When someone they love is struck with a disease, do these people ever think it’s a punishment from god? Are they praying that god lifts the punishment? Are they crying for their life, oh please god, oh please let go of my arm, I promise I’ll be good, I promise, I really promise this time, just stop punishing me! It’s so abusive. Or is it because the demons got them, that they have to call out their superhero god to knock him out and take his nasty disease with him.

        • MNb

          “I am talking about prayer used INSTEAD of medical treatment.”
          It’s just a population of two, but I know two examples indeed where (collective) prayer iso medical treatment didn’t work. One lost his life; the other ended up in hospital after all.
          Both were muslims who converted to evangelical christianity. Both were/are brothers of my ex-wife.
          Remember that the next time you think testimony convincing.

        • Pofarmer

          You do realize, back when everybody relied on those “methods” life expectancies were about half, maternal mortality was about 1 in 8, and childhood mortality was at least 1 in 4?

        • ctcss

          You do realize, back when everybody relied on those “methods” life expectancies were about half, maternal mortality was about 1 in 8, and childhood mortality was at least 1 in 4?

          Interesting figures, but you don’t specify what period you are referring to, what specific “methods” were being used, or what else was going on. Furthermore, you seem to be assuming that anything I would be doing would be identical to whatever you think was going on then with “everybody”. I can’t speak for any of them, I can only speak for myself. And for myself, the statement I gave is truthful.

    • Plutosdad

      But how can you use verses to guide you if someone added them later for some agenda of their own? Do you assume that those extra verses were also inspired by God? Or do you think maybe those verses should be thrown out and not used in your journey?

      • busterggi

        Verses I agree with = inspired by god.

        Verses I don’t agree with = inspired by satan.

        • ctcss

          Actually, it’s more like

          “Verses that seem to be tribal and petty in nature” = inspired by lizard-brain-oriented thinking

          as opposed to

          “Verses that seem to bring out a higher, deeper, more universal sense of love and compassion” = inspired by God.

          And as I pointed out, I am very non-mainstream thus, I was never taught to believe in satan.

        • Kodie

          Sort of …. I can’t even think of the word. You’re just cherry-picking and believing what you were taught is correct. How unusual a Christian you are!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was never taught to believe in satan.

          No one’s perfect. Correct your theology and believe in Satan then.

          At least, that’s what some Christians would say.

        • MNb

          The vast majority of Dutch christians was never taught to believe in satan, so I don’t get what’s non-mainstream about this.
          But what interests me: how do you know it’s not the other way round? Like

          “Verses that seem to be tribal and petty in nature” = inspired by god

          as opposed to

          “Verses that seem to bring out a higher, deeper, more universal sense of love and compassion” = inspired by humanist oriented thinking.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Completely off topic: I was listening to the recent Fresh Air interview with Bart Ehrman about his new book. The intro said that that program is funded in part by the Neubauer Foundation (I assume that’s the one here). I realize you spell your name differently, but FYI in case that’s a variant spelling and you hadn’t heard of this foundation.

        • MNb

          I have never heard of the foundation indeed, but the name is quite familiar. Neubauer is German though, so not likely to be related, as I can trace back my ancestors and family name to the early 16th Century.
          You might find some Nieuweboers in Canada though; as some granduncles emigrated in the families they might be related.

      • ctcss

        But how can you use verses to guide you if someone added them later for some agenda of their own? Do you assume that those extra verses were also inspired by God? Or do you think maybe those verses should be thrown out and not used in your journey?

        I am not so much using the text of verses to guide me, but more to give me something to further process and digest as I make my way forward. And I am not concerned with someone adding things later as long as they strike me as being inspired by God. (Which is, to say, I trust God and His goodness to safely guide me forward, even if I make mistakes along the way and embrace an idea that isn’t God-like in nature..)

        The thing is, I was taught a particular model of God, and I use that as a way to parse my way through the Bible text. Among other things, since I am a Christian (e.g. I am trying to follow the Christ), I am looking at the whole Bible with an eye towards seeing it as Jesus seemed to view it. And since I believe in God, I very much expect God will help direct my path forward, as well as open up passages to me that I may not find especially clear.

        You see, I have no deadline in this journey of mine. I was never taught to believe in hell or in eternal punishment. A model I often use is that of a classroom. A teacher may give a bad grade to a student’s work, but the teacher is primarily there to teach and to encourage the love of learning in their pupils. The teacher doesn’t throw students in prison or torture them for failing to learn the subject. And hopefully, the teacher will continue to be available to the student for as long as needed. However, it’s up to the student to make the effort to want to learn. But the teacher never stops being the teacher and embodying the qualities of a teacher. And in like manner, God never stops being God and embodying the qualities that God must have, such as justice, mercy, wisdom, etc.. Thus, if I am misinformed about something, I fully expect God to help me see what it is that I need to know.


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