An atheist’s testimony, continued

The readers and commenters on this blog are a rare group, pursuing a higher and more civil level of discourse than I have seen on any other blog. Now that the post An Atheist’s Testimony has nearly a hundred comments and is still going strong, I’ve been asked to raise it again, before it moves into the archives. So feel free to continue the discussion here, with reference to the above link.

To recap where we are, Michael the Little Boot has told us with great honesty about how, after being raised in fundamentalism, he became an atheist. He says that he does not believe in sin, though he strongly agrees that we are imperfect (which is what Christians mean by sin). He does not have the conception of God that Christians do, as someone who is wholly “other” than human beings, so that differences are showing up about the deity in which he does not believe. Nor does he understand what Christians mean by “faith,” demanding instead clear, rational knowledge rather than trust, dependence, and the evidence of what is not seen. A key issue is the gospel, which seems to have been obscured in Michael’s rather legalistic upbringing. He does say that he cannot shake that fundamentalist background, try as he might. Frank Sonnek makes the intriguing suggestion that it was GOOD that he lost that legalistic faith, a loss that might lead him to the real thing. I’d like to hear more about the Christian belief that God is INCARNATE–not an abstraction far above and looking down, but that He came down from Heaven to suffer and die with us and for us.

Anyway, it’s an excellent conversation on both sides, and I invite its continuation here.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    It also might be a great idea to create a sidebar feature highlighting key posts. It would be a great way for newcomers to gain a quick flavor of your blog and also for regulars to find favorite threads. I’ve done it on my blog, so it can’t be too hard!

  • http://bestronginthegrace.blogspot.com TKls2myhrt (Theresa K.)

    It also might be a great idea to create a sidebar feature highlighting key posts. It would be a great way for newcomers to gain a quick flavor of your blog and also for regulars to find favorite threads. I’ve done it on my blog, so it can’t be too hard!

  • FWw

    I would really like to see the readers here ask more questions from Michael. Most of the posts seem to be assertions of claimed truth and fact from ones who know the answers to someone who seems not to know….. Yoda to Luke Skywalker. I am not so wise. It seems that there is really only one thing that I know for certain. And I still know so very little about that One Thing. So I am mostly observing in this thread.

    While I find that I agree with many of the claims asserted by the posters ( I am a Lutheran Christian after all…), I don´t really see bat connecting to ball most of the time because I don´t see questions that probe to understand exactly what Michael believes (or doesn´t believe for that matter) and why he believes those things. No intimate or incarnational response to our friend Michael is therefore possible. Or even perceivedly necessary in that context.

    Truth needs no defense because it is the Truth. I don´t need to defend the proposition that gravity exists. I might see a need to declare that truth to someone ready to jump from a tall building unaware of the fact.

    Or not. Depends on the context.

    On a movie set for example, I might take a chill pill and watch and enjoy….

    It is a burden lifted to not have to worry about all that. I only need to attend to the (seemingly) mundane humbling details of my life with great care and as act of worship and leave the rest to Him. I bring joy to what I do. In Him. What I do is not what brings me joy. It merely amplifies it if I put first things where they belong.

    What is Truth. For me Jesus IS, in-His-very-person THE Truth. He is the way, and the life as well. Facts. Proven by an empty tomb at a certain time in history. Note that this is not a philosophical proposition. Nor is it spirituality. It is intimately connected to flesh and bone, arms, legs, and even those body parts that might seem pornographic to name here. My God has all of those body parts. (this idea would be an offense to even many christians). He is The Truth. Meaning that truth has no existence apart from His existence as God and as Man. I ponder that fact often. And He is flesh and bone. He is not an anatomically deficient action figure.

    I am really happy to just enjoy Michael as one of God´s fellow creatures. And I DO enjoy him very much. He has a wry and sometimes sarcastic sense of humor, but he never seems to lose a basic kindness and some fine human qualities that endear me to him. He knows how to apologize and he knows how to forgive. This looks for all the world like the kind of company that I like to keep. He is one of God´s rare gifts to me. The simple fact is that he was with Jesus in the waters of the Jordan and on the cross right along with me and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam flowing through the course of history.

    I am not at all worried about his salvation because I am so very convinced that my God, looking at Jesus, cares every bit as much about him and his well being and happiness as he does about my own. Why would I doubt that for a minute or feel I need to DO or say something to make that more so?

    As a gay man I am least (apparently ) likely even to get the crumbs that fall from the masters table. Now I am seated AT the table…daring to eat and drink the Most Holy of material things at the feast of things that are now and to come. It is good for someone like me that the Kingdom comes in ways that are not seen. Indeed.

    So what that fact means for me is…. I can just focus on the very serious and important business of enjoying my friend Michael. God will work things out with him in good time. It´s not up to me to do that. My gift is to enjoy him. So I do! Just maybe if I understand where he is coming from better and sincerely, he will teach me how to be more graceful and humble in my approach towards others. It appears he has already taught me so very much in that respect. I am most grateful to him for all of that. (yes michael I WILL get to your emails soon enough…. I am actually rereading them now…).

    I think I have alot to learn from Michael. Probably more than he will be able to learn from me. Let´s see… Adventures without a seen ending can be fun.

    In my baptism, at a certain point of time in history that is MY own history, The One has become MY way and life and truth. I cannot see anything true or life-full in my life as existing without Him.

    It would be so very cool to see this conversation get more personal and more carnal (in-carnation-al). Just as our good host seems to be suggesting.

  • FWw

    I would really like to see the readers here ask more questions from Michael. Most of the posts seem to be assertions of claimed truth and fact from ones who know the answers to someone who seems not to know….. Yoda to Luke Skywalker. I am not so wise. It seems that there is really only one thing that I know for certain. And I still know so very little about that One Thing. So I am mostly observing in this thread.

    While I find that I agree with many of the claims asserted by the posters ( I am a Lutheran Christian after all…), I don´t really see bat connecting to ball most of the time because I don´t see questions that probe to understand exactly what Michael believes (or doesn´t believe for that matter) and why he believes those things. No intimate or incarnational response to our friend Michael is therefore possible. Or even perceivedly necessary in that context.

    Truth needs no defense because it is the Truth. I don´t need to defend the proposition that gravity exists. I might see a need to declare that truth to someone ready to jump from a tall building unaware of the fact.

    Or not. Depends on the context.

    On a movie set for example, I might take a chill pill and watch and enjoy….

    It is a burden lifted to not have to worry about all that. I only need to attend to the (seemingly) mundane humbling details of my life with great care and as act of worship and leave the rest to Him. I bring joy to what I do. In Him. What I do is not what brings me joy. It merely amplifies it if I put first things where they belong.

    What is Truth. For me Jesus IS, in-His-very-person THE Truth. He is the way, and the life as well. Facts. Proven by an empty tomb at a certain time in history. Note that this is not a philosophical proposition. Nor is it spirituality. It is intimately connected to flesh and bone, arms, legs, and even those body parts that might seem pornographic to name here. My God has all of those body parts. (this idea would be an offense to even many christians). He is The Truth. Meaning that truth has no existence apart from His existence as God and as Man. I ponder that fact often. And He is flesh and bone. He is not an anatomically deficient action figure.

    I am really happy to just enjoy Michael as one of God´s fellow creatures. And I DO enjoy him very much. He has a wry and sometimes sarcastic sense of humor, but he never seems to lose a basic kindness and some fine human qualities that endear me to him. He knows how to apologize and he knows how to forgive. This looks for all the world like the kind of company that I like to keep. He is one of God´s rare gifts to me. The simple fact is that he was with Jesus in the waters of the Jordan and on the cross right along with me and the rest of the flotsam and jetsam flowing through the course of history.

    I am not at all worried about his salvation because I am so very convinced that my God, looking at Jesus, cares every bit as much about him and his well being and happiness as he does about my own. Why would I doubt that for a minute or feel I need to DO or say something to make that more so?

    As a gay man I am least (apparently ) likely even to get the crumbs that fall from the masters table. Now I am seated AT the table…daring to eat and drink the Most Holy of material things at the feast of things that are now and to come. It is good for someone like me that the Kingdom comes in ways that are not seen. Indeed.

    So what that fact means for me is…. I can just focus on the very serious and important business of enjoying my friend Michael. God will work things out with him in good time. It´s not up to me to do that. My gift is to enjoy him. So I do! Just maybe if I understand where he is coming from better and sincerely, he will teach me how to be more graceful and humble in my approach towards others. It appears he has already taught me so very much in that respect. I am most grateful to him for all of that. (yes michael I WILL get to your emails soon enough…. I am actually rereading them now…).

    I think I have alot to learn from Michael. Probably more than he will be able to learn from me. Let´s see… Adventures without a seen ending can be fun.

    In my baptism, at a certain point of time in history that is MY own history, The One has become MY way and life and truth. I cannot see anything true or life-full in my life as existing without Him.

    It would be so very cool to see this conversation get more personal and more carnal (in-carnation-al). Just as our good host seems to be suggesting.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Frank,

    I don’t know your email address, so I’ll just write to you on this blog. I appreciate knowing you! My Christian life here on earth has been made more real by knowing (in a digital sense) your faith story. The way that you accept your state of being, in relation to the fact and purpose of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and as things now are on this plane of existence, and the way you honestly cling to the cross of Christ as your only hope is so humbling to me. Your comments usually point me right to the cross. I think that is the best any of us can hope for in our own comments. I initially hesitated to answer Michael because I figured, “What’s the point? Why waste my time? It’s God’s job to save him and there is nothing I can say to a person who at first glance is pretty combative.” Then after lambasting him and getting a pretty meek, mild and kind reply from him, my heart was softened quite a bit. I still don’t know what I could possible say to him, yet I think that is your point…quit trying to come up with something profound to say.

    This whole recent exchange has important implications for me as the mom of older teens. I need to patiently listen and gently remind, not preach coldly.

  • http://gpiper.org/katiesbeer Theresa K.

    Frank,

    I don’t know your email address, so I’ll just write to you on this blog. I appreciate knowing you! My Christian life here on earth has been made more real by knowing (in a digital sense) your faith story. The way that you accept your state of being, in relation to the fact and purpose of Christ’s life, death and resurrection and as things now are on this plane of existence, and the way you honestly cling to the cross of Christ as your only hope is so humbling to me. Your comments usually point me right to the cross. I think that is the best any of us can hope for in our own comments. I initially hesitated to answer Michael because I figured, “What’s the point? Why waste my time? It’s God’s job to save him and there is nothing I can say to a person who at first glance is pretty combative.” Then after lambasting him and getting a pretty meek, mild and kind reply from him, my heart was softened quite a bit. I still don’t know what I could possible say to him, yet I think that is your point…quit trying to come up with something profound to say.

    This whole recent exchange has important implications for me as the mom of older teens. I need to patiently listen and gently remind, not preach coldly.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t read Dr. Veith as calling for greater seeker-sensitivity.
    And I don’t see the need to call fellow Christians to task on the manner of engagement.
    The problem of engaging the seeker on his own terms is in the seeker setting the terms not only of the debate, but on the tone, and allowing the seeker’s own perceptions of terms and tones such wide sway.
    At any rate, the God we believe and trust in is not ‘our God’, but His own God. As my Pastor so helpfully and repeatedly pointed out to us in yesterday’s sermon, God is not like us. We are only ‘like God’ through Christ.
    Now, how do we explain that to an unbeliever? Well, is there any way to do that, and in a way which will benefit him? While he is still in unbelief, I don’t see an atheist comprehending it.
    So, do we stop saying it, then, or give up on ways of saying it, since it’s had no perceivable effect?
    Coincidentally, Jim Pierce of The Wittenberg Trail has just posted the first in a series of essays on his own former atheism. Here’s a salient tidbit:
    ‘The very object [atheists] deny exists is somehow an object of great dislike and one which occupies much of their thought life in so far as arguing why that object should not exist!’
    I see a lot of this in what Michael writes. Unfortunately, pointing that out to him (and as a former atheist myself) only led to irritating Michael. Or enraging him.
    Jim Pierce is quick to point out that his essay isn’t about himself or his ‘accomplishment’ of faith, but that he only hopes to point to Christ.
    So, it’s important for Michael to understand and to trust that we aren’t speaking of ourselves or our belief as something we’ve chosen or decided upon or invented or picked from off a menu of possibilities, and it’s just as important for Michael to understand and to trust that we’re not boasting or setting ourselves over him, nor thinking we’re more highly evolved or superior in any way.
    But that’s difficult to do, when he’s still stumbling over our believing in anything at all.
    Sorry, Michael, don’t mean to speak as if you’re not ‘in the room’. I hope you understand that we can only say what we believe, and that it will always sound foreign and even silly to you until you believe.
    But it would be helpful if you’d do us the courtesy of not presuming that you’re being talked down to or being misunderstood, either deliberately or thru carelessness, or that your history isn’t important. But, admit that your story is what got you this far. And that you’re here of your own choice, maybe even for something more than telling us about yourself.
    This God Who died for us is as real–and not just to us, but real outside of us–as our own children, as our own selves. He permitted His own death, not to make Himself a martyr, or even an ultimate martyr, and not to astound the world by such an act, but to atone for our ‘imperfections’. And that the only thing He desires of us is our belief in Him. We don’t worship Him merely to praise Him or to tell Him how much we love Him, or to show our gratitude, or to show anything at all to Him, but to get more of Him that He’s simply giving away. He’s not a vain God who awaits our songs and praises, or even our money or our time, but a loving God who wants us restored to Him. Being a god, He could be indifferent to our plight and ask for great feats fromus to prove our love, or He could be indifferent to the point of wiping us all out with one stroke and starting over with a better race of beings.
    But He’s not that God. He’s not like us. He goes to more-than-merely-great lengths to win us back to Him, more than for the purpose of having us acknowledge Him, but to simply be with Him, both now and in eternity.
    Michael, I strongly encourage you to read Jim Pierce’s essay, and hope we’ll soon be blessed with more insight from him, here:
    http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/law_and_gospel/
    on the July 13 entry.
    It’s not me wanting to prove anything to you, least of all that I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s just a hope that you’ll see some of your own dilemma in what he has to say, as a one-time unbeliever himself.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I don’t read Dr. Veith as calling for greater seeker-sensitivity.
    And I don’t see the need to call fellow Christians to task on the manner of engagement.
    The problem of engaging the seeker on his own terms is in the seeker setting the terms not only of the debate, but on the tone, and allowing the seeker’s own perceptions of terms and tones such wide sway.
    At any rate, the God we believe and trust in is not ‘our God’, but His own God. As my Pastor so helpfully and repeatedly pointed out to us in yesterday’s sermon, God is not like us. We are only ‘like God’ through Christ.
    Now, how do we explain that to an unbeliever? Well, is there any way to do that, and in a way which will benefit him? While he is still in unbelief, I don’t see an atheist comprehending it.
    So, do we stop saying it, then, or give up on ways of saying it, since it’s had no perceivable effect?
    Coincidentally, Jim Pierce of The Wittenberg Trail has just posted the first in a series of essays on his own former atheism. Here’s a salient tidbit:
    ‘The very object [atheists] deny exists is somehow an object of great dislike and one which occupies much of their thought life in so far as arguing why that object should not exist!’
    I see a lot of this in what Michael writes. Unfortunately, pointing that out to him (and as a former atheist myself) only led to irritating Michael. Or enraging him.
    Jim Pierce is quick to point out that his essay isn’t about himself or his ‘accomplishment’ of faith, but that he only hopes to point to Christ.
    So, it’s important for Michael to understand and to trust that we aren’t speaking of ourselves or our belief as something we’ve chosen or decided upon or invented or picked from off a menu of possibilities, and it’s just as important for Michael to understand and to trust that we’re not boasting or setting ourselves over him, nor thinking we’re more highly evolved or superior in any way.
    But that’s difficult to do, when he’s still stumbling over our believing in anything at all.
    Sorry, Michael, don’t mean to speak as if you’re not ‘in the room’. I hope you understand that we can only say what we believe, and that it will always sound foreign and even silly to you until you believe.
    But it would be helpful if you’d do us the courtesy of not presuming that you’re being talked down to or being misunderstood, either deliberately or thru carelessness, or that your history isn’t important. But, admit that your story is what got you this far. And that you’re here of your own choice, maybe even for something more than telling us about yourself.
    This God Who died for us is as real–and not just to us, but real outside of us–as our own children, as our own selves. He permitted His own death, not to make Himself a martyr, or even an ultimate martyr, and not to astound the world by such an act, but to atone for our ‘imperfections’. And that the only thing He desires of us is our belief in Him. We don’t worship Him merely to praise Him or to tell Him how much we love Him, or to show our gratitude, or to show anything at all to Him, but to get more of Him that He’s simply giving away. He’s not a vain God who awaits our songs and praises, or even our money or our time, but a loving God who wants us restored to Him. Being a god, He could be indifferent to our plight and ask for great feats fromus to prove our love, or He could be indifferent to the point of wiping us all out with one stroke and starting over with a better race of beings.
    But He’s not that God. He’s not like us. He goes to more-than-merely-great lengths to win us back to Him, more than for the purpose of having us acknowledge Him, but to simply be with Him, both now and in eternity.
    Michael, I strongly encourage you to read Jim Pierce’s essay, and hope we’ll soon be blessed with more insight from him, here:
    http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/law_and_gospel/
    on the July 13 entry.
    It’s not me wanting to prove anything to you, least of all that I’m right and you’re wrong. It’s just a hope that you’ll see some of your own dilemma in what he has to say, as a one-time unbeliever himself.

  • FWw

    Hey teresa K. thanks for the nice words. Nothing could please me more than telling me that I always point to Jesus. I don´t think there is a higher compliment for a Lutheran christian to hear.

    I have passed by your blog a few times. You have an interesting faith-life. Someday, I am quite certain that we will meet and share a few good laughs!

    My dear (cyber) sister Susan! if you felt I was trying to orient the bloggers here on how to be more seeker friendly, I do apologize for that is most certainly not my place, and besides, you and the others seem alot more knowledgable about life and theology ( I say that sincerely!) than I would come close to venturing to claim for my own self.

    Jesus is all I seem to know for sure, and I seem to ever just begin to become acquainted with Him. Just when I think I am beginning to know Him, I realize I have made Him after my own image. Again. And He surprises me in a way that does not always make me comfortable, but gives me more peace. Yes I know that makes no sense…

    Susan I have come to know you are a modest woman, and so have not shared alot of your story, but you must have endured no small amount of overcome obstacles in your life to have the strength of character and conviction that I have observed from you and in you over time.

    Again my apologies if I came across the wrong way. I have been talking to Michael for a while now. I just was trying to express that maybe if others asked more questions of him that I might learn more from and about him that my personal limitations have so far prevented me from enjoying…

  • FWw

    Hey teresa K. thanks for the nice words. Nothing could please me more than telling me that I always point to Jesus. I don´t think there is a higher compliment for a Lutheran christian to hear.

    I have passed by your blog a few times. You have an interesting faith-life. Someday, I am quite certain that we will meet and share a few good laughs!

    My dear (cyber) sister Susan! if you felt I was trying to orient the bloggers here on how to be more seeker friendly, I do apologize for that is most certainly not my place, and besides, you and the others seem alot more knowledgable about life and theology ( I say that sincerely!) than I would come close to venturing to claim for my own self.

    Jesus is all I seem to know for sure, and I seem to ever just begin to become acquainted with Him. Just when I think I am beginning to know Him, I realize I have made Him after my own image. Again. And He surprises me in a way that does not always make me comfortable, but gives me more peace. Yes I know that makes no sense…

    Susan I have come to know you are a modest woman, and so have not shared alot of your story, but you must have endured no small amount of overcome obstacles in your life to have the strength of character and conviction that I have observed from you and in you over time.

    Again my apologies if I came across the wrong way. I have been talking to Michael for a while now. I just was trying to express that maybe if others asked more questions of him that I might learn more from and about him that my personal limitations have so far prevented me from enjoying…

  • FWw
  • FWw
  • FWw

    excuse me tHeresa. my bad.

  • FWw

    excuse me tHeresa. my bad.

  • Michael the little boot

    FW,

    Thanks for the wonderful words. So nice.

    I tend to get caught up in answering when I’m on this blog. I’d like to get back to dialoging. I admit I have a hard time doing the latter, keeping my head cool. This is still an area that has a lot of “hot” nerves for me, so I can get carried away with emotion.

    My real reason for being here is to learn. I don’t want to think there’s really ever ANYWHERE I can go that I won’t learn if I’m teachable. Open.

    So it seems it’s good to get a fresh start, a part two to the thread. None of us agree on EVERYTHING here, so it would be nice to start with that assumption. As you’ve suggested to me before, FW, it’s nice to start with what we agree on, so more questions would be good toward that end. To me, as well as from me.

  • Michael the little boot

    FW,

    Thanks for the wonderful words. So nice.

    I tend to get caught up in answering when I’m on this blog. I’d like to get back to dialoging. I admit I have a hard time doing the latter, keeping my head cool. This is still an area that has a lot of “hot” nerves for me, so I can get carried away with emotion.

    My real reason for being here is to learn. I don’t want to think there’s really ever ANYWHERE I can go that I won’t learn if I’m teachable. Open.

    So it seems it’s good to get a fresh start, a part two to the thread. None of us agree on EVERYTHING here, so it would be nice to start with that assumption. As you’ve suggested to me before, FW, it’s nice to start with what we agree on, so more questions would be good toward that end. To me, as well as from me.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    So, Michael: Two questions:
    1) Am I presuming too much in thinking you don’t buy it when we say we didn’t concoct this God we believe in, or that the God we believe in exists outside our ideas of Him (He came first; not the human-imagined God)?
    2) Do you think that, since so many believers get belief wrong and do such harm, like those you were once among, that there then can be no right belief, or no God who’s real?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    So, Michael: Two questions:
    1) Am I presuming too much in thinking you don’t buy it when we say we didn’t concoct this God we believe in, or that the God we believe in exists outside our ideas of Him (He came first; not the human-imagined God)?
    2) Do you think that, since so many believers get belief wrong and do such harm, like those you were once among, that there then can be no right belief, or no God who’s real?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I posed a number of questions @93 on the earlier thread (which you can find by clicking on the “older posts” link. I look forward to your reply.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I posed a number of questions @93 on the earlier thread (which you can find by clicking on the “older posts” link. I look forward to your reply.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 9,

    1) I don’t think you concocted the God you believe in. I think it’s definitely possible the concept of the God you believe in WAS created by a human or humans long ago. But of course I don’t know that. And it doesn’t really factor into my thinking, other than to ackowledge it as a possibility, but one that will probably never have any hard evidence in its favor. I have to admit it’s a possibility because it IS; but it’s not a possibility to which I devote a lot of thought.

    If God exists, God definitely exists outside any conception of God. Just like I exist outside any conception of myself, BY myself or others.

    2) I don’t think just because we all get so much wrong that it has any bearing on what is real. What is real exists outside our opinions of it, which usually, at least thus far, tend to be wrong, or at least partially incorrect – until we look at a given subject for a long time (a looooooong time), trying with everything in us to be as objective as possible. But I don’t take the imperfect reflections of our ideas of perfection to be any indication as to the “realness” of God, one way or the other.

    As far as right belief…I don’t know what that means. We stack beliefs like wood for winter, we humans. It mostly ends up, to me, looking like that trick math problem we all saw as kids. You know, the one some whiz figured out once we learned about multiplications involving zero? You make an equation based on multiplying a huge succession of single numbers, taking care to hide one “zero” among the other integers. Inevitably, at least one child will miss the zero and come up with a large number as the answer. The other child will laugh and point out the zero.

    What I mean by that is: once you get enough beliefs stacked on top of each other, all you need to do is miss one zero to come up with the completely wrong answer. So I guess my question is: what do you mean by “right belief”?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 9,

    1) I don’t think you concocted the God you believe in. I think it’s definitely possible the concept of the God you believe in WAS created by a human or humans long ago. But of course I don’t know that. And it doesn’t really factor into my thinking, other than to ackowledge it as a possibility, but one that will probably never have any hard evidence in its favor. I have to admit it’s a possibility because it IS; but it’s not a possibility to which I devote a lot of thought.

    If God exists, God definitely exists outside any conception of God. Just like I exist outside any conception of myself, BY myself or others.

    2) I don’t think just because we all get so much wrong that it has any bearing on what is real. What is real exists outside our opinions of it, which usually, at least thus far, tend to be wrong, or at least partially incorrect – until we look at a given subject for a long time (a looooooong time), trying with everything in us to be as objective as possible. But I don’t take the imperfect reflections of our ideas of perfection to be any indication as to the “realness” of God, one way or the other.

    As far as right belief…I don’t know what that means. We stack beliefs like wood for winter, we humans. It mostly ends up, to me, looking like that trick math problem we all saw as kids. You know, the one some whiz figured out once we learned about multiplications involving zero? You make an equation based on multiplying a huge succession of single numbers, taking care to hide one “zero” among the other integers. Inevitably, at least one child will miss the zero and come up with a large number as the answer. The other child will laugh and point out the zero.

    What I mean by that is: once you get enough beliefs stacked on top of each other, all you need to do is miss one zero to come up with the completely wrong answer. So I guess my question is: what do you mean by “right belief”?

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 10,

    To keep things current, I’d like to answer here (hope I am not remiss in so doing):

    I didn’t know the guys in Jars of Clay. I met them once when I was a senior in high school, while I was visiting the school. They were in the studio at Greenville recording their first independent release. They wouldn’t remember that meeting of course! I do because it was the first time I was ever in a recording studio. I have always, unfortunately, found their music boring. No accounting for taste, as they say!

    Hogue Hall’s needed to go for years. It was protected as a state monument, I think. They’re gonna need to find a new symbol for the college. Hogue’s on all the letterheads!

    They may not mention the cross often enough for you in the lit on the site; rest assured they laid it on thick three times a week at chapel. Plus, it’s been a few years since I went to the school. They’ve gone through some changes over the years. I wouldn’t be privy to all the info regarding that. But they are affiliated with the Free Methodist denomination, if that tells you anything.

    Thanks for the suggestion on where to become acquainted with Lutheran theology. I’ll have to check it out when I go on break sometime, as I continue to suffer without a home computer (Bill Gates had a dream; now he has money; still the dream goes unfulfilled!). As a substitute, I’ve put the copy we have in the library system where I work on hold, and should have it in a few days. It’s not the only thing I’ll be reading, but I’ll try to get through it so I can understand others on The Blog of Veith.

    What is it about Lutheran theology that doesn’t fit into your national culture? What do you mean by that? Are you referring to the US (it seems a lot of people here are from US, so if you are not, I mean no disrespect in implying you are from a country which you are not actually from)? Or a subculture within a larger culture?

    As far as what I’m asking for: well, nothing, really. But if you mean what would I WISH God to be if I believed there was such a being? I think, simply, someone who is not so pompous as to put him/her/itself above the creatures he/she/it created simply because he/she/it created them. It’s a mistake a lot of parents make, that they deserve respect solely on the basis of having conceived and given birth to a child. My parents did that, too. They then proceeded to teach me almost nothing of value when it came to living life in this world. In my mind, that means they didn’t fulfill their obligation to me as the person who had no choice but to come into being based on their actions. I would wish for a God who took responsibility for being the Power behind the Creative Act which led to our universe.

    I must here acknowledge that it seems a lot of people in these pages believe God HAS taken that responsibility. These ideas have been laid out before, and I understand why many people have this belief. I disagree, respectfully.

    As far as the dialog I would wish to have with God: open. Completely. Wherein I could say ANY old horribly imperfect thing sloshing around in my brainpan without fear of offending God. So I could have my belief “righted”. I love learning more than nearly all other things one could love. I love to be shown that I’m wrong because then I get to grow. So I’d like to be able to lay every sloppy thing out on the table and have God take me gently through my misconceptions. Not for the sake of my eternal soul; just ’cause I’m a nerd and love to learn new things. Who better to teach them?

    You see the Bible as being the means through which God has communicated. I wonder: why did God talk plainly to humans in the past (as recorded in the Bible), but has since ceased? I mean, the God of the Bible – if what was recorded there is more or less to be believed as having actually happened – used to speak in an audible voice. Why not now? Is it just because Jesus came? We don’t live in the same world as the people who wrote the Bible. Why do we have the same words to live by? I don’t mean this in a relativistic way. I mean, the people back then didn’t have cars; didn’t have iPods; didn’t marry in the same way we do now; didn’t speak English, nor any of the other languages we speak now (not, at least, in the same versions as today). Why would God not want to put God’s words in a context more readily understandable to modern humans? Wouldn’t this work better if God spoke to us now as God spoke – with actual words – then?

    I don’t want you not to quote the Bible to me “because I’ve read it”. First, I was just reminding people who have been talking to me like I’ve NEVER read the Bible to be careful with assumptions. Second, I think that quoting the Bible to someone like me often rings hollow – not only because I’ve read it, but because I’ve actually studied it and no longer believe it. It feels like a dismissal, like a brush-off. Assume I’m familiar with the material, if not the idiosyncratic interpretation, when I say I grew up in the church. If you quote the Bible to me, it’s like you’re answering me out of context. You haven’t read all the material.

    Which is a problem when things get to be so wordy. I am VERY wordy. Very very. I know. But if one is going to respond to me, I would assume they’ve read enough of what I’ve written to do so. When I get Bible quotes, it’s like, “Man, they just think they’re talking to Johnny Atheist.” You know, insert Atheist Refutation #1,371 HERE. Once a human face is put to the words (and this is really difficult to keep in mind when replying to a faceless blog post), it seems much more difficult to me to toss out prefab answers. No matter if you agree with a given person’s struggle, to deny it is just to be ignorant, naive, or mean.

    As far as the “testimony of witnesses” is concerned, I don’t buy it. I know it is accepted as “proof” in certain contexts, but I find those contexts to be flawed. Our system of justice is one example. Testimony itself is not enough, anyway. It must be corroborated with hard evidence, facts. This doesn’t always happen in a court of law, even though the testimony is still accepted. Plus, I find that kind of “evidence” to be easily manipulated. It’s been plainly shown that humans usually act in their own self-interest, with little regard for what is “true” when they want to show they are right. Most people would rather be right than accurate, and will bend “facts” to suit their needs.

    Also, it’s one thing to accept testimony from a person one knows, or some living person to whom one can speak. It’s something totally other to accept the writing of someone who claims to have been at a place and accurately reported it 2000 years ago. I’ve read Plato and found a lot of interesting things in his writings, none of which convince me Socrates was an actual person. He may well never have existed. And there’s more evidence HE existed than any for the existence of Jesus.

    I amended my statement about Christians getting the God they want to reflect a more accurate idea: the idea of God presented in the scriptures MAKES SENSE to Christians. Lucky for you. What about those of us to whom it makes literally ZERO sense? I know it may have made no sense to many of you at one time, but at some point it did. I’m asking: WHAT IF there are some people to whom this idea will NEVER MAKE SENSE? Can you even contemplate an idea like that? What will happen to people like that?

    A path only leads to a destination in the western worldview. For instance, in Buddhism the journey in considered more important than the destination. That’s usually how I look at it: I know I’m headed SOMEWHERE, but I usually think I’m headed to a place other than where I end up.

    As far as this statement, though, I have more to say. “If you choose to follow a path that leads away from God, heaven, joy, etc., and that leads towards Hell, how is it God’s fault if Hell is where you ultimately arrive?” God made me. God made me as I am. If the path to heaven makes no sense to me, if it is something I can never grasp no matter how many times I hear it – well, if God made it all, then God put me on the path and allowed me to have a mind which would not allow me to deviate from the path. How is that NOT God’s fault?

    God MAY care what we do to the other creations. As to whether God SHOULD care…I don’t think it should matter. Obviously many people disagree.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 10,

    To keep things current, I’d like to answer here (hope I am not remiss in so doing):

    I didn’t know the guys in Jars of Clay. I met them once when I was a senior in high school, while I was visiting the school. They were in the studio at Greenville recording their first independent release. They wouldn’t remember that meeting of course! I do because it was the first time I was ever in a recording studio. I have always, unfortunately, found their music boring. No accounting for taste, as they say!

    Hogue Hall’s needed to go for years. It was protected as a state monument, I think. They’re gonna need to find a new symbol for the college. Hogue’s on all the letterheads!

    They may not mention the cross often enough for you in the lit on the site; rest assured they laid it on thick three times a week at chapel. Plus, it’s been a few years since I went to the school. They’ve gone through some changes over the years. I wouldn’t be privy to all the info regarding that. But they are affiliated with the Free Methodist denomination, if that tells you anything.

    Thanks for the suggestion on where to become acquainted with Lutheran theology. I’ll have to check it out when I go on break sometime, as I continue to suffer without a home computer (Bill Gates had a dream; now he has money; still the dream goes unfulfilled!). As a substitute, I’ve put the copy we have in the library system where I work on hold, and should have it in a few days. It’s not the only thing I’ll be reading, but I’ll try to get through it so I can understand others on The Blog of Veith.

    What is it about Lutheran theology that doesn’t fit into your national culture? What do you mean by that? Are you referring to the US (it seems a lot of people here are from US, so if you are not, I mean no disrespect in implying you are from a country which you are not actually from)? Or a subculture within a larger culture?

    As far as what I’m asking for: well, nothing, really. But if you mean what would I WISH God to be if I believed there was such a being? I think, simply, someone who is not so pompous as to put him/her/itself above the creatures he/she/it created simply because he/she/it created them. It’s a mistake a lot of parents make, that they deserve respect solely on the basis of having conceived and given birth to a child. My parents did that, too. They then proceeded to teach me almost nothing of value when it came to living life in this world. In my mind, that means they didn’t fulfill their obligation to me as the person who had no choice but to come into being based on their actions. I would wish for a God who took responsibility for being the Power behind the Creative Act which led to our universe.

    I must here acknowledge that it seems a lot of people in these pages believe God HAS taken that responsibility. These ideas have been laid out before, and I understand why many people have this belief. I disagree, respectfully.

    As far as the dialog I would wish to have with God: open. Completely. Wherein I could say ANY old horribly imperfect thing sloshing around in my brainpan without fear of offending God. So I could have my belief “righted”. I love learning more than nearly all other things one could love. I love to be shown that I’m wrong because then I get to grow. So I’d like to be able to lay every sloppy thing out on the table and have God take me gently through my misconceptions. Not for the sake of my eternal soul; just ’cause I’m a nerd and love to learn new things. Who better to teach them?

    You see the Bible as being the means through which God has communicated. I wonder: why did God talk plainly to humans in the past (as recorded in the Bible), but has since ceased? I mean, the God of the Bible – if what was recorded there is more or less to be believed as having actually happened – used to speak in an audible voice. Why not now? Is it just because Jesus came? We don’t live in the same world as the people who wrote the Bible. Why do we have the same words to live by? I don’t mean this in a relativistic way. I mean, the people back then didn’t have cars; didn’t have iPods; didn’t marry in the same way we do now; didn’t speak English, nor any of the other languages we speak now (not, at least, in the same versions as today). Why would God not want to put God’s words in a context more readily understandable to modern humans? Wouldn’t this work better if God spoke to us now as God spoke – with actual words – then?

    I don’t want you not to quote the Bible to me “because I’ve read it”. First, I was just reminding people who have been talking to me like I’ve NEVER read the Bible to be careful with assumptions. Second, I think that quoting the Bible to someone like me often rings hollow – not only because I’ve read it, but because I’ve actually studied it and no longer believe it. It feels like a dismissal, like a brush-off. Assume I’m familiar with the material, if not the idiosyncratic interpretation, when I say I grew up in the church. If you quote the Bible to me, it’s like you’re answering me out of context. You haven’t read all the material.

    Which is a problem when things get to be so wordy. I am VERY wordy. Very very. I know. But if one is going to respond to me, I would assume they’ve read enough of what I’ve written to do so. When I get Bible quotes, it’s like, “Man, they just think they’re talking to Johnny Atheist.” You know, insert Atheist Refutation #1,371 HERE. Once a human face is put to the words (and this is really difficult to keep in mind when replying to a faceless blog post), it seems much more difficult to me to toss out prefab answers. No matter if you agree with a given person’s struggle, to deny it is just to be ignorant, naive, or mean.

    As far as the “testimony of witnesses” is concerned, I don’t buy it. I know it is accepted as “proof” in certain contexts, but I find those contexts to be flawed. Our system of justice is one example. Testimony itself is not enough, anyway. It must be corroborated with hard evidence, facts. This doesn’t always happen in a court of law, even though the testimony is still accepted. Plus, I find that kind of “evidence” to be easily manipulated. It’s been plainly shown that humans usually act in their own self-interest, with little regard for what is “true” when they want to show they are right. Most people would rather be right than accurate, and will bend “facts” to suit their needs.

    Also, it’s one thing to accept testimony from a person one knows, or some living person to whom one can speak. It’s something totally other to accept the writing of someone who claims to have been at a place and accurately reported it 2000 years ago. I’ve read Plato and found a lot of interesting things in his writings, none of which convince me Socrates was an actual person. He may well never have existed. And there’s more evidence HE existed than any for the existence of Jesus.

    I amended my statement about Christians getting the God they want to reflect a more accurate idea: the idea of God presented in the scriptures MAKES SENSE to Christians. Lucky for you. What about those of us to whom it makes literally ZERO sense? I know it may have made no sense to many of you at one time, but at some point it did. I’m asking: WHAT IF there are some people to whom this idea will NEVER MAKE SENSE? Can you even contemplate an idea like that? What will happen to people like that?

    A path only leads to a destination in the western worldview. For instance, in Buddhism the journey in considered more important than the destination. That’s usually how I look at it: I know I’m headed SOMEWHERE, but I usually think I’m headed to a place other than where I end up.

    As far as this statement, though, I have more to say. “If you choose to follow a path that leads away from God, heaven, joy, etc., and that leads towards Hell, how is it God’s fault if Hell is where you ultimately arrive?” God made me. God made me as I am. If the path to heaven makes no sense to me, if it is something I can never grasp no matter how many times I hear it – well, if God made it all, then God put me on the path and allowed me to have a mind which would not allow me to deviate from the path. How is that NOT God’s fault?

    God MAY care what we do to the other creations. As to whether God SHOULD care…I don’t think it should matter. Obviously many people disagree.

  • The Jones

    Hey Mike,

    I’m amazed that you keep posting, and if it really is true what you said about only having the time to respond at work, then let me express my hope that this escapade doesn’t drive you to unemployment and homelessness. Although, unemployment and homelessness do seem to be great ways to do away with attachment… …I think I see the purpose of this discussion! I’ve exposed you, you closet Buddhist!

    Anyway, I had two questions for clarification, and I know you’ll probably have to look way back in the archives for your response to Veith (#44, original post), but I’d like to ask:

    I don’t understand how we can be imperfect and whatnot but still not be “sinners.” What really confuses me is that you use phrases that I would use to argue FOR original sin as you argue AGAINST original sin. For instance, you said “we can’t help but be imperfect” when in a Christian’s eyes, that’s precisely what makes him a sinner. There seems to be some disconnect between what we call original sin and what you’re calling imperfection.

    Second thing is kind of related and in the same post, but you say that as imperfect individuals, “we place impossibly high standards on ourselves, and then get angry and feel like failures when we don’t achieve what we never would have been able to achieve in the first place.” As Christians, we would say that impossibly high standard would be righteousness, a perfect combination of all the virtues you could ever think of: faith, hope, love, humility, courage, etc. I don’t intend to argue that we can reach those, so we agree on this. BUT, my question is that even if they are ‘impossibly high expectations,’ aren’t they pretty good expectations? Is it really bad to shoot for the best possible showing of love, charity, faithfulness, patience, kindness, and all that?

    These are kind of leading questions into something C.S. Lewis talks about at the beginning of Mere Christianity. Basically: we have these expectations, and everybody falls short of them. The expectations are almost always good things, and we all are imperfect in them, which leads to the Christian doctrine of imperfection, or not-goodness, or sin. If you have the time, I’d love to revisit “imperfection vs. sin” and “are impossible expectations bad expectations”?

    BTW, the first paragraph was my first attempt at a Buddhist joke from information that I gleaned from tonight’s episode of “The Colbert Report.” I hope you got the joke (and thought it was funny) instead of thinking I was throwing a real accusation out.

  • The Jones

    Hey Mike,

    I’m amazed that you keep posting, and if it really is true what you said about only having the time to respond at work, then let me express my hope that this escapade doesn’t drive you to unemployment and homelessness. Although, unemployment and homelessness do seem to be great ways to do away with attachment… …I think I see the purpose of this discussion! I’ve exposed you, you closet Buddhist!

    Anyway, I had two questions for clarification, and I know you’ll probably have to look way back in the archives for your response to Veith (#44, original post), but I’d like to ask:

    I don’t understand how we can be imperfect and whatnot but still not be “sinners.” What really confuses me is that you use phrases that I would use to argue FOR original sin as you argue AGAINST original sin. For instance, you said “we can’t help but be imperfect” when in a Christian’s eyes, that’s precisely what makes him a sinner. There seems to be some disconnect between what we call original sin and what you’re calling imperfection.

    Second thing is kind of related and in the same post, but you say that as imperfect individuals, “we place impossibly high standards on ourselves, and then get angry and feel like failures when we don’t achieve what we never would have been able to achieve in the first place.” As Christians, we would say that impossibly high standard would be righteousness, a perfect combination of all the virtues you could ever think of: faith, hope, love, humility, courage, etc. I don’t intend to argue that we can reach those, so we agree on this. BUT, my question is that even if they are ‘impossibly high expectations,’ aren’t they pretty good expectations? Is it really bad to shoot for the best possible showing of love, charity, faithfulness, patience, kindness, and all that?

    These are kind of leading questions into something C.S. Lewis talks about at the beginning of Mere Christianity. Basically: we have these expectations, and everybody falls short of them. The expectations are almost always good things, and we all are imperfect in them, which leads to the Christian doctrine of imperfection, or not-goodness, or sin. If you have the time, I’d love to revisit “imperfection vs. sin” and “are impossible expectations bad expectations”?

    BTW, the first paragraph was my first attempt at a Buddhist joke from information that I gleaned from tonight’s episode of “The Colbert Report.” I hope you got the joke (and thought it was funny) instead of thinking I was throwing a real accusation out.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I would appreciate it if you would clarify your opinion about the propriety of God caring when we sin against other people. Maybe this is characteristic of western thought, but it seems the most natural thing in the world to me, and a very good thing, for any being to care about the welfare of other beings. In a biological sense, I have “created” my children. When someone harms one of them, it matters to me very greatly. This is sometimes still very appropriate, even if the injured party does not seem to care. Take, for example, the father of a woman who is being abused by her husband. The woman may tolerate the abuse and seem to forgive her abuser over and over again. But her father, if he were to know of it, would be very concerned about such a situation. So, if I believe that God, our Father, is very concerned when we His children abuse each other, I see this as a perfectly appropriate response on His part. I understand that you disagree, but I don’t understand why? If if one person has been harmed by another, why shouldn’t it matter to God? For that matter, why shouldn’t it matter to me?

    Why did God talk plainly to people in the Bible, but no longer does. I suppose the short answer is because He has already said everything we need to know. I agree that the advent of Christ, and His death and resurection, were the central events to which the Old testiment pointed, and the testimony of the Gospels, and the exposition of the rest of the New Testiment was important to establish the Church on Earth. I don’t know what else we need to know that the Bible doesn’t tell us. There may also be a problem with our ability to understand the mechanics of some of God’s deeper mysteries. My mother used to give me the example of a cat watching her bake a cake. The cat can watch Mom make the cake 100 times. The cat can see and smell the cake, and even eat it. But the cat will NEVER understand how to make a cake or be able to make one himself. I fear we are in a similar position vis a vis God. There are some things He is able to do and understand that will always be beyond us.

    When we talk about this, or other aspects of God as we perceive Him, you seem to me to bounce back and forth between not believing as we do, and NOT WANTING to believe as we do. For example, you think you should be able to ask God (if He exists) any question you want without offending Him. I suspect you can, if you exercise reasonably good manners when you do it. Remember, the tone of some people on this very blog has offended you when they expressed any old idea that rattled around in THEIR minds. I don’t think you should expect God to put up with wilful disrespect any more than you should yourself. But other than that, I don’t think God has any plans to strike you down for asking questions.

    On the other hand, you characterize God as pompous for putting Himself above His creations. He should have made us all a lot more equal to Him and should treat us as equals? Creation should be a lot more democratic than it is? Well, I’m not sure that’s something we can do much about, is it? I also think we have kind of swerved back into original sin. Wanting to be like God was what got Satan cast out of Heaven and Adam and Eve cast out of Eden, wasn’t it? Which leads us to another question?

    Are you really sure that your rejection of Christianity, and religion in general, is a product of your intellect and not your will? You say that our beliefs don’t make sense to you, but I think you also don’t like them. You don’t WANT Christianity to be true. This is a different problem, because frankly I think no religion can be proven conclusively. Without going into all the details, I do believe that there is enough supporting evidence for me to believe the Bible and the religion it generated. But I wonder whether you just don’t want any authority in your spiritual life. Like you think God and your Dad have too much in common or something.

    Perhaps I’m out of line here. I don’t know you that well, and I have no business playing amateur psychologist. But from my limited point of view, it seems that way to me (at least a little).

    So another question: you have said that no matter how many times you read/hear the arguments in favor of Christianity, they make no sense to you. Well, what would it take to convince you?

    Oh yeah. You asked about my culture. I am an American. I think that there are many versions of Christianity that get their distinctive characteristics from American culture. I would say, without perhaps knowing as much as I should about it, that the Foursquare Church is one such denomination (founded by Aimee Semple McPherson right here in the good old US of A). I find Lutheran theology to have much more of a connection with Apostolic and historic Christian thought than the theologies of most denominations founded in America. Luther was an Augustinian monk before he was a reformer, after all. As much as I love my country, it’s not an eternal institution. The Church is.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I would appreciate it if you would clarify your opinion about the propriety of God caring when we sin against other people. Maybe this is characteristic of western thought, but it seems the most natural thing in the world to me, and a very good thing, for any being to care about the welfare of other beings. In a biological sense, I have “created” my children. When someone harms one of them, it matters to me very greatly. This is sometimes still very appropriate, even if the injured party does not seem to care. Take, for example, the father of a woman who is being abused by her husband. The woman may tolerate the abuse and seem to forgive her abuser over and over again. But her father, if he were to know of it, would be very concerned about such a situation. So, if I believe that God, our Father, is very concerned when we His children abuse each other, I see this as a perfectly appropriate response on His part. I understand that you disagree, but I don’t understand why? If if one person has been harmed by another, why shouldn’t it matter to God? For that matter, why shouldn’t it matter to me?

    Why did God talk plainly to people in the Bible, but no longer does. I suppose the short answer is because He has already said everything we need to know. I agree that the advent of Christ, and His death and resurection, were the central events to which the Old testiment pointed, and the testimony of the Gospels, and the exposition of the rest of the New Testiment was important to establish the Church on Earth. I don’t know what else we need to know that the Bible doesn’t tell us. There may also be a problem with our ability to understand the mechanics of some of God’s deeper mysteries. My mother used to give me the example of a cat watching her bake a cake. The cat can watch Mom make the cake 100 times. The cat can see and smell the cake, and even eat it. But the cat will NEVER understand how to make a cake or be able to make one himself. I fear we are in a similar position vis a vis God. There are some things He is able to do and understand that will always be beyond us.

    When we talk about this, or other aspects of God as we perceive Him, you seem to me to bounce back and forth between not believing as we do, and NOT WANTING to believe as we do. For example, you think you should be able to ask God (if He exists) any question you want without offending Him. I suspect you can, if you exercise reasonably good manners when you do it. Remember, the tone of some people on this very blog has offended you when they expressed any old idea that rattled around in THEIR minds. I don’t think you should expect God to put up with wilful disrespect any more than you should yourself. But other than that, I don’t think God has any plans to strike you down for asking questions.

    On the other hand, you characterize God as pompous for putting Himself above His creations. He should have made us all a lot more equal to Him and should treat us as equals? Creation should be a lot more democratic than it is? Well, I’m not sure that’s something we can do much about, is it? I also think we have kind of swerved back into original sin. Wanting to be like God was what got Satan cast out of Heaven and Adam and Eve cast out of Eden, wasn’t it? Which leads us to another question?

    Are you really sure that your rejection of Christianity, and religion in general, is a product of your intellect and not your will? You say that our beliefs don’t make sense to you, but I think you also don’t like them. You don’t WANT Christianity to be true. This is a different problem, because frankly I think no religion can be proven conclusively. Without going into all the details, I do believe that there is enough supporting evidence for me to believe the Bible and the religion it generated. But I wonder whether you just don’t want any authority in your spiritual life. Like you think God and your Dad have too much in common or something.

    Perhaps I’m out of line here. I don’t know you that well, and I have no business playing amateur psychologist. But from my limited point of view, it seems that way to me (at least a little).

    So another question: you have said that no matter how many times you read/hear the arguments in favor of Christianity, they make no sense to you. Well, what would it take to convince you?

    Oh yeah. You asked about my culture. I am an American. I think that there are many versions of Christianity that get their distinctive characteristics from American culture. I would say, without perhaps knowing as much as I should about it, that the Foursquare Church is one such denomination (founded by Aimee Semple McPherson right here in the good old US of A). I find Lutheran theology to have much more of a connection with Apostolic and historic Christian thought than the theologies of most denominations founded in America. Luther was an Augustinian monk before he was a reformer, after all. As much as I love my country, it’s not an eternal institution. The Church is.

  • http://www.absoluteparadox.com DRB

    Veith requested, “I’d like to hear more about the Christian belief that God is INCARNATE–not an abstraction far above and looking down, but that He came down from Heaven to suffer and die with us and for us.”

    “The author of The End of Faith asked, “How is it fair for God to have designed a world which gives such ambiguous testimony to his existence? How is it fair to have created a system where belief is the crucial piece, rather than being a good person?”*** Christians often respond to the new atheists with answers from the Intelligent Design movement or from other developments of Thomas Aquinas’s “proofs” of God’s existence. By contrast, orthodox Christians of the first century, far from advancing philosophical arguments for the existence of God, maintained that those who deny his existence suppress the knowledge they already have of him from the things he created… Rather than displaying all his power, righteousness, and justice, thereby destroying the guilty human race, Christianity’s God sent his innocent Son in the form of a servant to gently reveal his love. This revelation reportedly came by means of Jesus’ testimony, his healing the blind and lame by word and touch, his proclaiming good news to the poor, his bearing on the cross the retribution due all people, and his appearances to his disciples after his resurrection.”
    [ From http://www.absoluteparadox.com ]

  • http://www.absoluteparadox.com DRB

    Veith requested, “I’d like to hear more about the Christian belief that God is INCARNATE–not an abstraction far above and looking down, but that He came down from Heaven to suffer and die with us and for us.”

    “The author of The End of Faith asked, “How is it fair for God to have designed a world which gives such ambiguous testimony to his existence? How is it fair to have created a system where belief is the crucial piece, rather than being a good person?”*** Christians often respond to the new atheists with answers from the Intelligent Design movement or from other developments of Thomas Aquinas’s “proofs” of God’s existence. By contrast, orthodox Christians of the first century, far from advancing philosophical arguments for the existence of God, maintained that those who deny his existence suppress the knowledge they already have of him from the things he created… Rather than displaying all his power, righteousness, and justice, thereby destroying the guilty human race, Christianity’s God sent his innocent Son in the form of a servant to gently reveal his love. This revelation reportedly came by means of Jesus’ testimony, his healing the blind and lame by word and touch, his proclaiming good news to the poor, his bearing on the cross the retribution due all people, and his appearances to his disciples after his resurrection.”
    [ From http://www.absoluteparadox.com ]

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Right belief comes from taking God at His word, believing that the Word He’s left us–the Bible–is a true and complete (enough) testimony of Him and of His will.
    Right belief is leaving authority to the Word (the testimony) of God, and not to human or personal experience, or to additions to that Word, or subtractions from it.
    For starters.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Right belief comes from taking God at His word, believing that the Word He’s left us–the Bible–is a true and complete (enough) testimony of Him and of His will.
    Right belief is leaving authority to the Word (the testimony) of God, and not to human or personal experience, or to additions to that Word, or subtractions from it.
    For starters.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jones @ 13,

    No offense taken at all. Totally got your joke. I only post when all my work is done and we’re slow, anyway. But I appreciate the concern!

    I agree there is a disconnect between what I call imperfection and what you call sin, but I couldn’t tell you what that disconnect is. I’ll try to clarify a bit, though. I think we both agree that humans do not do things perfectly. We make what we call “mistakes”. We hurt others, or do things others don’t like. Some of us murder, torture, berate and generally abuse others. (I just want to make clear that I don’t think humans are basically good or any other nonsense.) What I’m saying is I don’t believe there are consequences for those actions other than any number of things that may happen as a direct result of a said action(s). There is no additional punishment.

    Part of the disconnect may come from the fact that I don’t believe we (humans) were ever capable of anything other than imperfect actions. Perfection may be an idea that comes from our observation of this fact, and our extrapolation from reality led us to think this aspect of ourselves must have an opposite. Simply because we can conceive of perfection in our brains doesn’t imply its existence in reality. Many people have thought and some continue to think that our ability to use our imagination is limited to what is real – i.e., we are not able to conceive of something which does not exist. This is obviously false (if it’s not, I’m quitting ALL my activities NOW and building my own lightsaber).

    So I think the story of The Fall and original sin are not factual. We have heard them for so long that we can’t conceive of another reason we would commit the actions we do. As Paul said, we don’t always do what we want to do, and we often do exactly what we DON’T want to do. Why is this? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone knows. But humans like to “solve problems,” even if a given situation is not really a problem NEEDING a solution. Would it be better if we were perfect? I don’t know. It would solve the problem of being embarrassed when one does something for which one must apologize. It sounds really BORING to me, to tell you the truth. I have no desire to BE perfect. I tend to learn more from making mistakes than I do from getting things “right.” I think it’s fine that we don’t always do things “correctly.”

    What does that even mean? What is doing something “correctly”? I think a lot of what we see as our own sin is actually just the messiness of life. It’s not simple. It’s not cut and dried. But it is easier when we can say “That guy over there is evil, and here’s WHY.” Most of it seems to boil down to what we like and don’t like. Is it a sin for a man not to wear clothes in public? NO. We were born naked. It seems for a good bit of human history we were only ever naked. Yet many people see the naked body as indecent. Is there a reasonable explanation for why this is the case? I haven’t heard one. Perhaps someone can provide one here.

    So I don’t deny that what you call sin actually does occur; but if it is our nature to do so – not because of The Fall, but because perfection is an ideal, not a reality, and can never be achieved – we should not feel bad when we do not attain that for which we are reaching.

    Which leads me to your second question, having to do with the impossibly high standards for conduct which we place upon ourselves: “even if they are ‘impossibly high expectations,’ aren’t they pretty good expectations? Is it really bad to shoot for the best possible showing of love, charity, faithfulness, patience, kindness, and all that?” My question back is, if we can’t achieve any of those things, how are they the best? When you ask someone to do their best in a given task, do you mean the absolute, ideal BEST OF WHICH COULD BE CONCEIVED? Or do you mean for that specific person to do his/her best? What IS best? What does that mean?

    I think I should revise what I’ve said before. Impossibly high expectations – while I do think they can be a detriment to self-esteem and to having a reasonable understanding of one’s own abilities – are not the problem in themselves. The problem is an expectation that the unreal can become real. It is not, in fact, an impossibly high goal which is at issue; rather, it is a goal which is not achievable because it is not real. Perfection is not a real thing, but an ideal – i.e., a conception of something in its perfection, or, more aptly put, something that exists only in the imagination.

    So I do not think one should lower one’s standards across the board. It can be beneficial at times to place the bar higher than one has in the past in order to challenge oneself. What I am saying is, perfection is not one of these instances, because it is not a real thing. Even if one does better than strive for one’s best, but achieves it, one will still miss the mark of perfection. One would have the same chances of achieving that goal as one would have of reaching Never-Neverland.

    If you’d like to show me that perfection DOES exist – that it is a real thing, rather than an imagined one – be my guest. The burden of proof is on you, anyway, since you believe in perfection. I see no proof it exists at all.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jones @ 13,

    No offense taken at all. Totally got your joke. I only post when all my work is done and we’re slow, anyway. But I appreciate the concern!

    I agree there is a disconnect between what I call imperfection and what you call sin, but I couldn’t tell you what that disconnect is. I’ll try to clarify a bit, though. I think we both agree that humans do not do things perfectly. We make what we call “mistakes”. We hurt others, or do things others don’t like. Some of us murder, torture, berate and generally abuse others. (I just want to make clear that I don’t think humans are basically good or any other nonsense.) What I’m saying is I don’t believe there are consequences for those actions other than any number of things that may happen as a direct result of a said action(s). There is no additional punishment.

    Part of the disconnect may come from the fact that I don’t believe we (humans) were ever capable of anything other than imperfect actions. Perfection may be an idea that comes from our observation of this fact, and our extrapolation from reality led us to think this aspect of ourselves must have an opposite. Simply because we can conceive of perfection in our brains doesn’t imply its existence in reality. Many people have thought and some continue to think that our ability to use our imagination is limited to what is real – i.e., we are not able to conceive of something which does not exist. This is obviously false (if it’s not, I’m quitting ALL my activities NOW and building my own lightsaber).

    So I think the story of The Fall and original sin are not factual. We have heard them for so long that we can’t conceive of another reason we would commit the actions we do. As Paul said, we don’t always do what we want to do, and we often do exactly what we DON’T want to do. Why is this? I don’t know, and I don’t think anyone knows. But humans like to “solve problems,” even if a given situation is not really a problem NEEDING a solution. Would it be better if we were perfect? I don’t know. It would solve the problem of being embarrassed when one does something for which one must apologize. It sounds really BORING to me, to tell you the truth. I have no desire to BE perfect. I tend to learn more from making mistakes than I do from getting things “right.” I think it’s fine that we don’t always do things “correctly.”

    What does that even mean? What is doing something “correctly”? I think a lot of what we see as our own sin is actually just the messiness of life. It’s not simple. It’s not cut and dried. But it is easier when we can say “That guy over there is evil, and here’s WHY.” Most of it seems to boil down to what we like and don’t like. Is it a sin for a man not to wear clothes in public? NO. We were born naked. It seems for a good bit of human history we were only ever naked. Yet many people see the naked body as indecent. Is there a reasonable explanation for why this is the case? I haven’t heard one. Perhaps someone can provide one here.

    So I don’t deny that what you call sin actually does occur; but if it is our nature to do so – not because of The Fall, but because perfection is an ideal, not a reality, and can never be achieved – we should not feel bad when we do not attain that for which we are reaching.

    Which leads me to your second question, having to do with the impossibly high standards for conduct which we place upon ourselves: “even if they are ‘impossibly high expectations,’ aren’t they pretty good expectations? Is it really bad to shoot for the best possible showing of love, charity, faithfulness, patience, kindness, and all that?” My question back is, if we can’t achieve any of those things, how are they the best? When you ask someone to do their best in a given task, do you mean the absolute, ideal BEST OF WHICH COULD BE CONCEIVED? Or do you mean for that specific person to do his/her best? What IS best? What does that mean?

    I think I should revise what I’ve said before. Impossibly high expectations – while I do think they can be a detriment to self-esteem and to having a reasonable understanding of one’s own abilities – are not the problem in themselves. The problem is an expectation that the unreal can become real. It is not, in fact, an impossibly high goal which is at issue; rather, it is a goal which is not achievable because it is not real. Perfection is not a real thing, but an ideal – i.e., a conception of something in its perfection, or, more aptly put, something that exists only in the imagination.

    So I do not think one should lower one’s standards across the board. It can be beneficial at times to place the bar higher than one has in the past in order to challenge oneself. What I am saying is, perfection is not one of these instances, because it is not a real thing. Even if one does better than strive for one’s best, but achieves it, one will still miss the mark of perfection. One would have the same chances of achieving that goal as one would have of reaching Never-Neverland.

    If you’d like to show me that perfection DOES exist – that it is a real thing, rather than an imagined one – be my guest. The burden of proof is on you, anyway, since you believe in perfection. I see no proof it exists at all.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Hey y’all!

    Isn’t there mathematical and physical perfection which exists in reality?

    1=1
    1+1=2
    4 milligrams = a wide variety of small things
    1 inch does not equal a mile.

    Without perfect equations trust breaks down.

    What if my banker did not believe in equations, but only estimates? I would find a different banker.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Hey y’all!

    Isn’t there mathematical and physical perfection which exists in reality?

    1=1
    1+1=2
    4 milligrams = a wide variety of small things
    1 inch does not equal a mile.

    Without perfect equations trust breaks down.

    What if my banker did not believe in equations, but only estimates? I would find a different banker.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    Credo ut intelligam – Latin for, I believe in order that I might understand. Per Saint Augustine, Crede ut intelligas, believe in order that you may understand.
    I have no intention to provoke you but I must state again that God requires faith in him. And by the way, it is wrong to interpret the lack of the need for Israel to have a King in the way that you did. God was their king as they were living under a theocracy. They sinfully demanded a king. And he is a good king not a tyrant. The particulars of debate are irrelevant unless you believe God for who he is. One can formulate arguments giving proofs but it is only by faith that you can know God. He ordained it to be this way. God does not answer to the whims of man on the matter. He has revealed himself in his word, in nature, and in your mind. And whether you will admit it or not, it remains to be seen. I cannot stress enough that to know God savingly is a matter of faith and not academics. Look to him and be saved. He saves all who will come to him.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    Credo ut intelligam – Latin for, I believe in order that I might understand. Per Saint Augustine, Crede ut intelligas, believe in order that you may understand.
    I have no intention to provoke you but I must state again that God requires faith in him. And by the way, it is wrong to interpret the lack of the need for Israel to have a King in the way that you did. God was their king as they were living under a theocracy. They sinfully demanded a king. And he is a good king not a tyrant. The particulars of debate are irrelevant unless you believe God for who he is. One can formulate arguments giving proofs but it is only by faith that you can know God. He ordained it to be this way. God does not answer to the whims of man on the matter. He has revealed himself in his word, in nature, and in your mind. And whether you will admit it or not, it remains to be seen. I cannot stress enough that to know God savingly is a matter of faith and not academics. Look to him and be saved. He saves all who will come to him.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    How about also maps. Would you buy a map that had this disclosure on the key: This map is not a perfect representation of the land is surveys. 1 inch = something like 2 or 3 miles, whatever. Let the buyer beware.

    What if a publisher didn’t aim for perfection at all. No proofreaders – or – rather “our prufridrs spl guud.”
    The author writes a book about gooses.
    Publisher, “We have made this nice jacket for the cover, but it has dogs on it that would look rather nice. Who cares about perfection?”
    I wonder if they would have many authors use their services.

    Perfection is all around us.

    Its in the ground we walk on and in the air we breath.

    When you go to the hospital would you rather they gave you some imperfect gas. Who’s to say what’s in the bottle? Or would you rather have their perfect declaration that they know they were giving you the right or perfect mixture of oxygen?

    Words you don’t want to hear from your eye sugeon: “Oops, nobody’s perfect!”

  • Bryan Lindemood

    How about also maps. Would you buy a map that had this disclosure on the key: This map is not a perfect representation of the land is surveys. 1 inch = something like 2 or 3 miles, whatever. Let the buyer beware.

    What if a publisher didn’t aim for perfection at all. No proofreaders – or – rather “our prufridrs spl guud.”
    The author writes a book about gooses.
    Publisher, “We have made this nice jacket for the cover, but it has dogs on it that would look rather nice. Who cares about perfection?”
    I wonder if they would have many authors use their services.

    Perfection is all around us.

    Its in the ground we walk on and in the air we breath.

    When you go to the hospital would you rather they gave you some imperfect gas. Who’s to say what’s in the bottle? Or would you rather have their perfect declaration that they know they were giving you the right or perfect mixture of oxygen?

    Words you don’t want to hear from your eye sugeon: “Oops, nobody’s perfect!”

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 19,

    Once again, I’m answering out of order. But I think it’s worth noting that you’re wasting your time by continuing to reply in this manner. I am trying to understand the people on this blog. I am not trying to understand God or come to any sort of saving knowledge. I realize you might feel it your duty to say these things over and over again. So I just want you to know that I’ve heard you. You no longer need to repeat the stuff about academics vs. faith.

    I must acknowledge that you’re correct in what you said about God telling Israel they didn’t need a HUMAN king because they had a more transcendent one in God. I thought you might still see MY point, even though I realized I was stretching it. I was wrong in that assumption. But if God is a King, and must constantly remind us of the fact, then God is, as I’ve said, not only a tyrant, but an insecure tyrant.

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 19,

    Once again, I’m answering out of order. But I think it’s worth noting that you’re wasting your time by continuing to reply in this manner. I am trying to understand the people on this blog. I am not trying to understand God or come to any sort of saving knowledge. I realize you might feel it your duty to say these things over and over again. So I just want you to know that I’ve heard you. You no longer need to repeat the stuff about academics vs. faith.

    I must acknowledge that you’re correct in what you said about God telling Israel they didn’t need a HUMAN king because they had a more transcendent one in God. I thought you might still see MY point, even though I realized I was stretching it. I was wrong in that assumption. But if God is a King, and must constantly remind us of the fact, then God is, as I’ve said, not only a tyrant, but an insecure tyrant.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    What you’re talking about is accuracy. How does that have anything to do with perfection?

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    What you’re talking about is accuracy. How does that have anything to do with perfection?

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I have not had the chance to read all the posts. Obviously I missed something. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I have not had the chance to read all the posts. Obviously I missed something. I apologize for the misunderstanding.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 14,

    A compassionate person does care about the well-being of others. Most of us only care about those close to us; but I agree it is a virtue to care about our fellow earthlings. It is not, however, very natural to care about anyone other than those in one’s “circle,” as one defines it. That’s why we have to have laws about it. It’s much more natural for survival instincts to take over and for one to do what one must for oneself and those in one’s immediate care, depending on what the situation requires.

    You care for your children. Do you take sides when they are having an argument? I guess what I meant by God not really caring is not that God should have no CARE as to the well-being of God’s creations; rather, I’m trying to show that I am an individual and can take responsibility for myself and my actions. God might presumably care how I treat others, especially if God is the creator of all the creatures who exist. I just don’t think God must ACT on those feelings.

    When your children are having an argument, you may step in to help them get to the bottom of things. But do you care what the outcome is, as long as your children are not hurt? You may want them to learn a lesson, which I understand. Is that caring about the outcome? While it’s fine for God to care about God’s creations, I am left to wonder what kind of a God would be invested in the interpersonal goings-on amongst those creations.

    Of course a father would care that his daughter is being abused. But if his daughter is married, isn’t it safe to assume she’s an adult? At what point does she begin to take responsibility for herself? Her age is obviously not going to stop her father from caring about her; I just wonder whether it’s his place to DO anything about the problem. If she keeps going back to this horrible man, wouldn’t her father be interested in her learning the lesson that she shouldn’t? If he intervenes, what will she learn? It seems she will only learn not to worry. Eventually, daddy will make everything better.

    As far as what we need to know that the Bible doesn’t tell us: that the earth revolves around the sun, NOT the reverse; that people DON’T return from the dead (and I’m not just referring to Jesus here, as his is not the only resurrection recorded therein); that men AND women participate genetically in procreation, NOT just men; that slavery is wrong. I could go on. As a person of Jewish descent I find your assertion that the whole of the First Testament is a prelude to Jesus more than a little disconcerting; but I’m sure you realize Jews don’t see things the way you do.

    The cat’s brain developed under conditions that never necessitated the tools to bake a cake. Our brain did. Are you lower than a cat because you can’t jump five times your own height? Are cognitive abilities the only thing that makes a being higher or lower than another? How do you know the cat DOESN’T understand how to bake the cake? The cat wouldn’t be able to tell you even if it did because you don’t speak the same language. Also, a cat doesn’t have an opposable thumb, which would be the biggest roadblock to his/her making the cake. Your example doesn’t really show one being to be higher than the other; it just shows the ways in which humans and cats differ.

    As far as not wanting to believe in God as you do: sure, I don’t. But I think there’s a huge difficulty in showing that my desire came first. I feel like I don’t want to believe in the God you believe in BECAUSE this idea makes no sense to me, rather than the reverse. I could make a similar argument for your wanting my beliefs to be influenced in this way, as that would back up the idea presented many times on this blog that I have rejected the knowledge of God which is innate of being God’s creation.

    When I talk of wishing to ask God any question, I’m giving a hypothetical example based on YOUR terms. I don’t know how many times I have to say: I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD. All of the examples I give are hypothetical. I am saying, IF the God you talk about exists, here are the problems I have with God. But it’s based on how you frame things. I don’t want to believe in the God you believe in, because the idea strains credulity. Which is lucky for me, because it would take more than the power I have over my mind TO CHANGE IT. So I get to continue not believing in God.

    I don’t recall being offended on this blog. I don’t get offended. I view taking offense as a choice. I spent my entire senior year of college being offended, because I was a non-Christian at a Christian college (I left the faith the summer between jr and sr years, so I decided to stay at Greenville College, as I would’ve had to go to school for a LOT longer if I left, and all my friends were there). I decided at the end of the year I would try to listen and learn from my emotions when I began to have feelings which had, in the past, led to my taking offense. It’s worked for me. Doesn’t mean I don’t call people out for being mean, nasty, or cruel.

    Why wouldn’t I expect God to take my willful disrespect? Isn’t God perfect? A higher being than I am? Why does all this transcendence just mean God is greater than us and deserving of worship? I mean, with great power comes great responsibility, right? I would think God’s status as the highest being might make it incumbent upon God to DO a bit better than the rest of us. As you describe it, God’s being higher than us just affords God more people to worship at God’s feet.

    God shouldn’t have made us more equal to God. That’s not what I’m saying. I just don’t think God is very benevolent for lording it over us. I don’t think creation should be democratic. But if a parent brought a child into the world and proceeded to treat the child as you say God treats us, well, let’s just say there would be social workers involved.

    Yes, I am as sure as I can be that my rejection of religion came FIRST from my intellect. But my reasons for REMAINING outside religion continue to grow and change. I am not now who I was when I first left the church. As I said, I left religion because I had a thought that I couldn’t shake. Then, once I THOUGHT about it for a long time, I moved with my heart. I realized – BECAUSE of my faith in a God whom I discovered was actually BIGGER and more encompassing than I had previously thought – that I needed to follow the path in front of me. It was a path I then believed God had laid out for me. My travels since have led me away from this view; but it is where I began the journey.

    It’s not that I don’t WANT Christianity to be true. It may be that’s what YOU want me to want. You’re a little out of line for saying the thing about my dad and God. Whatever, no big deal. It’s hard to play armchair psychologist on a blog, especially one that’s this biased against my views.

    What it would take to convince me Christianity is true? The same thing as it took Thomas: I would want to SEE it.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 14,

    A compassionate person does care about the well-being of others. Most of us only care about those close to us; but I agree it is a virtue to care about our fellow earthlings. It is not, however, very natural to care about anyone other than those in one’s “circle,” as one defines it. That’s why we have to have laws about it. It’s much more natural for survival instincts to take over and for one to do what one must for oneself and those in one’s immediate care, depending on what the situation requires.

    You care for your children. Do you take sides when they are having an argument? I guess what I meant by God not really caring is not that God should have no CARE as to the well-being of God’s creations; rather, I’m trying to show that I am an individual and can take responsibility for myself and my actions. God might presumably care how I treat others, especially if God is the creator of all the creatures who exist. I just don’t think God must ACT on those feelings.

    When your children are having an argument, you may step in to help them get to the bottom of things. But do you care what the outcome is, as long as your children are not hurt? You may want them to learn a lesson, which I understand. Is that caring about the outcome? While it’s fine for God to care about God’s creations, I am left to wonder what kind of a God would be invested in the interpersonal goings-on amongst those creations.

    Of course a father would care that his daughter is being abused. But if his daughter is married, isn’t it safe to assume she’s an adult? At what point does she begin to take responsibility for herself? Her age is obviously not going to stop her father from caring about her; I just wonder whether it’s his place to DO anything about the problem. If she keeps going back to this horrible man, wouldn’t her father be interested in her learning the lesson that she shouldn’t? If he intervenes, what will she learn? It seems she will only learn not to worry. Eventually, daddy will make everything better.

    As far as what we need to know that the Bible doesn’t tell us: that the earth revolves around the sun, NOT the reverse; that people DON’T return from the dead (and I’m not just referring to Jesus here, as his is not the only resurrection recorded therein); that men AND women participate genetically in procreation, NOT just men; that slavery is wrong. I could go on. As a person of Jewish descent I find your assertion that the whole of the First Testament is a prelude to Jesus more than a little disconcerting; but I’m sure you realize Jews don’t see things the way you do.

    The cat’s brain developed under conditions that never necessitated the tools to bake a cake. Our brain did. Are you lower than a cat because you can’t jump five times your own height? Are cognitive abilities the only thing that makes a being higher or lower than another? How do you know the cat DOESN’T understand how to bake the cake? The cat wouldn’t be able to tell you even if it did because you don’t speak the same language. Also, a cat doesn’t have an opposable thumb, which would be the biggest roadblock to his/her making the cake. Your example doesn’t really show one being to be higher than the other; it just shows the ways in which humans and cats differ.

    As far as not wanting to believe in God as you do: sure, I don’t. But I think there’s a huge difficulty in showing that my desire came first. I feel like I don’t want to believe in the God you believe in BECAUSE this idea makes no sense to me, rather than the reverse. I could make a similar argument for your wanting my beliefs to be influenced in this way, as that would back up the idea presented many times on this blog that I have rejected the knowledge of God which is innate of being God’s creation.

    When I talk of wishing to ask God any question, I’m giving a hypothetical example based on YOUR terms. I don’t know how many times I have to say: I DON’T BELIEVE IN GOD. All of the examples I give are hypothetical. I am saying, IF the God you talk about exists, here are the problems I have with God. But it’s based on how you frame things. I don’t want to believe in the God you believe in, because the idea strains credulity. Which is lucky for me, because it would take more than the power I have over my mind TO CHANGE IT. So I get to continue not believing in God.

    I don’t recall being offended on this blog. I don’t get offended. I view taking offense as a choice. I spent my entire senior year of college being offended, because I was a non-Christian at a Christian college (I left the faith the summer between jr and sr years, so I decided to stay at Greenville College, as I would’ve had to go to school for a LOT longer if I left, and all my friends were there). I decided at the end of the year I would try to listen and learn from my emotions when I began to have feelings which had, in the past, led to my taking offense. It’s worked for me. Doesn’t mean I don’t call people out for being mean, nasty, or cruel.

    Why wouldn’t I expect God to take my willful disrespect? Isn’t God perfect? A higher being than I am? Why does all this transcendence just mean God is greater than us and deserving of worship? I mean, with great power comes great responsibility, right? I would think God’s status as the highest being might make it incumbent upon God to DO a bit better than the rest of us. As you describe it, God’s being higher than us just affords God more people to worship at God’s feet.

    God shouldn’t have made us more equal to God. That’s not what I’m saying. I just don’t think God is very benevolent for lording it over us. I don’t think creation should be democratic. But if a parent brought a child into the world and proceeded to treat the child as you say God treats us, well, let’s just say there would be social workers involved.

    Yes, I am as sure as I can be that my rejection of religion came FIRST from my intellect. But my reasons for REMAINING outside religion continue to grow and change. I am not now who I was when I first left the church. As I said, I left religion because I had a thought that I couldn’t shake. Then, once I THOUGHT about it for a long time, I moved with my heart. I realized – BECAUSE of my faith in a God whom I discovered was actually BIGGER and more encompassing than I had previously thought – that I needed to follow the path in front of me. It was a path I then believed God had laid out for me. My travels since have led me away from this view; but it is where I began the journey.

    It’s not that I don’t WANT Christianity to be true. It may be that’s what YOU want me to want. You’re a little out of line for saying the thing about my dad and God. Whatever, no big deal. It’s hard to play armchair psychologist on a blog, especially one that’s this biased against my views.

    What it would take to convince me Christianity is true? The same thing as it took Thomas: I would want to SEE it.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Robert N. Landrum wrote:
    ‘The particulars of debate are irrelevant unless you believe God for who he is. One can formulate arguments giving proofs but it is only by faith that you can know God. He ordained it to be this way. God does not answer to the whims of man on the matter. ‘
    Yet Michael, you tell him he’s apparently supposed to talk to the hand.
    But what he said is completely true.
    You say you’re trying to understand the people on this blog, but you can no more understand us, or tolerate our language and syntax, than you can understand God and His language.
    We see absolutely *everything* differently from you; likewise, you see it all differently from us.
    Speaking from belief and speaking from unbelief are simply opposite ways of speakign, because the words emanate from opposite poles of understanding. I liked kerner’s analogy of the cat observing the cake-maker at work: until that cat’s a human, he won’t get it. By the same token, until the cake-baker’s a cat, he’ll never understand the tastiness of mice. Just two different ways of seeing the very same world.
    I hope you comprehend that: that we’re limited (apparently) in what understanding we can bring to you, because of that gap in what it is we understand, and through what eyes we see.
    You see the world as a work in progress, and perhaps look for a way to push it along, or mankind, at least, or just yourself, for the sake of harmony and justice, etc.
    We see the world as in decay, from the time of The Fall; some things get better, but mankind himself does not. Medical science is improved, and modes of transportation and communications; man is stronger, maybe, taller, smarter, more knowledgable, capable of more skills, etc., but not better, and no less arrogant than at the first moment of disobedience.
    You may think God is an insecure tyrant, but not for any reason other than he doesn’t fit your notion of God.
    So, perhaps you could say you do have a god after all, but he’s one of your own design–still just a god of your dreams–while ‘ours’ left us completely out of the design phase.
    As to where God goes about constantly reminding us He’s the King: I don’t see where He does that. Indeed, He leaves us very much alone, or appears to. You’d be even more left alone by Him, if you were to forsake this blog. Yet, here you are.
    I wonder if, again, it’s not your anger at Him, for not being the God Michael would have, but also because you think He’s asking of you that which you hate to surrender: your pride. I wonder if your pride is not your best friend. Pride in the way you’ve come to see things, due to your experiences, and pride in the way you’ve overcome things that were against you, and pride in your obvious mental and intellectual gifts as some sort of sustenance and shield.
    And I wonder if you think we’ve all had to grovel to get to God, and that that’s maybe a shameful act to which you would not submit yourself. Not until God agrees to meet you halfway.
    But, as my Pastor said on Sunday: God is not like us.
    And then, there’s that whole thing about dying, where Your King–the one you’ve hoped for, who is fair, and broadminded, and ego-free–gets the last laugh, and all our struggle against Him was for nothing.
    Tell me how your god would handle, say, a sinful or imperfect act by one of his creatures. Say murder or lying or brutality to others. What would be the perfect response of your god. And is he perfect in himself? What makes him perfect?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Robert N. Landrum wrote:
    ‘The particulars of debate are irrelevant unless you believe God for who he is. One can formulate arguments giving proofs but it is only by faith that you can know God. He ordained it to be this way. God does not answer to the whims of man on the matter. ‘
    Yet Michael, you tell him he’s apparently supposed to talk to the hand.
    But what he said is completely true.
    You say you’re trying to understand the people on this blog, but you can no more understand us, or tolerate our language and syntax, than you can understand God and His language.
    We see absolutely *everything* differently from you; likewise, you see it all differently from us.
    Speaking from belief and speaking from unbelief are simply opposite ways of speakign, because the words emanate from opposite poles of understanding. I liked kerner’s analogy of the cat observing the cake-maker at work: until that cat’s a human, he won’t get it. By the same token, until the cake-baker’s a cat, he’ll never understand the tastiness of mice. Just two different ways of seeing the very same world.
    I hope you comprehend that: that we’re limited (apparently) in what understanding we can bring to you, because of that gap in what it is we understand, and through what eyes we see.
    You see the world as a work in progress, and perhaps look for a way to push it along, or mankind, at least, or just yourself, for the sake of harmony and justice, etc.
    We see the world as in decay, from the time of The Fall; some things get better, but mankind himself does not. Medical science is improved, and modes of transportation and communications; man is stronger, maybe, taller, smarter, more knowledgable, capable of more skills, etc., but not better, and no less arrogant than at the first moment of disobedience.
    You may think God is an insecure tyrant, but not for any reason other than he doesn’t fit your notion of God.
    So, perhaps you could say you do have a god after all, but he’s one of your own design–still just a god of your dreams–while ‘ours’ left us completely out of the design phase.
    As to where God goes about constantly reminding us He’s the King: I don’t see where He does that. Indeed, He leaves us very much alone, or appears to. You’d be even more left alone by Him, if you were to forsake this blog. Yet, here you are.
    I wonder if, again, it’s not your anger at Him, for not being the God Michael would have, but also because you think He’s asking of you that which you hate to surrender: your pride. I wonder if your pride is not your best friend. Pride in the way you’ve come to see things, due to your experiences, and pride in the way you’ve overcome things that were against you, and pride in your obvious mental and intellectual gifts as some sort of sustenance and shield.
    And I wonder if you think we’ve all had to grovel to get to God, and that that’s maybe a shameful act to which you would not submit yourself. Not until God agrees to meet you halfway.
    But, as my Pastor said on Sunday: God is not like us.
    And then, there’s that whole thing about dying, where Your King–the one you’ve hoped for, who is fair, and broadminded, and ego-free–gets the last laugh, and all our struggle against Him was for nothing.
    Tell me how your god would handle, say, a sinful or imperfect act by one of his creatures. Say murder or lying or brutality to others. What would be the perfect response of your god. And is he perfect in himself? What makes him perfect?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘As a person of Jewish descent’
    What claim do you have to anything jewish, if you ahve no god and no faith, especially the god of the Jews?
    That was a pretty weak and cheap shot. And a little on the whiny side. It’s what they call ‘playing a card,’ and it’s what one does when one has nothing but one’s pride to back him up.
    Of course Jews don’t see the New Testament like we do. Neither do the Muslims, the Mormons, or the atheists.
    ‘I just don’t think God is very benevolent for lording it over us.’
    So how does this god you don’t believe in lord it over you?
    Seems to me it’s the person who believes in God who has the legitimate gripe with God lording it over him, and not the person who doesn’t even believe in him.
    See where I’m going with that, Michael? On the one hand, you deny that He’s real. On the other hand, you hate the way He is. And yet on the OTHER hand, you’d accept him if he were more this way or that. But back to that oringal hand, you don’t believe in Him anyway, but, somehow, it serves some purpose for you to dispute this God that doesn’t exist.
    ‘I don’t recall being offended on this blog. I don’t get offended.’ Your credibility has shrunk. Big time.
    Re-read your own response to me on the former thread: #59. A snip:
    ‘This is devolving rapidly. I think I’ll say g’night, Susan. Feel free not to respond to me anymore.

    Are any of you loving, compassionate Christians gonna let her get away with a response like this?’

    There was lots more.
    You mean I didn’t offend you after all?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘As a person of Jewish descent’
    What claim do you have to anything jewish, if you ahve no god and no faith, especially the god of the Jews?
    That was a pretty weak and cheap shot. And a little on the whiny side. It’s what they call ‘playing a card,’ and it’s what one does when one has nothing but one’s pride to back him up.
    Of course Jews don’t see the New Testament like we do. Neither do the Muslims, the Mormons, or the atheists.
    ‘I just don’t think God is very benevolent for lording it over us.’
    So how does this god you don’t believe in lord it over you?
    Seems to me it’s the person who believes in God who has the legitimate gripe with God lording it over him, and not the person who doesn’t even believe in him.
    See where I’m going with that, Michael? On the one hand, you deny that He’s real. On the other hand, you hate the way He is. And yet on the OTHER hand, you’d accept him if he were more this way or that. But back to that oringal hand, you don’t believe in Him anyway, but, somehow, it serves some purpose for you to dispute this God that doesn’t exist.
    ‘I don’t recall being offended on this blog. I don’t get offended.’ Your credibility has shrunk. Big time.
    Re-read your own response to me on the former thread: #59. A snip:
    ‘This is devolving rapidly. I think I’ll say g’night, Susan. Feel free not to respond to me anymore.

    Are any of you loving, compassionate Christians gonna let her get away with a response like this?’

    There was lots more.
    You mean I didn’t offend you after all?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    But how can there be accuracy without some measure of perfection? Who cares about accuracy if there is no real perfection?

    And again in mathematics there is such a thing as a perfect equation. I can mathematically compute and figure a lot of cool things out based on perfect triangles (even though I can’t draw one). The equations are accurate and we know we can apply our figures to real world situations in physics because they are perfect. They follow scientific laws and in fact can prove them.

    Any mathematicians out there who don’t believe in perfection?

    On a more serious note, death is an unfortunate byproduct of the exacting nature of perfection. We are unable to live up to reality crushing us on every side. The exacting nature of the cosmos upon life would leave everything to be cosmic dust without the merciful hand of God upon everything every day. That any living thing survives until tomorrow is a wonder me thinks, but even all those will painfully die away. No? Anybody experience dust coming to life lately? I’ve never seen or experienced that, but I do believe it happened – once or twice.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    But how can there be accuracy without some measure of perfection? Who cares about accuracy if there is no real perfection?

    And again in mathematics there is such a thing as a perfect equation. I can mathematically compute and figure a lot of cool things out based on perfect triangles (even though I can’t draw one). The equations are accurate and we know we can apply our figures to real world situations in physics because they are perfect. They follow scientific laws and in fact can prove them.

    Any mathematicians out there who don’t believe in perfection?

    On a more serious note, death is an unfortunate byproduct of the exacting nature of perfection. We are unable to live up to reality crushing us on every side. The exacting nature of the cosmos upon life would leave everything to be cosmic dust without the merciful hand of God upon everything every day. That any living thing survives until tomorrow is a wonder me thinks, but even all those will painfully die away. No? Anybody experience dust coming to life lately? I’ve never seen or experienced that, but I do believe it happened – once or twice.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    There is a frustration for the atheist, that life is simply what it is. Railing against that reality is all he’s got.
    Life isn’t fair or even predictable; it’s interrupted by trouble and disaster; happiness comes and goes; justice is slow or absent altogether. Someone must pay for that, and that someone is a God who allows it, or, by extension (or, in His ‘absence’), the Christian who holds to such a God.
    I’ve listened to Christopher Hitchens arguing the atheistic point of view against Christians. Hitchens is no mental or intellectual lightweight, but, in the beginning of his ‘argument’ and at its end, the string that binds is his disagreement with a God’s-eye view of justice, and the resentment that God is who He says He is.
    In Hitchens’ mind, therefore, He cannot be.
    The accusation that a Christian can’t possibly prove his God exists is just a weapon of last resort, since it’s apparent to the atheist that Christians do and will believe. And the atheist is just as helpless to disprove Him.
    Don’t worry, Michael. Christians are just as likely to make up their own God: one who allows or excuses particular sins that some Christians find so irresistible, they *must* be okay, through some re-interpretaion of the scriptures. Even weak and errant Christians rely on the Bible to back up their whims and turn them from good to bad. The TV preacher who calls the money you send to him a ‘vow’–a show of faith towards future prosperity–bases his act on the Bible.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    There is a frustration for the atheist, that life is simply what it is. Railing against that reality is all he’s got.
    Life isn’t fair or even predictable; it’s interrupted by trouble and disaster; happiness comes and goes; justice is slow or absent altogether. Someone must pay for that, and that someone is a God who allows it, or, by extension (or, in His ‘absence’), the Christian who holds to such a God.
    I’ve listened to Christopher Hitchens arguing the atheistic point of view against Christians. Hitchens is no mental or intellectual lightweight, but, in the beginning of his ‘argument’ and at its end, the string that binds is his disagreement with a God’s-eye view of justice, and the resentment that God is who He says He is.
    In Hitchens’ mind, therefore, He cannot be.
    The accusation that a Christian can’t possibly prove his God exists is just a weapon of last resort, since it’s apparent to the atheist that Christians do and will believe. And the atheist is just as helpless to disprove Him.
    Don’t worry, Michael. Christians are just as likely to make up their own God: one who allows or excuses particular sins that some Christians find so irresistible, they *must* be okay, through some re-interpretaion of the scriptures. Even weak and errant Christians rely on the Bible to back up their whims and turn them from good to bad. The TV preacher who calls the money you send to him a ‘vow’–a show of faith towards future prosperity–bases his act on the Bible.

  • FWw

    michael:

    “What I’m saying is I don’t believe there are consequences for those actions other than any number of things that may happen as a direct result of a said action(s). There is no additional punishment.”

    Lutheran christians would agree with this statement. no one will be punished by God for their behavior or actions. I hope this corrects what seems to be a misperception of christian teaching on your part…

    “Part of the disconnect may come from the fact that I don’t believe we (humans) were ever capable of anything other than imperfect actions. Perfection may be an idea that comes from our observation of this fact”

    When God finished creating the world in the creation story, he said that everything was “very good”. he did not say it was perfect. In fact in that very good world there was at least one thing that was NOT good. It was not good for man to be alone… So the perfection argument…. I am not sure exactly what to do with that. It may be a misdirect?

    Also consider… if Jesus was truly God incarnate… did he forget his prayer shawl from time to time at home? did he forget his abcs? was he subject to the normal limitations of every human? would this mean that he was not “perfect”? I don´t know the answers to these things, but I think it is fun and worthwhile for me as a follower of Jesus to ponder them…. I guess I would suggest to you Michael that things are not so black and white as to what a christian could believe as you might think. I am guessing that the church group you belonged to liked to keep their theology black and white with nothing left dangling for the imagination. We Lutherans are cool with doubts and questioning at a pretty high level actually…..

  • FWw

    michael:

    “What I’m saying is I don’t believe there are consequences for those actions other than any number of things that may happen as a direct result of a said action(s). There is no additional punishment.”

    Lutheran christians would agree with this statement. no one will be punished by God for their behavior or actions. I hope this corrects what seems to be a misperception of christian teaching on your part…

    “Part of the disconnect may come from the fact that I don’t believe we (humans) were ever capable of anything other than imperfect actions. Perfection may be an idea that comes from our observation of this fact”

    When God finished creating the world in the creation story, he said that everything was “very good”. he did not say it was perfect. In fact in that very good world there was at least one thing that was NOT good. It was not good for man to be alone… So the perfection argument…. I am not sure exactly what to do with that. It may be a misdirect?

    Also consider… if Jesus was truly God incarnate… did he forget his prayer shawl from time to time at home? did he forget his abcs? was he subject to the normal limitations of every human? would this mean that he was not “perfect”? I don´t know the answers to these things, but I think it is fun and worthwhile for me as a follower of Jesus to ponder them…. I guess I would suggest to you Michael that things are not so black and white as to what a christian could believe as you might think. I am guessing that the church group you belonged to liked to keep their theology black and white with nothing left dangling for the imagination. We Lutherans are cool with doubts and questioning at a pretty high level actually…..

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I wonder, Michael: do you worry more about your own imperfection, or about the imperfection of others?
    Do you consider yourself less imperfect than your father, or anyone else?
    What do you think is the remedy for a person’s imperfection? What can a person do, to overcome an imperfect condition? Or can he?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    I wonder, Michael: do you worry more about your own imperfection, or about the imperfection of others?
    Do you consider yourself less imperfect than your father, or anyone else?
    What do you think is the remedy for a person’s imperfection? What can a person do, to overcome an imperfect condition? Or can he?

  • Unmei

    So, I’m way behind on the debate going on here, and this is a little off the current topic, so please forgive me. I had noticed that Michael had trouble understanding how original sin makes any sense. It seemed like he and the others focused mostly on sin as in debts/transgressions, but I think a better metaphor for understanding original sin is slavery. As in the Exodus narrative, we are in slavery to sin. Unlike a debt or jail sentence, which is not normally passed from generation to generation, we can easily see that slavery is: we only need to look to the history of slavery in our own country for an example of this. Then, of course, Christ sets us free from our slavery to sin and brings us into the promised land.

    I hope this is helpful.

  • Unmei

    So, I’m way behind on the debate going on here, and this is a little off the current topic, so please forgive me. I had noticed that Michael had trouble understanding how original sin makes any sense. It seemed like he and the others focused mostly on sin as in debts/transgressions, but I think a better metaphor for understanding original sin is slavery. As in the Exodus narrative, we are in slavery to sin. Unlike a debt or jail sentence, which is not normally passed from generation to generation, we can easily see that slavery is: we only need to look to the history of slavery in our own country for an example of this. Then, of course, Christ sets us free from our slavery to sin and brings us into the promised land.

    I hope this is helpful.

  • Nemo

    FWw #29
    “Lutheran christians would agree with this statement. no one will be punished by God for their behavior or actions. I hope this corrects what seems to be a misperception of christian teaching on your part…”

    Is this really an accurate representation of Lutheran doctrine?

  • Nemo

    FWw #29
    “Lutheran christians would agree with this statement. no one will be punished by God for their behavior or actions. I hope this corrects what seems to be a misperception of christian teaching on your part…”

    Is this really an accurate representation of Lutheran doctrine?

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the Little Boot,
    “Why wouldn’t I expect God to take my willful disrespect? Isn’t God perfect? A higher being than I am? Why does all this transcendence just mean God is greater than us and deserving of worship? I mean, with great power comes great responsibility, right? I would think God’s status as the highest being might make it incumbent upon God to DO a bit better than the rest of us. As you describe it, God’s being higher than us just affords God more people to worship at God’s feet.

    God shouldn’t have made us more equal to God. That’s not what I’m saying. I just don’t think God is very benevolent for lording it over us. I don’t think creation should be democratic. But if a parent brought a child into the world and proceeded to treat the child as you say God treats us, well, let’s just say there would be social workers involved.”

    Of course, you are right, if God exists, he would have to be exactly as you and your social workers have determined to be perfect.
    Quite frankly I think God has done a bit better than us, and has treated us quite well. Sending his son to die for us, to atone for our sins with his blood, so that he could forgive us, is a good deal more than I think I would be willing to do for us if I was in his place.
    I realize that what you say about God is in the hypothetical of if he existed. However, everyonce in a while you write something that seems to be a hot mike moment, And you show that you are angry, very angry, at a person you don’t believe exists. At a person you want to believe doesn’t exist. Because if he did exist he is responsible for dealing you a bad hand?
    you say God doesn’t make sense to you. That it is an illogical hypothesis. Well Michael, I don’t know how to put this to kindly, but maybe something is wrong with your logic? I mean if you can’t see the relationship between accurate and perfect, then…

  • http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com Bror Erickson

    Michael the Little Boot,
    “Why wouldn’t I expect God to take my willful disrespect? Isn’t God perfect? A higher being than I am? Why does all this transcendence just mean God is greater than us and deserving of worship? I mean, with great power comes great responsibility, right? I would think God’s status as the highest being might make it incumbent upon God to DO a bit better than the rest of us. As you describe it, God’s being higher than us just affords God more people to worship at God’s feet.

    God shouldn’t have made us more equal to God. That’s not what I’m saying. I just don’t think God is very benevolent for lording it over us. I don’t think creation should be democratic. But if a parent brought a child into the world and proceeded to treat the child as you say God treats us, well, let’s just say there would be social workers involved.”

    Of course, you are right, if God exists, he would have to be exactly as you and your social workers have determined to be perfect.
    Quite frankly I think God has done a bit better than us, and has treated us quite well. Sending his son to die for us, to atone for our sins with his blood, so that he could forgive us, is a good deal more than I think I would be willing to do for us if I was in his place.
    I realize that what you say about God is in the hypothetical of if he existed. However, everyonce in a while you write something that seems to be a hot mike moment, And you show that you are angry, very angry, at a person you don’t believe exists. At a person you want to believe doesn’t exist. Because if he did exist he is responsible for dealing you a bad hand?
    you say God doesn’t make sense to you. That it is an illogical hypothesis. Well Michael, I don’t know how to put this to kindly, but maybe something is wrong with your logic? I mean if you can’t see the relationship between accurate and perfect, then…

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Interestingly, Jim Pierce has his second part of his ‘confession’ as a former atheist up today.
    http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/law_and_gospel/2008/07/confessions-of-a-former-atheist-part-2.html
    Very good.
    Good comment:
    ‘I learned to think of God as a tyrant who was more concerned with my sins and what works I would perform than with me! ‘
    He claims it was his lack of knowledge of God’s saving grace–really, his lack of knowledge of who God really is–that drove him from what he’d thought was belief into unbelief, before he found ‘right belief’.
    I wonder what a person who’s never been an athiest makes of Pierce’s piercing insight. It might be helpful for those among us who’ve never suffered atheism to read it as well.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Interestingly, Jim Pierce has his second part of his ‘confession’ as a former atheist up today.
    http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/law_and_gospel/2008/07/confessions-of-a-former-atheist-part-2.html
    Very good.
    Good comment:
    ‘I learned to think of God as a tyrant who was more concerned with my sins and what works I would perform than with me! ‘
    He claims it was his lack of knowledge of God’s saving grace–really, his lack of knowledge of who God really is–that drove him from what he’d thought was belief into unbelief, before he found ‘right belief’.
    I wonder what a person who’s never been an athiest makes of Pierce’s piercing insight. It might be helpful for those among us who’ve never suffered atheism to read it as well.

  • Another Kerner

    Michael……

    I would like to observe that you are apparently ardent in your belief, convinced of your position, a prolific writer, gifted intellectually, determined and spirited in debate, rising to the challenges as they are presented to you.

    As an advocate of atheism, you argue, however that *if* God does in fact exist, you have some serious issues with Him personally, question the quality of His character, and especially find fault with His governance of the Universe in general.

    After reading through this entire discourse, I see that you are, after all, in a profound wrestling match with God.

    I believe that God will win.

  • Another Kerner

    Michael……

    I would like to observe that you are apparently ardent in your belief, convinced of your position, a prolific writer, gifted intellectually, determined and spirited in debate, rising to the challenges as they are presented to you.

    As an advocate of atheism, you argue, however that *if* God does in fact exist, you have some serious issues with Him personally, question the quality of His character, and especially find fault with His governance of the Universe in general.

    After reading through this entire discourse, I see that you are, after all, in a profound wrestling match with God.

    I believe that God will win.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 30,

    Out of order for the third time. I haven’t had time to do any responding today, but I have to go in twenty minutes and wanted to respond to what you wrote here.

    I don’t worry about imperfection. I don’t worry about mine or others. I just accept it. I don’t think anyone can be more imperfect than anyone else, so, no, I am not more (or less) imperfect than others. Imperfection isn’t measured (by me, anyway) with tally marks based on how many “wrong” things one has done, or on some sort of sliding scale. It’s just a state of being. Everyone is imperfect; it has nothing to do with more or less.

    I don’t think there is a remedy for imperfection. It’s the state we’re in. We’ll always have to apologize when we hurt someone’s feelings. We’ll always make fools of ourselves. I don’t feel a need to remedy imperfection. I think it’s a good state in which to find oneself. It keeps one humble.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 30,

    Out of order for the third time. I haven’t had time to do any responding today, but I have to go in twenty minutes and wanted to respond to what you wrote here.

    I don’t worry about imperfection. I don’t worry about mine or others. I just accept it. I don’t think anyone can be more imperfect than anyone else, so, no, I am not more (or less) imperfect than others. Imperfection isn’t measured (by me, anyway) with tally marks based on how many “wrong” things one has done, or on some sort of sliding scale. It’s just a state of being. Everyone is imperfect; it has nothing to do with more or less.

    I don’t think there is a remedy for imperfection. It’s the state we’re in. We’ll always have to apologize when we hurt someone’s feelings. We’ll always make fools of ourselves. I don’t feel a need to remedy imperfection. I think it’s a good state in which to find oneself. It keeps one humble.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 25,

    I never said anything like “talk to the hand” to Robert. I simply wanted him to understand that I heard what he said, that I don’t agree, and that he can stop posting the same thing over again. As to the truth of what he said, I think it’s debatable. I am a minority in the extreme on this blog, so I don’t expect a groundswell of support for ANYTHING I’m talking about.

    I don’t see the world as a work in progress; rather, it just is. It grows and changes, but it does not progress. I realize I just used that word twice in two different contexts, but I think it fits here. I read a really interesting and horribly written book called I Don’t Believe In Atheists by Chris Hedges, and he makes a good case AGAINST human moral progress as a species. I feel that way, too: individuals may progress morally, but the species does not. If we did, slavery would actually be ABOLISHED in this world, as many of us in the west would like to THINK it was long ago.

    The pride thing I don’t understand. Do you think you’ve gotten to know me well enough in this short time – and ONLY through my words – to speak this way? If I come off as proud, then I do. Maybe it’s just being confident in my ability to write halfway decently. I’m not saying “I’M THE MOST HUMBLE DUDE IN THE WORLD!” which would, of course, be the OPPOSITE of being humble. But I’m far from proud. If you knew me as a real person, you’d know this.

    What do I have to be proud of? I’m a 32 year old library assistant who lives in a 569 sq. ft. apartment and drives a Kia Optima. I’ve not done anything special. I’m not proud of any growth in my life or in my beliefs. And I’m not very smart. If I were, I’d be doing a lot better answering people here.

    Once again, it seems like you’re arguing with a caricature of me. I haven’t said anything like what you imply. I mean, you sound angry to me. Maybe I sound proud to you. But we’re just reading words. I don’t know what you’re getting out of accusing me rather than engaging my ideas.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 25,

    I never said anything like “talk to the hand” to Robert. I simply wanted him to understand that I heard what he said, that I don’t agree, and that he can stop posting the same thing over again. As to the truth of what he said, I think it’s debatable. I am a minority in the extreme on this blog, so I don’t expect a groundswell of support for ANYTHING I’m talking about.

    I don’t see the world as a work in progress; rather, it just is. It grows and changes, but it does not progress. I realize I just used that word twice in two different contexts, but I think it fits here. I read a really interesting and horribly written book called I Don’t Believe In Atheists by Chris Hedges, and he makes a good case AGAINST human moral progress as a species. I feel that way, too: individuals may progress morally, but the species does not. If we did, slavery would actually be ABOLISHED in this world, as many of us in the west would like to THINK it was long ago.

    The pride thing I don’t understand. Do you think you’ve gotten to know me well enough in this short time – and ONLY through my words – to speak this way? If I come off as proud, then I do. Maybe it’s just being confident in my ability to write halfway decently. I’m not saying “I’M THE MOST HUMBLE DUDE IN THE WORLD!” which would, of course, be the OPPOSITE of being humble. But I’m far from proud. If you knew me as a real person, you’d know this.

    What do I have to be proud of? I’m a 32 year old library assistant who lives in a 569 sq. ft. apartment and drives a Kia Optima. I’ve not done anything special. I’m not proud of any growth in my life or in my beliefs. And I’m not very smart. If I were, I’d be doing a lot better answering people here.

    Once again, it seems like you’re arguing with a caricature of me. I haven’t said anything like what you imply. I mean, you sound angry to me. Maybe I sound proud to you. But we’re just reading words. I don’t know what you’re getting out of accusing me rather than engaging my ideas.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 28,

    (Yeah, I’m answering most of Susan’s responses. All I have time for today and they’ve been weighing on my mind since this morning. Apologies, all. I will answer the others as I can, which means probably tomorrow.)

    I find the frustration to which you’re referring more appropriately applied to theists than to atheists. To me, it is the atheist who accepts life as it is, and the theist who is doing the wishful thinking. Of course we disagree, but you just make the statement. That’s all you can do, because your statement is an emotive one, and cannot be backed up by anything.

    I agree life is not fair or predictable; we have trouble and disaster; happiness comes and goes; justice is BARELY visible, if it even exists; I just don’t think anyone needs to pay for it. That would be justice, once again, about which I’ve said I’m beyond unsure. It is the unease which this causes that I find religion to be railing against. I think it is the religious person who doesn’t accept reality. I can give examples, but feel I would be wasting my breath. Correct me if I’m wrong about that, please.

    I find that I’ve not done to anyone here what you, Susan, have done to me repeatedly – i.e., put words in my mouth, argue against a straw man rather than me. Why are you doing this? It makes no sense. Have I called you out or something? I know we don’t agree; but my way of disagreeing here is simply to state my disagreement, usually with as little emotive language as I can manage.

    Why do you bring up Hitchens? Just as an example? I’m no fan of his, just so you know. He’s a great intellect, as you said. Just because he’s an atheist doesn’t mean all atheists agree with his views. If you’re trying to use this against me somehow, you’re arguing with the straw man again.

    And where does THIS come from? “The accusation that a Christian can’t possibly prove his God exists is just a weapon of last resort, since it’s apparent to the atheist that Christians do and will believe. And the atheist is just as helpless to disprove Him.” Have I ever used this argument? No. The only time I even came close is when someone told me that atheists can’t disprove God, which any atheist worth his/her salt would admit outright from the get-go.

    You speak of Christians justifying “sins” by a re-interpretation of the Bible. What else IS there but an interpretation? If there was a consensus, there would be no denominations to separate Christian from Christian. How is it you know your interpretation is correct? Is fw wrong in HIS interpretation that God MADE him a gay man? Is tODD wrong because he’s a liberal? I can understand Christians saying those who aren’t Christians are not okay; it’s this denominational stuff that gets me. You can’t even prove God inspired the Bible (which I’m not asking you to do). How do you even THINK your interpretation is absolute, let alone KNOW that it is?

    And you call ME proud?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 28,

    (Yeah, I’m answering most of Susan’s responses. All I have time for today and they’ve been weighing on my mind since this morning. Apologies, all. I will answer the others as I can, which means probably tomorrow.)

    I find the frustration to which you’re referring more appropriately applied to theists than to atheists. To me, it is the atheist who accepts life as it is, and the theist who is doing the wishful thinking. Of course we disagree, but you just make the statement. That’s all you can do, because your statement is an emotive one, and cannot be backed up by anything.

    I agree life is not fair or predictable; we have trouble and disaster; happiness comes and goes; justice is BARELY visible, if it even exists; I just don’t think anyone needs to pay for it. That would be justice, once again, about which I’ve said I’m beyond unsure. It is the unease which this causes that I find religion to be railing against. I think it is the religious person who doesn’t accept reality. I can give examples, but feel I would be wasting my breath. Correct me if I’m wrong about that, please.

    I find that I’ve not done to anyone here what you, Susan, have done to me repeatedly – i.e., put words in my mouth, argue against a straw man rather than me. Why are you doing this? It makes no sense. Have I called you out or something? I know we don’t agree; but my way of disagreeing here is simply to state my disagreement, usually with as little emotive language as I can manage.

    Why do you bring up Hitchens? Just as an example? I’m no fan of his, just so you know. He’s a great intellect, as you said. Just because he’s an atheist doesn’t mean all atheists agree with his views. If you’re trying to use this against me somehow, you’re arguing with the straw man again.

    And where does THIS come from? “The accusation that a Christian can’t possibly prove his God exists is just a weapon of last resort, since it’s apparent to the atheist that Christians do and will believe. And the atheist is just as helpless to disprove Him.” Have I ever used this argument? No. The only time I even came close is when someone told me that atheists can’t disprove God, which any atheist worth his/her salt would admit outright from the get-go.

    You speak of Christians justifying “sins” by a re-interpretation of the Bible. What else IS there but an interpretation? If there was a consensus, there would be no denominations to separate Christian from Christian. How is it you know your interpretation is correct? Is fw wrong in HIS interpretation that God MADE him a gay man? Is tODD wrong because he’s a liberal? I can understand Christians saying those who aren’t Christians are not okay; it’s this denominational stuff that gets me. You can’t even prove God inspired the Bible (which I’m not asking you to do). How do you even THINK your interpretation is absolute, let alone KNOW that it is?

    And you call ME proud?

  • Michael the little boot

    I’m not trying to neglect anyone here, but with my limited time and resources, I can’t get to everything in one day. There’s a lot for me to cover. Please be patient with me as I try to do right by as many of you as I can. I’ll try to catch up in the next couple days. Perhaps I can borrow my brother’s laptop this weekend…

  • Michael the little boot

    I’m not trying to neglect anyone here, but with my limited time and resources, I can’t get to everything in one day. There’s a lot for me to cover. Please be patient with me as I try to do right by as many of you as I can. I’ll try to catch up in the next couple days. Perhaps I can borrow my brother’s laptop this weekend…

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    I want to thank Susan for linking my essays “Confessions of a Former Atheist”.

    Michael the little boot,

    I am posting just to make a few comments. I hope you don’t take offense or mind my comments, since they aren’t personal and I don’t know your situation.

    First, (and you’ve heard this before) God the Father loves you. He sent His only Son to suffer and die on a cross because of your sins and mine. He raised Jesus from the dead and God the Son went to hell and “ice skated” on Satan’s head in a victory dance over sin and death; setting us free from sin! O.k. I embellished the bit with the “ice skating”… but God seriously doesn’t want anyone of us to perish.

    Secondly, there is no argument that is going to convince you that what I state above is true. It’s just a fact. You won’t be able to find God through rational thought. It is kind of like martial arts training… there is always somebody quicker, stronger, and smarter. Likewise, there is always a logical argument supplanting another… bigger, better, etc. That doesn’t mean we toss out reason, it just means that we have to understand the limitations of reason. Reason won’t bring us to a saving faith in God.

    Third, there may be a time where you come to the “end of your rope”. I can tell you, Buddhism won’t remove the inner pain. Why do I say that? I, and many other atheists I knew, tried Buddhist thought with the hope we could “center” ourselves and remove the burden of sin in our lives. I am not saying that you are a Buddhist, btw. I am just catching some Buddhist thought in some of the things you write above. It may not be a conscience effort on your part. Needless to say, the burden of sin remains because God built His law into our hearts. We can’t run from it no more than we can run from ourselves. Try as we may… the saying is true… no matter where we go, there we are! Sorry… I am cringing at the cliche, too! :)

    Finally, the fact that you are here shows God is talking to you. Sure, you can say anything you want about why you think you are on a Lutheran blog talking about an object you say doesn’t exist; but the reality of the situation is that God is talking to you through His word and that is why you are here.

    When I was an atheist, Michael; at times I would cry myself to sleep because the burden of sin was so great. I would never admit it though. But God had His mind already made up and saw fit to breathe into me a gift of faith. I could have turned God down at that point, but when I realized what was happening all I could do was receive His grace and mercy!

    If you ever have questions for me Michael, contact me through my bio on my blog. I don’t post my email address because webcrawlers will get it and the spam will start rolling in!

    Jim Pierce

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    I want to thank Susan for linking my essays “Confessions of a Former Atheist”.

    Michael the little boot,

    I am posting just to make a few comments. I hope you don’t take offense or mind my comments, since they aren’t personal and I don’t know your situation.

    First, (and you’ve heard this before) God the Father loves you. He sent His only Son to suffer and die on a cross because of your sins and mine. He raised Jesus from the dead and God the Son went to hell and “ice skated” on Satan’s head in a victory dance over sin and death; setting us free from sin! O.k. I embellished the bit with the “ice skating”… but God seriously doesn’t want anyone of us to perish.

    Secondly, there is no argument that is going to convince you that what I state above is true. It’s just a fact. You won’t be able to find God through rational thought. It is kind of like martial arts training… there is always somebody quicker, stronger, and smarter. Likewise, there is always a logical argument supplanting another… bigger, better, etc. That doesn’t mean we toss out reason, it just means that we have to understand the limitations of reason. Reason won’t bring us to a saving faith in God.

    Third, there may be a time where you come to the “end of your rope”. I can tell you, Buddhism won’t remove the inner pain. Why do I say that? I, and many other atheists I knew, tried Buddhist thought with the hope we could “center” ourselves and remove the burden of sin in our lives. I am not saying that you are a Buddhist, btw. I am just catching some Buddhist thought in some of the things you write above. It may not be a conscience effort on your part. Needless to say, the burden of sin remains because God built His law into our hearts. We can’t run from it no more than we can run from ourselves. Try as we may… the saying is true… no matter where we go, there we are! Sorry… I am cringing at the cliche, too! :)

    Finally, the fact that you are here shows God is talking to you. Sure, you can say anything you want about why you think you are on a Lutheran blog talking about an object you say doesn’t exist; but the reality of the situation is that God is talking to you through His word and that is why you are here.

    When I was an atheist, Michael; at times I would cry myself to sleep because the burden of sin was so great. I would never admit it though. But God had His mind already made up and saw fit to breathe into me a gift of faith. I could have turned God down at that point, but when I realized what was happening all I could do was receive His grace and mercy!

    If you ever have questions for me Michael, contact me through my bio on my blog. I don’t post my email address because webcrawlers will get it and the spam will start rolling in!

    Jim Pierce

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    Just want to clarify: The word “Pride” has been used a few times and I want to make sure that you understand that I am not trying to put down on you but am using the term only in an effort to categorize what it is that prevents an atheist from believing. There are other words but all such words are offensive in their very nature. There is no easy way to tell anyone that they are a sinner in need of a savior. But such is the way of God. So I guess what I am saying is that when it comes to describing why people don’t believe, the offence is in the Gospel, not the preacher. “Repent” of “unbelief” “pride” “atheism” or whatever, is what God requires. Can I ask a few questions: You say you “are not trying to understand God” then what exactly is the topic about? Why bother even if you don’t care to understand God? Christ proved beyond any shadow of doubt that he was and is God incarnate yet not all believed, even those that were eyewitness did not all believe. So what makes the modern-day atheist any different? Are we really to think that it is just a matter of God revealing himself? Please! And what did you mean in your testimony when you said something about wondering if or can God’s people or the church accept you? How can God’s people accept you when God himself will not? We can and do love atheists, but while in unbelief the atheist remains the enemy of God.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    Just want to clarify: The word “Pride” has been used a few times and I want to make sure that you understand that I am not trying to put down on you but am using the term only in an effort to categorize what it is that prevents an atheist from believing. There are other words but all such words are offensive in their very nature. There is no easy way to tell anyone that they are a sinner in need of a savior. But such is the way of God. So I guess what I am saying is that when it comes to describing why people don’t believe, the offence is in the Gospel, not the preacher. “Repent” of “unbelief” “pride” “atheism” or whatever, is what God requires. Can I ask a few questions: You say you “are not trying to understand God” then what exactly is the topic about? Why bother even if you don’t care to understand God? Christ proved beyond any shadow of doubt that he was and is God incarnate yet not all believed, even those that were eyewitness did not all believe. So what makes the modern-day atheist any different? Are we really to think that it is just a matter of God revealing himself? Please! And what did you mean in your testimony when you said something about wondering if or can God’s people or the church accept you? How can God’s people accept you when God himself will not? We can and do love atheists, but while in unbelief the atheist remains the enemy of God.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I know I keep returning to this, but your position about God acting on His concern for His creation fascinates me. And I don’t think I completely understand you, even though you spent four paragraphs on it.

    Let’s start with caring about the actions and harm caused by or to people outside our own circle. While it is true that I find it hard for me to truely grieve for the suffering of people far away in the same way I would if one of my family and friends were harmed, on some level I believe that I have an obligation to care about that suffering and act to prevent it in some practical way. The entire concept of law is society acting on that perceived obligation. It is one thing to want one’s own person and possessions to be safe, but you only need force, not the law, to protect your own. The concept of laws, especially criminal laws, is that EVERYBODY’S persons and possessions should be secure. Sure I care more, in an emotional sense, if a member of my family is a victim of violence or dishonesty. But the reason we have laws against violence and dishonesty is because we, as a society, want to protect everybody. This is why a criminal charge is brought by the State, or “The People” against the defendant. And this is why the State can (and often does) continue to prosecute a criminal even though the victim wants to drop the charges. Just as an example, Michael, if you were to see me steal a stranger’s car, wouldn’t you call the police? Or would you think that calling the police would be butting into the “interpersonal goings-on” between me and the car owner?

    But there is more I don’t understand. You indicate that it is ok for God to care about the harm and suffering between his creations, but you don’t think God should ACT on those feelings. What are you talking about? How does God (as we Christians conceive Him) act on his feelings of concern in a way that you find so inappropriate?

    You also say that you are an individual and can take responsibility for yourself and your own actions. So what’s your point?

    Also, remember that God DOES know us all personally, so we are all in His personal circle.

    You also indicate that God is treating His creation badly. You say that God being higher than us just affords God more people to worship at His feet, and that if a parent treated his child the way I say God treats us, there would be social workers involved. Well, let’s review.

    What I say God did was that He created the human race and gave us paradise to live in. When we (as a species) ruined that arrangement, I say He gave us a place to live where we could at least survive in the temporal sense, and from which we could return to Him. He then became one of us so we could be as brothers as well as think of Him as a Father. While He was among us He did menial tasks on behalf of those He came into local contact with, such as living a humble life and washing the disciples’ feet. Finally, I say this God you find to be so arrogant and pompous and in need of a social worker allowed a bunch of us to insult Him, beat and spit on Him, and at last torture Him to death. All this time He said things like “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, and “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto the, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Boy, better call the protective services hotline quickly.

    I realize that all this talk of what God is like is hypothetical to you. I get your story that you first came to the conclusion that God could be understood as different from the way Christians (or your narrow concept of Christianity) conceived Him to be. Then you later decided that your new found concept of God couldn’t be supported and you decided that there was no God. But this is why I wonder whether your disbelief is a product of your will. You started your journey away from Christianity with “I don’t like the Christian God” and progressed (or regressed from our point of view) to “there is no God at all”.

    So, you would have to “see” Christianity, like Thomas? Meaning Jesus would have to appear to you wounds gaping and blood flowing before you would believe again? I wonder whether that would really do it for you. Jesus told the story about Lazarus in hell wanting to go back to earth and warn his brothers about eternity away from God, but he was told that if his brothers wouldn’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they wouldn’t listen to their resurected brother either. I suspect there is truth in that in your case as well. Even if Jesus struck you blind on the road to Damascus, you would still have your problems with Him. Even if He came back so you could see Him, would you let that fact overcome your problems? You’ve let your heart harden against God. Maybe Another @35 is right and God will win, but He’ll have to soften that heart up to do it.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I know I keep returning to this, but your position about God acting on His concern for His creation fascinates me. And I don’t think I completely understand you, even though you spent four paragraphs on it.

    Let’s start with caring about the actions and harm caused by or to people outside our own circle. While it is true that I find it hard for me to truely grieve for the suffering of people far away in the same way I would if one of my family and friends were harmed, on some level I believe that I have an obligation to care about that suffering and act to prevent it in some practical way. The entire concept of law is society acting on that perceived obligation. It is one thing to want one’s own person and possessions to be safe, but you only need force, not the law, to protect your own. The concept of laws, especially criminal laws, is that EVERYBODY’S persons and possessions should be secure. Sure I care more, in an emotional sense, if a member of my family is a victim of violence or dishonesty. But the reason we have laws against violence and dishonesty is because we, as a society, want to protect everybody. This is why a criminal charge is brought by the State, or “The People” against the defendant. And this is why the State can (and often does) continue to prosecute a criminal even though the victim wants to drop the charges. Just as an example, Michael, if you were to see me steal a stranger’s car, wouldn’t you call the police? Or would you think that calling the police would be butting into the “interpersonal goings-on” between me and the car owner?

    But there is more I don’t understand. You indicate that it is ok for God to care about the harm and suffering between his creations, but you don’t think God should ACT on those feelings. What are you talking about? How does God (as we Christians conceive Him) act on his feelings of concern in a way that you find so inappropriate?

    You also say that you are an individual and can take responsibility for yourself and your own actions. So what’s your point?

    Also, remember that God DOES know us all personally, so we are all in His personal circle.

    You also indicate that God is treating His creation badly. You say that God being higher than us just affords God more people to worship at His feet, and that if a parent treated his child the way I say God treats us, there would be social workers involved. Well, let’s review.

    What I say God did was that He created the human race and gave us paradise to live in. When we (as a species) ruined that arrangement, I say He gave us a place to live where we could at least survive in the temporal sense, and from which we could return to Him. He then became one of us so we could be as brothers as well as think of Him as a Father. While He was among us He did menial tasks on behalf of those He came into local contact with, such as living a humble life and washing the disciples’ feet. Finally, I say this God you find to be so arrogant and pompous and in need of a social worker allowed a bunch of us to insult Him, beat and spit on Him, and at last torture Him to death. All this time He said things like “Father forgive them, for they know not what they do”, and “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets and stonest them which are sent unto the, how often would I have gathered thy children together even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!” Boy, better call the protective services hotline quickly.

    I realize that all this talk of what God is like is hypothetical to you. I get your story that you first came to the conclusion that God could be understood as different from the way Christians (or your narrow concept of Christianity) conceived Him to be. Then you later decided that your new found concept of God couldn’t be supported and you decided that there was no God. But this is why I wonder whether your disbelief is a product of your will. You started your journey away from Christianity with “I don’t like the Christian God” and progressed (or regressed from our point of view) to “there is no God at all”.

    So, you would have to “see” Christianity, like Thomas? Meaning Jesus would have to appear to you wounds gaping and blood flowing before you would believe again? I wonder whether that would really do it for you. Jesus told the story about Lazarus in hell wanting to go back to earth and warn his brothers about eternity away from God, but he was told that if his brothers wouldn’t listen to Moses and the prophets, they wouldn’t listen to their resurected brother either. I suspect there is truth in that in your case as well. Even if Jesus struck you blind on the road to Damascus, you would still have your problems with Him. Even if He came back so you could see Him, would you let that fact overcome your problems? You’ve let your heart harden against God. Maybe Another @35 is right and God will win, but He’ll have to soften that heart up to do it.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    What if you DO see Jesus, in person and up close, and He turns out to be exactly as we’ve described?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    What if you DO see Jesus, in person and up close, and He turns out to be exactly as we’ve described?

  • http://boundedirrationality.blogspot.com econ grad

    Knowing an atheist and knowing their perspectives and emotions is useful. That helps us to love them and treat them with compassion. In that vein I think this discussion is very useful.

    The intellectual side of it is probably futile. I don’t think a sincere atheist and a sincere theist share any meanings in common. The atheist worldviews don’t possess some of the categories for the Christian worldview to be understood.

  • http://boundedirrationality.blogspot.com econ grad

    Knowing an atheist and knowing their perspectives and emotions is useful. That helps us to love them and treat them with compassion. In that vein I think this discussion is very useful.

    The intellectual side of it is probably futile. I don’t think a sincere atheist and a sincere theist share any meanings in common. The atheist worldviews don’t possess some of the categories for the Christian worldview to be understood.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    @ 16 you mention “Right belief is leaving authority to the Word (the testimony) of God, and not to human or personal experience, or to additions to that Word, or subtractions from it.” So I wonder why you haven’t answered my questions about this idea. First, what is it about the Bible that makes it more credible to you as the word of God rather than all the other books which also make this claim? And second, what about the fact that Martin Luther himself subtracted from the Bible when he removed the Apocrypha from the usual order and put it in its own separate section?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    @ 16 you mention “Right belief is leaving authority to the Word (the testimony) of God, and not to human or personal experience, or to additions to that Word, or subtractions from it.” So I wonder why you haven’t answered my questions about this idea. First, what is it about the Bible that makes it more credible to you as the word of God rather than all the other books which also make this claim? And second, what about the fact that Martin Luther himself subtracted from the Bible when he removed the Apocrypha from the usual order and put it in its own separate section?

  • Michael the little boot

    I’ve noticed a lot of people referring to the Bible’s “internal consistency” as a reason for its validity. Can someone give me a clue as to why this is? A work of literature must be internally consistent. We expect this as sophisticated modern readers. But a work of history only needs to report what happened, which is rarely what we would define as “internally consistent” by these standards. Someone mind explaining this to me?

  • Michael the little boot

    I’ve noticed a lot of people referring to the Bible’s “internal consistency” as a reason for its validity. Can someone give me a clue as to why this is? A work of literature must be internally consistent. We expect this as sophisticated modern readers. But a work of history only needs to report what happened, which is rarely what we would define as “internally consistent” by these standards. Someone mind explaining this to me?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 26,

    I wasn’t playing a card. It is a common tactic of one group which is using the literature of another group to talk of “playing a card” when the former group has no other excuse to make to the latter. One community can’t just appropriate the book of another community, even if it happened so long ago neither group includes any members who were alive at the time. Jews don’t call Christians on this enough, in my opinion.

    And it is perfectly fine for a non-religious Jew to do what I’m doing here. Non-religious Jews are accepted as part of the Jewish community by most Jews, because the Jewish people were a community before Judaism became a faith or religion. This is difficult for Christians to understand, because if a person who is a part of the Christian community ceases to believe things seen by others as essential to Christianity, that community rejects said member. Jews rarely do this.

    I find it funny that – while I was raised in the church but have only set foot in a Jewish Temple a few times – I am more accepted as a Jew than I am as a Christian. Though I do understand why I am not accepted. But it’s pretty funny to me.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 26,

    I wasn’t playing a card. It is a common tactic of one group which is using the literature of another group to talk of “playing a card” when the former group has no other excuse to make to the latter. One community can’t just appropriate the book of another community, even if it happened so long ago neither group includes any members who were alive at the time. Jews don’t call Christians on this enough, in my opinion.

    And it is perfectly fine for a non-religious Jew to do what I’m doing here. Non-religious Jews are accepted as part of the Jewish community by most Jews, because the Jewish people were a community before Judaism became a faith or religion. This is difficult for Christians to understand, because if a person who is a part of the Christian community ceases to believe things seen by others as essential to Christianity, that community rejects said member. Jews rarely do this.

    I find it funny that – while I was raised in the church but have only set foot in a Jewish Temple a few times – I am more accepted as a Jew than I am as a Christian. Though I do understand why I am not accepted. But it’s pretty funny to me.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    And, no, you didn’t offend me. I said “g’night” because I thought it was just turning into a back-and-forth. I didn’t think you were listening, so I thought I wouldn’t waste my time. I said the stuff about “compassionate Christians” because NO ONE here agrees with me, but EVERYONE ELSE still engages my ideas, rather than the aforementioned caricature to which you have been referring.

    I continue to respond to you because I’d still like us to get past what we’re doing, you and I, and listen to one another. As you can tell, I don’t give up easily.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    And, no, you didn’t offend me. I said “g’night” because I thought it was just turning into a back-and-forth. I didn’t think you were listening, so I thought I wouldn’t waste my time. I said the stuff about “compassionate Christians” because NO ONE here agrees with me, but EVERYONE ELSE still engages my ideas, rather than the aforementioned caricature to which you have been referring.

    I continue to respond to you because I’d still like us to get past what we’re doing, you and I, and listen to one another. As you can tell, I don’t give up easily.

  • Michael the little boot

    FW @ 29,

    If Lutheran Christians do not believe anyone will be punished by God for their behavior or actions, why the need for me to believe prior to death? As many have pointed out, Christianity doesn’t make your life better (i.e., you don’t have more money or happiness, you don’t suffer less, etc.). I’m lost here – once again, no pun intended! I’m not talking about legalism, just trying to discover the benefits. They sound very abstract to me at this point, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a consensus opinion here. Even your fellow Lutherans can’t seem to agree. If I won’t be punished for my actions, does this include a lack of faith? Once again, not trying to pin you (or anyone, for that matter) down, just trying to understand. You are quite right in pointing out that your description of Christianity doesn’t square with how it was presented to me growing up. My misperception is obvious; however, I need more information in order to correct it.

    As far as perfection goes, I thought we were only discussing God’s perfection. I’m not sure where you’re going with your approach. I’m always asking for MORE from you! You LOVE to tease, don’t you?

    I like how you’re asking questions about perfection, though. What are we talking about when we use this term? You ask whether forgetting a prayer shawl, etc., is considered imperfect. A subtle, but important, distinction. I think it is an example of an imperfection that doesn’t matter much, spiritually. It definitely matters for the person who has to march all the way back home because of a forgotten prayer shawl!

    The church in which I was raised was DEFINITELY one of the more black and white churches, yes. I do see that there is room in Christianity for more than just that; I’m just not feeling it from what’s been said by many here. Can Christians be cool with a high level of doubt, but not the HIGHEST level (as far as theism is concerned) which would be agnosticism or weak atheism? Still only trying to understand.

  • Michael the little boot

    FW @ 29,

    If Lutheran Christians do not believe anyone will be punished by God for their behavior or actions, why the need for me to believe prior to death? As many have pointed out, Christianity doesn’t make your life better (i.e., you don’t have more money or happiness, you don’t suffer less, etc.). I’m lost here – once again, no pun intended! I’m not talking about legalism, just trying to discover the benefits. They sound very abstract to me at this point, especially since there doesn’t seem to be a consensus opinion here. Even your fellow Lutherans can’t seem to agree. If I won’t be punished for my actions, does this include a lack of faith? Once again, not trying to pin you (or anyone, for that matter) down, just trying to understand. You are quite right in pointing out that your description of Christianity doesn’t square with how it was presented to me growing up. My misperception is obvious; however, I need more information in order to correct it.

    As far as perfection goes, I thought we were only discussing God’s perfection. I’m not sure where you’re going with your approach. I’m always asking for MORE from you! You LOVE to tease, don’t you?

    I like how you’re asking questions about perfection, though. What are we talking about when we use this term? You ask whether forgetting a prayer shawl, etc., is considered imperfect. A subtle, but important, distinction. I think it is an example of an imperfection that doesn’t matter much, spiritually. It definitely matters for the person who has to march all the way back home because of a forgotten prayer shawl!

    The church in which I was raised was DEFINITELY one of the more black and white churches, yes. I do see that there is room in Christianity for more than just that; I’m just not feeling it from what’s been said by many here. Can Christians be cool with a high level of doubt, but not the HIGHEST level (as far as theism is concerned) which would be agnosticism or weak atheism? Still only trying to understand.

  • Michael the little boot

    Unmei @ 31,

    Interesting way to look at it. I have many questions, as you may have anticipated! If one is looking at sin as slavery, rather than as a debt or transgression, who would be considered the slave master? If it is God, why cannot God let us go without OUR having to DO anything (including having faith or believing)? If the master is ourselves, that’s a different story, and brings up many more questions. But I’d like to know more about your idea before I proceed to ask those questions, especially if they’re totally off base!

    A big question for me is: if Adam and Eve essentially CHOSE slavery, why can we not choose to leave it without having to choose Jesus? Why are we still slaves just based on their choice? This doesn’t totally line up with the tradition of slavery. For example, in the U.S., slaves from Africa didn’t choose slavery. They were released once their captors decided to do it. It seems this leaves the ball in God’s court. What do you think?

  • Michael the little boot

    Unmei @ 31,

    Interesting way to look at it. I have many questions, as you may have anticipated! If one is looking at sin as slavery, rather than as a debt or transgression, who would be considered the slave master? If it is God, why cannot God let us go without OUR having to DO anything (including having faith or believing)? If the master is ourselves, that’s a different story, and brings up many more questions. But I’d like to know more about your idea before I proceed to ask those questions, especially if they’re totally off base!

    A big question for me is: if Adam and Eve essentially CHOSE slavery, why can we not choose to leave it without having to choose Jesus? Why are we still slaves just based on their choice? This doesn’t totally line up with the tradition of slavery. For example, in the U.S., slaves from Africa didn’t choose slavery. They were released once their captors decided to do it. It seems this leaves the ball in God’s court. What do you think?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I have an idea related to your last post, Michael. For some really challenging theological reading which can perhaps help you understand the heart of Lutheran theology, read Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” available here. Here you will hear from Luther himself our understanding of human spiritual slavery:

    http://www.ctsfw.edu/etext/luther/bondage/

    Let me know if you think you’ll actually read it. Perhaps I’ll reread it with you.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I have an idea related to your last post, Michael. For some really challenging theological reading which can perhaps help you understand the heart of Lutheran theology, read Luther’s “Bondage of the Will” available here. Here you will hear from Luther himself our understanding of human spiritual slavery:

    http://www.ctsfw.edu/etext/luther/bondage/

    Let me know if you think you’ll actually read it. Perhaps I’ll reread it with you.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    Is “Bondage of the Will” in the Concord? I just got that from the library, but it’s at home so I can’t check it. If not, I will read it, but it will take me a while, because of my oft-mentioned computer issues.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    Is “Bondage of the Will” in the Concord? I just got that from the library, but it’s at home so I can’t check it. If not, I will read it, but it will take me a while, because of my oft-mentioned computer issues.

  • kerner

    Michael @50:

    This is Lutheran theology, and it is different than the decision theology you grew up with. But we believe you DON’T have to do anything. Unlike Baptists and Foursquare Christians, we don’t tell our children they have to make some kind of decision. We tell them their sins are forgiven because Christ died for their sins. A person does not have to “decide” for Christ, but that same person CAN decide against Christ. To follow the slavery analogy, it is as though the Union soldiers come to the plantation and announce, “All you slaves are now free!” And some of them believe it and lay down their tools and leave the plantation. But others don’t believe it and keep right on chopping cotton as they always have. Some of these latter are very stubborn about it and absolutely refuse to stop working no matter how many times they are told they are free. They demand proof, and no proof ever seems good enough to them.

    I suppose there are even some who claim to have already lived in the free country, but didn’t like it and later denied that freedom actually exists. These eventually went to the plantation and voluntarily enslaved themselves. This baffles the Union troops who keep on announcing that the slaves are free, even to those who have enslaved themselves so securely that they don’t see that they have forged their own chains and claim to be happy in them. “We don’t believe in slavery or freedom”, they say, “Freedom makes no sense to us’, but chopping cotton in chains does make sense to us, so we’ll just keep doing that”. And so it goes.

  • kerner

    Michael @50:

    This is Lutheran theology, and it is different than the decision theology you grew up with. But we believe you DON’T have to do anything. Unlike Baptists and Foursquare Christians, we don’t tell our children they have to make some kind of decision. We tell them their sins are forgiven because Christ died for their sins. A person does not have to “decide” for Christ, but that same person CAN decide against Christ. To follow the slavery analogy, it is as though the Union soldiers come to the plantation and announce, “All you slaves are now free!” And some of them believe it and lay down their tools and leave the plantation. But others don’t believe it and keep right on chopping cotton as they always have. Some of these latter are very stubborn about it and absolutely refuse to stop working no matter how many times they are told they are free. They demand proof, and no proof ever seems good enough to them.

    I suppose there are even some who claim to have already lived in the free country, but didn’t like it and later denied that freedom actually exists. These eventually went to the plantation and voluntarily enslaved themselves. This baffles the Union troops who keep on announcing that the slaves are free, even to those who have enslaved themselves so securely that they don’t see that they have forged their own chains and claim to be happy in them. “We don’t believe in slavery or freedom”, they say, “Freedom makes no sense to us’, but chopping cotton in chains does make sense to us, so we’ll just keep doing that”. And so it goes.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    It is not in the Book of Concord, but you may be able to find it in the Library. It is in the American Edition of Luther’s Works. I’m sure its been published numerous times. Let me know if you can’t find it at your Library.

    I’ll reread it too.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    It is not in the Book of Concord, but you may be able to find it in the Library. It is in the American Edition of Luther’s Works. I’m sure its been published numerous times. Let me know if you can’t find it at your Library.

    I’ll reread it too.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 33,

    I’m glad you brought up God sending Jesus again in this context, because it brings up something I’ve been meaning to ask, but have been so overwhelmed by the volume of replies that I’ve continually forgotten: why is it God waited so long AFTER The Fall to offer a solution? That is, why didn’t Jesus come IMMEDIATELY after The Fall? How did God do “a bit better than us,” and how has God “treated us quite well,” if God let so many generations of humans come and go before he sent Jesus?

    Interesting that you find you wouldn’t be a very good or nice God. I know this will seem the height of hubris, but I would have no problem accepting AND “saving” ALL of my creations, were I God. Regardless of what they did, if they agreed or disagreed with me, etc. And I’m a godless heathen! Why is it difficult for you to have compassion for others, so much so that you can’t even conceive of being as “good” as the God of the Bible?

    You mentioned you have children. Do you play favorites with them? A good God, in my opinion, would be like a good parent. Whereas a good parent tries his/her best to treat his/her children equally, it would stand to reason a perfect God would be capable of treating all parts of Creation with perfect equality.

    Love the “hot mike” pun, intentional or not! I am not angry with God. I have VERY strong words about the God described by many here, but have very little doubt THAT God does not exist. If I sound angry, it is probably more to do with DESCRIPTIONS of God than any actual God, in whom I do not believe; however, if the God described by many – here and elsewhere – actually DOES exist, I am angry, and, I think, justifiably so. I KNOW you don’t agree. This answer may, in your mind, justify your description of me as angry. I think the important distinction is that I really really DO NOT believe in any God – this God, Allah, Krishna, etc. So my anger is nonexistent. But I do find the way many describe God here to be a pretty archaic, barbaric way of viewing things. I actually see it as pretty depressing, which is usually how theists see atheists.

    I don’t feel God dealt me a bad hand, as you say. My problems with the God you describe is that “He” is capricious; doesn’t abide by “His” own laws; doesn’t give straight answers to questions “He” deems to be of the utmost importance (I actually can’t wait to read what Luther has to say about this in the Concord as well as Bondage of the Will). There are a lot more. But the point is, it is with the IDEA that I take issue, not the person – which makes sense, since I don’t believe there TO BE a person.

    I never said God was an illogical hypothesis. The idea of God (mostly the idea of a personal God) makes no sense TO ME. Just me. I am totally willing to admit my logic may have problems. I find that your seeing accuracy and perfection as being linked calls your logic into question. Accurate means “best measurement”; best does not mean “perfect.”

  • Michael the little boot

    Bror @ 33,

    I’m glad you brought up God sending Jesus again in this context, because it brings up something I’ve been meaning to ask, but have been so overwhelmed by the volume of replies that I’ve continually forgotten: why is it God waited so long AFTER The Fall to offer a solution? That is, why didn’t Jesus come IMMEDIATELY after The Fall? How did God do “a bit better than us,” and how has God “treated us quite well,” if God let so many generations of humans come and go before he sent Jesus?

    Interesting that you find you wouldn’t be a very good or nice God. I know this will seem the height of hubris, but I would have no problem accepting AND “saving” ALL of my creations, were I God. Regardless of what they did, if they agreed or disagreed with me, etc. And I’m a godless heathen! Why is it difficult for you to have compassion for others, so much so that you can’t even conceive of being as “good” as the God of the Bible?

    You mentioned you have children. Do you play favorites with them? A good God, in my opinion, would be like a good parent. Whereas a good parent tries his/her best to treat his/her children equally, it would stand to reason a perfect God would be capable of treating all parts of Creation with perfect equality.

    Love the “hot mike” pun, intentional or not! I am not angry with God. I have VERY strong words about the God described by many here, but have very little doubt THAT God does not exist. If I sound angry, it is probably more to do with DESCRIPTIONS of God than any actual God, in whom I do not believe; however, if the God described by many – here and elsewhere – actually DOES exist, I am angry, and, I think, justifiably so. I KNOW you don’t agree. This answer may, in your mind, justify your description of me as angry. I think the important distinction is that I really really DO NOT believe in any God – this God, Allah, Krishna, etc. So my anger is nonexistent. But I do find the way many describe God here to be a pretty archaic, barbaric way of viewing things. I actually see it as pretty depressing, which is usually how theists see atheists.

    I don’t feel God dealt me a bad hand, as you say. My problems with the God you describe is that “He” is capricious; doesn’t abide by “His” own laws; doesn’t give straight answers to questions “He” deems to be of the utmost importance (I actually can’t wait to read what Luther has to say about this in the Concord as well as Bondage of the Will). There are a lot more. But the point is, it is with the IDEA that I take issue, not the person – which makes sense, since I don’t believe there TO BE a person.

    I never said God was an illogical hypothesis. The idea of God (mostly the idea of a personal God) makes no sense TO ME. Just me. I am totally willing to admit my logic may have problems. I find that your seeing accuracy and perfection as being linked calls your logic into question. Accurate means “best measurement”; best does not mean “perfect.”

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 53,

    Why can’t the Union troops just bring the bloody documents to the slaves and SHOW them they are free? Why does it all have to be so hidden?

    I’m willing to admit this is different than the “decision theology” with which I was raised. It obviously is, but it’s so convoluted. Can someone show me HOW it is different? Because it just seems like a paradox I’m supposed to accept and live with.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 53,

    Why can’t the Union troops just bring the bloody documents to the slaves and SHOW them they are free? Why does it all have to be so hidden?

    I’m willing to admit this is different than the “decision theology” with which I was raised. It obviously is, but it’s so convoluted. Can someone show me HOW it is different? Because it just seems like a paradox I’m supposed to accept and live with.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Oy! The Union troops HAVE shown up with the “bloody documents”. But the slave has read them and doesn’t believe them. They’ve showed up with water to wash off the dirt of all that slave labor, but the slave sees no difference and doesn’t believe that either.

    Before we get lost in the details of this analogy, you said something @55 I would like to explore. You said, “if the God described by many-here and elsewhere-actually DOES exist, then I am angry, and, I think, justifiably so.” And, “I do find the way many describe God here to be a pretty archaic, barbaric way of viewing things.”

    I don’t see the precise nature of your complaints against the God we describe. I mean, I described Him @42 and you haven’t responded by telling me what is offensive about that yet, but to use some more of your language @55: HOW is God capricious? HOW do you figure that He doesn’t abide by His own laws? Give me some examples of God not giving straight anwsers to important questions?

    I understand your disclaimer. You don’t believe in God. But what, specifically, is so offensive about God as “we” describe Him?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Oy! The Union troops HAVE shown up with the “bloody documents”. But the slave has read them and doesn’t believe them. They’ve showed up with water to wash off the dirt of all that slave labor, but the slave sees no difference and doesn’t believe that either.

    Before we get lost in the details of this analogy, you said something @55 I would like to explore. You said, “if the God described by many-here and elsewhere-actually DOES exist, then I am angry, and, I think, justifiably so.” And, “I do find the way many describe God here to be a pretty archaic, barbaric way of viewing things.”

    I don’t see the precise nature of your complaints against the God we describe. I mean, I described Him @42 and you haven’t responded by telling me what is offensive about that yet, but to use some more of your language @55: HOW is God capricious? HOW do you figure that He doesn’t abide by His own laws? Give me some examples of God not giving straight anwsers to important questions?

    I understand your disclaimer. You don’t believe in God. But what, specifically, is so offensive about God as “we” describe Him?

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I’m sorry. I haven’t answered your reply @ 42 yet because I haven’t gotten there. I’ve answered a couple out of order, but I’m still trying to get to the rest MOSTLY in order. If you can be patient, I’ll get there as soon as I can. Fridays tend to be slow, so tomorrow there may be a flurry of posts…

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I’m sorry. I haven’t answered your reply @ 42 yet because I haven’t gotten there. I’ve answered a couple out of order, but I’m still trying to get to the rest MOSTLY in order. If you can be patient, I’ll get there as soon as I can. Fridays tend to be slow, so tomorrow there may be a flurry of posts…

  • Michael the little boot

    Another Kerner @ 35,

    I would like to thank you for your nice description of me.

    If I am in a wrestling match with God, cool. If God thinks in terms of winners and losers, I’m sure God will win, if God exists. I mean, God wouldn’t be much of a God if I could take God down in a fight.

  • Michael the little boot

    Another Kerner @ 35,

    I would like to thank you for your nice description of me.

    If I am in a wrestling match with God, cool. If God thinks in terms of winners and losers, I’m sure God will win, if God exists. I mean, God wouldn’t be much of a God if I could take God down in a fight.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 40,

    I haven’t read your “Confessions” yet. If you’ve read a lot of this, you know of my computer problem (i.e., I ain’t got one!). I’ve got the first part of it up and will begin to read as soon as I have the chance. Then, if I have comments or questions, you’ll get ‘em!

    I don’t take offense to anything you said. I do wonder why people keep saying things which they preface with “you’ve heard this before” though. If you know that, why don’t you find a way to say it which I HAVEN’T heard before? I don’t doubt the creative abilities of the people here. Maybe God brought all of you into my life so I could hear anew through you! So let’s have it, yes? Could someone rephrase this stuff in a way I might be able to hear it? I’ll really try to be as open as possible.

    I won’t be able to find God through rational thought. Why? Why is God not able to present Godself in as many ways as it takes to convince EVERYONE? I made an observation to a co-worker today about the communication skills of modern youth. They have a really hard time rephrasing things when you ask for clarification. But this is not a problem for older people. I would think God could describe things in more ways than we’d even be able to understand. Why can’t God give me ONE way that makes sense to me? If God is a personal God, once again, why the one-size-fits-all answer? Why not…PERSONALIZE IT?

    I come to the end of my rope all the time. Nothing helps me then other than taking a deep breath and pushing on. I’m no Buddhist, although you rightly point out its philosophies enter my vocabulary now and again. I was very interested in it in college. But it’s got its dogma, as do all religions. And I don’t like dogma I can’t get rid of once I recognize it. And I feel no burden from sin. I actually LIKE not being perfect. Takes all kinds, I guess.

    I’m on a Lutheran blog because I found it in a web search. There were some interesting comments, so I stayed. I left for a while, too, because of a former bit of posting like this. I told my story because Dr. Veith asked. I’m talking about God because others are talking about God, as is wont to happen on a Lutheran blog.

    I’m really sorry you had so much darkness in your life that you would cry yourself to sleep. Sometimes this happens. I find it too bad that you left reason behind in your quest to stop crying. Perhaps you thought something was amiss, and that was why you were crying. I find that I cry sometimes. When I’m done feeling that way, I stop crying. I don’t cry myself to sleep; but if I did, and it went on for a long time, and I NEEDED it to stop – you know, I guess I may have taken the option you did, as well. Cross that bridge if I come to it, as they say.

    Thanks, Jim!

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 40,

    I haven’t read your “Confessions” yet. If you’ve read a lot of this, you know of my computer problem (i.e., I ain’t got one!). I’ve got the first part of it up and will begin to read as soon as I have the chance. Then, if I have comments or questions, you’ll get ‘em!

    I don’t take offense to anything you said. I do wonder why people keep saying things which they preface with “you’ve heard this before” though. If you know that, why don’t you find a way to say it which I HAVEN’T heard before? I don’t doubt the creative abilities of the people here. Maybe God brought all of you into my life so I could hear anew through you! So let’s have it, yes? Could someone rephrase this stuff in a way I might be able to hear it? I’ll really try to be as open as possible.

    I won’t be able to find God through rational thought. Why? Why is God not able to present Godself in as many ways as it takes to convince EVERYONE? I made an observation to a co-worker today about the communication skills of modern youth. They have a really hard time rephrasing things when you ask for clarification. But this is not a problem for older people. I would think God could describe things in more ways than we’d even be able to understand. Why can’t God give me ONE way that makes sense to me? If God is a personal God, once again, why the one-size-fits-all answer? Why not…PERSONALIZE IT?

    I come to the end of my rope all the time. Nothing helps me then other than taking a deep breath and pushing on. I’m no Buddhist, although you rightly point out its philosophies enter my vocabulary now and again. I was very interested in it in college. But it’s got its dogma, as do all religions. And I don’t like dogma I can’t get rid of once I recognize it. And I feel no burden from sin. I actually LIKE not being perfect. Takes all kinds, I guess.

    I’m on a Lutheran blog because I found it in a web search. There were some interesting comments, so I stayed. I left for a while, too, because of a former bit of posting like this. I told my story because Dr. Veith asked. I’m talking about God because others are talking about God, as is wont to happen on a Lutheran blog.

    I’m really sorry you had so much darkness in your life that you would cry yourself to sleep. Sometimes this happens. I find it too bad that you left reason behind in your quest to stop crying. Perhaps you thought something was amiss, and that was why you were crying. I find that I cry sometimes. When I’m done feeling that way, I stop crying. I don’t cry myself to sleep; but if I did, and it went on for a long time, and I NEEDED it to stop – you know, I guess I may have taken the option you did, as well. Cross that bridge if I come to it, as they say.

    Thanks, Jim!

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for your response. I encourage you to read my “Confessions as a Former Atheist”. I hope you don’t mind, but I don’t really engage in argument about what God can/can’t do, etc. All I can do is tell you about Christ crucified for your sins.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Hi Michael,

    Thank you for your response. I encourage you to read my “Confessions as a Former Atheist”. I hope you don’t mind, but I don’t really engage in argument about what God can/can’t do, etc. All I can do is tell you about Christ crucified for your sins.

  • http://boundedirrationality.blogspot.com econ grad

    I notice perhaps a possible flaw in how many atheists see God’s omnipotence.

    They say “Why didn’t God make his message convincing for everyone?”

    I see an implicit assumption in there. It’s that saving us is God’s highest priority and everything else must bend so we are saved. The Bible indicates this may not be so. There may be higher priorities to God than our salvation. In any meaningful Universe there are choices, even for God.

    While we can only speculate on why God allows some to perish, Christians believe that this is done for good reasons and not capriciously.

  • http://boundedirrationality.blogspot.com econ grad

    I notice perhaps a possible flaw in how many atheists see God’s omnipotence.

    They say “Why didn’t God make his message convincing for everyone?”

    I see an implicit assumption in there. It’s that saving us is God’s highest priority and everything else must bend so we are saved. The Bible indicates this may not be so. There may be higher priorities to God than our salvation. In any meaningful Universe there are choices, even for God.

    While we can only speculate on why God allows some to perish, Christians believe that this is done for good reasons and not capriciously.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Evermore remaking God into his own image.
    It’s the atheist who is capricious and inconsistent, even with himself, let alone with all the other realms of thought and reason.
    So, his God has to be of the same make and model and manner of thinking and doing, as himself. Even his Un-God.
    And I still wonder how it is that a God who doesn’t exist is ‘lording it over’ the creation He did not make.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Evermore remaking God into his own image.
    It’s the atheist who is capricious and inconsistent, even with himself, let alone with all the other realms of thought and reason.
    So, his God has to be of the same make and model and manner of thinking and doing, as himself. Even his Un-God.
    And I still wonder how it is that a God who doesn’t exist is ‘lording it over’ the creation He did not make.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    Interesting side-step. I said a lot of things that weren’t about God, and asked some questions, too. Why do you choose not to answer those?

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    Interesting side-step. I said a lot of things that weren’t about God, and asked some questions, too. Why do you choose not to answer those?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Michael, you might learn to better construct your responses to why and in what manner people choose to engage you or anyone else.
    Calling Jim Pierce’s answer a ‘side-step’ was not the best construction you could’ve made, and it certainly didn’t mirror the manners with which he addressed you. Besides, he’d already invited you to further discussion via his blog, apart from here. Maybe you’d missed that.
    You wrote:
    if Adam and Eve essentially CHOSE slavery, why can we not choose to leave it without having to choose Jesus? Why are we still slaves just based on their choice?
    We are also enslaved by our own choices, apart from what they chose. We have not improved our ability to not sin; we have not become more perfect, since that first sin. So, whether you regard original sin as at all plausible or credible, surely you can acknowledge that mankind is still incapable of any and all sins, from lying to killing and all things in between. It makes no difference how hard we try; at some point, we’ll feel compelled to do what we know is wrong, usually because it suits our self-interest.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Michael, you might learn to better construct your responses to why and in what manner people choose to engage you or anyone else.
    Calling Jim Pierce’s answer a ‘side-step’ was not the best construction you could’ve made, and it certainly didn’t mirror the manners with which he addressed you. Besides, he’d already invited you to further discussion via his blog, apart from here. Maybe you’d missed that.
    You wrote:
    if Adam and Eve essentially CHOSE slavery, why can we not choose to leave it without having to choose Jesus? Why are we still slaves just based on their choice?
    We are also enslaved by our own choices, apart from what they chose. We have not improved our ability to not sin; we have not become more perfect, since that first sin. So, whether you regard original sin as at all plausible or credible, surely you can acknowledge that mankind is still incapable of any and all sins, from lying to killing and all things in between. It makes no difference how hard we try; at some point, we’ll feel compelled to do what we know is wrong, usually because it suits our self-interest.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Whoops.
    Mankind is most surely still CAPABLE of any and all sins.
    (And errors.) :-)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Whoops.
    Mankind is most surely still CAPABLE of any and all sins.
    (And errors.) :-)

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 41,

    I don’t think you’re using the word pride to put me down. And I wasn’t trying to tell you to “talk to the hand” before, as it was phrased. Just trying to let you know gently that I heard your admonition, and that you needn’t say it again. Apologies if I was harsh.

    I really wish we could ALL get past the fact that we have differences. I’d like to understand – as much as an atheist can – your perspectives on the issues we’re discussing. You can continue to tell me WHY I’m an atheist if you want; you have to know I’m going to disagree with said reasons, and that they are not conducive to a discussion. These are just accusatory remarks, and they make me wonder how many people here are interested in discussing rather than providing proofs or retorts.

    Of course there is no easy way to tell someone they are a sinner. Why are you doing it? You have to realize I know this is your perspective. My parents always bring it up, and in this same context, even though I heard it every sunday from the time I was three until I was just over twenty. At least try a different tactic, if your goal is trying to get me back in church. Do you honestly think repeating the “you’re a proud sinner who doesn’t want to shame himself into believing” mantra is going to accomplish anything?

    As far as what I’m doing here if I’m not trying to understand God: Dr. Veith just asked me to tell my story. I thought we were going to share a bit. I’m here to try my best at understanding as many of you as possible. I’m guessing by your answers you think that an impossible task. I obviously think it’s possible, however limited that understanding will be.

    How did Christ “prove beyond any shadow of doubt that he was and is God incarnate”? I can understand if there were eyewitnesses – if what you’re saying occured actually happened – that you should be skeptical as to why THEY didn’t believe. But you CAN understand why people wouldn’t believe a written testimony, even four of them, right? Haven’t you ever heard the statement “don’t believe everything you read”? Does that apply to everything BUT the Bible?

    The modern atheist is different in that he/she WASN’T there, DIDN’T see, and is NOT convinced by written testimony. Neither was Thomas, and Jesus did HIM the courtesy of giving actual physical proof. Not so the rest of us who bear the title which reflects its lineage: Doubting Thomas.

    Why does God not accept me? You’re confusing me now. I can’t understand Lutheran theology if you guys won’t be consistent! How am I God’s enemy? And wasn’t it God who told us to LOVE OUR ENEMIES? Here’s one of those examples of God not following God’s own proclamation. And, yes, if God revealed Godself in a way we could understand it, atheists wouldn’t be atheists. Except we don’t believe there is a God, so we don’t think it’s gonna happen; but IF there is a God, yeah, it’s about revelation.

    It’s a major cop-out to “love the sinner and hate the sin,” btw. I don’t see Jesus doing that in the Gospels. His love is total. Does he condemn things with which he doesn’t agree? Of course. But he doesn’t play semantics. What you’re doing is skirting the issue. You DON’T love the atheist, but you have to SAY you do or you wouldn’t be much of a Christian.

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 41,

    I don’t think you’re using the word pride to put me down. And I wasn’t trying to tell you to “talk to the hand” before, as it was phrased. Just trying to let you know gently that I heard your admonition, and that you needn’t say it again. Apologies if I was harsh.

    I really wish we could ALL get past the fact that we have differences. I’d like to understand – as much as an atheist can – your perspectives on the issues we’re discussing. You can continue to tell me WHY I’m an atheist if you want; you have to know I’m going to disagree with said reasons, and that they are not conducive to a discussion. These are just accusatory remarks, and they make me wonder how many people here are interested in discussing rather than providing proofs or retorts.

    Of course there is no easy way to tell someone they are a sinner. Why are you doing it? You have to realize I know this is your perspective. My parents always bring it up, and in this same context, even though I heard it every sunday from the time I was three until I was just over twenty. At least try a different tactic, if your goal is trying to get me back in church. Do you honestly think repeating the “you’re a proud sinner who doesn’t want to shame himself into believing” mantra is going to accomplish anything?

    As far as what I’m doing here if I’m not trying to understand God: Dr. Veith just asked me to tell my story. I thought we were going to share a bit. I’m here to try my best at understanding as many of you as possible. I’m guessing by your answers you think that an impossible task. I obviously think it’s possible, however limited that understanding will be.

    How did Christ “prove beyond any shadow of doubt that he was and is God incarnate”? I can understand if there were eyewitnesses – if what you’re saying occured actually happened – that you should be skeptical as to why THEY didn’t believe. But you CAN understand why people wouldn’t believe a written testimony, even four of them, right? Haven’t you ever heard the statement “don’t believe everything you read”? Does that apply to everything BUT the Bible?

    The modern atheist is different in that he/she WASN’T there, DIDN’T see, and is NOT convinced by written testimony. Neither was Thomas, and Jesus did HIM the courtesy of giving actual physical proof. Not so the rest of us who bear the title which reflects its lineage: Doubting Thomas.

    Why does God not accept me? You’re confusing me now. I can’t understand Lutheran theology if you guys won’t be consistent! How am I God’s enemy? And wasn’t it God who told us to LOVE OUR ENEMIES? Here’s one of those examples of God not following God’s own proclamation. And, yes, if God revealed Godself in a way we could understand it, atheists wouldn’t be atheists. Except we don’t believe there is a God, so we don’t think it’s gonna happen; but IF there is a God, yeah, it’s about revelation.

    It’s a major cop-out to “love the sinner and hate the sin,” btw. I don’t see Jesus doing that in the Gospels. His love is total. Does he condemn things with which he doesn’t agree? Of course. But he doesn’t play semantics. What you’re doing is skirting the issue. You DON’T love the atheist, but you have to SAY you do or you wouldn’t be much of a Christian.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Per your address of slavery:
    >This doesn’t totally line up with the tradition of slavery. For example, in the U.S., slaves from Africa didn’t choose slavery.<
    But, in Biblical times, many did choose slavery. Slavery wan’t always a result of being captive for the purposes of slavery, but simply an alternative form of seeing to one’s needs, slaves being fed and clothed and housed on the master’s dime. So being a slave might’ve seemed the better alternative for many poor, dispossessed people, or even for people without ambition or skills or trades.
    Which makes it a sadder, more tragic slavery: self-imposed.
    And a more relevant form of slavery to this discussion than the barbaric American form.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Per your address of slavery:
    >This doesn’t totally line up with the tradition of slavery. For example, in the U.S., slaves from Africa didn’t choose slavery.<
    But, in Biblical times, many did choose slavery. Slavery wan’t always a result of being captive for the purposes of slavery, but simply an alternative form of seeing to one’s needs, slaves being fed and clothed and housed on the master’s dime. So being a slave might’ve seemed the better alternative for many poor, dispossessed people, or even for people without ambition or skills or trades.
    Which makes it a sadder, more tragic slavery: self-imposed.
    And a more relevant form of slavery to this discussion than the barbaric American form.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 65,

    What I said was constructed just fine, in my opinion. It wasn’t perhaps the nicest way I could’ve phrased it, true; but Jim DID side-step me in how HE phrased his response. He said “I don’t really engage in argument about what God can/can’t do, etc.” Maybe the other things I said or issues I raised – which are relevant to a post he made ON THIS BLOG, rather than on his own – are included in the “etc.” If not, my statement stands. If so, well, he could just as well not have answered. Which is pretty much what he did.

    Why do you continue to tell me what I should learn? It just sounds like a parent, like a rebuke. When do I TELL people here what they should learn?

    No, we are not enslaved by our own choices. We make the choices we make because we NOW have a sin nature SINCE they sinned for the first time. Humanity had no sin nature prior to the first sin; but God decided that ever after, we would ALL have to answer for the choices made by the TWO original humans. None of us should be subject to that kind of responsibility. God gave Adam and Eve the “choice” when God put the two trees in the Garden. Why have none of us had the choice? And we haven’t had it, even if everything said here is true. God gave them the choice BEFORE they had a sin nature. ALL of us have had to try not to sin in the FACE of HAVING a sin nature. Once again, a subtle, but important, distinction.

    As to why I used quotes around “choice,” that goes back to the scenario I brought up which no one took on directly: God putting two trees in the Garden, then telling his two VERY CURIOUS creations NOT to eat one of them, was a lot like putting a chocoholic in a room with a triple chocolate cake and some celery, then telling him/her NOT to eat the chocolate cake. God HAD to know the choice they were going to make. This description of God makes God seem very mean and capricious. Can you explain to me why this is not a correct understanding of the Garden of Eden/Adam and Eve/Original sin debacle?

    And, not that I’m all that “good” a person, but I’m not generally very tempted to do things I KNOW are wrong. I do, however, engage in activities many on this blog would say ARE wrong. But that’s just an opinion. You’d be hard pressed to explain to me why sleeping with my girlfriend out of wedlock is a sin, because there’s no logical reason to explain it as such. There’s just the Bible, and it’s list of arbitrary things to do and not to do.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 65,

    What I said was constructed just fine, in my opinion. It wasn’t perhaps the nicest way I could’ve phrased it, true; but Jim DID side-step me in how HE phrased his response. He said “I don’t really engage in argument about what God can/can’t do, etc.” Maybe the other things I said or issues I raised – which are relevant to a post he made ON THIS BLOG, rather than on his own – are included in the “etc.” If not, my statement stands. If so, well, he could just as well not have answered. Which is pretty much what he did.

    Why do you continue to tell me what I should learn? It just sounds like a parent, like a rebuke. When do I TELL people here what they should learn?

    No, we are not enslaved by our own choices. We make the choices we make because we NOW have a sin nature SINCE they sinned for the first time. Humanity had no sin nature prior to the first sin; but God decided that ever after, we would ALL have to answer for the choices made by the TWO original humans. None of us should be subject to that kind of responsibility. God gave Adam and Eve the “choice” when God put the two trees in the Garden. Why have none of us had the choice? And we haven’t had it, even if everything said here is true. God gave them the choice BEFORE they had a sin nature. ALL of us have had to try not to sin in the FACE of HAVING a sin nature. Once again, a subtle, but important, distinction.

    As to why I used quotes around “choice,” that goes back to the scenario I brought up which no one took on directly: God putting two trees in the Garden, then telling his two VERY CURIOUS creations NOT to eat one of them, was a lot like putting a chocoholic in a room with a triple chocolate cake and some celery, then telling him/her NOT to eat the chocolate cake. God HAD to know the choice they were going to make. This description of God makes God seem very mean and capricious. Can you explain to me why this is not a correct understanding of the Garden of Eden/Adam and Eve/Original sin debacle?

    And, not that I’m all that “good” a person, but I’m not generally very tempted to do things I KNOW are wrong. I do, however, engage in activities many on this blog would say ARE wrong. But that’s just an opinion. You’d be hard pressed to explain to me why sleeping with my girlfriend out of wedlock is a sin, because there’s no logical reason to explain it as such. There’s just the Bible, and it’s list of arbitrary things to do and not to do.

  • Michael the little boot

    TO ALL,

    I finally realized why I sound so ANGRY, and why many here have noticed it and tried to twist it, to say that I am angry at God and THAT’S why I am an atheist. I AM angry! But not at God, which would just be silly, since I don’t believe in God. I’m angry at certain Christians, and at how they stubbornly refuse to see God in any other way than how God is presented by the religion which makes sense to them. I am angry about it because this idea has had an incredibly negative and, I believe, detrimental effect on my life.

    I know I don’t understand the theology of Lutheranism as it’s presented here. I know I’m not an absolutist (which isn’t to say I totally rule out the idea of absolutes…), so my references to opinion make little headway with many people on this blog. But it is arrogant to keep saying all of your opinions are the truth! I have not said anything here personally against any of your beliefs, except to say I don’t share them. I have not disparaged your beliefs, only disputed them. But that has not stopped others from constantly “reminding” me I am lying to myself, telling me if I just opened up, stopped being so prideful, I would be given the free gift of faith.

    So, yeah, I am angry. Not at people here personally; but I do have my own “stuff” which is deep and complex, and it does come out when I discuss what are very personal and difficult issues. But I am not angry at God – a ridiculous idea to an atheist – nor am I personally angry at anyone here. Now that I am aware of this, I’ll try to do better at reigning in those negative emotions.

  • Michael the little boot

    TO ALL,

    I finally realized why I sound so ANGRY, and why many here have noticed it and tried to twist it, to say that I am angry at God and THAT’S why I am an atheist. I AM angry! But not at God, which would just be silly, since I don’t believe in God. I’m angry at certain Christians, and at how they stubbornly refuse to see God in any other way than how God is presented by the religion which makes sense to them. I am angry about it because this idea has had an incredibly negative and, I believe, detrimental effect on my life.

    I know I don’t understand the theology of Lutheranism as it’s presented here. I know I’m not an absolutist (which isn’t to say I totally rule out the idea of absolutes…), so my references to opinion make little headway with many people on this blog. But it is arrogant to keep saying all of your opinions are the truth! I have not said anything here personally against any of your beliefs, except to say I don’t share them. I have not disparaged your beliefs, only disputed them. But that has not stopped others from constantly “reminding” me I am lying to myself, telling me if I just opened up, stopped being so prideful, I would be given the free gift of faith.

    So, yeah, I am angry. Not at people here personally; but I do have my own “stuff” which is deep and complex, and it does come out when I discuss what are very personal and difficult issues. But I am not angry at God – a ridiculous idea to an atheist – nor am I personally angry at anyone here. Now that I am aware of this, I’ll try to do better at reigning in those negative emotions.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    God was not being capricious in setting a boundary to Adam and Eve, but being God. They lacked for absolutely nothing while in obedience to God, and knew of consequences of disobedience, but did it anyway. Oddly, that first disobedeince led to other sins, of lying, denying, deflecting guilt, etc., before they were even cast out.
    To call that capricious is to not understand the first thing about God: that He’s the author of giving; and then not to understand the first thing about our sinful nature: that we not only receive what’s generously offered, but must have more.
    The chocoholic who succumbs to his love for chocolate is only letting himself down, and not breaking a clear command. Quite a difference in action, quite a difference in consequence. Nothing to be visited upon future generations.
    And the choices Adam and Eve had were much greater than chocolate cake and celery. Eden was paradise, where their harmony with God was constant, even to the point of personal contact. They were safe and secure, fed and loved. Hardly celery.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    God was not being capricious in setting a boundary to Adam and Eve, but being God. They lacked for absolutely nothing while in obedience to God, and knew of consequences of disobedience, but did it anyway. Oddly, that first disobedeince led to other sins, of lying, denying, deflecting guilt, etc., before they were even cast out.
    To call that capricious is to not understand the first thing about God: that He’s the author of giving; and then not to understand the first thing about our sinful nature: that we not only receive what’s generously offered, but must have more.
    The chocoholic who succumbs to his love for chocolate is only letting himself down, and not breaking a clear command. Quite a difference in action, quite a difference in consequence. Nothing to be visited upon future generations.
    And the choices Adam and Eve had were much greater than chocolate cake and celery. Eden was paradise, where their harmony with God was constant, even to the point of personal contact. They were safe and secure, fed and loved. Hardly celery.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael,

    Just a few thoughts I wanted to share and get your response to:

    I believe that true God cannot be understood. If God is God, then we will never be able to get him to start behaving the way we think he ought to behave. The moment we put ourselves over him (in any way) we lose him as God and instead have only something in our imagination.

    I believe the Bible is God lifting the curtain for us just enough for us to see what we need to see of Him so His holiness does some good in/to us rather than bad. Throughout the Biblical narrative, God is giving us instruction on how to be one with Him, but we keep wanting god on our own terms and so we have in the Bible accounted for us to reread so many run-ins with the wrath of God which are so painful to see and hard to understand. But a holy God and imperfect people don’t mix very well outside of the safe way that God gives. Maybe we could compare it to pulling the hot dish out of the oven. It smells so good and we know its ready, but if we decided we would rather pull it out by our hands, we would get burned. Or if we didn’t allow it to cool, we would have a hard time tasting anything for a few days. But if we taste the dish in the safe way, it nourishes us and can satisfy us on so many levels. If there is a true God over all who was concerned about an imperfect creation, don’t you think the relationship might actually have some of those sorts of realities about it? Perhaps it is a similar comparison with trying to communicate with a wife or a girlfriend when you are both in completely different places emotionally. If God is truly other than us, why wouldn’t our trying to communicate (both ways) have some of the same limitations? Only because if you were God you would wipe out those difficulties? Well, that could get even uglier, couldn’t it?

    This also is a way to see Jesus as the Christians see Him as the Word made flesh. God’s rescue mission where He puts humanity on Himself (“The Word became flesh…”) in a way that we can be rescued from our blindness to Him. If he put himself on us without the veil of flesh, we would not stand because of how dangerous his holiness is if it gets close to our human imperfections.

    What do you think of these comparisons and questions?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael,

    Just a few thoughts I wanted to share and get your response to:

    I believe that true God cannot be understood. If God is God, then we will never be able to get him to start behaving the way we think he ought to behave. The moment we put ourselves over him (in any way) we lose him as God and instead have only something in our imagination.

    I believe the Bible is God lifting the curtain for us just enough for us to see what we need to see of Him so His holiness does some good in/to us rather than bad. Throughout the Biblical narrative, God is giving us instruction on how to be one with Him, but we keep wanting god on our own terms and so we have in the Bible accounted for us to reread so many run-ins with the wrath of God which are so painful to see and hard to understand. But a holy God and imperfect people don’t mix very well outside of the safe way that God gives. Maybe we could compare it to pulling the hot dish out of the oven. It smells so good and we know its ready, but if we decided we would rather pull it out by our hands, we would get burned. Or if we didn’t allow it to cool, we would have a hard time tasting anything for a few days. But if we taste the dish in the safe way, it nourishes us and can satisfy us on so many levels. If there is a true God over all who was concerned about an imperfect creation, don’t you think the relationship might actually have some of those sorts of realities about it? Perhaps it is a similar comparison with trying to communicate with a wife or a girlfriend when you are both in completely different places emotionally. If God is truly other than us, why wouldn’t our trying to communicate (both ways) have some of the same limitations? Only because if you were God you would wipe out those difficulties? Well, that could get even uglier, couldn’t it?

    This also is a way to see Jesus as the Christians see Him as the Word made flesh. God’s rescue mission where He puts humanity on Himself (“The Word became flesh…”) in a way that we can be rescued from our blindness to Him. If he put himself on us without the veil of flesh, we would not stand because of how dangerous his holiness is if it gets close to our human imperfections.

    What do you think of these comparisons and questions?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘telling me if I just opened up, stopped being so prideful, I would be given the free gift of faith.’
    You know, no one has told you those things, in those words. No one has advised you to open yourself up or stop being prideful or to give up anything.
    The only ‘advice’ given you has been to realize your anger, and to attend the Word of God through going to church or other sources.
    Perhaps it’s your anger clouding what you hear, but you do yourself a big disservice, in not taking what is said to you as it is said. Hearing through angry ears, I suppose.
    Well, you’ve admitted an anger, so that’s helpful.
    You say:
    ‘But it is arrogant to keep saying all of your opinions are the truth!’
    What is arrogant about speaking truth to you? Why would we bother you with our opinions, when it’s the truth you need?
    True we don’t give much more than space to your opinions–certainly not much respect–but that’s because they’re opinions, and those are changeable things, right up there with emotions. What are we supposed to do with opinions that are based on false notions, angry feelings, unresolved issues, etc? How are we supposed to honor your opinions, other than to give you the chance to speak them and to acknowledge that, yes, you have opinions? Are we required to agree with them, or give them a credence they simply don’t have? Are you being answered or questioned or otherwise addresses any less, because we don’t value the opinions you hold?
    You are addressing Christians, on a Christian blog, about a matter Christians simply see as beyond a matter of opinion: the existence and the nature of God as He’s revealed Himself, and the nature and truth of the scriptures through which He’s allowed this revelation.
    One thing about atheism: there is nothing within it to hold dear, to inform the heart, to turn the mind or behaviors or outlooks; there’s only the urge to constantly look inside oneself, through reason, emotion, pride, history, for answers. There’s nothing in atheism to turn one to outside oneself, except for the purposes of lashing out against God, belief, and believers. But for what purpose do you do that? Do you want us to know you? Do you think that knowing your opinions and your history is knowing you?
    Do you really think we don’t know you?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘telling me if I just opened up, stopped being so prideful, I would be given the free gift of faith.’
    You know, no one has told you those things, in those words. No one has advised you to open yourself up or stop being prideful or to give up anything.
    The only ‘advice’ given you has been to realize your anger, and to attend the Word of God through going to church or other sources.
    Perhaps it’s your anger clouding what you hear, but you do yourself a big disservice, in not taking what is said to you as it is said. Hearing through angry ears, I suppose.
    Well, you’ve admitted an anger, so that’s helpful.
    You say:
    ‘But it is arrogant to keep saying all of your opinions are the truth!’
    What is arrogant about speaking truth to you? Why would we bother you with our opinions, when it’s the truth you need?
    True we don’t give much more than space to your opinions–certainly not much respect–but that’s because they’re opinions, and those are changeable things, right up there with emotions. What are we supposed to do with opinions that are based on false notions, angry feelings, unresolved issues, etc? How are we supposed to honor your opinions, other than to give you the chance to speak them and to acknowledge that, yes, you have opinions? Are we required to agree with them, or give them a credence they simply don’t have? Are you being answered or questioned or otherwise addresses any less, because we don’t value the opinions you hold?
    You are addressing Christians, on a Christian blog, about a matter Christians simply see as beyond a matter of opinion: the existence and the nature of God as He’s revealed Himself, and the nature and truth of the scriptures through which He’s allowed this revelation.
    One thing about atheism: there is nothing within it to hold dear, to inform the heart, to turn the mind or behaviors or outlooks; there’s only the urge to constantly look inside oneself, through reason, emotion, pride, history, for answers. There’s nothing in atheism to turn one to outside oneself, except for the purposes of lashing out against God, belief, and believers. But for what purpose do you do that? Do you want us to know you? Do you think that knowing your opinions and your history is knowing you?
    Do you really think we don’t know you?

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Hi Michael,

    I am sorry if I offended you, but I am not really avoiding your arguments. I just think it is an exercise in futility to argue over the existence of God, since I firmly believe that a person can’t come to God via a cogent argument or because they are proven wrong.

    I won’t mind answering questions about my faith, or answering questions over what I believed when I was an atheist. I would be more than happy to talk to you about scriptures! :)

    But, to reiterate my point above, my experience is that arguing with atheists about the existence of God is useless. I can’t convince you that God exists. I can only tell you that God so loves the world that He sent His only Son to die a horrible death on a cross for our sins, your sins. A Holy God requires justice, a penalty for sin. Jesus took our punishment for us satisfying the law. And when He rose from the dead on the third day, He conquered death and sin, so that all who trust in Him will not perish, but live in eternity with Him.

    You likely don’t believe those words, Michael. But the good news of Jesus is true! My prayer for you is that one day soon you will see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not foolishness, but is the truth!

    Please, if you have questions for me, ask away! You can visit my blog and contact me through my bio if you want to do that too. I just can’t put an email address into this response because web crawlers will pick it up and I will have more spam in my email box than I care to deal with! ;-)

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Hi Michael,

    I am sorry if I offended you, but I am not really avoiding your arguments. I just think it is an exercise in futility to argue over the existence of God, since I firmly believe that a person can’t come to God via a cogent argument or because they are proven wrong.

    I won’t mind answering questions about my faith, or answering questions over what I believed when I was an atheist. I would be more than happy to talk to you about scriptures! :)

    But, to reiterate my point above, my experience is that arguing with atheists about the existence of God is useless. I can’t convince you that God exists. I can only tell you that God so loves the world that He sent His only Son to die a horrible death on a cross for our sins, your sins. A Holy God requires justice, a penalty for sin. Jesus took our punishment for us satisfying the law. And when He rose from the dead on the third day, He conquered death and sin, so that all who trust in Him will not perish, but live in eternity with Him.

    You likely don’t believe those words, Michael. But the good news of Jesus is true! My prayer for you is that one day soon you will see that the gospel of Jesus Christ is not foolishness, but is the truth!

    Please, if you have questions for me, ask away! You can visit my blog and contact me through my bio if you want to do that too. I just can’t put an email address into this response because web crawlers will pick it up and I will have more spam in my email box than I care to deal with! ;-)

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    BTW, if you click on my name at the top, it will take you to my blog.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    BTW, if you click on my name at the top, it will take you to my blog.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 42,

    I’m not sure I agree with you about why we have laws. You say “the reason we have laws against violence and dishonesty is because we, as a society, want to protect everybody.” I think it’s the opposite. We want to protect ourselves, and realize that, to an extent, we must extend to others the rights we wish to enjoy if we do not want to give someone justification to take any of those rights away. That’s why we talk so much about free speech, even though most people think those who do not share their beliefs are “wrong” and should just “shut up.” Or religious freedom, even though former president George H.W. Bush does not consider atheists to be CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES. Seriously. He actually SAID THOSE WORDS exactly.

    As far as your example with the car, I don’t see it as applicable in this case. The interpersonal goings-on include me at that point, because I am a citizen (H.W.’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding), and because the car’s owner is not present at the time. Of course I could just go my merry way. Most probably WOULD in this day and age, since they’d be afraid of getting murdered or mugged. And I don’t think they’d be wrong. Who could argue FOR putting oneself in harms way to save a stranger’s POSSESSIONS?

    We’re all grown people here (or at least most of us are, I’m not sure, haven’t checked ages – and I don’t mean that tongue-in-cheek). When I talk about God as parent, I’m talking God as parent with ADULT CHILDREN. And all I’m saying is, whether God CARES or not about our interpersonal stuff, God should leave it to us as adults who are in charge of our own lives to work things out. Whether you have kids or not, I’m sure you can appreciate allowing your grown offspring to work out their own troubles with each other. Well, God’s above us all, in your view; I just don’t see God butting in to all of our relationships at every level as being very mature.

    “I can take responsibility for my own actions” means just that! I’m an adult. I don’t need to go to God to help me work things out with my sister, if we have a problem. I go to her, like a responsible adult, and we two imperfect human beings work it out together. I would think God might sit back, watch us, and say “Boy, I did a good job! Didn’t even have to lift a finger to help!”

    I find myself wondering why you add “Also, remember that God DOES know us all personally, so we are all in His personal circle.” You know I don’t concure. I also refrain from doing this here, as it is condescending. I have facts to back up many of my beliefs; still I know that they are only my beliefs, and I shouldn’t – no matter what kind of hard evidence I’ve got – use the tactic of stating “It’s the TRUTH!! I know you don’t believe it, but TOO BAD!!”

    You say God gave us paradise to live in. Okay, but God also put God’s caprice on display by planting in this “paradise” a temptation. If God hadn’t made us so curious – i.e., if God hadn’t given us our NATURE – it would have been nothing for God to include the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. But God, in your view, DID create us, so I must assume you believe God gave us our curious nature. Perhaps you would like to tackle this for me? How is God not arbitrary in God’s handling of this situation?

    So right off the bat you can see your description of what God gave us as “paradise” is not apt, in my view. In addition, I have proposed in other posts that, if God had a solution to offer (i.e., Jesus), God could have offered it as soon as God’s first attempt at creating a perfect world failed. Why did God not do this? You say God gave us a place to survive, “then became one of us so we could be as brothers as well as think of Him as a Father.” Here you skip over an inordinate amount of time with a “then,” so I wonder if you could fill in the blanks to help me understand why God sent Jesus so much later.

    You believe Jesus had a mission to fulfill on earth, right? That God sent Jesus. Well, Jesus allowed us to “insult Him, beat and spit on Him, and at last torture Him to death” because he was ordered to by his Boss. Also, even though Jesus suffered and died an horrific death, he was also GUARANTEED resurrection by God (remember, this is all in your view, not mine). So it’s hard to say he was really facing death. He knew he’d come back. He didn’t have FAITH in eternity, he had KNOWLEDGE of it. Therefore he made no sacrifice. He didn’t give anything up. In the grand scheme of things, if Jesus WAS (or IS) God, Jesus went through relatively little. Some hours of torture, beatings, being spit upon – in light of eternity, all of that stuff’s like a drop in the bucket.

    I didn’t start my journey away from Christianity with “I don’t like the Christian God.” I started with “Wow, I think God is even BIGGER than I previously thought!” See the difference? One is positive, the other negative. It was a positive experience of God, as was my view then, which led me to leave Christianity. I keep saying this, and people keep missing it. You may not want to accept that this was the “progression” as it happened; but that is the way it went down.

    The Lazarus example you give isn’t the same as what I’m talking about. I would want to physically see JESUS and be able to talk with HIM. You’re absolutely correct: if I was struck blind on the road to Damascus, I would not believe. What is there in going blind that leads one to think God was behind it? I’m talking about hard evidence, not something circumstantial like the example you give.

    It’s not that I’ve hardened my heart toward God; I believe God, if the God you describe exists, has gone out of God’s way to make it as absolutely difficult for me to believe as possible. If my heart is hard, it’s only because I spent years listening, begging, pleading, grovelling (yes, contrary to popular belief, I have NO SHAME), even being open and doing NOTHING, and got NOTHING from God. I’ve come to believe that is because God doesn’t exist.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 42,

    I’m not sure I agree with you about why we have laws. You say “the reason we have laws against violence and dishonesty is because we, as a society, want to protect everybody.” I think it’s the opposite. We want to protect ourselves, and realize that, to an extent, we must extend to others the rights we wish to enjoy if we do not want to give someone justification to take any of those rights away. That’s why we talk so much about free speech, even though most people think those who do not share their beliefs are “wrong” and should just “shut up.” Or religious freedom, even though former president George H.W. Bush does not consider atheists to be CITIZENS OF THE UNITED STATES. Seriously. He actually SAID THOSE WORDS exactly.

    As far as your example with the car, I don’t see it as applicable in this case. The interpersonal goings-on include me at that point, because I am a citizen (H.W.’s protestations to the contrary notwithstanding), and because the car’s owner is not present at the time. Of course I could just go my merry way. Most probably WOULD in this day and age, since they’d be afraid of getting murdered or mugged. And I don’t think they’d be wrong. Who could argue FOR putting oneself in harms way to save a stranger’s POSSESSIONS?

    We’re all grown people here (or at least most of us are, I’m not sure, haven’t checked ages – and I don’t mean that tongue-in-cheek). When I talk about God as parent, I’m talking God as parent with ADULT CHILDREN. And all I’m saying is, whether God CARES or not about our interpersonal stuff, God should leave it to us as adults who are in charge of our own lives to work things out. Whether you have kids or not, I’m sure you can appreciate allowing your grown offspring to work out their own troubles with each other. Well, God’s above us all, in your view; I just don’t see God butting in to all of our relationships at every level as being very mature.

    “I can take responsibility for my own actions” means just that! I’m an adult. I don’t need to go to God to help me work things out with my sister, if we have a problem. I go to her, like a responsible adult, and we two imperfect human beings work it out together. I would think God might sit back, watch us, and say “Boy, I did a good job! Didn’t even have to lift a finger to help!”

    I find myself wondering why you add “Also, remember that God DOES know us all personally, so we are all in His personal circle.” You know I don’t concure. I also refrain from doing this here, as it is condescending. I have facts to back up many of my beliefs; still I know that they are only my beliefs, and I shouldn’t – no matter what kind of hard evidence I’ve got – use the tactic of stating “It’s the TRUTH!! I know you don’t believe it, but TOO BAD!!”

    You say God gave us paradise to live in. Okay, but God also put God’s caprice on display by planting in this “paradise” a temptation. If God hadn’t made us so curious – i.e., if God hadn’t given us our NATURE – it would have been nothing for God to include the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden. But God, in your view, DID create us, so I must assume you believe God gave us our curious nature. Perhaps you would like to tackle this for me? How is God not arbitrary in God’s handling of this situation?

    So right off the bat you can see your description of what God gave us as “paradise” is not apt, in my view. In addition, I have proposed in other posts that, if God had a solution to offer (i.e., Jesus), God could have offered it as soon as God’s first attempt at creating a perfect world failed. Why did God not do this? You say God gave us a place to survive, “then became one of us so we could be as brothers as well as think of Him as a Father.” Here you skip over an inordinate amount of time with a “then,” so I wonder if you could fill in the blanks to help me understand why God sent Jesus so much later.

    You believe Jesus had a mission to fulfill on earth, right? That God sent Jesus. Well, Jesus allowed us to “insult Him, beat and spit on Him, and at last torture Him to death” because he was ordered to by his Boss. Also, even though Jesus suffered and died an horrific death, he was also GUARANTEED resurrection by God (remember, this is all in your view, not mine). So it’s hard to say he was really facing death. He knew he’d come back. He didn’t have FAITH in eternity, he had KNOWLEDGE of it. Therefore he made no sacrifice. He didn’t give anything up. In the grand scheme of things, if Jesus WAS (or IS) God, Jesus went through relatively little. Some hours of torture, beatings, being spit upon – in light of eternity, all of that stuff’s like a drop in the bucket.

    I didn’t start my journey away from Christianity with “I don’t like the Christian God.” I started with “Wow, I think God is even BIGGER than I previously thought!” See the difference? One is positive, the other negative. It was a positive experience of God, as was my view then, which led me to leave Christianity. I keep saying this, and people keep missing it. You may not want to accept that this was the “progression” as it happened; but that is the way it went down.

    The Lazarus example you give isn’t the same as what I’m talking about. I would want to physically see JESUS and be able to talk with HIM. You’re absolutely correct: if I was struck blind on the road to Damascus, I would not believe. What is there in going blind that leads one to think God was behind it? I’m talking about hard evidence, not something circumstantial like the example you give.

    It’s not that I’ve hardened my heart toward God; I believe God, if the God you describe exists, has gone out of God’s way to make it as absolutely difficult for me to believe as possible. If my heart is hard, it’s only because I spent years listening, begging, pleading, grovelling (yes, contrary to popular belief, I have NO SHAME), even being open and doing NOTHING, and got NOTHING from God. I’ve come to believe that is because God doesn’t exist.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 43,

    “What if you DO see Jesus, in person and up close, and He turns out to be exactly as we’ve described?”

    Well, Susan, if that’s the case, it depends on WHEN I see him. If it’s before my death, I don’t know how I’d react, to tell you the truth. If it’s after my death – since, as you describe, I’ll be out of luck then if I haven’t already received faith – I’ll gladly walk to Hell. Because a God who would send me to Hell for being honest and struggling with my own journey is just an immature child.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 43,

    “What if you DO see Jesus, in person and up close, and He turns out to be exactly as we’ve described?”

    Well, Susan, if that’s the case, it depends on WHEN I see him. If it’s before my death, I don’t know how I’d react, to tell you the truth. If it’s after my death – since, as you describe, I’ll be out of luck then if I haven’t already received faith – I’ll gladly walk to Hell. Because a God who would send me to Hell for being honest and struggling with my own journey is just an immature child.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 57,

    I’ve given some examples above of God’s capricious nature. How is it not arbitrary to make intensely curious creatures, then to put the ONE THING you don’t want them to touch right in front of them? If that’s the case, then God was testing Adam and Eve. God being omniscient, God would have KNOWN what choice Adam and Eve were going to make. Therefore, they were never free to make any other choice, which totally does the argument from free will in. And it makes God seem very mean. There was no choice involved, which was the point I was TRYING to make when giving the example of the chocoholic (and there is genetic evidence that they DON’T completely have a choice NOT to eat chocolate all the time).

    I will admit I don’t have much in the way of evidence as to how God doesn’t follow God’s own laws. I don’t have a copy of the Bible anymore, so I’ll have to go through a library copy and see what I can find. But at this point I do admit I may have jumped the gun in EXPRESSING that view. I know there are examples, so I’ll have to look for them. I apologize that I said what I did without having something with which to back up immediately.

    As to how God doesn’t give straight answers: well, why are there so many denominations of the Christian Church? There are because no one has found a way to PROVE what any of the Bible actually MEANS. So the example you give – THE BIBLE – is in reality the best evidence I can present. It offers contradictory views of things, and it gives vague descriptions. That’s because it was written in a time when “facts” were not as important to people, a time when what is “true” was defined differently than we understand it now. They cared more for how you interpreted the story (debating interpretations continues to be a dominant form of theology in Judaism, hence why most Jews have a fairly fluid view of scripture, as well as revelation). The literal reading of scripture is a very new phenomenon, beginning in the late 19th century as a reaction to modernism.

    So you’re saying God gave us the Bible as the book containing everything we’d ever need to know. I guess it wasn’t important for God to be precise in telling us the most important things we need to learn. How do you deal with the VERY different ways in which Christians interpret scripture? I’m saying, when one gives a straight answer, it’s not open to interpretation.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 57,

    I’ve given some examples above of God’s capricious nature. How is it not arbitrary to make intensely curious creatures, then to put the ONE THING you don’t want them to touch right in front of them? If that’s the case, then God was testing Adam and Eve. God being omniscient, God would have KNOWN what choice Adam and Eve were going to make. Therefore, they were never free to make any other choice, which totally does the argument from free will in. And it makes God seem very mean. There was no choice involved, which was the point I was TRYING to make when giving the example of the chocoholic (and there is genetic evidence that they DON’T completely have a choice NOT to eat chocolate all the time).

    I will admit I don’t have much in the way of evidence as to how God doesn’t follow God’s own laws. I don’t have a copy of the Bible anymore, so I’ll have to go through a library copy and see what I can find. But at this point I do admit I may have jumped the gun in EXPRESSING that view. I know there are examples, so I’ll have to look for them. I apologize that I said what I did without having something with which to back up immediately.

    As to how God doesn’t give straight answers: well, why are there so many denominations of the Christian Church? There are because no one has found a way to PROVE what any of the Bible actually MEANS. So the example you give – THE BIBLE – is in reality the best evidence I can present. It offers contradictory views of things, and it gives vague descriptions. That’s because it was written in a time when “facts” were not as important to people, a time when what is “true” was defined differently than we understand it now. They cared more for how you interpreted the story (debating interpretations continues to be a dominant form of theology in Judaism, hence why most Jews have a fairly fluid view of scripture, as well as revelation). The literal reading of scripture is a very new phenomenon, beginning in the late 19th century as a reaction to modernism.

    So you’re saying God gave us the Bible as the book containing everything we’d ever need to know. I guess it wasn’t important for God to be precise in telling us the most important things we need to learn. How do you deal with the VERY different ways in which Christians interpret scripture? I’m saying, when one gives a straight answer, it’s not open to interpretation.

  • Michael the little boot

    A quick note to say I may not be able to respond further until Monday. I’ll try to get a couple more in, if I can, before work is done. I’ll do my best to procure some ‘net over the weekend…

  • Michael the little boot

    A quick note to say I may not be able to respond further until Monday. I’ll try to get a couple more in, if I can, before work is done. I’ll do my best to procure some ‘net over the weekend…

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I will not try a different tactic other than the God calls for and Jesus used. “Repent.” Nevertheless, to answer your question:
    God does not accept you as his friend or child etc. if you are an unbeliever. While an unbeliever you are God’s enemy. Being reconciled to Christ is the only way to be accepted by God and received into fellowship with his church. Other than that you are only a partaker of God’s general grace and our love and concern for your soul. But eventually all of God’s enemies will see God’s wrath. The time of grace is now. You know these things. You realize that the only point of contact that we have is natural theology. Both atheists and believers can do natural theology because God has so reveled himself. It will only get one so far in understanding. The complete skeptic can always say “there must be another explanation of things.” Spiritual revelation is necessary to see deeper into the things of God. This revelation belongs to God, but can be given to you for the asking. The heart of the issue is not the attaining of knowledge. I will not let you get off this easy. The heart of the issue is your heart. Answers can be given to all questions both by the Christian and the atheist. Only one is right, however. You cannot refute God. You may deny a god. But it is the one of your own making. To deal treacherously with the true and living God is futile and foolish. You know this is your heart of hearts. When all of the dust settles from this know that I will always be open for dialogue any time you wish. We can be friends and I hope one day we will be brothers.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    I will not try a different tactic other than the God calls for and Jesus used. “Repent.” Nevertheless, to answer your question:
    God does not accept you as his friend or child etc. if you are an unbeliever. While an unbeliever you are God’s enemy. Being reconciled to Christ is the only way to be accepted by God and received into fellowship with his church. Other than that you are only a partaker of God’s general grace and our love and concern for your soul. But eventually all of God’s enemies will see God’s wrath. The time of grace is now. You know these things. You realize that the only point of contact that we have is natural theology. Both atheists and believers can do natural theology because God has so reveled himself. It will only get one so far in understanding. The complete skeptic can always say “there must be another explanation of things.” Spiritual revelation is necessary to see deeper into the things of God. This revelation belongs to God, but can be given to you for the asking. The heart of the issue is not the attaining of knowledge. I will not let you get off this easy. The heart of the issue is your heart. Answers can be given to all questions both by the Christian and the atheist. Only one is right, however. You cannot refute God. You may deny a god. But it is the one of your own making. To deal treacherously with the true and living God is futile and foolish. You know this is your heart of hearts. When all of the dust settles from this know that I will always be open for dialogue any time you wish. We can be friends and I hope one day we will be brothers.

  • Unmei

    Michael @ 50

    Let me just preface this by saying that no metaphor is exactly perfect, but we use them as far as they go to explain the Scripturally accurate portrayal of God’s love revealed in Christ.

    I think it would be most accurate to describe us as in slavery to sin, death, and/or the devil: neither to God nor ourselves (As a side note, in the atonement view of things, with sin as a transgression, it is still God that completes everything for salvation, including the giving and maintaining of faith). This is analagous to the Hebrews in slavery to the Pharaoh. As Christ sets them free and leads them to the promised land, so he does for us also.

    When Adam and Eve sinned, their very nature was corrupted, so that they could no longer do good in the sight of God, but only evil; this is the enslavement to sin. This does not correlate to slavery in the US, you are correct; however, this corruption of their nature was passed along to their offspring, so that all humanity was corrupted, not by a choice they made, but by inheritance, which does correlate to slavery in the US.

    Slavery is not a perfect metaphor because, in our world, becoming a slave does not inherently change the nature of the person enslaved: their behavior is coerced, not natural.

    To illustrate, consider the corrupted human as a cigarette smoker who does not want to quit (Again, this is not a perfect analogy, since we know that some smokers are able to quit). Even though the cigarettes are not beneficial to the person, they still do not want to quit: they have become addicted so that they cannot function without smoking. Eventually, they will develop cancer and die (assuming they don’t die of something else first), and they will have noone to blame but themselves (even though people in our day and age commonly try). For argument’s sake, I suppose we can pretend they became nicotine-addicted in the womb (like I said, not a perfect analogy) to add the original sin element to the story.

    In any case, the ball is most certainly left in God’s court for our salvation! After all, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith” (Luther’s Small Catechism).

    For an explanation of the Lutheran faith, I would strongly recommend Dr. Veith’s book, “The Spirituality of the Cross.” Essentially, our Faith rests solely on Christ and him crucified, because this is how God reveals himself to us.

    I’m sure I’ve left something out that I wanted to say, but I’ll go ahead and post anyway since I’ve already delayed much too long.

  • Unmei

    Michael @ 50

    Let me just preface this by saying that no metaphor is exactly perfect, but we use them as far as they go to explain the Scripturally accurate portrayal of God’s love revealed in Christ.

    I think it would be most accurate to describe us as in slavery to sin, death, and/or the devil: neither to God nor ourselves (As a side note, in the atonement view of things, with sin as a transgression, it is still God that completes everything for salvation, including the giving and maintaining of faith). This is analagous to the Hebrews in slavery to the Pharaoh. As Christ sets them free and leads them to the promised land, so he does for us also.

    When Adam and Eve sinned, their very nature was corrupted, so that they could no longer do good in the sight of God, but only evil; this is the enslavement to sin. This does not correlate to slavery in the US, you are correct; however, this corruption of their nature was passed along to their offspring, so that all humanity was corrupted, not by a choice they made, but by inheritance, which does correlate to slavery in the US.

    Slavery is not a perfect metaphor because, in our world, becoming a slave does not inherently change the nature of the person enslaved: their behavior is coerced, not natural.

    To illustrate, consider the corrupted human as a cigarette smoker who does not want to quit (Again, this is not a perfect analogy, since we know that some smokers are able to quit). Even though the cigarettes are not beneficial to the person, they still do not want to quit: they have become addicted so that they cannot function without smoking. Eventually, they will develop cancer and die (assuming they don’t die of something else first), and they will have noone to blame but themselves (even though people in our day and age commonly try). For argument’s sake, I suppose we can pretend they became nicotine-addicted in the womb (like I said, not a perfect analogy) to add the original sin element to the story.

    In any case, the ball is most certainly left in God’s court for our salvation! After all, “I believe that I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith” (Luther’s Small Catechism).

    For an explanation of the Lutheran faith, I would strongly recommend Dr. Veith’s book, “The Spirituality of the Cross.” Essentially, our Faith rests solely on Christ and him crucified, because this is how God reveals himself to us.

    I’m sure I’ve left something out that I wanted to say, but I’ll go ahead and post anyway since I’ve already delayed much too long.

  • kerner

    Michael @ 76 & 77:

    First of all, yes I understand that you do not believe in God. We keep running into this problem when we talk about God as Christians beleve in Him in that all of us sometimes forget to make the necessary disclaimer. When I say that God knows all of us and considers us His family and our affairs His business, I mean that this is the Christian belief about God. But on to your other responses.

    I have heard other atheists argue that Christ’s suffering and death was no big deal because He knew He wasn’t really going to be eternally dead. Well, this is pretty brave talk from people who have never been beaten and crucified, etc., but even granting that they have a point in that Christ knew He was going to be resurected (See disclaimer in first paragraph), you fail to take into account that Christ, in those hours/days of His suffering and death carried the guilt of all mankind. Like many things God does or has done, the actual mechanics of this are difficult for humans to understand. When we talk of Christ paying for all of the sins of the world in that short time, remember what we are talking about: eternity in Hell for trillions of people condensed into a 3 hour period. While I understand that you don’t believe in this event really took place, it is a specious argument to make light of it as though it was no big deal. You might rethink one of your earlier conclusions about religion: God (including His suffering and death on the Cross) may be a lot bigger than you had previously thought. Indeed, maybe the Christian concept of God was a lot bigger than you thought, and you didn’t really have to wander off into Budhism to expand it.

    As for God being capricious for putting Adam and Eve in the Garden with the tree, I have always understood this to mean that humanity was originally created with truly free will. Adam and Eve didn’t HAVE to sin, but in perhaps the only example of this in history, humans uninfluenced by a fallen nature freely CHOSE to disobey God. You say it wasn’t fair for God to put them in that position when He could foresee that they would do it, but I don’t see how they could have been considered free if there were no choices available to them.

    As for your concern that Jesus would not be born for a long time afterward, you need to remember the nature of the Old Covenent. Right after the fall, God promised Adam and Eve that He would send them a Redeemer. You remember, their offspring that would crush the serpent’s head while wounding His own heel. In these words God promises humanity a Savior in which they could have faith immediately after they separated themselves from God. And numerous people had faith in that promise down through the ages, sometime many people, sometimes only a few, right up to the time Jesus was born. And Christ died for the sins of Old Testament people just as He did for ours, and they were and are saved by their faith in the promise that He WOULD die for them, just as we are saved by the promise that He DID die for us. So while God probably had a reason for choosing the time of His coming, in practical terms it makes no difference to us.

  • kerner

    Michael @ 76 & 77:

    First of all, yes I understand that you do not believe in God. We keep running into this problem when we talk about God as Christians beleve in Him in that all of us sometimes forget to make the necessary disclaimer. When I say that God knows all of us and considers us His family and our affairs His business, I mean that this is the Christian belief about God. But on to your other responses.

    I have heard other atheists argue that Christ’s suffering and death was no big deal because He knew He wasn’t really going to be eternally dead. Well, this is pretty brave talk from people who have never been beaten and crucified, etc., but even granting that they have a point in that Christ knew He was going to be resurected (See disclaimer in first paragraph), you fail to take into account that Christ, in those hours/days of His suffering and death carried the guilt of all mankind. Like many things God does or has done, the actual mechanics of this are difficult for humans to understand. When we talk of Christ paying for all of the sins of the world in that short time, remember what we are talking about: eternity in Hell for trillions of people condensed into a 3 hour period. While I understand that you don’t believe in this event really took place, it is a specious argument to make light of it as though it was no big deal. You might rethink one of your earlier conclusions about religion: God (including His suffering and death on the Cross) may be a lot bigger than you had previously thought. Indeed, maybe the Christian concept of God was a lot bigger than you thought, and you didn’t really have to wander off into Budhism to expand it.

    As for God being capricious for putting Adam and Eve in the Garden with the tree, I have always understood this to mean that humanity was originally created with truly free will. Adam and Eve didn’t HAVE to sin, but in perhaps the only example of this in history, humans uninfluenced by a fallen nature freely CHOSE to disobey God. You say it wasn’t fair for God to put them in that position when He could foresee that they would do it, but I don’t see how they could have been considered free if there were no choices available to them.

    As for your concern that Jesus would not be born for a long time afterward, you need to remember the nature of the Old Covenent. Right after the fall, God promised Adam and Eve that He would send them a Redeemer. You remember, their offspring that would crush the serpent’s head while wounding His own heel. In these words God promises humanity a Savior in which they could have faith immediately after they separated themselves from God. And numerous people had faith in that promise down through the ages, sometime many people, sometimes only a few, right up to the time Jesus was born. And Christ died for the sins of Old Testament people just as He did for ours, and they were and are saved by their faith in the promise that He WOULD die for them, just as we are saved by the promise that He DID die for us. So while God probably had a reason for choosing the time of His coming, in practical terms it makes no difference to us.

  • kerner

    Michael (cont.):

    One more thing I wanted to say is that I think you have really failed to establish any justification for your statements that God (as Christians believe in Him) is a bad God. When I told you that God as I describe Him is one who suffered and died for our sakes, the enormity of His sacrafice (or whether you think it wasn’t such a big deal) was a little beside the point. The point was that a God who is willing to humiliate himself and suffer and die for His creations to make them truly His children is a concept of God who is extraordinarily loving and caring and really IS “worthy to be praised”. We on this blog may never convince you that God exists. We’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit (in whom you do not presently believe) for that. But the Bible and even our reason are pretty clear that God is not the bad guy you make Him out to be.

    Which brings me to your complaint about God not giving “straight answers” as you believe is shown by the inability of humankind to interpret the Bible in a uniform way. Once again, I think the answers provided in the Bible are in fact pretty straight. The problems of interpretation tend to come from two sources that I am able to discern.

    First, the message that we are dead in our sins is not a message that prideful humans want very much to receive. I’ve been over that, so I won’t belabor it now. But one reason more people don’t respond to the Gospel is that to do that they first must be convicted by the law. That is, to have faith in a redeemer, you have to acknowledge that you need a redeemer. And a lot of people don’t want to accept that.

    The other major reason for confusion of doctrine is that the Bible describes a process that is beyond our complete understanding. Imagine trying to explain advanced scientific theory to a five year old child. Like handing him a graduate level text on quantum mechanics or or genetics or something. While the child might just as well complain, “why don’t you just give me a simple answer?”, the proper response is that the truth (the actual facts) are such that to state them accurately, the textbook IS as simple as a really accurate statement can be. If the Bible can seem confusing, it’s because the infinite wisdom of God is a pretty complex subject, and reducing it to a level we can understand AT ALL, is a tough job.

    Finally, at one point you say that you begged and pleaded anf grovelled for God to give you something. What were you asking for? Some kind of sign or guidance? On the other hand you say you will be only satisfied with talking to the risen Jesus (no face to face interview, no faith for Michael; these are your terms). I guess I am unconvinced that proof is really what you want. First, I don’t believe that very much in this life can be conclusively proved. I went to college too, MIchael. I sat through all the philosophy classes in which we were asked questions like, “when a tree falls in the forrest and nobody is there to hear it, is there a sound?”, and “How do we know that WE OURSELVES actually exist?” All reality (or what we think is reality) could be an illusion. (Frankly,I think the only ligitimate purpose of questions like that may be as interesting ways of showing us the limits of our own reason, but that doesn’t stop academic types from coming up with them). So, if the risen Christ came to see you one day, you could still deny it was Him, or you could still believe it was a dream or an hallucination; that is, you could still find a way to deny Him and still not believe. I just don’t think all these demands for positive proof are what you really need, Michael. I think you need to stop thinking of the God of Christianity as some kind of bad guy in the sky.

  • kerner

    Michael (cont.):

    One more thing I wanted to say is that I think you have really failed to establish any justification for your statements that God (as Christians believe in Him) is a bad God. When I told you that God as I describe Him is one who suffered and died for our sakes, the enormity of His sacrafice (or whether you think it wasn’t such a big deal) was a little beside the point. The point was that a God who is willing to humiliate himself and suffer and die for His creations to make them truly His children is a concept of God who is extraordinarily loving and caring and really IS “worthy to be praised”. We on this blog may never convince you that God exists. We’ll have to rely on the Holy Spirit (in whom you do not presently believe) for that. But the Bible and even our reason are pretty clear that God is not the bad guy you make Him out to be.

    Which brings me to your complaint about God not giving “straight answers” as you believe is shown by the inability of humankind to interpret the Bible in a uniform way. Once again, I think the answers provided in the Bible are in fact pretty straight. The problems of interpretation tend to come from two sources that I am able to discern.

    First, the message that we are dead in our sins is not a message that prideful humans want very much to receive. I’ve been over that, so I won’t belabor it now. But one reason more people don’t respond to the Gospel is that to do that they first must be convicted by the law. That is, to have faith in a redeemer, you have to acknowledge that you need a redeemer. And a lot of people don’t want to accept that.

    The other major reason for confusion of doctrine is that the Bible describes a process that is beyond our complete understanding. Imagine trying to explain advanced scientific theory to a five year old child. Like handing him a graduate level text on quantum mechanics or or genetics or something. While the child might just as well complain, “why don’t you just give me a simple answer?”, the proper response is that the truth (the actual facts) are such that to state them accurately, the textbook IS as simple as a really accurate statement can be. If the Bible can seem confusing, it’s because the infinite wisdom of God is a pretty complex subject, and reducing it to a level we can understand AT ALL, is a tough job.

    Finally, at one point you say that you begged and pleaded anf grovelled for God to give you something. What were you asking for? Some kind of sign or guidance? On the other hand you say you will be only satisfied with talking to the risen Jesus (no face to face interview, no faith for Michael; these are your terms). I guess I am unconvinced that proof is really what you want. First, I don’t believe that very much in this life can be conclusively proved. I went to college too, MIchael. I sat through all the philosophy classes in which we were asked questions like, “when a tree falls in the forrest and nobody is there to hear it, is there a sound?”, and “How do we know that WE OURSELVES actually exist?” All reality (or what we think is reality) could be an illusion. (Frankly,I think the only ligitimate purpose of questions like that may be as interesting ways of showing us the limits of our own reason, but that doesn’t stop academic types from coming up with them). So, if the risen Christ came to see you one day, you could still deny it was Him, or you could still believe it was a dream or an hallucination; that is, you could still find a way to deny Him and still not believe. I just don’t think all these demands for positive proof are what you really need, Michael. I think you need to stop thinking of the God of Christianity as some kind of bad guy in the sky.

  • Michael the little boot

    I just thought of one way God doesn’t follow God’s laws, and this has something to do with what Robert said @ 80 (and once earlier): God doesn’t love God’s enemies. Unless it’s defined not as a law but a guideline. I still wonder why, even though I can’t do anything to be God’s friend (or son or child or whatever), I can do something to be God’s enemy. That’s also an example of God’s capriciousness.

  • Michael the little boot

    I just thought of one way God doesn’t follow God’s laws, and this has something to do with what Robert said @ 80 (and once earlier): God doesn’t love God’s enemies. Unless it’s defined not as a law but a guideline. I still wonder why, even though I can’t do anything to be God’s friend (or son or child or whatever), I can do something to be God’s enemy. That’s also an example of God’s capriciousness.

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 80,

    You’ve brought up the wrath of God. I will feel it one day. This is another thing I don’t get about God. Why, if I’m actively rejecting God, do I get God’s wrath? Why not just God’s sadness? And why are you so EAGER for me to know that I will one day feel it?

    This is the problem, ultimately, with religions, regardless of whether you define them as legalistic, open, liberal, conservative: they all really do desire the punishment of the unbeliever. I know, Robert, you say you hope we can be friends and one day brothers; but, if in my short time on earth I do not come to a “saving” knowledge of Jesus (faith, etc.), I can’t help but think that, while you will be saddened at the idea of my burning in Hell for eternity, part of you will also be satisfied that this arrogant atheist who DARES to place himself on a level with his creator, has been knocked down more than a few pegs and finally knows the truth. Perhaps I’m wrong. But all monotheistic religions share this in common: that, in the end, only the people on the “side” of “righteousness” (i.e., the members of a given religion) will partake in God’s great reward.

    Well, last time I checked, reward and punishment was WAY down there on the maturity scale. Ever wonder why the prison system in this country doesn’t work? Yeah. It’s built on the same principle. One would hope the Supreme Creator of Everything would find a more transcendent way to deal with nonbelievers.

    This leads to the question (one I know you didn’t raise, Robert, but is appropriate, I think, here): how am I LESS moral than Christians as an atheist? If I can find it in myself to reject tribalism (the “us/them” mentality), and I supposedly have nothing from which to derive my moral code, where does this impulse come from? How does atheism lead to moral, spiritual, and emotional bankruptcy? And how does religion lead to a higher morality if it never rises up out of the depths of ancient rivalries?

  • Michael the little boot

    Robert @ 80,

    You’ve brought up the wrath of God. I will feel it one day. This is another thing I don’t get about God. Why, if I’m actively rejecting God, do I get God’s wrath? Why not just God’s sadness? And why are you so EAGER for me to know that I will one day feel it?

    This is the problem, ultimately, with religions, regardless of whether you define them as legalistic, open, liberal, conservative: they all really do desire the punishment of the unbeliever. I know, Robert, you say you hope we can be friends and one day brothers; but, if in my short time on earth I do not come to a “saving” knowledge of Jesus (faith, etc.), I can’t help but think that, while you will be saddened at the idea of my burning in Hell for eternity, part of you will also be satisfied that this arrogant atheist who DARES to place himself on a level with his creator, has been knocked down more than a few pegs and finally knows the truth. Perhaps I’m wrong. But all monotheistic religions share this in common: that, in the end, only the people on the “side” of “righteousness” (i.e., the members of a given religion) will partake in God’s great reward.

    Well, last time I checked, reward and punishment was WAY down there on the maturity scale. Ever wonder why the prison system in this country doesn’t work? Yeah. It’s built on the same principle. One would hope the Supreme Creator of Everything would find a more transcendent way to deal with nonbelievers.

    This leads to the question (one I know you didn’t raise, Robert, but is appropriate, I think, here): how am I LESS moral than Christians as an atheist? If I can find it in myself to reject tribalism (the “us/them” mentality), and I supposedly have nothing from which to derive my moral code, where does this impulse come from? How does atheism lead to moral, spiritual, and emotional bankruptcy? And how does religion lead to a higher morality if it never rises up out of the depths of ancient rivalries?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    JEEZ! Aren’t you paying attention? Of course God loves His ememies! God suffered and was crucified for His enemies! Love means A LOT more than saying “it’s cool…” Especially when things AREN’T cool. God has done more for every one of His enemies than any human being has EVER even thought of doing. You’ll have to do better than that.

    You also have to understand that God is not just our Father, He is also our judge. We really do stand before him guilty. This is not a matter of reward or punishment in the arbitrary sense, but rather that we are all really guilty. I know you like to reject the idea of guilt so you can find refuge in reducing our guilt to “imperfections” about which God should not care. But if our sins do matter, then justice (not a temper tantrum) is what requires consequences for those sins. Look, I jump off a tall building, I will die when I hit the ground. I can deny that I “deserve” to die all the way down, or I can get all angry at God for “capriciously” creating the law of gravity, or I can just refuse to believe in the ground, but I will die just the same.

    You are not less moral than we are. We are all guilty and in need of redemption as you are. You have simply done the equivalent of jumping off a building, and as God holds out his hand to you, you are pushing Him away.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    JEEZ! Aren’t you paying attention? Of course God loves His ememies! God suffered and was crucified for His enemies! Love means A LOT more than saying “it’s cool…” Especially when things AREN’T cool. God has done more for every one of His enemies than any human being has EVER even thought of doing. You’ll have to do better than that.

    You also have to understand that God is not just our Father, He is also our judge. We really do stand before him guilty. This is not a matter of reward or punishment in the arbitrary sense, but rather that we are all really guilty. I know you like to reject the idea of guilt so you can find refuge in reducing our guilt to “imperfections” about which God should not care. But if our sins do matter, then justice (not a temper tantrum) is what requires consequences for those sins. Look, I jump off a tall building, I will die when I hit the ground. I can deny that I “deserve” to die all the way down, or I can get all angry at God for “capriciously” creating the law of gravity, or I can just refuse to believe in the ground, but I will die just the same.

    You are not less moral than we are. We are all guilty and in need of redemption as you are. You have simply done the equivalent of jumping off a building, and as God holds out his hand to you, you are pushing Him away.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    You are less moral in the sense that you have not been sanctified by Christ. Any inate goodness that you have is not accepted by God if you are not justified by Christ’s righteousness. Even the worst Christian that falls into sin is still better than the best athiest. We are sanctified by God not by our own moral abilities. No matter how much you would like God to dance to the tune of your song he will not go against his character by doing this. I will not get any satisfaction that you would go to hell. By contrast to the modern day penal system there will be no possibility for reform. You will not finally see the truth but will continue to curse God as you do blaspheme him now. God does not owe you anything. And he has been very gracious to give you his word to know him by. He bids you come to him. Don’t take my word for it. Take his.

  • http://religiouscontemplations.blogspot.com Robert N. Landrum

    You are less moral in the sense that you have not been sanctified by Christ. Any inate goodness that you have is not accepted by God if you are not justified by Christ’s righteousness. Even the worst Christian that falls into sin is still better than the best athiest. We are sanctified by God not by our own moral abilities. No matter how much you would like God to dance to the tune of your song he will not go against his character by doing this. I will not get any satisfaction that you would go to hell. By contrast to the modern day penal system there will be no possibility for reform. You will not finally see the truth but will continue to curse God as you do blaspheme him now. God does not owe you anything. And he has been very gracious to give you his word to know him by. He bids you come to him. Don’t take my word for it. Take his.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I am listening. You have not shown that God loves us. You have only twisted the definition of love to include this whole “justice” thing, which is really only a repackaging of tribalism. Us vs. them. You like the fact that, in the end, even though God “loves” us all (us being atheists), we’re going to go to hell where we will only be able to be wrong for all eternity. How is that justice? Well, it’s justice in that you’ve defined it this way. But that’s all.

    Christians like to talk about tough love. I’ve found it’s generally just because they like to be bullies. One of my friends was loved really tough, right into alchohol, drugs, and, eventually, ended it by stepping in front of a train. And there are not only NO EASY ANSWERS for why – there are NO answers. Which people here find hard to believe. But life exceeds our abilities to find answers. Yes, the rationalist, the “scientistic” atheist, has said there are things that escape us. Does that mean our reason cannot grasp these things? I don’t know. Right now, it can’t. No one knows the future.

    Everyone here who hasn’t would do well to read ANY book by Karen Armstrong.

    Life is a lot more complex than what you’ve given us, kerner. I could offer counterpoints to your points, but I’m not having a conversation with you, am I? I’m one against a multitude. Dr. Veith asked me to tell my story. I did. I asked others to tell their stories. Then somehow it turned into a debate, rather than a dialog. And most of you never told your stories, anyway.

    Not saying I’m throwing in the towel, but I’m tired. No one is listening. If you were, you’d notice I’ve asked questions when people were going in interesting directions. I tried to foster a dialog, knowing all the while we wouldn’t agree with each other. But I’ve not come close to pointing the fingers at you that the majority have pointed at me. I haven’t given a lot of evidence to the contrary, even though I’ve got it, because that’s not what I thought this was about. I thought it was about understanding. At least, I thought it was about attempting to understand.

    But, of course, it can’t be about that. A lot of people here do not want to understand me. They just want me to be the Straw Man Atheist. The guy who is so angry at God, that he has to deny God’s existence just to live his immoral life. They want to have a “go” at me, and show how their faith AND reason surpass my own. Cool. I didn’t come here to do that. I didn’t come here thinking we would agree, but I did think it was possible to discuss.

    A few people have given me “what if” questions to ponder, and I have proffered a few of my own. They have gone unheaded. Why so scared?

    (PS: kerner, your analogy of the person jumping off a building only works if one accepts this paradoxical “one cannot do anything to be saved but one CAN do something to reject salvation” thing. Once again, no rational person would argue that a someone who steps off a roof DOES DESERVE TO DIE. They deserve it by virtue of the fact that they KNOW the theory of gravitation and they KNOW exactly what happens to falling bodies. It doesn’t apply in the case of a person who has a deficiency of understanding when it comes to God. Unless you say that we are ALL as those living prior to the understanding of gravity when it comes to God. But it still seems mean to hold people accountable. Life’s not fair, sure; but that’s beyond unfair, because God created the rules, which means they could have been ANYTHING. And if ONLY the laws we have now would lead to a just society, one wonders – along with philosophers down the millennia – are God’s laws just because God declared them to be so, or did God declare them to be just because they ARE JUST?)

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I am listening. You have not shown that God loves us. You have only twisted the definition of love to include this whole “justice” thing, which is really only a repackaging of tribalism. Us vs. them. You like the fact that, in the end, even though God “loves” us all (us being atheists), we’re going to go to hell where we will only be able to be wrong for all eternity. How is that justice? Well, it’s justice in that you’ve defined it this way. But that’s all.

    Christians like to talk about tough love. I’ve found it’s generally just because they like to be bullies. One of my friends was loved really tough, right into alchohol, drugs, and, eventually, ended it by stepping in front of a train. And there are not only NO EASY ANSWERS for why – there are NO answers. Which people here find hard to believe. But life exceeds our abilities to find answers. Yes, the rationalist, the “scientistic” atheist, has said there are things that escape us. Does that mean our reason cannot grasp these things? I don’t know. Right now, it can’t. No one knows the future.

    Everyone here who hasn’t would do well to read ANY book by Karen Armstrong.

    Life is a lot more complex than what you’ve given us, kerner. I could offer counterpoints to your points, but I’m not having a conversation with you, am I? I’m one against a multitude. Dr. Veith asked me to tell my story. I did. I asked others to tell their stories. Then somehow it turned into a debate, rather than a dialog. And most of you never told your stories, anyway.

    Not saying I’m throwing in the towel, but I’m tired. No one is listening. If you were, you’d notice I’ve asked questions when people were going in interesting directions. I tried to foster a dialog, knowing all the while we wouldn’t agree with each other. But I’ve not come close to pointing the fingers at you that the majority have pointed at me. I haven’t given a lot of evidence to the contrary, even though I’ve got it, because that’s not what I thought this was about. I thought it was about understanding. At least, I thought it was about attempting to understand.

    But, of course, it can’t be about that. A lot of people here do not want to understand me. They just want me to be the Straw Man Atheist. The guy who is so angry at God, that he has to deny God’s existence just to live his immoral life. They want to have a “go” at me, and show how their faith AND reason surpass my own. Cool. I didn’t come here to do that. I didn’t come here thinking we would agree, but I did think it was possible to discuss.

    A few people have given me “what if” questions to ponder, and I have proffered a few of my own. They have gone unheaded. Why so scared?

    (PS: kerner, your analogy of the person jumping off a building only works if one accepts this paradoxical “one cannot do anything to be saved but one CAN do something to reject salvation” thing. Once again, no rational person would argue that a someone who steps off a roof DOES DESERVE TO DIE. They deserve it by virtue of the fact that they KNOW the theory of gravitation and they KNOW exactly what happens to falling bodies. It doesn’t apply in the case of a person who has a deficiency of understanding when it comes to God. Unless you say that we are ALL as those living prior to the understanding of gravity when it comes to God. But it still seems mean to hold people accountable. Life’s not fair, sure; but that’s beyond unfair, because God created the rules, which means they could have been ANYTHING. And if ONLY the laws we have now would lead to a just society, one wonders – along with philosophers down the millennia – are God’s laws just because God declared them to be so, or did God declare them to be just because they ARE JUST?)

  • Michael the little boot

    This isn’t my sign-off, folks. If anyone wants to have an actual discussion or dialog, I’m down. But, as you can tell, I’m frustrated. I am the only one here saying anything other than what everyone else (pretty much) is saying. I’m overwhelmed, not only by the length of replies, but by the repetition. I’ve had to give the same answers over and over again to different people. I understand this may be because some of you only read the posts directed at you. Keep in mind I read ALL the posts here, and, until recently, responded to most of them. As it stands, I’m getting tired of saying the same things, asking the same questions, getting the SAME side-steps, and then, after asking my questions again, getting told that I DID get an answer, just not the one I liked. I mean, if I want to argue with Christians, I can talk to my parents any time. They’d LOVE it. I don’t want to argue. I want to understand better than I do. Anyone who wants to continue along these lines, feel free and I’ll do my best to respond.

    (Which isn’t THE ATHEIST trying to set the ground rules. I’m just trying to refocus the discussion. Hope it works, because I was actually learning something from some of you. A lot of you have ceased commenting, however, leaving only the thrusting and parrying to which Susan earlier referred. And I, like Susan, am tired of it.)

  • Michael the little boot

    This isn’t my sign-off, folks. If anyone wants to have an actual discussion or dialog, I’m down. But, as you can tell, I’m frustrated. I am the only one here saying anything other than what everyone else (pretty much) is saying. I’m overwhelmed, not only by the length of replies, but by the repetition. I’ve had to give the same answers over and over again to different people. I understand this may be because some of you only read the posts directed at you. Keep in mind I read ALL the posts here, and, until recently, responded to most of them. As it stands, I’m getting tired of saying the same things, asking the same questions, getting the SAME side-steps, and then, after asking my questions again, getting told that I DID get an answer, just not the one I liked. I mean, if I want to argue with Christians, I can talk to my parents any time. They’d LOVE it. I don’t want to argue. I want to understand better than I do. Anyone who wants to continue along these lines, feel free and I’ll do my best to respond.

    (Which isn’t THE ATHEIST trying to set the ground rules. I’m just trying to refocus the discussion. Hope it works, because I was actually learning something from some of you. A lot of you have ceased commenting, however, leaving only the thrusting and parrying to which Susan earlier referred. And I, like Susan, am tired of it.)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m still curious to hear what you think of Luther’s “Bondage of the Will”. I know it may take you some time to read it. I’ll be patient and wait for your thoughts. I really enjoy reading Luther (perhaps you will too), but this is one of my faves. You should just ignore any stuff you think is a repeat or direct the person to the post(s) they may be rehashing. As one who has followed this thread with great interest, I am amazed that you have continued. The discussion has been very thought provoking for me and I thank you, Michael. Blessings as you read Luther “unplugged” which is a bit different from reading the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord which I love for slightly different reasons (By the way, Luther is always better over a robust coffee, or even better yet, a beer of almost any variety).

  • Bryan Lindemood

    I’m still curious to hear what you think of Luther’s “Bondage of the Will”. I know it may take you some time to read it. I’ll be patient and wait for your thoughts. I really enjoy reading Luther (perhaps you will too), but this is one of my faves. You should just ignore any stuff you think is a repeat or direct the person to the post(s) they may be rehashing. As one who has followed this thread with great interest, I am amazed that you have continued. The discussion has been very thought provoking for me and I thank you, Michael. Blessings as you read Luther “unplugged” which is a bit different from reading the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord which I love for slightly different reasons (By the way, Luther is always better over a robust coffee, or even better yet, a beer of almost any variety).

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    “I want to understand better than I do. “

    Michael, what is it exactly that you want to understand better and why?

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    “I want to understand better than I do. “

    Michael, what is it exactly that you want to understand better and why?

  • Nemo

    Dear Michael,

    Wow. Thanks so much for your patience and attempts at dialogue. I, too, have been following this thread with great interest, and, like you, have gotten more and more frustrated with the responses. In the interest of continuing a dialogue, would you give me a moment to try answering some of your questions? I promise, I’ll be as brief as possible.

    @ 49, you ask “If Lutheran Christians do not believe anyone will be punished by God for their behavior or actions, why the need for me to believe prior to death?” Let me omit the word “Lutheran” for now; like you, I have been trying to get a grasp on Lutheran theology. Christians do believe that everyone will be punished for their behavior, actions, and even thoughts. We believe that there is no one who can attain the level of perfection that is required by God, who is perfect and righteous. Any wrongdoing by us is punishable by death, because of His holiness.

    That, as you would say it, is a cruel God—punishing us for those things we cannot help. But that is not the entire story. God knew that we could never approach Him on our own so He, in His love, provided a way for us to approach Him. He sent Jesus Christ, His Son, who embodied holiness, to take the punishment destined for us. Although He was sinless, He bore the entire weight of my sin, taking my punishment upon Himself.

    This is the gospel—not that the law was abolished or that actions do not lead to punishment, but that someone else has taken my punishment. And in a stunning reversal, He has given me His righteousness. Now I can stand before God with no fear of punishment. You wonder why God cannot forgive those who sin against Him. He has; by the death of Christ, He has paid for your sin.

    In short, Christians believe that everyone should be punished for their actions, but also that Christ has taken that punishment for us. So the Christian life should be different from that of a non-Christian. Not that the Christian doesn’t sin – I still do, but my sins are forgiven. It means that the Christian has a hope for something better. It means that the absolute deepest need in his life has been met. It means that the life of the Christian should – with the help of God – reflect this grace.

    Michael, you asked for our stories. The above is mine. Once I was dead, now I have access to the most holy God through Christ.

    Keep asking questions, not only of us, but also of God. He is big enough—I’m more than willing to share with you what little knowledge I have, but I don’t need to come to His defense.

    Finally, I have a couple books that I could send you. If you are interested, e-mail me at cptnnemo1@gmail.com.

  • Nemo

    Dear Michael,

    Wow. Thanks so much for your patience and attempts at dialogue. I, too, have been following this thread with great interest, and, like you, have gotten more and more frustrated with the responses. In the interest of continuing a dialogue, would you give me a moment to try answering some of your questions? I promise, I’ll be as brief as possible.

    @ 49, you ask “If Lutheran Christians do not believe anyone will be punished by God for their behavior or actions, why the need for me to believe prior to death?” Let me omit the word “Lutheran” for now; like you, I have been trying to get a grasp on Lutheran theology. Christians do believe that everyone will be punished for their behavior, actions, and even thoughts. We believe that there is no one who can attain the level of perfection that is required by God, who is perfect and righteous. Any wrongdoing by us is punishable by death, because of His holiness.

    That, as you would say it, is a cruel God—punishing us for those things we cannot help. But that is not the entire story. God knew that we could never approach Him on our own so He, in His love, provided a way for us to approach Him. He sent Jesus Christ, His Son, who embodied holiness, to take the punishment destined for us. Although He was sinless, He bore the entire weight of my sin, taking my punishment upon Himself.

    This is the gospel—not that the law was abolished or that actions do not lead to punishment, but that someone else has taken my punishment. And in a stunning reversal, He has given me His righteousness. Now I can stand before God with no fear of punishment. You wonder why God cannot forgive those who sin against Him. He has; by the death of Christ, He has paid for your sin.

    In short, Christians believe that everyone should be punished for their actions, but also that Christ has taken that punishment for us. So the Christian life should be different from that of a non-Christian. Not that the Christian doesn’t sin – I still do, but my sins are forgiven. It means that the Christian has a hope for something better. It means that the absolute deepest need in his life has been met. It means that the life of the Christian should – with the help of God – reflect this grace.

    Michael, you asked for our stories. The above is mine. Once I was dead, now I have access to the most holy God through Christ.

    Keep asking questions, not only of us, but also of God. He is big enough—I’m more than willing to share with you what little knowledge I have, but I don’t need to come to His defense.

    Finally, I have a couple books that I could send you. If you are interested, e-mail me at cptnnemo1@gmail.com.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Permit me to apologize for my outburst. I continue to believe that voluntarily experiencing extreme suffering for someone else is a pretty clear indication that the suffering person loves the one he is suffering for. Therefore, God loves us.

    Apparently you disagree. So, how would a God who loves His creations behave, in your opinion?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Permit me to apologize for my outburst. I continue to believe that voluntarily experiencing extreme suffering for someone else is a pretty clear indication that the suffering person loves the one he is suffering for. Therefore, God loves us.

    Apparently you disagree. So, how would a God who loves His creations behave, in your opinion?

  • Michael the little boot

    Oops. In my reply to kerner @ 88 I said “Once again, no rational person would argue that a someone who steps off a roof DOES DESERVE TO DIE.” Horrible usage of “someone” (I meant a “person”) aside, I meant to say no rational person would argue AGAINST the idea that a person who steps off a building deserves to die. They deserve to die because they know stepping off a building will kill them.

  • Michael the little boot

    Oops. In my reply to kerner @ 88 I said “Once again, no rational person would argue that a someone who steps off a roof DOES DESERVE TO DIE.” Horrible usage of “someone” (I meant a “person”) aside, I meant to say no rational person would argue AGAINST the idea that a person who steps off a building deserves to die. They deserve to die because they know stepping off a building will kill them.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    Still reading. Had to go with your link as we lack this volume in our library. Will let you know when I’m finished.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan,

    Still reading. Had to go with your link as we lack this volume in our library. Will let you know when I’m finished.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    The distinction between the saved and the unsaved (i.e., Christians and everyone else) is not tribalism, because it is not “us vs. you”. At least we don’t see it that way. We don’t hate you. At least, we know we shouldn’t. Sinners that we are, I won’t say that no Christian has ever hated a non-Christian. But we know that hating others, Christians or otherwise, is wrong. Rather, we are commanded to bless you if you curse us, etc.

    Our great commission to to try to help save the unsaved. To do this we are to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. And of course to pray for the salvation of everyone, including you. So, I guess you are right in a way. All of us will at some point try to convince you that you are very misguided at this point in your life. It is very much like we see you as about to walk off the edge of that building that I used as an analogy, but you don’t see the edge of the building. You simply see yourself as being on a “different path” (which we believe leads off the edge of a building, but enough of that).

    What would you have us do, Michael? If we REALLY think you are about to fall to your death, is it a loving thing to just tell you, “everything’s cool”, even when we think the situation is very dire indeed? I know you don’t believe us, and the repetition must get tiresome. But given our view of the situation, is there really any other loving choice?

    There is sometimes a real significance to the words people use to describe things. When you accuse Christians of engaging in old fashioned (us vs. them) tribalism, I think you are mistaken. When Christians call themselves “saved” and others “unsaved” or “lost”. This doesn’t make us the good guys and you the bad guys. Being saved is by definition having been helped by somebody else. Being unsaved means that no one has successfully helped you…yet. Being “lost” means that you are simply on the wrong road, a road that leads to your own destruction. It doesn’t make you our enemy unless you want it to. It only makes you someone we want to be saved.

    I don’t know what you mean by “tough love”, or how it specifically hurt someone you know. But the love of Christ is self-sacraficing, not tough.

    I haven’t really addressed the paradoxes in all this, and I have to admit that there are some. There is a big paradox between God’s sovereignty and human moral responsibility, and you have been mentioning it repeatedly. (If God is so all-powerful, why is human misbehavior or unbelief the fault of the humans?) It’s a good question, and I wish I had a better answer. But I think it has something to do with the concept of being originally made in the image of God. I don’t think the “image of God” means we look like Him. I think it means that we have a concept of morality and freedom to decide. Even if that image was shattered by the fall, the concepts remain. If we are just robots whose have no responsibility for anything we do, then how are we even human? But we are human, and we do understand concepts of right and wrong (even you athiests, as you have pointed out, understand these things and can live comparitively moral lives). But we as a species are clearly unable to lead truly moral lives. We are unable to behave or even think in a purely moral way for more than a few moments at a time. So we are constantly hurting ourselves or each other. And if we recognise that we all behave in a not so moral way for much of the time, doesn’t any concept of morality imply a concept of responsibility, and even penalties for wrong-doing?

    You seem to me to be saying that a really loving God would have come up with a way of organizing the universe such that nobody ultimately gets hurt (i.e., no no one goes to hell). But is that really possible in a moral universe? Would it really be a good thing for there to be no moral responsibility? If all this Christian “sin is bad but salvation is good” stuff is so distasteful to you, what’s your alternative?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    The distinction between the saved and the unsaved (i.e., Christians and everyone else) is not tribalism, because it is not “us vs. you”. At least we don’t see it that way. We don’t hate you. At least, we know we shouldn’t. Sinners that we are, I won’t say that no Christian has ever hated a non-Christian. But we know that hating others, Christians or otherwise, is wrong. Rather, we are commanded to bless you if you curse us, etc.

    Our great commission to to try to help save the unsaved. To do this we are to preach the gospel and administer the sacraments. And of course to pray for the salvation of everyone, including you. So, I guess you are right in a way. All of us will at some point try to convince you that you are very misguided at this point in your life. It is very much like we see you as about to walk off the edge of that building that I used as an analogy, but you don’t see the edge of the building. You simply see yourself as being on a “different path” (which we believe leads off the edge of a building, but enough of that).

    What would you have us do, Michael? If we REALLY think you are about to fall to your death, is it a loving thing to just tell you, “everything’s cool”, even when we think the situation is very dire indeed? I know you don’t believe us, and the repetition must get tiresome. But given our view of the situation, is there really any other loving choice?

    There is sometimes a real significance to the words people use to describe things. When you accuse Christians of engaging in old fashioned (us vs. them) tribalism, I think you are mistaken. When Christians call themselves “saved” and others “unsaved” or “lost”. This doesn’t make us the good guys and you the bad guys. Being saved is by definition having been helped by somebody else. Being unsaved means that no one has successfully helped you…yet. Being “lost” means that you are simply on the wrong road, a road that leads to your own destruction. It doesn’t make you our enemy unless you want it to. It only makes you someone we want to be saved.

    I don’t know what you mean by “tough love”, or how it specifically hurt someone you know. But the love of Christ is self-sacraficing, not tough.

    I haven’t really addressed the paradoxes in all this, and I have to admit that there are some. There is a big paradox between God’s sovereignty and human moral responsibility, and you have been mentioning it repeatedly. (If God is so all-powerful, why is human misbehavior or unbelief the fault of the humans?) It’s a good question, and I wish I had a better answer. But I think it has something to do with the concept of being originally made in the image of God. I don’t think the “image of God” means we look like Him. I think it means that we have a concept of morality and freedom to decide. Even if that image was shattered by the fall, the concepts remain. If we are just robots whose have no responsibility for anything we do, then how are we even human? But we are human, and we do understand concepts of right and wrong (even you athiests, as you have pointed out, understand these things and can live comparitively moral lives). But we as a species are clearly unable to lead truly moral lives. We are unable to behave or even think in a purely moral way for more than a few moments at a time. So we are constantly hurting ourselves or each other. And if we recognise that we all behave in a not so moral way for much of the time, doesn’t any concept of morality imply a concept of responsibility, and even penalties for wrong-doing?

    You seem to me to be saying that a really loving God would have come up with a way of organizing the universe such that nobody ultimately gets hurt (i.e., no no one goes to hell). But is that really possible in a moral universe? Would it really be a good thing for there to be no moral responsibility? If all this Christian “sin is bad but salvation is good” stuff is so distasteful to you, what’s your alternative?

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 91,

    Things, Jim. I’d like to understand EVERYTHING better than I do. Part of my reason for being here is to get a different perspective on the evangelical experience. I’d like to have an explanation of Lutheran theology (which I do get here, in fits and starts – and that’s all I hope for, as I understand five hundred years of theology are not going to translate easily to the modern “bullet points” model), so I can see where it is different from the theology with which I was raised. I’d like the information straight from people who live it daily.

    But I’m also just here to be here. I surfed in one day and thought I’d pull up a chair. I try not to discriminate between blogs or other sites based on content, until I have a chance to get my feet wet. If they catch my interest, I see if it holds. If it holds, I stay a little longer.

    I’m into understanding for understanding’s sake. That’s why, in addition to the heathen stuff I’m reading, I’m also looking through The Concord; a bio of Luther by Martin Marty; a book called “The Best Works of Martin Luther” which is old, and full of things no one has mentioned here (which leads me to question the title of the book); The Bible: a biography by Karen Armstrong; even The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. I like to learn, and I like to refresh old knowledge from time to time as well. And I like to be shown that I’m wrong. It’s one reason I’m so tenacious in debate: if I’m going to be proven wrong, I don’t want it to be because of my own laziness; rather, I want to be proven wrong by hard evidence. I beat the drum for it until I either get the proof and find out I’m wrong, or show the other side of the debate to have been incorrect.

    Mostly, though, I’d like to understand the people with whom I have interactions on a daily basis. Lately, that’s come to mean a lot of folks here. So I ask questions to try and understand. No ulterior motive. I’m here, so I’d like to understand what this blog, and the people who populate it, are all about.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 91,

    Things, Jim. I’d like to understand EVERYTHING better than I do. Part of my reason for being here is to get a different perspective on the evangelical experience. I’d like to have an explanation of Lutheran theology (which I do get here, in fits and starts – and that’s all I hope for, as I understand five hundred years of theology are not going to translate easily to the modern “bullet points” model), so I can see where it is different from the theology with which I was raised. I’d like the information straight from people who live it daily.

    But I’m also just here to be here. I surfed in one day and thought I’d pull up a chair. I try not to discriminate between blogs or other sites based on content, until I have a chance to get my feet wet. If they catch my interest, I see if it holds. If it holds, I stay a little longer.

    I’m into understanding for understanding’s sake. That’s why, in addition to the heathen stuff I’m reading, I’m also looking through The Concord; a bio of Luther by Martin Marty; a book called “The Best Works of Martin Luther” which is old, and full of things no one has mentioned here (which leads me to question the title of the book); The Bible: a biography by Karen Armstrong; even The Case for a Creator by Lee Strobel. I like to learn, and I like to refresh old knowledge from time to time as well. And I like to be shown that I’m wrong. It’s one reason I’m so tenacious in debate: if I’m going to be proven wrong, I don’t want it to be because of my own laziness; rather, I want to be proven wrong by hard evidence. I beat the drum for it until I either get the proof and find out I’m wrong, or show the other side of the debate to have been incorrect.

    Mostly, though, I’d like to understand the people with whom I have interactions on a daily basis. Lately, that’s come to mean a lot of folks here. So I ask questions to try and understand. No ulterior motive. I’m here, so I’d like to understand what this blog, and the people who populate it, are all about.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Thank you for answering my question. I know what you mean by “surfing in” and “pulling up a chair”. That has sort of happened for me, too. :)

    I am glad you are here asking questions and getting good answers. Reading Luther and the Book of Concord surely won’t hurt you and I believe that reading the Word of God found in those texts is extremely important!

    One point to consider about “proof” regarding the existence of God is that many times those asking for hard evidence aren’t necessarily up for seeing the evidence. Just as an example, I used to get really ticked off when I read books by Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga concerning the existence of God. The arguments they presented were often cogent and the ones that were suspect still made good sense. I simply didn’t like facing the prospect of being wrong. It forced me to ask the question, “What’s next?”

    The same thing goes for theists, too. I think it is simply our nature not to want to be wrong. We would rather be drug behind a truck by our ears down a gravel road, than admit we our wrong, sometimes! Don’t you think that’s true?

    The interesting thing, though, is that when the Holy Spirit worked through His word in my life I could only receive what Christ offers. What Jesus Christ did on the cross for me still boggles my mind! I cannot by my own reason accept what Christ did for me over 2,000 years ago, because there isn’t any “hard evidence” sufficient enough to remove the radical doubt of the unbeliever. But, when God shows us our sinful natures… when He opens our eyes… it is undeniable what Christ did for us! That is the revelatory truth that can only come through the working of the Holy Spirit through His word in our lives.

    Anyway, I am rambling… so will end here. :)

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Thank you for answering my question. I know what you mean by “surfing in” and “pulling up a chair”. That has sort of happened for me, too. :)

    I am glad you are here asking questions and getting good answers. Reading Luther and the Book of Concord surely won’t hurt you and I believe that reading the Word of God found in those texts is extremely important!

    One point to consider about “proof” regarding the existence of God is that many times those asking for hard evidence aren’t necessarily up for seeing the evidence. Just as an example, I used to get really ticked off when I read books by Richard Swinburne and Alvin Plantinga concerning the existence of God. The arguments they presented were often cogent and the ones that were suspect still made good sense. I simply didn’t like facing the prospect of being wrong. It forced me to ask the question, “What’s next?”

    The same thing goes for theists, too. I think it is simply our nature not to want to be wrong. We would rather be drug behind a truck by our ears down a gravel road, than admit we our wrong, sometimes! Don’t you think that’s true?

    The interesting thing, though, is that when the Holy Spirit worked through His word in my life I could only receive what Christ offers. What Jesus Christ did on the cross for me still boggles my mind! I cannot by my own reason accept what Christ did for me over 2,000 years ago, because there isn’t any “hard evidence” sufficient enough to remove the radical doubt of the unbeliever. But, when God shows us our sinful natures… when He opens our eyes… it is undeniable what Christ did for us! That is the revelatory truth that can only come through the working of the Holy Spirit through His word in our lives.

    Anyway, I am rambling… so will end here. :)

  • Michael the little boot

    Nemo @ 92,

    Thank you for attempting answers to the questions I have asked repeatedly. I would like clarification on some things. Please, do not take my aggressive nature to be a personal attack. I laid it out plainly in my comment to Jim @ 97. I feel that I am doing us BOTH a disservice if I do not take you to task where it seems necessary. If I get too aggressive, please point this out and I will cease such actions.

    Is it safe to assume that, since you are also trying to grasp Lutheran theology, you are not a Lutheran? I will not go forward with that assumption until you confirm it. But I must say, I am continually confused on the venerable Blog o’ Veith! I have been told yes, Christians believe we WILL be punished; yet I have also been told the opposite! There have been people here contradicting each other, and even calling each other on these contradictions. No one has given ANY of the non-Lutherans here a good answer as to “what” Lutherans believe to this end, nor have we been given the “why” – though I assume this is because of the unsatisfactory “what”.

    So, because we fall short of a standard we did nothing to establish, we are condemned to hell, but for the Jesus Loophole. It just makes no sense to me. I can only liken it to a father who, as soon as his child is born, cuts the legs off the child, then spends the rest of the kid’s childhood blaming him/her for having no legs! This will make no sense to people who believe we ARE to blame for our sin nature, even though we never did anything to acquire it.

    It’s like this really powerful dude came upon some clueless yokels in a clearing. They were discussing the big questions (like “who are we?” and “why are we here?” etc.), and the powerful dude, seeing an opportunity, decided to enlighten them. Of course, he decided to do so in HIS own favor, and started to tell them how he had been around since BEFORE the beginning, and that he could clue ‘em all in as to what actually occurred. Well, being yokels, and realizing THEY didn’t have the answers to these questions, the group sat down and began to listen.

    Now, these people all thought very poorly of themselves. They felt they could never do anything right. They were always angry at their inabilities, beating themselves up and saying things like “I suck!” and “I wish I were dead!” So when the Upright Gentleman who met them in the clearing told them they DID suck and they DESERVED to die, they swallowed it whole, like the Tramp with the Leather Shoe, as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks.

    I know. It’s a story, and not a very good story. But it illustrates my point: the way I’ve put it has just as much credibility as the Bible as far as a piece of HISTORY. That is, it has NONE. But it is a plausible idea. I think the reason this idea of a sin nature resonates so much with humans is that we think so lowly of ourselves. Or, to paraphrase the late Rich Mullins, in reference to Christians who worship Mary: it may not be that they revere Mary too much, but that we revere ourselves so little.

    Which is to say, you all believe yourselves to be creations of God, and so seldom ACT like it. Not that children of God should have swelled heads or anything, but they should treat each other as though they were created by the Supreme Being, if in fact they believe that, rather than as though they were dirtier than the bloody dirt itself.

    If God is perfect and righteous, why did God create a standard to which we can never measure up? You say God “in His love” sent Jesus. Okay, I ask again: why’d God wait so long? Was it that God’s first idea failed so completely, God was reticent to try again immediately? I’m lost here. God put the tree in the garden and said not to eat it, just so God could say God gave us free will?

    And here I must again point out: a choice between doing what the Supreme Commander of Every Little Thing tells you is the only way to be “right,” or the only way to get to heaven, etc., and doing what one wants, IS NOT A CHOICE. Do you see the distinction? If there are two doors, A and B, and God says “Now, behind door A is heaven, whereas behind door B is hell. MAKE YOUR CHOICE!” can you see how that’s not really a choice? I mean, one is ALLOWED to choose hell; but no one who REALLY knows for a FACT he/she/it will go to hell is gonna choose door B.

    Of course, none of us really DOES know for a FACT anything about God. But that makes the choice even more precarious, because now we must contend with all the OTHER myriad religions which claim to be the truth, or at least to have access to it. And this is why God is capricious, as the concept of God is described here. If the world is as it is (and we all see it and describe its details in roughly the same way), and in addition God has set up this structure which is NOWHERE to be found but the Bible, it’s beyond not cool.

    The Bible, as much as most people here seem to WANT to believe, does NOT translate so well to some cultures. It is a message which does NOT come across AT ALL in some places on Earth. How can God call this just? If you were born in a Muslim country, the chances are VERY HIGH that you would be arguing just as passionately FOR Islam as you are for Christianity. That’s because culture is complex. By the time you would be old enough to start thinking for yourself, you’d already be so indoctrinated with Islam that you would be seriously hampered in thinking any other way at all.

    If the God you believe in exists, that God allows this to happen over and over, not just on a daily basis, but on a MINUTE BY MINUTE basis. How do you account for this? Is The Fall somehow to blame for this as well? How can God allow people to be born into a country that makes it nearly illegal (it might actually BE illegal in some countries, but I’m not positive) to belong to any religion except Islam, and then condemn those who may never be able to leave said country? Come on. Some of these people never leave the villages in which they were born, let alone their country, and are never visited by missionaries. Please explain this to me.

    And thanks for telling your story!

  • Michael the little boot

    Nemo @ 92,

    Thank you for attempting answers to the questions I have asked repeatedly. I would like clarification on some things. Please, do not take my aggressive nature to be a personal attack. I laid it out plainly in my comment to Jim @ 97. I feel that I am doing us BOTH a disservice if I do not take you to task where it seems necessary. If I get too aggressive, please point this out and I will cease such actions.

    Is it safe to assume that, since you are also trying to grasp Lutheran theology, you are not a Lutheran? I will not go forward with that assumption until you confirm it. But I must say, I am continually confused on the venerable Blog o’ Veith! I have been told yes, Christians believe we WILL be punished; yet I have also been told the opposite! There have been people here contradicting each other, and even calling each other on these contradictions. No one has given ANY of the non-Lutherans here a good answer as to “what” Lutherans believe to this end, nor have we been given the “why” – though I assume this is because of the unsatisfactory “what”.

    So, because we fall short of a standard we did nothing to establish, we are condemned to hell, but for the Jesus Loophole. It just makes no sense to me. I can only liken it to a father who, as soon as his child is born, cuts the legs off the child, then spends the rest of the kid’s childhood blaming him/her for having no legs! This will make no sense to people who believe we ARE to blame for our sin nature, even though we never did anything to acquire it.

    It’s like this really powerful dude came upon some clueless yokels in a clearing. They were discussing the big questions (like “who are we?” and “why are we here?” etc.), and the powerful dude, seeing an opportunity, decided to enlighten them. Of course, he decided to do so in HIS own favor, and started to tell them how he had been around since BEFORE the beginning, and that he could clue ‘em all in as to what actually occurred. Well, being yokels, and realizing THEY didn’t have the answers to these questions, the group sat down and began to listen.

    Now, these people all thought very poorly of themselves. They felt they could never do anything right. They were always angry at their inabilities, beating themselves up and saying things like “I suck!” and “I wish I were dead!” So when the Upright Gentleman who met them in the clearing told them they DID suck and they DESERVED to die, they swallowed it whole, like the Tramp with the Leather Shoe, as if they hadn’t eaten in weeks.

    I know. It’s a story, and not a very good story. But it illustrates my point: the way I’ve put it has just as much credibility as the Bible as far as a piece of HISTORY. That is, it has NONE. But it is a plausible idea. I think the reason this idea of a sin nature resonates so much with humans is that we think so lowly of ourselves. Or, to paraphrase the late Rich Mullins, in reference to Christians who worship Mary: it may not be that they revere Mary too much, but that we revere ourselves so little.

    Which is to say, you all believe yourselves to be creations of God, and so seldom ACT like it. Not that children of God should have swelled heads or anything, but they should treat each other as though they were created by the Supreme Being, if in fact they believe that, rather than as though they were dirtier than the bloody dirt itself.

    If God is perfect and righteous, why did God create a standard to which we can never measure up? You say God “in His love” sent Jesus. Okay, I ask again: why’d God wait so long? Was it that God’s first idea failed so completely, God was reticent to try again immediately? I’m lost here. God put the tree in the garden and said not to eat it, just so God could say God gave us free will?

    And here I must again point out: a choice between doing what the Supreme Commander of Every Little Thing tells you is the only way to be “right,” or the only way to get to heaven, etc., and doing what one wants, IS NOT A CHOICE. Do you see the distinction? If there are two doors, A and B, and God says “Now, behind door A is heaven, whereas behind door B is hell. MAKE YOUR CHOICE!” can you see how that’s not really a choice? I mean, one is ALLOWED to choose hell; but no one who REALLY knows for a FACT he/she/it will go to hell is gonna choose door B.

    Of course, none of us really DOES know for a FACT anything about God. But that makes the choice even more precarious, because now we must contend with all the OTHER myriad religions which claim to be the truth, or at least to have access to it. And this is why God is capricious, as the concept of God is described here. If the world is as it is (and we all see it and describe its details in roughly the same way), and in addition God has set up this structure which is NOWHERE to be found but the Bible, it’s beyond not cool.

    The Bible, as much as most people here seem to WANT to believe, does NOT translate so well to some cultures. It is a message which does NOT come across AT ALL in some places on Earth. How can God call this just? If you were born in a Muslim country, the chances are VERY HIGH that you would be arguing just as passionately FOR Islam as you are for Christianity. That’s because culture is complex. By the time you would be old enough to start thinking for yourself, you’d already be so indoctrinated with Islam that you would be seriously hampered in thinking any other way at all.

    If the God you believe in exists, that God allows this to happen over and over, not just on a daily basis, but on a MINUTE BY MINUTE basis. How do you account for this? Is The Fall somehow to blame for this as well? How can God allow people to be born into a country that makes it nearly illegal (it might actually BE illegal in some countries, but I’m not positive) to belong to any religion except Islam, and then condemn those who may never be able to leave said country? Come on. Some of these people never leave the villages in which they were born, let alone their country, and are never visited by missionaries. Please explain this to me.

    And thanks for telling your story!

  • kerner

    Michael:

    So much of what we are discussing here comes down to point of view. For example, your analogy about the child with no legs. You see God as having cut the legs of the child and then blaming the child for not being able to walk. We see the child as being born with no legs, and God providing a way for the child to acheive mobility without them (that way being “the Jesus loophole” as you put it). I think I am understanding you to be saying that (1) you blame God for the child’s legless condition in the first place, and (2) you find God’s solution to the legless child problem to be unreasonable. At least, God’s solution “makes no sense” to you, by which I assume you mean that you believe that God could have solved the problem in other, better, ways (or by preventing the problem in the first place).

    I realize you don’t believe in God at all, so in a way this whole scenario is hypothetical. But in a way it is part of your belief system, because one of the reasons you don’t believe in God is because the Christian scenario of legless child/sinful mankind and God’s solution seem unsensible to you. Am I getting this right?

    Some of your statements I believe are misunderstandings. For example, your story about the yokels with poor self esteem being taught by the impressive dude is not consistent with my experience or with history as far as I can tell. While it is true that SOME Christians begin with poor self esteem and find the Christian doctrine about the fallen nature of Man consistent with their low opinion of themselves, there are certainly plenty of Christians I know (and have read about) who have a real problem with pride. Plenty of Christians have to be constantly reminded (by themselves or other Christians, or even the Holy Spirit) that they aren’t the hot s^!t they think they are. So for a lot of us, being shown our less than adequate natures and need for a Savior takes a lot more convincing than an impressive dude can easily provide, as many of us have believed that we were pretty impressive ourselves.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    So much of what we are discussing here comes down to point of view. For example, your analogy about the child with no legs. You see God as having cut the legs of the child and then blaming the child for not being able to walk. We see the child as being born with no legs, and God providing a way for the child to acheive mobility without them (that way being “the Jesus loophole” as you put it). I think I am understanding you to be saying that (1) you blame God for the child’s legless condition in the first place, and (2) you find God’s solution to the legless child problem to be unreasonable. At least, God’s solution “makes no sense” to you, by which I assume you mean that you believe that God could have solved the problem in other, better, ways (or by preventing the problem in the first place).

    I realize you don’t believe in God at all, so in a way this whole scenario is hypothetical. But in a way it is part of your belief system, because one of the reasons you don’t believe in God is because the Christian scenario of legless child/sinful mankind and God’s solution seem unsensible to you. Am I getting this right?

    Some of your statements I believe are misunderstandings. For example, your story about the yokels with poor self esteem being taught by the impressive dude is not consistent with my experience or with history as far as I can tell. While it is true that SOME Christians begin with poor self esteem and find the Christian doctrine about the fallen nature of Man consistent with their low opinion of themselves, there are certainly plenty of Christians I know (and have read about) who have a real problem with pride. Plenty of Christians have to be constantly reminded (by themselves or other Christians, or even the Holy Spirit) that they aren’t the hot s^!t they think they are. So for a lot of us, being shown our less than adequate natures and need for a Savior takes a lot more convincing than an impressive dude can easily provide, as many of us have believed that we were pretty impressive ourselves.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    You raised the issue of Christ not being born till the 1st century A.D. before, and I think I mentioned that the promise of a redeemer was conveyed to people immediately after the fall, so their faith would have the Messiah as it’s object right away. So, there wasn’t really any lag time between problem and solution. You also need to remember that God is eternal, not like us. All times are “now” to God, so there wasn’t really any lag time to Him.

    I don’t raise these points to argue with you over the underlying issue, but rather to show that these issues are not really problems with the Christian theological construct. If the characteristics of Christian theology are internally consistent, the at least make sense within their belief system, don’t you think. Of course, you are still free to reject the entire belief system, but that’s a different issue.

    Back to Lutheran theology. I strongly urge you to start with the Book of Concord to start with (and as Jim urges, the Bible passages on which it is based). These works, written by different authors at different time, are the confessions of Lutheran theology. Even other works by Luther and the others are outside the confessions, and not considered authoritative. “Bondage of the Will” may be one of Luther’s own favorite works, but Lutheran’s are not bound to agree with it. Lutherans don’t claim that any of our theologians were perfect, we only claim that, in the confessions, they were all correctly interpreting scripture in those particular writings.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    You raised the issue of Christ not being born till the 1st century A.D. before, and I think I mentioned that the promise of a redeemer was conveyed to people immediately after the fall, so their faith would have the Messiah as it’s object right away. So, there wasn’t really any lag time between problem and solution. You also need to remember that God is eternal, not like us. All times are “now” to God, so there wasn’t really any lag time to Him.

    I don’t raise these points to argue with you over the underlying issue, but rather to show that these issues are not really problems with the Christian theological construct. If the characteristics of Christian theology are internally consistent, the at least make sense within their belief system, don’t you think. Of course, you are still free to reject the entire belief system, but that’s a different issue.

    Back to Lutheran theology. I strongly urge you to start with the Book of Concord to start with (and as Jim urges, the Bible passages on which it is based). These works, written by different authors at different time, are the confessions of Lutheran theology. Even other works by Luther and the others are outside the confessions, and not considered authoritative. “Bondage of the Will” may be one of Luther’s own favorite works, but Lutheran’s are not bound to agree with it. Lutherans don’t claim that any of our theologians were perfect, we only claim that, in the confessions, they were all correctly interpreting scripture in those particular writings.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 93,

    I don’t understand why, when it suits the purpose, Christians will say Jesus is God, and when it suits other purposes, they will say Jesus was a man. I know the (once again, PARADOXICAL) theology says he was equally both (this was, in fact, the basic disagreement at the center of the Council of Nicea); but which was he when they came into conflict? Was he fully man when he suffered on the cross, since partaking in his “Godly” nature would have reduced his suffering?

    I don’t get it. You say @ 101 that God is eternal, outside of time, that it WAS an instant to God between The Fall and the coming of Christ. But you said above that Jesus took ALL the suffering of ALL humanity for ALL time, in which case he did suffer, even though he knew he wasn’t really going to stay dead. What I’m saying is, you can’t have it both ways. Or, rather, you can’t have it both ways without appealing to a paradox. And you only get away with that by saying that God is above us and totally incomprehensible to us. Well, except for the really important stuff.

    I call BS on that. BIG time. Which is it? You’re dancing around EVERY question when you answer them this way. Why is it that God created us to be TEMPORAL creatures, and then proceeds to act as though we’re not? Why is it that God made us SO COMPLETELY OTHER than Godself, and then made it impossible to apprehend in ANY WAY what is really going on?

    This is an aspect of religion that is really infuriating to me. It is incomprehensible by nature, because that appeals to our instincts toward ignorance: if we don’t get it, it must be outside the realm of our ability to understand. We must simply be stupid. But it could also be the case that a belief might be so convoluted as to APPEAR the same as a transcendent idea, just by virtue of being something which escapes our intellect.

    What I’m trying to say is: this is a dodge. It may well be a dodge that you are making subconsciously, as a result of these conflicting ideas trying to occupy space in the same brain. I don’t know. But Jesus, by dying, even if he DID suffer immeasurably by OUR standards, did not sacrifice anything. He didn’t even conquer death, because he was God, and could never cease to be. You can’t have it both ways. Either he was fully God and fully man all at once, never able to rely on one aspect more than the other, or he was EITHER God OR man. You can’t pick and choose.

    And I’m not offering a false dichotomy here. There are actually three choices I’ve listed. I’d like to understand which of these you think Jesus was, or if you have an alternative explanation. And, unless it doesn’t fit with your explanation, I’d like you please to explain how he also suffered in light of what I’ve suggested, if that makes sense.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 93,

    I don’t understand why, when it suits the purpose, Christians will say Jesus is God, and when it suits other purposes, they will say Jesus was a man. I know the (once again, PARADOXICAL) theology says he was equally both (this was, in fact, the basic disagreement at the center of the Council of Nicea); but which was he when they came into conflict? Was he fully man when he suffered on the cross, since partaking in his “Godly” nature would have reduced his suffering?

    I don’t get it. You say @ 101 that God is eternal, outside of time, that it WAS an instant to God between The Fall and the coming of Christ. But you said above that Jesus took ALL the suffering of ALL humanity for ALL time, in which case he did suffer, even though he knew he wasn’t really going to stay dead. What I’m saying is, you can’t have it both ways. Or, rather, you can’t have it both ways without appealing to a paradox. And you only get away with that by saying that God is above us and totally incomprehensible to us. Well, except for the really important stuff.

    I call BS on that. BIG time. Which is it? You’re dancing around EVERY question when you answer them this way. Why is it that God created us to be TEMPORAL creatures, and then proceeds to act as though we’re not? Why is it that God made us SO COMPLETELY OTHER than Godself, and then made it impossible to apprehend in ANY WAY what is really going on?

    This is an aspect of religion that is really infuriating to me. It is incomprehensible by nature, because that appeals to our instincts toward ignorance: if we don’t get it, it must be outside the realm of our ability to understand. We must simply be stupid. But it could also be the case that a belief might be so convoluted as to APPEAR the same as a transcendent idea, just by virtue of being something which escapes our intellect.

    What I’m trying to say is: this is a dodge. It may well be a dodge that you are making subconsciously, as a result of these conflicting ideas trying to occupy space in the same brain. I don’t know. But Jesus, by dying, even if he DID suffer immeasurably by OUR standards, did not sacrifice anything. He didn’t even conquer death, because he was God, and could never cease to be. You can’t have it both ways. Either he was fully God and fully man all at once, never able to rely on one aspect more than the other, or he was EITHER God OR man. You can’t pick and choose.

    And I’m not offering a false dichotomy here. There are actually three choices I’ve listed. I’d like to understand which of these you think Jesus was, or if you have an alternative explanation. And, unless it doesn’t fit with your explanation, I’d like you please to explain how he also suffered in light of what I’ve suggested, if that makes sense.

  • Nemo

    Michael,

    Thank you for your response. I am generally a fan of academic rigor, so no, I do not consider your post too aggressive. You are frustrated, perhaps, but I didn’t feel that directed toward me. However, I need to begin with the caveat that I may not be able to answer all of your questions, and when that is the case, I will try to admit such. I am not omniscient, and there are aspects of this creation that I do not understand. However, despite that, I do see Christianity as the best explanation for the world we live in.

    Also, I should tell you, that I also have a tendency to sometimes get harsh, and maybe even a little sarcastic. If this is a distraction for you, please let me know. The same applies if something is not making sense, or if I am going off on a bunny trail.

    You are correct in determining that I do not consider myself Lutheran. In fact, I came to this blog in an attempt to understand the theology better. Like you, that hasn’t happened to the extent that I had hoped. To best determine what Christianity teaches, turn to the Bible, and take everything back there. You don’t have to accept it as your authority, but it is ours (Christians).

    I think your analogy concerning the standard would work better (correct me if I am wrong) if you said that it was like a father cutting off the legs of the child, and then condemning the child for not being able to walk. It is not the standard that you are objecting to, insomuch as it is the teaching that we are unable to meet it. That inability is what you consider unjust. You may consider this a bit of a side-step, but you do realize that you are now appealing to some standard of right and wrong, of just and unjust, which you are considering universal? The very nature of the objection is an appeal from the standard you are trying to deny. We didn’t create it, but we are still subject to it. (See “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis for more on this topic, if you haven’t read it already.) Either way, the analogy isn’t quite correct. The child being born with a genetic disease, and the father healing the child, would be the best analogy here. In such a scenario, what doesn’t make sense is the child denying the father, rejecting the cure and/or insisting on a different one, and determining that he is ok with the disease after all.

    Ok, so I didn’t quite get what you were trying to say with the clueless yokels analogy. Needless to say, if there were a bunch of people sitting around thinking very poorly of themselves and thinking they deserved to die, and it was true, would it not be the greatest mercy to spare them from said death and give them a new life?

    You write: “I think the reason this idea of a sin nature resonates so much with humans is that we think so lowly of ourselves.” Or maybe the fact that we think so lowly of ourselves points to our knowledge of a sin nature. This one can go both ways. In fact, your observation that Christians don’t always act like creations of God is yet another demonstration of sin and its effects. We can’t save ourselves.

    “If God is perfect and righteous, why did God create a standard to which we can never measure up?” Because God is perfect and righteous, He by nature has a standard; because we are not, we don’t measure up. You don’t really want to live in a world where evil is not punished, do you? Should the Joker win? That really wouldn’t be cool.

    Kerner already addressed the wait period, so I won’t go into that right now in detail. Suffice it to say that God promised a way of salvation right after the fall, and then fulfilled that promise. Those who lived in the meantime were saved by their faith in the promise, just as we are. The whole point of the rituals of the Old Testament were to demonstrate man’s inability to save himself—setting the stage for the perfect one who would be the ultimate sacrifice and fulfill the law for us.

    I’m also not sure where you are going with your “not a choice” argument. Are you saying that there is no real choice when our will lines up with what is right? Anyway, free will or not, why are you determined to favor door B?

    Please, consider the other religions (you already have researched them). Christianity is distinct because it does not grant salvation based on our attempts to get to god (or be god), but on God’s reaching down to us and lifting us up to Him. And while the plan of our salvation is only found in the Bible, the need for such salvation is obvious from the state of creation, as well as from the testimony of our own consciences.

    You ask Kerner at 102 whether Jesus was fully God and fully man, fully God, or fully man. I think you already know what his answer will be—Jesus was fully God and fully man. You said as much in your opening paragraph. Besides, I’m not seeing how the amount that Christ suffered plays into this. Is that really a legitimate reason to not believe? For someone as easy going and laid back as you claim to be, you should really be happy if Christ suffered less rather than more. Does your chance of believing increase as Christ’s suffering increases? (This is not to say that Christ didn’t suffer, He did. I just don’t see how the degree of suffering is a relevant objection.)

    I am sorry this response took so long to post, I am doing my best to consider your questions and present an answer for them. If this didn’t make sense, I can try something else.

  • Nemo

    Michael,

    Thank you for your response. I am generally a fan of academic rigor, so no, I do not consider your post too aggressive. You are frustrated, perhaps, but I didn’t feel that directed toward me. However, I need to begin with the caveat that I may not be able to answer all of your questions, and when that is the case, I will try to admit such. I am not omniscient, and there are aspects of this creation that I do not understand. However, despite that, I do see Christianity as the best explanation for the world we live in.

    Also, I should tell you, that I also have a tendency to sometimes get harsh, and maybe even a little sarcastic. If this is a distraction for you, please let me know. The same applies if something is not making sense, or if I am going off on a bunny trail.

    You are correct in determining that I do not consider myself Lutheran. In fact, I came to this blog in an attempt to understand the theology better. Like you, that hasn’t happened to the extent that I had hoped. To best determine what Christianity teaches, turn to the Bible, and take everything back there. You don’t have to accept it as your authority, but it is ours (Christians).

    I think your analogy concerning the standard would work better (correct me if I am wrong) if you said that it was like a father cutting off the legs of the child, and then condemning the child for not being able to walk. It is not the standard that you are objecting to, insomuch as it is the teaching that we are unable to meet it. That inability is what you consider unjust. You may consider this a bit of a side-step, but you do realize that you are now appealing to some standard of right and wrong, of just and unjust, which you are considering universal? The very nature of the objection is an appeal from the standard you are trying to deny. We didn’t create it, but we are still subject to it. (See “Mere Christianity” by C.S. Lewis for more on this topic, if you haven’t read it already.) Either way, the analogy isn’t quite correct. The child being born with a genetic disease, and the father healing the child, would be the best analogy here. In such a scenario, what doesn’t make sense is the child denying the father, rejecting the cure and/or insisting on a different one, and determining that he is ok with the disease after all.

    Ok, so I didn’t quite get what you were trying to say with the clueless yokels analogy. Needless to say, if there were a bunch of people sitting around thinking very poorly of themselves and thinking they deserved to die, and it was true, would it not be the greatest mercy to spare them from said death and give them a new life?

    You write: “I think the reason this idea of a sin nature resonates so much with humans is that we think so lowly of ourselves.” Or maybe the fact that we think so lowly of ourselves points to our knowledge of a sin nature. This one can go both ways. In fact, your observation that Christians don’t always act like creations of God is yet another demonstration of sin and its effects. We can’t save ourselves.

    “If God is perfect and righteous, why did God create a standard to which we can never measure up?” Because God is perfect and righteous, He by nature has a standard; because we are not, we don’t measure up. You don’t really want to live in a world where evil is not punished, do you? Should the Joker win? That really wouldn’t be cool.

    Kerner already addressed the wait period, so I won’t go into that right now in detail. Suffice it to say that God promised a way of salvation right after the fall, and then fulfilled that promise. Those who lived in the meantime were saved by their faith in the promise, just as we are. The whole point of the rituals of the Old Testament were to demonstrate man’s inability to save himself—setting the stage for the perfect one who would be the ultimate sacrifice and fulfill the law for us.

    I’m also not sure where you are going with your “not a choice” argument. Are you saying that there is no real choice when our will lines up with what is right? Anyway, free will or not, why are you determined to favor door B?

    Please, consider the other religions (you already have researched them). Christianity is distinct because it does not grant salvation based on our attempts to get to god (or be god), but on God’s reaching down to us and lifting us up to Him. And while the plan of our salvation is only found in the Bible, the need for such salvation is obvious from the state of creation, as well as from the testimony of our own consciences.

    You ask Kerner at 102 whether Jesus was fully God and fully man, fully God, or fully man. I think you already know what his answer will be—Jesus was fully God and fully man. You said as much in your opening paragraph. Besides, I’m not seeing how the amount that Christ suffered plays into this. Is that really a legitimate reason to not believe? For someone as easy going and laid back as you claim to be, you should really be happy if Christ suffered less rather than more. Does your chance of believing increase as Christ’s suffering increases? (This is not to say that Christ didn’t suffer, He did. I just don’t see how the degree of suffering is a relevant objection.)

    I am sorry this response took so long to post, I am doing my best to consider your questions and present an answer for them. If this didn’t make sense, I can try something else.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Nemo: you claim you are not Lutheran but wish to undrstand Lutheran theology.
    Then you said:
    ‘Christianity is distinct because it does not grant salvation based on our attempts to get to god (or be god), but on God’s reaching down to us and lifting us up to Him. And while the plan of our salvation is only found in the Bible, the need for such salvation is obvious from the state of creation, as well as from the testimony of our own consciences.’
    That sounds very much like Lutheran theology. Well done.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Nemo: you claim you are not Lutheran but wish to undrstand Lutheran theology.
    Then you said:
    ‘Christianity is distinct because it does not grant salvation based on our attempts to get to god (or be god), but on God’s reaching down to us and lifting us up to Him. And while the plan of our salvation is only found in the Bible, the need for such salvation is obvious from the state of creation, as well as from the testimony of our own consciences.’
    That sounds very much like Lutheran theology. Well done.

  • Nemo

    Susan,

    It is not Lutheran so much as it is Protestant Christian. Paul said it before Luther, and Christ did it before Paul.

  • Nemo

    Susan,

    It is not Lutheran so much as it is Protestant Christian. Paul said it before Luther, and Christ did it before Paul.

  • kerner

    Nemo @105:

    And some people between Paul and Luther said it, too, I’ll bet. And the other authors of the Lutheran Confessions (and there are many) said it as well.

    I am a big fan of this site and have referred others to it on this blog before:

    http://www.bookofconcord.org/whatisalutheran.html

    This is a pretty good on-line version of the Luthern Confessions, and well organized. The page I direct you to has links to each of the three eccumenical creeds (which you probably already know about) and each of the confessional books that were incorporated into the Book of Concord. The Book of Concord is a combination of the doctrinal books that were (after a lengthy debate) accepted as authoritive as being consistent with the Bible, a great many other works (including many by Luther himself) were rejected during this process.

    A good place to start is the “Rule and Norm” section of the Formula of Concord (written in 1577). The important thing to take away from this section is that all true theology must be based on and measured against God’s Word. In this section, it is the conclusion of all the theologians involved that the included works meet that standard. God’s Word, the Bible, is the foundation of all real Lutheran theology. That doesn’t stop numerous nominally Lutheran individual theologians (or even entire denominations) from deviating from God’s Word when it suits their purposes, but this is only reflective of the fact that, in a free country, people are free to use proper names improperly.

    After that, I would read Luther’s Small Catechism. This is the simple statement of faith and doctrine that all laymen in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod must agree to support to be members. This work is further developed in the Large Catechism, which is written on a more complex level. The Augsburg Confession, and its Apology (explanation) are big favorites of the confessional Lutheran clergy, and these, especially the Apology do a pretty good job of explaining Lutheran doctrine in a more scholarly way. The Formula of Concord was written last, as a means of settling controversies that had arisen in the aftermath of the break up of the Roman Catholic Church and the political and social unrest that followed.

    All of these confessional books are broken down into sections on specific topics, so if you want to know what Lutherans believe about any specific point of doctrine, it is easy to look it up. On the other hand, reading from beginning to end will help you learn how the whole theology fits together. I have found that the internal consistency of Lutheran theology, and its consistency with the Bible, to be remarkable, which is why I’m a Lutheran.

    If there is any thing specific about Lutheran doctrine you want to talk about, let me know. I’m not a pastor, but I hope I can point you in the right direction, at least.

    Michael, I haven’t forgotten you. Nemo has done a pretty good job above for now. Answer some of my questions when you can, and I will address some of yours shortly.

  • kerner

    Nemo @105:

    And some people between Paul and Luther said it, too, I’ll bet. And the other authors of the Lutheran Confessions (and there are many) said it as well.

    I am a big fan of this site and have referred others to it on this blog before:

    http://www.bookofconcord.org/whatisalutheran.html

    This is a pretty good on-line version of the Luthern Confessions, and well organized. The page I direct you to has links to each of the three eccumenical creeds (which you probably already know about) and each of the confessional books that were incorporated into the Book of Concord. The Book of Concord is a combination of the doctrinal books that were (after a lengthy debate) accepted as authoritive as being consistent with the Bible, a great many other works (including many by Luther himself) were rejected during this process.

    A good place to start is the “Rule and Norm” section of the Formula of Concord (written in 1577). The important thing to take away from this section is that all true theology must be based on and measured against God’s Word. In this section, it is the conclusion of all the theologians involved that the included works meet that standard. God’s Word, the Bible, is the foundation of all real Lutheran theology. That doesn’t stop numerous nominally Lutheran individual theologians (or even entire denominations) from deviating from God’s Word when it suits their purposes, but this is only reflective of the fact that, in a free country, people are free to use proper names improperly.

    After that, I would read Luther’s Small Catechism. This is the simple statement of faith and doctrine that all laymen in the Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod must agree to support to be members. This work is further developed in the Large Catechism, which is written on a more complex level. The Augsburg Confession, and its Apology (explanation) are big favorites of the confessional Lutheran clergy, and these, especially the Apology do a pretty good job of explaining Lutheran doctrine in a more scholarly way. The Formula of Concord was written last, as a means of settling controversies that had arisen in the aftermath of the break up of the Roman Catholic Church and the political and social unrest that followed.

    All of these confessional books are broken down into sections on specific topics, so if you want to know what Lutherans believe about any specific point of doctrine, it is easy to look it up. On the other hand, reading from beginning to end will help you learn how the whole theology fits together. I have found that the internal consistency of Lutheran theology, and its consistency with the Bible, to be remarkable, which is why I’m a Lutheran.

    If there is any thing specific about Lutheran doctrine you want to talk about, let me know. I’m not a pastor, but I hope I can point you in the right direction, at least.

    Michael, I haven’t forgotten you. Nemo has done a pretty good job above for now. Answer some of my questions when you can, and I will address some of yours shortly.

  • Nemo

    Kerner,

    Thanks for the response. I’ve actually explored the site you referenced some, as well as reading major sections of the Large Catechism, most (if not all) of the Small Catechism, and conducting a fair amount of research on the LCMS website. And unlike you, I do not find them internally consistent. Some of my questions (more like concerns) with Lutheran theology have already come up, e.g. on “The Basis for Picking a Church”, the “Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education”, and Bror Erickson’s blog (http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com/) at “Testament not Covenant” July 9, “Do all speak in Tongues?” July 18, and “Love never Ends” July 23.

    Specifically, the site you directed me to reads: “A Lutheran is a person who believes, teaches and confesses the truths of God’s Word as they are summarized and confessed in the Book of Concord.” Now I can subscribe to the first part of that sentence. To the best of my knowledge and ability, and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I do teach and confess the truths of God’s Word—but I get them from Scripture, not from the Book of Concord. Now you will tell me that the Book of Concord agrees entirely with Scripture. Great, why do you appeal to it then, if it doesn’t say anything that Scripture doesn’t already say? Either the second part of the sentence adds to the first, in which you are either adding to Scripture and/or undermining its understandability of Scripture, or it doesn’t add to the first, which makes it superfluous and redundant.

    In addition to this and the other theological issues I have with Lutheran theology (I’m not sure this is the right setting to go into all that: infant baptism, closed communion, spiritual gifts, etc.), the biggest hurdle I am finding to understanding Lutheran theology is the variations on it. Each one of you has their own understanding of what Lutheran theology is, and while you all “subscribe” to these confessions, each of you seems to understand them differently. “[N]o doctrinal agreement, no fellowship” I am told when discussing church selection. Simply put, A. I don’t think that is the correct standard, since we are all one body in Christ and B. if that is the standard, you Lutherans don’t meet it among yourselves. Within the body of Christ (i.e. among those who agree on the big theological issues), I believe there is room for diversity, not because I ascribe to relativism, but because even though we are redeemed, we are still sinners and do not understand fully.

    Finally, and this may just be a pet peeve of mine, but your fellow Christians who are not Lutheran do not belong to another “religion”, they belong to another “denomination”. The religion/basic belief is the same.

    Michael, this discussion I am having with Kerner in no way demonstrates the falsity of Christianity. Rather, I hope it demonstrates that we are not all one homogonous mass, running around with our brains turned off, following everything that claims to be true. Rather, like you, we are seeking truth amongst ourselves. Having accepted the non-negotiables of Christianity, we are discussing some areas that are not as clear. As much as it sounds like I disagree with Kerner, we actually agree on the big issues. We have much more in common than we have apart—for we both have the same Savior.

    Proverbs 27:17

  • Nemo

    Kerner,

    Thanks for the response. I’ve actually explored the site you referenced some, as well as reading major sections of the Large Catechism, most (if not all) of the Small Catechism, and conducting a fair amount of research on the LCMS website. And unlike you, I do not find them internally consistent. Some of my questions (more like concerns) with Lutheran theology have already come up, e.g. on “The Basis for Picking a Church”, the “Consortium for Classical Lutheran Education”, and Bror Erickson’s blog (http://www.utah-lutheran.blogspot.com/) at “Testament not Covenant” July 9, “Do all speak in Tongues?” July 18, and “Love never Ends” July 23.

    Specifically, the site you directed me to reads: “A Lutheran is a person who believes, teaches and confesses the truths of God’s Word as they are summarized and confessed in the Book of Concord.” Now I can subscribe to the first part of that sentence. To the best of my knowledge and ability, and with the assistance of the Holy Spirit, I do teach and confess the truths of God’s Word—but I get them from Scripture, not from the Book of Concord. Now you will tell me that the Book of Concord agrees entirely with Scripture. Great, why do you appeal to it then, if it doesn’t say anything that Scripture doesn’t already say? Either the second part of the sentence adds to the first, in which you are either adding to Scripture and/or undermining its understandability of Scripture, or it doesn’t add to the first, which makes it superfluous and redundant.

    In addition to this and the other theological issues I have with Lutheran theology (I’m not sure this is the right setting to go into all that: infant baptism, closed communion, spiritual gifts, etc.), the biggest hurdle I am finding to understanding Lutheran theology is the variations on it. Each one of you has their own understanding of what Lutheran theology is, and while you all “subscribe” to these confessions, each of you seems to understand them differently. “[N]o doctrinal agreement, no fellowship” I am told when discussing church selection. Simply put, A. I don’t think that is the correct standard, since we are all one body in Christ and B. if that is the standard, you Lutherans don’t meet it among yourselves. Within the body of Christ (i.e. among those who agree on the big theological issues), I believe there is room for diversity, not because I ascribe to relativism, but because even though we are redeemed, we are still sinners and do not understand fully.

    Finally, and this may just be a pet peeve of mine, but your fellow Christians who are not Lutheran do not belong to another “religion”, they belong to another “denomination”. The religion/basic belief is the same.

    Michael, this discussion I am having with Kerner in no way demonstrates the falsity of Christianity. Rather, I hope it demonstrates that we are not all one homogonous mass, running around with our brains turned off, following everything that claims to be true. Rather, like you, we are seeking truth amongst ourselves. Having accepted the non-negotiables of Christianity, we are discussing some areas that are not as clear. As much as it sounds like I disagree with Kerner, we actually agree on the big issues. We have much more in common than we have apart—for we both have the same Savior.

    Proverbs 27:17

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Nemo,

    “Either the second part of the sentence adds to the first, in which you are either adding to Scripture and/or undermining its understandability of Scripture, or it doesn’t add to the first, which makes it superfluous and redundant.”

    I’m sure Kerner will respond, but I want to jump in on this point. There is also another possibility and that is the Book of Concord is not taken as either adding or subtracting to scripture (something Lutherans are against) and it isn’t superfluous but rather, it is a true exposition of what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess about the scriptures. If I am right, and I am, then Lutherans maintain that the scriptures are solely the inspired, inerrant, Word of God and that the teachings found in our confessions represent our faith and do not deviate from the word of God.

    Does that help?

    Jim

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Nemo,

    “Either the second part of the sentence adds to the first, in which you are either adding to Scripture and/or undermining its understandability of Scripture, or it doesn’t add to the first, which makes it superfluous and redundant.”

    I’m sure Kerner will respond, but I want to jump in on this point. There is also another possibility and that is the Book of Concord is not taken as either adding or subtracting to scripture (something Lutherans are against) and it isn’t superfluous but rather, it is a true exposition of what Lutherans believe, teach, and confess about the scriptures. If I am right, and I am, then Lutherans maintain that the scriptures are solely the inspired, inerrant, Word of God and that the teachings found in our confessions represent our faith and do not deviate from the word of God.

    Does that help?

    Jim

  • kerner

    Thanks, Jim. That IS right. If I may share my personal story for a minute, Nemo, my parents had no religion until I was about 10 years old. When they became Christians they took me to numerous different churches, including Unitarian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Calvinist (independent non-denominational, but doctrinally VERY Calvinist) and eventually Lutheran churches. After the first couple of tries, all the churches we attended said that they believed in the Bible as God’s inerrant Word, and yet I couldn’t help noticing that they each thought that God’s inerrant Word said something a little different. This phenomenon has our friend Michael very much concerned, incidently. But for me, I simply decided that there were differences in interpretation, and that there were times when both sides of the debate couldn’t be right (although both sides could be wrong).

    The Lutheran Confessions aren’t inspired or anything like it. What they do is state (at least I think so) the correct interpretation of the Bible in the most consistent way. If we want to discuss issues in which Biblical scholars down through the ages have differed (like Baptism, for example) I can show you how God’s Word supports the Lutheran doctrine and practice about Baptism as set forth in the Confessions, and why it is consistent with what the rest of Biblical/Lutheran doctrine.

    You can, and probably do, disagree with me of course. I am sure you have your own opinion about what the Bible says about Baptism, and your church/denomination may have some sort of doctrinal statement with which you agree. Even if your church has no such written statement, your pastor almost certainly has opinions in such matters and preaches them to you.

    But the purpose of having a doctrinal confession is to take a position on issues about which Biblical scholars have disagreed over what the Bible teaches. The confessions are not meant to replace or supercede the Bible.

    Nemo, I blush to admit that you are right that there has been a failure to remain consistent in practice. I suspect that this is inevitible, human nature being what it is, when people try to remain true to a doctrinal standard for over 500 years. Some “Lutherans” are much like a mainline protestant denomination, always trying to change with the culture instead of trying to uphold the truth in the face of cultural change. And there is the situation in Europe, wherein some countries have a “Lutheran” State Church (every Dane, for example, is a member of the Danish Lutheran Church by virtue of his/her citizenship even if they have no faith at all), and this is particularly ridiculous. But this is simply a function of what happens when a church body alows itself to become a cultural institution instead of seeing itself as the Body of Christ.

    But you see this kind of thing in other denominations as well. There are liberal Baptist and Presbyterian denominations are there not? (and God protect us from the state the Episcopalians are in). And aren’t there doctrinal differences among charismatics?

    And I’m perfectly willing to admit that some of our practices today, even among my own denomination, are less Biblical than they are traditional. But practices not based in the Bible (as the confessions interpret them) are not distinctively Lutheran. As I said, laymen are supposed to support the Small Catechism. The Clergy must support the whole Book of Concord. If they can’t in good conscience do this, they should stop calling themselves “Lutheran” and call themselves something else. The Ev. Free churches are an example of one group that actually did this. And while I think they were doctrinally wrong, I also think that every Christian should adhere to what he/she believes the Bible says.

    But please, don’t expect me to defend everything the very fallible (and definitely NOT inerrant) leaders of my denomination put up on our website. I’m sure they are trying their best, but they are only people like us. But this is exactly why a written confession is a good thing. As long as we adhere to the Bible (and our fixed confession of what the Bible means) we are much less likely to wander away from the truth, no matter how many mistakes any particular leader may make.

  • kerner

    Thanks, Jim. That IS right. If I may share my personal story for a minute, Nemo, my parents had no religion until I was about 10 years old. When they became Christians they took me to numerous different churches, including Unitarian, Congregationalist, Baptist, Calvinist (independent non-denominational, but doctrinally VERY Calvinist) and eventually Lutheran churches. After the first couple of tries, all the churches we attended said that they believed in the Bible as God’s inerrant Word, and yet I couldn’t help noticing that they each thought that God’s inerrant Word said something a little different. This phenomenon has our friend Michael very much concerned, incidently. But for me, I simply decided that there were differences in interpretation, and that there were times when both sides of the debate couldn’t be right (although both sides could be wrong).

    The Lutheran Confessions aren’t inspired or anything like it. What they do is state (at least I think so) the correct interpretation of the Bible in the most consistent way. If we want to discuss issues in which Biblical scholars down through the ages have differed (like Baptism, for example) I can show you how God’s Word supports the Lutheran doctrine and practice about Baptism as set forth in the Confessions, and why it is consistent with what the rest of Biblical/Lutheran doctrine.

    You can, and probably do, disagree with me of course. I am sure you have your own opinion about what the Bible says about Baptism, and your church/denomination may have some sort of doctrinal statement with which you agree. Even if your church has no such written statement, your pastor almost certainly has opinions in such matters and preaches them to you.

    But the purpose of having a doctrinal confession is to take a position on issues about which Biblical scholars have disagreed over what the Bible teaches. The confessions are not meant to replace or supercede the Bible.

    Nemo, I blush to admit that you are right that there has been a failure to remain consistent in practice. I suspect that this is inevitible, human nature being what it is, when people try to remain true to a doctrinal standard for over 500 years. Some “Lutherans” are much like a mainline protestant denomination, always trying to change with the culture instead of trying to uphold the truth in the face of cultural change. And there is the situation in Europe, wherein some countries have a “Lutheran” State Church (every Dane, for example, is a member of the Danish Lutheran Church by virtue of his/her citizenship even if they have no faith at all), and this is particularly ridiculous. But this is simply a function of what happens when a church body alows itself to become a cultural institution instead of seeing itself as the Body of Christ.

    But you see this kind of thing in other denominations as well. There are liberal Baptist and Presbyterian denominations are there not? (and God protect us from the state the Episcopalians are in). And aren’t there doctrinal differences among charismatics?

    And I’m perfectly willing to admit that some of our practices today, even among my own denomination, are less Biblical than they are traditional. But practices not based in the Bible (as the confessions interpret them) are not distinctively Lutheran. As I said, laymen are supposed to support the Small Catechism. The Clergy must support the whole Book of Concord. If they can’t in good conscience do this, they should stop calling themselves “Lutheran” and call themselves something else. The Ev. Free churches are an example of one group that actually did this. And while I think they were doctrinally wrong, I also think that every Christian should adhere to what he/she believes the Bible says.

    But please, don’t expect me to defend everything the very fallible (and definitely NOT inerrant) leaders of my denomination put up on our website. I’m sure they are trying their best, but they are only people like us. But this is exactly why a written confession is a good thing. As long as we adhere to the Bible (and our fixed confession of what the Bible means) we are much less likely to wander away from the truth, no matter how many mistakes any particular leader may make.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Nemo: Not Protestant Christian, but Christian. Period.
    Protestants (those Christians who are not Roman Catholic and not Lutheran) often add works, personal experience, decision, etc. into the mix of how one becomes a Christian; how one makes oneself into a Christian.
    Like kerner, I lament that so many in our confession stray, for many reasons (among them utter ignorance, but also among them motives of another spirit), from the simplicity of the scriptures–that salvation is is the work of Christ alone–and hearken to other, less-than-Lutheran schemes. As they stand on their own, however, the combined confessions are pearls.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Nemo: Not Protestant Christian, but Christian. Period.
    Protestants (those Christians who are not Roman Catholic and not Lutheran) often add works, personal experience, decision, etc. into the mix of how one becomes a Christian; how one makes oneself into a Christian.
    Like kerner, I lament that so many in our confession stray, for many reasons (among them utter ignorance, but also among them motives of another spirit), from the simplicity of the scriptures–that salvation is is the work of Christ alone–and hearken to other, less-than-Lutheran schemes. As they stand on their own, however, the combined confessions are pearls.

  • Nemo

    Susan,

    First, I inserted the term “Protestant” because had I said merely Christian, someone would have jumped on me for not being clear enough and/or endorsing Catholic theology.

    Second, Protestant not only includes Lutherans, but the term was first applied to them. Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the term as “any of a group of German princes and cities presenting a defense of freedom of conscience against an edict of the Diet of Spires in 1529 intended to suppress the Lutheran movement.” So, like it or not, you are a Protestant.

    Third, do the confessions really “stand on their own”, or are they directly tied to scripture?

    Fourth, you have admitted that not all Lutherans understand grace, and also that I (as a non-Lutheran) do understand grace. Please stop slurring all other denominations for not getting it–Lutherans don’t have a monopoly on grace. Christians come to the Father through Christ, not Luther. Insofar as Luther assists, he should be commended, insofar as he is a distraction, he should be discarded (just like Augustine, Calvin, Lewis, Piper, Veith, and everyone else who has contributed to Christianity but not written Scripture).

  • Nemo

    Susan,

    First, I inserted the term “Protestant” because had I said merely Christian, someone would have jumped on me for not being clear enough and/or endorsing Catholic theology.

    Second, Protestant not only includes Lutherans, but the term was first applied to them. Merriam Webster online dictionary defines the term as “any of a group of German princes and cities presenting a defense of freedom of conscience against an edict of the Diet of Spires in 1529 intended to suppress the Lutheran movement.” So, like it or not, you are a Protestant.

    Third, do the confessions really “stand on their own”, or are they directly tied to scripture?

    Fourth, you have admitted that not all Lutherans understand grace, and also that I (as a non-Lutheran) do understand grace. Please stop slurring all other denominations for not getting it–Lutherans don’t have a monopoly on grace. Christians come to the Father through Christ, not Luther. Insofar as Luther assists, he should be commended, insofar as he is a distraction, he should be discarded (just like Augustine, Calvin, Lewis, Piper, Veith, and everyone else who has contributed to Christianity but not written Scripture).

  • Nemo

    Jim and Kerner,

    Thank you so much for your responses, I think your positions are becoming clearer (even if I continue to disagree).

    I actually presented three options, not two (and apologize if that was not clear). Let me expand on the third. Either the Book of Concord is necessary or it is not (can we agree on that?). If it is not necessary, why do you swear by it? If necessary, it implies to me that Scripture is either insufficiently clear on certain parts, so that we need to reinforce it, or that it is not understandable, which means we need to authoritatively explain it.

    Kerner, hopefully I will get a chance to respond to you as well before long.

  • Nemo

    Jim and Kerner,

    Thank you so much for your responses, I think your positions are becoming clearer (even if I continue to disagree).

    I actually presented three options, not two (and apologize if that was not clear). Let me expand on the third. Either the Book of Concord is necessary or it is not (can we agree on that?). If it is not necessary, why do you swear by it? If necessary, it implies to me that Scripture is either insufficiently clear on certain parts, so that we need to reinforce it, or that it is not understandable, which means we need to authoritatively explain it.

    Kerner, hopefully I will get a chance to respond to you as well before long.

  • Nemo

    I’m afraid that my point concerning differences among Lutherans was misunderstood—and I apologize for the confusion. I was not comparing you to the more liberal branches of Lutheranism, or asking you to defend them. I was not speaking of different branches within a denomination; I was speaking of different individuals within a congregation.

    My point is not that there is not complete doctrinal agreement. Rather, my complaint is that complete doctrinal agreement is insisted upon in theory, but not in practice. Can you say with confidence that you are in doctrinal agreement on “all points of Christian doctrine and practice” with everyone in your church with whom you commune? (http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/LCMS/wa_fellowship-lordssupper.pdf) If you cannot answer this question in the affirmative, can you, under Lutheran theology, still take communion with them? (I am not asserting you should not commune, rather, I am arguing that since your own standard means you probably shouldn’t, your standard needs modification.)

    Again, my point is not that there are differences—there are and always will be. My point is that, within the Lutheran congregations, such differences are brushed over (when it comes to communion), while if anyone from outside Lutheranism is inherently held suspect because they do not conform to the confessions.

    I attend a non-Lutheran church, but Luther is definitely held in high regard. But because he is not assumed to be correct, he can he engaged with, wrestled with, and compared to Scripture. Repeated asking the simple question “is Luther right on point X” is not something I see happening in Lutheran circles. Rather, where he speaks, the discussion is ended. And I do not find that conducive to an ever-growing faith.

    On a different note, consider for a moment, might you actually be able to learn something theologically—to grow in your faith—from the Baptists, from the Presbyterians, from the Methodists, from the Episcopalians, and (heaven forbid) even from some charismatics? (The actions of high-profile charismatic/pentacostal figures cannot be used to discredit the theology of the Holy Spirit working today, just as I cannot use the liberal Lutheran branches to discredit Luther’s work.) Might they actually have some theological points that have to date eluded the Lutheran mindset?

    After re-reading this post, I am not sure it makes sense in its entirety. If it does not, please inform me as such.

  • Nemo

    I’m afraid that my point concerning differences among Lutherans was misunderstood—and I apologize for the confusion. I was not comparing you to the more liberal branches of Lutheranism, or asking you to defend them. I was not speaking of different branches within a denomination; I was speaking of different individuals within a congregation.

    My point is not that there is not complete doctrinal agreement. Rather, my complaint is that complete doctrinal agreement is insisted upon in theory, but not in practice. Can you say with confidence that you are in doctrinal agreement on “all points of Christian doctrine and practice” with everyone in your church with whom you commune? (http://www.lcms.org/graphics/assets/media/LCMS/wa_fellowship-lordssupper.pdf) If you cannot answer this question in the affirmative, can you, under Lutheran theology, still take communion with them? (I am not asserting you should not commune, rather, I am arguing that since your own standard means you probably shouldn’t, your standard needs modification.)

    Again, my point is not that there are differences—there are and always will be. My point is that, within the Lutheran congregations, such differences are brushed over (when it comes to communion), while if anyone from outside Lutheranism is inherently held suspect because they do not conform to the confessions.

    I attend a non-Lutheran church, but Luther is definitely held in high regard. But because he is not assumed to be correct, he can he engaged with, wrestled with, and compared to Scripture. Repeated asking the simple question “is Luther right on point X” is not something I see happening in Lutheran circles. Rather, where he speaks, the discussion is ended. And I do not find that conducive to an ever-growing faith.

    On a different note, consider for a moment, might you actually be able to learn something theologically—to grow in your faith—from the Baptists, from the Presbyterians, from the Methodists, from the Episcopalians, and (heaven forbid) even from some charismatics? (The actions of high-profile charismatic/pentacostal figures cannot be used to discredit the theology of the Holy Spirit working today, just as I cannot use the liberal Lutheran branches to discredit Luther’s work.) Might they actually have some theological points that have to date eluded the Lutheran mindset?

    After re-reading this post, I am not sure it makes sense in its entirety. If it does not, please inform me as such.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I hope we aren’t neglecting you. While I acknowledge some paradox in Christian theology, I don’t see nearly as mch as you do. I certainly don’t see any reason to expect that we should be able to know and understand everything God knows and understands. It seems to me that you expect more from Religion than you do from other aspects of our experience.

    The natural world doesn’t answer all our questions. For example, I don’t think we have any explanation for something as basic as the law of gravity. We know that all bodies of matter attract each other, but I don’t believe that we have any explanation as to why they do.

    We know that positively charged particles generally repel each other, and yet we find that the protons in the nucleus of every atom (except hydrogen, which has only one proton) are somehow bound together and don’t repel each other.

    We know that electrons exist in certain areas surrounding the nucleus called orbitals, and we know that these electrons move from orbital to orbital, BUT THEY NEVER OCCUPY THE SPACE IN BETWEEN THE ORBITALS. How is that possible? There are mathematical formulae called quantum mechanics that supposedly explain this, or maybe just describe it, but I can’t wrap my mind around the concept of an electron being one place, then moving to a different place, but never being in the space in between. And yet scientists say it is true.

    For that matter, how do we even know atoms, protons, electrons, quarks, and other material particles exist? We can’t see them. We see evidence of them in that matter behaves as though they do exist, but no conclusive proof. No atom will ever visit me for a private conversation and relieve me of my doubts.

    My point is that you seem to want a lot more certainty from God or religion than we get anywhere else, and I don’t think that that position is very reasonable.

    When you speculate about why we Christians believe as we do, you make the same mistake you accuse us of when we try to figure out why you are an atheist. As I said earlier, I really don’t see most Christians as yokels suffering from low self esteem.

    Maybe you should consider the possibility that you are a product of your culture, and that your culture in this day and age is very big on building up everyone’s self esteem. Any group, like Christians, that says it’s perfectly fine for people to consider themselves broken and unclean, because it’s true, is bound to come under criticism from the secular culture. How dare Christians call people sinners!! Don’t they know what a blow to their self esteem that will be! Why can’t we just be cool with each other’s imperfections?

    Well, I’m 53 years old. I have practiced criminal law for 28 years. I have raised 5 children and 2 of them have joined the military and gone to war. And I know as sure as I’m sitting here that Human beings are SEVERELY flawed. We are capable of doing terrible things and we do them all the time. The very best of us are every bit as capable as the worst of us of doing these things. Our capacity for greed, hatred, and selfishness is almost unlimited. Calling these characteristics “imperfections”, but saying we were made this way, so everything’s cool, is to be in denial big time.

    It’s been a while since you answered me directly, but the other thing you seem to be saying is that you think that God could have solved the problem of the legless child/sinful humanity in some better way. Why put us in a temporal world, etc.? Why not just put us in an eternal world like the angels, then nobody would reject God…oh wait, that’s right…Christians believe that angels have rejected God too.

    I guess I return to my first point. Why do you think that we have some kind of right to a universe approved by Michael?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I hope we aren’t neglecting you. While I acknowledge some paradox in Christian theology, I don’t see nearly as mch as you do. I certainly don’t see any reason to expect that we should be able to know and understand everything God knows and understands. It seems to me that you expect more from Religion than you do from other aspects of our experience.

    The natural world doesn’t answer all our questions. For example, I don’t think we have any explanation for something as basic as the law of gravity. We know that all bodies of matter attract each other, but I don’t believe that we have any explanation as to why they do.

    We know that positively charged particles generally repel each other, and yet we find that the protons in the nucleus of every atom (except hydrogen, which has only one proton) are somehow bound together and don’t repel each other.

    We know that electrons exist in certain areas surrounding the nucleus called orbitals, and we know that these electrons move from orbital to orbital, BUT THEY NEVER OCCUPY THE SPACE IN BETWEEN THE ORBITALS. How is that possible? There are mathematical formulae called quantum mechanics that supposedly explain this, or maybe just describe it, but I can’t wrap my mind around the concept of an electron being one place, then moving to a different place, but never being in the space in between. And yet scientists say it is true.

    For that matter, how do we even know atoms, protons, electrons, quarks, and other material particles exist? We can’t see them. We see evidence of them in that matter behaves as though they do exist, but no conclusive proof. No atom will ever visit me for a private conversation and relieve me of my doubts.

    My point is that you seem to want a lot more certainty from God or religion than we get anywhere else, and I don’t think that that position is very reasonable.

    When you speculate about why we Christians believe as we do, you make the same mistake you accuse us of when we try to figure out why you are an atheist. As I said earlier, I really don’t see most Christians as yokels suffering from low self esteem.

    Maybe you should consider the possibility that you are a product of your culture, and that your culture in this day and age is very big on building up everyone’s self esteem. Any group, like Christians, that says it’s perfectly fine for people to consider themselves broken and unclean, because it’s true, is bound to come under criticism from the secular culture. How dare Christians call people sinners!! Don’t they know what a blow to their self esteem that will be! Why can’t we just be cool with each other’s imperfections?

    Well, I’m 53 years old. I have practiced criminal law for 28 years. I have raised 5 children and 2 of them have joined the military and gone to war. And I know as sure as I’m sitting here that Human beings are SEVERELY flawed. We are capable of doing terrible things and we do them all the time. The very best of us are every bit as capable as the worst of us of doing these things. Our capacity for greed, hatred, and selfishness is almost unlimited. Calling these characteristics “imperfections”, but saying we were made this way, so everything’s cool, is to be in denial big time.

    It’s been a while since you answered me directly, but the other thing you seem to be saying is that you think that God could have solved the problem of the legless child/sinful humanity in some better way. Why put us in a temporal world, etc.? Why not just put us in an eternal world like the angels, then nobody would reject God…oh wait, that’s right…Christians believe that angels have rejected God too.

    I guess I return to my first point. Why do you think that we have some kind of right to a universe approved by Michael?

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Interesting posts lately. I think this discussion of the relation between God’s Word and the Confessions has been good and I hope helpful in some way for Nemo and Michael. Kerner, your reading suggestions, I think could be very helpful for many inquirers into Lutheranism. I may borrow that (#106) with your permission. I think you said a lot there fairly succinctly.

    Here I offer a few thoughts to how I view the various uses and levels of authority to reading various Books. The Bible – this is the Word of God. We believe that every Word of God is useful for understanding God and His ways and especially for revealing Christ to us. This Word we believe actually has the power in itself to kill and to give life. We do not ascribe this power to the Confessions or to any Words of Luther or Walther or whoever, unless they are directly quoting the Bible. We can also read the Bible on many other levels (as history, as narrative, etc), but believers always have this “top” level in mind as they let God’s Word shape them in their work-a-day lives. Unbelievers usually read the Bible for some other reason, but still, Christians believe it still has this same power to kill and raise to life the unbeliever, though the unbeliever is entirely resistant to this work of God. We believe that God’s Word does what God wants it to when and where God wants to do X.

    The Confessions can be read on many different levels too. In fact that is one of the things that I have learned which seperates some kinds of Lutherans from others. Some Lutherans read the Book of Concord only historically, believing that Christian Doctrine evolves and we cannot possibly hold the the same Doctrinal system as is given in the Book of Concord, while others (myself included) read them as Doctrinally binding on what we believe, teach, and confess today as Lutheran Christians. I have always liked looking at the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord as an accurate key or even a map which boasts to actually represent the real thing (The Bible). Here we have many believers saying that together all the narrative, all the poetry, all the history, the Gospels, the apocalyptic stuff in the Bible can be brought together in such a way that we can say, doctrinally, God is clearly saying A,B,C… This is nice, for when I think I have a novel idea I can go back to the Confessions to see if it is in line with what has been taught faithfully before me or if I’m out of line (Which I know I have been before). It keeps me connected to believers that went before me as I can read the confessional statements (which include as Nemo pointed out many statements beautifully in line with the faith of Christians who went before them in the faith (including the early church fathers), check myself and work toward and do my darndest to confess the same thing.

    The nice thing about the the Lutheran Confessions, is that they are an answer to questions the Western Church was asking about itself. And the Lutheran Confessors were not claiming to start something new or different, they were claiming that they were more true, while accusing the institutional church of departing from the true faith as clearly given in the Bible. The institutional church came up with its own answers to these questions (not surprising). And the Lutherans were forced out.

    Nemo is right about many Lutherans doing a terrible job at living their confession lately, it is a frustration I share with him, but it doesn’t mean that one gives up the fight.

    But I think having a Confessional statement or a roadmap to our interpretation of Scripture is an extremely helpful thing for when I need to be called to account or when I am examining the teachings of others who say they represent these confessions. Either they live up to what the confessions actually say or they don’t.

    In previous posts I have suggested that Michael read Luther’s Bondage of the Will which is not one of our confessional statements. It is not binding on Lutheran pastors to completely agree with it in order for them to be Lutheran (but I would certainly be interested in discussing any problems a Lutheran lay theologian or clergyman has with this excellent writing). Just because it is not in the confessions doesn’t mean that it is some useless writing and in fact, I think it would give Michael some very specific insight on how a very insightful believer in history, confronted similar questions in a different time and place. Luther is insightful here on the limitations and proper role of the human will in the lives of unbelievers and believers. It may not be the Bible or the Confessions, but it is certainly good food for thought. We should read Luther and Walther (and Veith for that matter) in a similar way that we might learn from a fellow Christian (though understanding that these men in particular for the Lutheran, share their thoughts from the perspective of the same (or very similar) confession than the one we profess to be making in our own day).

    I hope this makes sense to you, I offer it as my own thoughts on how I distinguish between the use and authority of the Bible, the Confessions, and other useful Christian writings.

    Michael and Nemo – I hope you are both enjoying your wrestling matches with the many paradoxical parts of Lutheran Doctrine.

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Interesting posts lately. I think this discussion of the relation between God’s Word and the Confessions has been good and I hope helpful in some way for Nemo and Michael. Kerner, your reading suggestions, I think could be very helpful for many inquirers into Lutheranism. I may borrow that (#106) with your permission. I think you said a lot there fairly succinctly.

    Here I offer a few thoughts to how I view the various uses and levels of authority to reading various Books. The Bible – this is the Word of God. We believe that every Word of God is useful for understanding God and His ways and especially for revealing Christ to us. This Word we believe actually has the power in itself to kill and to give life. We do not ascribe this power to the Confessions or to any Words of Luther or Walther or whoever, unless they are directly quoting the Bible. We can also read the Bible on many other levels (as history, as narrative, etc), but believers always have this “top” level in mind as they let God’s Word shape them in their work-a-day lives. Unbelievers usually read the Bible for some other reason, but still, Christians believe it still has this same power to kill and raise to life the unbeliever, though the unbeliever is entirely resistant to this work of God. We believe that God’s Word does what God wants it to when and where God wants to do X.

    The Confessions can be read on many different levels too. In fact that is one of the things that I have learned which seperates some kinds of Lutherans from others. Some Lutherans read the Book of Concord only historically, believing that Christian Doctrine evolves and we cannot possibly hold the the same Doctrinal system as is given in the Book of Concord, while others (myself included) read them as Doctrinally binding on what we believe, teach, and confess today as Lutheran Christians. I have always liked looking at the Lutheran Confessions in the Book of Concord as an accurate key or even a map which boasts to actually represent the real thing (The Bible). Here we have many believers saying that together all the narrative, all the poetry, all the history, the Gospels, the apocalyptic stuff in the Bible can be brought together in such a way that we can say, doctrinally, God is clearly saying A,B,C… This is nice, for when I think I have a novel idea I can go back to the Confessions to see if it is in line with what has been taught faithfully before me or if I’m out of line (Which I know I have been before). It keeps me connected to believers that went before me as I can read the confessional statements (which include as Nemo pointed out many statements beautifully in line with the faith of Christians who went before them in the faith (including the early church fathers), check myself and work toward and do my darndest to confess the same thing.

    The nice thing about the the Lutheran Confessions, is that they are an answer to questions the Western Church was asking about itself. And the Lutheran Confessors were not claiming to start something new or different, they were claiming that they were more true, while accusing the institutional church of departing from the true faith as clearly given in the Bible. The institutional church came up with its own answers to these questions (not surprising). And the Lutherans were forced out.

    Nemo is right about many Lutherans doing a terrible job at living their confession lately, it is a frustration I share with him, but it doesn’t mean that one gives up the fight.

    But I think having a Confessional statement or a roadmap to our interpretation of Scripture is an extremely helpful thing for when I need to be called to account or when I am examining the teachings of others who say they represent these confessions. Either they live up to what the confessions actually say or they don’t.

    In previous posts I have suggested that Michael read Luther’s Bondage of the Will which is not one of our confessional statements. It is not binding on Lutheran pastors to completely agree with it in order for them to be Lutheran (but I would certainly be interested in discussing any problems a Lutheran lay theologian or clergyman has with this excellent writing). Just because it is not in the confessions doesn’t mean that it is some useless writing and in fact, I think it would give Michael some very specific insight on how a very insightful believer in history, confronted similar questions in a different time and place. Luther is insightful here on the limitations and proper role of the human will in the lives of unbelievers and believers. It may not be the Bible or the Confessions, but it is certainly good food for thought. We should read Luther and Walther (and Veith for that matter) in a similar way that we might learn from a fellow Christian (though understanding that these men in particular for the Lutheran, share their thoughts from the perspective of the same (or very similar) confession than the one we profess to be making in our own day).

    I hope this makes sense to you, I offer it as my own thoughts on how I distinguish between the use and authority of the Bible, the Confessions, and other useful Christian writings.

    Michael and Nemo – I hope you are both enjoying your wrestling matches with the many paradoxical parts of Lutheran Doctrine.

  • kerner

    Nemo:

    It’s Friday afternoon, and it’s been a long week, so I’m not sure how much sense I’m making myself. That said, I’ll try to address your questions.

    I may be the wrong person to do this, because I’m not a clergyman, and I may give a wrong answer. I guess that I, as an individual Lutheran, am not different from you when you say “total” agreement in doctrine is a pretty difficult standard to meet, nor am I so sure that meeting such a standard is even desirable. The sort of Lutheran language you are referring to does not come directly fom the Bible, nor even from the confessions per se, I don’t think. I believe it comes from our more recent cultural history.

    The the story of the immigration of Lutherans to this country is about one of the last migrations of people fleeing religious persecution. In Prussia in the 1830′s there was a movement from the government to force the Lutheran churches to merge with the Reformed churches. This would have forced Lutherans to change their doctrine. And this, as they saw it, amounted to forcing them to abandon the truth as set forth in the Bible. Rather than do that, many of them emmigrated, to America and other places as well.

    When German Lutherans got here they found a country dominated by Anglo-American protestantism, which was developing a revivalist character. The revivalist Christians were the predecessors of today’s evangelicals and charismatics. There were also a number of unusual religious strains like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Shakers, Menonites, Amish, Christian Scientists, Salvation Army, etc. all developing under the Religious freedom we enjoy here.

    The Lutherans who had just travelled 10,000 miles for the sake of their commitment to Biblical teaching were not about to let that Biblical teaching be morphed into something else if they could avoid it. Their solution was to turn inward and develop their own institutions, such as schools, and hospitals and orphanages and old peoples’ homes , and even fraternal aid associations (the forerunners of insurance companies). The result was that Lutherans were able to maintain their doctrine for a long time, but it also gave us kind of a bunker mentality. We struggle with the after effects of that today. We want to reach out to the unsaved as we are required to do by the great commission, but we worry that if we immitate other more outgoing Christians too much, we will compromise the Bible in favor of the latest religious fad. You can find the debate about that problem going on at most every Lutheran blog at one time or another.

    For myself, you won’t get much of an argument from me when you say that Lutherans could learn something from other denominations, even, as you say, the charismatics. For example, when my oldest son was a teenager, he attended an Assemblies of God youth Bible Study with one of his friends. He didn’t like the youth group at our church for some reason. I noticed a difference between the two. As usual, part of the thrust of the Lutheran youth group was to give Lutheran youth a Lutheran subculture in which to live. The AOG youth group tended to put more emphasis on teaching the kids how to live as a Christian in a secular world. I think for my son that was the right set of tools at that time in his life. So, that is something Lutherans could learn from charismatics.

    On the other hand, in recent years I have become more and more convinced that some prominent Lutherans may be all too willing to de-emphacize sound Biblical doctrine in an attempt to be like the “successful” mega-churches we all hear about today. And, I’m dead set against that.

    I hope this helps you understand the sorts of things you read from Lutherans on the web, and I hope I am describing it all correctly. But I also help that it doesn’t get in the way of the Biblical message that we stand for. When I refer you to the confessions, it’s because I think they set forth Biblical doctrine better than kerner’s off the cuff web writing. On the other hand, if you want to know how the Bible supports some issue adressed in the Book of Concord, I’m always happy to discuss that.

  • kerner

    Nemo:

    It’s Friday afternoon, and it’s been a long week, so I’m not sure how much sense I’m making myself. That said, I’ll try to address your questions.

    I may be the wrong person to do this, because I’m not a clergyman, and I may give a wrong answer. I guess that I, as an individual Lutheran, am not different from you when you say “total” agreement in doctrine is a pretty difficult standard to meet, nor am I so sure that meeting such a standard is even desirable. The sort of Lutheran language you are referring to does not come directly fom the Bible, nor even from the confessions per se, I don’t think. I believe it comes from our more recent cultural history.

    The the story of the immigration of Lutherans to this country is about one of the last migrations of people fleeing religious persecution. In Prussia in the 1830′s there was a movement from the government to force the Lutheran churches to merge with the Reformed churches. This would have forced Lutherans to change their doctrine. And this, as they saw it, amounted to forcing them to abandon the truth as set forth in the Bible. Rather than do that, many of them emmigrated, to America and other places as well.

    When German Lutherans got here they found a country dominated by Anglo-American protestantism, which was developing a revivalist character. The revivalist Christians were the predecessors of today’s evangelicals and charismatics. There were also a number of unusual religious strains like Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Shakers, Menonites, Amish, Christian Scientists, Salvation Army, etc. all developing under the Religious freedom we enjoy here.

    The Lutherans who had just travelled 10,000 miles for the sake of their commitment to Biblical teaching were not about to let that Biblical teaching be morphed into something else if they could avoid it. Their solution was to turn inward and develop their own institutions, such as schools, and hospitals and orphanages and old peoples’ homes , and even fraternal aid associations (the forerunners of insurance companies). The result was that Lutherans were able to maintain their doctrine for a long time, but it also gave us kind of a bunker mentality. We struggle with the after effects of that today. We want to reach out to the unsaved as we are required to do by the great commission, but we worry that if we immitate other more outgoing Christians too much, we will compromise the Bible in favor of the latest religious fad. You can find the debate about that problem going on at most every Lutheran blog at one time or another.

    For myself, you won’t get much of an argument from me when you say that Lutherans could learn something from other denominations, even, as you say, the charismatics. For example, when my oldest son was a teenager, he attended an Assemblies of God youth Bible Study with one of his friends. He didn’t like the youth group at our church for some reason. I noticed a difference between the two. As usual, part of the thrust of the Lutheran youth group was to give Lutheran youth a Lutheran subculture in which to live. The AOG youth group tended to put more emphasis on teaching the kids how to live as a Christian in a secular world. I think for my son that was the right set of tools at that time in his life. So, that is something Lutherans could learn from charismatics.

    On the other hand, in recent years I have become more and more convinced that some prominent Lutherans may be all too willing to de-emphacize sound Biblical doctrine in an attempt to be like the “successful” mega-churches we all hear about today. And, I’m dead set against that.

    I hope this helps you understand the sorts of things you read from Lutherans on the web, and I hope I am describing it all correctly. But I also help that it doesn’t get in the way of the Biblical message that we stand for. When I refer you to the confessions, it’s because I think they set forth Biblical doctrine better than kerner’s off the cuff web writing. On the other hand, if you want to know how the Bible supports some issue adressed in the Book of Concord, I’m always happy to discuss that.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Hi Nemo,

    “Either the Book of Concord is necessary or it is not (can we agree on that?). If it is not necessary, why do you swear by it? If necessary, it implies to me that Scripture is either insufficiently clear on certain parts, so that we need to reinforce it, or that it is not understandable, which means we need to authoritatively explain it.”

    I’m not really sure what you mean by “necessary” in this case, so if my answer seems confused, it might be. :-)

    The shortest, and best answer, that I can give is Luther didn’t have a Book of Concord (BoC). Given that context, the Book of Concord is not necessary for holding to the beliefs Lutherans confess. In fact, I like to think that there those confessing Lutheranism in many other denominations and they just don’t know they are Lutheran… yet. ;-)

    So, on the surface I would say it is not “necessary” in the sense one can be a Lutheran if they confess our scriptural doctrines. However, for those who are aware of our confessions we “swear by them” not because the scriptures are inadequately clear or aren’t sufficiently authoritative; instead, we proclaim that our confessions are a true exposition of the scriptures. Another way to put this is that to deny any article of our confessions is an implicit denunciation of the scriptures the article is based upon. An example of this would be a denial of any one (or all) of the premises of the Apostle’s creed is a denial of the underlying scriptures supporting the premises.

    I hope I am expressing myself clearly, I don’t want to cause more confusion. I’m not a pastor… I am just a humble pirate… argh… err… network administrator. :-) So, I might not be expressing the relationship between our confessions and scripture in the best possible way.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Hi Nemo,

    “Either the Book of Concord is necessary or it is not (can we agree on that?). If it is not necessary, why do you swear by it? If necessary, it implies to me that Scripture is either insufficiently clear on certain parts, so that we need to reinforce it, or that it is not understandable, which means we need to authoritatively explain it.”

    I’m not really sure what you mean by “necessary” in this case, so if my answer seems confused, it might be. :-)

    The shortest, and best answer, that I can give is Luther didn’t have a Book of Concord (BoC). Given that context, the Book of Concord is not necessary for holding to the beliefs Lutherans confess. In fact, I like to think that there those confessing Lutheranism in many other denominations and they just don’t know they are Lutheran… yet. ;-)

    So, on the surface I would say it is not “necessary” in the sense one can be a Lutheran if they confess our scriptural doctrines. However, for those who are aware of our confessions we “swear by them” not because the scriptures are inadequately clear or aren’t sufficiently authoritative; instead, we proclaim that our confessions are a true exposition of the scriptures. Another way to put this is that to deny any article of our confessions is an implicit denunciation of the scriptures the article is based upon. An example of this would be a denial of any one (or all) of the premises of the Apostle’s creed is a denial of the underlying scriptures supporting the premises.

    I hope I am expressing myself clearly, I don’t want to cause more confusion. I’m not a pastor… I am just a humble pirate… argh… err… network administrator. :-) So, I might not be expressing the relationship between our confessions and scripture in the best possible way.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 114,

    Didn’t mean to neglect you. I have to say responding here is not top on my list of priorities right now. As the discussion continues, things seem to be MORE confusing than they were at the beginning.

    I don’t think I’ve said anywhere that we need a universe approved by me. I guess you could construe it that way. This discussion is getting muddier and muddier for me, so it may just be that I am having a hard time articulating what I’m trying to say. I mean, I’m DEFINITELY having a hard time being clear. I think it would be nice, in a universe ruled by a God who wants specific things to happen, for those things to be more clearly spelled out. What I’ve not really said is God COULD be exactly as you describe “him.” Yeah! I just find that to be improbable, based on looking at the universe. The universe COULD look this way if God exists, but it doesn’t seem likely TO ME.

    I seem not to be able to explain my idea of sin and imperfection. I’m NOT saying it’s COOL when I’m a jerk to someone, or when I hit a puppy, or kick the cat. It’s not. (For the record, I don’t have a dog and don’t hit puppies, nor do I kick my girlfriend’s cats!) I’m not saying we’re not imperfect. We are. If you want to call these imperfections “flaws” I wonder why. What standard are you measuring against? God? And why, if that’s the case, would you do so? As everyone is so fond of pointing out, we cannot rise to God’s standard. Shouldn’t there be a standard for US?

    I don’t think I should be able to call the shots. Why should ANYONE, for that matter? Why should God? You are appealing to ideas that are so old no one questions them anymore. I do.

    The question is not “How dare Christians call people sinners?” but “How dare Christians call people sinners WITHOUT EVIDENCE?” There’s evidence we’re not perfect. No one’s disputing that. But the burden of proof is on YOU to show why and how you can call it sin.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 114,

    Didn’t mean to neglect you. I have to say responding here is not top on my list of priorities right now. As the discussion continues, things seem to be MORE confusing than they were at the beginning.

    I don’t think I’ve said anywhere that we need a universe approved by me. I guess you could construe it that way. This discussion is getting muddier and muddier for me, so it may just be that I am having a hard time articulating what I’m trying to say. I mean, I’m DEFINITELY having a hard time being clear. I think it would be nice, in a universe ruled by a God who wants specific things to happen, for those things to be more clearly spelled out. What I’ve not really said is God COULD be exactly as you describe “him.” Yeah! I just find that to be improbable, based on looking at the universe. The universe COULD look this way if God exists, but it doesn’t seem likely TO ME.

    I seem not to be able to explain my idea of sin and imperfection. I’m NOT saying it’s COOL when I’m a jerk to someone, or when I hit a puppy, or kick the cat. It’s not. (For the record, I don’t have a dog and don’t hit puppies, nor do I kick my girlfriend’s cats!) I’m not saying we’re not imperfect. We are. If you want to call these imperfections “flaws” I wonder why. What standard are you measuring against? God? And why, if that’s the case, would you do so? As everyone is so fond of pointing out, we cannot rise to God’s standard. Shouldn’t there be a standard for US?

    I don’t think I should be able to call the shots. Why should ANYONE, for that matter? Why should God? You are appealing to ideas that are so old no one questions them anymore. I do.

    The question is not “How dare Christians call people sinners?” but “How dare Christians call people sinners WITHOUT EVIDENCE?” There’s evidence we’re not perfect. No one’s disputing that. But the burden of proof is on YOU to show why and how you can call it sin.

  • Nemo

    Michael,

    How do you know we are not perfect? (my chance to question the ideas no one questions anymore)

  • Nemo

    Michael,

    How do you know we are not perfect? (my chance to question the ideas no one questions anymore)

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael, there is a standard for us. Usually we set our own standards. I know I set mine. The funny thing is, I find that I cannot even measure up to my own standards even though I think they are fairly reasonable (and these are unquestionably below what the standard that God has set for holiness).

    Perhaps you do better than me in living up to your own standards for living. I hope so though I doubt it. Have a good week anyway!

  • Bryan Lindemood

    Michael, there is a standard for us. Usually we set our own standards. I know I set mine. The funny thing is, I find that I cannot even measure up to my own standards even though I think they are fairly reasonable (and these are unquestionably below what the standard that God has set for holiness).

    Perhaps you do better than me in living up to your own standards for living. I hope so though I doubt it. Have a good week anyway!

  • Michael the little boot

    Nemo,

    Oooo, good one! I don’t! Perhaps I’m also relying on old definitions. That’s a really good one. This could start a whole new thread!

  • Michael the little boot

    Nemo,

    Oooo, good one! I don’t! Perhaps I’m also relying on old definitions. That’s a really good one. This could start a whole new thread!

  • kerner

    So, um, you are suggesting that we MIGHT BE perfect? So it MIGHT BE cool if you are cruel to animals or act like a jerk?

  • kerner

    So, um, you are suggesting that we MIGHT BE perfect? So it MIGHT BE cool if you are cruel to animals or act like a jerk?

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 122,

    If you’re talking to me, I was just responding to what I thought was a nice upending of conventional thought by Nemo. I’m not suggesting anything other than my appreciation for this kind of thinking. I don’t personally think we’re perfect, but I think it’s valuable to question my own thoughts, ideas, and values.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 122,

    If you’re talking to me, I was just responding to what I thought was a nice upending of conventional thought by Nemo. I’m not suggesting anything other than my appreciation for this kind of thinking. I don’t personally think we’re perfect, but I think it’s valuable to question my own thoughts, ideas, and values.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan @ 120,

    I find limiting my expectations of myself to help in this regard. I don’t tend to set standards for myself, so I have relatively few problems when I don’t achieve things. I find standards to be random and arbitrary, in general. I’m a situational ethics type, though, which I believe isn’t a very welcome viewpoint here. I’m sure I still have subconscious standards, and I weed those out as best I can when I find them. I’m fairly certain I’m no better at achieving what I DO set out to achieve than you or anyone else. In fact, I don’t even have to know you to think I’m worse at it, just based on my own track record. I’m not very good at living life and make a ton of mistakes. After each one I try to let it go, you know, just dust myself off and move on. Which is not to say I don’t learn from my mistakes. I hope I do. But I do my best not to dwell on it. Although I tend to do so longer than what I’m saying implies.

  • Michael the little boot

    Bryan @ 120,

    I find limiting my expectations of myself to help in this regard. I don’t tend to set standards for myself, so I have relatively few problems when I don’t achieve things. I find standards to be random and arbitrary, in general. I’m a situational ethics type, though, which I believe isn’t a very welcome viewpoint here. I’m sure I still have subconscious standards, and I weed those out as best I can when I find them. I’m fairly certain I’m no better at achieving what I DO set out to achieve than you or anyone else. In fact, I don’t even have to know you to think I’m worse at it, just based on my own track record. I’m not very good at living life and make a ton of mistakes. After each one I try to let it go, you know, just dust myself off and move on. Which is not to say I don’t learn from my mistakes. I hope I do. But I do my best not to dwell on it. Although I tend to do so longer than what I’m saying implies.

  • kerner

    MIchael:

    I was talking to you. I think what Nemo was trying to point out is that no matter how hard you try to distance yourself from it, you continue, along with the rest of us, to have a concept of right and wrong. Somehow you know that cruelty to animals is wrong. You also seem to know that “acting like a jerk” towards your fellow man is wrong. And by wrong, I don’t mean simply unwise. I mean morally wrong. For some act to be morally wrong (even situationally), there must be some standard of what makes something “right” or “wrong”. And that standard must come from somewhere outside us.

    The existence of a moral law, even a situational one, implies the existence of a law giver.

  • kerner

    MIchael:

    I was talking to you. I think what Nemo was trying to point out is that no matter how hard you try to distance yourself from it, you continue, along with the rest of us, to have a concept of right and wrong. Somehow you know that cruelty to animals is wrong. You also seem to know that “acting like a jerk” towards your fellow man is wrong. And by wrong, I don’t mean simply unwise. I mean morally wrong. For some act to be morally wrong (even situationally), there must be some standard of what makes something “right” or “wrong”. And that standard must come from somewhere outside us.

    The existence of a moral law, even a situational one, implies the existence of a law giver.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 125,

    How does the existence of a moral law imply a lawgiver who is outside us? I view morals as a tool created by humans, and “morality” is incredibly varied. I don’t think it’s universally seen as repugnant to be cruel to other animals. Indeed, if it were, there would be no need for animal rights activists! Nor is “jerk” a word which translates well from culture to culture. You have a HUGE burden of proof on your shoulders here, friend.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 125,

    How does the existence of a moral law imply a lawgiver who is outside us? I view morals as a tool created by humans, and “morality” is incredibly varied. I don’t think it’s universally seen as repugnant to be cruel to other animals. Indeed, if it were, there would be no need for animal rights activists! Nor is “jerk” a word which translates well from culture to culture. You have a HUGE burden of proof on your shoulders here, friend.

  • kerner

    Michael, Michael, au contraire. My yoke is easy and my burden light. I don’t have time to reproduce the documentation at the moment, but I have read on numerous occasions that virtually every major religion has some version of the “golden rule” associated with it. Islam, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, etc. all agree that doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is a virtue. Conversly, being a jerk to others can be universally defined and doing unto others OTHER THAN you would have them do unto you, and people understand this to be wrong. Since the specifics of how people want to be treated varies from culture to culture, the specific definition fo “jerk” may vary as well in some respects. But, the general rule of treating others as you would like to be treated remains constant.

    You also mistake bad behavior with a failure to accept an ideal. Most people have no problem with the golden rule as a general standard of behavior. Yet, most people know that it is widely violated. And most people acknowledge that few (I would argue no) people consistantly meet that standard. A number of other concepts are pretty universal as well. Most cultures have a concept of loyalty, courage, honesty, etc. as virtues, and conversely have some concept of disloyalty, cowardice and dishonesty as vices. But even when different cultures reach different conclusions about different moral issues, the idea that certain things are objectively “right” or objectively “wrong” is something we do not see elsewhere in nature.

    While you can argue that this does not make the existence of God a certainty, it certainly makes His existence more likely.

  • kerner

    Michael, Michael, au contraire. My yoke is easy and my burden light. I don’t have time to reproduce the documentation at the moment, but I have read on numerous occasions that virtually every major religion has some version of the “golden rule” associated with it. Islam, Taoism, Confucianism, Judaism, etc. all agree that doing unto others as you would have them do unto you is a virtue. Conversly, being a jerk to others can be universally defined and doing unto others OTHER THAN you would have them do unto you, and people understand this to be wrong. Since the specifics of how people want to be treated varies from culture to culture, the specific definition fo “jerk” may vary as well in some respects. But, the general rule of treating others as you would like to be treated remains constant.

    You also mistake bad behavior with a failure to accept an ideal. Most people have no problem with the golden rule as a general standard of behavior. Yet, most people know that it is widely violated. And most people acknowledge that few (I would argue no) people consistantly meet that standard. A number of other concepts are pretty universal as well. Most cultures have a concept of loyalty, courage, honesty, etc. as virtues, and conversely have some concept of disloyalty, cowardice and dishonesty as vices. But even when different cultures reach different conclusions about different moral issues, the idea that certain things are objectively “right” or objectively “wrong” is something we do not see elsewhere in nature.

    While you can argue that this does not make the existence of God a certainty, it certainly makes His existence more likely.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    There is nothing universal in morality. What you refer to is anecdotal at best. Just because we have a word “courage” doesn’t mean the CONCEPT translates from culture to culture, even if the word SEEMS to do so. We actually use the same words across cultures to mean different things. Does “honor” in English mean the same thing as the word or words we translate as “honor” from Japanese? Well, you’d have to ask an expert in BOTH languages; but I suspect they would say, no, it doesn’t translate completely. We even use some ENGLISH words to mean things other English speakers do not. One example is the word “bloody” which is considered a “dirty” word in the UK.

    We may have general agreement between religions in some areas, but the details vary greatly. I am not aware of a golden rule type idea which translates completely from culture to culture, or even sect to sect. Besides, it may just be that, since we’re all human and generally share the emotional landscape that comes with our nature, we are simply describing behaviors. And words are just tools, as I believe morality to be, as well. They fall short. They’re only used for description and definition. “Love” is a word which corresponds to an emotion; but the emotion itself goes FAR beyond that word’s ability to capture the concept.

    You know, the universality argument isn’t really a good one, anyway. The hand axe was used by many species of human long ago, and continued to be used, virtually unchanged, for millennia. For WAY longer than we have had any of the religions on the planet we have now. I’m talking tens of thousands of years. Does this mean there is somehow a Universal Toolgiver? Beavers have built dams UNIVERSALLY for even longer than we made hand axes. Do they have a God of Dambuilding?

    The universality argument FOR morality is as bad an argument as the “it’s unnatural” argument is AGAINST homosexuality (one can’t use the “it’s unnatural” argument unless one is willing to give up EVERY unnatural thing one does, including living in a house, playing musical instruments, wearing clothes, etc.) They’re both crushed under the weight of that burden I mentioned, which you brushed off. Sorry, kernsy, but the burden can’t be wished away. It can only be shown to have proof in its favor. Which still leaves the ball in your court.

    (Apologies if “kernsy” is too familiar, or offensive in any other way! I just figured, we’ve been doing this long enough…)

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    There is nothing universal in morality. What you refer to is anecdotal at best. Just because we have a word “courage” doesn’t mean the CONCEPT translates from culture to culture, even if the word SEEMS to do so. We actually use the same words across cultures to mean different things. Does “honor” in English mean the same thing as the word or words we translate as “honor” from Japanese? Well, you’d have to ask an expert in BOTH languages; but I suspect they would say, no, it doesn’t translate completely. We even use some ENGLISH words to mean things other English speakers do not. One example is the word “bloody” which is considered a “dirty” word in the UK.

    We may have general agreement between religions in some areas, but the details vary greatly. I am not aware of a golden rule type idea which translates completely from culture to culture, or even sect to sect. Besides, it may just be that, since we’re all human and generally share the emotional landscape that comes with our nature, we are simply describing behaviors. And words are just tools, as I believe morality to be, as well. They fall short. They’re only used for description and definition. “Love” is a word which corresponds to an emotion; but the emotion itself goes FAR beyond that word’s ability to capture the concept.

    You know, the universality argument isn’t really a good one, anyway. The hand axe was used by many species of human long ago, and continued to be used, virtually unchanged, for millennia. For WAY longer than we have had any of the religions on the planet we have now. I’m talking tens of thousands of years. Does this mean there is somehow a Universal Toolgiver? Beavers have built dams UNIVERSALLY for even longer than we made hand axes. Do they have a God of Dambuilding?

    The universality argument FOR morality is as bad an argument as the “it’s unnatural” argument is AGAINST homosexuality (one can’t use the “it’s unnatural” argument unless one is willing to give up EVERY unnatural thing one does, including living in a house, playing musical instruments, wearing clothes, etc.) They’re both crushed under the weight of that burden I mentioned, which you brushed off. Sorry, kernsy, but the burden can’t be wished away. It can only be shown to have proof in its favor. Which still leaves the ball in your court.

    (Apologies if “kernsy” is too familiar, or offensive in any other way! I just figured, we’ve been doing this long enough…)

  • Van

    I haven’t followed this thread in detail so if I repeat or say something obvious please forgive me. I don’t intend to hurt anyone by asking but the thread drives me to this question if it hasn’t already been asked and I missed it.
    Is it possible for someone to want to have faith but not ever recieve it?

  • Van

    I haven’t followed this thread in detail so if I repeat or say something obvious please forgive me. I don’t intend to hurt anyone by asking but the thread drives me to this question if it hasn’t already been asked and I missed it.
    Is it possible for someone to want to have faith but not ever recieve it?

  • Van

    P. S.
    I just read Michael’s comment about being frustrated at answering the same questions over and over…although I was directing my question more to Christians. I’m sorry. I hate to “butt in” on the discussion without having read and comprehended your entire thread. I usually feel so inadequate to comment. But then, I think, although I’m not as well read as most of you I do have faith and maybe that’s enough to say or ask something that will answer one of Michael’s questions.

  • Van

    P. S.
    I just read Michael’s comment about being frustrated at answering the same questions over and over…although I was directing my question more to Christians. I’m sorry. I hate to “butt in” on the discussion without having read and comprehended your entire thread. I usually feel so inadequate to comment. But then, I think, although I’m not as well read as most of you I do have faith and maybe that’s enough to say or ask something that will answer one of Michael’s questions.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    I think that’s a great question. I think it speaks to this thread. I’d like to read an answer if anyone would like to pose one.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    I think that’s a great question. I think it speaks to this thread. I’d like to read an answer if anyone would like to pose one.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Is it possible? I think so.
    But it’s more likely that faith is received, for the asking, but then rejected. It seems too hard, or one feels too much has to be given up to live in faith.
    Faith has to mature; it can’t remain immature. Like any other knowledge, it has to be fed in order to live and grow, even to remain. Indeed, one has to be indoctrinated into the faith.
    The life of faith is surely one of being tried, as any knowledge is tried and tested, often even after it is known. Any belief is subject to questioning.
    It does a person no good to simply believe; he has to understand what it is he believes, what makes it tick. And, through that learning and coming to understanding, a believer will likely find much to reject (things he’s maybe long been taught, but in error), before he finds what’s true. Even then, we keep on finding more and more, as we continue to live in faith.
    What we don’t keep finding, though, is more knowledge about how good we are, or how well we believe, or how right we are to understand arcane things. We don’t find ourselves above or apart from others by virtue of our believing or having faith–we’re not special because we believe. It is that faith that is special. Period.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Is it possible? I think so.
    But it’s more likely that faith is received, for the asking, but then rejected. It seems too hard, or one feels too much has to be given up to live in faith.
    Faith has to mature; it can’t remain immature. Like any other knowledge, it has to be fed in order to live and grow, even to remain. Indeed, one has to be indoctrinated into the faith.
    The life of faith is surely one of being tried, as any knowledge is tried and tested, often even after it is known. Any belief is subject to questioning.
    It does a person no good to simply believe; he has to understand what it is he believes, what makes it tick. And, through that learning and coming to understanding, a believer will likely find much to reject (things he’s maybe long been taught, but in error), before he finds what’s true. Even then, we keep on finding more and more, as we continue to live in faith.
    What we don’t keep finding, though, is more knowledge about how good we are, or how well we believe, or how right we are to understand arcane things. We don’t find ourselves above or apart from others by virtue of our believing or having faith–we’re not special because we believe. It is that faith that is special. Period.

  • Van

    Do you know anyone that has asked for faith and never received it? I mean faith that leads to belief and trust and growth and hope.

  • Van

    Do you know anyone that has asked for faith and never received it? I mean faith that leads to belief and trust and growth and hope.

  • Van

    Susan @ 132 “It does a person no good to simply believe; he has to understand what it is he believes, what makes it tick. ”

    Wouldn’t this contradict what Lutherans believe for infants? That in their baptism they receive faith and are able to believe? Or mentally challanged people too?

    And did Christ say we have to believe AND understand it too?

  • Van

    Susan @ 132 “It does a person no good to simply believe; he has to understand what it is he believes, what makes it tick. ”

    Wouldn’t this contradict what Lutherans believe for infants? That in their baptism they receive faith and are able to believe? Or mentally challanged people too?

    And did Christ say we have to believe AND understand it too?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    No it doesn’t contradict Lutheran teaching. An infant can only understand what an infant can understand. No one asks an infant to recite a creed or the catechism. But, presuming we’re talkinga bout babies with normal abilities for growth, they will require instruction int he faith, in order to defend it, and to answer that question, whether it’s asked of them, or they ask it themselves: ‘What does this mean?’
    But we who have our faculties are going to question and to be questioned. It won’t be enough to say, ‘I just feel that’s so’ or ‘It seems to be true.’
    You will have to understand. Christ also did not tell us to remain as little children, or to remain in ignorance (and I’m not calling children ignorant). He disciples were told to go and teach all they’d been taught, not to go say just anything that felt right or that people wanted to hear.
    As for those I’ve personally known who’s asked for faith and not received it, you’ll recall my previous answer: it’s more likely that, having been given faith, people reject it. Those people I have known; I DO know.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    No it doesn’t contradict Lutheran teaching. An infant can only understand what an infant can understand. No one asks an infant to recite a creed or the catechism. But, presuming we’re talkinga bout babies with normal abilities for growth, they will require instruction int he faith, in order to defend it, and to answer that question, whether it’s asked of them, or they ask it themselves: ‘What does this mean?’
    But we who have our faculties are going to question and to be questioned. It won’t be enough to say, ‘I just feel that’s so’ or ‘It seems to be true.’
    You will have to understand. Christ also did not tell us to remain as little children, or to remain in ignorance (and I’m not calling children ignorant). He disciples were told to go and teach all they’d been taught, not to go say just anything that felt right or that people wanted to hear.
    As for those I’ve personally known who’s asked for faith and not received it, you’ll recall my previous answer: it’s more likely that, having been given faith, people reject it. Those people I have known; I DO know.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    “Indeed, one has to be indoctrinated into the faith.”

    I wonder if you could explain this in light of the idea discussed earlier (waaay earlier, in fact) that we all have these things “written on our hearts.” This has been used as an example to show that apostates – like me – have actively rejected this inborn knowledge.

    It is interesting to me, Susan, that you include “indoctrination” as a manner in which faith matures. I see indoctrination as a way to stop people from questioning too much. Indoctrination seems to be a way to stave off the bad teachings of the world; to give an answer to a question before the child can think of said question; to implant a morality in the child before the child can make up his/her own mind. This is an example of giving a child an external morality – equivalent to giving a child a fish, or teaching them WHAT to think – rather than an internal one – which, in my opinion, would be akin to teaching the child how to fish, or HOW to think. I’m just trying to be clear as to how I define indoctrination.

    In this light, Susan, how do you view the word indoctrination? Obviously I have strongly negative feelings toward this word, and it seems you do not. So I’d be interested in your opinion, regarding the word itself and its usage.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    “Indeed, one has to be indoctrinated into the faith.”

    I wonder if you could explain this in light of the idea discussed earlier (waaay earlier, in fact) that we all have these things “written on our hearts.” This has been used as an example to show that apostates – like me – have actively rejected this inborn knowledge.

    It is interesting to me, Susan, that you include “indoctrination” as a manner in which faith matures. I see indoctrination as a way to stop people from questioning too much. Indoctrination seems to be a way to stave off the bad teachings of the world; to give an answer to a question before the child can think of said question; to implant a morality in the child before the child can make up his/her own mind. This is an example of giving a child an external morality – equivalent to giving a child a fish, or teaching them WHAT to think – rather than an internal one – which, in my opinion, would be akin to teaching the child how to fish, or HOW to think. I’m just trying to be clear as to how I define indoctrination.

    In this light, Susan, how do you view the word indoctrination? Obviously I have strongly negative feelings toward this word, and it seems you do not. So I’d be interested in your opinion, regarding the word itself and its usage.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    You continue to make interesting and – I think – very valuable posts. I’ve often wondered what the faithful do with differences in intelligence among human beings, especially those of developmental issues.

    Since Susan doesn’t give you an answer for those “mentally challenged people” to whom you refer, I’d like to ask that question again. Is understanding requisite for faith, even if one is not capable of understanding on a basic level?

    My reason for asking is: I’d like to ask a further question in light of that asked by Van. If we are never going to be capable of understanding God, but must rely on faith which comes from God, how can we be expected to HAVE understanding at all? Susan says we “will have to understand.” But elsewhere God’s incomprehensibility is appealed to, and for similar reasons. I’m not understanding this at all, obviously.

    We’re expected to understand to the extent that we CAN, but it is also assumed we will NEVER fully comprehend. The problem here is that this is begging the question. How can there be an expectation of understanding if, even at our best, we’ll never truly “get it”?

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    You continue to make interesting and – I think – very valuable posts. I’ve often wondered what the faithful do with differences in intelligence among human beings, especially those of developmental issues.

    Since Susan doesn’t give you an answer for those “mentally challenged people” to whom you refer, I’d like to ask that question again. Is understanding requisite for faith, even if one is not capable of understanding on a basic level?

    My reason for asking is: I’d like to ask a further question in light of that asked by Van. If we are never going to be capable of understanding God, but must rely on faith which comes from God, how can we be expected to HAVE understanding at all? Susan says we “will have to understand.” But elsewhere God’s incomprehensibility is appealed to, and for similar reasons. I’m not understanding this at all, obviously.

    We’re expected to understand to the extent that we CAN, but it is also assumed we will NEVER fully comprehend. The problem here is that this is begging the question. How can there be an expectation of understanding if, even at our best, we’ll never truly “get it”?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Michael said, among other things: I see indoctrination as a way to stop people from questioning too much.
    To say something is written on the heart is not to say that’s all there is. That only refers to the natural-born knowledge of a supreme being–a force, an essence, a command center or designer or whatever–who has, in some manner, called life into being and has set into motion a moral law or manner of behavior and interaction that all mankind is aware of, and free (for the most part) to embrace or to ignore, or both, as situations ‘require.’
    But there is more to God than the moral law and knowledge of Him as ‘written on our hearts.’ And that is doctrine. It is certain, it is specific, it is unchanging, regardless of how much the world or the times change.
    There are certain things to know about God, and the things we know about Him come from Him, through His Word (the Bible). Doctrine (teaching) prevents us from accepting or inventing things about God that either aren’t true or aren’t backed up by scripture, etc.
    As for ‘the mentally challenged’ and for your question: Christians aren’t *made* Christians by what they learn or by what they’re capable of learning. They’re made Christians through faith, and faith is as workable within the weakest mind, as in the youngest mind.
    But, for the person whose mind can grasp subtleties, or can pose and ponder questions, or who doubts or wavers or even boasts–a person who can read and write on a blog, for instance, or read a book or express his thoughts or work as he pleases–it is important to study the tenets of the faith, to know what is true. Not everything in faith, as in science or anything else, is true, and not everything that seems pleasing or appealing is helpful. So, it’s good to learn from those who’ve been educated (indoctrinated) in theology and the scriptures, to discern the difference between that which tickles the ears or the fancy, and that which leads to eternal life.
    True, we only understand God as much as we can, and that understanding He has given us. We can ponder and speculate till the cows come home answers to the mysteries, but the mysteries He’s left us with don’t determine our salvation. What He’s revealed has determined it.
    We’re all indoctrinated into many things, from the day we’re born. It simply means teaching, not brainwashing.
    Use the word ‘trained’ or taught’ instead of ‘indoctrinated’; use ‘teaching’ for ‘doctrine’, and see if it doesn’t read less threateningly to you.
    I would imagine that the best indoctrination–the most thorough and helpful learning–comes when one indeed asks many questions, expressing many thoughts and ideas, and then of course listens to the answers. There are many things to be thought, for sure, and many ways of thinking, but, when it comes to God, it’s His way of thinking on Him that’s called for, and not our speculations or opinions. So we rely on that written record, the Bible.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Michael said, among other things: I see indoctrination as a way to stop people from questioning too much.
    To say something is written on the heart is not to say that’s all there is. That only refers to the natural-born knowledge of a supreme being–a force, an essence, a command center or designer or whatever–who has, in some manner, called life into being and has set into motion a moral law or manner of behavior and interaction that all mankind is aware of, and free (for the most part) to embrace or to ignore, or both, as situations ‘require.’
    But there is more to God than the moral law and knowledge of Him as ‘written on our hearts.’ And that is doctrine. It is certain, it is specific, it is unchanging, regardless of how much the world or the times change.
    There are certain things to know about God, and the things we know about Him come from Him, through His Word (the Bible). Doctrine (teaching) prevents us from accepting or inventing things about God that either aren’t true or aren’t backed up by scripture, etc.
    As for ‘the mentally challenged’ and for your question: Christians aren’t *made* Christians by what they learn or by what they’re capable of learning. They’re made Christians through faith, and faith is as workable within the weakest mind, as in the youngest mind.
    But, for the person whose mind can grasp subtleties, or can pose and ponder questions, or who doubts or wavers or even boasts–a person who can read and write on a blog, for instance, or read a book or express his thoughts or work as he pleases–it is important to study the tenets of the faith, to know what is true. Not everything in faith, as in science or anything else, is true, and not everything that seems pleasing or appealing is helpful. So, it’s good to learn from those who’ve been educated (indoctrinated) in theology and the scriptures, to discern the difference between that which tickles the ears or the fancy, and that which leads to eternal life.
    True, we only understand God as much as we can, and that understanding He has given us. We can ponder and speculate till the cows come home answers to the mysteries, but the mysteries He’s left us with don’t determine our salvation. What He’s revealed has determined it.
    We’re all indoctrinated into many things, from the day we’re born. It simply means teaching, not brainwashing.
    Use the word ‘trained’ or taught’ instead of ‘indoctrinated’; use ‘teaching’ for ‘doctrine’, and see if it doesn’t read less threateningly to you.
    I would imagine that the best indoctrination–the most thorough and helpful learning–comes when one indeed asks many questions, expressing many thoughts and ideas, and then of course listens to the answers. There are many things to be thought, for sure, and many ways of thinking, but, when it comes to God, it’s His way of thinking on Him that’s called for, and not our speculations or opinions. So we rely on that written record, the Bible.

  • Van

    I’m still thinking before I respond but in the mean time, Michael, have your read Anne Rice’s two newest books?

  • Van

    I’m still thinking before I respond but in the mean time, Michael, have your read Anne Rice’s two newest books?

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    I have not read Anne Rice’s most recent work. Ironically, I had a request for one today from a patron of mine at the library where I work! My favorite fictional story of Jesus has to be – not surprisingly, I’m sure – The Last Temptation of Christ, a wonderful book for which its author, Nikos Kazantzakis, was nearly excommunicated from the Eastern Orthodox (specifically Greek) church. It was meant as a metaphor, but was seen as blasphemy to those who took it literally. Kazantzakis was a devoted Christian throughout his adult life. He wrote the story as an allegory of the struggle between the “spirit” and the “flesh”.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    I have not read Anne Rice’s most recent work. Ironically, I had a request for one today from a patron of mine at the library where I work! My favorite fictional story of Jesus has to be – not surprisingly, I’m sure – The Last Temptation of Christ, a wonderful book for which its author, Nikos Kazantzakis, was nearly excommunicated from the Eastern Orthodox (specifically Greek) church. It was meant as a metaphor, but was seen as blasphemy to those who took it literally. Kazantzakis was a devoted Christian throughout his adult life. He wrote the story as an allegory of the struggle between the “spirit” and the “flesh”.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    I find “teaching” to be just as threatening a word as “indoctrination” as they both mean generally the same thing. I like “learning” as an alternative, because it is from the perspective of the student rather than a teacher with a specific agenda. When one is teaching with any agenda in mind, one must always be aware that “brainwashing” might occur. I’m only saying this so that you have my opinion on “teaching” though, and not as an indictment of what you said.

    I am still left wondering how one arrives at the Bible being the word of God. Why not the Koran? Why not the Bhagavad-Gita? I know you all believe the Bible to be the word of God. I’m just wondering why you accept it over the other books which claim divine inspiration. I’ve asked this before and I don’t believe I’ve really gotten an answer. This one’s to everybody, though, so feel free to chime in!

    (And I’ve already heard the “internally consistent” argument, shown that this is not the case, and been brushed off. If this truly IS the answer, then I stand corrected. In this case I have been answered, just not to my satisfaction. And I’m not looking to be satisfied, I’m only looking to know your answer to the question.)

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    I find “teaching” to be just as threatening a word as “indoctrination” as they both mean generally the same thing. I like “learning” as an alternative, because it is from the perspective of the student rather than a teacher with a specific agenda. When one is teaching with any agenda in mind, one must always be aware that “brainwashing” might occur. I’m only saying this so that you have my opinion on “teaching” though, and not as an indictment of what you said.

    I am still left wondering how one arrives at the Bible being the word of God. Why not the Koran? Why not the Bhagavad-Gita? I know you all believe the Bible to be the word of God. I’m just wondering why you accept it over the other books which claim divine inspiration. I’ve asked this before and I don’t believe I’ve really gotten an answer. This one’s to everybody, though, so feel free to chime in!

    (And I’ve already heard the “internally consistent” argument, shown that this is not the case, and been brushed off. If this truly IS the answer, then I stand corrected. In this case I have been answered, just not to my satisfaction. And I’m not looking to be satisfied, I’m only looking to know your answer to the question.)

  • kerner

    The Bible includes 66 different books, which were written by approximately 40 different people over a period of approximately 1,400 years. These “books” include histories, biographies, the accounts of the preaching of prophets, and letters from religious leaders to others within their religion. The authors wrote in different languages, and they came from different backgrounds.

    I regret that I don’t remember your rebuttal of the Bible being internally consistent, but I do find the Bible to be very internally consistent. At least, it can be interpreted to be so. (I realize that you can, and probably have, interpreted it in ways that render it inconsistent, but I think the relevant question is whether it CAN BE harmonized) The human authors of the Bible considered their predecessors to be authoritative, as New Testament authors frequently quote the Old Testament, and while I have not researched this point, I believe that more recent authors within the Old Testament quote their predecessors (and this is also true of New Testament authors).

    Given the variety of human authors, and the variety of their purposes for writing, I find the possibility of cumulatively interpreting these works in a consistent way remarkable.

    The Koran, by contrast, is a compilation of sermons (or essays, I’m not sure which) produced by one person for purposes that evolved over his lifetime, but which did not fundamentally change. Islam (including, I believe, the Koran, but I couldn’t quote it on this point) purports to respect and logically follw the OT prophets and the teaching of Jesus Christ, but in reality substantially contradicts them and cannot be logically reconciled with them. The most glaring example of an irreconcilable contradiction is the utter lack of a redeemer in Muslim theology (and of course the corrolary that, there being no redeemer, Jesus Christ cannot be a redeemer). From there Islam seems to me to be an attempt to come up with a series of simple rules for its adherants to follow and thereby attempt to please God. These rules include customs that may superficially resemble Christian or OT customs, but which have no common foundation, such as an annual fast.

    I’m no historian, but that Islam would do this does not surprise me. In my opinion, the unique thing about Christianity is that its method of reconciling God and mankind is entirely (or as some Christians would maintain, almost entirely) the work of God. We are reconciled with God because of His sacrafice for us, not by trying to be “good”.

    I believe human nature is prone to reject this arrangement. I think human beings naturally prefer to have a set of attainable standards they can meet and thereby consider themselves “good” people. I think historically, the ancient Church began to gradually adulterate its teaching with rules based theology fairly early on in its history, and that by the 7th century when Mohammad came on the scene, there were plenty of people who were willing to forget about all the redemptive theology embodied in Christianity entirely and just go back to a system of following simple rules. Within Christianity itself, the degeneration into rules based theology continued (at least in the west, with which I am most familiar) until some Christians, in what is now called the Reformation, demanded a return to the original, work of God based, theology of reconcilliation. Anyway, that’s why I don’t accept the Koran.

    I know a lot less about the Bhagavad-Gita, but my rather quick research about it indicates that it is a relatively short work (700 verses?). I don’t know (or I have forgotten, because it has been a long time since I have studied them, and I never studied them in great depth)whether the Hindu upanishads or other eastern religious works that were written over time are internally consistent or not, or whether they even claim to be, but I suspect that they are not consistent with the themes of the Bible (at least not enough to reconcile the two bodies of thought).

    If the important writings of Hinduism cannot be reconciled with the great writings of the Old and New Testaments, one or the other (or both) must be rejected. You know which course makes sense to me.

  • kerner

    The Bible includes 66 different books, which were written by approximately 40 different people over a period of approximately 1,400 years. These “books” include histories, biographies, the accounts of the preaching of prophets, and letters from religious leaders to others within their religion. The authors wrote in different languages, and they came from different backgrounds.

    I regret that I don’t remember your rebuttal of the Bible being internally consistent, but I do find the Bible to be very internally consistent. At least, it can be interpreted to be so. (I realize that you can, and probably have, interpreted it in ways that render it inconsistent, but I think the relevant question is whether it CAN BE harmonized) The human authors of the Bible considered their predecessors to be authoritative, as New Testament authors frequently quote the Old Testament, and while I have not researched this point, I believe that more recent authors within the Old Testament quote their predecessors (and this is also true of New Testament authors).

    Given the variety of human authors, and the variety of their purposes for writing, I find the possibility of cumulatively interpreting these works in a consistent way remarkable.

    The Koran, by contrast, is a compilation of sermons (or essays, I’m not sure which) produced by one person for purposes that evolved over his lifetime, but which did not fundamentally change. Islam (including, I believe, the Koran, but I couldn’t quote it on this point) purports to respect and logically follw the OT prophets and the teaching of Jesus Christ, but in reality substantially contradicts them and cannot be logically reconciled with them. The most glaring example of an irreconcilable contradiction is the utter lack of a redeemer in Muslim theology (and of course the corrolary that, there being no redeemer, Jesus Christ cannot be a redeemer). From there Islam seems to me to be an attempt to come up with a series of simple rules for its adherants to follow and thereby attempt to please God. These rules include customs that may superficially resemble Christian or OT customs, but which have no common foundation, such as an annual fast.

    I’m no historian, but that Islam would do this does not surprise me. In my opinion, the unique thing about Christianity is that its method of reconciling God and mankind is entirely (or as some Christians would maintain, almost entirely) the work of God. We are reconciled with God because of His sacrafice for us, not by trying to be “good”.

    I believe human nature is prone to reject this arrangement. I think human beings naturally prefer to have a set of attainable standards they can meet and thereby consider themselves “good” people. I think historically, the ancient Church began to gradually adulterate its teaching with rules based theology fairly early on in its history, and that by the 7th century when Mohammad came on the scene, there were plenty of people who were willing to forget about all the redemptive theology embodied in Christianity entirely and just go back to a system of following simple rules. Within Christianity itself, the degeneration into rules based theology continued (at least in the west, with which I am most familiar) until some Christians, in what is now called the Reformation, demanded a return to the original, work of God based, theology of reconcilliation. Anyway, that’s why I don’t accept the Koran.

    I know a lot less about the Bhagavad-Gita, but my rather quick research about it indicates that it is a relatively short work (700 verses?). I don’t know (or I have forgotten, because it has been a long time since I have studied them, and I never studied them in great depth)whether the Hindu upanishads or other eastern religious works that were written over time are internally consistent or not, or whether they even claim to be, but I suspect that they are not consistent with the themes of the Bible (at least not enough to reconcile the two bodies of thought).

    If the important writings of Hinduism cannot be reconciled with the great writings of the Old and New Testaments, one or the other (or both) must be rejected. You know which course makes sense to me.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    One problem with the argument from internal consistency is that it begs the question: WHY is this book internally consistent? And there are many reasons this could be so. One reason, and the most prominent, is that the Bible was put together by many editors over many years, giving them the historical knowledge they would need to make the book seem consistent. This is just an example; but since none of us were present when the Bible was written, nor in the years when it was being edited, we have no access to whether it happened this way. I find this one example to be a simpler explanation than “God did it.”

    There’s more in your response I’d like to get to, but I must stop here. Tomorrow I will attempt to get to it.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    One problem with the argument from internal consistency is that it begs the question: WHY is this book internally consistent? And there are many reasons this could be so. One reason, and the most prominent, is that the Bible was put together by many editors over many years, giving them the historical knowledge they would need to make the book seem consistent. This is just an example; but since none of us were present when the Bible was written, nor in the years when it was being edited, we have no access to whether it happened this way. I find this one example to be a simpler explanation than “God did it.”

    There’s more in your response I’d like to get to, but I must stop here. Tomorrow I will attempt to get to it.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Michael: Your argument–and please excuse this–against the Bible’s consistency stems from your lack of knowledge about the Bible, its history, and its being put together. You know enough, if you will, to lend credence to your prejudices, but there’s more to know. And much more to learn from it than by simply reading it.
    You might look into the writings of Dr. Paul Maier, a professor and historian of the early church. Look at Concordia Publishing House for his books, if they’re not in your library.
    You also wrote:
    ‘…still left wondering how one arrives at the Bible being the word of God. Why not the Koran? Why not the Bhagavad-Gita? I know you all believe the Bible to be the word of God. I’m just wondering why you accept it over the other books which claim divine inspiration.’
    What kerner wrote, about consistency, etc., is most certainly true, also about how the bible stands apart from other religious writings.
    However, and I think kerner would agree, these things we’ve learned *about* the bible only add credence to that which we already accepted *by faith*. I know these words trouble you, but they’re the only words we have in the end.
    These things we’ve learned about the historicity of the scriptures and of the Christian faith are worthy insofar as they help us to defend what we already believe.
    Also, you take issue with ‘mere words’ such as indoctrination and teaching; also, by extension, it seems you have problems with the word ‘agenda’. What, pray tell, is a learner to learn but what he’s taught, whether from a person, his own research (which will involve the work of other people who will then in essence be his teachers), and his own reason and senses? No one learns entirely by his own will or skill; all must be taught. A good teacher had better have an agenda–something to teach, and a way in which to teach it.
    That being said: no one learns his faith; no one teaches others to have faith, or how to have it or how to get it. One does not get it from study.
    I think you have some serious issues with ‘mere words.’ (Actually I have issues with the word ‘issues’, but that’s another thing entirely…)
    The Bible wasn’t edited to death, as is popularly thought these days. Once again, you are speaking from what you don’t know, think you know, or ‘know’ from poor sources.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Michael: Your argument–and please excuse this–against the Bible’s consistency stems from your lack of knowledge about the Bible, its history, and its being put together. You know enough, if you will, to lend credence to your prejudices, but there’s more to know. And much more to learn from it than by simply reading it.
    You might look into the writings of Dr. Paul Maier, a professor and historian of the early church. Look at Concordia Publishing House for his books, if they’re not in your library.
    You also wrote:
    ‘…still left wondering how one arrives at the Bible being the word of God. Why not the Koran? Why not the Bhagavad-Gita? I know you all believe the Bible to be the word of God. I’m just wondering why you accept it over the other books which claim divine inspiration.’
    What kerner wrote, about consistency, etc., is most certainly true, also about how the bible stands apart from other religious writings.
    However, and I think kerner would agree, these things we’ve learned *about* the bible only add credence to that which we already accepted *by faith*. I know these words trouble you, but they’re the only words we have in the end.
    These things we’ve learned about the historicity of the scriptures and of the Christian faith are worthy insofar as they help us to defend what we already believe.
    Also, you take issue with ‘mere words’ such as indoctrination and teaching; also, by extension, it seems you have problems with the word ‘agenda’. What, pray tell, is a learner to learn but what he’s taught, whether from a person, his own research (which will involve the work of other people who will then in essence be his teachers), and his own reason and senses? No one learns entirely by his own will or skill; all must be taught. A good teacher had better have an agenda–something to teach, and a way in which to teach it.
    That being said: no one learns his faith; no one teaches others to have faith, or how to have it or how to get it. One does not get it from study.
    I think you have some serious issues with ‘mere words.’ (Actually I have issues with the word ‘issues’, but that’s another thing entirely…)
    The Bible wasn’t edited to death, as is popularly thought these days. Once again, you are speaking from what you don’t know, think you know, or ‘know’ from poor sources.

  • Van

    Michael, I asked the question about faith and whether or not it’s possible for someone to want to have it and never receive it because when I tried to read over this entire thread I became exhausted. I guess I could have put my brain into overload and wrestled through it all. But honestly, I was frustrated and annoyed FOR you. Your tenacity is something. After reading for some time I just began wondering if you were any better off than when this started. And then I just thought how utterly frustrating it would be to want faith and not have it. I’m sure you’ve metioned it before, but do you think you want faith? Or when you began “accepting yourself” did you decide you were just going to close that chapter in your life so you could move on? Are you asking questions so you can better understand Christians for general understanding or because you’d like to figure out if you do, in fact, have faith? Or maybe it’s something else altogether. I just asked my question at #129 as a starting point.

    I just read your initial “story.” Personally, I think it’s good to get to a place where you accept yourself and all the thoughts and questions that go along with that. I’ve often thought, within my faith, that I must remain true to myself even if I am a “sinful” being. For me, my thought is that God created me and he ultimately knows me best so why shy away from all that is in me? I trust him to direct me through it.
    I prepared this horribly long response to your #137 and then decided I was just rambling. After reading your inital story I realized that a lot of what I said actually addressed or flowed alongside what you were saying. How funny. I didn’t post it because I am NOT a good writer and when I do write it is hard to follow, even for me when I re-read it! ha. But writing it made me realize that I think I can relate to so many of your thoughts and questions even though I have never called myself an atheist. I’d be happy to e-mail my response to you but I’m too embarassed to post it. Ramble, ramble, ramble.

    I am not well read. I think it would be so cool if I could read and take in all sorts of knowledge. But I’ve never really been able to do that so I can’t debate writer’s ideas or specific doctrines, etc. But I do have a short lifetime of walking by faith.

    One point I made in my ramblings was that I sometimes think it boils down to the simple fact that we either have faith or we don’t. It’s not something that is necessarily debateable. It just is what it is. I, like lots of Christians, think that we’ll one day be very surprised by those who are in the Kingdom of God and those who are not.

    I also think that a lot of thinking can just wear you out. That may even be backed up by Kimg Solomon if I remember correctly.

    I’m worn out just thinking about thinking about all of this!

    Forgive me. I’m not making light of it at all. Just trying to make a point.

    Van

  • Van

    Michael, I asked the question about faith and whether or not it’s possible for someone to want to have it and never receive it because when I tried to read over this entire thread I became exhausted. I guess I could have put my brain into overload and wrestled through it all. But honestly, I was frustrated and annoyed FOR you. Your tenacity is something. After reading for some time I just began wondering if you were any better off than when this started. And then I just thought how utterly frustrating it would be to want faith and not have it. I’m sure you’ve metioned it before, but do you think you want faith? Or when you began “accepting yourself” did you decide you were just going to close that chapter in your life so you could move on? Are you asking questions so you can better understand Christians for general understanding or because you’d like to figure out if you do, in fact, have faith? Or maybe it’s something else altogether. I just asked my question at #129 as a starting point.

    I just read your initial “story.” Personally, I think it’s good to get to a place where you accept yourself and all the thoughts and questions that go along with that. I’ve often thought, within my faith, that I must remain true to myself even if I am a “sinful” being. For me, my thought is that God created me and he ultimately knows me best so why shy away from all that is in me? I trust him to direct me through it.
    I prepared this horribly long response to your #137 and then decided I was just rambling. After reading your inital story I realized that a lot of what I said actually addressed or flowed alongside what you were saying. How funny. I didn’t post it because I am NOT a good writer and when I do write it is hard to follow, even for me when I re-read it! ha. But writing it made me realize that I think I can relate to so many of your thoughts and questions even though I have never called myself an atheist. I’d be happy to e-mail my response to you but I’m too embarassed to post it. Ramble, ramble, ramble.

    I am not well read. I think it would be so cool if I could read and take in all sorts of knowledge. But I’ve never really been able to do that so I can’t debate writer’s ideas or specific doctrines, etc. But I do have a short lifetime of walking by faith.

    One point I made in my ramblings was that I sometimes think it boils down to the simple fact that we either have faith or we don’t. It’s not something that is necessarily debateable. It just is what it is. I, like lots of Christians, think that we’ll one day be very surprised by those who are in the Kingdom of God and those who are not.

    I also think that a lot of thinking can just wear you out. That may even be backed up by Kimg Solomon if I remember correctly.

    I’m worn out just thinking about thinking about all of this!

    Forgive me. I’m not making light of it at all. Just trying to make a point.

    Van

  • Van

    I guess you know about Anne Rice and how she has decided not to write about vampires any longer and intends only to write about Christ. I just thought of her because I think her husband was an atheist and at one point she walked away from the church. She made a big about face though. Her two newest books are so beautiful. Reading them and knowing that she had poured so much research into the history of Christ’s life and the church made me feel like I was getting a close picture of Christ’s humanity.

  • Van

    I guess you know about Anne Rice and how she has decided not to write about vampires any longer and intends only to write about Christ. I just thought of her because I think her husband was an atheist and at one point she walked away from the church. She made a big about face though. Her two newest books are so beautiful. Reading them and knowing that she had poured so much research into the history of Christ’s life and the church made me feel like I was getting a close picture of Christ’s humanity.

  • Van

    Susan, I don’t know that I totally agree with you about our having to understand what we believe. I never seem to understand Scripture. It’s a constant mystery to me. Just when I think I understand something in Scripture I get blasted with other thoughts that lead to more lack of understanding. And yet, in my lack of understanding I seem to have a very strong faith. I always go back to this…how is it that I believe? I can’t even make it from one end of my house to the other without forgetting what I was headed to do!!! And still, I believe.
    I have no idea why I believe. I just do.

  • Van

    Susan, I don’t know that I totally agree with you about our having to understand what we believe. I never seem to understand Scripture. It’s a constant mystery to me. Just when I think I understand something in Scripture I get blasted with other thoughts that lead to more lack of understanding. And yet, in my lack of understanding I seem to have a very strong faith. I always go back to this…how is it that I believe? I can’t even make it from one end of my house to the other without forgetting what I was headed to do!!! And still, I believe.
    I have no idea why I believe. I just do.

  • Van

    Michael, When I was in about 9th grade I made a new friend. She was the granddaughter of my neighbor. She lived in Paris and came to visit periodically. We got along well. We had fun. I was always talking about God and so I’m sure she got lots of my ramblings. One day she asked me if I had ever investigated other religions. She had. I had not. I had always been “Christian.”

    It always bothered me that I wasn’t able to give her a very intellectual response. One that made me look like I had researched all these religions and made the decision that Christianity was the one for me.
    30 years later I still haven’t truly researched other religions. Why would I? I believe that God is who he says he is. I wish I could tell you why I do but I can’t. I just do.

  • Van

    Michael, When I was in about 9th grade I made a new friend. She was the granddaughter of my neighbor. She lived in Paris and came to visit periodically. We got along well. We had fun. I was always talking about God and so I’m sure she got lots of my ramblings. One day she asked me if I had ever investigated other religions. She had. I had not. I had always been “Christian.”

    It always bothered me that I wasn’t able to give her a very intellectual response. One that made me look like I had researched all these religions and made the decision that Christianity was the one for me.
    30 years later I still haven’t truly researched other religions. Why would I? I believe that God is who he says he is. I wish I could tell you why I do but I can’t. I just do.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Van, you’ve expressed yourself very well here. You’re not as lacking as you make yourself out to be.
    What prevents you from attending Bible study, so you’ll know more about your faith than that you believe? Do you understand what it is you believe? Never mind the ‘why’, or how you came to faith. What do you believe?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Van, you’ve expressed yourself very well here. You’re not as lacking as you make yourself out to be.
    What prevents you from attending Bible study, so you’ll know more about your faith than that you believe? Do you understand what it is you believe? Never mind the ‘why’, or how you came to faith. What do you believe?

  • Van

    You’re nice Susan. Maybe I just get intimidated by you guys. I have many friends in Christ that overlook me and talk down to me because I

    I probably believe most of the same things you believe. I have been attending Bible studies for about 30 years. About 5 years ago I quit going to Bible studies that were topical…you know, the Beth Moore type. I’ve studied Genesis, Exodus, Levitcus, I Corinthians and part of Numbers since verse by verse, mostly from a Lutheran perspective. I take in a huge amount of scripture on my own too. I have led a life very full of faith.

    This is my point I was making. I couldn’t discuss these questions Michael has asked from a book educated point of view. Although I probably have heard everything you guys have read and may be able to tell him a lot of it. But I CAN speak to him from a lifetime of living by faith. And when I consider everything that has been said I get back to the same thoughts and they’re pretty simple.

    I have faith because God gave it to me. Period. When I said in #147 that I don’t know why I have faith I didn’t mean that literally. I know God gave me my faith. I was just admitting that I don’t understand why Michael, if he does in fact want faith, doesn’t have it.

    I can quote scripture with the best of them. And I KNOW scripture better than most. I love scripture because I have always known it was Christ for me. But deep down inside I understand the questions Michael asks because I ask a lot of them too. I can’t figure it all out and I don’t get how someone can say with such certainty that their doctrine is correct when there are so many mysteries.

  • Van

    You’re nice Susan. Maybe I just get intimidated by you guys. I have many friends in Christ that overlook me and talk down to me because I

    I probably believe most of the same things you believe. I have been attending Bible studies for about 30 years. About 5 years ago I quit going to Bible studies that were topical…you know, the Beth Moore type. I’ve studied Genesis, Exodus, Levitcus, I Corinthians and part of Numbers since verse by verse, mostly from a Lutheran perspective. I take in a huge amount of scripture on my own too. I have led a life very full of faith.

    This is my point I was making. I couldn’t discuss these questions Michael has asked from a book educated point of view. Although I probably have heard everything you guys have read and may be able to tell him a lot of it. But I CAN speak to him from a lifetime of living by faith. And when I consider everything that has been said I get back to the same thoughts and they’re pretty simple.

    I have faith because God gave it to me. Period. When I said in #147 that I don’t know why I have faith I didn’t mean that literally. I know God gave me my faith. I was just admitting that I don’t understand why Michael, if he does in fact want faith, doesn’t have it.

    I can quote scripture with the best of them. And I KNOW scripture better than most. I love scripture because I have always known it was Christ for me. But deep down inside I understand the questions Michael asks because I ask a lot of them too. I can’t figure it all out and I don’t get how someone can say with such certainty that their doctrine is correct when there are so many mysteries.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    If you know the scriptures as you say you do, then you test the doctrines of any body–say, for instance, the confessional Lutheran church that adheres to the Lutheran confessions–against the scriptures.
    The doctrines should not address the mysteries, such as how Christ maintains divinity and humanity at the same time (beyond the fact that He does), because there’s no way of answering definitively such mysteries. The mysteries, though, have no say in our salvation, and that’s the crux of faith: being saved from our own sins. The mysteries (and it’s not as if there’s a definitive or exhaustive list of mysteries) are not part of what we believe or cling to, or even need to know.
    Much of what you call mystery might be simply questions you haven’t had answered but that might *be* answered, and not those things of God that we can’t know this side of heaven.
    And you might stop thinking of it is ‘someone’s doctrine’, as if it were someone’s opinion or personal insight. It’s the church’s doctrine, because, after study, etc., men determined these were the things God wanted us to know and to believe about Himself, about our salvation. So that’s where doctrine begins and ends, really: not in what we think or approve or disapprove, but in God’s own word about Himself. If you know the scriptures as you say, then you know He’s not vague where it counts–He’s definitive in saying Christ is the Way; grace is His gift, but only through Christ. I don’t see any definitions of what is drunkenness or how short should a skirt be before it’s indecent or that women should cover arms and legs or people shouldn’t dance or smoke or have drinks or eat meat any day of the week they desire to eat meat–those are easily seen as erroneous interpretations. But, when it comes to our being sinful, whether we eat or don’t or dance or don’t or have sex before marriage or don’t, He’s nothing but clear: we’re all sinners in need of a Savior, and that only savior is Christ His Son and faith comes from hearing the word preached in truth and purity, not through our decision or our meriting it or our ‘getting it’ (as if a lightbulb suddenly comes on).
    Forget the mysteries. There’s no mystery standing between you and God, and knowing Him, and knowing His ways. (Which is all doctrine is: knowing God’s ways, for us, for our salvation, for our neighbors’ benefit.)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    If you know the scriptures as you say you do, then you test the doctrines of any body–say, for instance, the confessional Lutheran church that adheres to the Lutheran confessions–against the scriptures.
    The doctrines should not address the mysteries, such as how Christ maintains divinity and humanity at the same time (beyond the fact that He does), because there’s no way of answering definitively such mysteries. The mysteries, though, have no say in our salvation, and that’s the crux of faith: being saved from our own sins. The mysteries (and it’s not as if there’s a definitive or exhaustive list of mysteries) are not part of what we believe or cling to, or even need to know.
    Much of what you call mystery might be simply questions you haven’t had answered but that might *be* answered, and not those things of God that we can’t know this side of heaven.
    And you might stop thinking of it is ‘someone’s doctrine’, as if it were someone’s opinion or personal insight. It’s the church’s doctrine, because, after study, etc., men determined these were the things God wanted us to know and to believe about Himself, about our salvation. So that’s where doctrine begins and ends, really: not in what we think or approve or disapprove, but in God’s own word about Himself. If you know the scriptures as you say, then you know He’s not vague where it counts–He’s definitive in saying Christ is the Way; grace is His gift, but only through Christ. I don’t see any definitions of what is drunkenness or how short should a skirt be before it’s indecent or that women should cover arms and legs or people shouldn’t dance or smoke or have drinks or eat meat any day of the week they desire to eat meat–those are easily seen as erroneous interpretations. But, when it comes to our being sinful, whether we eat or don’t or dance or don’t or have sex before marriage or don’t, He’s nothing but clear: we’re all sinners in need of a Savior, and that only savior is Christ His Son and faith comes from hearing the word preached in truth and purity, not through our decision or our meriting it or our ‘getting it’ (as if a lightbulb suddenly comes on).
    Forget the mysteries. There’s no mystery standing between you and God, and knowing Him, and knowing His ways. (Which is all doctrine is: knowing God’s ways, for us, for our salvation, for our neighbors’ benefit.)

  • Van

    You’re missing my point. I’m not saying that I want to understand what Christ has kept hidden. I don’t mean those mysteries. And I’m not saying that I’m worried or that I even ever think about how I received faith. I am just constantly amazed that I do have faith. That Christ would be so merciful to me.

    There are many denominations. I know godly people in most of them. How can it be that these people have such different interpretations of scripture? Baptism being a perfect example. It doesn’t even bother me that there are different interpretations. What bothers me is when someone is dogmatic and insists that their “church’s” doctrine is truth. I’m not trying to figure it out for myself. I trust that God can maintain his Church.

    I understand, and I can’t remember if you ever mentioned that this was one of your thoughts before you received faith, how someone would be confused about Christianity and want to walk away from it because Christians aren’t unified in their doctrine and they don’t love and they don’t think of one another as more important than themselves.

    I’m not asking questions for myself, although I never mind learning and I do have questions. I was just offering Michael my friendship and letting him know that I’m willing to engage in dialogue with him and that I understand some of his questions.

    I KNOW that there are essentials and non-essentials. I know that Christ is the way, the truth and the life. I know there is no other way.

    I am only trying to say that sometimes I think it’s much simpler than it’s being made out to be. You either have faith or you don’t and only God can give it. Initially I asked if anyone knew if it’s possible for someone to want to have faith and yet never receive it?

    Obviously, if someone rejects faith then they don’t want it!

    This is why I dont’ post.

  • Van

    You’re missing my point. I’m not saying that I want to understand what Christ has kept hidden. I don’t mean those mysteries. And I’m not saying that I’m worried or that I even ever think about how I received faith. I am just constantly amazed that I do have faith. That Christ would be so merciful to me.

    There are many denominations. I know godly people in most of them. How can it be that these people have such different interpretations of scripture? Baptism being a perfect example. It doesn’t even bother me that there are different interpretations. What bothers me is when someone is dogmatic and insists that their “church’s” doctrine is truth. I’m not trying to figure it out for myself. I trust that God can maintain his Church.

    I understand, and I can’t remember if you ever mentioned that this was one of your thoughts before you received faith, how someone would be confused about Christianity and want to walk away from it because Christians aren’t unified in their doctrine and they don’t love and they don’t think of one another as more important than themselves.

    I’m not asking questions for myself, although I never mind learning and I do have questions. I was just offering Michael my friendship and letting him know that I’m willing to engage in dialogue with him and that I understand some of his questions.

    I KNOW that there are essentials and non-essentials. I know that Christ is the way, the truth and the life. I know there is no other way.

    I am only trying to say that sometimes I think it’s much simpler than it’s being made out to be. You either have faith or you don’t and only God can give it. Initially I asked if anyone knew if it’s possible for someone to want to have faith and yet never receive it?

    Obviously, if someone rejects faith then they don’t want it!

    This is why I dont’ post.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Wow. This is like talking to two different people, both of them named Van.
    And in the same post.
    As to how people of faith can have different doctrines: there are probably lots of people who have none, but still have faith.
    But people can err, no?
    My sainted southern Baptist mother-in-law used to say ‘Denominations will get you as far as to the grave.’
    I have no doubt she’s in heaven now. But she was pretty tied to the law in her beliefs, and pretty fearful of God’s wrath. I don’t know what assurance she had, beyond her ability at keeping all those laws; at being as Christ-like as she could be.
    Well, she doesn’t have to try any more, thanks be to God.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Wow. This is like talking to two different people, both of them named Van.
    And in the same post.
    As to how people of faith can have different doctrines: there are probably lots of people who have none, but still have faith.
    But people can err, no?
    My sainted southern Baptist mother-in-law used to say ‘Denominations will get you as far as to the grave.’
    I have no doubt she’s in heaven now. But she was pretty tied to the law in her beliefs, and pretty fearful of God’s wrath. I don’t know what assurance she had, beyond her ability at keeping all those laws; at being as Christ-like as she could be.
    Well, she doesn’t have to try any more, thanks be to God.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner (again) @ 142,

    One thing I brought up a while ago, and would like to revisit since I don’t remember anyone responding to it, is the idea that internal consistency doesn’t really make sense for a collection of historical works. We generally apply this idea to fictional works, expecting internal consistency to help us suspend our understanding that this is a work of fiction. But historical records from different time periods do not always agree, based on the perspectives of the different writers as well as their own historical contexts. When these are put together, they can help us learn about an earlier time period; but they are rarely consistent. That’s part of the appeal, as well as part of the learning process: by seeing their mistakes, and how their perspectives varied based on who they were, when they were writing, etc., we can get a more rounded view than we would if we just looked at history as though it were a story. It’s not. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end. That is a literary convention, and reality does not generally conform to these types of devices.

    You mention that you find the Bible to be very internally consistent, then you add “[a]t least, it can be interpreted to be so.” You say the relevant question is whether the Bible can be harmonized. I find this an intriguing, if odd, choice. What do you mean by this? As I understand it, when one “harmonizes” a text with another, one is going outside the literal meaning to find thematic unity between two (or more) works which are not themselves a unit. So do you not interpret the Bible literally? And, if not, why are we having this discussion? If you DO interpret it literally, do you see that admitting to “harmonizations” shows you have to WORK to provide a frame in which these disparate books can be said to agree? The original authors lived in different times. Even you admit this, but then go on to say since we can interpret these books as being part of the same story, they in fact ARE telling the same story. You say that I interpret things to be inconsistent, then say that you interpret them NOT to be, and conclude somehow that your’s is the correct version. I’m obviously lost as to how you can accept this, because to me it just seems like linguistic tap-dancing. If it’s all based on interpretation and on how I can manipulate a text to say what I want it to say, well, I don’t find you have a leg to stand on.

    I must find it, but I’m pretty sure there are extra-Biblical authors quoted in the OT as well. The OT writers obviously accepted the authority of these others, even though the people who decided what was canon and what wasn’t did not share this acceptance. The point is, humans tend to quote humans who are accepted authorities so as to add credence to their own ideas. I don’t find that to be a compelling argument for scripture. It would end up being pretty consistent based on this fact alone.

    Humans are unendingly gullible creatures. Our brains are hard-wired to hallucinate. Even our vision is an hallucination. Most of what we “see” is our brain filling in what our eyes are not picking up. Our picture of the world is created in our brain and therefore includes a whole host of falsehoods. So the fact that people who DESIRE to find consistency in the Bible actually find it is not surprising to me, nor is it compelling.

    Besides, it’s not as though there hasn’t been inordinate historical effort to put these works together in a way that is intrepretable as unified. When the Jews lost the temple the first time, there was an effort to redefine Judaism. This was when the literature became really important for the first time. In fact, most of it was not even written down at this time. During the exile, there were Jews who took it upon themselves to write the stories and keep them safe. It was then seen that the literature was becoming a kind of temple itself. Through reading the words, one was able to come into something of the Glory of God as had once been done simply by entering the temple. Each time a Jew read the words of the scriptures, he (it was only men at this time reading this stuff) was, in a sense, entering the mystery of God.

    Interpretation became PARAMOUNT at this point; however, it was not one interpretation over another which was the issue. Judaism became about discussing different interpretations, not about arriving at the “correct” one. It was in the discussion that Jews were able to enter in to God’s Holy of Holies. As a result, many Jews actually REJECTED the written scripture, as they felt it encouraged an inflexible view of life – that it led inexorably to dogma. This ultimately ended in the modern version of Judaism, which sees the community – Jews themselves – as being as much an active part of the faith as the scripture AND the interpretation. This means that things can change; in fact, they MUST change.

    Internal consistency is seen by you with your WESTERN HUMAN logic (I’m turning the tables here) as important. In the west, we are made very uneasy by contradiction. However, in the east this is not the case. They have an ease with the “both/and” that we seem to lack. So, while you look for internal consistency as a mark of the truth of a work, eastern minds do not look for this at all. If this is the case, I’m left wondering what you would do with this idea. Internal consistency is obviously very important to you. I’m just trying to point out it is not even a concern in the eastern mind. Are they simply wrong collectively?

    Now, as a person from the west, you see the ability to interpret 60-odd books written across the centuries as CONSISTENT as leading to the conclusion that they must be correct. Someone from an Arab country may see things in a completely different way. The fact that ALL of the Koran is attributed to Muhammed (P.B.U.H.), should be a clue as to how THIS community considers consistency and accuracy. Since the Koran can be interpreted as consistent, and is supposed to be the words of the angel Gabriel speaking directly to the illiterate Prophet, one can see that THIS is most important to Muslims. In fact, they would use your argument AGAINST the Koran as the argument FOR its veracity.

    (btw, just so I’m not called out on it: the P.B.U.H. was a joke. I’m not a closet Muslim posing as an athe…as whatever it is I am.)

    There is not a lack of a redeemer in Islam, if you INTERPRET it correctly. The redeemer is the Muslim DOING the things that a Muslim should DO. Obviously you see this as being inconsistent with Christian theology; but it is not drastically different than some INTERPRETATIONS of the old or new testaments. Just different than yours. You are correct there is no redeeming personage. The Muslim sees the Christian who elevates Jesus to the level of God as being just as pompous as many Christians see the humanist. I have been accused here of arrogance when I’ve questioned why God should be placed above God’s creations. Muslims see ANYONE being placed on God’s level as blasphemy, including Jesus.

    You reject this, which is understandable, since you are attracted to Christianity because of its uniqueness. God reaches down to US in Christianity, rather than giving us a list of things to do. In Christianity, God says there is NOTHING we can do. I think this IS probably the defining difference between Christianity and the other world religions. But don’t get it twisted. ALL religions have SOMETHING that sets them apart from other religions. ALL religions are in some way unique from ALL others. If you’d like me to give examples, I will, although I find this to be tiresome, as I am not trying to CONVINCE you of anything.

    Also, keep in mind many CHRISTIAN teachers were not completely convinced your interpretation of God’s redemptive work through Jesus was the correct interpretation. “Rules based” theology was prevalent in that time as much as now. You know, James was a very disputed book, precisely BECAUSE of its theme that “faith without works is dead.” It was thought by some that it was too Jewish a book. There was much discussion and argument throughout the first few centuries after Jesus’ death as to how the church should interpret Jesus’ life and teachings. There’s even a story that St. Nicholas (yes, Santa Claus) actually punched a fellow bishop in the face during the council of Nicea when they disagreed! The ancient church didn’t move AWAY from the idea that Jesus’ death was the only redemption; rather, they moved first TOWARD that idea, and later moved away from it again.

    All of these differences lead me to the conclusion that the Bible is easily interpreted in different ways. None of these can be said to do completely away with any other interpretation, since there is no definitive proof for one over another. There is only the way one chooses to harmonize it; and, as has been said, the Bible is such a book that within it can be found “proof” for nearly ANY idea one wishes to defend.

    Why is it you need the Upanishads, or any other eastern religious works, to be consistent with the themes of the Bible? These people were living in different times and places. The word Hindu, translated literally, only means people of the Indus river valley. It is a mark of a people who are from a geographic area. It is part of the conceit of humanity that we think our struggles, or ANYTHING to do with our own personal lives, are universal. There are many creatures living on this planet, and all have there own interpretations of things. I’d love to hear what a meerkat thinks about life. It is precisely because you are a product of the west that you see a choice between Christianity and Hinduism based on whether they share themes. It may not necessarily be, once again, a question of “either/or” in this case; it may be a question of whether you accept or reject the “both/and”.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner (again) @ 142,

    One thing I brought up a while ago, and would like to revisit since I don’t remember anyone responding to it, is the idea that internal consistency doesn’t really make sense for a collection of historical works. We generally apply this idea to fictional works, expecting internal consistency to help us suspend our understanding that this is a work of fiction. But historical records from different time periods do not always agree, based on the perspectives of the different writers as well as their own historical contexts. When these are put together, they can help us learn about an earlier time period; but they are rarely consistent. That’s part of the appeal, as well as part of the learning process: by seeing their mistakes, and how their perspectives varied based on who they were, when they were writing, etc., we can get a more rounded view than we would if we just looked at history as though it were a story. It’s not. It doesn’t have a beginning, middle, and end. That is a literary convention, and reality does not generally conform to these types of devices.

    You mention that you find the Bible to be very internally consistent, then you add “[a]t least, it can be interpreted to be so.” You say the relevant question is whether the Bible can be harmonized. I find this an intriguing, if odd, choice. What do you mean by this? As I understand it, when one “harmonizes” a text with another, one is going outside the literal meaning to find thematic unity between two (or more) works which are not themselves a unit. So do you not interpret the Bible literally? And, if not, why are we having this discussion? If you DO interpret it literally, do you see that admitting to “harmonizations” shows you have to WORK to provide a frame in which these disparate books can be said to agree? The original authors lived in different times. Even you admit this, but then go on to say since we can interpret these books as being part of the same story, they in fact ARE telling the same story. You say that I interpret things to be inconsistent, then say that you interpret them NOT to be, and conclude somehow that your’s is the correct version. I’m obviously lost as to how you can accept this, because to me it just seems like linguistic tap-dancing. If it’s all based on interpretation and on how I can manipulate a text to say what I want it to say, well, I don’t find you have a leg to stand on.

    I must find it, but I’m pretty sure there are extra-Biblical authors quoted in the OT as well. The OT writers obviously accepted the authority of these others, even though the people who decided what was canon and what wasn’t did not share this acceptance. The point is, humans tend to quote humans who are accepted authorities so as to add credence to their own ideas. I don’t find that to be a compelling argument for scripture. It would end up being pretty consistent based on this fact alone.

    Humans are unendingly gullible creatures. Our brains are hard-wired to hallucinate. Even our vision is an hallucination. Most of what we “see” is our brain filling in what our eyes are not picking up. Our picture of the world is created in our brain and therefore includes a whole host of falsehoods. So the fact that people who DESIRE to find consistency in the Bible actually find it is not surprising to me, nor is it compelling.

    Besides, it’s not as though there hasn’t been inordinate historical effort to put these works together in a way that is intrepretable as unified. When the Jews lost the temple the first time, there was an effort to redefine Judaism. This was when the literature became really important for the first time. In fact, most of it was not even written down at this time. During the exile, there were Jews who took it upon themselves to write the stories and keep them safe. It was then seen that the literature was becoming a kind of temple itself. Through reading the words, one was able to come into something of the Glory of God as had once been done simply by entering the temple. Each time a Jew read the words of the scriptures, he (it was only men at this time reading this stuff) was, in a sense, entering the mystery of God.

    Interpretation became PARAMOUNT at this point; however, it was not one interpretation over another which was the issue. Judaism became about discussing different interpretations, not about arriving at the “correct” one. It was in the discussion that Jews were able to enter in to God’s Holy of Holies. As a result, many Jews actually REJECTED the written scripture, as they felt it encouraged an inflexible view of life – that it led inexorably to dogma. This ultimately ended in the modern version of Judaism, which sees the community – Jews themselves – as being as much an active part of the faith as the scripture AND the interpretation. This means that things can change; in fact, they MUST change.

    Internal consistency is seen by you with your WESTERN HUMAN logic (I’m turning the tables here) as important. In the west, we are made very uneasy by contradiction. However, in the east this is not the case. They have an ease with the “both/and” that we seem to lack. So, while you look for internal consistency as a mark of the truth of a work, eastern minds do not look for this at all. If this is the case, I’m left wondering what you would do with this idea. Internal consistency is obviously very important to you. I’m just trying to point out it is not even a concern in the eastern mind. Are they simply wrong collectively?

    Now, as a person from the west, you see the ability to interpret 60-odd books written across the centuries as CONSISTENT as leading to the conclusion that they must be correct. Someone from an Arab country may see things in a completely different way. The fact that ALL of the Koran is attributed to Muhammed (P.B.U.H.), should be a clue as to how THIS community considers consistency and accuracy. Since the Koran can be interpreted as consistent, and is supposed to be the words of the angel Gabriel speaking directly to the illiterate Prophet, one can see that THIS is most important to Muslims. In fact, they would use your argument AGAINST the Koran as the argument FOR its veracity.

    (btw, just so I’m not called out on it: the P.B.U.H. was a joke. I’m not a closet Muslim posing as an athe…as whatever it is I am.)

    There is not a lack of a redeemer in Islam, if you INTERPRET it correctly. The redeemer is the Muslim DOING the things that a Muslim should DO. Obviously you see this as being inconsistent with Christian theology; but it is not drastically different than some INTERPRETATIONS of the old or new testaments. Just different than yours. You are correct there is no redeeming personage. The Muslim sees the Christian who elevates Jesus to the level of God as being just as pompous as many Christians see the humanist. I have been accused here of arrogance when I’ve questioned why God should be placed above God’s creations. Muslims see ANYONE being placed on God’s level as blasphemy, including Jesus.

    You reject this, which is understandable, since you are attracted to Christianity because of its uniqueness. God reaches down to US in Christianity, rather than giving us a list of things to do. In Christianity, God says there is NOTHING we can do. I think this IS probably the defining difference between Christianity and the other world religions. But don’t get it twisted. ALL religions have SOMETHING that sets them apart from other religions. ALL religions are in some way unique from ALL others. If you’d like me to give examples, I will, although I find this to be tiresome, as I am not trying to CONVINCE you of anything.

    Also, keep in mind many CHRISTIAN teachers were not completely convinced your interpretation of God’s redemptive work through Jesus was the correct interpretation. “Rules based” theology was prevalent in that time as much as now. You know, James was a very disputed book, precisely BECAUSE of its theme that “faith without works is dead.” It was thought by some that it was too Jewish a book. There was much discussion and argument throughout the first few centuries after Jesus’ death as to how the church should interpret Jesus’ life and teachings. There’s even a story that St. Nicholas (yes, Santa Claus) actually punched a fellow bishop in the face during the council of Nicea when they disagreed! The ancient church didn’t move AWAY from the idea that Jesus’ death was the only redemption; rather, they moved first TOWARD that idea, and later moved away from it again.

    All of these differences lead me to the conclusion that the Bible is easily interpreted in different ways. None of these can be said to do completely away with any other interpretation, since there is no definitive proof for one over another. There is only the way one chooses to harmonize it; and, as has been said, the Bible is such a book that within it can be found “proof” for nearly ANY idea one wishes to defend.

    Why is it you need the Upanishads, or any other eastern religious works, to be consistent with the themes of the Bible? These people were living in different times and places. The word Hindu, translated literally, only means people of the Indus river valley. It is a mark of a people who are from a geographic area. It is part of the conceit of humanity that we think our struggles, or ANYTHING to do with our own personal lives, are universal. There are many creatures living on this planet, and all have there own interpretations of things. I’d love to hear what a meerkat thinks about life. It is precisely because you are a product of the west that you see a choice between Christianity and Hinduism based on whether they share themes. It may not necessarily be, once again, a question of “either/or” in this case; it may be a question of whether you accept or reject the “both/and”.

  • Van

    See what I mean? I can’t get my thoughts across without sounding like two people! ha!
    Sorry.

  • Van

    See what I mean? I can’t get my thoughts across without sounding like two people! ha!
    Sorry.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    I’m trying to get to the others so I can get to you! NOT neglecting you!

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    I’m trying to get to the others so I can get to you! NOT neglecting you!

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 144,

    I don’t know why you think you can tell me that my views come from a “lack of knowledge about the Bible, its history, and its being put together” or “from what [I] don’t know, think [I] know, or ‘know’ from poor sources.” I guess I haven’t made it clear, so I will say it again: I studied religion/philosophy as a major part of my degree, and it is an ongoing interest. I haven’t cited any sources to back up my assertions, so you can’t really speak to the quality of the “authorities” I may be referencing. (Unless you mean Karen Armstrong, of whom I am a great admirer, but whose views I have not specifically quoted as proof for my statements.) The only thing I can think of is my opinions differ from your opinions, and, since you believe your opinions are right, mine must be wrong. You haven’t cited sources per se, so I can’t speak to them; but I suspect you are rejecting my claims based on your BELIEFS about them, rather than on evidence.

    I never said the Bible was “edited to death,” nor did I imply that. It WAS edited, though, and I can back that up with major scholarly works. Which I WILL provide if asked. Even many conservative scholars agree this is the case. I was recently reading The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and was struck by conservative scholar Craig Blomberg’s agreement that there may have been a Q document. The Jewish community agrees the documents which comprise their scriptures were edited. This is a big part of the Jewish view, as I stated in another comment, which holds the community of faith to be as much a part of the ongoing work of the faith as God, the rabbinical class, or scripture. Since the Christian scriptures were largely composed by Jews, do you accept their authority as far as the interpretation of their own books is concerned? Where are your sources which refute the “popular” view? And by “popular,” do you mean in the scholarly world, or in general?

    I’ve requested what books we have by Maier, since they are not at the specific branch where I work. Not a lot here, so I may have to go on a hunt. From what I’ve read online, though, I can already see I am not going to agree with him, as he believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible. He also states, oddly, that “the Christian Church is based on fact, not fiction.” I know he must say this because he must believe it, at least in some sense. But it’s a weird choice, I think, given the emphasis on faith in Christianity. If the religion is based on facts, where is the faith again? I mean, beyond just the regular old faith we must have living in an uncertain universe.

    There have been many Biblical literalists throughout history; there have also been many others whom I will call “allegorists,” for lack of a better term. There is considerable evidence that the allegorical view has been slightly more dominant throughout history, but I do not doubt you will disagree with me here. Just trying to be honest. I will read Maier with as open a mind as I can manage, but it will be difficult for me.

    What I’m trying to say about learning as opposed to teaching is basically about emphasis. A student learns many things beyond simply what he/she is “taught”. As many parents are fond of pointing out to me, children learn as much from what their parents DO, as they do from what their parent’s say. I think the “say” part is important, as that’s what they are teaching actively. But the children are learning constantly. I don’t think anyone can easily make a distinction between these – the active and passive teaching – so I like to put the emphasis on the learner.

    As far as “agenda” is concerned, I’m really talking about bias. Of course none of us can remove ourselves from our biases; I just think, keeping this fact in mind, that we should be humble enough to admit our position may not be correct. Besides, beyond teaching survival skills and general life skills, it is NOT the job of a parent to indoctrinate a child into believing as that parent believes. This is the old model of parenting which refuses to see the child as an autonomous human being. The new model realizes this is a being with her/his own thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, etc., and that to impose too much of our own worldview on them does not help them to be themselves; rather, it just turns them into little robot versions of their parents.

    I never said, nor did I imply, anyone learns by “his own will or skill”. It is precisely BECAUSE we learn from each other that I think adults should not impose our views on children. They are intelligent and can be reasoned with, if one has the time and is so inclined. It does take a lot longer to do this than just to TELL them everything, and it also requires the kind of conversation skills most adults lack – i.e., the ability to listen. Children should be guided, not INSTRUCTED. Once again, it is in this way that we keep people from becoming too rigid. A good teacher does not have any other agenda than to help his/her students. A good teacher should have the skills to do this in as many contexts as possible. Basically, they are jazz musicians. Improvisation is, in my opinion, the most important skill in a teacher’s arsenal.

    (BTW, I have a ton of teacher friends, and I’ve run this by them…they don’t ALL agree…)

    You’re absolutely correct in pointing out my issues with “mere words” though. They are just tools we use to communicate, and they aren’t very accurate or even very helpful a lot of the time. A bigger problem I have with them is when people get stuck on a definition as if its an actual thing, rather than just a definition. You know, the whole “hand pointing at the moon” thing. I find most people tend to look at the hand POINTING at the moon (the words) rather than the moon itself (the thing being described or defined). For example: love is a word which corresponds to an emotion. Is that emotion LOVE? Or is LOVE the word we use to try and capture what we feel when that emotion comes over us? I find words do not EVER fully capture that which they are attempting to nail down. It’s the reason I only call myself an atheist in these contexts. It’s easier to use, since it sort of gets at the fact that I don’t believe in a supreme being or “personal god”; but it doesn’t describe or define me.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 144,

    I don’t know why you think you can tell me that my views come from a “lack of knowledge about the Bible, its history, and its being put together” or “from what [I] don’t know, think [I] know, or ‘know’ from poor sources.” I guess I haven’t made it clear, so I will say it again: I studied religion/philosophy as a major part of my degree, and it is an ongoing interest. I haven’t cited any sources to back up my assertions, so you can’t really speak to the quality of the “authorities” I may be referencing. (Unless you mean Karen Armstrong, of whom I am a great admirer, but whose views I have not specifically quoted as proof for my statements.) The only thing I can think of is my opinions differ from your opinions, and, since you believe your opinions are right, mine must be wrong. You haven’t cited sources per se, so I can’t speak to them; but I suspect you are rejecting my claims based on your BELIEFS about them, rather than on evidence.

    I never said the Bible was “edited to death,” nor did I imply that. It WAS edited, though, and I can back that up with major scholarly works. Which I WILL provide if asked. Even many conservative scholars agree this is the case. I was recently reading The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel and was struck by conservative scholar Craig Blomberg’s agreement that there may have been a Q document. The Jewish community agrees the documents which comprise their scriptures were edited. This is a big part of the Jewish view, as I stated in another comment, which holds the community of faith to be as much a part of the ongoing work of the faith as God, the rabbinical class, or scripture. Since the Christian scriptures were largely composed by Jews, do you accept their authority as far as the interpretation of their own books is concerned? Where are your sources which refute the “popular” view? And by “popular,” do you mean in the scholarly world, or in general?

    I’ve requested what books we have by Maier, since they are not at the specific branch where I work. Not a lot here, so I may have to go on a hunt. From what I’ve read online, though, I can already see I am not going to agree with him, as he believes in a literal interpretation of the Bible. He also states, oddly, that “the Christian Church is based on fact, not fiction.” I know he must say this because he must believe it, at least in some sense. But it’s a weird choice, I think, given the emphasis on faith in Christianity. If the religion is based on facts, where is the faith again? I mean, beyond just the regular old faith we must have living in an uncertain universe.

    There have been many Biblical literalists throughout history; there have also been many others whom I will call “allegorists,” for lack of a better term. There is considerable evidence that the allegorical view has been slightly more dominant throughout history, but I do not doubt you will disagree with me here. Just trying to be honest. I will read Maier with as open a mind as I can manage, but it will be difficult for me.

    What I’m trying to say about learning as opposed to teaching is basically about emphasis. A student learns many things beyond simply what he/she is “taught”. As many parents are fond of pointing out to me, children learn as much from what their parents DO, as they do from what their parent’s say. I think the “say” part is important, as that’s what they are teaching actively. But the children are learning constantly. I don’t think anyone can easily make a distinction between these – the active and passive teaching – so I like to put the emphasis on the learner.

    As far as “agenda” is concerned, I’m really talking about bias. Of course none of us can remove ourselves from our biases; I just think, keeping this fact in mind, that we should be humble enough to admit our position may not be correct. Besides, beyond teaching survival skills and general life skills, it is NOT the job of a parent to indoctrinate a child into believing as that parent believes. This is the old model of parenting which refuses to see the child as an autonomous human being. The new model realizes this is a being with her/his own thoughts, feelings, hopes, dreams, etc., and that to impose too much of our own worldview on them does not help them to be themselves; rather, it just turns them into little robot versions of their parents.

    I never said, nor did I imply, anyone learns by “his own will or skill”. It is precisely BECAUSE we learn from each other that I think adults should not impose our views on children. They are intelligent and can be reasoned with, if one has the time and is so inclined. It does take a lot longer to do this than just to TELL them everything, and it also requires the kind of conversation skills most adults lack – i.e., the ability to listen. Children should be guided, not INSTRUCTED. Once again, it is in this way that we keep people from becoming too rigid. A good teacher does not have any other agenda than to help his/her students. A good teacher should have the skills to do this in as many contexts as possible. Basically, they are jazz musicians. Improvisation is, in my opinion, the most important skill in a teacher’s arsenal.

    (BTW, I have a ton of teacher friends, and I’ve run this by them…they don’t ALL agree…)

    You’re absolutely correct in pointing out my issues with “mere words” though. They are just tools we use to communicate, and they aren’t very accurate or even very helpful a lot of the time. A bigger problem I have with them is when people get stuck on a definition as if its an actual thing, rather than just a definition. You know, the whole “hand pointing at the moon” thing. I find most people tend to look at the hand POINTING at the moon (the words) rather than the moon itself (the thing being described or defined). For example: love is a word which corresponds to an emotion. Is that emotion LOVE? Or is LOVE the word we use to try and capture what we feel when that emotion comes over us? I find words do not EVER fully capture that which they are attempting to nail down. It’s the reason I only call myself an atheist in these contexts. It’s easier to use, since it sort of gets at the fact that I don’t believe in a supreme being or “personal god”; but it doesn’t describe or define me.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 145,

    Thank you for such kindness. Tenacity is a nice word. My girlfriend calls me stubborn. My dad calls me a stick-in-the-mud! I like your word better, for obvious reasons. :) I’ve gone back and forth between frustration and a desire to understand what people on this blog think and believe. I’ve definitely felt overwhelmed, and said so a few times.

    I don’t want faith in any religion now, no. I definitely spent ALL the time from my initial introduction to Christianity until I left it wanting faith. I think many people here want to dismiss what I did as a rejection because it fits their worldview. Trust me, my parents have the same problem. My dad’s even gone so far as to change his view of the afterlife. It’s just a semantic thing, but he says “God decides what happens when we die, so I’m not going to say WHAT will happen to you.” I think it’s just something that makes him feel better. But no one has any actually good reasons for saying that I rejected Christianity other than to prop up their Lutheran beliefs. It’s all speculation anyway, since no one here (that I know of) knows me personally, other than the interaction I’ve had with fw online. And, as I’ve also pointed out, imagining my reasons for leaving Christianity is counterproductive to a conversation, if we’re trying to have one.

    Some people, though, believe there is only ONE reason a person becomes an atheist. Those people are wrong. The reasons are legion, and they can’t all be boiled down to anger or rejection.

    I’m asking questions so I can understand Lutherans better, yes. I’m not a “seeker” as some have said. I don’t want faith, don’t feel I need it; of course, if it came I would never reject it. I’m open to it as an occurrence, if it ever were to happen – I just don’t look for it, nor do I anticipate it. And, since I don’t believe in a personal God, I don’t expect it to happen.

    I’m also asking questions because I like conversation. I like to learn, and one of the best ways I’ve found to do so is to engage people with whom I don’t agree. I always end up learning SOMETHING that way. Sometimes it ends up being some minutiae about Lutheran theology. Sometimes I get introduced to thinkers I had not known before, like Richard Rorty! (If you’re reading this, Dr. Veith, I’m sorry, but I actually think he had a point. Not surprising, I’m sure. Just ordered his book from the library, The Future of Religion.) But it’s almost always beneficial.

    I like your idea “within my faith, that I must remain true to myself even if I am a ‘sinful’ being.” Not shying away from yourself because God is your creator is EXACTLY the kind of confidence in God I had which caused me to leave Christianity. I left because I concluded “God must be bigger than this.” Not trying to insert my words into your thoughts, and I don’t think this is quite what you meant. Although I could be wrong! Might you go a little further in your explanation? I would enjoy it. Also, if you’d like to email what you wrote but will not post, my address is alittleboot@gmail.com.

    I like that you think faith is something one either has or doesn’t have. I struggled with not having it as a child – and that is distinct from struggling TO HAVE IT, which I am now convinced I didn’t do. I agree with you that, if there is an afterlife, we’ll all be really surprised. Period.

    And a lot of thinking CAN wear you out. I am nearly ALWAYS worn out. :)

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 145,

    Thank you for such kindness. Tenacity is a nice word. My girlfriend calls me stubborn. My dad calls me a stick-in-the-mud! I like your word better, for obvious reasons. :) I’ve gone back and forth between frustration and a desire to understand what people on this blog think and believe. I’ve definitely felt overwhelmed, and said so a few times.

    I don’t want faith in any religion now, no. I definitely spent ALL the time from my initial introduction to Christianity until I left it wanting faith. I think many people here want to dismiss what I did as a rejection because it fits their worldview. Trust me, my parents have the same problem. My dad’s even gone so far as to change his view of the afterlife. It’s just a semantic thing, but he says “God decides what happens when we die, so I’m not going to say WHAT will happen to you.” I think it’s just something that makes him feel better. But no one has any actually good reasons for saying that I rejected Christianity other than to prop up their Lutheran beliefs. It’s all speculation anyway, since no one here (that I know of) knows me personally, other than the interaction I’ve had with fw online. And, as I’ve also pointed out, imagining my reasons for leaving Christianity is counterproductive to a conversation, if we’re trying to have one.

    Some people, though, believe there is only ONE reason a person becomes an atheist. Those people are wrong. The reasons are legion, and they can’t all be boiled down to anger or rejection.

    I’m asking questions so I can understand Lutherans better, yes. I’m not a “seeker” as some have said. I don’t want faith, don’t feel I need it; of course, if it came I would never reject it. I’m open to it as an occurrence, if it ever were to happen – I just don’t look for it, nor do I anticipate it. And, since I don’t believe in a personal God, I don’t expect it to happen.

    I’m also asking questions because I like conversation. I like to learn, and one of the best ways I’ve found to do so is to engage people with whom I don’t agree. I always end up learning SOMETHING that way. Sometimes it ends up being some minutiae about Lutheran theology. Sometimes I get introduced to thinkers I had not known before, like Richard Rorty! (If you’re reading this, Dr. Veith, I’m sorry, but I actually think he had a point. Not surprising, I’m sure. Just ordered his book from the library, The Future of Religion.) But it’s almost always beneficial.

    I like your idea “within my faith, that I must remain true to myself even if I am a ‘sinful’ being.” Not shying away from yourself because God is your creator is EXACTLY the kind of confidence in God I had which caused me to leave Christianity. I left because I concluded “God must be bigger than this.” Not trying to insert my words into your thoughts, and I don’t think this is quite what you meant. Although I could be wrong! Might you go a little further in your explanation? I would enjoy it. Also, if you’d like to email what you wrote but will not post, my address is alittleboot@gmail.com.

    I like that you think faith is something one either has or doesn’t have. I struggled with not having it as a child – and that is distinct from struggling TO HAVE IT, which I am now convinced I didn’t do. I agree with you that, if there is an afterlife, we’ll all be really surprised. Period.

    And a lot of thinking CAN wear you out. I am nearly ALWAYS worn out. :)

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘The only thing I can think of is my opinions differ from your opinions, and, since you believe your opinions are right, mine must be wrong. ‘
    They aren’t my opinions. I know you can’t wrap your god-free mind around that, but them’s the facts.
    ‘I like to learn.’
    I’m beginning to have my doubts.
    ‘I studied religion/philosophy as a major part of my degree, and it is an ongoing interest. ‘
    And that makes you an expert on faith?
    Faith is the gap between us, littleboot. Not what we know, but what we believe.
    And Paul maier and many other Christian apologists are right: Christianity is based in fact. Faith, however, is based in facts believed, not witnessed–at least not for around 2,000 years. Christ conceived by the holy spirit, born of a virgin, traveling a small piece of earth for a few years, teaching, healing, preaching, forgiving sins; being crucified, dying, being buried, rising, ascending: fact, fact, fact, fact, etc. etc. etc. All witnessed, recorded, and now believed.
    I can no more prove it to you than you can disprove it to me.
    That’s all I’ve got. I ain’t got anymore than that for you.
    All the study in the world won’t lead you to faith. But you admit you don’t want it, but only want dialog, to better ‘understand Lutherans.’
    You can only begin to understand, however, if you take us at our word as to what we believe and how we’ve come to believe it.
    And if you still think we don’t understand you, think again. You’re an educated unbeliever with an agenda that includes actively denying a God he hasn’t begun to understand, but with whom he disagrees, but in whom he doesn’t believe.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘The only thing I can think of is my opinions differ from your opinions, and, since you believe your opinions are right, mine must be wrong. ‘
    They aren’t my opinions. I know you can’t wrap your god-free mind around that, but them’s the facts.
    ‘I like to learn.’
    I’m beginning to have my doubts.
    ‘I studied religion/philosophy as a major part of my degree, and it is an ongoing interest. ‘
    And that makes you an expert on faith?
    Faith is the gap between us, littleboot. Not what we know, but what we believe.
    And Paul maier and many other Christian apologists are right: Christianity is based in fact. Faith, however, is based in facts believed, not witnessed–at least not for around 2,000 years. Christ conceived by the holy spirit, born of a virgin, traveling a small piece of earth for a few years, teaching, healing, preaching, forgiving sins; being crucified, dying, being buried, rising, ascending: fact, fact, fact, fact, etc. etc. etc. All witnessed, recorded, and now believed.
    I can no more prove it to you than you can disprove it to me.
    That’s all I’ve got. I ain’t got anymore than that for you.
    All the study in the world won’t lead you to faith. But you admit you don’t want it, but only want dialog, to better ‘understand Lutherans.’
    You can only begin to understand, however, if you take us at our word as to what we believe and how we’ve come to believe it.
    And if you still think we don’t understand you, think again. You’re an educated unbeliever with an agenda that includes actively denying a God he hasn’t begun to understand, but with whom he disagrees, but in whom he doesn’t believe.

  • Van

    Susan, I’m curious how you came to believe. I mean what was the path of thinking. I know I said I don’t know how I came to believe but that’s because there has never been a time in my life I can recall when I didn’t have faith. You on the other hand were an atheist like Michael, right? Direct me to a post number if you’ve already share this.

    Maybe you’d see me as naive, but I don’t see a good reason to have the tone you have. Jesus, and correct me if I’m wrong, only had that tone with the religious hypocrits. Maybe you think because Michael doesn’t want faith that you should write him off.
    I have friends that didn’t believe for YEARS and I didn’t write them off becuase of that. When they did come to faith our friendship was rooted in lots of years of back and forth DIALOG and respect.
    It’s not your job to convince Michael that you’re right and he’s wrong. He simply wanted to know what we believe. We have the burden of being patient and kind and hopeful. Yes, wise, but the aforementioned too!

    I’m surprised that you would not realize this.

    Susan, please know that I haven’t been along for this entire thread and that I do respect that you’ve been in the other camp so to say and have a perspective I’ll never have.

    Van

  • Van

    Susan, I’m curious how you came to believe. I mean what was the path of thinking. I know I said I don’t know how I came to believe but that’s because there has never been a time in my life I can recall when I didn’t have faith. You on the other hand were an atheist like Michael, right? Direct me to a post number if you’ve already share this.

    Maybe you’d see me as naive, but I don’t see a good reason to have the tone you have. Jesus, and correct me if I’m wrong, only had that tone with the religious hypocrits. Maybe you think because Michael doesn’t want faith that you should write him off.
    I have friends that didn’t believe for YEARS and I didn’t write them off becuase of that. When they did come to faith our friendship was rooted in lots of years of back and forth DIALOG and respect.
    It’s not your job to convince Michael that you’re right and he’s wrong. He simply wanted to know what we believe. We have the burden of being patient and kind and hopeful. Yes, wise, but the aforementioned too!

    I’m surprised that you would not realize this.

    Susan, please know that I haven’t been along for this entire thread and that I do respect that you’ve been in the other camp so to say and have a perspective I’ll never have.

    Van

  • Van

    Michael,

    I guess I meant that I try to be very, very honest with myself no matter if it means admitting that I don’t believe something I’ve been taught to believe or that I’m not as confident as I’d like to think or whatever. I believe that I am usually selfish and want what I want. I struggle against this. If I’m not honest about what I really think or feel then I can’t fess up to my selfishness or my insecurities. I like it that you’re honest about who you are where religion is concerned. I can’t imagine that this doesn’t benefit you greatly. Lying to ourselves can keep us from being able to see; really see.

    very interesting to me what you said….
    I like your idea “within my faith, that I must remain true to myself even if I am a ’sinful’ being.” Not shying away from yourself because God is your creator is EXACTLY the kind of confidence in God I had which caused me to leave Christianity. I left because I concluded “God must be bigger than this.”

    Can you explain that?

    And when you said, “God must be bigger than ‘this’ what does “this” refer to ?

  • Van

    Michael,

    I guess I meant that I try to be very, very honest with myself no matter if it means admitting that I don’t believe something I’ve been taught to believe or that I’m not as confident as I’d like to think or whatever. I believe that I am usually selfish and want what I want. I struggle against this. If I’m not honest about what I really think or feel then I can’t fess up to my selfishness or my insecurities. I like it that you’re honest about who you are where religion is concerned. I can’t imagine that this doesn’t benefit you greatly. Lying to ourselves can keep us from being able to see; really see.

    very interesting to me what you said….
    I like your idea “within my faith, that I must remain true to myself even if I am a ’sinful’ being.” Not shying away from yourself because God is your creator is EXACTLY the kind of confidence in God I had which caused me to leave Christianity. I left because I concluded “God must be bigger than this.”

    Can you explain that?

    And when you said, “God must be bigger than ‘this’ what does “this” refer to ?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Van: email me at organshoes-at-hotmail-dot-com
    We’ll talk.
    Or anyone else, for that matter.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Van: email me at organshoes-at-hotmail-dot-com
    We’ll talk.
    Or anyone else, for that matter.

  • kerner

    MIchael:

    There are a couple of questions that you have raised (one was some time ago) that I have not addressed. They have given me reason to think them through thoroughly, and I hope to discuss them with you later. For now, I have a couple of questions for you.

    You seem to be offended by the use of certain words. For example, you like to say you “Left” Christianity, but you don’t like us to say you “rejected” it. This confuses me. I do not imply any negative conotation to the word “reject”. To me it simply means that you once had or possessed or had some use for a particular thing (or idea or inthis case, religion), but you don’t anymore, so you have discarded it. People reject things they don’t want all the time, and nobody thinks less of them for it. Why do you not want us to say you “rejected” Christianity, when you clearly say you accepted it once, but you later, well, rejacted it?

    You seem to have the same problem with the word “sin”. I grant you that this is a word not often used in modern society, but it works just as well as saying that something is not cool, or intrinsicly bad, or giving examples of bad acts, as you seem to want to do. Why don’t you want to use the word “sin”?

  • kerner

    MIchael:

    There are a couple of questions that you have raised (one was some time ago) that I have not addressed. They have given me reason to think them through thoroughly, and I hope to discuss them with you later. For now, I have a couple of questions for you.

    You seem to be offended by the use of certain words. For example, you like to say you “Left” Christianity, but you don’t like us to say you “rejected” it. This confuses me. I do not imply any negative conotation to the word “reject”. To me it simply means that you once had or possessed or had some use for a particular thing (or idea or inthis case, religion), but you don’t anymore, so you have discarded it. People reject things they don’t want all the time, and nobody thinks less of them for it. Why do you not want us to say you “rejected” Christianity, when you clearly say you accepted it once, but you later, well, rejacted it?

    You seem to have the same problem with the word “sin”. I grant you that this is a word not often used in modern society, but it works just as well as saying that something is not cool, or intrinsicly bad, or giving examples of bad acts, as you seem to want to do. Why don’t you want to use the word “sin”?

  • kerner

    boy, am I full of typos today.

  • kerner

    boy, am I full of typos today.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 148,

    “It always bothered me that I wasn’t able to give her a very intellectual response. One that made me look like I had researched all these religions and made the decision that Christianity was the one for me.
    30 years later I still haven’t truly researched other religions. Why would I? I believe that God is who he says he is. I wish I could tell you why I do but I can’t. I just do.”

    My questions regarding the above would be: who does God say God is? Do you believe the only valid view of God is to be found in the Bible? What is your evidence for that? Why do you choose to believe what the Bible says about God rather than other books? In other words, what appeals to you about Christianity that causes you to see it as a more valid view – or possibly the ONLY true expression – of belief in God?

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 148,

    “It always bothered me that I wasn’t able to give her a very intellectual response. One that made me look like I had researched all these religions and made the decision that Christianity was the one for me.
    30 years later I still haven’t truly researched other religions. Why would I? I believe that God is who he says he is. I wish I could tell you why I do but I can’t. I just do.”

    My questions regarding the above would be: who does God say God is? Do you believe the only valid view of God is to be found in the Bible? What is your evidence for that? Why do you choose to believe what the Bible says about God rather than other books? In other words, what appeals to you about Christianity that causes you to see it as a more valid view – or possibly the ONLY true expression – of belief in God?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 159,

    “They aren’t my opinions. I know you can’t wrap your god-free mind around that, but them’s the facts.” This is another on the long list of unhelpful comments you’ve offered. What you believe are not facts, because they’re not established through multiple sources which are in agreement. I’m NOT saying it is a forgone conclusion they didn’t happen; but there’s a difference between a possibility and an actuality. I know you BELIEVE these are facts – and they may well BE FACTS – but they have not been established as such. I could make a statement with just as much evidence in favor of its central idea as theism – let’s say, “There exist on other planets beings like us who are alien to Earth” – but stating it AS THOUGH IT WERE A FACT doesn’t make it so. However, it may BE a fact. If it has not been established as a fact, though, it is not beneficial to a discussion simply to say “Too bad, it’s a fact, deal with it.” While I could make statements like that about evolution, since it HAS been established, I don’t tend to say things like “them’s the facts” when presenting them, as I understand you disagree and it would not further our conversation.

    If you were trying to understand me rather than just convince me or prove me wrong, you wouldn’t make such wild statements. And I still think you don’t understand me. You, Susan. I’m not talking about anyone else here, but you definitely don’t understand me if you think the following is accurate: “You’re an educated unbeliever with an agenda that includes actively denying a God he hasn’t begun to understand, but with whom he disagrees, but in whom he doesn’t believe.” My disagreements are not with God, but with the believers in God. If my writing about God confuses you, put the word “hypothetically” before ALL of my statements which name God and talk about God as though God were real. I have no agenda other than to learn. Which you doubt, for no other reason – or so it seems to me – than I don’t agree with you. Well, Susan, you’re going to have to face the idea that nothing anyone has said here about God or Christianity is compelling to me. I don’t think most of what I have said is compelling to YOU personally, either. And if you define “learn” as “agree with” you’re going to arrive at the conclusion ye ol’ little boot don’ wanna do it (i.e., LEARN).

    I was not bringing up my knowledge in religion and philosophy to say I am an expert on faith (I wasn’t even claiming to be an expert in religion or philosophy), but to show where your statements re: my non-understanding of the FACTS of the history of Christianity are not accurate. If you are going to make statements like that it would be helpful if you could cite your own findings so that we have something to discuss. You can tell me all day long I’m wrong, but I can only learn when you point out HOW I’m wrong. If it’s a nebulous brush-off, I don’t see the point. Unless your purpose is simply to crow about your beliefs and how awesome it is that you’re right.

    That you say “fact, fact, fact, fact, etc. etc. etc.” then say “[a]ll witnessed, recorded, and now believed” shows you have no understanding of the term FACT. Witnesses record nonfactual things ALL the time. A testimony is only considered authoritative if it has been corroborated by facts external to itself. Testimony alone is NOT acceptable. The FACT that it is believed by so many does not lend any authority, either – obviously, a great many nonfacts have been thought to be facts by HUGE groups of people throughout history. So, while it may have actually HAPPENED, calling it a fact is pointless until you can point to something OUTSIDE the testimony which backs it up.

    As a tiny addendum (and in the interest of getting an answer to the question I asked about whether you consider Jewish interpretations of scripture to be authoritative), I was wondering: were you aware that the word translated “virgin” in Isaiah is actually based on a mistranslation in the Septuagint of the Hebrew word for “young girl”? I ask because you included the idea that Jesus was born of a virgin in your list of “facts believed, not witnessed”. So it must be assumed the gospel writer did not know Hebrew, or he/she would not have accepted this mistranslation as correct. Yet the Christian world believes Jesus to have been born of a virgin. What do you think of this?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 159,

    “They aren’t my opinions. I know you can’t wrap your god-free mind around that, but them’s the facts.” This is another on the long list of unhelpful comments you’ve offered. What you believe are not facts, because they’re not established through multiple sources which are in agreement. I’m NOT saying it is a forgone conclusion they didn’t happen; but there’s a difference between a possibility and an actuality. I know you BELIEVE these are facts – and they may well BE FACTS – but they have not been established as such. I could make a statement with just as much evidence in favor of its central idea as theism – let’s say, “There exist on other planets beings like us who are alien to Earth” – but stating it AS THOUGH IT WERE A FACT doesn’t make it so. However, it may BE a fact. If it has not been established as a fact, though, it is not beneficial to a discussion simply to say “Too bad, it’s a fact, deal with it.” While I could make statements like that about evolution, since it HAS been established, I don’t tend to say things like “them’s the facts” when presenting them, as I understand you disagree and it would not further our conversation.

    If you were trying to understand me rather than just convince me or prove me wrong, you wouldn’t make such wild statements. And I still think you don’t understand me. You, Susan. I’m not talking about anyone else here, but you definitely don’t understand me if you think the following is accurate: “You’re an educated unbeliever with an agenda that includes actively denying a God he hasn’t begun to understand, but with whom he disagrees, but in whom he doesn’t believe.” My disagreements are not with God, but with the believers in God. If my writing about God confuses you, put the word “hypothetically” before ALL of my statements which name God and talk about God as though God were real. I have no agenda other than to learn. Which you doubt, for no other reason – or so it seems to me – than I don’t agree with you. Well, Susan, you’re going to have to face the idea that nothing anyone has said here about God or Christianity is compelling to me. I don’t think most of what I have said is compelling to YOU personally, either. And if you define “learn” as “agree with” you’re going to arrive at the conclusion ye ol’ little boot don’ wanna do it (i.e., LEARN).

    I was not bringing up my knowledge in religion and philosophy to say I am an expert on faith (I wasn’t even claiming to be an expert in religion or philosophy), but to show where your statements re: my non-understanding of the FACTS of the history of Christianity are not accurate. If you are going to make statements like that it would be helpful if you could cite your own findings so that we have something to discuss. You can tell me all day long I’m wrong, but I can only learn when you point out HOW I’m wrong. If it’s a nebulous brush-off, I don’t see the point. Unless your purpose is simply to crow about your beliefs and how awesome it is that you’re right.

    That you say “fact, fact, fact, fact, etc. etc. etc.” then say “[a]ll witnessed, recorded, and now believed” shows you have no understanding of the term FACT. Witnesses record nonfactual things ALL the time. A testimony is only considered authoritative if it has been corroborated by facts external to itself. Testimony alone is NOT acceptable. The FACT that it is believed by so many does not lend any authority, either – obviously, a great many nonfacts have been thought to be facts by HUGE groups of people throughout history. So, while it may have actually HAPPENED, calling it a fact is pointless until you can point to something OUTSIDE the testimony which backs it up.

    As a tiny addendum (and in the interest of getting an answer to the question I asked about whether you consider Jewish interpretations of scripture to be authoritative), I was wondering: were you aware that the word translated “virgin” in Isaiah is actually based on a mistranslation in the Septuagint of the Hebrew word for “young girl”? I ask because you included the idea that Jesus was born of a virgin in your list of “facts believed, not witnessed”. So it must be assumed the gospel writer did not know Hebrew, or he/she would not have accepted this mistranslation as correct. Yet the Christian world believes Jesus to have been born of a virgin. What do you think of this?

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 161,

    “Lying to ourselves can keep us from being able to see; really see.” Yes yes yes!! This is the simplest reason I can give for why I left Christianity. It felt like lying to say I still believed those things. I thought God would rather me be honest than correct, so I walked away from Christianity to follow the path I believed God had laid out for me. What I mean by that is I had confidence in God’s desire for me to be as fully myself as I could ever achieve in my life. I felt like God was saying “I encompass more than any religion could ever express, so I appreciate ALL interpretations by humans of myself.”

    As I studied other cultures in college, it became apparent to me some ideas are not acceptable by all people groups. I wondered how probable it was that I would just happen to luck out and be born into the culture that HAD the correct religion. I thought, if God is love, God wouldn’t be that unreasonable. If God created ALL the people groups on Earth, it would be reasonable for God to give each of them a way to understand God that MADE SENSE TO THEM. The other way around just sounds like the “old school” idea of being a parent or teacher: the student or child must learn things as the teacher or parent relates them; but recent research shows the opposite to be more helpful. The better parent or teacher puts themselves on the student/child’s level, rather than forcing the student/child to come up to a higher level, something which is rarely possible.

    The “this” to which I refer when saying “God must be bigger than ‘this’” is Christianity; but it could just as easily apply to ANY religion. I believe if there is a God, God is too big to fit into any “box” (i.e., any one religion).

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 161,

    “Lying to ourselves can keep us from being able to see; really see.” Yes yes yes!! This is the simplest reason I can give for why I left Christianity. It felt like lying to say I still believed those things. I thought God would rather me be honest than correct, so I walked away from Christianity to follow the path I believed God had laid out for me. What I mean by that is I had confidence in God’s desire for me to be as fully myself as I could ever achieve in my life. I felt like God was saying “I encompass more than any religion could ever express, so I appreciate ALL interpretations by humans of myself.”

    As I studied other cultures in college, it became apparent to me some ideas are not acceptable by all people groups. I wondered how probable it was that I would just happen to luck out and be born into the culture that HAD the correct religion. I thought, if God is love, God wouldn’t be that unreasonable. If God created ALL the people groups on Earth, it would be reasonable for God to give each of them a way to understand God that MADE SENSE TO THEM. The other way around just sounds like the “old school” idea of being a parent or teacher: the student or child must learn things as the teacher or parent relates them; but recent research shows the opposite to be more helpful. The better parent or teacher puts themselves on the student/child’s level, rather than forcing the student/child to come up to a higher level, something which is rarely possible.

    The “this” to which I refer when saying “God must be bigger than ‘this’” is Christianity; but it could just as easily apply to ANY religion. I believe if there is a God, God is too big to fit into any “box” (i.e., any one religion).

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 163,

    I’ve expressed before that I endeavor NOT to be offended by anything, preferring to feel whatever emotion conjured in me when chafing at a statement with which I disagree, so as to learn from these feelings. I’m not offended by the use of certain words, although I do find some words more useful than others. I do like to say I left Christianity, rather than rejected it, because I find it to be a more accurate statement. To my mind, I wasn’t rejecting Christianity but accepting a larger view. You can use the word reject if you’d like, and I’ll try to quibble less with details which aren’t important to the discussion. :)

    As far as the word “sin,” this is a different story. I don’t like it at all. I don’t find it accurately describes that which it is attempting to define. I agree with you the things you use the word to describe DO HAPPEN. In other words, we do things which are “not cool” or which are “bad acts”; I simply find no need to put them in another category BEYOND those. Meaning if something’s not cool, it is just not cool. What I DO have a problem with is this idea of things being “intrinsically” bad. If you want to say something is bad in and of itself, rather than just as someone SEES it, you have a HEAVY burden of proof. While it is accepted that morality is universal, its application is absolutely NOT. The only evidence one needs for this is…a multitude of religions! Is there an absolute moral code? I don’t know. There is not a consensus among humans – and humans are NOT the only creatures who live on this planet. If you want to say there is a universal moral code, THAT burden is even heavier than the that of the question of intrinsic values.

    I don’t believe we sin because of Adam and Eve, as I don’t believe in Adam and Eve. I DO NOT think we are bad or evil for being imperfect. There’s no evidence that our imperfection comes from anything like the doctrine of original sin. (In fact, the doctrine is nowhere to be found explicitly in the Bible. It was invented by Augustine of Hippo.) I don’t believe this imperfection is an unnatural state, and it is a poorly stated conclusion that we should somehow stop being this way. I think the idea that we sin is archaic, and it would be helpful to remove it from our consciousness.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 163,

    I’ve expressed before that I endeavor NOT to be offended by anything, preferring to feel whatever emotion conjured in me when chafing at a statement with which I disagree, so as to learn from these feelings. I’m not offended by the use of certain words, although I do find some words more useful than others. I do like to say I left Christianity, rather than rejected it, because I find it to be a more accurate statement. To my mind, I wasn’t rejecting Christianity but accepting a larger view. You can use the word reject if you’d like, and I’ll try to quibble less with details which aren’t important to the discussion. :)

    As far as the word “sin,” this is a different story. I don’t like it at all. I don’t find it accurately describes that which it is attempting to define. I agree with you the things you use the word to describe DO HAPPEN. In other words, we do things which are “not cool” or which are “bad acts”; I simply find no need to put them in another category BEYOND those. Meaning if something’s not cool, it is just not cool. What I DO have a problem with is this idea of things being “intrinsically” bad. If you want to say something is bad in and of itself, rather than just as someone SEES it, you have a HEAVY burden of proof. While it is accepted that morality is universal, its application is absolutely NOT. The only evidence one needs for this is…a multitude of religions! Is there an absolute moral code? I don’t know. There is not a consensus among humans – and humans are NOT the only creatures who live on this planet. If you want to say there is a universal moral code, THAT burden is even heavier than the that of the question of intrinsic values.

    I don’t believe we sin because of Adam and Eve, as I don’t believe in Adam and Eve. I DO NOT think we are bad or evil for being imperfect. There’s no evidence that our imperfection comes from anything like the doctrine of original sin. (In fact, the doctrine is nowhere to be found explicitly in the Bible. It was invented by Augustine of Hippo.) I don’t believe this imperfection is an unnatural state, and it is a poorly stated conclusion that we should somehow stop being this way. I think the idea that we sin is archaic, and it would be helpful to remove it from our consciousness.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘I think the idea that we sin is archaic, and it would be helpful to remove it from our consciousness.’
    Yes, we’re so highly evolved beyond that sin stuff. From here on out, it’s just ‘bad acts’ and dudes who are ‘not cool’.
    Control the language, you control everything. Except human nature, which rises like sewage over all attempts to by-pass it.
    And I’m always wary of people who want to remove things from our consciousness. Only one way to do that, isn’t there?
    Indoctrination!
    (but you hate that word as well…back to the drawing board.)
    A fear of words and of their true meanings betrays an unhealthy fear of reality. An inability to handle what is; a desire–a need!–to make it something other than what it is. It’s emotional adolescense.
    This would make humans healthier?

  • Susan aka organshoes

    ‘I think the idea that we sin is archaic, and it would be helpful to remove it from our consciousness.’
    Yes, we’re so highly evolved beyond that sin stuff. From here on out, it’s just ‘bad acts’ and dudes who are ‘not cool’.
    Control the language, you control everything. Except human nature, which rises like sewage over all attempts to by-pass it.
    And I’m always wary of people who want to remove things from our consciousness. Only one way to do that, isn’t there?
    Indoctrination!
    (but you hate that word as well…back to the drawing board.)
    A fear of words and of their true meanings betrays an unhealthy fear of reality. An inability to handle what is; a desire–a need!–to make it something other than what it is. It’s emotional adolescense.
    This would make humans healthier?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 169,

    What I’m trying to say is we’re NOT more highly evolved than being imperfect, but that we don’t need to go further in defining that imperfection as a flaw which should be changed. In my opinion it is you and everyone here making a bigger deal about this than is warranted by reality. We are not perfect, and sometimes – actually very rarely, as far as the general population is concerned – that imperfection amounts to taking obscene advantage of our power or doing other extremely hurtful things. There ARE some humans throughout history who have done great evil, but I didn’t think we were talking about murderers and rapists and totalitarian dictators. I thought we were just talking about normal people, who, while they definitely do bad things, don’t really do the kind of evil that would cause us to single them out (Hitler and the like).

    I don’t mean to downplay the bad things we do. I think they are definitely difficult to deal with, and they sometimes do irreparable damage. They can cause rifts in relationships. We can definitely be mean and nasty creatures. But for the most part our mistakes are not malicious, and, while we should take responsibility for them, we shouldn’t blow them out of proportion or beat ourselves up for doing these things. If there’s a lesson to be learned, we should try to be open to that, but we shouldn’t have expectations. We should just keep plodding ahead.

    I’m not saying we should try a systematic purge of the sin concept from our consciousness. I think you are right to be leery of people who want to do something like that. I don’t mean we should indoctrinate children not to believe in sin. I just think we should stop giving them this overblown view of their own imperfection. It leads to unnecessarily low self-esteem and can be a real roadblock to personal growth, as well as simply being an impediment to living life.

    I don’t have an inability to handle what “sin” is; rather I think it is you who have a need to make this mole-hill a mountain. And, since the burden of proof is on you to show “sin” even exists (that is, to show our imperfection IS sin), I don’t think I need to go further here.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan @ 169,

    What I’m trying to say is we’re NOT more highly evolved than being imperfect, but that we don’t need to go further in defining that imperfection as a flaw which should be changed. In my opinion it is you and everyone here making a bigger deal about this than is warranted by reality. We are not perfect, and sometimes – actually very rarely, as far as the general population is concerned – that imperfection amounts to taking obscene advantage of our power or doing other extremely hurtful things. There ARE some humans throughout history who have done great evil, but I didn’t think we were talking about murderers and rapists and totalitarian dictators. I thought we were just talking about normal people, who, while they definitely do bad things, don’t really do the kind of evil that would cause us to single them out (Hitler and the like).

    I don’t mean to downplay the bad things we do. I think they are definitely difficult to deal with, and they sometimes do irreparable damage. They can cause rifts in relationships. We can definitely be mean and nasty creatures. But for the most part our mistakes are not malicious, and, while we should take responsibility for them, we shouldn’t blow them out of proportion or beat ourselves up for doing these things. If there’s a lesson to be learned, we should try to be open to that, but we shouldn’t have expectations. We should just keep plodding ahead.

    I’m not saying we should try a systematic purge of the sin concept from our consciousness. I think you are right to be leery of people who want to do something like that. I don’t mean we should indoctrinate children not to believe in sin. I just think we should stop giving them this overblown view of their own imperfection. It leads to unnecessarily low self-esteem and can be a real roadblock to personal growth, as well as simply being an impediment to living life.

    I don’t have an inability to handle what “sin” is; rather I think it is you who have a need to make this mole-hill a mountain. And, since the burden of proof is on you to show “sin” even exists (that is, to show our imperfection IS sin), I don’t think I need to go further here.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    I also noticed you declined to mention anything about Augustine of Hippo being the inventor of the doctrine of original sin. It also seems you didn’t feel the need to respond to any of the things I actually addressed to YOU yesterday…

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    I also noticed you declined to mention anything about Augustine of Hippo being the inventor of the doctrine of original sin. It also seems you didn’t feel the need to respond to any of the things I actually addressed to YOU yesterday…

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    “(In fact, the doctrine is nowhere to be found explicitly in the Bible. It was invented by Augustine of Hippo.”

    Your statement is false.

    Romans 5:12 “By one man sin entered into the world” (speaking of Adam).

    Gen 5:3 “Adam became the father of a son in his own likeness after his own image”.

    Psalms 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

    John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

    All men being descendants of Adam, a sinner, are conceived and born in sin. Augustine received His teachings from scripture. Continuing…

    Romans 7:18 “I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.”

    Genesis 8:21 “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

    Ephesians 2:1 “[You] were dead in trespasses and sins.”

    Ephesians 2:3 “We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

    It is clearly taught in the scripture that we are born sinners because sin entered the world through Adam (aka “Original Sin”).

    Why would this be difficult to understand? Glad you asked! ;-)

    Romans 8:7 “The fleshly mind hates God”.

    1 Corinthians 2:14 “The unspiritual man simply cannot accept the matters which the Spirit deals with — they just don’t make sense to him, for after all, you must be spiritual to see spiritual things.”

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    “(In fact, the doctrine is nowhere to be found explicitly in the Bible. It was invented by Augustine of Hippo.”

    Your statement is false.

    Romans 5:12 “By one man sin entered into the world” (speaking of Adam).

    Gen 5:3 “Adam became the father of a son in his own likeness after his own image”.

    Psalms 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.”

    John 3:6 “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

    All men being descendants of Adam, a sinner, are conceived and born in sin. Augustine received His teachings from scripture. Continuing…

    Romans 7:18 “I know that in me (that is in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing.”

    Genesis 8:21 “The imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”

    Ephesians 2:1 “[You] were dead in trespasses and sins.”

    Ephesians 2:3 “We were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.”

    It is clearly taught in the scripture that we are born sinners because sin entered the world through Adam (aka “Original Sin”).

    Why would this be difficult to understand? Glad you asked! ;-)

    Romans 8:7 “The fleshly mind hates God”.

    1 Corinthians 2:14 “The unspiritual man simply cannot accept the matters which the Spirit deals with — they just don’t make sense to him, for after all, you must be spiritual to see spiritual things.”

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 172,

    Glad to hear from you! In fact you are not exactly correct, either. Very happy you chose to quote THIS verse: Psalms 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This is the EXACT verse from which Augustine derived his doctrine. To him, the reason we are sinful is NOT because of Adam having sinned by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the ACTUAL doctrine of original sin, Augustine states that it is SEX which causes sin, as sex is itself a sinful act. He makes this claim by appealing to the “brought forth in iniquity” and “in sin did my mother conceive me,” stating that this shows sex to be sinful, and, since no one can be born BUT through sex, we are all born THROUGH sin INTO sin.

    Now, as to the rest of the verses you quoted: you make the common mistake of just quoting verses. What is the context of each? What makes you so sure your interpretation is correct? While it is true these verses existed prior to Augustine, there is no MENTION of a doctrine like this UNTIL Augustine. Why, if this is such an explicitly stated doctrine, did no one find it until the fourth or fifth century?

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 172,

    Glad to hear from you! In fact you are not exactly correct, either. Very happy you chose to quote THIS verse: Psalms 51:5 “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me.” This is the EXACT verse from which Augustine derived his doctrine. To him, the reason we are sinful is NOT because of Adam having sinned by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the ACTUAL doctrine of original sin, Augustine states that it is SEX which causes sin, as sex is itself a sinful act. He makes this claim by appealing to the “brought forth in iniquity” and “in sin did my mother conceive me,” stating that this shows sex to be sinful, and, since no one can be born BUT through sex, we are all born THROUGH sin INTO sin.

    Now, as to the rest of the verses you quoted: you make the common mistake of just quoting verses. What is the context of each? What makes you so sure your interpretation is correct? While it is true these verses existed prior to Augustine, there is no MENTION of a doctrine like this UNTIL Augustine. Why, if this is such an explicitly stated doctrine, did no one find it until the fourth or fifth century?

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Please look up the verses in your bible and read them in context. My point has been established and that is you are in error with your claim that the doctrine of original sin was invented by Augustine. That claim is patently false.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Please look up the verses in your bible and read them in context. My point has been established and that is you are in error with your claim that the doctrine of original sin was invented by Augustine. That claim is patently false.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    I did miss a couple scriptures, btw.

    “12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

    15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:12 – 21

    ” But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. ” 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

    It is pretty clear that St. Paul expresses the doctrine of original sin long before Augustine.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    I did miss a couple scriptures, btw.

    “12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned— 13 for sin indeed was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not counted where there is no law. 14 Yet death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sinning was not like the transgression of Adam, who was a type of the one who was to come.

    15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.

    18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 5:12 – 21

    ” But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ. ” 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

    It is pretty clear that St. Paul expresses the doctrine of original sin long before Augustine.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Finally, so as to not “reinvent the wheel” please read the article at the following link on original sin and pay close attention to the quotes of the church fathers prior to Augustine who taught original sin.

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num54.htm

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Finally, so as to not “reinvent the wheel” please read the article at the following link on original sin and pay close attention to the quotes of the church fathers prior to Augustine who taught original sin.

    http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/num54.htm

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    I will read all of that. I’m willing to concede that the idea was being tossed around in various forms prior to Augustine. He was just the person who framed it as he did, which is the basic framework the Christian Church uses today.

    What I’m trying to show is partly that it’s hard to remove our “lenses” when looking backward. You see those verses as describing original sin; but a problem with that is your having come “after the fact” – i.e., you have been born, raised and taught what you’ve learned SINCE Augustine formed his doctrine. It’s the same thing with a lot of doctrines which are supposedly found in scripture. Like the doctrine of the Trinity, which is inferred, but not literally written in the Bible.

    What I’m trying to say is, all the verses were already there, and Augustine used them as support for his doctrine. This doesn’t mean the doctrine of original sin is there AS HE PRESENTED IT. But since the verses ARE all there, it does appear that what you are saying is correct. But it is not exactly right HISTORICALLY.

    Irenaeus did talk a bit about ancestral sin, which is a precursor to the doctrine Augustine “discovered”. Which is to say, the doctrine Augustine invented.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    I will read all of that. I’m willing to concede that the idea was being tossed around in various forms prior to Augustine. He was just the person who framed it as he did, which is the basic framework the Christian Church uses today.

    What I’m trying to show is partly that it’s hard to remove our “lenses” when looking backward. You see those verses as describing original sin; but a problem with that is your having come “after the fact” – i.e., you have been born, raised and taught what you’ve learned SINCE Augustine formed his doctrine. It’s the same thing with a lot of doctrines which are supposedly found in scripture. Like the doctrine of the Trinity, which is inferred, but not literally written in the Bible.

    What I’m trying to say is, all the verses were already there, and Augustine used them as support for his doctrine. This doesn’t mean the doctrine of original sin is there AS HE PRESENTED IT. But since the verses ARE all there, it does appear that what you are saying is correct. But it is not exactly right HISTORICALLY.

    Irenaeus did talk a bit about ancestral sin, which is a precursor to the doctrine Augustine “discovered”. Which is to say, the doctrine Augustine invented.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Your working assumption seems to be that we can’t possibly read any text objectively; instead, all interpretation will be perspectival. But then you proceed to appeal to history in an effort to provide objectivity for your own view. That is an inconsistency. If we can appeal to history as an objective authority in discussions of textual interpretation, then the assumption that “it’s hard to remove our ‘lenses’”… that we can’t have objectivity is most certainly false. So, if you want to maintain that we can’t get outside our perspectives, then there is no reason to appeal to history, because obviously history is going to be seen through the same perspectival lense. Right? In fact, trying to understand the perspectives of others is self-defeating, because you can’t remove “the lense” through which you see another’s view. Indeed, if that is correct, there is no “seeing” someone else’s point of view because it is impossible to get beyond your own perspective. You always see your perspective of another’s point of view. Rather self defeating isn’t it?

    On the other hand, if we can get beyond our own perspectives, which I believe we can, then we can certainly have objective knowledge. Applying that point here… We can read St. Paul’s words and see that he really did write we are born dead in sin (original sin). He didn’t call the biblical teaching “original sin”, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t teach it and wouldn’t recognize the doctrine of today if he were alive. We have a written record of what Paul taught. We also have written historical records of what the church fathers taught prior to Augustine and after Augustine. They all agree at least on the point that we are born dead in sin; aka “original sin”.

    Finally, it is misleading to claim Augustine “invented” the doctrine of original sin. We have the scriptures and history that demonstrates that the doctrine predates Augustine. Now, had the doctrine been formulated earlier as Augustine had done so? No. So, in that sense how Augustine formulated the doctrine may be unique, but that is FAR from inventing the doctrine.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Your working assumption seems to be that we can’t possibly read any text objectively; instead, all interpretation will be perspectival. But then you proceed to appeal to history in an effort to provide objectivity for your own view. That is an inconsistency. If we can appeal to history as an objective authority in discussions of textual interpretation, then the assumption that “it’s hard to remove our ‘lenses’”… that we can’t have objectivity is most certainly false. So, if you want to maintain that we can’t get outside our perspectives, then there is no reason to appeal to history, because obviously history is going to be seen through the same perspectival lense. Right? In fact, trying to understand the perspectives of others is self-defeating, because you can’t remove “the lense” through which you see another’s view. Indeed, if that is correct, there is no “seeing” someone else’s point of view because it is impossible to get beyond your own perspective. You always see your perspective of another’s point of view. Rather self defeating isn’t it?

    On the other hand, if we can get beyond our own perspectives, which I believe we can, then we can certainly have objective knowledge. Applying that point here… We can read St. Paul’s words and see that he really did write we are born dead in sin (original sin). He didn’t call the biblical teaching “original sin”, but that doesn’t mean he didn’t teach it and wouldn’t recognize the doctrine of today if he were alive. We have a written record of what Paul taught. We also have written historical records of what the church fathers taught prior to Augustine and after Augustine. They all agree at least on the point that we are born dead in sin; aka “original sin”.

    Finally, it is misleading to claim Augustine “invented” the doctrine of original sin. We have the scriptures and history that demonstrates that the doctrine predates Augustine. Now, had the doctrine been formulated earlier as Augustine had done so? No. So, in that sense how Augustine formulated the doctrine may be unique, but that is FAR from inventing the doctrine.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    Stop putting words in my mouth. If you’d like me to clarify my position, ASK ME A QUESTION. (And putting “right?” at the end of a statement doesn’t constitute a question, btw.) I never tried to say anything at all about objective truth. Of course you believe in objective truth, or you wouldn’t be part of a religion. What I SAID was that it’s HARD to remove our lenses. Did I say impossible? I did not. You have trouble with nuances. If I must completely give up subtlety to carry on a conversation with you, well, I’m just gonna have to give up on the conversation, because I’m pretty attached to speaking this way. You like to jump on things completely secondary to the discussion, because you don’t want to listen to me. You just want to prove me wrong.

    I appealed to history to give context, not as an objective authority. This Bible you read did NOT come about as it is ex nihilo. It was written, and it was edited, and there are many perspectives within it. If you do not want to accept this, that’s your choice; but this is what has been accepted by the majority of Biblical scholars (and a lot of those are actually CHRISTIANS!). Is this an objective fact? No. It is agreed upon by people who have taken the time and care to really dig into it. Unlike you and those like you, who just accept what people who believe like you tell you is the truth.

    I’m not sure whether we can read a text objectively. You certainly are not getting outside your perspective. You’ve CONVINCED yourself you have done so, but your blind acceptance of the “conventional wisdom” shows the opposite to be the greater possibility.

    In trying to understand the perspectives of others it is important to recognize our difficulty in removing our lenses. Does that mean we can’t remove them at all? I don’t know. It just seems to be very hard to accomplish. But these are nuances, Jim, not black-and-white truisms. I use words like “seems” and “possibility” to denote this difficulty. That could sound to someone who is looking for something to pounce on like I’m hedging my bets, but I am not. I’m simply trying to acknowledge how difficult it is to be truly certain of anything.

    We may never be able to see another person’s perspective as we see our own. Does that mean we shouldn’t try?

    How do you propose we go about getting beyond our own perspective, Jim? You say you believe we can do it. I’d like to know how.

    Saying Paul would recognize the doctrine of original sin were he alive today is completely beside the point, since we have no way of proving this statement’s validity. Also, it’s an appeal to an unqualified authority (so-called because HE’S DEAD, and therefore cannot corroborate your suggestion). It’s also plain underhanded, because you know I can’t say anything about it one way or the other. But that means neither can you.

    You can appeal to the “Church Fathers” if you’d like; if you don’t include all of them, but simply pick and choose from those who agree with your view, you’re just being shady. There are plenty of “Church Fathers” who didn’t agree with you. That’s why they had to convene the Council of Nicea and kick out the people they didn’t like, in order to form “real” Christianity. Which didn’t work, so they had to have a number of OTHER councils to clarify. And so on, and so on…

    Also, remember the scripture was written prior to ANY theology having been done. So ALL the verses have ALWAYS been there before the fact. Theologians look through the Bible all the time to discern it’s meaning, and they often “find” new insights. Some of these insights contradict other, older views. But the verses are there to support both opinions. Which is correct?

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    Stop putting words in my mouth. If you’d like me to clarify my position, ASK ME A QUESTION. (And putting “right?” at the end of a statement doesn’t constitute a question, btw.) I never tried to say anything at all about objective truth. Of course you believe in objective truth, or you wouldn’t be part of a religion. What I SAID was that it’s HARD to remove our lenses. Did I say impossible? I did not. You have trouble with nuances. If I must completely give up subtlety to carry on a conversation with you, well, I’m just gonna have to give up on the conversation, because I’m pretty attached to speaking this way. You like to jump on things completely secondary to the discussion, because you don’t want to listen to me. You just want to prove me wrong.

    I appealed to history to give context, not as an objective authority. This Bible you read did NOT come about as it is ex nihilo. It was written, and it was edited, and there are many perspectives within it. If you do not want to accept this, that’s your choice; but this is what has been accepted by the majority of Biblical scholars (and a lot of those are actually CHRISTIANS!). Is this an objective fact? No. It is agreed upon by people who have taken the time and care to really dig into it. Unlike you and those like you, who just accept what people who believe like you tell you is the truth.

    I’m not sure whether we can read a text objectively. You certainly are not getting outside your perspective. You’ve CONVINCED yourself you have done so, but your blind acceptance of the “conventional wisdom” shows the opposite to be the greater possibility.

    In trying to understand the perspectives of others it is important to recognize our difficulty in removing our lenses. Does that mean we can’t remove them at all? I don’t know. It just seems to be very hard to accomplish. But these are nuances, Jim, not black-and-white truisms. I use words like “seems” and “possibility” to denote this difficulty. That could sound to someone who is looking for something to pounce on like I’m hedging my bets, but I am not. I’m simply trying to acknowledge how difficult it is to be truly certain of anything.

    We may never be able to see another person’s perspective as we see our own. Does that mean we shouldn’t try?

    How do you propose we go about getting beyond our own perspective, Jim? You say you believe we can do it. I’d like to know how.

    Saying Paul would recognize the doctrine of original sin were he alive today is completely beside the point, since we have no way of proving this statement’s validity. Also, it’s an appeal to an unqualified authority (so-called because HE’S DEAD, and therefore cannot corroborate your suggestion). It’s also plain underhanded, because you know I can’t say anything about it one way or the other. But that means neither can you.

    You can appeal to the “Church Fathers” if you’d like; if you don’t include all of them, but simply pick and choose from those who agree with your view, you’re just being shady. There are plenty of “Church Fathers” who didn’t agree with you. That’s why they had to convene the Council of Nicea and kick out the people they didn’t like, in order to form “real” Christianity. Which didn’t work, so they had to have a number of OTHER councils to clarify. And so on, and so on…

    Also, remember the scripture was written prior to ANY theology having been done. So ALL the verses have ALWAYS been there before the fact. Theologians look through the Bible all the time to discern it’s meaning, and they often “find” new insights. Some of these insights contradict other, older views. But the verses are there to support both opinions. Which is correct?

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    In reading the above, it is quite apparent that you really aren’t interested in understanding and learning. You obviously have your mind made up and it is clear that you think you have truth on your side.

    Let’s be honest, what is “shady” is that every time you get nailed down you pound your fists, cry foul, and complain that you aren’t being understood or something or other. You are simply WRONG about the doctrine of original sin. I don’t mind proving you wrong, or “pouncing” upon something you stated about doctrine that is clearly wrong and pointing it out.

    I also think it is clear for anyone else reading this exchange that you are speaking with “forked tongue”. You got upset claiming I am putting words in your mouth regarding subjectivity and objective knowledge, and then turn around and lock yourself into the very position I correctly attribute to you. A good example is your, “We may never be able to see another person’s perspective as we see our own. Does that mean we shouldn’t try?” I know… there is going to be more fist pounding.

    Saying Paul would recognize the doctrine of original sin if he were alive today is right on point. Why? Because he clearly articulates the doctrine in the New Testament! It is scriptural. That IS the point which you are missing. It isn’t an invention of Augustine’s. It is an “invention” of the Holy Spirit.

    Regarding your remarks over the Fathers, councils, and the canon… where would one begin? There is so much wrong with what you are stating. Rather than continuing an unfruitful discussion. I will recommend that you read “I don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and “History and Christianity” by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. I particularly like Montgomery’s book but both are excellent.

    Regarding the assertion that “scripture was written prior to ANY theology having been done”. Nonsense! The Scriptures contain theology with in its very pages. The theology has always been there. You then assert, “Some of these insights [regarding finding "new insights"] contradict other, older views”. The church catholic has always agreed on the fundamentals to the Christian faith as expressed in our creeds. The differences we have generally fall outside the fundamentals of the Christian faith. So, yes, we do have disagreements, but no it doesn’t invalidate Christianity or make the truth any less God’s.

    Finally, you write, “How do you propose we go about getting beyond our own perspective, Jim? You say you believe we can do it. I’d like to know how.”

    I am going to be blunt and point out that you do NOT want to know. You do want to argue. Yes, I know… more fist pounding… but them are the breaks. I can point you to a great resource, “Warranted Christian Belief” by Alvin Plantinga. He provides cogent arguments as to how we can have objective knowledge. I know I have mentioned the book to you before, since we have touched upon this point when you wanted to argue about the types of knowledge.

    Michael, I have other things I need to take care of; so I may not be back here to read your response for a few weeks. I have vacation, etc. I don’t want you to think I am ignoring you.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    In reading the above, it is quite apparent that you really aren’t interested in understanding and learning. You obviously have your mind made up and it is clear that you think you have truth on your side.

    Let’s be honest, what is “shady” is that every time you get nailed down you pound your fists, cry foul, and complain that you aren’t being understood or something or other. You are simply WRONG about the doctrine of original sin. I don’t mind proving you wrong, or “pouncing” upon something you stated about doctrine that is clearly wrong and pointing it out.

    I also think it is clear for anyone else reading this exchange that you are speaking with “forked tongue”. You got upset claiming I am putting words in your mouth regarding subjectivity and objective knowledge, and then turn around and lock yourself into the very position I correctly attribute to you. A good example is your, “We may never be able to see another person’s perspective as we see our own. Does that mean we shouldn’t try?” I know… there is going to be more fist pounding.

    Saying Paul would recognize the doctrine of original sin if he were alive today is right on point. Why? Because he clearly articulates the doctrine in the New Testament! It is scriptural. That IS the point which you are missing. It isn’t an invention of Augustine’s. It is an “invention” of the Holy Spirit.

    Regarding your remarks over the Fathers, councils, and the canon… where would one begin? There is so much wrong with what you are stating. Rather than continuing an unfruitful discussion. I will recommend that you read “I don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist” by Norman Geisler and “History and Christianity” by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery. I particularly like Montgomery’s book but both are excellent.

    Regarding the assertion that “scripture was written prior to ANY theology having been done”. Nonsense! The Scriptures contain theology with in its very pages. The theology has always been there. You then assert, “Some of these insights [regarding finding "new insights"] contradict other, older views”. The church catholic has always agreed on the fundamentals to the Christian faith as expressed in our creeds. The differences we have generally fall outside the fundamentals of the Christian faith. So, yes, we do have disagreements, but no it doesn’t invalidate Christianity or make the truth any less God’s.

    Finally, you write, “How do you propose we go about getting beyond our own perspective, Jim? You say you believe we can do it. I’d like to know how.”

    I am going to be blunt and point out that you do NOT want to know. You do want to argue. Yes, I know… more fist pounding… but them are the breaks. I can point you to a great resource, “Warranted Christian Belief” by Alvin Plantinga. He provides cogent arguments as to how we can have objective knowledge. I know I have mentioned the book to you before, since we have touched upon this point when you wanted to argue about the types of knowledge.

    Michael, I have other things I need to take care of; so I may not be back here to read your response for a few weeks. I have vacation, etc. I don’t want you to think I am ignoring you.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    As an aside, I did want to mention that I read “History and Christianity” by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery when I was an atheist. I found the contents of the book very compelling, but alas my hardened heart would allow me to do nothing other than throw the book in the trash and try to forget I ever read it! I wish I still had that book.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    As an aside, I did want to mention that I read “History and Christianity” by Dr. John Warwick Montgomery when I was an atheist. I found the contents of the book very compelling, but alas my hardened heart would allow me to do nothing other than throw the book in the trash and try to forget I ever read it! I wish I still had that book.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Back @154 you asked me to clarify what I meant by all of the wrintings that comprise the Bible can be harmonized, and why I though it was important that one can interpret them consistently. You have also raised the issue of “proof” repeatedly and have said more than once that I, or other Christians, have a “huge burden of proof”. I hope I can now adequately respond.

    Actually, these are issues in which I have some training. I am an attorney, by vocation, and I have to struggle with “burdens of proof” every day. So I begin by saying that the “burden of proof” you want to hold us (or all religions, I suppose) to is higher than any burden of proof that anyone else ever has to meet in any actual court of law. You have repeatedly said that the only thing that would convince you of God’s existence would be if he were to visit you so that you could physically see Him with your own eyes. I replied that I didn’t believe that even that would convince you because you are predisposed to not believe, but there is more. The fact is, any jury in any court must make decisions based on evidence other than seeing the event in question with their own eyes. Often they can see the physical evidence with their own eyes, often there is video evidence available nowadays. But the jurors also have to consider the testimony of “fact” witnesses who claim to have seen things that the jurors cannot see themselves and from “expert” witnesses that have studied the subject matter at length and from all these sources try to reach a conclusion consistent with the burden of proof. But no court anywhere requires proof to an absolute certainty because all courts, societies and cultures know (due to the imperfection of human nature and power of observation) that nothing, absolutely nothing, can be proved to an absolute certainty.

    This means that if you really require that we Christians prove absolutely the tenets of our faith, you have rendered these discussions meaningless. I can’t prove anything absolutely, Michael, and neither can you.

    But that doesn’t mean that we still don’t have to reach conclusions in life. Eventually, we all come to believe something about questions (great and small) presented to us. You and I have reached different conclusions about many things, but you are making a mistake about something.

    The fallacy you have stumbled into is the one that says, “because I cannot absolutely prove what is true, and because different people do reach different conclusions about what is true, there is no such thing as objective truth”, as if objective truth would only exist if we could perceive it. That is simply illogical. There are species of fish that have no eyes. The fact that they cannot perceive light does not mean that light does not exist. Nor does it mean that light is not important to them. Light may not directly affect them in their dark environment, but without light there would be no life on this planet, including no living blind fish.

    The reason I believe you have stumbled into this fallacy is because you are constantly going on about how ideas evolve and how our perceptions, perspectives and preconceptions tend to affect how we reach our opinions and conclusions. Well, our conclusions may well be affected by those things, but it is shear narcisism to decide that there is nothing that exists outside what one can perceive.

    Unlike the blind fish, we CAN perceive evidence on which we can reach conclusions about the existence of God (or the lack thereof), but we will never find absolutely conclusive proof. But just because we can’t ever reach that totally unassailably positive conclusion, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an objectively true answer to the question. God exists in the form as perceived by Christianity, or God exists in some other form, or there is no God. Only one of us can be right (although we both could be wrong).

    Now, as a Lutheran, I believe that people are a lot like those blind fish in that I believe that my ability to perceive and evaluate eveidnce is pretty limited, but rather we are called by the Holy Spirit and enlightened by Him through the means of God’s Word and the sacraments. In other words, I don’t believe that faith is acquired through an intellectual exercize.

    But in so far as we are discussing what we CAN do, let us evaluate evidence and reach conclusions. But, do you really want to do that? You have repeated said that you just want to understand how people come to their beliefs and you aren’t trying to convince anybody. And I think you have said that we are very unlikely to convince you, either. In other words, you are a lot more interested in studying the PROCESS of how people reach conclusions about truth than you are about actually FINDING the truth. This strikes me as a pretty pointless exercise, and it also strikes me that your interest in our truth seeking and faith is a little bit patronizing. I realize that in some cultures processes (or the journey, or growth, or however you want to describe the concept) is given more emphacis than in western culture. But so what? If there is no truth, what is the point of the process of seeking it?

    I also see this attitude in your approach to “sin”. The idea that there might actually be objective principles of right and wrong, even in a broad sense, is a problem for you. But if there are no objective principles of right and wrong, then why should anyone care what we do? Be a jerk, kick puppies, lie, steal, or kill someone for no reason at all. Why should you feel bad about it and why should anyone think any less of you for doing it? I know you once said that you don’t kick puppies, but why don’t you?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Back @154 you asked me to clarify what I meant by all of the wrintings that comprise the Bible can be harmonized, and why I though it was important that one can interpret them consistently. You have also raised the issue of “proof” repeatedly and have said more than once that I, or other Christians, have a “huge burden of proof”. I hope I can now adequately respond.

    Actually, these are issues in which I have some training. I am an attorney, by vocation, and I have to struggle with “burdens of proof” every day. So I begin by saying that the “burden of proof” you want to hold us (or all religions, I suppose) to is higher than any burden of proof that anyone else ever has to meet in any actual court of law. You have repeatedly said that the only thing that would convince you of God’s existence would be if he were to visit you so that you could physically see Him with your own eyes. I replied that I didn’t believe that even that would convince you because you are predisposed to not believe, but there is more. The fact is, any jury in any court must make decisions based on evidence other than seeing the event in question with their own eyes. Often they can see the physical evidence with their own eyes, often there is video evidence available nowadays. But the jurors also have to consider the testimony of “fact” witnesses who claim to have seen things that the jurors cannot see themselves and from “expert” witnesses that have studied the subject matter at length and from all these sources try to reach a conclusion consistent with the burden of proof. But no court anywhere requires proof to an absolute certainty because all courts, societies and cultures know (due to the imperfection of human nature and power of observation) that nothing, absolutely nothing, can be proved to an absolute certainty.

    This means that if you really require that we Christians prove absolutely the tenets of our faith, you have rendered these discussions meaningless. I can’t prove anything absolutely, Michael, and neither can you.

    But that doesn’t mean that we still don’t have to reach conclusions in life. Eventually, we all come to believe something about questions (great and small) presented to us. You and I have reached different conclusions about many things, but you are making a mistake about something.

    The fallacy you have stumbled into is the one that says, “because I cannot absolutely prove what is true, and because different people do reach different conclusions about what is true, there is no such thing as objective truth”, as if objective truth would only exist if we could perceive it. That is simply illogical. There are species of fish that have no eyes. The fact that they cannot perceive light does not mean that light does not exist. Nor does it mean that light is not important to them. Light may not directly affect them in their dark environment, but without light there would be no life on this planet, including no living blind fish.

    The reason I believe you have stumbled into this fallacy is because you are constantly going on about how ideas evolve and how our perceptions, perspectives and preconceptions tend to affect how we reach our opinions and conclusions. Well, our conclusions may well be affected by those things, but it is shear narcisism to decide that there is nothing that exists outside what one can perceive.

    Unlike the blind fish, we CAN perceive evidence on which we can reach conclusions about the existence of God (or the lack thereof), but we will never find absolutely conclusive proof. But just because we can’t ever reach that totally unassailably positive conclusion, it doesn’t mean that there isn’t an objectively true answer to the question. God exists in the form as perceived by Christianity, or God exists in some other form, or there is no God. Only one of us can be right (although we both could be wrong).

    Now, as a Lutheran, I believe that people are a lot like those blind fish in that I believe that my ability to perceive and evaluate eveidnce is pretty limited, but rather we are called by the Holy Spirit and enlightened by Him through the means of God’s Word and the sacraments. In other words, I don’t believe that faith is acquired through an intellectual exercize.

    But in so far as we are discussing what we CAN do, let us evaluate evidence and reach conclusions. But, do you really want to do that? You have repeated said that you just want to understand how people come to their beliefs and you aren’t trying to convince anybody. And I think you have said that we are very unlikely to convince you, either. In other words, you are a lot more interested in studying the PROCESS of how people reach conclusions about truth than you are about actually FINDING the truth. This strikes me as a pretty pointless exercise, and it also strikes me that your interest in our truth seeking and faith is a little bit patronizing. I realize that in some cultures processes (or the journey, or growth, or however you want to describe the concept) is given more emphacis than in western culture. But so what? If there is no truth, what is the point of the process of seeking it?

    I also see this attitude in your approach to “sin”. The idea that there might actually be objective principles of right and wrong, even in a broad sense, is a problem for you. But if there are no objective principles of right and wrong, then why should anyone care what we do? Be a jerk, kick puppies, lie, steal, or kill someone for no reason at all. Why should you feel bad about it and why should anyone think any less of you for doing it? I know you once said that you don’t kick puppies, but why don’t you?

  • kerner

    Getting back to consistency within the Bible. When I say all these things can be harmonized, I bring to this my knowledge of how and truth finding process works. When we in court try to determine what actually happened during an event at which we were not present, we have to consider the statements of people who claim to have perceived the event. We listen to them. We ask them questions. We allow someone with a hostile position to ask them questions. We consider physical objects and geography related to the event, and scientific testing if necessary and possible.

    If the issue is a civil matter we require only that the jury be convinced of its conclusions to a reasonable certainty by the preponderance of the evidence. If it is a criminal matter, then the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt (which is supposed to be harder, but is still not an attempt to require absolute certainty).

    When we go through this process, it is very much like trying to solve a puzzle, but there is no place where we can look up the solution. One of the tools juries look at is whether all the evidence can be organized consistently. In making that determination, juries must consider the personalities and perceptions and perspectives of the witnesses. Often when describing a single event, witnesses give information which may seem inconsistent, but which actually fits together. There is a poem in which several blind men try to perceive an elephant by touch. One feels the ear and concludes that the elephant is like a fan; one feels the trunk and concludes that the elephant is like a snake; one touches the tusk and concludes that the elephant is like a spear; and so on. You get the idea. Each bit of percieved information is correct, but it all simply must be fit together to arrive at the correct whole.

    Our conclusion that Christianity is true is like that. When we perceive order in the universe and conclude that there is the possibility of a Designer, that is one part of the puzzle. When we perceive the existence of morality and conclude that there is a Law-giver, that is another. When we perceive that the writings of all those people over all that time that is compiled into the Bible can be reconciled into a consistent message, it is yet another piece.

    I know you can say that maybe our ablity to fit all of the pieces together is just a function of people seeing what they want to see (like a Rorshach test), but I think the preponderence of this evidence (and there is more, but brevity compels some limits on this writing) and the way it fits together is enough to convince me that Christianity is true, and that failure to act as though Christianity is true will have dire consequences for me.

    You seem to have concluded otherwise, and if you have done so irrevocably, so be it I guess. But if you are interested in actually seeking the truth, I encourage further discussion. On the other hand, if all you want to do is observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for your own amusement, maybe you should develop another hobby.

  • kerner

    Getting back to consistency within the Bible. When I say all these things can be harmonized, I bring to this my knowledge of how and truth finding process works. When we in court try to determine what actually happened during an event at which we were not present, we have to consider the statements of people who claim to have perceived the event. We listen to them. We ask them questions. We allow someone with a hostile position to ask them questions. We consider physical objects and geography related to the event, and scientific testing if necessary and possible.

    If the issue is a civil matter we require only that the jury be convinced of its conclusions to a reasonable certainty by the preponderance of the evidence. If it is a criminal matter, then the jury must be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt (which is supposed to be harder, but is still not an attempt to require absolute certainty).

    When we go through this process, it is very much like trying to solve a puzzle, but there is no place where we can look up the solution. One of the tools juries look at is whether all the evidence can be organized consistently. In making that determination, juries must consider the personalities and perceptions and perspectives of the witnesses. Often when describing a single event, witnesses give information which may seem inconsistent, but which actually fits together. There is a poem in which several blind men try to perceive an elephant by touch. One feels the ear and concludes that the elephant is like a fan; one feels the trunk and concludes that the elephant is like a snake; one touches the tusk and concludes that the elephant is like a spear; and so on. You get the idea. Each bit of percieved information is correct, but it all simply must be fit together to arrive at the correct whole.

    Our conclusion that Christianity is true is like that. When we perceive order in the universe and conclude that there is the possibility of a Designer, that is one part of the puzzle. When we perceive the existence of morality and conclude that there is a Law-giver, that is another. When we perceive that the writings of all those people over all that time that is compiled into the Bible can be reconciled into a consistent message, it is yet another piece.

    I know you can say that maybe our ablity to fit all of the pieces together is just a function of people seeing what they want to see (like a Rorshach test), but I think the preponderence of this evidence (and there is more, but brevity compels some limits on this writing) and the way it fits together is enough to convince me that Christianity is true, and that failure to act as though Christianity is true will have dire consequences for me.

    You seem to have concluded otherwise, and if you have done so irrevocably, so be it I guess. But if you are interested in actually seeking the truth, I encourage further discussion. On the other hand, if all you want to do is observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for your own amusement, maybe you should develop another hobby.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    kerner and jim pierce:
    Wow and thank you and amen.
    This is one thing I love about the Lutheran faith: its apologetics, and seeing reason and intelligence used in the service of faith, though faith is not dependent upon either.
    If only members of the secular world would disentangle themselves from sheer prejudice against religion in order to perceive that, and in order to maybe comprehend that religion isn’t just for the brain-dead and the delusional after all.
    Very well stated, gents.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    kerner and jim pierce:
    Wow and thank you and amen.
    This is one thing I love about the Lutheran faith: its apologetics, and seeing reason and intelligence used in the service of faith, though faith is not dependent upon either.
    If only members of the secular world would disentangle themselves from sheer prejudice against religion in order to perceive that, and in order to maybe comprehend that religion isn’t just for the brain-dead and the delusional after all.
    Very well stated, gents.

  • Michael the little boot

    Before I reply to Jim and kerner (or, rather, while I am composing my replies), I’d like to float something for a response from anyone and everyone. I have basically been asked to leave by kerner (“if all you want to do is observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for your own amusement, maybe you should develop another hobby.”). He was fairly polite about it, so I was just wondering if this is the consensus of the group? Most of you were here long before I surfed in, and I would like to respect you. I’m not trying to turn this space into something it’s not, or not meant to be. So if you all want me out, I’m gone. Up to you. My email’s somewhere on this page, so you can send replies there if you’d rather not put them up here, as it may be inappropriate. I await the decision.

    (Although I will respond to Jim and kerner, while I am waiting.)

  • Michael the little boot

    Before I reply to Jim and kerner (or, rather, while I am composing my replies), I’d like to float something for a response from anyone and everyone. I have basically been asked to leave by kerner (“if all you want to do is observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for your own amusement, maybe you should develop another hobby.”). He was fairly polite about it, so I was just wondering if this is the consensus of the group? Most of you were here long before I surfed in, and I would like to respect you. I’m not trying to turn this space into something it’s not, or not meant to be. So if you all want me out, I’m gone. Up to you. My email’s somewhere on this page, so you can send replies there if you’d rather not put them up here, as it may be inappropriate. I await the decision.

    (Although I will respond to Jim and kerner, while I am waiting.)

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    Are you implying I think you or anyone else here is brain-dead or deluded?

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    Are you implying I think you or anyone else here is brain-dead or deluded?

  • kerner

    Come on now, Michael, don’t misconstrue my statements like that. I didn’t “basically ask you to leave”. My suggestion was conditional and should be taken in in context. I’m not going to re-type the last paragraph of my post @183. Just scroll up and read it.

    If you are interested in seeking the truth and discussing what truth may or may not be, I’m your man far as long as you want to talk. Sometimes you do seem interested in a dialog that actually has a point, i.e. is Christianity true, and how certain can we be that it is (or isn’t)?

    But sometimes you seem to retreat into the role of anthropologist, i.e. learning about the process of why people believe what they do rather examining the beliefs themselves, or you try to reduce any dicussions into comparisons of opinions. This is not a discussion in which all views can be equally valid. If I say, “blue is a pretty color”, that is a statement of opinion and all views are valid. If I say, “jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of the whole world, including you and me”, that is a statement of fact (which is either true or false). Our “views” are meaningless as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Either it is true or it is not, regardless of what we think.

    I said that you should find another hobby only “if all you want to do is observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for your own amusement”. Well, IS that all you want to do, or will there be anything else?

  • kerner

    Come on now, Michael, don’t misconstrue my statements like that. I didn’t “basically ask you to leave”. My suggestion was conditional and should be taken in in context. I’m not going to re-type the last paragraph of my post @183. Just scroll up and read it.

    If you are interested in seeking the truth and discussing what truth may or may not be, I’m your man far as long as you want to talk. Sometimes you do seem interested in a dialog that actually has a point, i.e. is Christianity true, and how certain can we be that it is (or isn’t)?

    But sometimes you seem to retreat into the role of anthropologist, i.e. learning about the process of why people believe what they do rather examining the beliefs themselves, or you try to reduce any dicussions into comparisons of opinions. This is not a discussion in which all views can be equally valid. If I say, “blue is a pretty color”, that is a statement of opinion and all views are valid. If I say, “jesus Christ suffered and died for the sins of the whole world, including you and me”, that is a statement of fact (which is either true or false). Our “views” are meaningless as to the truth or falsity of the statement. Either it is true or it is not, regardless of what we think.

    I said that you should find another hobby only “if all you want to do is observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for your own amusement”. Well, IS that all you want to do, or will there be anything else?

  • Van

    Michael, I know these people don’t want you to leave or they wouldn’t keep responding to you! Stay. It’s just hard to keep emotions and patience in check when discussing such an important topic. I can’t imagine having discussions like this without there being some heat, right? STAY.

  • Van

    Michael, I know these people don’t want you to leave or they wouldn’t keep responding to you! Stay. It’s just hard to keep emotions and patience in check when discussing such an important topic. I can’t imagine having discussions like this without there being some heat, right? STAY.

  • Van

    Also, it’s never a waste of time to talk about our faith, given to us so mercifully, even if we go round and round and round. Patience. Hope. Kindness. Gentleness. Never failing! Never failing.

  • Van

    Also, it’s never a waste of time to talk about our faith, given to us so mercifully, even if we go round and round and round. Patience. Hope. Kindness. Gentleness. Never failing! Never failing.

  • Van

    “If only members of the secular world would disentangle themselves from sheer prejudice against religion in order to perceive that, and in order to maybe comprehend that religion isn’t just for the brain-dead and the delusional after all.”

    The secular world CANNOT reveive the things of the spirt of God because they view it as foolishness. They cannot disentangle themselves from their prejudice unless God mercifully calls them and gives them faith!

  • Van

    “If only members of the secular world would disentangle themselves from sheer prejudice against religion in order to perceive that, and in order to maybe comprehend that religion isn’t just for the brain-dead and the delusional after all.”

    The secular world CANNOT reveive the things of the spirt of God because they view it as foolishness. They cannot disentangle themselves from their prejudice unless God mercifully calls them and gives them faith!

  • Susan aka organshoes

    No, littleboot.
    I hope I was plain as referring to those who do think that only the brain-dead or delusional can have faith.
    I try not to talk around you, as if you weren’t in the room. I address you specifically.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    No, littleboot.
    I hope I was plain as referring to those who do think that only the brain-dead or delusional can have faith.
    I try not to talk around you, as if you weren’t in the room. I address you specifically.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 180,

    Where to begin? While I quite clearly don’t agree with you, it does no good for people to point out continually their OPINION that I don’t really want to learn and understand. In my opinion, I do. You can take me at my word or not. However, I have conceded quite a good many points to “your side” (i.e., the side of pretty much everyone else here), while I have received little, if any, reciprocation on that front. I don’t expect to, either; but the fact that I have gone out of my way EVERY TIME to say when I have been incorrect, or to say that I agree with something someone said, or to ask questions rather than accuse when I don’t understand a point, shows the opposite of what you say to be the case. Agreeing with someone is not the only way to show you are listening to them.

    The reason I think you are not listening to me, however, has nothing to do with your disagreement with me. I know where I am, Jim, and whose blog this is – I don’t really expect people to agree necessarily. But when you say certain things, it seems to tips your hand. I could be wrong.

    I don’t think I have truth on my side. I’m trying to have a conversation with people who do not share my opinions. This is difficult to do, especially when the other people are not interested in having a discussion, but in proving their side. Which I only believe based on the lack of questions I’m getting, and the preponderance of apologetics (except in response to my questions). Why is it so scary simply to state your position, have me state mine, and discuss the relative merits of each?

    Except you don’t believe the way I look at things has merit. See, you probably think I believe the same about your way of living life. I don’t. I don’t totally agree with it, but that’s not to say I find it has no value. If we could get past the bickering, we might both be able to learn something from each other – though you would have to change your mind in order to think there is anything valuable in what I say.

    I haven’t cried foul. Haven’t pounded my fists. However, you are NOT listening, and I’ll give you an example to illuminate my point. I said “We may never be able to see another person’s perspective as we see our own. Does that mean we shouldn’t try?” You somehow took that to mean I think we can NEVER EVER EVER know anything. You apparently missed the fact that I imply we should TRY to see things from others perspectives by asking “DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULDN’T TRY?” You also seem to have overlooked the two paragraphs I wrote directly BEFORE the quote. So I’ll try to parse them, since my language was, it seems, unclear to you.

    “I’m not sure whether we can read a text objectively.” All this means is exactly what it says. I actually don’t KNOW whether we can know anything objectively. I’m unsure. This BY NO MEANS should lead one to the conclusion I DEFINITELY BELIEVE one CANNOT read a text objectively. Especially in light of the next paragraph. “In trying to understand the perspectives of others it is important to recognize our difficulty in removing our lenses. Does that mean we can’t remove them at all? I don’t know. It just seems to be very hard to accomplish.” So I very clearly state that, as to the assertion of objective knowledge, or ANY kind of certainty, that I don’t know. Which is NOT the same thing as saying there is no objective truth. I’m just trying to show that, since we can’t be certain (and I’ve gone out of my way to say that exactly, many times, that we CANNOT BE CERTAIN), we should acknowledge how hard it is to say anything objectively.

    Notice I have been very careful not to say we CAN NEVER KNOW anything objectively, because I don’t believe this. I am not sure whether there is objective truth, and I’m honest about that. I believe, since we cannot be certain about anything, we should be cautious in talking about anything “objective”.

    As I go on to say in that paragraph, I’m not speaking in absolutes, nor in certainties, but in the gray area which doesn’t yield so readily to your black-and-white view. Nuances obviously escape you, or you wouldn’t have been able to miss my point BY QUOTING IT as evidence AGAINST itself. If you’d actually read it, you’d see we are as close to agreeing there as we’ll probably ever get.

    “I also think it is clear for anyone else reading this exchange that you are speaking with ‘forked tongue’.” Actually, there have been a couple people who have remarked that they admire my tenacity, or that if they were in my position, they would feel overwhelmed. So at least a few people here do not share your opinion. I didn’t get “upset” at your putting words in my mouth, just asked you to cease doing so. And I think I’ve shown your “forked-tongue” dig doesn’t hold, since I was actually saying the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you assert I said, when you quoted me.

    Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death. There wouldn’t be so much disagreement in the church over the things he said if he stated them clearly.

    If you feel I am wrong in what I say about the church fathers, yet do not delineate my errors, how am I to know where I’m wrong? This is a tactic. It’s an artificial way to prop up your side where you lack evidence. Or is it just that those I choose to call church fathers, like Origen for example, do not fit your definition of a Christian? (I bring up Origen because he believed in the transmigration of souls – reincarnation – which is not a very Christian doctrine. This is only one of many examples as to the disagreement in the early church.)

    Oh, and Montgomery? Really? The dude who thinks he actually FOUND Noah’s ark? If this was the book which was compelling to you as an atheist, you weren’t an atheist. You were what many people here think I am: a god-denier. You just wanted to keep being immoral, but you actually believed in God. And this is why you continually miss my points. You have me pegged wrong. Not everyone who stops believing in God does so for the reasons you did. Some of us aren’t angry at God. Especially those of us who don’t believe in God.

    “The Scriptures contain theology with in its very pages. The theology has always been there…The church catholic has always agreed on the fundamentals to the Christian faith as expressed in our creeds.” Really? Then why even HAVE the creeds? They were actually created to stop heretics from being able to call themselves Christians. If the Church Universal had always believed the same fundamentals, there would have been no reason for the Council of Nicea to weed the heretics out. Nicea was convened in response to the chaos over doctrine that was going on in the church at that time.

    It’s too bad for your argument that we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE (or AD, if you’d rather). If you want to call the Nicene Creed the first creed, I have no problems with that, based on the evidence; but that creed wasn’t created before 325. If you’ve read the fathers who existed prior to Nicea, you’ll no doubt be aware there was no consensus. Recall the crux of Nicea: the argument over whether Jesus was made of the SAME SUBSTANCE as God or of LIKE SUBSTANCE. In other words, they were quibbling over the “minor” question of whether Jesus was God, or simply “like” God. I mean, Jesus’s divinity is still the central tenet of Christianity, is it not? Or have I been away too long? Since this is the FOUNDATION of modern Christianity, and since you say there’s never been disagreement as to the fundamentals, I thought I’d point this out. As you guys are fond of saying, them’s the facts!

    If you don’t want to give me an answer to the question of how we get past our own perspectives, that’s your prerogative. But, contrary to your assertion, I DO want to know how you arrive at this conclusion. As I’ve stated clearly, I think there is a possibility of doing this, I am just lost as to how one would accomplish it. Since you claim not to be lost, I thought I might get your opinion here, so I can weigh it myself. I’m starting to think you can’t articulate it, though, which is why you don’t offer any of this knowledge you claim to possess. You keep pointing me to books. One wonders if you aren’t taking a page from kerner’s lawyer book and trying to bury me in discovery.

    All your “fist pounding” comments do is show you are not open to my views AT ALL, while I am only skeptical of your’s. I’m trying to ask questions, and learn as well as I am able. All I can do is say that, though. It’s up to you to accept it.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 180,

    Where to begin? While I quite clearly don’t agree with you, it does no good for people to point out continually their OPINION that I don’t really want to learn and understand. In my opinion, I do. You can take me at my word or not. However, I have conceded quite a good many points to “your side” (i.e., the side of pretty much everyone else here), while I have received little, if any, reciprocation on that front. I don’t expect to, either; but the fact that I have gone out of my way EVERY TIME to say when I have been incorrect, or to say that I agree with something someone said, or to ask questions rather than accuse when I don’t understand a point, shows the opposite of what you say to be the case. Agreeing with someone is not the only way to show you are listening to them.

    The reason I think you are not listening to me, however, has nothing to do with your disagreement with me. I know where I am, Jim, and whose blog this is – I don’t really expect people to agree necessarily. But when you say certain things, it seems to tips your hand. I could be wrong.

    I don’t think I have truth on my side. I’m trying to have a conversation with people who do not share my opinions. This is difficult to do, especially when the other people are not interested in having a discussion, but in proving their side. Which I only believe based on the lack of questions I’m getting, and the preponderance of apologetics (except in response to my questions). Why is it so scary simply to state your position, have me state mine, and discuss the relative merits of each?

    Except you don’t believe the way I look at things has merit. See, you probably think I believe the same about your way of living life. I don’t. I don’t totally agree with it, but that’s not to say I find it has no value. If we could get past the bickering, we might both be able to learn something from each other – though you would have to change your mind in order to think there is anything valuable in what I say.

    I haven’t cried foul. Haven’t pounded my fists. However, you are NOT listening, and I’ll give you an example to illuminate my point. I said “We may never be able to see another person’s perspective as we see our own. Does that mean we shouldn’t try?” You somehow took that to mean I think we can NEVER EVER EVER know anything. You apparently missed the fact that I imply we should TRY to see things from others perspectives by asking “DOES THAT MEAN WE SHOULDN’T TRY?” You also seem to have overlooked the two paragraphs I wrote directly BEFORE the quote. So I’ll try to parse them, since my language was, it seems, unclear to you.

    “I’m not sure whether we can read a text objectively.” All this means is exactly what it says. I actually don’t KNOW whether we can know anything objectively. I’m unsure. This BY NO MEANS should lead one to the conclusion I DEFINITELY BELIEVE one CANNOT read a text objectively. Especially in light of the next paragraph. “In trying to understand the perspectives of others it is important to recognize our difficulty in removing our lenses. Does that mean we can’t remove them at all? I don’t know. It just seems to be very hard to accomplish.” So I very clearly state that, as to the assertion of objective knowledge, or ANY kind of certainty, that I don’t know. Which is NOT the same thing as saying there is no objective truth. I’m just trying to show that, since we can’t be certain (and I’ve gone out of my way to say that exactly, many times, that we CANNOT BE CERTAIN), we should acknowledge how hard it is to say anything objectively.

    Notice I have been very careful not to say we CAN NEVER KNOW anything objectively, because I don’t believe this. I am not sure whether there is objective truth, and I’m honest about that. I believe, since we cannot be certain about anything, we should be cautious in talking about anything “objective”.

    As I go on to say in that paragraph, I’m not speaking in absolutes, nor in certainties, but in the gray area which doesn’t yield so readily to your black-and-white view. Nuances obviously escape you, or you wouldn’t have been able to miss my point BY QUOTING IT as evidence AGAINST itself. If you’d actually read it, you’d see we are as close to agreeing there as we’ll probably ever get.

    “I also think it is clear for anyone else reading this exchange that you are speaking with ‘forked tongue’.” Actually, there have been a couple people who have remarked that they admire my tenacity, or that if they were in my position, they would feel overwhelmed. So at least a few people here do not share your opinion. I didn’t get “upset” at your putting words in my mouth, just asked you to cease doing so. And I think I’ve shown your “forked-tongue” dig doesn’t hold, since I was actually saying the EXACT OPPOSITE of what you assert I said, when you quoted me.

    Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death. There wouldn’t be so much disagreement in the church over the things he said if he stated them clearly.

    If you feel I am wrong in what I say about the church fathers, yet do not delineate my errors, how am I to know where I’m wrong? This is a tactic. It’s an artificial way to prop up your side where you lack evidence. Or is it just that those I choose to call church fathers, like Origen for example, do not fit your definition of a Christian? (I bring up Origen because he believed in the transmigration of souls – reincarnation – which is not a very Christian doctrine. This is only one of many examples as to the disagreement in the early church.)

    Oh, and Montgomery? Really? The dude who thinks he actually FOUND Noah’s ark? If this was the book which was compelling to you as an atheist, you weren’t an atheist. You were what many people here think I am: a god-denier. You just wanted to keep being immoral, but you actually believed in God. And this is why you continually miss my points. You have me pegged wrong. Not everyone who stops believing in God does so for the reasons you did. Some of us aren’t angry at God. Especially those of us who don’t believe in God.

    “The Scriptures contain theology with in its very pages. The theology has always been there…The church catholic has always agreed on the fundamentals to the Christian faith as expressed in our creeds.” Really? Then why even HAVE the creeds? They were actually created to stop heretics from being able to call themselves Christians. If the Church Universal had always believed the same fundamentals, there would have been no reason for the Council of Nicea to weed the heretics out. Nicea was convened in response to the chaos over doctrine that was going on in the church at that time.

    It’s too bad for your argument that we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE (or AD, if you’d rather). If you want to call the Nicene Creed the first creed, I have no problems with that, based on the evidence; but that creed wasn’t created before 325. If you’ve read the fathers who existed prior to Nicea, you’ll no doubt be aware there was no consensus. Recall the crux of Nicea: the argument over whether Jesus was made of the SAME SUBSTANCE as God or of LIKE SUBSTANCE. In other words, they were quibbling over the “minor” question of whether Jesus was God, or simply “like” God. I mean, Jesus’s divinity is still the central tenet of Christianity, is it not? Or have I been away too long? Since this is the FOUNDATION of modern Christianity, and since you say there’s never been disagreement as to the fundamentals, I thought I’d point this out. As you guys are fond of saying, them’s the facts!

    If you don’t want to give me an answer to the question of how we get past our own perspectives, that’s your prerogative. But, contrary to your assertion, I DO want to know how you arrive at this conclusion. As I’ve stated clearly, I think there is a possibility of doing this, I am just lost as to how one would accomplish it. Since you claim not to be lost, I thought I might get your opinion here, so I can weigh it myself. I’m starting to think you can’t articulate it, though, which is why you don’t offer any of this knowledge you claim to possess. You keep pointing me to books. One wonders if you aren’t taking a page from kerner’s lawyer book and trying to bury me in discovery.

    All your “fist pounding” comments do is show you are not open to my views AT ALL, while I am only skeptical of your’s. I’m trying to ask questions, and learn as well as I am able. All I can do is say that, though. It’s up to you to accept it.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I wasn’t trying to misconstrue your statement. I was trying to be sensitive to a perceived emotion. I know you weren’t asking me to leave exactly, meaning you didn’t use those words. I thought I perceived something else. I was wrong. Apologies!

    I guess I just thought, since this has gone on for close to 200 comments, I would see if people still thought it was worthwhile for me to stick around.

    I am not interested in this simply to “observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for [my] own amusement.” I understand your anthropologist statement. Even my closest friends, who know me as well as anyone can, say that. My girlfriend says it. I do have the ability to detach and be cold and calculating. Don’t know what to do about that other than to say you’re correct.

    And I don’t want you to think I am neglecting your last response. I want to think about it. I’ll, once again, be without a computer all weekend, but will get on it as quickly as possible Monday.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I wasn’t trying to misconstrue your statement. I was trying to be sensitive to a perceived emotion. I know you weren’t asking me to leave exactly, meaning you didn’t use those words. I thought I perceived something else. I was wrong. Apologies!

    I guess I just thought, since this has gone on for close to 200 comments, I would see if people still thought it was worthwhile for me to stick around.

    I am not interested in this simply to “observe and critique someone else’s search for the truth for [my] own amusement.” I understand your anthropologist statement. Even my closest friends, who know me as well as anyone can, say that. My girlfriend says it. I do have the ability to detach and be cold and calculating. Don’t know what to do about that other than to say you’re correct.

    And I don’t want you to think I am neglecting your last response. I want to think about it. I’ll, once again, be without a computer all weekend, but will get on it as quickly as possible Monday.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    I want to make a brief reply, since I am pressed for time. You are making some points deserving to be addressed in a timely fashion rather than delaying when I have more time.

    I want to first of all thank you for taking the time with your replies to me and others in this fairly long thread. Please know your responses are genuinely appreciated. It may not seem like it, but I do read every word you write to me.

    I also want to point out that I can’t respond to every point you raise. Many of your questions and assertions deserve quite lengthy treatment. Internet blog sites like this are fun because we can “ping pong” responses back and forth, but in order to really get to “the meat” of issues and find answers we have to do some scholarship which requires lengthy reading and study. Hence the reason why I am pointing you to books I have found very valuable and helpful in answering many of the questions you raise; and which contain extensive bibliographies of more materials for you to look over.

    To sum up the above points. I am not ignoring your points, and I am most certainly “listening” to each word you are stating. Finally, I believe I am pointing you to resources that you can peruse at your own leisure to dig out the information you say you are looking for.

    Changing gears…

    You write, “You somehow took that to mean I think we can NEVER EVER EVER know anything. “ Actually, if you scroll up and re-read my remarks you will find I didn’t attribute such a position to you. Rather, I clearly stated that your “working assumption seems to be…” and I delineated what I think that assumption is and I then addressed it. You still haven’t given me any reason to believe you haven’t been arguing from that assumption. Indeed, you only reinforced my assertion with “I actually don’t KNOW whether we can know anything objectively” and “…since we cannot be certain about anything.” O.k., so you want me to believe you are only speaking about your lack of knowledge and understanding. I get that. But I also “get” that for a person who says he doesn’t even know if one can have “objective knowledge” and believes we can’t have certainty, you sure have made statements as if you do have such knowledge and certainty; hence my remark earlier that you speak with “forked tongue”.

    Either you don’t have objective knowledge of the truth of statements like “…we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE…” and “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death” , or you do. If you don’t have such knowledge, then your assertion is meaningless. If you do have such knowledge, then we have an issue with your claim to ignorance of such knowledge and certainty and then that takes us right back to my original statement about your working assumption that we can’t have objective knowledge of truth.

    Indeed, I think there is an issue with your claim, “I’m not speaking in absolutes, nor in certainties, but in the gray area…”, since it contradicts statements of yours such as “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death”. You are making a factual statement about the biblical text that sounds pretty certain in anyone’s book. If that example isn’t sufficient to prove my point, then your claim to fact with “we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE” does.

    So, here is where I am at Michael. It is absolutely fruitless to talk with someone who makes assertions of fact and appeals to objective knowledge to support their own views, but then argues that we can’t have certainty and that he doesn’t know if we can have objective knowledge in objection to arguments and claims presented in response to his claims. This is where I believe you are being inconsistent in your logic. FWIW.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    I want to make a brief reply, since I am pressed for time. You are making some points deserving to be addressed in a timely fashion rather than delaying when I have more time.

    I want to first of all thank you for taking the time with your replies to me and others in this fairly long thread. Please know your responses are genuinely appreciated. It may not seem like it, but I do read every word you write to me.

    I also want to point out that I can’t respond to every point you raise. Many of your questions and assertions deserve quite lengthy treatment. Internet blog sites like this are fun because we can “ping pong” responses back and forth, but in order to really get to “the meat” of issues and find answers we have to do some scholarship which requires lengthy reading and study. Hence the reason why I am pointing you to books I have found very valuable and helpful in answering many of the questions you raise; and which contain extensive bibliographies of more materials for you to look over.

    To sum up the above points. I am not ignoring your points, and I am most certainly “listening” to each word you are stating. Finally, I believe I am pointing you to resources that you can peruse at your own leisure to dig out the information you say you are looking for.

    Changing gears…

    You write, “You somehow took that to mean I think we can NEVER EVER EVER know anything. “ Actually, if you scroll up and re-read my remarks you will find I didn’t attribute such a position to you. Rather, I clearly stated that your “working assumption seems to be…” and I delineated what I think that assumption is and I then addressed it. You still haven’t given me any reason to believe you haven’t been arguing from that assumption. Indeed, you only reinforced my assertion with “I actually don’t KNOW whether we can know anything objectively” and “…since we cannot be certain about anything.” O.k., so you want me to believe you are only speaking about your lack of knowledge and understanding. I get that. But I also “get” that for a person who says he doesn’t even know if one can have “objective knowledge” and believes we can’t have certainty, you sure have made statements as if you do have such knowledge and certainty; hence my remark earlier that you speak with “forked tongue”.

    Either you don’t have objective knowledge of the truth of statements like “…we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE…” and “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death” , or you do. If you don’t have such knowledge, then your assertion is meaningless. If you do have such knowledge, then we have an issue with your claim to ignorance of such knowledge and certainty and then that takes us right back to my original statement about your working assumption that we can’t have objective knowledge of truth.

    Indeed, I think there is an issue with your claim, “I’m not speaking in absolutes, nor in certainties, but in the gray area…”, since it contradicts statements of yours such as “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death”. You are making a factual statement about the biblical text that sounds pretty certain in anyone’s book. If that example isn’t sufficient to prove my point, then your claim to fact with “we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE” does.

    So, here is where I am at Michael. It is absolutely fruitless to talk with someone who makes assertions of fact and appeals to objective knowledge to support their own views, but then argues that we can’t have certainty and that he doesn’t know if we can have objective knowledge in objection to arguments and claims presented in response to his claims. This is where I believe you are being inconsistent in your logic. FWIW.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    “It’s too bad for your argument that we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE…”.

    Quickly, I want to return to the above quote. A “creed” is a statement or formula of belief. Given that definition there are plenty of “creeds” prior to the ecumenical creeds such as Nicea. Indeed, ” Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD alone” (Deut. 6:4) is a creed. The bible is chalk full of such formulas of faith.

    Then of course we have the church fathers prior to Nicea, such as Irenaeus who produced the “Rule of Faith” which is an ante-Nicene creed. The “Apostles Creed” is also considered ante-Nicene since it earliest form is found in Hippolytus (215 AD).

    Anyway, the point is that we find many creeds prior to that of Nicea.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    “It’s too bad for your argument that we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE…”.

    Quickly, I want to return to the above quote. A “creed” is a statement or formula of belief. Given that definition there are plenty of “creeds” prior to the ecumenical creeds such as Nicea. Indeed, ” Hear O Israel, the LORD is our God, the LORD alone” (Deut. 6:4) is a creed. The bible is chalk full of such formulas of faith.

    Then of course we have the church fathers prior to Nicea, such as Irenaeus who produced the “Rule of Faith” which is an ante-Nicene creed. The “Apostles Creed” is also considered ante-Nicene since it earliest form is found in Hippolytus (215 AD).

    Anyway, the point is that we find many creeds prior to that of Nicea.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 194,

    Now I think I understand why we’re missing each other. I’m not appealing to what I find to be absolute, objective sources, which is where you’re getting stuck, since you AGREE that I am not appealing to sources with such authority. I don’t know if those exist, as I’ve stated. You seem to equate my use of established ideas with a belief in absolutes or objectivity. Just because I use sources, doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the idea that they may not be absolute. But if they are more credible than the sources which you use – that is, if they have been subjected to rigorous examination, tests, and if they have been verified over and over again – then I feel free to quote from them, all the while knowing the information they provide is not the be-all and end-all. It is false to say that one who skeptical of objectivity has no information at his/her disposal. We just know it’s not necessarily absolute. But IF – and I do mean IF – there is no such thing as “absolute” or “objective”, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the only information we would have in a universe like that would be subjective? And would that fact (only in this hypothetical thought-experiment) negate our need to use any of the best available information to make our points?

    If information is only subjective, or if it is LARGELY made up of bits which are not absolute, I am left wondering why we can’t appeal to our “best” sources. In a world where it’s tough to verify things, one would not think one should simply cease the attempt since any verificaton would still be subject to debate. But IF we only have information which can be debated, should we just throw our hands up and say “Since there are no absolutes, we can’t know ANYTHING for CERTAIN, and therefore shouldn’t waste our time trying to learn anything or find anything out”? Just because the nature of information MIGHT be tentative, does that mean we shouldn’t try to grasp SOMETHING of reality?

    This sounds like the argument, usually made by theists, that says the only reason to be moral is that God exists. Which is actually the LEAST reason to be moral. If you’re moral only because God exists, you’re really just following the rules so you get to go to heaven. Which means if God didn’t exist, the people who are moral because they believe in God are in actuality the same as murderers and rapists, only worse, because they have no guts to do what they acually wish to do.

    (I’m not advocating murder and rape, just using this as an example. I don’t believe in God, yet I find reasons to be moral. They are internal to myself. I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.)

    So, to get back to what I was saying: it is no different with subjective vs. objective. Notice I actually take greater care with my words and with my explanations and definitions than a person who believes in absolutes. You have no need to be careful, since you KNOW what you believe to be THE TRUTH, the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. You’re like a bull in a china shop with your OPINIONS, because you believe them NOT to be your opinions, but the TRUTH. I, on the other hand, am measured. I take my time. I usually have to explain myself numerous times, precisely BECAUSE I’m careful, and do not want to give too much away without being understood.

    I am, perhaps, too quick to exclaim that you (or others here) are not listening to me. I think I am too impatient with MYSELF and with the way I am trying to articulate my beliefs, and also not understanding enough of how difficult they are to grasp, since they’re pretty abstract, and are full of so many uncertainties. Of course my explanations are going to miss you, since our worldviews and ideologies are so different. So I’m sorry. I’ll try to refrain from any more “fist-pounding.”

    I’m trying to get you to ask questions when you don’t understand, rather than go off half-cocked. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes you are saying things about something specific I said, and you are quite correct to have a no-holds-barred approach regarding these. But I am also talking about the gray area, the nuances I keep referring to, and I find your responses to these lacking. You don’t SEEM to be wanting clarification on these points, but to show me where I’m wrong. I don’t find it to be a matter of “right” or “wrong” though, so we keep talking past each other in these instances.

    I am more of a relativist than others here whom I’ve read, for sure. I am only a relativist in practice, though, as a result of the difficulty we have in nailing things down. What I’m trying to say is, there may be absolutes, but our ability to grasp them, to quantify them, to PROVE them AS absolutes is EXTREMLEY LIMITED. So I find it not to be valuable to talk about things ABSOLUTELY; rather, I like to talk about things without urgency, but with the calm and peace associated with not NEEDING to know. I also find it DANGEROUS to say things are absolute without being able to SHOW why this is the case.

    Now, since I use language this way, and since I do not want to jump to conclusions, you want to nail me down to the OTHER side. It SEEMS to be your opinion that I am wanting to have my cake and eat it, too. I do not. I don’t think I have certainty. I DO have knowledge, and I use it as I see fit; but NEVER do I treat it as absolute. The reason I can still say that you can’t use Paul’s opinion after his death, is simply that he’s dead, and his writing is NOT clear. I hate to continue using denominations as an example, but I will, since the only answer you’ve given me is “Christians don’t disagree on the fundamentals”. (Which isn’t true, or there wouldn’t have been such a disagreement between what became the Orthodox Church and what became the Catholic Church, or the Catholic Church and what became the Protestant, to say nothing of the Ecumenical Councils to which I keep referring.)

    We HAVE no evidence – that is, we have no MENTION of it in sources EXTERNAL to itself – of an official creed before the date I mentioned. What in that statement implies I believe that fact cannot be disputed? In fact, making claims of FACT

    Either you don’t have objective knowledge of the truth of statements like “…we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE…” and “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death” , or you do. If you don’t have such knowledge, then your assertion is meaningless. If you do have such knowledge, then we have an issue with your claim to ignorance of such knowledge and certainty and then that takes us right back to my original statement about your working assumption that we can’t have objective knowledge of truth.

    Indeed, I think there is an issue with your claim, “I’m not speaking in absolutes, nor in certainties, but in the gray area…”, since it contradicts statements of yours such as “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death”. You are making a factual statement about the biblical text that sounds pretty certain in anyone’s book. If that example isn’t sufficient to prove my point, then your claim to fact with “we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE” does.

    So, here is where I am at Michael. It is absolutely fruitless to talk with someone who makes assertions of fact and appeals to objective knowledge to support their own views, but then argues that we can’t have certainty and that he doesn’t know if we can have objective knowledge in objection to arguments and claims presented in response to his claims. This is where I believe you are being inconsistent in your logic. FWIW.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim @ 194,

    Now I think I understand why we’re missing each other. I’m not appealing to what I find to be absolute, objective sources, which is where you’re getting stuck, since you AGREE that I am not appealing to sources with such authority. I don’t know if those exist, as I’ve stated. You seem to equate my use of established ideas with a belief in absolutes or objectivity. Just because I use sources, doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the idea that they may not be absolute. But if they are more credible than the sources which you use – that is, if they have been subjected to rigorous examination, tests, and if they have been verified over and over again – then I feel free to quote from them, all the while knowing the information they provide is not the be-all and end-all. It is false to say that one who skeptical of objectivity has no information at his/her disposal. We just know it’s not necessarily absolute. But IF – and I do mean IF – there is no such thing as “absolute” or “objective”, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the only information we would have in a universe like that would be subjective? And would that fact (only in this hypothetical thought-experiment) negate our need to use any of the best available information to make our points?

    If information is only subjective, or if it is LARGELY made up of bits which are not absolute, I am left wondering why we can’t appeal to our “best” sources. In a world where it’s tough to verify things, one would not think one should simply cease the attempt since any verificaton would still be subject to debate. But IF we only have information which can be debated, should we just throw our hands up and say “Since there are no absolutes, we can’t know ANYTHING for CERTAIN, and therefore shouldn’t waste our time trying to learn anything or find anything out”? Just because the nature of information MIGHT be tentative, does that mean we shouldn’t try to grasp SOMETHING of reality?

    This sounds like the argument, usually made by theists, that says the only reason to be moral is that God exists. Which is actually the LEAST reason to be moral. If you’re moral only because God exists, you’re really just following the rules so you get to go to heaven. Which means if God didn’t exist, the people who are moral because they believe in God are in actuality the same as murderers and rapists, only worse, because they have no guts to do what they acually wish to do.

    (I’m not advocating murder and rape, just using this as an example. I don’t believe in God, yet I find reasons to be moral. They are internal to myself. I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.)

    So, to get back to what I was saying: it is no different with subjective vs. objective. Notice I actually take greater care with my words and with my explanations and definitions than a person who believes in absolutes. You have no need to be careful, since you KNOW what you believe to be THE TRUTH, the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. You’re like a bull in a china shop with your OPINIONS, because you believe them NOT to be your opinions, but the TRUTH. I, on the other hand, am measured. I take my time. I usually have to explain myself numerous times, precisely BECAUSE I’m careful, and do not want to give too much away without being understood.

    I am, perhaps, too quick to exclaim that you (or others here) are not listening to me. I think I am too impatient with MYSELF and with the way I am trying to articulate my beliefs, and also not understanding enough of how difficult they are to grasp, since they’re pretty abstract, and are full of so many uncertainties. Of course my explanations are going to miss you, since our worldviews and ideologies are so different. So I’m sorry. I’ll try to refrain from any more “fist-pounding.”

    I’m trying to get you to ask questions when you don’t understand, rather than go off half-cocked. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes you are saying things about something specific I said, and you are quite correct to have a no-holds-barred approach regarding these. But I am also talking about the gray area, the nuances I keep referring to, and I find your responses to these lacking. You don’t SEEM to be wanting clarification on these points, but to show me where I’m wrong. I don’t find it to be a matter of “right” or “wrong” though, so we keep talking past each other in these instances.

    I am more of a relativist than others here whom I’ve read, for sure. I am only a relativist in practice, though, as a result of the difficulty we have in nailing things down. What I’m trying to say is, there may be absolutes, but our ability to grasp them, to quantify them, to PROVE them AS absolutes is EXTREMLEY LIMITED. So I find it not to be valuable to talk about things ABSOLUTELY; rather, I like to talk about things without urgency, but with the calm and peace associated with not NEEDING to know. I also find it DANGEROUS to say things are absolute without being able to SHOW why this is the case.

    Now, since I use language this way, and since I do not want to jump to conclusions, you want to nail me down to the OTHER side. It SEEMS to be your opinion that I am wanting to have my cake and eat it, too. I do not. I don’t think I have certainty. I DO have knowledge, and I use it as I see fit; but NEVER do I treat it as absolute. The reason I can still say that you can’t use Paul’s opinion after his death, is simply that he’s dead, and his writing is NOT clear. I hate to continue using denominations as an example, but I will, since the only answer you’ve given me is “Christians don’t disagree on the fundamentals”. (Which isn’t true, or there wouldn’t have been such a disagreement between what became the Orthodox Church and what became the Catholic Church, or the Catholic Church and what became the Protestant, to say nothing of the Ecumenical Councils to which I keep referring.)

    We HAVE no evidence – that is, we have no MENTION of it in sources EXTERNAL to itself – of an official creed before the date I mentioned. What in that statement implies I believe that fact cannot be disputed? In fact, making claims of FACT

    Either you don’t have objective knowledge of the truth of statements like “…we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE…” and “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death” , or you do. If you don’t have such knowledge, then your assertion is meaningless. If you do have such knowledge, then we have an issue with your claim to ignorance of such knowledge and certainty and then that takes us right back to my original statement about your working assumption that we can’t have objective knowledge of truth.

    Indeed, I think there is an issue with your claim, “I’m not speaking in absolutes, nor in certainties, but in the gray area…”, since it contradicts statements of yours such as “Paul doesn’t state things clearly enough for you to use him as a witness after his death”. You are making a factual statement about the biblical text that sounds pretty certain in anyone’s book. If that example isn’t sufficient to prove my point, then your claim to fact with “we have no evidence of the “first” creed before 390 CE” does.

    So, here is where I am at Michael. It is absolutely fruitless to talk with someone who makes assertions of fact and appeals to objective knowledge to support their own views, but then argues that we can’t have certainty and that he doesn’t know if we can have objective knowledge in objection to arguments and claims presented in response to his claims. This is where I believe you are being inconsistent in your logic. FWIW.

  • Michael the little boot

    I’m SO sorry, but I hit a wrong button and sent an incomplete comment, along with the copied comments to which I was responding. So after the “In fact, making claims of FACT” sentence, the rest are Jim’s words. I apologize. Any way to clean it up?

  • Michael the little boot

    I’m SO sorry, but I hit a wrong button and sent an incomplete comment, along with the copied comments to which I was responding. So after the “In fact, making claims of FACT” sentence, the rest are Jim’s words. I apologize. Any way to clean it up?

  • Van

    Michael, I understand what you’re saying about the absolutes and truth, etc. I wish I were more capable of explaining it from a believer’s point of view because I have asked these same questions. I don’t understand why the others don’t get where you’re coming from. I mentioned to a friend today that I think one can have faith and question at the same time.
    I wonder if anyone could say they’ve asked these same questions and then tell how they came to rest with them.

    Most of the time, and I’ve touched on this before, I just go back to resting in my faith when I don’t understand. That may sound like a cop out to someone without faith but that’s what I have to do…I can’t have all the anwers and I’ll go crazy trying to figure them out. I read scripture (because that’s where it tells me I can receive faith) and trust in Holy Spirit who indwells me to teach me what I need to understand. NOT that I don’t think it’s worthwile to read and study scripture even though I don’t understand it. I do. And as I’ve also said, I think it’s very worthwile to question scripture. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t accept it; I just think it’s OK to think about it and wonder.) God my Father tells me He alone has the answers. Christ, my brother who has experienced all I have, tells me He understands. And Holy Spirit, my teacher helps me live out my life.

    Moving on, you said,
    “(I’m not advocating murder and rape, just using this as an example. I don’t believe in God, yet I find reasons to be moral. They are internal to myself. I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.)”

    At some point all of us (believers) fall back on saying, “I trust. I believe.” We fall back on a Person; Jesus.

    Here’s a question and you’ve probably already answered it in this crazy, long thread. You say that YOU determine your moral code. But don’t you determine that code based on experiences that you’ve had and on the enviornment you’ve grown up around? You cannot be uninfluenced by those things. How did you come up with your moral code? Aren’t you in a sense a product of your enviornment? So wouldn’t that make your moral code one that had been found in a community so to speak? Because others that have been exposed to the same enviornment as you would come to a similar moral code as you and form a “community.” You can say that it’s your own code but really it can’t all come from inside; some of it has to come from influnce doesn’t it?

    And, if you have your own moral code, don’t you sometimes think it must be immoral? When I think about the sick stuff that goes on in my mind I KNOW I’m anything but moral even according to my own moral code; if I had one.

    This is where I’m probably showing how I am not well-read. But I’m doing my best.

    Van

  • Van

    Michael, I understand what you’re saying about the absolutes and truth, etc. I wish I were more capable of explaining it from a believer’s point of view because I have asked these same questions. I don’t understand why the others don’t get where you’re coming from. I mentioned to a friend today that I think one can have faith and question at the same time.
    I wonder if anyone could say they’ve asked these same questions and then tell how they came to rest with them.

    Most of the time, and I’ve touched on this before, I just go back to resting in my faith when I don’t understand. That may sound like a cop out to someone without faith but that’s what I have to do…I can’t have all the anwers and I’ll go crazy trying to figure them out. I read scripture (because that’s where it tells me I can receive faith) and trust in Holy Spirit who indwells me to teach me what I need to understand. NOT that I don’t think it’s worthwile to read and study scripture even though I don’t understand it. I do. And as I’ve also said, I think it’s very worthwile to question scripture. (Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying I don’t accept it; I just think it’s OK to think about it and wonder.) God my Father tells me He alone has the answers. Christ, my brother who has experienced all I have, tells me He understands. And Holy Spirit, my teacher helps me live out my life.

    Moving on, you said,
    “(I’m not advocating murder and rape, just using this as an example. I don’t believe in God, yet I find reasons to be moral. They are internal to myself. I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.)”

    At some point all of us (believers) fall back on saying, “I trust. I believe.” We fall back on a Person; Jesus.

    Here’s a question and you’ve probably already answered it in this crazy, long thread. You say that YOU determine your moral code. But don’t you determine that code based on experiences that you’ve had and on the enviornment you’ve grown up around? You cannot be uninfluenced by those things. How did you come up with your moral code? Aren’t you in a sense a product of your enviornment? So wouldn’t that make your moral code one that had been found in a community so to speak? Because others that have been exposed to the same enviornment as you would come to a similar moral code as you and form a “community.” You can say that it’s your own code but really it can’t all come from inside; some of it has to come from influnce doesn’t it?

    And, if you have your own moral code, don’t you sometimes think it must be immoral? When I think about the sick stuff that goes on in my mind I KNOW I’m anything but moral even according to my own moral code; if I had one.

    This is where I’m probably showing how I am not well-read. But I’m doing my best.

    Van

  • Michael the little boot

    (Here’s the whole thing I meant to post at 196. If there is a way to remove my comments at 196 and 197, I would appreciate that and have no problem with it. If anyone here knows how to do that. Once again, apologies!)

    Jim @ 194,

    Now I think I understand why we’re missing each other. I’m not appealing to what I find to be absolute, objective sources, which is where you’re getting stuck, since you AGREE that I am not appealing to sources with such authority. I don’t know if those exist, as I’ve stated. You seem to equate my use of established ideas with a belief in absolutes or objectivity. Just because I use sources, doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the idea that they may not be absolute. But if they are more credible than the sources which you use – that is, if they have been subjected to rigorous examination, tests, and if they have been verified over and over again – then I feel free to quote from them, all the while knowing the information they provide is not the be-all and end-all. It is false to say that one who is skeptical of objectivity has no information at his/her disposal. We just think it’s not necessarily absolute. But IF – and I do mean IF – there is no such thing as “absolute” or “objective”, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the only information we would have in a universe like that would be subjective? And would that fact (only in this hypothetical thought-experiment) negate our need to use any of the best available information to make our points?

    If information is only subjective, or if it is LARGELY made up of bits which are not absolute, I am left wondering why we can’t appeal to our “best” sources. In a world where it’s tough to verify things, one would not think one should simply cease the attempt since any verificaton would still be subject to debate. But IF we only have information which can be debated, should we just throw our hands up and say “Since there are no absolutes, we can’t know ANYTHING for CERTAIN, and therefore shouldn’t waste our time trying to learn anything or find anything out”? Just because the nature of information MIGHT be tentative, does that mean we shouldn’t try to grasp SOMETHING of reality?

    This sounds like the argument, usually made by theists, that says the only reason to be moral is that God exists. Which is actually the LEAST reason to be moral. If you’re moral only because God exists, you’re really just following the rules so you get to go to heaven. Which means if God didn’t exist, the people who are moral because they believe in God are in actuality the same as murderers and rapists, only worse, because they have no guts to do what they acually wish to do.

    (I’m not advocating murder and rape, just using this as an example. I don’t believe in God, yet I find reasons to be moral. They are internal to myself. I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.)

    So, to get back to what I was saying: it is no different with subjective vs. objective. Notice I actually take greater care with my words and with my explanations and definitions than a person who believes in absolutes. You have no need to be careful, since you KNOW what you believe to be THE TRUTH, the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. You’re like a bull in a china shop with your OPINIONS, because you believe them NOT to be your opinions, but the TRUTH. I, on the other hand, am measured. I take my time. I usually have to explain myself numerous times, precisely BECAUSE I’m careful, and do not want to give too much away without being understood.

    I am, perhaps, too quick to exclaim that you (or others here) are not listening to me. I think I am too impatient with MYSELF and with the way I am trying to articulate my beliefs, and also not understanding enough of how difficult they are to grasp, since they’re pretty abstract, and are full of so many uncertainties. Of course my explanations are going to miss you, since our worldviews and ideologies are so different. So I’m sorry. I’ll try to refrain from any more “fist-pounding.”

    I’m trying to get you to ask questions when you don’t understand, rather than go off half-cocked. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes you are saying things about something specific I said, and you are quite correct to have a no-holds-barred approach regarding these. But I am also talking about the gray area, the nuances I keep referring to, and I find your responses to these lacking. You don’t SEEM to be wanting clarification on these points, but to show me where I’m wrong. I don’t find it to be a matter of “right” or “wrong” though, so we keep talking past each other in these instances.

    I am more of a relativist than others here whom I’ve read, for sure. I am only a relativist in practice, though, as a result of the difficulty we have in nailing things down. What I’m trying to say is, there may be absolutes, but our ability to grasp them, to quantify them, to PROVE them AS absolutes is EXTREMLEY LIMITED. So I find it not to be valuable to talk about things ABSOLUTELY; rather, I like to talk about things without urgency, but with the calm and peace associated with not NEEDING to know. I also find it DANGEROUS to say things are absolute without being able to SHOW why this is the case.

    Now, since I use language this way, and since I do not want to jump to conclusions, you want to nail me down to the OTHER side. It SEEMS to be your opinion that I am wanting to have my cake and eat it, too. I do not. I don’t think I have certainty. I DO have knowledge, and I use it as I see fit; but NEVER do I treat it as absolute. The reason I can still say that you can’t use Paul’s opinion after his death, is simply that he’s dead, and his writing is NOT clear. I hate to continue using denominations as an example, but I will, since the only answer you’ve given me is “Christians don’t disagree on the fundamentals”. (Which isn’t true, or there wouldn’t have been such a disagreement between what became the Orthodox Church and what became the Catholic Church, or the Catholic Church and what became the Protestant, to say nothing of the Ecumenical Councils to which I keep referring.)

    We HAVE no evidence – that is, we have no MENTION of it in sources EXTERNAL to itself – of an official creed before the date I mentioned. What in that statement implies I believe that a fact cannot be disputed? In fact, making claims of FACT seems to be a way to say “I challenge you to dispute this FACT.” So I challenged you by saying what I said about the “first” creed. You did have something to say about it, and came with your own evidence, when you listed the other “proto-creeds”, which was all I was asking you to do. If we wish to continue the discussion down this road, we might begin to discuss the details of these “belief statements”. I would, of course, look for beliefs delineated therein which seem to be outside what you term “the fundamentals”, whereas you may look to show where those differences are inconsequential, or where the beliefs in question are not “fundamental” to Christianity. I tend not to see ends to discussions, though, since I find I learn more when I talk to people with whom I disagree than when I talk to those who share my opinions.

    Why is my assertion on a given statement meaningless if I don’t have objective knowledge? Can one have NO knowledge UNLESS it’s objective? If that’s the case, I’m once again left wondering how YOU know YOUR knowledge is absolute. Or is this where you get to insert the whole “faith” dodge? You seem to be privy to things which I am not…

    Let me reiterate: my working assumption is NOT that we can’t have objective knowledge; rather, it is only the difficulty in ESTABLISHING objective or absolute truth with which I am concerned. I am not being disingenuous in saying “I don’t know” in this case. But I am still lost as to why not being absolutely certain about something makes one unable to say ANYTHING about it. It seems to me just to be a way of saying “We are fairly sure about this, but only insofar as we can be about ANYTHING in this uncertain universe.”

    What I’m saying is that making ANY sort of “factual” statement is still going to be uncertain, but that doesn’t preclude making those statements. It just shows that we can only come so close to being certain. My claims concerning “facts” include no assurance of certainty nor of objectivity. Which means they are open to DEBATE! How fortunate, in these circumstances, that we DO NOT live in a world where things are so certain. If we did, all claims on this site that God allows evil so we can have free will would be pointless. The kind of certainty to which you are referring seems to rule out free will.

    So here is where I am at, Jim. It is absolutely fruitless to continually define my position for someone who will not see where I’m coming from, but only wants to show me where I should go. You have to let go of your assumptions. I do not appeal to objective knowledge but to SUBJECTIVE knowledge. How fortunate for you that these issues are NOT so certain, or there would be no ROOM for debate. I am not being inconsistent in my logic. I’ve tried to show where it is not something with which you, Jim, tend to come into contact in your religious relationships. I am trying to show you that one can appeal to “facts” and still not believe that one is talking about absolutes or things about which one can be objective. This requires one to be calculating, to be slow and measured; it requires one to LISTEN to the other side in a discussion, and not to ASSUME that one’s definitions are the definitions with which one’s interlocutor is working.

  • Michael the little boot

    (Here’s the whole thing I meant to post at 196. If there is a way to remove my comments at 196 and 197, I would appreciate that and have no problem with it. If anyone here knows how to do that. Once again, apologies!)

    Jim @ 194,

    Now I think I understand why we’re missing each other. I’m not appealing to what I find to be absolute, objective sources, which is where you’re getting stuck, since you AGREE that I am not appealing to sources with such authority. I don’t know if those exist, as I’ve stated. You seem to equate my use of established ideas with a belief in absolutes or objectivity. Just because I use sources, doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the idea that they may not be absolute. But if they are more credible than the sources which you use – that is, if they have been subjected to rigorous examination, tests, and if they have been verified over and over again – then I feel free to quote from them, all the while knowing the information they provide is not the be-all and end-all. It is false to say that one who is skeptical of objectivity has no information at his/her disposal. We just think it’s not necessarily absolute. But IF – and I do mean IF – there is no such thing as “absolute” or “objective”, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the only information we would have in a universe like that would be subjective? And would that fact (only in this hypothetical thought-experiment) negate our need to use any of the best available information to make our points?

    If information is only subjective, or if it is LARGELY made up of bits which are not absolute, I am left wondering why we can’t appeal to our “best” sources. In a world where it’s tough to verify things, one would not think one should simply cease the attempt since any verificaton would still be subject to debate. But IF we only have information which can be debated, should we just throw our hands up and say “Since there are no absolutes, we can’t know ANYTHING for CERTAIN, and therefore shouldn’t waste our time trying to learn anything or find anything out”? Just because the nature of information MIGHT be tentative, does that mean we shouldn’t try to grasp SOMETHING of reality?

    This sounds like the argument, usually made by theists, that says the only reason to be moral is that God exists. Which is actually the LEAST reason to be moral. If you’re moral only because God exists, you’re really just following the rules so you get to go to heaven. Which means if God didn’t exist, the people who are moral because they believe in God are in actuality the same as murderers and rapists, only worse, because they have no guts to do what they acually wish to do.

    (I’m not advocating murder and rape, just using this as an example. I don’t believe in God, yet I find reasons to be moral. They are internal to myself. I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.)

    So, to get back to what I was saying: it is no different with subjective vs. objective. Notice I actually take greater care with my words and with my explanations and definitions than a person who believes in absolutes. You have no need to be careful, since you KNOW what you believe to be THE TRUTH, the ABSOLUTE TRUTH. You’re like a bull in a china shop with your OPINIONS, because you believe them NOT to be your opinions, but the TRUTH. I, on the other hand, am measured. I take my time. I usually have to explain myself numerous times, precisely BECAUSE I’m careful, and do not want to give too much away without being understood.

    I am, perhaps, too quick to exclaim that you (or others here) are not listening to me. I think I am too impatient with MYSELF and with the way I am trying to articulate my beliefs, and also not understanding enough of how difficult they are to grasp, since they’re pretty abstract, and are full of so many uncertainties. Of course my explanations are going to miss you, since our worldviews and ideologies are so different. So I’m sorry. I’ll try to refrain from any more “fist-pounding.”

    I’m trying to get you to ask questions when you don’t understand, rather than go off half-cocked. This isn’t always the case. Sometimes you are saying things about something specific I said, and you are quite correct to have a no-holds-barred approach regarding these. But I am also talking about the gray area, the nuances I keep referring to, and I find your responses to these lacking. You don’t SEEM to be wanting clarification on these points, but to show me where I’m wrong. I don’t find it to be a matter of “right” or “wrong” though, so we keep talking past each other in these instances.

    I am more of a relativist than others here whom I’ve read, for sure. I am only a relativist in practice, though, as a result of the difficulty we have in nailing things down. What I’m trying to say is, there may be absolutes, but our ability to grasp them, to quantify them, to PROVE them AS absolutes is EXTREMLEY LIMITED. So I find it not to be valuable to talk about things ABSOLUTELY; rather, I like to talk about things without urgency, but with the calm and peace associated with not NEEDING to know. I also find it DANGEROUS to say things are absolute without being able to SHOW why this is the case.

    Now, since I use language this way, and since I do not want to jump to conclusions, you want to nail me down to the OTHER side. It SEEMS to be your opinion that I am wanting to have my cake and eat it, too. I do not. I don’t think I have certainty. I DO have knowledge, and I use it as I see fit; but NEVER do I treat it as absolute. The reason I can still say that you can’t use Paul’s opinion after his death, is simply that he’s dead, and his writing is NOT clear. I hate to continue using denominations as an example, but I will, since the only answer you’ve given me is “Christians don’t disagree on the fundamentals”. (Which isn’t true, or there wouldn’t have been such a disagreement between what became the Orthodox Church and what became the Catholic Church, or the Catholic Church and what became the Protestant, to say nothing of the Ecumenical Councils to which I keep referring.)

    We HAVE no evidence – that is, we have no MENTION of it in sources EXTERNAL to itself – of an official creed before the date I mentioned. What in that statement implies I believe that a fact cannot be disputed? In fact, making claims of FACT seems to be a way to say “I challenge you to dispute this FACT.” So I challenged you by saying what I said about the “first” creed. You did have something to say about it, and came with your own evidence, when you listed the other “proto-creeds”, which was all I was asking you to do. If we wish to continue the discussion down this road, we might begin to discuss the details of these “belief statements”. I would, of course, look for beliefs delineated therein which seem to be outside what you term “the fundamentals”, whereas you may look to show where those differences are inconsequential, or where the beliefs in question are not “fundamental” to Christianity. I tend not to see ends to discussions, though, since I find I learn more when I talk to people with whom I disagree than when I talk to those who share my opinions.

    Why is my assertion on a given statement meaningless if I don’t have objective knowledge? Can one have NO knowledge UNLESS it’s objective? If that’s the case, I’m once again left wondering how YOU know YOUR knowledge is absolute. Or is this where you get to insert the whole “faith” dodge? You seem to be privy to things which I am not…

    Let me reiterate: my working assumption is NOT that we can’t have objective knowledge; rather, it is only the difficulty in ESTABLISHING objective or absolute truth with which I am concerned. I am not being disingenuous in saying “I don’t know” in this case. But I am still lost as to why not being absolutely certain about something makes one unable to say ANYTHING about it. It seems to me just to be a way of saying “We are fairly sure about this, but only insofar as we can be about ANYTHING in this uncertain universe.”

    What I’m saying is that making ANY sort of “factual” statement is still going to be uncertain, but that doesn’t preclude making those statements. It just shows that we can only come so close to being certain. My claims concerning “facts” include no assurance of certainty nor of objectivity. Which means they are open to DEBATE! How fortunate, in these circumstances, that we DO NOT live in a world where things are so certain. If we did, all claims on this site that God allows evil so we can have free will would be pointless. The kind of certainty to which you are referring seems to rule out free will.

    So here is where I am at, Jim. It is absolutely fruitless to continually define my position for someone who will not see where I’m coming from, but only wants to show me where I should go. You have to let go of your assumptions. I do not appeal to objective knowledge but to SUBJECTIVE knowledge. How fortunate for you that these issues are NOT so certain, or there would be no ROOM for debate. I am not being inconsistent in my logic. I’ve tried to show where it is not something with which you, Jim, tend to come into contact in your religious relationships. I am trying to show you that one can appeal to “facts” and still not believe that one is talking about absolutes or things about which one can be objective. This requires one to be calculating, to be slow and measured; it requires one to LISTEN to the other side in a discussion, and not to ASSUME that one’s definitions are the definitions with which one’s interlocutor is working.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Always with the appeal to understand where you’re coming from.
    Cripes, Michael. Most of us have been there, and it’s nowhere. You’re lost in a tangle of rhetoric and ever-changing definitions and parameters, and, frankly, I’m done. There is no consistency to your thinking, except the consistency of your ever-changingness.
    I understood you a way long time ago. You’re hopelessly lost inside yourself, your history, and your wounds. You will not argue your way out of that place. Ever.
    I may not have experienced or suffered what you have, but I’ve been within the atheistic mind, and it’s at constant war with itself, long before it ever takes on war with a believer.
    And, Van: who has shown they don’t understand where Michael’s coming from, and who of us have said we’ve never questioned what we believe, or how we came to faith? What Christian doesn’t say to himself, ‘Did Christ really rise from the grave?’ How does he dispel his doubts, then? By seeking belief in himself? By trying harder? No, but by hearing the Word again and again, because, in spite of faith’s having been planted, life itself tries its hardest to tell us faith is a lie.
    That’s all Michael’s been asked to do: go, hear. Period.
    I wonder if you’ve made the effort, Michael. I pray you will.

  • Susan aka organshoes

    Always with the appeal to understand where you’re coming from.
    Cripes, Michael. Most of us have been there, and it’s nowhere. You’re lost in a tangle of rhetoric and ever-changing definitions and parameters, and, frankly, I’m done. There is no consistency to your thinking, except the consistency of your ever-changingness.
    I understood you a way long time ago. You’re hopelessly lost inside yourself, your history, and your wounds. You will not argue your way out of that place. Ever.
    I may not have experienced or suffered what you have, but I’ve been within the atheistic mind, and it’s at constant war with itself, long before it ever takes on war with a believer.
    And, Van: who has shown they don’t understand where Michael’s coming from, and who of us have said we’ve never questioned what we believe, or how we came to faith? What Christian doesn’t say to himself, ‘Did Christ really rise from the grave?’ How does he dispel his doubts, then? By seeking belief in himself? By trying harder? No, but by hearing the Word again and again, because, in spite of faith’s having been planted, life itself tries its hardest to tell us faith is a lie.
    That’s all Michael’s been asked to do: go, hear. Period.
    I wonder if you’ve made the effort, Michael. I pray you will.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    Since you’re done, I don’t know if this will mean anything. But I DID go and hear. For nearly twenty years. And I got nothing. Your only rebuttal to that statement has been that I am lying to you, that I never did try, or you give some other dodge.

    Well, I’m glad you’re done. You rarely respond to the things I actually direct to you, preferring to take on what I’ve said to others. You don’t want to discuss, only to be right.

    So I’ll totally tip my hand and say: I’m nowhere near convinced “right” or “wrong” are absolutes. So there you go.

    You’re just a closed-minded, mean-spirited person, Susan. You have no way of knowing whether you’ve EVER had a thought I’ve had, but you MUST believe all atheists to be the same. If any of us have anything valid to offer, there goes your ideology, like a house of cards.

    If I am inconsistent (and I would say that it’s just YOUR rigid definitions which make me SEEM to be), it’s only in trying to make sense of a world that causes my brain to spin. If God made this world and has no patience for people like me, well…but I don’t believe in God. Right. I’m sorry. Won’t mention it again.

    And I’ll breathe a sigh of relief I won’t have to reply to you anymore, Susan.

  • Michael the little boot

    Susan,

    Since you’re done, I don’t know if this will mean anything. But I DID go and hear. For nearly twenty years. And I got nothing. Your only rebuttal to that statement has been that I am lying to you, that I never did try, or you give some other dodge.

    Well, I’m glad you’re done. You rarely respond to the things I actually direct to you, preferring to take on what I’ve said to others. You don’t want to discuss, only to be right.

    So I’ll totally tip my hand and say: I’m nowhere near convinced “right” or “wrong” are absolutes. So there you go.

    You’re just a closed-minded, mean-spirited person, Susan. You have no way of knowing whether you’ve EVER had a thought I’ve had, but you MUST believe all atheists to be the same. If any of us have anything valid to offer, there goes your ideology, like a house of cards.

    If I am inconsistent (and I would say that it’s just YOUR rigid definitions which make me SEEM to be), it’s only in trying to make sense of a world that causes my brain to spin. If God made this world and has no patience for people like me, well…but I don’t believe in God. Right. I’m sorry. Won’t mention it again.

    And I’ll breathe a sigh of relief I won’t have to reply to you anymore, Susan.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    You’re right in saying I haven’t come up with my moral code independently. I apologize if I implied I did. What I’m saying is that I do not appeal to an authority outside myself in order to come up with said code. But I did learn it from my environment, from books I read, from people I met. It’s come from outside myself, to be sure; I’m just the one who put it all together inside myself. It’s actually very different from other moral codes I’ve learned about, but it probably doesn’t sound that way here. It probably sounds confused, as Susan pointed out. If you wanted to talk about it, my email address is somewhere on this page. I hesitate to talk about it here, as most of the things I’ve talked about have not come across well, and my moral code is very much MORE difficult to express.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van,

    You’re right in saying I haven’t come up with my moral code independently. I apologize if I implied I did. What I’m saying is that I do not appeal to an authority outside myself in order to come up with said code. But I did learn it from my environment, from books I read, from people I met. It’s come from outside myself, to be sure; I’m just the one who put it all together inside myself. It’s actually very different from other moral codes I’ve learned about, but it probably doesn’t sound that way here. It probably sounds confused, as Susan pointed out. If you wanted to talk about it, my email address is somewhere on this page. I hesitate to talk about it here, as most of the things I’ve talked about have not come across well, and my moral code is very much MORE difficult to express.

  • Van

    If you’re willing to be patient with me I’ll do the same for you. You may have to explain more.

    You said, “I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.” Then you rephrased and said, “What I’m saying is that I do not appeal to an authority outside myself in order to come up with said code. But I did learn it from my environment, from books I read, from people I met. It’s come from outside myself, to be sure; I’m just the one who put it all together inside myself.”

    Wouldn’t those books, people and your enviornment then actually be the “authority” you let determine your code? Even though they’re not A, one, “person” they do become your authority that you choose to let shape your mind and spirit?

    And so you put all this together inside yourself, right? Am I getting it?

    OK. Here’s more. How can you just brush aside what you don’t like and take in what you do? You are impacted by your enviornment more than you know or can control. It’s beyond your capabilities to go back and undo everthing that’s happened to you so that you don’t “let in” yourself what you dont want to shape your individual moral code.
    You’d die of exhaustion before you could erase a fraction of it.

    Remember, you have to be patient with me. :)

  • Van

    If you’re willing to be patient with me I’ll do the same for you. You may have to explain more.

    You said, “I do have a moral code, I just happen to determine what it is, rather than finding it in a book or in a community.” Then you rephrased and said, “What I’m saying is that I do not appeal to an authority outside myself in order to come up with said code. But I did learn it from my environment, from books I read, from people I met. It’s come from outside myself, to be sure; I’m just the one who put it all together inside myself.”

    Wouldn’t those books, people and your enviornment then actually be the “authority” you let determine your code? Even though they’re not A, one, “person” they do become your authority that you choose to let shape your mind and spirit?

    And so you put all this together inside yourself, right? Am I getting it?

    OK. Here’s more. How can you just brush aside what you don’t like and take in what you do? You are impacted by your enviornment more than you know or can control. It’s beyond your capabilities to go back and undo everthing that’s happened to you so that you don’t “let in” yourself what you dont want to shape your individual moral code.
    You’d die of exhaustion before you could erase a fraction of it.

    Remember, you have to be patient with me. :)

  • Van

    Michael,
    You said, “If I am inconsistent (and I would say that it’s just YOUR rigid definitions which make me SEEM to be), it’s only in trying to make sense of a world that causes my brain to spin. If God made this world and has no patience for people like me, well…but I don’t believe in God. Right. I’m sorry. Won’t mention it again.”

    I believe God is patient with people just like you and me. He is patient. People aren’t patient. We’re pitifully impatient most of the time. God is ever patient. He made your brain just like it is. He knows you think hard and question big. I know you don’t believe he made your brain but I do. And if I truly believe his word then I know you are wonderfully made and that brain of yours that makes you spin is just what he designed it to be. Your questions are valid and your brain is a testimony to how intricate His creations are.

    I think I agree with Frank. I don’t think you are an atheist. And if you are, I don’t see a person who is closed to thinking otherwise. You seem like a person that is just trying to figure it out and being honest about what you’re thinking.

    I like that.

  • Van

    Michael,
    You said, “If I am inconsistent (and I would say that it’s just YOUR rigid definitions which make me SEEM to be), it’s only in trying to make sense of a world that causes my brain to spin. If God made this world and has no patience for people like me, well…but I don’t believe in God. Right. I’m sorry. Won’t mention it again.”

    I believe God is patient with people just like you and me. He is patient. People aren’t patient. We’re pitifully impatient most of the time. God is ever patient. He made your brain just like it is. He knows you think hard and question big. I know you don’t believe he made your brain but I do. And if I truly believe his word then I know you are wonderfully made and that brain of yours that makes you spin is just what he designed it to be. Your questions are valid and your brain is a testimony to how intricate His creations are.

    I think I agree with Frank. I don’t think you are an atheist. And if you are, I don’t see a person who is closed to thinking otherwise. You seem like a person that is just trying to figure it out and being honest about what you’re thinking.

    I like that.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    You haven’t responded to my last post yet. It was pretty long and you said you had to think about it (which is fine, take your time). But if I could break in with a couple of short questions while you are thinking about it, could you expand on your stratement @201 that you did go and hear for nearly 20 years, and got nothing. What did you hear? What do you mean “you got nothing”?

    Also, somewhere way up there you said something about love (I forget what, but it struck me and I always meant to ask you the following). Do you believe love exists? If so, how do you know it does?

  • kerner

    Michael:

    You haven’t responded to my last post yet. It was pretty long and you said you had to think about it (which is fine, take your time). But if I could break in with a couple of short questions while you are thinking about it, could you expand on your stratement @201 that you did go and hear for nearly 20 years, and got nothing. What did you hear? What do you mean “you got nothing”?

    Also, somewhere way up there you said something about love (I forget what, but it struck me and I always meant to ask you the following). Do you believe love exists? If so, how do you know it does?

  • Michael the little boot

    I know I said I wouldn’t respond to Susan anymore, but something she said made me think. She said “I understood you a way long time ago. You’re hopelessly lost inside yourself, your history, and your wounds.” Syntax and word usage to the side, I’m left wondering when the last time was I even brought my “wounds” up. I thought we were basically discussing theology at this point. If its seems this is still about my “wounds” or my “history,” I apologize.

    Also, she said I keep making appeals for people to understand me. I can’t remember every comment I’ve made, which is not an excuse, just a statement about my memory; but it seems to me I’ve only made appeals to Susan and Jim to understand, or to listen. I’m pretty convinced most others ARE listening to me and trying to understand. All but a few of us seem capable of carrying on a reasonable and considerate discussion.

    Sorry, Susan, if this sounds like I’m talking as though you weren’t in the room. Since you said you were done, I’m assuming you’re not in the room any longer. Also, as I’ve stated previously, you rarely respond to the things I direct at you specifically, so I probably have a better chance of reading your response if I don’t put your name at the top of mine.

  • Michael the little boot

    I know I said I wouldn’t respond to Susan anymore, but something she said made me think. She said “I understood you a way long time ago. You’re hopelessly lost inside yourself, your history, and your wounds.” Syntax and word usage to the side, I’m left wondering when the last time was I even brought my “wounds” up. I thought we were basically discussing theology at this point. If its seems this is still about my “wounds” or my “history,” I apologize.

    Also, she said I keep making appeals for people to understand me. I can’t remember every comment I’ve made, which is not an excuse, just a statement about my memory; but it seems to me I’ve only made appeals to Susan and Jim to understand, or to listen. I’m pretty convinced most others ARE listening to me and trying to understand. All but a few of us seem capable of carrying on a reasonable and considerate discussion.

    Sorry, Susan, if this sounds like I’m talking as though you weren’t in the room. Since you said you were done, I’m assuming you’re not in the room any longer. Also, as I’ve stated previously, you rarely respond to the things I direct at you specifically, so I probably have a better chance of reading your response if I don’t put your name at the top of mine.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 205 (wow! 205?),

    You are correct in assuming I am still pondering your earlier post. I will get to it, but will answer your quick questions first.

    As far as your first question is concerned (“What did you hear? What do you mean ‘you got nothing’?”), I heard the message of Christianity as it was presented in church every week from the age of 3 to the age of 21. It obviously wasn’t exactly the same message as it appears here, but it was the only one with which I came into contact. I went every week, usually more than once, during that period. And I listened. I opened myself. I yearned, of course, but it wasn’t like I killed myself doing all sorts of “good works.” And I did not receive faith – which is what I meant by saying “I got nothing”.

    My question has been “What did I do wrong?” if I wanted faith, sat and listened, yet never received it. I was told that I should not have tried so hard, that there is nothing for which to strive or yearn, since only God can give the gift of faith, and one can DO nothing but accept it. Okay, that’s kinda convoluted and not very satisfying, but fine. So was it my intense desire for faith that caused me not to receive it? If that’s the case, it makes even less sense to me. I feel like the answers I’ve gotten here have amounted to attempts to confound my reason, so that I will be cowed by incomprehensibility. But I do not simply give in to things I have yet to understand. I continue to ask questions until I’m satisfied. Kinda like a child. And what was it the Bible has Jesus say about the faith of a child…?

    As far as the thing I said about love, I can’t remember what you’re referring to either! :) But I will answer your question anyway. Like many things in life which most people take for granted, I am not sure whether love “exists”. The word is a tool we use to convey meaning, sure; however, I’m not certain we all mean the same thing by it. I believe there may be an emotion – or, more probably, a group of similar emotions – which could fairly accurately fit many definitions of that word. But I only use words as tools, and see them as describing actual and/or virtual phenomena (or, more generally, “things,” if you’d rather). Those words are not the things themselves, though, but simply descriptions.

    It is precisely the problem of “knowing” that causes me to be so tentative about things like love. Susan called it being “lost in a tangle of rhetoric and ever-changing definitions and parameters,” and I think she was pretty accurate, actually. That’s one reason, incidently, so many people on the “right” call so many people on the “left” (and here I only identify with the “left” because I agree with them, not because I’m one of them) flip-floppers: because people on the left tend not to see life as static. It’s okay to change one’s mind. It’s actually a VIRTUE to be able to change one’s mind, especially in instances where one has been incorrect. Do you agree or disagree?

    I see life as fairly confusing. If I’m lost in something “ever-changing,” I think I’m just like everyone else, because life never seems to throw exactly the same thing at me twice. I don’t see things being different for others in this case. So it’s not really that I WON’T make up my mind; rather, it seems I CAN’T make up my mind, due to insufficient information.

    I am very skeptical of people who talk about the “different ways of knowing.” I find them eager to “know” and, therefore, too easily convinced that “knowing” is possible. It seems to me the jury is out. The only “way of knowing” of which I am aware is the empirical method – that is, what information one acquires through the senses. Even that info is pretty hard to nail down, though it can be done, when it is done carefully (though it is still not necessarily “certain”). The other “ways” seem to me simply justifications for holding beliefs that are no longer tenable.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 205 (wow! 205?),

    You are correct in assuming I am still pondering your earlier post. I will get to it, but will answer your quick questions first.

    As far as your first question is concerned (“What did you hear? What do you mean ‘you got nothing’?”), I heard the message of Christianity as it was presented in church every week from the age of 3 to the age of 21. It obviously wasn’t exactly the same message as it appears here, but it was the only one with which I came into contact. I went every week, usually more than once, during that period. And I listened. I opened myself. I yearned, of course, but it wasn’t like I killed myself doing all sorts of “good works.” And I did not receive faith – which is what I meant by saying “I got nothing”.

    My question has been “What did I do wrong?” if I wanted faith, sat and listened, yet never received it. I was told that I should not have tried so hard, that there is nothing for which to strive or yearn, since only God can give the gift of faith, and one can DO nothing but accept it. Okay, that’s kinda convoluted and not very satisfying, but fine. So was it my intense desire for faith that caused me not to receive it? If that’s the case, it makes even less sense to me. I feel like the answers I’ve gotten here have amounted to attempts to confound my reason, so that I will be cowed by incomprehensibility. But I do not simply give in to things I have yet to understand. I continue to ask questions until I’m satisfied. Kinda like a child. And what was it the Bible has Jesus say about the faith of a child…?

    As far as the thing I said about love, I can’t remember what you’re referring to either! :) But I will answer your question anyway. Like many things in life which most people take for granted, I am not sure whether love “exists”. The word is a tool we use to convey meaning, sure; however, I’m not certain we all mean the same thing by it. I believe there may be an emotion – or, more probably, a group of similar emotions – which could fairly accurately fit many definitions of that word. But I only use words as tools, and see them as describing actual and/or virtual phenomena (or, more generally, “things,” if you’d rather). Those words are not the things themselves, though, but simply descriptions.

    It is precisely the problem of “knowing” that causes me to be so tentative about things like love. Susan called it being “lost in a tangle of rhetoric and ever-changing definitions and parameters,” and I think she was pretty accurate, actually. That’s one reason, incidently, so many people on the “right” call so many people on the “left” (and here I only identify with the “left” because I agree with them, not because I’m one of them) flip-floppers: because people on the left tend not to see life as static. It’s okay to change one’s mind. It’s actually a VIRTUE to be able to change one’s mind, especially in instances where one has been incorrect. Do you agree or disagree?

    I see life as fairly confusing. If I’m lost in something “ever-changing,” I think I’m just like everyone else, because life never seems to throw exactly the same thing at me twice. I don’t see things being different for others in this case. So it’s not really that I WON’T make up my mind; rather, it seems I CAN’T make up my mind, due to insufficient information.

    I am very skeptical of people who talk about the “different ways of knowing.” I find them eager to “know” and, therefore, too easily convinced that “knowing” is possible. It seems to me the jury is out. The only “way of knowing” of which I am aware is the empirical method – that is, what information one acquires through the senses. Even that info is pretty hard to nail down, though it can be done, when it is done carefully (though it is still not necessarily “certain”). The other “ways” seem to me simply justifications for holding beliefs that are no longer tenable.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Thank you for the response. I apologize I wasn’t able to get back to, but I have been busy… even on vacation! 8^)

    You write, “Now I think I understand why we’re missing each other. I’m not appealing to what I find to be absolute, objective sources, which is where you’re getting stuck, since you AGREE that I am not appealing to sources with such authority. I don’t know if those exist, as I’ve stated. You seem to equate my use of established ideas with a belief in absolutes or objectivity. Just because I use sources, doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the idea that they may not be absolute.”

    I could spend pages upon pages responding to that one paragraph alone, but I will attempt to fit everything I want to write in a few paragraphs. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    We are “stuck”, Michael. I agree with you there. I disagree with part of where you see us being stuck at. For example, you seem to be equivocating “absolute” with “objective knowledge”. Thus, when you read where I write “objective knowledge” you are likely thinking something like “There he goes again with talk of ‘absolutes’!” Objective knowledge isn’t the same thing as an absolute. Objective knowledge changes. At one time it was objectively known through the science of the day that the sun revolved around the earth along with all the other heavenly bodies. Was that an absolute? No. But it was still objective knowledge. The point being that unlike absolutes, objective knowledge is not free of imperfections. It can be wrong. Does that make sense?

    While I was reading your response I was struck by how much of our “ping ponging” back and forth has actually turned into personal digs. I want to apologize for my personal digs, Michael, because I obviously played a part.

    That also leads to my next point which is that we are approaching the world quite differently. It is hard to quantify how you are approaching the world because there is much uncertainty in the language you are using. I, on the other hand, have much certainty and faith and a robust language to employ in discussion of them! So, yeah, I can see how you might be feeling “burned down” (my words not yours), or as you said I am a “bull in a china shop”. I have much zeal.

    I did read this before I began this response : “…but it seems to me I’ve only made appeals to Susan and Jim to understand, or to listen. I’m pretty convinced most others ARE listening to me and trying to understand.”

    And here is where I will close. If I am impeding the work of God in any way, then I repent and gladly step aside to let others, whom you believe are listening to you, communicate the word of God for your salvation, Michael. I have thought that I shared all that I could early on. You have heard the gospel and that is sufficient.

  • http://lawandgospel.typepad.com/ Jim Pierce

    Michael,

    Thank you for the response. I apologize I wasn’t able to get back to, but I have been busy… even on vacation! 8^)

    You write, “Now I think I understand why we’re missing each other. I’m not appealing to what I find to be absolute, objective sources, which is where you’re getting stuck, since you AGREE that I am not appealing to sources with such authority. I don’t know if those exist, as I’ve stated. You seem to equate my use of established ideas with a belief in absolutes or objectivity. Just because I use sources, doesn’t mean I don’t acknowledge the idea that they may not be absolute.”

    I could spend pages upon pages responding to that one paragraph alone, but I will attempt to fit everything I want to write in a few paragraphs. Keeping my fingers crossed!

    We are “stuck”, Michael. I agree with you there. I disagree with part of where you see us being stuck at. For example, you seem to be equivocating “absolute” with “objective knowledge”. Thus, when you read where I write “objective knowledge” you are likely thinking something like “There he goes again with talk of ‘absolutes’!” Objective knowledge isn’t the same thing as an absolute. Objective knowledge changes. At one time it was objectively known through the science of the day that the sun revolved around the earth along with all the other heavenly bodies. Was that an absolute? No. But it was still objective knowledge. The point being that unlike absolutes, objective knowledge is not free of imperfections. It can be wrong. Does that make sense?

    While I was reading your response I was struck by how much of our “ping ponging” back and forth has actually turned into personal digs. I want to apologize for my personal digs, Michael, because I obviously played a part.

    That also leads to my next point which is that we are approaching the world quite differently. It is hard to quantify how you are approaching the world because there is much uncertainty in the language you are using. I, on the other hand, have much certainty and faith and a robust language to employ in discussion of them! So, yeah, I can see how you might be feeling “burned down” (my words not yours), or as you said I am a “bull in a china shop”. I have much zeal.

    I did read this before I began this response : “…but it seems to me I’ve only made appeals to Susan and Jim to understand, or to listen. I’m pretty convinced most others ARE listening to me and trying to understand.”

    And here is where I will close. If I am impeding the work of God in any way, then I repent and gladly step aside to let others, whom you believe are listening to you, communicate the word of God for your salvation, Michael. I have thought that I shared all that I could early on. You have heard the gospel and that is sufficient.

  • Van

    Michael,
    I am sure of my faith. I don’t doubt it. I do question lots of things about God, faith, scripture and Christianity. I feel hesitant to say this because of other’s responses, but I will anyway.
    I see faith working in you! We (this thread) can argue and ponder and come at this topic from all sorts of angles.
    We all have different gifts, vocations and talents. We all bring something to the table for whatever that’s worth.

    I think a person can have faith and it be very small and difficult to see; even to oneself.
    And I think others have so much faith that it’s impossible not to see.

    I’m sure someone could blast me and argue (with scripture by the way) that I’m not right.
    But I think there are others that could argue (with scripture) my point.

    Van

  • Van

    Michael,
    I am sure of my faith. I don’t doubt it. I do question lots of things about God, faith, scripture and Christianity. I feel hesitant to say this because of other’s responses, but I will anyway.
    I see faith working in you! We (this thread) can argue and ponder and come at this topic from all sorts of angles.
    We all have different gifts, vocations and talents. We all bring something to the table for whatever that’s worth.

    I think a person can have faith and it be very small and difficult to see; even to oneself.
    And I think others have so much faith that it’s impossible not to see.

    I’m sure someone could blast me and argue (with scripture by the way) that I’m not right.
    But I think there are others that could argue (with scripture) my point.

    Van

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 203,

    Absolutely willing to be patient with you! You have shown yourself to be capable of the same, and I will do my best to reciprocate.

    As far as authorities external to oneself, I think Tillich put it best: “If one has to choose between different authorities, not THEY but ONESELF is ultimate authority for oneself, and this means: there is no authority for him. (Emphasis Tillich’s)” You’re right in pointing out these external sources (other people, books, etc.) influence me. No one is exempt from being influenced, I agree. But, as Tillich said, ultimately it is YOU and it is ME who are making these decisions for ourselves. The better question, in my opinion, is “Why, when we are CHOOSING whom to call our authority, don’t we acknowledge it is WE who decide?”

    Or, more precisely, what is it to which you, Van, appeal when trying to determine who or what wields authority in your life? For example: does the government have authority over you? Or do they have POWER over you, which YOU CHOOSE not to defy for fear of pain, imprisonment, exile, death, etc.? Could these questions apply to God? These are, I think, important distinctions to make.

    Ultimately, I choose between what makes sense to me and what does not. So, yes, you are correct in saying I put these external influences together in a unique way once I internalized them. This is how I formed my personal moral code. It is how I believe MOST people – if not everyone – determine their own codes. Some people see a pre-existing code and accept it as their own, as it is what makes sense to them. Some of us invent our own, as we cannot find ANY moral code which makes sense among the legion which are already available.

    I think you make a good point, when you say “You are impacted by your enviornment more than you know or can control.” I agree. So I do not pretend that what makes sense to me is a choice. I’ve actually said that a few times here (not that I expect you to go looking for it, or to remember) this pretty much exactly. I get to choose not necessarily WHAT I choose, but from the choices available to me. Which is to say, I may not be able to choose what my preference is, but I CAN choose from among those things I may be pre-disposed to prefer. I think it is appropriate here to mention sexual preference, in light of the research which is (slowly) being confirmed in many disciplines. If a man cannot HELP but be attracted to other men – that is, if he is predisposed in some way NOT to be attracted to females AT ALL – then being gay is not a choice. Said man can only choose from among men if he wishes to have a partner, unless he does not want to be happy.

    You also asked “How can you just brush aside what you don’t like and take in what you do?” I may be lost here, but I am left wondering how I can do otherwise. Do we not choose from amongst our preferences every day? If I would rather drink coffee than tea, and tea is offered to me, I can simply say “No thank you” and go get a cup o’ joe. I may be oversimplifying your question here, though, so if I am, please clarify. It does seem a choice between beverages does not hold the same importance as the choice of a life partner or job or religion.

    Now, many here have said that the God of the Bible is not the God they would choose were they able to build God as they saw fit. This has been used as an argument against my former statement that Christians are “lucky” since the God whom they believe actually exists is the God they want. So I’ll restate it. What I mean is, Christians are lucky that the God who “is” happens to be a God who makes sense to them, or who, at the very least, doesn’t leave them with cognitive dissonance. This goes back to my earlier assertion that we do not necessarily get to choose what makes sense to us, but can only make choices from AMONG those things which make sense to us. What happens to the Muslim born in an Islamic country who never hears the Gospel except when it is denigrated by his/her fellow Muslims? Or the child born in the Amazon rain forest who not only has never heard the Gospel, but has never seen another human being who was not part of his/her tribe or group? These are, I think, very important questions, and deserve more discussion.

    I agree it is beyond my capabilities to go back in time and undo everything that’s happened to me. Have I intimated I would wish this to occur? I think I’m not understanding what you meant by that. It is a great difficulty in my life that, although I do not agree with everything which happened to me growing up, I am who I am because of ALL of it, and can never extricate myself from that. I have to acknowledge ALL of it – good, bad or otherwise – has made me who I am. I do struggle with that idea.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 203,

    Absolutely willing to be patient with you! You have shown yourself to be capable of the same, and I will do my best to reciprocate.

    As far as authorities external to oneself, I think Tillich put it best: “If one has to choose between different authorities, not THEY but ONESELF is ultimate authority for oneself, and this means: there is no authority for him. (Emphasis Tillich’s)” You’re right in pointing out these external sources (other people, books, etc.) influence me. No one is exempt from being influenced, I agree. But, as Tillich said, ultimately it is YOU and it is ME who are making these decisions for ourselves. The better question, in my opinion, is “Why, when we are CHOOSING whom to call our authority, don’t we acknowledge it is WE who decide?”

    Or, more precisely, what is it to which you, Van, appeal when trying to determine who or what wields authority in your life? For example: does the government have authority over you? Or do they have POWER over you, which YOU CHOOSE not to defy for fear of pain, imprisonment, exile, death, etc.? Could these questions apply to God? These are, I think, important distinctions to make.

    Ultimately, I choose between what makes sense to me and what does not. So, yes, you are correct in saying I put these external influences together in a unique way once I internalized them. This is how I formed my personal moral code. It is how I believe MOST people – if not everyone – determine their own codes. Some people see a pre-existing code and accept it as their own, as it is what makes sense to them. Some of us invent our own, as we cannot find ANY moral code which makes sense among the legion which are already available.

    I think you make a good point, when you say “You are impacted by your enviornment more than you know or can control.” I agree. So I do not pretend that what makes sense to me is a choice. I’ve actually said that a few times here (not that I expect you to go looking for it, or to remember) this pretty much exactly. I get to choose not necessarily WHAT I choose, but from the choices available to me. Which is to say, I may not be able to choose what my preference is, but I CAN choose from among those things I may be pre-disposed to prefer. I think it is appropriate here to mention sexual preference, in light of the research which is (slowly) being confirmed in many disciplines. If a man cannot HELP but be attracted to other men – that is, if he is predisposed in some way NOT to be attracted to females AT ALL – then being gay is not a choice. Said man can only choose from among men if he wishes to have a partner, unless he does not want to be happy.

    You also asked “How can you just brush aside what you don’t like and take in what you do?” I may be lost here, but I am left wondering how I can do otherwise. Do we not choose from amongst our preferences every day? If I would rather drink coffee than tea, and tea is offered to me, I can simply say “No thank you” and go get a cup o’ joe. I may be oversimplifying your question here, though, so if I am, please clarify. It does seem a choice between beverages does not hold the same importance as the choice of a life partner or job or religion.

    Now, many here have said that the God of the Bible is not the God they would choose were they able to build God as they saw fit. This has been used as an argument against my former statement that Christians are “lucky” since the God whom they believe actually exists is the God they want. So I’ll restate it. What I mean is, Christians are lucky that the God who “is” happens to be a God who makes sense to them, or who, at the very least, doesn’t leave them with cognitive dissonance. This goes back to my earlier assertion that we do not necessarily get to choose what makes sense to us, but can only make choices from AMONG those things which make sense to us. What happens to the Muslim born in an Islamic country who never hears the Gospel except when it is denigrated by his/her fellow Muslims? Or the child born in the Amazon rain forest who not only has never heard the Gospel, but has never seen another human being who was not part of his/her tribe or group? These are, I think, very important questions, and deserve more discussion.

    I agree it is beyond my capabilities to go back in time and undo everything that’s happened to me. Have I intimated I would wish this to occur? I think I’m not understanding what you meant by that. It is a great difficulty in my life that, although I do not agree with everything which happened to me growing up, I am who I am because of ALL of it, and can never extricate myself from that. I have to acknowledge ALL of it – good, bad or otherwise – has made me who I am. I do struggle with that idea.

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 204,

    I like what you said here: “People aren’t patient. We’re pitifully impatient most of the time. God is ever patient.” See, that squares with what I would expect of a “Supreme Being.” Infinitely patient, open, respectful. You say my brain “is just what [God] designed it to be. Your questions are valid and your brain is a testimony to how intricate His creations are.” I like that, too. I would think an all-knowing, all-powerful God would be capable of letting me do EVERYTHING necessary to satisfy my curiosities, considering God was the one who gave me the brain in which those questions arose.

    This is something many here have said is a self-centered, individualistic view of God and life. But this answer leaves me wondering why God made me an individual if God didn’t want me to act as one. As you said, God created me as I am. Some have characterized this view as me making God submit to MY will, and called it prideful. I don’t understand this, though, since I am only BEING the person God made me. God would have HAD to know what I would be like, given God was the chef with the ingredients. If I am supposed to submit myself to God’s will and SUBVERT my SELF, one wonders why God created these tendencies in me at all. It seems to relegate life to a test, or series of tests. I have a more awe-filled view of life, in my opinion.

    And I agree with you: I’m not an atheist. I’ve explained this before, but it’s probably pretty far up the page (or in the original thread, even!). I’d never expect you to read ALL of this having come late to our little party. So I’ll give you the short version: “atheist” is a term I use to describe myself ONLY in the interest of brevity (I know! Did I just use that word in reference to myself?). The truth is, I have found no words which I feel capture my views of “spirituality” (or whatever word you want to put in place of that one) enough for me to use that word in reference to me. But it serves a purpose here, if only to denote my nonbelief in a “personal” Creator or other such Cosmic Charles-in-charge. IF this universe HAD a beginning, it did not necessarily have to be due to the actions of a BEING.

    But THIS, for obvious reasons, is what I like the MOST in your last comment: “You seem like a person that is just trying to figure it out and being honest about what you’re thinking.” Thanks. That’s all I try to do. You seem to be a reasonable, honest person, as well. Thanks for keeping this up!

  • Michael the little boot

    Van @ 204,

    I like what you said here: “People aren’t patient. We’re pitifully impatient most of the time. God is ever patient.” See, that squares with what I would expect of a “Supreme Being.” Infinitely patient, open, respectful. You say my brain “is just what [God] designed it to be. Your questions are valid and your brain is a testimony to how intricate His creations are.” I like that, too. I would think an all-knowing, all-powerful God would be capable of letting me do EVERYTHING necessary to satisfy my curiosities, considering God was the one who gave me the brain in which those questions arose.

    This is something many here have said is a self-centered, individualistic view of God and life. But this answer leaves me wondering why God made me an individual if God didn’t want me to act as one. As you said, God created me as I am. Some have characterized this view as me making God submit to MY will, and called it prideful. I don’t understand this, though, since I am only BEING the person God made me. God would have HAD to know what I would be like, given God was the chef with the ingredients. If I am supposed to submit myself to God’s will and SUBVERT my SELF, one wonders why God created these tendencies in me at all. It seems to relegate life to a test, or series of tests. I have a more awe-filled view of life, in my opinion.

    And I agree with you: I’m not an atheist. I’ve explained this before, but it’s probably pretty far up the page (or in the original thread, even!). I’d never expect you to read ALL of this having come late to our little party. So I’ll give you the short version: “atheist” is a term I use to describe myself ONLY in the interest of brevity (I know! Did I just use that word in reference to myself?). The truth is, I have found no words which I feel capture my views of “spirituality” (or whatever word you want to put in place of that one) enough for me to use that word in reference to me. But it serves a purpose here, if only to denote my nonbelief in a “personal” Creator or other such Cosmic Charles-in-charge. IF this universe HAD a beginning, it did not necessarily have to be due to the actions of a BEING.

    But THIS, for obvious reasons, is what I like the MOST in your last comment: “You seem like a person that is just trying to figure it out and being honest about what you’re thinking.” Thanks. That’s all I try to do. You seem to be a reasonable, honest person, as well. Thanks for keeping this up!

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 182,

    Told you I’d get back to this! Sorry it took so long.

    One problem we’re having is I’m not using “burden of proof” in a legal context; rather, I mean it in a philosophical one (since my training is in this area – although I’m sure you are much more expert in LAW than I am in philosophy!), and these are two different things. I’ll just give the definition: “Outside a legal context, ‘burden of proof’ means that someone suggesting a new theory or stating a claim must provide evidence to support it: it is not sufficient to say ‘you can’t disprove this.’ Specifically, when anyone is making a bold claim, it is not someone else’s responsibility to disprove the claim, but is rather the responsibility of the person who is making the bold claim to prove it. In short, X is not proven simply because ‘not X’ cannot be proven.” So my claim the burden of proof is on you is plainly correct, in this context.

    I agree with you, however, that no one in EITHER context would expect ABSOLUTE proof. I did not mean that I expected that of you, and I apologize for the miscommunication. For ME to believe in God, I think I would need that kind of proof; but, as you stated, that kind of evidence does not exist. I’m not asking you for it, and I don’t think you need to offer it to me. I don’t regard this as a debate anymore, but as people discussing their beliefs and how they arrive at them. I know this makes me that cold anthropologist again.

    I agree with you that no one can prove anything absolutely. How have I committed the fallacy you suggested? I’ve not said (that I can remember) “because I cannot absolutely prove what is true, and because different people do reach different conclusions about what is true, there is no such thing as objective truth” nor have I said anything like it. I’ve actually been careful NOT to say that. What I’ve said is, since none of us know ANYTHING absolutely, we should be careful and measured when we start to talk about absolutes or objective truth. You’ve admitted no one can prove anything absolutely. That’s all I’m saying, too. I tried very hard when responding to Jim NOT to say I ABSOLUTELY don’t believe in absolutes. What I said was, it’s hard to talk about those kinds of things. And I don’t find it to be very valuable.

    What I DO find, since we can’t prove anything absolutely, and since different people come to different conclusions, we should all take that idea very seriously. I don’t understand the point in saying there ARE absolutes. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s possible there ARE absolutes, just that they’re hard to nail down. What’s funny to me is, you’re the one who believes in God, but you don’t take God’s “messages” seriously. If there IS a God, and that God created the universe, and that God made it very unlikely we would ever find any ABSOLUTE PROOF of anything, it probably doesn’t matter WHAT we believe.

    Which brings me to what you said about the “process” (I like that WAAAY better than calling it a “journey,” as that one was beyond overdone for me in college!). We’re either going to have to agree to disagree on this point, or just stop discussing this idea altogether. You’re very western in your views here, which you admit. If you find no point in this view of life, I think it may be due to your rigid belief in absolutes. Personally, I really resonate with the idea that the process is more important than the RESULT of the process. If that idea makes no sense to you, cool. It more than makes sense to me. Often I find the “ends” of things to be anticlimactic…

    I’ve been called a “seeker” here before, and you keep throwing the word “truth” around, so allow me a couple questions, please: who said I was a seeker? And who said I was seeking truth? Also, you said “The idea that there might actually be objective principles of right and wrong, even in a broad sense, is a problem for you.” Actually, it’s a problem for you, kerner. I’ve said before I have no problem with the idea of absolutes, just that they are hard to establish, and, therefore, I don’t find it valuable to talk about them. Making a claim about “absolute right and wrong” – although it is an accepted “moral principle” – is making a radical claim. And, as I established at the beginning of this comment, the person making the radical claim has the burden to prove it. You can only say the human version of “right and wrong” is correct if you put humans above all other life on our planet, which I don’t do. It is obvious from my study of other life forms that there are VASTLY different notions of “right” and “wrong” to be found in the world.

    As far as the eyeless fish, I agree it is “narcissism to decide that there is nothing that exists outside what one can perceive.” What I am getting at when discussing perception is not to imply NOTHING exists outside our ability to perceive it. There is infrared light, ultraviolet light, as well as extremely high or low frequency ranges, and we can’t perceive those. And that’s just what we KNOW. I’m only saying it is difficult to talk about things outside these parameters. We have to use sensitive and highly technical equipment to perceive the aforementioned light and sound wavelengths. How much more difficult it would be to perceive something NO CREATURE is equipped to perceive – that is, God!

    I do not choose to kick puppies because I am not cruel. I actually DO lie sometimes, and don’t feel bad about it, depending on the context. I don’t steal because I recognize others usually NEED what they have, as I need what I have. In other words, I put myself in their shoes, which I find to be BETTER than the golden rule; rather than treat others as I want to be treated, I do my best to treat them as THEY want to be treated. I don’t murder for obvious reasons (i.e., I’m not psychotic). Why do I act the way I do? For no other reason than I do not see myself as more important than others. I see myself as a PART of the universe, and, as such, I do my best not to put myself, nor my wants and needs, above anyone else. I do it because it “feels right” to me, and because it makes sense.

    If you want to say that’s my god-shaped hole making its presence known, that’s your opinion. And it’s a pretty radical claim.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 182,

    Told you I’d get back to this! Sorry it took so long.

    One problem we’re having is I’m not using “burden of proof” in a legal context; rather, I mean it in a philosophical one (since my training is in this area – although I’m sure you are much more expert in LAW than I am in philosophy!), and these are two different things. I’ll just give the definition: “Outside a legal context, ‘burden of proof’ means that someone suggesting a new theory or stating a claim must provide evidence to support it: it is not sufficient to say ‘you can’t disprove this.’ Specifically, when anyone is making a bold claim, it is not someone else’s responsibility to disprove the claim, but is rather the responsibility of the person who is making the bold claim to prove it. In short, X is not proven simply because ‘not X’ cannot be proven.” So my claim the burden of proof is on you is plainly correct, in this context.

    I agree with you, however, that no one in EITHER context would expect ABSOLUTE proof. I did not mean that I expected that of you, and I apologize for the miscommunication. For ME to believe in God, I think I would need that kind of proof; but, as you stated, that kind of evidence does not exist. I’m not asking you for it, and I don’t think you need to offer it to me. I don’t regard this as a debate anymore, but as people discussing their beliefs and how they arrive at them. I know this makes me that cold anthropologist again.

    I agree with you that no one can prove anything absolutely. How have I committed the fallacy you suggested? I’ve not said (that I can remember) “because I cannot absolutely prove what is true, and because different people do reach different conclusions about what is true, there is no such thing as objective truth” nor have I said anything like it. I’ve actually been careful NOT to say that. What I’ve said is, since none of us know ANYTHING absolutely, we should be careful and measured when we start to talk about absolutes or objective truth. You’ve admitted no one can prove anything absolutely. That’s all I’m saying, too. I tried very hard when responding to Jim NOT to say I ABSOLUTELY don’t believe in absolutes. What I said was, it’s hard to talk about those kinds of things. And I don’t find it to be very valuable.

    What I DO find, since we can’t prove anything absolutely, and since different people come to different conclusions, we should all take that idea very seriously. I don’t understand the point in saying there ARE absolutes. That doesn’t mean I don’t think it’s possible there ARE absolutes, just that they’re hard to nail down. What’s funny to me is, you’re the one who believes in God, but you don’t take God’s “messages” seriously. If there IS a God, and that God created the universe, and that God made it very unlikely we would ever find any ABSOLUTE PROOF of anything, it probably doesn’t matter WHAT we believe.

    Which brings me to what you said about the “process” (I like that WAAAY better than calling it a “journey,” as that one was beyond overdone for me in college!). We’re either going to have to agree to disagree on this point, or just stop discussing this idea altogether. You’re very western in your views here, which you admit. If you find no point in this view of life, I think it may be due to your rigid belief in absolutes. Personally, I really resonate with the idea that the process is more important than the RESULT of the process. If that idea makes no sense to you, cool. It more than makes sense to me. Often I find the “ends” of things to be anticlimactic…

    I’ve been called a “seeker” here before, and you keep throwing the word “truth” around, so allow me a couple questions, please: who said I was a seeker? And who said I was seeking truth? Also, you said “The idea that there might actually be objective principles of right and wrong, even in a broad sense, is a problem for you.” Actually, it’s a problem for you, kerner. I’ve said before I have no problem with the idea of absolutes, just that they are hard to establish, and, therefore, I don’t find it valuable to talk about them. Making a claim about “absolute right and wrong” – although it is an accepted “moral principle” – is making a radical claim. And, as I established at the beginning of this comment, the person making the radical claim has the burden to prove it. You can only say the human version of “right and wrong” is correct if you put humans above all other life on our planet, which I don’t do. It is obvious from my study of other life forms that there are VASTLY different notions of “right” and “wrong” to be found in the world.

    As far as the eyeless fish, I agree it is “narcissism to decide that there is nothing that exists outside what one can perceive.” What I am getting at when discussing perception is not to imply NOTHING exists outside our ability to perceive it. There is infrared light, ultraviolet light, as well as extremely high or low frequency ranges, and we can’t perceive those. And that’s just what we KNOW. I’m only saying it is difficult to talk about things outside these parameters. We have to use sensitive and highly technical equipment to perceive the aforementioned light and sound wavelengths. How much more difficult it would be to perceive something NO CREATURE is equipped to perceive – that is, God!

    I do not choose to kick puppies because I am not cruel. I actually DO lie sometimes, and don’t feel bad about it, depending on the context. I don’t steal because I recognize others usually NEED what they have, as I need what I have. In other words, I put myself in their shoes, which I find to be BETTER than the golden rule; rather than treat others as I want to be treated, I do my best to treat them as THEY want to be treated. I don’t murder for obvious reasons (i.e., I’m not psychotic). Why do I act the way I do? For no other reason than I do not see myself as more important than others. I see myself as a PART of the universe, and, as such, I do my best not to put myself, nor my wants and needs, above anyone else. I do it because it “feels right” to me, and because it makes sense.

    If you want to say that’s my god-shaped hole making its presence known, that’s your opinion. And it’s a pretty radical claim.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    I will give a more fully fleshed-out response, but I just wanted to say: you are completely wrong. Your definition of objective is not correct, and IT is the reason we’ve been missing each other. Come on, kerner, back me up here.

  • Michael the little boot

    Jim,

    I will give a more fully fleshed-out response, but I just wanted to say: you are completely wrong. Your definition of objective is not correct, and IT is the reason we’ve been missing each other. Come on, kerner, back me up here.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 183,

    I’d like to talk a bit about your “puzzle” metaphor. Especially these points:

    1) “When we perceive order in the universe and conclude that there is the possibility of a Designer, that is one part of the puzzle.”

    2) “When we perceive the existence of morality and conclude that there is a Law-giver, that is another.”

    3) “When we perceive that the writings of all those people over all that time that is compiled into the Bible can be reconciled into a consistent message, it is yet another piece.”

    I’d like to suggest that 1) and 2) are found consistently in all monotheistic religions. It is 3) which is contingent upon a specific religion – Christianity, in this case, due to how you phrased it. I think it could be restated as follows: “When we perceive that the writings [make sense to us], it is yet another piece.” All adherents of religions to which a book (or books, or writings in general) might be important for relating doctrine appeal to certain types of minds, or particular ways of thinking. The Bible makes sense to you. You have a western mind. It tends NOT to make sense (I’m generalizing here) to minds which work differently from your mind, especially those outside a western framework.

    The Muslim would insert “When we perceive that the writings [come only from one man to whom Allah's angel spoke - and the fact of its internal consistency is a testament to this - ], it is yet another piece.” They see law differently. They have different criteria for what they call truth, and, consequently, for their truth-finding methods. Why, in your opinion, are they wrong? Do you hold western law – and, more specifically, that of the United States – to be the best system yet devised? Does it supercede all other systems of law, or are there other valid systems? Do you hold western logic to be more “logical” than other systems?

    I’m not trying to be incredulous. Now that I know what you do and what your expertise is, I think we can have a more appropriate discussion. So I’d like to read your thoughts on these, as I find they might be a good canon for measurement.

    The biggest problem I have with your comment @ 183 is specifically with what you say near the end: “I know you can say that maybe our ablity to fit all of the pieces together is just a function of people seeing what they want to see (like a Rorshach test), but I think the preponderence of this evidence…and the way it fits together is enough to convince me that Christianity is true…” Actually, my problem’s not with this portion. You acknowledge it is at least possible you are only interpreting inkblots. My problems arise from what you say next: “…and that failure to act as though Christianity is true will have dire consequences for me.” If you are satisfied with a God like the one you imply – that is, a tyrant who needs you to pass a theology test to be “saved” – I can understand why we don’t agree. I wonder why you are okay with it, to be honest. It’s VERY low on the developmental scale to talk of “dire consequences” in relation to a belief about the supernatural. If ANYONE ELSE treated you as you say God does, you’d RUN the other way. But because it’s God, all of this – genocide (just open up the OT and you’ll be hard pressed NOT to find it), murder, CHILD-murder (Stone your kid for disobedience? Or sacrifice Isaac? And why is it cool for GOD to murder children, or even the unborn, but not us? Isn’t a sin a sin?), even allowing the EARTH to open up and swallow THOUSANDS, etc. – is fine and dandy.

    My point is, there are many Christians who read the same Bible (different translations to the side), yet come up with a different interpretation. They don’t see any consequences other than those which arise through one’s actions, and they certainly don’t see anything “dire” in someone else believing something different from them. Again, I must ask: why is your interpretation correct over ALL the others? Many people see the same inkblots and do not describe the same picture as you. Some don’t even see the Bible as literal, and interpret it figuratively.

    I can understand – though I don’t agree – with your conclusion the Bible is correct, over and above other religions, based on its internal consistency; but what about the people who read this book and are devotees of a religion which has the same name as yours, yet does not look remotely like the faith you espouse? You can’t run to the argument from internal consistency, which, up till now, has been your go-to rebuttal of all other religions. They see this supposed consistency as well. Or they don’t! There are many moderate and liberal Christians who don’t even interpret the Bible literally. What about them? And what about the Bible’s internal consistency makes you think it should be interpreted literally? As I’ve said before, a work of FICTION is usually MUCH more internally consistent than any work of history. Do you interpret Huck Finn to be literal, since it’s so consistent?

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner @ 183,

    I’d like to talk a bit about your “puzzle” metaphor. Especially these points:

    1) “When we perceive order in the universe and conclude that there is the possibility of a Designer, that is one part of the puzzle.”

    2) “When we perceive the existence of morality and conclude that there is a Law-giver, that is another.”

    3) “When we perceive that the writings of all those people over all that time that is compiled into the Bible can be reconciled into a consistent message, it is yet another piece.”

    I’d like to suggest that 1) and 2) are found consistently in all monotheistic religions. It is 3) which is contingent upon a specific religion – Christianity, in this case, due to how you phrased it. I think it could be restated as follows: “When we perceive that the writings [make sense to us], it is yet another piece.” All adherents of religions to which a book (or books, or writings in general) might be important for relating doctrine appeal to certain types of minds, or particular ways of thinking. The Bible makes sense to you. You have a western mind. It tends NOT to make sense (I’m generalizing here) to minds which work differently from your mind, especially those outside a western framework.

    The Muslim would insert “When we perceive that the writings [come only from one man to whom Allah's angel spoke - and the fact of its internal consistency is a testament to this - ], it is yet another piece.” They see law differently. They have different criteria for what they call truth, and, consequently, for their truth-finding methods. Why, in your opinion, are they wrong? Do you hold western law – and, more specifically, that of the United States – to be the best system yet devised? Does it supercede all other systems of law, or are there other valid systems? Do you hold western logic to be more “logical” than other systems?

    I’m not trying to be incredulous. Now that I know what you do and what your expertise is, I think we can have a more appropriate discussion. So I’d like to read your thoughts on these, as I find they might be a good canon for measurement.

    The biggest problem I have with your comment @ 183 is specifically with what you say near the end: “I know you can say that maybe our ablity to fit all of the pieces together is just a function of people seeing what they want to see (like a Rorshach test), but I think the preponderence of this evidence…and the way it fits together is enough to convince me that Christianity is true…” Actually, my problem’s not with this portion. You acknowledge it is at least possible you are only interpreting inkblots. My problems arise from what you say next: “…and that failure to act as though Christianity is true will have dire consequences for me.” If you are satisfied with a God like the one you imply – that is, a tyrant who needs you to pass a theology test to be “saved” – I can understand why we don’t agree. I wonder why you are okay with it, to be honest. It’s VERY low on the developmental scale to talk of “dire consequences” in relation to a belief about the supernatural. If ANYONE ELSE treated you as you say God does, you’d RUN the other way. But because it’s God, all of this – genocide (just open up the OT and you’ll be hard pressed NOT to find it), murder, CHILD-murder (Stone your kid for disobedience? Or sacrifice Isaac? And why is it cool for GOD to murder children, or even the unborn, but not us? Isn’t a sin a sin?), even allowing the EARTH to open up and swallow THOUSANDS, etc. – is fine and dandy.

    My point is, there are many Christians who read the same Bible (different translations to the side), yet come up with a different interpretation. They don’t see any consequences other than those which arise through one’s actions, and they certainly don’t see anything “dire” in someone else believing something different from them. Again, I must ask: why is your interpretation correct over ALL the others? Many people see the same inkblots and do not describe the same picture as you. Some don’t even see the Bible as literal, and interpret it figuratively.

    I can understand – though I don’t agree – with your conclusion the Bible is correct, over and above other religions, based on its internal consistency; but what about the people who read this book and are devotees of a religion which has the same name as yours, yet does not look remotely like the faith you espouse? You can’t run to the argument from internal consistency, which, up till now, has been your go-to rebuttal of all other religions. They see this supposed consistency as well. Or they don’t! There are many moderate and liberal Christians who don’t even interpret the Bible literally. What about them? And what about the Bible’s internal consistency makes you think it should be interpreted literally? As I’ve said before, a work of FICTION is usually MUCH more internally consistent than any work of history. Do you interpret Huck Finn to be literal, since it’s so consistent?

  • kerner

    Michael,

    Much to ponder, be back soon.

  • kerner

    Michael,

    Much to ponder, be back soon.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I guess I understand you a little better now that you have told me that your training is in philosophy. As I told you, my training is in law. I think this explains some of the differences in our respective outlooks. I confess to a certain amount of frustration with philosophy as a discipline. Douglas Adams said it better than I in his Science fiction work: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (Two philosophers are protesting the possibility that a computer may find the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything).

  • kerner

    Michael:

    I guess I understand you a little better now that you have told me that your training is in philosophy. As I told you, my training is in law. I think this explains some of the differences in our respective outlooks. I confess to a certain amount of frustration with philosophy as a discipline. Douglas Adams said it better than I in his Science fiction work: “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” (Two philosophers are protesting the possibility that a computer may find the ultimate answer to life, the universe, and everything).

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    Can’t remember the exact portion to which you’re referring (I’ve read the “trilogy,” but only once, and it’s so full I find it hard to recall everything…). But I agree. Philosophy is frustrating. I think that’s why I enjoy it so much! It twists your brain, and then, in order to understand it, you have to twist your brain even more.

    I also like that, as an anonymous “guru” once said: in philosophy, nobody wins.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    Can’t remember the exact portion to which you’re referring (I’ve read the “trilogy,” but only once, and it’s so full I find it hard to recall everything…). But I agree. Philosophy is frustrating. I think that’s why I enjoy it so much! It twists your brain, and then, in order to understand it, you have to twist your brain even more.

    I also like that, as an anonymous “guru” once said: in philosophy, nobody wins.

  • kerner

    “…[W]e’ll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much…The quest for Ultimate Truth is clearly the prerogative of your working thinkers. Any bloody machine actually goes out and FINDS it, and we’re straight out of jobs, aren’t we? I mean, what’s the use of sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next morning?”

    This is only fiction (and not very consistent fiction), but I have to admire Adams’ observation (and his fictional way of making a point) that some people (philosophers in particular) don’t really want to find answers.

    The thing is, people in my field use a lot of idealistic terminology (justice, equity, guilt, innocense, fault, truth), but in the end, we are very practical people. When we search for the truth in questions in the legal system, we do the best we can to find the truth, but we know that our ability to find it is limited to the evidence we can present and the credibility of the witnesses. Even so we are required to try to find the truth and do the right thing. A lot of people want there to be an easy “right” answer. I have had jurors come up to me after a trial and ask me if they made the “right” decision, as though I have some information they don’t that didn’t come out during the trial. But most of the time I have no more information than the jury did. I don’t know the “right” decision any better than they do.

    The point is, jurors and judges have to decide on what they think is true and right based on imperfect sources of information, and those decisions have serious consequences for a lot of people. Those decisions can and do often turn out to be wrong. It is of no help what so ever to be sincere, but wrong, in such a decision.

    This is why I do not share your reaction to our situation. If I sincerely believe that there is a solid road ahead of me, and I sincerely ignore the warnings of people who tell me I am about to walk off a cliff, and if (just as I am about to walk off the cliff) somebody (God) throws me a rope, but I refuse to believe in either the rope or the God who threw it to me, it will do me no good at all to complain as I fall to my death that there was a solid road ahead of me IN MY VIEW. My view will have been wrong and I will fall to my death.

    Therefore, I want to know the truth that will save me, not merely for detatched reasons, but because I wish to be saved. I do not know why the cliff was created or why it is so difficult for me to see it without help, or why God has sent me people to warn me and thrown me a rope, instead of handling the matter in some other way. But on a primary level, these questions become irrelevant. The issues of whether the warnings are probably right, and whether I need the rope are much more to the point. These are much more practical issues, and I question the wisdom of worrying too much about the others. They become a distraction from what is vitally important.

  • kerner

    “…[W]e’ll take care of the eternal verities thank you very much…The quest for Ultimate Truth is clearly the prerogative of your working thinkers. Any bloody machine actually goes out and FINDS it, and we’re straight out of jobs, aren’t we? I mean, what’s the use of sitting up half the night arguing that there may or may not be a God if this machine only goes and gives us his bleeding phone number the next morning?”

    This is only fiction (and not very consistent fiction), but I have to admire Adams’ observation (and his fictional way of making a point) that some people (philosophers in particular) don’t really want to find answers.

    The thing is, people in my field use a lot of idealistic terminology (justice, equity, guilt, innocense, fault, truth), but in the end, we are very practical people. When we search for the truth in questions in the legal system, we do the best we can to find the truth, but we know that our ability to find it is limited to the evidence we can present and the credibility of the witnesses. Even so we are required to try to find the truth and do the right thing. A lot of people want there to be an easy “right” answer. I have had jurors come up to me after a trial and ask me if they made the “right” decision, as though I have some information they don’t that didn’t come out during the trial. But most of the time I have no more information than the jury did. I don’t know the “right” decision any better than they do.

    The point is, jurors and judges have to decide on what they think is true and right based on imperfect sources of information, and those decisions have serious consequences for a lot of people. Those decisions can and do often turn out to be wrong. It is of no help what so ever to be sincere, but wrong, in such a decision.

    This is why I do not share your reaction to our situation. If I sincerely believe that there is a solid road ahead of me, and I sincerely ignore the warnings of people who tell me I am about to walk off a cliff, and if (just as I am about to walk off the cliff) somebody (God) throws me a rope, but I refuse to believe in either the rope or the God who threw it to me, it will do me no good at all to complain as I fall to my death that there was a solid road ahead of me IN MY VIEW. My view will have been wrong and I will fall to my death.

    Therefore, I want to know the truth that will save me, not merely for detatched reasons, but because I wish to be saved. I do not know why the cliff was created or why it is so difficult for me to see it without help, or why God has sent me people to warn me and thrown me a rope, instead of handling the matter in some other way. But on a primary level, these questions become irrelevant. The issues of whether the warnings are probably right, and whether I need the rope are much more to the point. These are much more practical issues, and I question the wisdom of worrying too much about the others. They become a distraction from what is vitally important.

  • kerner

    I believe the reason that “liberal” theologians don’t see anything “dire” in somebody else believing something different from them, is because they don’t really consider these questions vital or important. To them, this is just an academic exercize. Besides, believing something “different” is not the problem. Whether the cliff in my analogy is there is what makes belief in it important or not.

    This brings us back to another of your consistent objections. Why should God be a tyrant who requires me to pass a theology test to be saved? This is again a clash between the theoretical and the concrete. What is before us is not an academic test we must “pass”, it is a danger we must avoid (or be saved from).

    The better question is one you have also posed I think, and that is why does not God simply eliminate the danger entirely, such that we can believe anything we want with no risk? I think the answer is that God is the only source of happiness and life itself; ultimately it is impossible to reject Him and be happy or have eternal life. Therefore, you cannot reject God and expect to have eternal life in heaven with Him if you have, by definition, rejected eternal life in Heaven with Him.

    So, why doesn’t God make faith in Him more obvious. I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it is at least arguable that it is mankind that separates itself from Him, not the other way around. Also, if there is any truth to the various stories of signs and wonders in the Bible (or at least that people in ancient times believed in the signs and wonders), there is little evidence that plagues, miracles or pillars of fire convinced anyone to be on the Lord’s side any better than the more mundane warnings from believers that we have today. By this I mean that people who believed in the signs and miracles still went astray (often quickly and enthusiasticly), so I don’t see why we should think we can force God into using a method that is no more successful that the one He is now using.

    Last (for now at least) There is the issue of devotees of a religion with the same name as mine whose religion does not look remotely like the faith I espouse. Well, for the most part, the religion of most people who call themselves Christians DOES look at least remotely like the faith I espouse. As for those who call themselves Christians (or even Lutherans) but don’t believe the fundamentals fo the faith, I think that is a function of them wanting the name but not the substance. We all know people like this. They want to be included in group without being bound by the definition of what the group stands for.

    I have been a Lawyer long enough to know that general principles can be interpreted and applied differently by different people. As long as there is more than one Christian in the world, there will be disagreement among them about something. So what? That is human nature. Other people will perceive some benefit to calling themselves Christians (even when they know they have changed the basics of the belief system so much that it is fundamentally different) so they will continue to do so even when they know how different they really are. But hypocricy and self delusion are also part of human nature.

    I really have to go for now, but I will try to continue soon.

  • kerner

    I believe the reason that “liberal” theologians don’t see anything “dire” in somebody else believing something different from them, is because they don’t really consider these questions vital or important. To them, this is just an academic exercize. Besides, believing something “different” is not the problem. Whether the cliff in my analogy is there is what makes belief in it important or not.

    This brings us back to another of your consistent objections. Why should God be a tyrant who requires me to pass a theology test to be saved? This is again a clash between the theoretical and the concrete. What is before us is not an academic test we must “pass”, it is a danger we must avoid (or be saved from).

    The better question is one you have also posed I think, and that is why does not God simply eliminate the danger entirely, such that we can believe anything we want with no risk? I think the answer is that God is the only source of happiness and life itself; ultimately it is impossible to reject Him and be happy or have eternal life. Therefore, you cannot reject God and expect to have eternal life in heaven with Him if you have, by definition, rejected eternal life in Heaven with Him.

    So, why doesn’t God make faith in Him more obvious. I don’t know the answer to that, but I think it is at least arguable that it is mankind that separates itself from Him, not the other way around. Also, if there is any truth to the various stories of signs and wonders in the Bible (or at least that people in ancient times believed in the signs and wonders), there is little evidence that plagues, miracles or pillars of fire convinced anyone to be on the Lord’s side any better than the more mundane warnings from believers that we have today. By this I mean that people who believed in the signs and miracles still went astray (often quickly and enthusiasticly), so I don’t see why we should think we can force God into using a method that is no more successful that the one He is now using.

    Last (for now at least) There is the issue of devotees of a religion with the same name as mine whose religion does not look remotely like the faith I espouse. Well, for the most part, the religion of most people who call themselves Christians DOES look at least remotely like the faith I espouse. As for those who call themselves Christians (or even Lutherans) but don’t believe the fundamentals fo the faith, I think that is a function of them wanting the name but not the substance. We all know people like this. They want to be included in group without being bound by the definition of what the group stands for.

    I have been a Lawyer long enough to know that general principles can be interpreted and applied differently by different people. As long as there is more than one Christian in the world, there will be disagreement among them about something. So what? That is human nature. Other people will perceive some benefit to calling themselves Christians (even when they know they have changed the basics of the belief system so much that it is fundamentally different) so they will continue to do so even when they know how different they really are. But hypocricy and self delusion are also part of human nature.

    I really have to go for now, but I will try to continue soon.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I’ve got to go home now, but I was intrigued by your use of Douglas Adams here. I think he was trying to say the point of philosophy is NOT to find answers. I’m in that camp, hence my reason for finding value in philosophy having no winners. I think Adams was in that camp, too.

    Incidently, you are aware Adams was an atheist, yes? Just saying. :)

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    I’ve got to go home now, but I was intrigued by your use of Douglas Adams here. I think he was trying to say the point of philosophy is NOT to find answers. I’m in that camp, hence my reason for finding value in philosophy having no winners. I think Adams was in that camp, too.

    Incidently, you are aware Adams was an atheist, yes? Just saying. :)

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Yes, I knew about Douglas Adams. Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t wander into other parts of the library now and then.

    There are athiests, like Camus, who are REALLY depressing. Camus said something about existence being a bad joke (I think). The difference between guys like Camus and Adams, is that Adams thought the joke was funny (at least for awhile). The thing is, the reason Adams’ books got progressively pointless for me is that they couldn’t go anywhere. It was one thing to write a really funny book about the quest for the ultimate answer (THGTTG). But by the third book, it was clear that Adams had no answer and was just being silly…and pointless.

    That’s why the bit about the philosophers was funny, they had to admit how pointless their studies were, because they didn’t really want answers.

    Just enquiring for the sake of enquiring, or speculating for the sake of speculating, doesn’t sound like very much fun to me. I understand that to be good at philosophy you have to enjoy these things. By way of analogy, to be a good lawyer you have to like to argue. But nobody likes a guy who just argues for the fun of it. And who would want to be involved in a lawsuit that could never end? Just eternal arguing, nothing more? So much for atheism…THAT would be hell.

  • kerner

    Michael:

    Yes, I knew about Douglas Adams. Just because I’m a Christian doesn’t mean I don’t wander into other parts of the library now and then.

    There are athiests, like Camus, who are REALLY depressing. Camus said something about existence being a bad joke (I think). The difference between guys like Camus and Adams, is that Adams thought the joke was funny (at least for awhile). The thing is, the reason Adams’ books got progressively pointless for me is that they couldn’t go anywhere. It was one thing to write a really funny book about the quest for the ultimate answer (THGTTG). But by the third book, it was clear that Adams had no answer and was just being silly…and pointless.

    That’s why the bit about the philosophers was funny, they had to admit how pointless their studies were, because they didn’t really want answers.

    Just enquiring for the sake of enquiring, or speculating for the sake of speculating, doesn’t sound like very much fun to me. I understand that to be good at philosophy you have to enjoy these things. By way of analogy, to be a good lawyer you have to like to argue. But nobody likes a guy who just argues for the fun of it. And who would want to be involved in a lawsuit that could never end? Just eternal arguing, nothing more? So much for atheism…THAT would be hell.

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    Sorry, I was just joking around. Humor doesn’t come across in words when people don’t know each other in person. Especially humor that tends to be dry to the point of not being funny. Like mine. :)

    Once again, I think Adams had no answer because he believed there wasn’t an answer. I am totally speculating based on his writing, though, so I could be as incorrect as is possible! Have you read Last Chance to See? Just wondering. One of his nonfiction gems.

    “Just enquiring for the sake of enquiring, or speculating for the sake of speculating, doesn’t sound like very much fun to me.” I can totally see why it would seem boring. I like it precisely BECAUSE of the reasons for which you don’t like it. I like how open it is, that it requires no conclusions. I see life like that. A lot of people see life like a story with a beginning, middle and end. I see it as having a bit of a beginning (birth) and a bit of an end (death – more an interruption than an end), but consisting mostly of middle. So the “no-answers” thing seems to work with this view. For me.

    BTW, You get the feeling we’re the only one’s left in the pool? ;)

  • Michael the little boot

    kerner,

    Sorry, I was just joking around. Humor doesn’t come across in words when people don’t know each other in person. Especially humor that tends to be dry to the point of not being funny. Like mine.