The Bible’s Two Big Problems

rockem

The two biggest challenges the Bible brings to anyone caring to take it seriously are no mystery: the Good Book is extraordinarily (if not, let’s face it, miraculously) complex, and so vague that one or more of its passages can be used as “proof” for  just about any imaginable assertion. I could claim that Bozo was God come to earth to show the world what all men would look like in the future, and find Bible quotes to support it. “The Church of the Future Bozo” would be up and running in a week. I’d make a fortune on huge floppy shoes alone.

That the Bible is as complex and, shall we say, non-linear as it is presents a massive problem for Christians and their system of belief. Because if there’s one thing people like it’s being extremely, perfect clear about whatever it is they believe. Organically, we’re a dogmatic race. We like black and white, yes and no, on and off, right and wrong. We’re big on the binary.

And it’s totally natural we’d have such a predilection for clear opposites. Our physical lives are absolutely dominated by them. Day and night. Man and woman. Up and down. Dead or alive.

How can we not be instinctively drawn toward definites, when our entire existence is defined by them?

The problem is that while our external lives are wholly determined by clear and tangible opposites, our internal lives are a churning miasma of conflicting imperatives. More than they’re anything else—and way more than people are generally comfortable admitting—humans are emotional beings. We are our emotions. And emotions fit into binary categories like Bozo fits into a confessional booth.

So we take our overriding, external paradigm of static, well-defined opposites, mix it with our dynamic, ever-changing yin-and-yang emotional desires, and then bring all of that to the Bible, which, because of its complex density, stands ever ready to accommodate and support whatever combination of heart and mind accesses it.

And voila: today, as yesterday and surely as tomorrow, we have just about as many kinds of Christianity as we do kinds of individual people. And every Christian is dead positive that their version of Christianity is the one, true Christianity. From “God Hates Fags” to “All Dogs Go To Heaven,” there’s a theology for every Christian. And every Christian is confident that their take on God is the sublimely correct one, if for no other reason than (whether they admit it or not) it perfectly suits them personally.

And then people who are intrinsically drawn to believe in the same sort of God group together into denominations and sects and so forth, and we get the kind of internecine Christian tribalism that, at the very least, serves as conclusive proof to so many non-Christians that all Christians are bonkers, since they can’t even agree on what exactly it is they believe.

Fascinating, no? And surely anticipated by God.

Now, why would he want that, do you think?

About John Shore

John Shore (who, fwiw, is straight) is the author of UNFAIR: Christians and the LGBT Question, and three other great books. He is founder of Unfundamentalist Christians (on Facebook here), and executive editor of the Unfundamentalist Christians group blog.  (In total John's two blogs receive some 250,000 views per month.) John is also co-founder of The NALT Christians Project, which was written about by TIME,  The Washington Post, and others. His website is JohnShore.com. You're invited to like John's Facebook page. Don't forget to sign up for his mucho-awesome newsletter. If you shop at Amazon, help support John by entering the site through this link right here--Amazon will then send John 3-4% of the cost of anything you buy before exiting the site again.

 

  • pastoralmusings

    He didn't want it like that, but allows us to act foolishly.

    Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; 21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. 22 And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: 23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

    The Holy Bible : King James Version. 1995 (electronic ed. of the 1769 edition of the 1611 Authorized Version.) (Jn 17:20-23). Bellingham WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

    Ultimately this shall come to pass. Today it seems almost impossible. God shall bring us all together in the end, though.

    • Andrew

      If you are referring to universalism, you have an incorrect interpretation of this passage.

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    Hermeneutics, say it with me class, Her-men-neu-tics. It is the study of the Bible. All though we can make the Bible say what we want when we pick out one verse, the Bible only says one thing when we study it as a whole.

    morescode: This is a first, I agree with you. Ok once morsecode gets his breath back I will continue…. When it comes to denominations most are separated by what is called 'Adiaphora' or non-essentials. I may not believe everything my Catholic brother does, or my Presbyterian brother does but as long as we are agreed on the essentials then we will see each other in heaven.

    For those that do not know the essentials of Christianity are:
    http://www.equip.org/site/c.muI1LaMNJrE/b.2548387

    • Gayle1942

      mcoville,

      I took that link to see what the "essentials of Christianity" really are. And all these years I've thought I was a Christian. I don't believe some of the "essentials" and doubt many others so — oops, guess not. On the other hand, I try to behave as I think Jesus would want so — hey, maybe I am after all.

      To me the essentials are to love God, to love our neighbors, and to try to do good in the world. What am I missing, I wonder. Do you think Jesus would approve???

      • Kilyle

        That link's broken, so I can't see what was presented. But the message of Jesus as given in the Bible (the only evidence we have of what Jesus wants us to do) is definitely not merely "love God, love our neighbors, do good in the world." Or, I suppose, you could expand them a bit (by "love God" I mean "study and learn what he wants you to do (accept his son's sacrifice on the cross) and do it").

        Jesus said there would be many people who go around doing good things, even in his name, and yet at the end he'll say "Not enough." Because the real issue isn't some outward act. It's a problem within us that needs to be solved, and he solved it the only way he could. And he holds out his hands to us, saying "I took that burden upon myself; come to me and be cleansed."

        A lot of people these days take Jesus to be a really neat guy – singular, astoundingly wise, the most loving person in history. And then they completely overlook the antidote he's holding out to them. They'd prefer him to be a doctor who comes to comfort the dying with happy thoughts but forgets to bring the medicine.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Mc: I don't think you mean to be, but … I'm thinking maybe you don't realize how condescending your tone is? You can't write things like "Hermeneutics, say it with me class…" and expect anyone to have a warm and fuzzy feeling about what you're about to presume to teach them. (And you sure can't write something like that, and then punctuate it as terribly as you did this bit.) I'm not simply raggin on you, and I'm certainly not saying you don't have interesting things to say. I'm just suggesting you think about the possibility of adjusting your tone just a bit, so that it doesn't come off so smug.

  • Lauri

    Luke Chapter 9, Jesus totally addresses the point…

    v.46 Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest. 47 And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, 48 and said to them, “Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me. For he who is least among you all will be great.” 49 Now John answered and said, “Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us.” 50 But Jesus said to him, “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.”

    Personally, there are a lot of different "kinds" of Christian churches b/c God (in this example, God as our perfect Heavenly Father) has a lot of different kinds of kids. God the Father doesn't change His nature, who He is or the "house rules" for any of His kids, but like any dad, He talks to each of us in a way that personalizes His love for us.

    Anyone with more than one child can attest to the fact that you love one child as much as the other, but you love them each differently in action, based on their nuances, personalities, processes, hearts, sensitivities & level of understanding. But you wouldn't want them all bickering about "Dad loves me most." Nor would you want one of them saying, "I know Dad wouldn't let YOU crash the car and come in past curfew, drunk, but he'd let me because he loves me."

    Jesus said, "if you've seen Me, you've seen the Father." Col 2:9 is awesome- For in Him the whole fullness of Deity (the Godhead) continues to dwell in bodily form, giving complete expression of the divine nature.

    Sounds like to me, as long as what a church teaches & stands on is the Truth as Jesus lived it, taught it and died for it, most would be hard pressed to argue, personal preferences aside.

  • pastoralmusings

    I'm wondering, but not sure, if MC's comment about hermeneutics was directed to me, John, or both of us.

    That being said, I believe that it has been the consensus of about 2,000 years of Christian understanding that Jesus' high priestly prayer in John 17 does include the verses I gave as a petition for the unity of His people.

    This prayer will not see its total realization until the eschaton, but God's people shall be one. It is not His plan that they be divided. In the end, they are not as divided as they seem to be. The antagonism is not as great as it appears to be. Love for Jesus crossed denominational barriers, though we might quibble and fuss about church polity.

    Jason (The Pastor @ PastoralMusings.wordpress.com)

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    Let me start by apologizing for the tone of my post. I do not consider myself more intelligent than any other on this blog. I hope there are no hard feelings.

    I was agitated by the fact that John keeps stating that the Bible is "so vague that one or more of its passages can be used as “proof” for just about any imaginable assertion." This post is not the only one he has made this, or similar, statements.

    Like you John I came to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ at a later date then a lot, not quite as later as you but close. But it was through discipleship, prayer and studying the Bible that I found out more and more about God. After several years of study now, and countless hours spent with several different theologians, I can tell you for certainty that the Bible has one message and one message only.

    If you know of any contradictions in the bible I would love to hear about it so I can research it, I enjoy growing my knowledge of the Bible.

    pastoralmusings: I have no disagreement with your post. I agree that brothers and sisters in Christ from different denominations will share heaven one day. We have different ways of going about worship, some more formal than others, but as long as we worship the one true God, Jesus Christ, then that is all that matters.

    Now for a bit of non politically correct opinion…. I do not believe that you can be a practicing muslim, hindu or worship any other god and still go to heaven. There is only one name by which man will be saved, Jesus who is the Christ.

    • http://johnshore.com Christine Conti

      Here's one–is celibacy for the "officers" of Christ's army and marriage for the "footsoldiers"? I'm quoting the Roman Catholic founder of Opus Dei. I say yes. The Roman Catholic church has plenty of scripture backing this up. St. Paul: it is better not to marry. Jesus on the different kinds of eunuchs. (Sorry I can't come up with chapter and verse–I'm only a Roman Catholic! LOL But you probably know what I'm referring to.) I was raised Roman Catholic, then journeyed among some Protestant evangelicals who loved to preach against what they called "Rome" and its many theological errors. Investigating these "errors," I read a book by a Catholic (Roman) theologian, Hans Kung, called On Being a Christian and decided to go back to "Rome." He doesn't think there are any big differences between the RCs and the Ps. One behavioral difference I observed–only in my NARROW EXPERIENCE–the RCs don't waste much time dumping on the Ps. Been there, done that, I guess.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    Sigh.

    Anyone? I just don't have the time today.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    Well, there's the old standby:

    Thou shalt not kill…but would you mind destroying the Midianites for me?

    • Kilyle

      "Thou shalt not murder"; there's provision for both self-defense and warfare.

      As for the specific case of the Midianites: There's plenty of stuff written to counter "discrepancies" like this. It saddens me that these simplifications show up so much, not as conversation-openers but as conversation-closers.

      I mean, I don't want to sound as harsh as C. S. Lewis here (paraphrase: "If you can't understand a book written for grown-ups, you've little right to talk about it"), but it does remind me of the stereotype that a Country song played backwards means you get your job back, your wife back, your dog back, and your mom gets out of prison. People who make that joke are clearly quoting others and have never listened to Country themselves for any length of time.

  • Latoya

    Its not about where you worship..but who you worship (See St. John 4: 20-24)

    • Trebissky

      Yep. It's really not even about HOW you worship. Sorry, but I can't really believe that GOD is that picky and petty.

  • Mark Lattimore

    Wow, I really want to comment, but no time…late for work. I did want to say…

    "churning miasma of conflicting imperatives"

    that's an impressive piece of wordsmithing.

  • Jessica

    John, I don't understand your frustration.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I'm not frustrated at all. What I've written is descriptive, not prescriptive. I'm only saying how things are; I've said nothing whatsoever about how I think they should be, or anything like that.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    To stir the pot of controversy:

    It seems clear that all of the denominations can’t be correct, only because many of the denominations specifically claim things that are the exact opposite of what other denominations claim.

    Are you suggesting that they are all correct, or that God doesn’t care which you choose as long as you’ve picked one of the Christianities?

    And I don’t think you’re bonkers. I just hold to that old chestnut…you can’t all be right, but you can all be wrong.

    [/controversy]

    • overlord

      The day is coming when every knee shall bow, dude. But it will be the point of no return for the unfortunate, pride ridden eternally damned fools. Men who think they’ll live forever will see the light a day late and a dollar short. Research Pascale’s Wager for some credible philosophical insight about choices to be made in this significant and essential realm of existence.

      • David

        Pascale’s Wager only applies if we, by reason and logic, cannot determine whether or not God exists. I find Occam's Razor to be a better test of God's existence: the simplest explanation is usually true, and the simplest explanation is that there is no God. If we tread into territory where we claim God exists, we suddenly have complexity. If we reject God, things are far more simple and logical.

        • Charles

          I don't know whether i would agree that the conclusion that there is no God would be a simpler conclusion. When the nonexistence of God is presupposed there comes into play scientific and philosophical problems of universal origins and things of that manner that are circumvented by the presupposition of God's existence. Im not denying that the allegation that there is no God may hold some weight from certain perspectives, just that it has many difficulties of logic and decision much like the idea that God does exist has many problems of logic.

          • Trebissky

            If you want logic, go to Vulcan. Religion… ANY religion… has nothing at all to do with logic. It is, and always has been, about FAITH, which is the belief in a thing without proof.

            That’s about the most ILLOGICAL thing we humans have ever come up with.

          • Kilyle

            Odd how you'd say that. I've heard it repeatedly over the past several weeks, and it's kind of annoying to me that Christians are giving off that impression (blind faith).

            The bedrock of Christianity is a specific event in history: the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Now, we don't have direct evidence of his resurrection. But we have eyewitness testimony of his life and of his death. Those two facts are better attested by documentary evidence than any other facts in history (I encourage you to look that up).

            And then we have documentary evidence of eyewitness accounts, with the same level of credibility, that Jesus was encountered alive some time after his death. Encountered by people who knew him well. Encountered repeatedly, by varying people, 11 here, 500 there, over a period of a few weeks. This was claimed in writing by eyewitnesses during a period in which you could track down other eyewitnesses to ask them for confirmation.

            And besides these facts, the eyewitnesses attest that Jesus made certain claims about the meaning of his death and his coming back to life. And that he predicted his death and resurrection before it happened.

            That's the bedrock of Christianity. Evidence for a specific historical event. Everything else is our attempts to figure out the implications of this fact.

          • Mary

            Ahem. That's a load of poo. The man died. Period. No one comes back. No one. Not even a man named Jesus.

          • Matthew Tweedell

            Where do you think he went, such that he couldn't have come back? Have you thought about what it really means when you say "the man died"? So, what becomes of the flesh in the end? Moreover, what becomes of the spirit?

  • Candace

    "Why would he want that, do you think?"

    Personally, I think it's that way because otherwise we'd have no motivation.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    But I'm not disgusted at all. I just … don't care. I'm just curious to see what other people think.

    here's something I posted a little bit back about this:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnshore/2008/10/06/sorry-i-cant-care

  • Mark Lattimore

    Hmmm…where to begin.

    First

    "the Good Book is extraordinarily (if not, let’s face it, miraculously) complex, and so vague that one or more of its passages can be used as “proof” for just about any imaginable assertion."

    John, you've hit on perhaps the biggest problem in biblical interpretation. "Proof-texting" is a very dangerous practice from which very little good ever comes. Interestingly, it is used both by Christians trying to support a weak doctrine (or lazily trying to support a stronger doctrine), and non-Christians in an attempt to discredit some facet of Christianity (e.g., Thou shalt not kill…but would you mind destroying the Midianites for me? — still funny, though, Morsecode). What fascinates me is that we do this very little with anything else. I've never heard anyone use William Rowe's explanation of the deductive problem of evil to conclude that Rowe is a theist or the trial passage in "To Kill A Mockingbird" to conclude that it is OK to convict a minority for a crime he or she did not commit. Yet, we use selected passages in the Bible to support all kinds of ridiculous ideas or even to support good ideas badly. That said, Mc is onto something in the area of hermeneutics, a discipline not simply reserved for Christian writings (undoubtedly the most boring book I ever read was on a hermeneutical approach to the Bhagavad Gita). While there are certainly areas of honest disagreement over many points of interpretation (which, sadly, deeply and unnecessarily divides Christians and often degenerates into childish name calling), a thorough, holistic approach to reading the scriptures does reveal an underlying bedrock of beliefs without which Christianity would not be Christianity — things that simply aren't debatable such as the deity of Jesus (I'll expect the Arian reponse soon). So, while I appreciate and acknowledge the issues you raise and agree that they have led to a divisive denominationalism, John, I wonder if these issues are not more our problem (at least with regard to the core tenets of the faith) than that of the Bible. [I'll completely forego the issue of illumination because there simply isn't enought space at WordPress for the responses that is likely to illicit]

    As for the question "Why would he want that, do you think?"–who knows? I suppose we could delve into the philosophical questions that would inevitably be a part of answering the question, but I think we would end up chasing a lot of different rabbits and never catch one.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    You wrote this just to bait me didn't you John? I'm not biting…yet!

  • http://vedabase.net Paul H.

    Bhagavad-gita is clear, concise, and profound, just as one would expect of God's speech — quite different from the Bible. I was raised with the Bible, and it made me an atheist for a while, just as it's turned many millions of others into atheists. Only through Bhagavad-gita As It Is was I able to not only realize but directly see the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Sri Krishna.

    Since then the Christian doctrines about Jesus being God appear as blasphemy. God has no need to become a man to save anyone, nor does He ever suffer. These notions contradict His omnipotence, and they're false.

    Krishna's form is purely spiritual, and He does whatever He wants, with no limit.

    The Christian idea about Jesus has a rule about God needing to suffer as a man and die to save us, and this rule is apparently more powerful than God, in their estimation. Krishna doesn't need to follow any rules. Whatever He desires is the rule, which others must follow.

  • http://tonyyork.wordpress.com Tony York

    I think there is a poem/story about blind men describing different parts of an elephant.

    So as I read through these comments, I see a connection in what John and MC are trying to convey. We are all blind men trying to understand the truth but we have our limited understanding of the truth based on the ‘view’ we have. However, that being said, we should come together and try to see the whole truth of the matter. I do believe there is a underlying message of the bible and that is Christ. And from there, we start moving out to the other bits of truth which we need as we grow in Christ. I am oversimplifying, I know. Just trying to find the connecting points in the conversation.

    • JustMe

      Maybe we all have a bit of the truth – but we argue so damn much about all kinds of stuff that we never realize the truth that is w/in each of us – Sometimes I wonder if Gods view of us from the heavens are each individual as a puzzle piece and the big picture that not only God wants to see but we need to see is that we get more things acomplished by working together instead of working against each other. I like to put it like this (and again this is all my opinion) we are all in the S^#T boat so why are you trying to kick me out – meaning we all have crap so why is mine worse than yours – God doesnt measure sin, sin is sin. And to quote the bible "a house divided cannot stand". Instead of us focusing on the things that separate us maybe we should start searching and focusing on the things that unite us.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    It's funny this conversation came up. Someone asked what books were on my bedstand table. One of them is David Sedaris' "Holidays on Ice," and the other is thePrabhavananda/Isherwood translation of "The Bhagavad-Gita, which I've had on my bedstand table for at least 30 years.

  • pastoralmusings

    MC,

    Thanks for clarifying. I understand where you’re coming from.

    Morsec0de,

    I think you are a nice guy, but you, my friend, are beating a dead horse. If you cared to try, you would find that your issues with Scripture could be resolved.

    John,

    In the end, while it was a descriptive post, it ended asking why God would want division. The question begged for an answer :-)

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I am curious about anyone’s answer to my question, for sure. I was just saying that I wasn’t frustrated. It really is just a question.

  • http://shannonsays.wordpress.com shannonsays

    John: I’m too new to your blog to know your view for sure, but I’m definitely curious as to your own response to mcoville’s comment, “I do not believe that you can be a practicing muslim, hindu or worship any other god and still go to heaven. There is only one name by which man will be saved, Jesus who is the Christ.”

    Is your belief system consistent with this and if not, where do you diverge?

    ~Shannon (http://whatsgodgottodowithit.wordpress.com/)

    [Incidentally, my name links to my crafting blog, so I included the link to the blog that is more germane to this discussion. Hope that's not a problem!]

  • pastoralmusings

    John,

    OK I see where you were coming from.

    I, too, get disgusted with the contentious attitudes that we as Christians too often display.

  • Mark Lattimore

    For the record, Paul, I did not find the Bhagavad-Gita boring…I recall being fascinated by it when I read it 20 years ago (though, obviously, I disagree with its theology). The book on the hermeneutics, however, was painfully dense and bordered on unintelligible. Ironic, huh?

    As for the statements of Hindu and Christian theology, I think that discussion is best left to another forum so as not to clog John's post with a lot of off topic banter (see, I'm trying to stay on topic here, John).

  • Candace

    Jason wrote:

    "Morsec0de … If you cared to try, you would find that your issues with Scripture could be resolved."

    This reminded me of a G.K. Chesterton quote:

    "Christianity has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and not tried."

    In my agnostic/atheist days, I would have claimed (indeed, DID claim) I had tried Christianity. But I had not. Not honestly and whole-heartedly.

  • Candace

    Ooops. Just blew it on the staying on topic, didn't I. Bummer.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    I don't know, man. I think Morse asked an extremely valid question. I don't think it's fair to say, "The reason we can't answer that very reasonable question is because you don't have enough faith to understand that there's a great answer to that question." How does that NOT help him think we're hiding behind what we know is irrational?

  • Candace

    It's beyond my level of motivation, actually. Funny, but I am not all that concerned with answering anyone's questions about faith most of the time. Especially not in an electronic forum with folks I have no face-to-face relationship with.

    I just know what I know. And I'm not all that concerned about convincing, or even conveying to others, actually. That's probably a result of how I came to faith. Nobody could tell me a THING, until God started talking. He was the only one I'd listen to, so I figure why waste my breath. If He wants Morse to know, I assume he'll make sure it happens.

    I just like to read, think about what's said, and make the occasional off-topic comment ;-)

    • JustMe

      :)

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    Thank you John. I've actually never had a satisfactory answer to it either. The closest anyone has come has been "when God kills, it's just"…which sounds to my ear like "When the President does it, it's not illegal."

    But even were I to accept that answer, then I would have to accept the deaths of innocents as just. Which, I'm sorry, isn't going to happen.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    Ok. THE biggest problem with the bible is that it is assumed to be true to the exclusion of all other religious screeds…but that is a characteristic of ALL 'holy' documents.

    Complex? Only if you start at the assumption of divine truth and try to make it fit with reality and what you know to be right and just and factual. If one looks at the bible (or any other holy text) objectively, things just snap into place when you contemplate the much simpler answer…that it is a collection of fables written and assembled by mortal man. Just as Copernicus and Newton offered the crystalline simplicity of the sun-centered solar system [and paid the price at the hands of the church]; the simplest answer is most often the correct answer. It may not be the answer you want; but isn't being correct more important than being placated? … which (sort of) leads me to one of my new favorite quotes:

    To kill an error is as good a service as, and sometimes even better than, the establishing of a new truth or fact. – Charles Darwin

    There is a thing in physics that we call an 'unstable equilibrium'. A good example is balancing a bowling ball on top of another. It can be done, to be sure, but it is going to take constant effort and energy to keep it there. It is not a natural state and the ball will fall if untended. Theistic belief systems are something akin to that unstable equilibrium. It takes constant effort and interpretation to make it fit with the reality and facts that we know. It is a rather unnatural state that we have to consciously maintain for it to exist. Wouldn't we, after nearly two millenia, have gotten something a bit closer to a stable equilibrium were there some validity to it?

    Vague? Once we dismiss the complexity as I suggest, then its vagueness becomes rather immaterial.

    John Shore says:

    How does that NOT help him think we’re hiding behind what we know is irrational?

    For my part; I don't think anyone is 'hiding' behind their religious books. Nor do I think many [any?] believers feel their beliefs to be irrational. Who would do anything they considered irrational? I would rather characterize the holy books and belief systems to be a meme [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme] hiding the believer or obscuring their view of another, much simpler reality and making their irrationality seem rational.

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    morsecode: Because I will freely admit to a rudimentary knowledge of life, the universe and everything (I know the answer is 42 though) I had to send your question off to someone a lot smarter than me. His name is Rick and here is his response to your question:

    "Exodus 20:13 reads "you shall not murder". First, we must distinguish (as the Bible does) between "murder" and other types of killing (e.g. accidental homicide, justifiable homicide, warfare, capital punishment). Murder, in the Biblical sense refers to the unjust taking of a human life.

    Second, we must also note (a) who commands and (b) to whom is it

    commanded. In Exodus 20:13 God is the commander and humans ("you") are the commanded.

    To summarize, God tells people that they must not take a human life

    unjustly. Now, this assumes that God determines who can kill and for what reason. God Himself is the standard of justice, He decides what is just or unjust. In other words, if God commands a killing (such as the Midianites); it is not an unjust killing.

    The bottom line is: God is the Creator and the judge. It is never unjust for Him to kill humans or to command others to kill humans. In fact, justice would be for God to kill all humans. It is only God's kindness that allows any human to live at all. If God decides to punish the Midianites, (who were not paragons of virtue) by killing them; He is perfectly just. It does not matter if He uses disease,famine, earthquakes, old age, or the Israelites as an instrument to carry out His justice.

    There is no logical contradiction, rather there is an emotional/

    spiritual rejection of God's right to be God."

    Now I do agree with what he has to say, and I can do my best to support his response, but unfortunately you may have to live with that as an answer to your question wither you agree or disagree because he will not be able to respond personally (did that make any sense to anyone that could not hear it in my head?).

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    "God is the Creator and the judge. It is never unjust for Him to kill humans or to command others to kill humans. In fact, justice would be for God to kill all humans."

    If you ever wonder why Christians scare people, even the nice ones like yourself, this is the reason.

    • Arthur

      Amen

      how do we know God told the killer to do it?

      because he said so?

      many have killed because told them to…a mother methodically drowned her kids at his direction…

      the response: she's menatlly ill…well, who differentiates?

      to me, anybody who killed someone becasue 'god told them to' is bonkers

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    morsecode: You are partially correct, it is not Christians that scare people but it is the judgment of God that scares them.

    I find that the biggest issue for non-believers is the fact that they are not good enough to go to heaven, so they would rather deny the existence of the judge than to admit they deserve judgment. Once you know the disease you can look for the cure… disease = sin, cure = Christ. But thats enough preaching. To stick to the main point of this post: As long as a denomination believes that Christ is the cure for sin than they are worshiping the same God, it is only when they start requiring other events or deeds to cure the disease of sin that they start to stray towards heresies.

    "Why would he want that, do you think?"

    He did not want it, he allowed it. Remember God does not wish for any to go to hell, but he allows us to choose hell.

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    Mcoville,

    WOW! It is NOT the judgment of God that scares me…not even remotely. It is anyone who so completely believes a creation story that they would kill in God's name base on zero evidence of its truth. Indeed; one of the two greatest threats to civilization right now is people that will (and have and intend) to kill in the name of God.

  • http://suddenlyatheist.wordpress.com/ morsec0de

    MCov,

    No, it is not your god that scares me. What scares me is that all it would take for you to kill me (or John, or your children) is to convince yourself that your god ordered it.

    God, I'm sorry to say, doesn't scare me any more than Lord Voldemort. And I apologize if I offended by using that comparison, but I want to make sure my meaning is clear.

    "Remember God does not wish for any to go to hell, but he allows us to choose hell."

    That's like saying "I built a torture cell in my basement, and I hired the guy who runs it, and if you don't say you love me and/or do what I say I will send you down there to be tortured…but I don't want you to go down there. I just allow you to choose to go down there."

  • http://imintellegentlydesigned.wordpress.com/ mcoville

    morsecode: Think of this way. If there is no hell there is no need for heaven. If there is no punishment for sin, there is no sin. So if I where to think like an Atheists why would I have any desire to do anything positive in this life unless it benefits me? In order to be a true Atheists you would only help others if it benefits you and you would only follow the laws that do not impede your enjoyment. Does that sound like a rational world view? If you have a belief in a creator that will pass judgment for your sins, you also have a belief in a creator that will reward you for doing as your told. Based on that Christians are told to love your neighbor as you love yourself, not to get anything in return on earth but so we can have another crown to cast at the feet of Jesus when we worship Him in heaven.

    I do not expect you to understand completely, or to agree with me. I know I can not make you realize the truth, only through knowledge of the Holy Spirit can you have that. So I am going to end this by saying that morsecode, Mike and any other Atheist or non-Christian reading this, If you stop trying to prove Christians wrong and listen to your own conscience you will learn the truth.

    Amen, God bless you all, and thank you John for given us all this opportunity to voice our opinions but I think it is time to go on to the next post on your blog….

  • http://inkstainedpaws.blogspot.com Casey

    Mcoville, there is so much wrong with your theory – that I have this undeniable urge to run very, very far away from you. I cant explain how much your words have scared me. And I can not even attempt to dissuade your belief. Not that I think I should- but it scares me that you believe this.

    I know people who look at different religions with this fear, and I know that if we look at things with an open mind that some times they arent so scary, and some times they make sense….

    but honestly- what you just said… Omg. there arent words for that. And the worse tihng is- is that you believe it. You believe its right, and sane, and good. Oh, that hurt- saying that was good. I see that as evil.

    And I'm not attacking you, I swear, but… wow. No wonder humans are on the top of the food chain. We're they only ones that willingly kill each other…

  • http://fvthinker.blogspot.com Mike (FVThinker) Bur

    Mcoville said:

    So if I where to think like an Atheists why would I have any desire to do anything positive in this life unless it benefits me? In order to be a true Atheists you would only help others if it benefits you and you would only follow the laws that do not impede your enjoyment.

    Ahhh…the primordial mind at work!!

  • FreetoBe

    mcoville, dude: do you honestly think Christians are the only people with a corner on doing the right thing? And what makes you think every Christian is itching to get to heaven for a "reward"? Sorry, man, your stilted, stunted, follow-all-the-rules type of religion is not what my Jesus is teaching me.

    John: I think you answered you question in another blog (which I copied, but don't remember exactly which one), which is, "…I can experience, hold within my mind and heart–a lot of {God}. But I can certainly never contain within myself anything near to his entirety." And so I join a group of fellow/sister believers who understand God as near as I can understand Him. (And thank you for that previous post….I keep it on my desk to remind me that I can't know everything there is to know about God.)

  • Jemima

    Some interesting thoughts presented here. I am with Morsecode on this one. All forms of Christianity can't be right, but they could all be wrong.

    If you look at what Jesus says when he comes to judge the world…. “Not everyone saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of the heavens, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in the heavens will. Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and expel demons in your name, and perform many powerful works in your name?’ And yet then I will confess to them: I never knew you! Get away from me, you workers of lawlessness" (Matthew 7:21-23) It becomes apparent that some are really kidding themselves if they think they are practicing true Christianity.

    The fact that Jesus foretold that 'fake' Christianity would come into the world, means that we should not be complacent and think that it doesn't matter what you believe as long as you "core beliefs" are the same. (Matthew 13:24-30) The Master deceiver is the one responsible for the spread of this counterfeit religion. It looks like the real thing at first, but at the "harvest time" the real Christians stand out as completely different from all the rest.

    Seeing as how Jesus said, "No man can come to me unless the Father, who sent me, draws him;" (John 6:44) it is obvious that it is invitation only. No one will be drawn to the real Christianity except those whom God chooses by examining what is in their hearts. So to my way of thinking, it is God who chooses those he wants to worship him acceptably and rejects the rest. (Matthew 7:47-50)

    The Bible tells us that there is "one Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Ephesians 4:5) It also says that there is only one 'narrow road to life and that few would find it'. (Matthew 7:13, 14) What does all that say to you?

  • VB

    “The Church of the Transgender Bozo” would be up and running in a week."

    Right, because it's perfectly Christian to get a laugh at the expense of Transgendered people.

    I hope you get hit by a bus you POS.

  • http://www.johnshore.wordpress.com John Shore

    "POS"???? (And one of my best friends is tg, doinkster.)

  • Old Man

    Let me suggest a different starting point.

    Some thing must be true about the Allmighty God Whom Christians worship. He either exists (as a being who acts, not just as an idea) or He doesn't (yes, my use of capitalization shoes my view). If He exists, then He has either introduces Himself to man kind, or He doesn't.

    So, the debate is not about whether your ideas are superior to mine, but whether you have discovered (or stumbled across, been taught, had revealed to you, etc.) the facts. The alternative would be that you have arrived at hypotheses which fit what you know, but which further study would show to be in error.

    My sincere hope is that all those who read this blog would be presented with the evidence of changed lives in Christians they know, and that they would choose to follow that evidence to its conclusions. Goodness knows that we have all seen abundant hypocrisy from persons of all beliefs.

  • James

    I once read a bumper sticker that I thought was funny. It said "God, save me from your followers." Over the years I've come to find more and more wisdom in that quip.

    First of all, let me state that for the record, I DO believe in God. What I have issue with is the way people preach it. Not to mention a fundamental distrust of the very organization responsible for disseminating the knowledge.

    As I understand the history of things (and mind you, I am no biblical scholar or historian, strictly a layman with the knowledge garnered from a youth spent in a baptist church) the Bible as we know it today is the product of hand picked accounts from a group of men from a selection of works centuries AFTER these works were written. Some were deemed "acceptable" while others were banished from the collective memory of mankind. The people responsible for making these choices were the "ruling elite" if you will of the same organization that for centuries resisted the scandalous notion that the Sun was the center of the solar system. The same organization that (according to my secular high school history book) started the crusades not out of a burning desire to reclaim the Holy Land but to acquire more land for the Noble heavy European society. The same organization that today shields, hides and transfers pedophile priests rather than punish them (and while I may not have read much of the Bible, I did read enough to know that Christ takes a VERY dim view of anyone that would harm a child!). This organization is solely responsible for what information I am able to "easily" access about what should be the most important decision I or anyone will ever make. And, to compound the difficultly of this decision, different versions of the Bible read differently and say different things. Now, I have recently been introduced to the concept that the bible "works on many levels" and that "You have to read into it". To which I respond thusly: Why? If the Bible is meant to be a "roadmap" to salvation, which is what most of the Christians I know believe it to be, Why not be a bit more straight forward? Is there an intelligence test to get into Heaven? Why not simply provide clear choices and let he who chooses other than what the Bible says earn their eternal reward?

    Mcoville's response to Morsecode regarding "Kill" verses "Murder" is endemic of this. The have been so many translations over the centuries that I don't think anyone will every truly know what the original text (assuming, of course it IS the original text) really said.

    And lastly, this. A few replies to Mcoville expressed a (what I consider to be an honest) distrust of God's "messengers". Remember a few months back when that guy blew up an abortion clinic claiming that God had told him to do it to save the unborn lives? The lesson I got/get from the Bible is that God wants us to CHOOSE which path we take. If we CHOOSE to walk a path that takes us away from him, well, that's our CHOICE. The self-proclaimed messengers of God who use Religion as a cloak to justify their acts and actions are, I believe, the biggest hinderence to borderline atheists becoming believers. I'm pretty sure that if that guy's Bible had made the distinction between Murder and Kill, he might have chosen an alternative route to shutting down the clinic that didn't include murdering someone.

    All in all, I think I can state quite confidently that, Many people are going to be rather unpleasantly surprised when they get to Heaven only to discover that the rules their version of the Bible led them to follow aren't quite what God intended after all.

  • Jeff Chastain

    The problem I am having with all of this is that, as a gay christian man, I really would not like to spend eternity with most christians I have met, either in paradise, or in the inferno. They are loveless, condemning, selfish, and intentionally ignorant. I know that this is a great generalization, and I have met exceptions to this generalization. The fact that I know with certainty that I was created gay, and the generally unpleasant and un-Christ-like behavior of "christians" has alienated me from Church. It also informs my God-Created brain that there are some big problems in the Christian faith.

  • Macman

    I agree with you John. I find your ability to reason fresh, and much needed in today's world of faith. I think our Father in Heaven weeps constantly because of all the man-made confusion over the gospel of eternal salvation. But it's our own fault! We are prideful, ignorant, and very opinionated. I doubt we'll ever come to a unity of the faith on our own – I think it'll take the Savior himself to appear and admonish us in order to overcome all our incorrect, different 'views' and 'beliefs'.

    I don't believe we are alone. I don't believe that God has left us to fend for ourselves. I believe that His whole truth is on the Earth today, but we're just too prideful to recognize it.

    We need more humility.

  • Bill

    I'm one of those christians that believe all dogs (or at least the "good ones") go to heaven. I believe that when we die, our beloved pets, along with our beloved family members and friends will be there awaiting for our joyful reunion. The Bible says that God wants our "joy to be full". And seeing our pets again would certainly be a joyful expierience.

    I know, many people would debate me about this and I admit that there is no exact scriptural proof regarding this issue. It's just something that I choose to believe on faith. I would never tell a child that their cat or dog or any other pet went to hell because only people "get saved" and everything else passes away forever.

    But the Bible tells us that there are animals in Heaven (the lion shall lie down with the lamb) and what kind of place would Heaven be without animals and trees and plants and all of the other fauna and flora that God created? Sitting on clouds and playing harps and singing hosannas for all eternity sounds pretty boring to me!

    I know I'm silly and the fact is I'm not particullarly religious. But I like to spend time thinking about these things.

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  • http://ramblingsofaspiritualidiot.wordpress.com ~Julia~

    “Now why would he want that, do you think?”

    Why would we think that is what he wants…?

  • Matthew Tweedell

    This is the body of Christ, broken for you, perhaps so that the Church might satisfy the spiritual needs of all diverse peoples of the world.

    Most of the divisions actually occur for political reasons, with the supposed theological dispute being artificially contrived and/or enhanced for people to rally behind, which often amounts to no more than nit-picking, word-games, and a clash of cultures (united by various political powers).

    There is supposed to be—even at the very breaking of the body of Christ itself—the Spirit of Holy Communion, but man has sinned in perverting it into a spirit of exclusion on the basis of doctrines that most people conceive of in empty words and hollow formulaic expressions. What we are called in the fellowship of Christ to do is to recognize the legitimacy of various formulations expressing the same truths and various wording translating to the same essential reality, inasmuch as man is capable of knowing and perceiving it.

  • Janine

    I have something to throw in the mix. Did anyone consider that the Church, and the practices and beliefs around Christian truth, were in place once the Apostles set up to churches after Pentecost (as they traveled from place to place, preaching and teaching and setting up churches)? So the Bible was assembled in these 300 years, but the Christian church was already established by then and came first – thus the letters of the Apostles to … the churches in Rome, etc to correct their teachings – that stayed form the intent of the Apostles – and strayed form the truth. And then there were all of those Ecumenical Councils to correct heresy that sprung up in the church to establish the truth again. The early Church was essentially one church body, agreeing on the Nicene creed to again, correct heresy. Heretics and even well-intentioned false or "new" teachings have been springing up from time to time ever since. So was there ever one church? Yes. Just as there were twelve apostles, but one faith they preached.

    The Christian church based on the teachings of the Apostles after a thousand years split into East and West in 1054AD. Then, from the Western (Catholic) Christian church, the Reformation occurred (to correct corruption essentially) but instead broke away from the Church with just the Bible. No reformation took place in the Eastern (Orthodox) Christian church that was under the Ottoman Empire (Muslim rule for 400 years) when Constantinople fell. Demonstrations and interpretations from the Reformation begin around the year 1500. If any Christian denomination looks back far enough, it will arrive at the teachings of the early church before the split. Or it will instead find a point in time when someone started to teach and preach something else – and a denomination begins… That doesn't mean there is no true Church or unified Christian teaching because there are many denominations. It just means you have to look back far enough to the source of truth and on who's authority and how it became established as true.

  • Ladyofleisuredc

    Ok I lied- One more comment then I have to go watch the real housewives of Beverly hills.

    Evolution. I believe that is so much more than physical- clearly we have evolved through science, medicine etc., – I believe it is also spiritual and us being more aware of our humanity with each generation, growth. You know what the Bible does in most cases? Stunt that growth.

    And I believe just has God planted that initial RNA and expected it to be what we are today, so much our intellect/spiritual grow with it. Again- The Bible stunts that growth.

  • Tonywdidit

    Man has come a long way in the understanding of what we call medical science. We can be confident that being made in Gods image was enough that we were blessed with his attributes and have the intelligence to learn , hope and grow in knowledge.  We can say with humble hearts that science does prove to be a witness when considering man did live to be 900 or so years old. You see, with Progeria it is the exact opposite. Rather than our genes allowing for a very long life, the aging happens extremely quick as explained. The fact is, if our genetics can cause us to die of old age in a very short time, then those same mechanics contained in our genetics, is the explanation as to how God gave Adam his longevity.  We can assume that man had to become intelligent enough to be able to understand such complex elements such as DNA in order to fully understand the abilities of our creator. The one danger of man however, is that science has diluted the minds of men to the point that they no longer believe in anything greater than what they themselves believe to be possible.  We can only wonder what men of science will think of themselves when they finally discover the reality of anti gravity.  

       

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing had happened.

    Winston Churchill

  • Tonywdidit

    How do we make a believer from the deeply imbedded mindset that is science. Did science separate themselves from religion or vis versa? How do we make the science mind believe in God…He who created, while putting aside religion? This is no easy task, you see the science minds have been conditioned to a particular type of belief system and are going to be resistant to the idea that so much of what we know and experience are directly connected to God. 

    The Bible speaks of creation and contains many mysteries that don’t appear to involve science, at least not at first or second glance. But with  help from scientific facts, this piece will show that science is in the Bible,  but not labeled in a way we would recognize, and that God IS the scientist… (“the great physician”).  This thought process that science has is the result of years of reconditioning, lack of understanding and realization.  So, after reflecting back and forth between biblical texts and scientific facts, We will find  some interesting data, that when looked at objectively …             (with an open mind ) will  present enough information, for some to at least rethink their very hard stands. 

    Science believes in a theory: that the universe was created in an event called the “Big Bang”. In contrast to that science also says that if the planets and asteroids were formed from merely random events, then the universe would behave much differently than what we see now. Is it  possible  an event like the big bang did take place. No one knows for  sure and will probably never know exactly what God did to initiate our creation.

    We are not here to disprove the theories science has developed, let’s just be as objective as possible and with the help of science prove the truth contained in the Bible. There are various writings aimed at disproving the Bible. One piece referenced how long people lived during the time of Adam and  Eve. Lets address that remark. Science offers no evidence otherwise, but says it is ridiculous to believe someone that long ago could live 900 plus years. To defend the Bible we have to start with the Bible.  In Genesis chapter 6 verse 3 it says…And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years

    God limited the time in which man can live. He put that time limit at a 120 years. In  Genesis it says… Adam lived 930 years. His son Seth lived 912 years. Science cannot disprove that written piece of history, they shrug it off as saying “our genetics do not allow us to live that long.” That statement, and mans current longevity is the evidence science believes to be adequate to prove their case. OK, so let’s look at that statement and what science does back up. The Guinness world record for the oldest ever to live is to a woman named Jeanne Calment 1875 to 1997. She lived to be 122.  Life expectancy in the early to mid 1800s was about 40 -45 yrs old. It would be fair to say, the 1800s was a time when viruses and other circumstances reduced life expectancy. Some people still lived to a hundred back then. So, what is the point? Science, over time has failed to keep God in their equations. And developed a belief system based on repeatable fact finding. In other words…to believe it, they had to see it.  It was called the “experimentation method”. It is fact finding based on observation in a controlled environment. So back to the genetics, we  are Gods creation. He wrote our DNA sequences. If anyone has control over how long we live, or how short our life will be, it is God. It would be fair to say, when putting it in layman’s terms, that he just turned the knob on our DNA switch, altered our genetic code and that was it. Down to 120. If our switch was on number ten, then we probably were turned down to the number one slot. Now, from a science stand point you can actually see some glitches in our genetics or aging mechanisms today.  We all know mankind is plagued with many problems and diseases. Lets look at a condition that  exists that causes children to age very rapidly. It is called Progeria. It is a genetic condition that usually takes the life of a child very early in life. Soon after birth, children born with this genetic condition appear to age at very rapid rate.

  • Tonywdidit

    We must be aware that there is belief in God, then there is a belief in religion. The two are seperate yet mingled together. These two characteristics allow for people to devise any sect of religion that fits those enclosed in that loop. I say enclosed because that is what often happens to people who form a church, sect, club, ministry, etc… People in these separated beliefs cut themselves off from one another. They never realize that in doing this, they cut themselves off from the very beliefs that God has placed in their trust. Separation, division, hatred and war is not what God intends we do with our abilities. We were not created to destroy…we are unruly out of control children with little understanding of God and his hopes for that which he created.


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