Jesus said what?

I was told as I grew up that Christianity is a relationship, not a religion. It’s about having a relationship with Jesus, not about following rules. It would seem, then, that I was not raised with legalism, right? Wrong.

You see, my parents do not believe that Jesus would tell one person one thing and someone else something else. What Jesus says to one person in a given situation will not contradict what he tells another person. So since Jesus told my parents to hold certain standards of modesty, that adult daughters are to remain under their father’s authority, and that women should be homemakers and not have careers, well, he will tell everyone else the same thing.

In practice, then, anyone who doesn’t hold the same beliefs as my parents isn’t listening to Jesus. My parents would argue that it’s not about rules. It’s just that anyone who has a relationship with Jesus, reads the Bible, and listens to the Holy Spirit will come to the same conclusions about things like male authority, modesty, and courtship. It’s not rules. It’s a relationship, a relationship with Jesus.

Therefore, when I started to question young earth creationism and, eventually, Christian patriarchy, my parents told me that I wasn’t listening to Jesus, that I was listening to the world. The strange thing is that I had never felt closer to Jesus and more in his will than I did then. At the time I was questioning my parents’ beliefs, I was walking hand in hand with Jesus. I read the Bible and poured out my heart to Jesus, and I felt the Holy Spirit urging me to make my own decisions and follow what God wanted me to do rather than what my father wanted me to do. As I walked through the pain of leaving my parents’ beliefs, Jesus lead me to Catholicism, and comforted me when it all seemed to big for me, he wiped my tears and he held my hand.

My parents cannot fathom this because it would mean that Jesus was telling them things completely opposite from the things he was telling me. The way they see it, I put my fingers in my ears and stopped listening to Jesus. The truth is, my parents don’t think they have rules. They don’t think they were ordering me to follow rules. They think that they were simply urging me to listen to Jesus, and that if I had listened to Jesus he would have told me to do the same thing they were saying I should do. Except that I was listening to Jesus and he was telling me something very different. The fact is that imposing what you believe Jesus is telling you on others is a form of legalism.

But there is a bigger problem here too. How are we to understand that Jesus tells some people one thing and others another? How are we to account for the fact that there are eleventy thousand different Christian denominations with eleventy thousand different beliefs? How are we to account for the fact that Jesus tells some people told hold one standard of modesty and others to hold a different standard? how are we to account for the fact that Jesus tells some people to wear head coverings and others that they don’t need to? Why would Jesus tell one person one thing and the other another? Have you ever noticed this?

Perhaps because he does not exist and is for all practical purposes merely simply a figment of our imaginations.

It seems to me that if Jesus were real and really had a relationship with every Christian, then Christians would agree on matters of doctrine and practice. I was taught as a child that Jesus lives in the heart of every Christian. If this was so, why would he allow there to be such horrible disagreements between denominations and even family members? Wouldn’t Jesus tell every Christian the same thing? Before his death, didn’t he call for agreement among his followers rather than division? Isn’t he supposed to be all powerful and all knowing? Isn’t he capable of communicating the same ideas, beliefs, and practices to all of his followers? Something does not make sense here.

When I left religion, it all suddenly made sense to me in a new way. The way I see it, sincere and devout Christians disagree about what Jesus is telling them because Jesus is not real. This explains perfectly why sincere and devout people equally seek Jesus’ will and come up with different answers. It seems to me that the Christianity we would see if Jesus were real would look very different from the Christianity we see today, with all of its division and disagreement.

I see only two other options. First, you could conclude that Jesus tells different people different things. To me, though, that just seems odd. Why would Jesus contradict himself? Second, you could simply adopt my parents’ interpretation and believe that you are listening to Jesus and that any who disagree with what Jesus is telling you is not. But isn’t imposing what you believe Jesus is telling you on others simply another form of legalism? Or is there another understanding to be had? I personally don’t see one, but maybe I’m just missing it.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01641970264436339191 dulce de leche

    I think you raise some important questions. <3 The way I look at it is that the difference is in the kids, not the Father. Even among my kids, with very similar life experiences and closeness in age, if you asked them about what my husband and I teach or want for them, the answers would probably be different. They are at different stages of development, and have distinct personalities and needs. While our overall family values (love, respect for all) are the same, they might play out somewhat differently according to individual situations. I believe that God is love, and that that doesn't change, but that our perceptions are filtered according to our own development, life experiences, etc. I don't know if that makes much sense, but it helps me to realize that the way God is leading me might not look exactly like the way He is leading others. And, of course, some people are just wackadoos. ;)

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Dulce – I think what you say here is probably the most reasonable of all the Christian responses to this issue. However, it does not entirely satisfy me, because it does not explain why my parents believed Jesus was telling them that I was to obey them even as an adult while I believed that Jesus was telling me to disobey them. We were all sincere and trying our hardest to listen to Jesus and follow him only. Why, then, did we disagree? It doesn't make sense. How would you answer this?

  • Brea

    1) I would answer your question about why Jesus would tell different people different things by saying: because they are different people and have different needs. Some people will respond best to "follow these few simple rules" and others will respond best to "engage critically with these complex concepts." This does lead to conflict, and may not be a truly perfect resolution, but it may be the most perfect one a fallen world can get. I think that is why love is so powerfully emphasized and why so many of Paul's letters are about how to relate to other Christians and other churches.2) I think where your parents went wrong is in extrapolating what Jesus told them was best for their lives to trying to control yours. I believe that the Holy Spirit works in an individual's heart, and that that does not include being authorized to control another individual's relationship with God. That is to say, perhaps Jesus was guiding your parents to their own personal best spiritual place, but in their belief, they overreached, probably due to their pride, and came to a wrong conclusion.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15172112981244682382 shadowspring

    Hmmm. My experiences with Jesus are very different. I don't think God is the one talking in most religious convictions people get. I think they get them from their own brains and then blame/credit God with their ideas.On the other hand, I do believe God does speak- a message of love and good will to all. I know the times I undoubtedly had my space invaded by God, it was all about love and acceptance. I would follow that love to the ends of the earth.Since I knew that Love by the name of Jesus, I naturally sound up in a Christian church. I let them define so many concepts and words for me, that no doubt many times when I thought I was following Jesus, I was really following the teachings of men.Then, in the personal relationship wing of the church, there is constant peer pressure to "hear from God". That leads to stricter and stricter interpretations of rules and regs to prove your commitment and connection to God. What a mess. I'm just gonna do my best to trust in love and goodness, and share that with others. Simple. Easy. No degree required. No new revelation needed. But of course I am labelled a hopeless liberal these days- LOL! Make of it all what you will.

  • Final Anonymous

    Oh boy… you know what's REALLY interesting to me?People coming out of a variety of cults and Christian legalism and even their own self-imposed religious limits ARE hearing the same thing.It's crazy! And a little spooky. In my own spiritual journey I came up with some new-to-me principles that I thought were so unique. Turns out my husband had been thinking the same things. I thought we were just VERY compatible…Long story short, I have talked to or chatted online with ex-Mormons, ex-Christians, and people all over in between, most of whom have, at least emotionally, left the traditional church setting. All are rebuilding their spiritual lives and beliefs from the ground up, and all come up with the SAME IDEAS, sans outside influence… for example, that Christianity done the way Christ intended is about love, for God (or whatever one considers "God"), our neighbors, and ourselves, and anything that doesn't fit in that paradigm just doesn't fit. That may not sound like much, but to those coming out of legalism or certain cults it is HUGE. And there are many others…So, I don't know… maybe God is working. Or maybe there are some universal "spiritual" truths out there that get all out of whack when we tie a religion to them. I don't know yet. Interesting stuff.

  • http://bluebleakember.wordpress.com/ bluebleakember

    lol, I guess I might as well take a stab at answering this as not. I think the different denominations that spring up are different outward manifestations of Christianity, but that the kingdom of God is within. There is a difference between religion and spirituality; spirituality is what gives life, but we need religion too, to preserve the substance of the Christian message (which is the life of Christ) and transmit it over the ages.People hear different things from Jesus because He speaks to us according to our needs, which differ. Sometimes I guess people just mishear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15528465833214550644 Katy-Anne

    I believe a mixture of what Dulce and Brea said. But I also believe that since it's a PERSONAL relationship, that I am to do what I believe God is telling me to do, and mind my own business about others. I also think that sometimes people can have different convictions, but it ends up leading to the same conclusions. However, when pride and arrogance are involved like it sounds like it was with your family, that gets in the way of what God is telling someone.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Just to clarify, I don't think "pride or arrogance" were involved with my parents and our situation. My parents were genuinely seeking God and his will with all their hearts. God means everything to them and doing God's will is all they care about. They have guilt their lives around serving him. And they honestly and truly believe that God has told them that adults daughters are to remain under their father's authority, that fathers are to control their daughters' "courtships," etc. This wasn't pride or arrogance. This was what they literally believed God told them. And they were doing everything they could to listen to him. Shadowspring and Final Anonymous – I would argue that the potential to believe in love is a human universal, just as is the potential to hate, or be jealous, or seek revenge. There are people in every religion and outside of religion who see love as the most important ideal, including myself. If I die and find that that God of love really does exist, I will simply ask him why he did not make his existence obvious, and why he allowed such suffering to exist. I do not, however, expect that such a God would send me to hell for not knowing he existed but nevertheless following the essence of his teachings. It would be nice if such a God of love existed, and if there was some sort of a magical afterlife. Unfortunately it seems to me that the evidence is against it.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15528465833214550644 Katy-Anne

    Libby Anne, I'm sorry, I know you love your parents, but for an adult to think they are in control of another adult is arrogance, plain and simple, and I personally don't see any way of getting around that. Anyhow, since I'm not trying to be mean I'll end it here rather than say what I really think about people who do that. Lol.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    But here is the thing, Katy-Anne. It sounds to me that you are saying the same thing that my parents said about me. "Because they disagree with what I believe Jesus says, they're clearly not actually listening to Jesus," you say. "They must just be arrogant." Even so, my parents said "because she disagrees with what we believe Jesus says, she's clearly not actually listening to Jesus. She must be listening to the world." And both you and my parents sincerely believe you are listening to Jesus, but you sincerely and absolutely disagree. That is my point.

  • http://www.greenegem.wordpress.com Claire in Tasmania

    And what the Bible says to do with that dilemma is, trust that God will show one or both of you the truth (it's possible both are wrong ;)) in His time. If you're not hearing the same message as your parents, that's not their problem. God has his own timeline and agenda for each of you.Also, I think he deliberately allows these kinds of differences as an opportunity for us to show one another forbearance. Yes, there are a lot of denominations but in my experience, they tend to work together more often than they fight.

  • http://www.greenegem.wordpress.com Claire in Tasmania

    I've been thinking about this a bit more… one of the effects of the phenomenon you are describing *for me* is to keep me humble. I observe that two people who sincerely seek God have different opinions, and that tells me that I am bound to be wrong about something (no doubt many things). It is important to act on my convictions, but also to accept that in 5 years, some of those convictions will have changed (hopefully matured ;)). It helps to keep me from being too dogmatic (well, some of the time :)). So maybe that is one of the reasons…It's not unexpected Biblically, either. Even Moses, who spoke with God face to face, misinterpreted one of God's instructions. Even Paul sometimes said 'this is my idea, God hasn't given me a specific revelation here' and said that, even with God's Spirit living within us we 'see in a mirror dimly'. It seems that for whatever reason God is not going to give us a complete revelation/understanding until the end of the age. That does seem odd to me, but, well, I'm not God *shrug*

  • Anonymous

    My parents believed the same thing, that it was their duty to control their adult daughters…and even thought I believe they were sincere, I still think it is very arrogant for one adult to believe that God wants him to control the actions and life of another adult. It is also arrogant for an adult to tell another adult that they are going to go to hell for their choices. (My father basically told me that if I didn't come home and obey him, that I would end up in hell…) I believe he sincerely believed what he was saying, but all the sincerity in the world doesn't make it less arrogant. (Well, at least he didn't claim Jesus had directly told him that! "Jesus told me to…" wasn't part of my family's vocabulary.)It seems to me that people who have very strong convictions often mistake their own convictions for the voice of God and you end up with the mess you are describing. My thoughts on the subject are quite similar to what Shadowspring wrote. kateri @ Dandelion Haven

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15528465833214550644 Katy-Anne

    I agree entirely with Kateri, and I don't actually understand why you would defend your parents in this. Maybe they think Jesus, or God or someone told them that, and they can genuinely believe that, but it doesn't make the belief any less arrogant. Kind of like the Calvinists who think they are so amazing that God would choose THEM over the guy down the street to go to heaven and that there is nothing the guy down the street can do about it. I guess what I'm saying is that I think some people are more likely to believe stuff like this because they have an attitude of arrogance. If they didn't have that to begin with, they might find that they see something different in those passages…Maybe a lot of the problem is that we all blame God for how we interpret something in the Bible. I used to say that "God has spoken to me about not cutting my hair ever". What I was doing was taking my understanding at the time of a particular Biblical passage and then claiming God gave me that understanding. I said the same thing about not wearing pants, or about home schooling etc. Whereas now I will trim or cut my hair if I want to (but usually only trim it once in a while because I want it long), I wear pants without guilt and my children go to public school. I just bought their uniforms and school supplies yesterday, in fact. But, I don't claim that "God spoke to me" about my change of belief. In fact I acknowledge that other Christians choose to do things differently in these areas, and it's not necessarily a God-thing. Some people have very deep reasons for doing what they do, that actually make sense if you know their background, it doesn't mean God told them to do it, but it does shape how they interpret or see different issues. I don't know if I even articulated what I wanted to say well or not.

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha

    I believe your parents were following people who told them: "Jesus say dominate and rule your daughters." And they so much believed these people that they don't think they need to ask Jesus about this matter. They perhaps asked Jesus about matters they were not sure about, but on this one they believed human mentors.The recorded words attributed to Jesus don't support your parents' view. Not in the slightest. The kingdom is about not lording it over others (Mat 20:25-26 Mark 10:42-43) and far from the patriarchal over-emphasis on fathers, we should regard none but God in heaven as father(Mat 23:8-10).

  • jemand

    But….The last few comments, boiled down, are simply "Libby's parents didn't agree with me on what the priorities and purpose of Christianity are, so obviously they weren't listening to Jesus. They were listening to their own arrogance and other people."But… I dunno. The certainty with which this is said, while I'm sure it means simply that you are very sincere in your own belief that you're listening to the *real* Jesus, to this atheist, the certainty that you have more of a line to divine revelation than Libby's parents also comes across as arrogant.I think this is why Libby Anne has been sticking up for her parents, because honestly? From an outsiders perspective, these christian explanations make NO SENSE.

  • http://biblicalpersonhood.wordpress.com/ Retha

    Jemand, her parents "Jesus" talks the opposite way from the written words they will(if they are fundies as Libby claim) agree is from the real Jesus.For that reason, they evidently did not listen to their Jesus. No arrogance, simply the writings they would agree is the words of Jesus, saying the opposite of what they believe. The Bible words I referenced, wether from God or not, certainly mean something. In this case, something that obviously proves this Bible character, Jesus, did not think their way. I don't have to claim special divine revelation, only words even an atheist can look up – Mat 20:25-26 Mark 10:42-43,Mat 23:8-10.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Katy-Anne – "I don't actually understand why you would defend your parents in this."Here is why. You are all saying that they weren't actually listening to Jesus, when that is all they shaped their entire lives around. Jesus meant everything in the world to them. Jesus was all they lived for. All they wanted to do, all they ever wanted to do, was Jesus' will. So I don't think it's fair to say to them "sorry you were just being arrogant." They honestly believed that Jesus told them to control their adult daughters. If this wasn't what Jesus wanted, why didn't he tell them so? They were doing everything they possibly could to listen. They were completely sincere. I agree with Jemand – I understand what you all are saying, but from an outside perspective, it does not actually make sense. You and they are both trying to listen to Jesus, honestly trying, reading the Bible and pouring out your hearts to him, and you are hearing different things. Each of you simply concludes that you are the one listening to Jesus and the other is not. Each of you thinks that you are the one properly understanding the Bible and the other is wrong and listening to "others" or "the world."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    It's like shrimp. The same people can eat the same shrimp dish, prepared the same way, and their tastebuds respond to it in a million different ways. I can't stand shrimp. Others love it. Shrimp, nevertheless, is real and the same. Differing opinions on it don't change what was served and doesn't mean it doesn't exist.Sincerity doesn't determine the quality of the endeavor. Personally, I think far more Christians than not actually worship "the bible" rather than Christ – or the interpretations of the bible given them by men or movements. They're completely sincere, but they're completely and sincerely wrong.Take Geoff Botkin, for instance. He's one of the FEW leaders/prominent figures within P/QF who I believe to be sincere in motive. All his sincerity has made of him is a religious fruitcake and has caused him to raise a family that has no understand of what it means to have a personal experience with Christ.Nothing personal at all toward the intentions of your parents, because I don't doubt their sincerity, but I don't think they heard from God at all about their authoritarian beliefs. The surefire giveaway is the belief system which devalues and constrains the person(s) it's practiced upon – which is something Jesus spoke about…"The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath". They listened to men, and placed their faith in the message of men and the religious "system" promoted by those men. This isn't said from a place of arrogance. I don't claim to get it right all the time.Sincerity doesn't equal quality or accuracy.A typo of yours above is probably a pretty accurate statement in retrospect…"They have guilt their lives around serving him."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Here is why. You are all saying that they weren't actually listening to Jesus, when that is all they shaped their entire lives around. Jesus meant everything in the world to them. Jesus was all they lived for. All they wanted to do, all they ever wanted to do, was Jesus' will. So I don't think it's fair to say to them "sorry you were just being arrogant." They honestly believed that Jesus told them to control their adult daughters. If this wasn't what Jesus wanted, why didn't he tell them so? They were doing everything they possibly could to listen. They were completely sincere.This is where I'd apply the idea that sincerity doesn't equate to accuracy or quality.

  • jemand

    ok, two things, as an atheist, I'm not really inclined to be drawn into a bible based debate. But suffice it to say, that the people on the other side of this argument ALSO point to texts they base their lives around, texts Jesus said, etc. And they, will tell me that YOU all are just sincere, and simply wrong. So go debate them, not me.Thing two, is, if there *is* a divine voice behind these texts, why has it been satisfied with a situation where sincere people who are honestly longing to follow it, are so easily led astray, even while studying these divinely inspired texts for up to hours a day?

  • Retha

    Jemand, you act as if, when two people disagree, there is no reason to rather believe either, and it mean that both have to be wrong. That is the kind of atheistic scepticm that cannot be sceptical about itself.I say that if anyone – even you – are willing to read the texts on both sides of this particular issue, they will easily see who is torturing texts and who is simply reading the straight meaning of the words claimed to be from Jesus. Not everything Christians debate about is this easy, but not everything is this potentially hazardous either.As for your second question, it seems you want us to believe in someone's non-existence because we don't get His motives. And that is a terrible reason to believe in His non-existence.

  • jemand

    wow, retha, that is very condescending! Keep reading the text until you agree with me, or you aren't honestly reading them, or the "straight meaning" (i.e., what you think it says) would be obvious.For what it's worth, I did read the texts you gave, and I don't think they apply to Libby's family's situation at all. They are talking about "lording" it over someone, whereas many of these parents have made GREAT sacrifices for their children. They truly are servants to their children in so many ways, and it is out of their deep love for their children that they want to guide them into the right ways, into truth. And this truth, they believe comes from the bible, and depends deeply on a kind of "honor your father and your mother" in order to get the promise given, long, full life.It is not a "lordship" issue, Libby's father does not want to be "king" of her, he wanted her to be right with god. He had been promised that, if he "trained up a child, etc" and that if his children honored him it would bring them success and he wants success for them, in everything, but especially to be right with god. He believed that as Jesus obeyed his father, blessings would come to his children if they obeyed him, and I'm sure this responsibility and promise weighed on him heavily.Your verses do not apply to what is on his mind.(Libby can correct me if it is not true in her *particular* family situation. But I am sure that families like I describe, DO exist. Patriarchal interpretations of the bible are not at all inconsistent with the verses you gave us.)Ugh. And I got dragged into a bible text debate.

  • Retha

    Jemand: But suffice it to say, that the people on the other side of this argument ALSO point to texts they base their lives around, texts Jesus said …"They don't. No words of Jesus feature in the tenets of Biblical patriarchy's parts on how to treat children. Or wives, for that matter. The only place in the tenets that the words of Jesus feature, is when they call God male, and to defend the "gentleness and love" part of their view that men should exercise authority with gentleness and love. They did not get daughters-should-stay-at-home from texts Jesus said. Not at all.

  • Retha

    I did not read his 3:07 answer before mine was posted, and this was not a reaction to that. But in not allowing their daughters freedom of choice, they were lording it.And yes, you are drawn into a text debate because you want to believe that when people disagree about the Bible message, it simply isnt because one really understand the meaning better. You want to believe it is not clear.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Retha, Jemand, calm down. Jemand, I don't think you're going to change way Retha sees things here because she really believes the Bible supports her views and does not support my parents. Retha, Jemand does not "want" to believe it is not clear, she really does believe that it is not clear. Please don't assume atheists have an agenda. I think my point is not whether the Bible actually supports one view or the other. That's actually irrelevant to what I was trying to say. What I was trying to say is that if both sides are reading the same Bible and trying their hardest to listen to the same Jesus, then why the disagreement? It seems to me that if God is real and all powerful, he would tell all of those who are honestly trying to follow him the same thing on issues like this. That is all I was trying to say.

  • jemand

    To clarify, Retha, it is your position that people who disagree with you on this do so entirely because of a hidden motive or some sort of personal agenda?i.e., Libby's parents, they disagree because they want to lord it over others, or me, I disagree because I want to worship skepticism or something?Here I think is the question. Libby's parents honestly and sincerely believe the bible is very clear and it calls for patriarchy and daughter submission (among a myriad other things you'd agree with). I honestly and sincerely, when reading the bible, see no one single, obvious, coherent teaching, and so conclude to chose to prioritize the conservative, fundamentalist portions makes as much sense from the text as other prioritization methods.Do you believe that Libby's parents and I are telling the truth? Or do you think that our lack of agreement with you comes from an agenda that is founded on a faulty character?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    @jemand…For what it's worth, I did read the texts you gave, and I don't think they apply to Libby's family's situation at all. They are talking about "lording" it over someone, whereas many of these parents have made GREAT sacrifices for their children. They truly are servants to their children in so many ways, and it is out of their deep love for their children that they want to guide them into the right ways, into truth. And this truth, they believe comes from the bible, and depends deeply on a kind of "honor your father and your mother" in order to get the promise given, long, full life.Intent and sincerity aren't the issue. These beliefs cause parents to "lord" over their children. "Lording" IS what happens. Again, intent and sincerity aren't the issue. Sincerity isn't a guarantee of accuracy or quality. That's a lens that must be applied to this to get anywhere on the issue.@Libby…We all listen to the same speech from politicians – for the sake of example, let's say President Obama – but we all come away with a spectrum of different interpretations of the same speech, usually determined by where we were in our ideology before we ever heard the speech (usually based on the voices we allow to speak loudest into our thinking), and further cemented by the voices we trust who attempt to interpret the speech for us. The dynamic is no different with P/QF adherents. P/QF adherents aren't the most open-minded people on the earth, usually rejecting outright ANY line of thinking that doesn't line up with the paradigm.Just the account of Christ in the gospels is replete with evidence of truth, coming from the living Truth (by Christian measurement) himself, being rejected by its hearers. At some point, the individual has to take responsibility for hearing, discerning, and accepting it.It's entirely possible that God has communicated the truth to your parents all along. It can't be assumed that they'd automatically recognize it just because of some level of sincerity.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis – "It's entirely possible that God has communicated the truth to your parents all along. It can't be assumed that they'd automatically recognize it just because of some level of sincerity."See, and if I were God, I'd make sure that sincere people who were trying to listen to me (like my parents) really heard my voice and knew what I wanted.And of course, you all may respond that "our ways are not God's ways" or that "we cannot understand the things of God." As a skeptic, though, that kind of argument makes no sense to me.

  • Anonymous

    I completely get what you are saying Libby Anne. It was this exact issue that began my path out of belief. My husband believed our daughter to be living in sin with her boyfriend, based on his relationship with Jesus. My daughter believed just as strongly that God was telling her that she wasn't sinning because she and boyfriend were married in their hearts (between them and God). My husband disowned her. It broke her heart. I was in the middle. How could God give the opposite answer to two people who were asking the same question? Was it wrong to live together unmarried? According to both of them, they were sure of God's approval. For me, it set in motion a million questions which I am still sorting out. I no longer profess to be a christian and my family is aware of this now. Although my husband and daughter have gotten past their disagreement, they both agree that I am wrong in my disbelief. They believe I will come to my senses eventually.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Wow, this has been a really interesting comment thread to read!My two cents: I take the point of some of the Christian debaters here that just because different people arrive at different, conflicting conclusions about the same set of texts or teachings doesn't mean that all of those conclusions are wrong or invalid or based on nothing but projection. It is theoretically possible for one interpretation of the Christian bible to be correct and the others incorrect. But that doesn't mean that we necessarily have any way of knowing which is which. It seems to me that most religious texts are pretty cryptic and it really is possible to read a whole lot of conflicting meanings into them. How does a person know that their interpretation is "right?" Well, they don't. They just have to use their human faculties of reason and conscience to make their best guess.What I don't understand is, what's so wrong with this? Why is it necessary to have "proof" that your interpretation is correct? Why not simply say "I believe in all sincerity that the bible teaches me to love and accept others. I feel with all my heart that this is the right way to live and so I am going to live that way and if scripture backs me up, so be it." At least, that's basically how I try to approach life. My conscience and reason provide me with a strong sense of right and wrong and I try to live my life by those values. And if there is personal God up there (I believe in some kind of God or higher power but not necessarily a personal God–but who knows?) who has supreme power and a single moral code that s/he/it (damn pronouns!) prescribes for all humanity, I'll just have to hope that my own moral code matches it. If not, I would hope that God would understand that I did my best. The best any of us can do is deduce our moral values from whatever philosophy that draws us–whether that is a religious or secular philosophy or a combination thereof–and hope that we've got it right. We can have the courage of our convictions and still allow for the unknown.Just some rambling thoughts off the top of my head. And FYI, I'm not a Christian or an atheist, but a secular Jew, born and raised. So I'm not really arguing for either "side."

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Petticoat Philosopher – "My conscience and reason provide me with a strong sense of right and wrong and I try to live my life by those values. And if there is personal God up there (I believe in some kind of God or higher power but not necessarily a personal God–but who knows?) who has supreme power and a single moral code that s/he/it (damn pronouns!) prescribes for all humanity, I'll just have to hope that my own moral code matches it. If not, I would hope that God would understand that I did my best."This is exactly how I live my life. I personally don't think there is a God of any kind, and if there is I certainly don't think it is a personal God. But I figure so long as I lead my life based on love and service, if there turns out to be something out there after all, he/she/it will understand.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    whoops, I lied! I am not a secular Jew, but a liberal Jew. I guess I'm so used to explaining the difference to people that I get a little addled sometimes! hehe

  • Anonymous

    Hey, how are we supposed to tell whose interpretation of the Bible and what Jesus is saying is correct? I mean, independently verifiable criteria, not "because I say so" dressed up all fancy.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    See, and if I were God, I'd make sure that sincere people who were trying to listen to me (like my parents) really heard my voice and knew what I wanted.How do we know He hasn't? Like I say, their sincerity isn't a guarantee that they'll accept the message. What if their genuine devotion isn't to God, but to a form of "Christianity"?The biblical texts, and other religious texts, are full of God delivering messages, sometimes very clearly and directly, that the people on the receiving end usually ignored or found some way to twist or misinterpret. Jesus himself would do all kinds of miracles which would signify that he was someone to be listened to, and even told people who he was, yet a large segment of the people (particularly the religious people – an important dynamic in the scenario) rejected him and his message.At some point, personal responsibility for discerning and applying the message has to transfer to the individual. The problem is, most Christians aren't truly committed to God in whatever form they find Him, but instead, they're committed to a particular religious system and IT'S representation of who God is. The persona of God becomes more valid than the reality of God. For most, that persona takes the shape of a narrow, literal interpretation (given to them by other men) of a square book.I can't see God as that black and white, nor can I expect him to meet my own personal expectations of who and what he should be or how he should function.The concept of God, whether we believe in God or not, is intangible at its core.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01641970264436339191 dulce de leche

    I really don't have much of substance to add, but I am enjoying the responses. Thank you all!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I am likewise enjoying the responses! I didn't realize this post would generate so much conversation. I still don't think it makes sense that two people both seeking God would be given contradicting information, such as in my situation or in the situation Anonymous of 5:19 describes, and it seems to me that both you all and my parents are saying the same thing: that you have it right and the other side isn't actually listening to God. However, I didn't actually expect to change any of you all's minds, just to make you think, and it sounds from the comments like I succeeded! I especially appreciated Claire's comment about this question keeping her humble.

  • http://www.greenegem.wordpress.com Claire in Tasmania

    Perhaps God just doesn't say as much as we would like to believe he does, leaving much of it up to our God-given common sense. I mean, what would he give us brains for if he wanted to just *tell* us what to think?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15528465833214550644 Katy-Anne

    Libby, I don't know if I'm really portraying my point well. Lack of sleep will do that to you lol. Anyhow, my main point is that people's attitudes and experiences etc shape their beliefs, and there's no way around that. You know why I felt that "Jesus was telling me" to wear skirts only, or not to cut my hair, etc? It was because of certain issues in my past that made me want to be as feminine as possible, and I believed that would show femininity better, so, when I started to think that way and it appeared the Bible backed it up, and I was "sincere" then obviously "Jesus was telling me" to do this.My belief is that Jesus doesn't tell anyone to do as much as they believe he is. Your parents had to come from an attitude of arrogance in order to be able to come to a belief that "Jesus told them they have control over their adult daughters". Without the arrogance in the first place they'd have interpreted things differently. What scares me sometimes about Christianity is how unsure I am about things, as in, maybe your parents were RIGHT. Maybe Jesus does want parents to control their adult daughters. It STILL takes an arrogant heart to believe that, but it's still possible that it's what Jesus taught and wanted. Not likely in my opinion, but possible.I think we also need to differentiate between God and Jesus. Was it "Jesus" or "God" that fed their arrogant attitude and told them this? Because most Christians (to my knowledge, I might be wrong) believe that God is a trinity, 3 persons in 1, and as such that God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are different even though they are the same. Many, although not all of us, believe that the Old Testament is God's covenant with the Jews and the New Testament is God's covenant with the church, and that Jesus is a huge part of the New Testament. Coming from this point of view it actually sounds more likely that "God" told them these things, not "Jesus". I believe that IC has a really good argument. We could all listen to the president give the same speech, like he said, and get different interpretations of it. Don't you think if it were that important that the president would make sure that we all heard the same thing and interpreted it the same way? That's the argument you made about God and Jesus "telling" people things.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Katy-Anne – "Anyhow, my main point is that people's attitudes and experiences etc shape their beliefs, and there's no way around that."Because I don't think there actually is a God, I just take what you're saying a step further – my parents beliefs, and every other Christian's beliefs, are not about something out there actually communicating with them, they are simply the sum total of their experiences, etc. Also to be clear, this isn't like the reason I became an atheist or anything. It's just that once I became an atheist I suddenly saw this issue in a new light, and it made total sense to me. On the God v. Jesus thing, I think sometimes the two are used interchangeably. But in the case of my parents, it was Jesus. My mom is ALL ABOUT Jesus. They believe religion is about a relationship with Jesus, not about rules, remember. And indeed, my parents don't believe the Old Testament still holds in the least. They believe Jesus came to fulfill and overthrow The Law, and that it is no longer in place. For them, it's all about freedom in Jesus. Yes, I know, weird. It's just that they believe the New Testament (ie Jesus) teaches that girls are to remain under their fathers' authority until marriage, and then they are under their husbands' authority. And, Jesus has confirmed that to them in their hearts and in their daily prayer time.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/07630805993208700804 Sara Amis

    Well…keep in mind that I'm coming from the perspective of a Pagan who was raised Baptist, but who never lost the notion of a "priesthood of believers" or personal communication with the divine. That does not put me at odds with my co-religionists, either.I think we don't all get the same messages from the Divine because we aren't all the same. We are individuals with different needs and paths. I'm ok with that, and I don't think that me being "right" has to mean that someone else is wrong…To quote Rumi, "There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."I don't think that sincerity is a measure of correctness. You can be absolutely sincere and absolutely wrong. Ideological correctness, or the heartfelt nature of a belief, are one side of a two-sided equation, and not the most important one. You have to look at the actual results you are getting, and have some discernment about what you are looking at. What is the ultimate goal of Christian patriarchy? is it to transform society? to what end? Don't they take the position that it will heal social ills, and that a "Godly" family is orderly and blessed? But the reality seems to be that families get torn apart…believers become estranged from any family members, grown children or their own parents, who don't agree with them. Abuse seems to be, if not actually rampant, tacitly encouraged and certainly not addressed. Those are not the results they claim to be aiming for, but those are the ones they get.I think that the Gods, or God, whatever you want to call it, do speak to people…but they don't yell. I don't think they're supposed to, or that the fact that people cling to ideology (however sincere) instead of listening for the changeful quiet voice is proof that the voice doesn't exist. I think there are better and worse ways to listen, and it's possible to screw that up. For one thing, I think the divine is in the world around you, not just in prayers or in your head. So that brings us back to results again.There are other aspects to this, but my comment is getting a little long already…

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "What I was trying to say is that if both sides are reading the same Bible and trying their hardest to listen to the same Jesus, then why the disagreement?"Precisely, and I've yet to hear a satisfactory answer from any believer. The apologetic that "Jesus" responds differently to different people might work when it comes to inconsequential issues, like, "where should my family and I vacation?", but it falls flat when we consider the serious social issues of the day..i.e..right to life, abortion, assisted suicide, war, capital punishment, etc—-IOW, when it comes to morality, of which Christianity claims to have a monopoly.Thus, if an objective "morality" is found in "the Body of Christ", and if people who claim to have a relationship with "Christ"(Jesus) are getting their info' straight from the source(as all believers claim), then why isn't there consensus on the aforementioned issues, and others? "It seems to me that if God is real and all powerful, he would tell all of those who are honestly trying to follow him the same thing on issues like this. That is all I was trying to say."Exactly, and I agree with your point. IMO, believers have their sense of "right" and "wrong" before they ever crack open their bibles.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Thus, if an objective "morality" is found in "the Body of Christ", and if people who claim to have a relationship with "Christ"(Jesus) are getting their info' straight from the source(as all believers claim), then why isn't there consensus on the aforementioned issues, and others?This really isn't difficult to understand. This same dynamic plays out both in and out of Christianity. To act as if this is something exclusive to Christianity and/or religion isn't an honest argument. When people sell out their soul to any particularly ideology, whether religious, political, cultural/social, even atheism, they stop thinking.IMO, believers have their sense of "right" and "wrong" before they ever crack open their bibles.If you'd change that to "many believers", I'd be in complete agreement with you. It's the same dynamic with presidential speeches. Many/most in the audience have decided whether or not they're gonna "like" the speech before they've ever heard it based on their own political leanings.And…it's the same for a lot of atheists when considering matters of faith or religion. It's the human condition. It's natural.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    "When people sell out their soul to any particularly ideology, whether religious, political, cultural/social, even atheism, they stop thinking." Now hang on just a minute there, Lewis. Am I correct that you just said that I have "stopped thinking?" Or am I misunderstanding what you said?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "This same dynamic plays out both in and out of Christianity. To act as if this is something exclusive to Christianity and/or religion isn't an honest argument."[bold added]I was speaking specifically about Christianity, whether one classifies it as a "religion", or not. And yes, it is honest to say that Christianity claims that morality is objective, and that those morals are exclusive to Christianity. Read your bible. "When people sell out their soul to any particularly ideology, whether religious, political, cultural/social, even atheism, they stop thinking."Please elaborate with supporting evidence. You seem to be making an outrageous claim, not-to-mention, a fallacious one. Do you believe in "moral objectivism", or not?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Now hang on just a minute there, Lewis. Am I correct that you just said that I have "stopped thinking?" Or am I misunderstanding what you said?If you're still asking legitimate questions, you haven't sold out your soul to anything.Please elaborate with supporting evidence.Fundamentalism – religious or otherwise.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    @boomSLANG…When you say this……IOW, when it comes to morality, of which Christianity claims to have a monopoly.That's black and white thinking about Christianity, or not really thinking about it at all. I claim faith in Christ, but I don't begin to claim a monopoly on morality. I continually question accepted "Christian" concepts of morality.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis – "If you're still asking legitimate questions, you haven't sold out your soul to anything."Oh, okay! I would absolutely agree that when someone stops asking questions or being willing to consider other viewpoints, there is a problem!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    Previously, me: …IOW, when it comes to morality, of which Christianity claims to have a monopoly."Lewis responds…"That's black and white thinking about Christianity[...]"Lewis, The Christian philosophy, itself, claims to be the moral, objective "Truth". That there are "Commandments" that we are to follow that were presumably carved into stone by "God", himself, is good, supporting evidence of this. Morever, that "Jesus is the Way, the Truth"…etc., etc., doesn't seem to leave room for some other "way" or "truth", does it?To those Christians who accept the above as true, the issue is "black and white". I'm certainly not claiming that all Christians interpret the face-value language in the bible the same. "[...]or not really thinking about it at all."Telling people that they're "not really thinking" isn't really a good or helpful way to find common ground with your interlocutor. Then again, maybe that's not your goal. idk."I claim faith in Christ, but I don't begin to claim a monopoly on morality."Perhaps you don't, but again, the doctrine, itself, does."I continually question accepted 'Christian' concepts of morality."Good. You're in a minority.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Perhaps you don't, but again, the doctrine, itself, does.No it doesn't.According to Christ, the two really important commandments were to love God and love our neighbor. The first of those two wouldn't really apply to those who don't believe in God, but I don't think any rational person would argue with the ways that Christ taught and demonstrated the second. There are also issues, where, morally speaking, the new testament books leave things to the discernment of the individual.To believe that Jesus is the true path to God isn't a moral declaration. It's a spiritual one. There's room for all kinds of moral definitions and positions within that spiritual statement.Ultimately, Christ taught believers to identify the tree by the fruit it produces. This simplifies the issue of whether or not proponents of P/QF have "heard from God". The fruit is largely rotten by any moral measurement. That doesn't mean that those of us who see as much have everything else figured out.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "No it doesn't." ~ LewisI think it does. In any case, when you say…To believe that Jesus is the true path to God isn't a moral declaration. It's a spiritual one., it doesn't change the fact that it's speaking of a specific "God", AKA, "Yahweh", and again, this "God" has "Commandents" that are to be followed. It's not as if these are mere "suggestions"."According to Christ, the two really important commandments were to love God and love our neighbor." ~ LewisWe can go back 'n' forth with this, if you'd like. That is, you can cherry pick verses that appeal to you and/or support your argument, and I can find verses that contradict them. In fact, that we can do this is actually part of the problem, and part of the original point: "Jesus said what"?Again, we might never agree on whether "Christianity" claims the "Truth"(upper case T), but that is ultimately immaterial to the fact that Christians are claiming to hear "Jesus" speak to them, and/or, be led by his "Spirit", but yet, are obtaining conflicting advice. Morever, it doesn't help matters when the bible, AKA, "God's Word", says do X, Y, and Z in one chapter, and a few chapters later, one might find it saying do not do X, Y, or Z. "The first of those two wouldn't really apply to those who don't believe in God, but I don't think any rational person would argue with the ways that Christ taught and demonstrated the second."You're right, I wouldn't argue that the latter of two isn't, generally, a good policy. But even according to Christianity, it's not *always* a good policy, that is, in every possible situation."Ultimately, Christ taught believers to identify the tree by the fruit it produces."And through example, he taught if a fruit tree doesn't produce fruit when you want it to, you can curse the tree. Again, I can find verses that counter or conflict with the verse you use to extol the morals/actions/teachings of "Christ"."This simplifies the issue of whether or not proponents of P/QF have 'heard from God'."'Sorry, I disagree that it's that simple.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    In fact, that we can do this is actually part of the problem, and part of the original point: "Jesus said what"?Not really, because according to the gospels, Jesus actually said that. It was pretty straight-forward.And through example, he taught if a fruit tree doesn't produce fruit when you want it to, you can curse the tree.I don't quite think that's what Jesus taught. That's something you're reading into the account. Just because Jesus himself did something, that doesn't mean he was teaching us to do it. He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – but that isn't instruction for the rest of us to do likewise. It's pretty obvious that some things he did to teach us to do likewise, some things he did to use IN teaching a larger point, and some things he did to simply DO.Don't assume that everyone who claims faith in Christ considers the bible to be "God's Word". I don't worship the bible or consider it inerrant and infallible. Don't confuse fundamentalists with those of us willing to accept truth in whatever form we find it just because they claim to be of the same faith as people like us. They aren't. Their faith, at its core, is in "the bible" and it's inerrancy.Have you ever been a part of the Christian faith?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/15081106611030131955 Meg

    It's not a matter of whether Jesus is real or not, it is a matter of perspective. Two people can see the same event and come away describing it in 2 completly different ways. Look at the first 4 books of the New Testament, 4 different writters with 4 different perspectives on the same things. Many sincere, learned and scholarly men and women have studied the Bible and come to different conclusions.(I put the patriachals of today in a different group than learned and scholarly because I am not sure of what they are or where they are coming from) It isn't a matter of God or Jesus telling different people different things it is in how people look at what they are studying. How many of us have taken a college course and heard something different than what the professor said or meant? Different opinions come about because we are all different and hear and see events in different ways.

  • jemand

    I think boomslang and Lewis are now in a reprise of the situation Retha and I were in.It's become a debate on the merits of which religious interpretation is "correct," lots of verses are coming out, and the believer is considering themselves automatically more of an authority on the subject because their interlocutor is an atheist.But I don't really think it's to the purpose of the post to get into the details of texts, further than to point out that there are different texts that seem to teach something different than what you say the book says, and that your *coreligionists* find those interpretations authoritative and correct.I *suppose* it's a valid response to simply claim, "No, they are Wrong! I am the one who interprets my god correctly!"But it comes across as REALLY weird to outsiders.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Good point Jemand – I think it is a reprise. My original point was that every Christian who reads the Bible with an open mind seeks to listen to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit is telling him (or her) should come to the same conclusions on major issues. We're not talking about small things here (like, should I get a cat, or is homeschooling right for my family), we're talking about big things (like, are adult daughters still under their father's authority). At the very least, two people honestly seeking God should not be told directly contradictory things when both trying to sort through a situation, as happened with my parents and I. I know, Lewis, that your response is to say that my parents have it wrong, and that they might have been sincere but they were listening to X, Y, and Z rather than to the Bible and the Holy Spirit. It's just, that's not what it looked like to me. What I saw was two individuals truly seeking what God wanted, and doing everything possible to listen to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and still coming to patriarchal conclusions. For the purpose of this discussion, I don't really care about which side is interpreting the Bible right. What I care about is the fact that Jesus apparently wasn't talking loud enough for one of us to hear, and we were both trying our hardest to listen. And that strikes me as odd and somehow off. And again, to clarify, this is NOT the reason I left religion; rather, it's an interesting observation I made after I left.

  • Anonymous

    I still haven't seen anybody posit objectively verifiable criteria for interpreting scripture correctly. :/

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "My original point was that every Christian who reads the Bible with an open mind seeks to listen to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit is telling him (or her) should come to the same conclusions on major issues." ~ L. AnneAgreed, but as we know, they don't come to the same conclusions, and yet, they each think that they are "right". This is why (some) believers would be quick to blame your parents."We're not talking about small things here (like, should I get a cat, or is homeschooling right for my family), we're talking about big things (like, are adult daughters still under their father's authority)" ~ L. AnneYes, like that, and things like, "should I get an abortion", "should I pull the plug on my brain-dead grandmother", and on and on. For some reason, "Jesus" can't seem to give consistent advice when it comes to the serious issues, including, the serious moral issues."I don't quite think that's what Jesus taught ~ LewisWell, of course you don't. Somehow, the face-value language doesn't mean what it says whenever Jesus' own behavior raises an eyebrow."Just because Jesus himself did something, that doesn't mean he was teaching us to do it." ~ LewisSo, do as I say, not as I do."He rode into Jerusalem on a donkey – but that isn't instruction for the rest of us to do likewise."How we should behave, and how we should get around the desert 2000 yrs ago, are apples and oranges. Forgive me for finding your analogy inapt."Don't assume that everyone who claims faith in Christ considers the bible to be 'God's Word'. I don't worship the bible or consider it inerrant and infallible." ~ LewisThe bible is either "God's Word", or it isn't. If it isn't, then I fail to see how you can really expect the parts that you extract and extol as "virtuous" to carry any weight. Who cares what "Jesus" is supposedly saying if he is not "Divine" or channeling the "Divine"?"Have you ever been a part of the Christian faith?"For 2/3rds of my life I was a sincere, practicing believer. I changed my mind.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    boomSLANG…You seem to desire a black and white version of Christianity before you'll accept it as believable, because you seem to devalue any answer to any query which you don't see in black and white terms.I think if you'll look closely therein, you'll see exactly how people fall into fundamentalism – they want it in black and white. Rules give that to them. Christian fundamentalism is almost exactly what you're doing, just from the other side of its mirror – "It's gotta be THIS way, or not at all."The bible is either "God's Word", or it isn't.That's what I mean.If it isn't, then I fail to see how you can really expect the parts that you extract and extol as "virtuous" to carry any weight.Because the issue isn't an ultimatum. Who cares what "Jesus" is supposedly saying if he is not "Divine" or channeling the "Divine"?I don't know what that question is attached to, because the bible isn't a single organism, either ALL good and unanimous on EVERY issue or to be thrown out. Again, this kind of black and white thinking leads to fundamentalism."I don't quite think that's what Jesus taught ~ LewisWell, of course you don't. Somehow, the face-value language doesn't mean what it says whenever Jesus' own behavior raises an eyebrow.I don't think very many people, either in the faith or out of it, think Jesus was teaching us it was our place to curse anyone or anything by what he did to that tree. If that's the way you want to read that passage, that's your choice. I'm not responsible for what you choose. Fact is, in that passage he cursed a tree which bore NO fruit. Doesn't even really apply to the original point I made which was about another passage altogether."Just because Jesus himself did something, that doesn't mean he was teaching us to do it." ~ LewisSo, do as I say, not as I do.I'm not sure how that applies to anything. Are we, for instance, instructed to go catch a fish and pay our taxes out of what we find in its mouth? Or is that something that Jesus did ONCE for a specific purpose? At some point, we have to take responsibility for discerning the difference.@Libby…"My original point was that every Christian who reads the Bible with an open mind seeks to listen to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit is telling him (or her) should come to the same conclusions on major issues."What's the basis of that belief? The accounts of believers in the books of the bible don't support that belief, nor does life in general apart from any kind of religion.I know, Lewis, that your response is to say that my parents have it wrong, and that they might have been sincere but they were listening to X, Y, and Z rather than to the Bible and the Holy Spirit. It's just, that's not what it looked like to me. What I saw was two individuals truly seeking what God wanted, and doing everything possible to listen to Jesus and the Holy Spirit, and still coming to patriarchal conclusions.So – do you think they heard from God? Do you think they have it right?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    It's become a debate on the merits of which religious interpretation is "correct," lots of verses are coming out, and the believer is considering themselves automatically more of an authority on the subject because their interlocutor is an atheist.I haven't really brought out a lot of verses. Also, while it isn't a guarantee that the person is gonna be right on the issue being discussed, I'd think a believer's opinion on hearing from God would carry some weight with people who don't even believe God exists, and therefore believe hearing from Him is impossible. A common theme in Christian writing, and throughout the books of the bible, is "spiritual things can only be spiritually discerned".

  • http://www.greenegem.wordpress.com Claire in Tasmania

    Anonymous at 10:07: There area agreed rules, if you're interested, google 'biblical hermeneutics'. This isn't really the place to go into that.Libby Anne, if God yelled so loudly that he blotted out every other voice that a person has *willingly allowed* into his/her life, wouldn't that be coming awfully close to overriding free will?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "boomSLANG…You seem to desire a black and white version of Christianity before you'll accept it as believable" ~ LewisLewis, When I search for Truth, or what is more likely true, it's not about what I "desire". It's about what is actually true, or what is closer to the truth. Deconverting from Christianity wasn't something I "desired" to do; I fought it every step of the way, until I could no longer honestly believe it. So, I really don't appreciate you second-guessing me, and/or, pretending to know my "desires". In any case, when I read the same document that you say you're reading, I don't see the same "wiggle room" that you are evidently seeing. When I see Jesus say, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one goes to the Father except through me.", I'm sorry, but I don't see that as a "suggestion". Moreover, that the bible also promises that unbelievers will die a "second death" in a molten "lake of fire", this suggests a my way, or the highway mentality, AKA, black and white. If Christianity isn't "black and white", then why the need to punish people who don't accept it? "because you seem to devalue any answer to any query which you don't see in black and white terms." ~ LewisNo, what I devalue is answers that don't make sense to me, or when people I've never met pretend to know my mind. For instance…."I think if you'll look closely therein[...]" ~ LewisI have looked closely. You're simply concluding that if people don't see the same thing that you see, then they haven't looked closely enough and/or don't want it to be true. If anything's "black and white", that mentality is."you'll see exactly how people fall into fundamentalism" ~ LewisIn my view, "fundamentalists" have a more accurate view of what the bible actually says."Christian fundamentalism is almost exactly what you're doing, just from the other side of its mirror" ~ LewisFalse. I haven't once said anything about "Atheism" being "the way, the truth, the light", nor have I sought to make people here Atheists. I concur with the OP's author that it is glaringly obvious that "Jesus" gives conflicting advice(assuming people are actually hearing something beside their own conscious). We certainly won't find any common ground if you keep making demonstrably false charges.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    This is just a suggestion, but I wonder if it might be better for Boomslang and Lewis to turn this exchange into an email conversation. You two are both very set in your positions and convinced the other is wrong. But again, what you are discussing is whether the Bible supports a fundamentalist position or a more liberal Christian perspective, which may be a fascinating question but was not the point of this blog post.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "It's gotta be THIS way, or not at all." ~ LewisYou've erected a strawman. It is you saying that that is what I'm saying. I'm merely saying that, for me, something has to make consistent sense before I can believe it, and to me, Christianity doesn't—specifically, its supernatural claims and its views on morals/ethics."I don't think very many people, either in the faith or out of it, think Jesus was teaching us it was our place to curse anyone or anything by what he did to that tree" ~ LewisOn the other hand, if we are to believe that the teachings of "Jesus" are virtuous and/or admirable, then it makes senses to me that Jesus should lead by example. You obviously don't agree. Fair enough."If that's the way you want to read that passage, that's your choice." ~ LewisAgain, it's not "the way I want to read" it. It's what the face-value language actually says "I'm not responsible for what you choose." ~ LewisNor I have suggested that anyone other than myself is "responsible" for me and my decisions."Fact is, in that passage he cursed a tree which bore NO fruit. Doesn't even really apply to the original point I made which was about another passage altogether." ~ LewisYou said, Christ taught believers to identify the tree by the fruit it produces.IOW, "by their fruits you will know them", and I merely use Jesus' own teaching to show that Jesus' behavior isn't always admirable. If Jesus is truly the "Son of God", then I think it's reasonable to believe that he should always act admirably and always lead by example."Are we, for instance, instructed to go catch a fish and pay our taxes out of what we find in its mouth? Or is that something that Jesus did ONCE for a specific purpose? At some point, we have to take responsibility for discerning the difference."And again, 'apples and oranges. You are comparing duties that were applicable to the time when Jesus supposedly lived, to his behavior, and it is the latter that today's believers extol as "virtuous" and something after which we should model our own lives.A few questions, since I still have yet to understand what it is you actually believe:- Do you believe that "Jesus" is the "Son of God"? Yes, or no?- Do you believe that the bible is, in full, or in part, "God's Word"? Yes, or no?thx.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "This is just a suggestion, but I wonder if it might be better for Boomslang and Lewis to turn this exchange into an email conversation. You two are both very set in your positions and convinced the other is wrong."On the limited reading I've done, I don't think that I'm any more "set" on my position than any other nonbeliever here. Notwithstanding, if he wants to have an email conversation, and more importantly, if you think it's better to not debate here, I'm good with it."But again, what you are discussing is whether the Bible supports a fundamentalist position or a more liberal Christian perspective, which may be a fascinating question but was not the point of this blog post."It very easy for topics to branch off into other areas, especially considering who's debating and what's (supposedly) at stake. At a minimum, I'm agreeing with you that it looks like "Jesus" isn't being consistent with his advice to believers. Best,

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    "But again, what you are discussing is whether the Bible supports a fundamentalist position or a more liberal Christian perspective, which may be a fascinating question but was not the point of this blog post."Libby…I think, though, that it's at the core of the question this post presents. boomSLANG admits that a fundamentalist interpretation of the bible is the only one which makes sense to him, your parents obviously chose a fundamentalist, literal and narrow interpretation of the bible, and there are others who've left the faith who believe that fundamentalism, patriarchy, QF, et cetera, are the "logical end of following the bible". Black and white thinking, it's God's word or it isn't, et cetera.I think you guys are putting God, whether in reality or concept, and whether intentionally or unintentionally, into a corner. If he exists, he has to be an ass, or, he doesn't exist at all. It seems that demands are being placed on him which neither the bible nor life in general would give us any reasonable expectation of.Until it's equally considered that God may very well exist, and we may not have a say in who or what he is, or that we have to take personal responsibility for whether or not we hear him correctly and understand him (which sincerity doesn't guarantee), I don't know that the issue can be genuinely satisfied.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I hear what you're saying, Lewis, and I personally have considered those things. The point of the post was simply that listening to Jesus doesn't mean you will come to the same conclusion. I don't think this is some sort of proof that there is no God, and it's not why I stopped believing. I simply think that it's interesting, and that's why I wrote a post about it. My blog, my post. Trust me when I say that I didn't have a narrow view of God before I left religion entirely. Remember that I left fundamentalism BEFORE I left religion. I spent some wonderful years as a Christian who didn't believe that the Bible had to be infallible, etc. It's just that in the end core Christian doctrines didn't make sense. I didn't walk out of religion with my eyes closed, Lewis, and they're not closed today.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/03820077215682328240 boomSLANG

    "Remember that I left fundamentalism BEFORE I left religion." ~ L. AnnePhew! Thank you!…as did I. At one point prior to deconverting, I was a Christian Universalist who firmly believed that everyone was "saved". I tried to focus on only the lovey-dovey aspects of "Jesus", while ignoring (or creating bloated rationalizations for) the passages that didn't make sense to me. Lewis is evidently under the mistaken impression that exchristians deconvert for one or two reasons, where, personally speaking, it was many reasons for me, and not to beat a dead horse, but two of the many reasons, where, 1) the doctrine of "hell", and 2) why there isn't consensus among those who claim to be hearing "Jesus"(the topic)Eventually, I had to give into intellectual honesty and give up the watered-down version of Chrisitianity that I so desperately wanted to be true. In hind sight, if Christianity wasn't "black and white", why was I reading passages that promised to punish unbelievers? Why was I reading that "Jesus" was the ONLY way to ONLY one "God"?(rhetorically asked) In any case, I respect the blog owner's suggestion to not debate this subject here.Best,

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Libby…If this is what you believe…My original point was that every Christian who reads the Bible with an open mind seeks to listen to what Jesus and the Holy Spirit is telling him (or her) should come to the same conclusions on major issues. We're not talking about small things here (like, should I get a cat, or is homeschooling right for my family), we're talking about big things (like, are adult daughters still under their father's authority). At the very least, two people honestly seeking God should not be told directly contradictory things when both trying to sort through a situation, as happened with my parents and I. My question would be – Is this a logical conclusion, or an emotional one? I ask this because the bible itself, interaction between God and man given in accounts within the bible, human nature, the human experience, and practically everything we know about the world would argue against the logic of it.This is the point I've been trying to make all along, and it ties directly to your post.@boomSLANG…Lewis is evidently under the mistaken impression that exchristians deconvert for one or two reasons, where, personally speaking, it was many reasons for me, and not to beat a dead horse, but two of the many reasons, where, 1) the doctrine of "hell", and 2) why there isn't consensus among those who claim to be hearing "Jesus"(the topic)You have no idea what impression(s) I may or may not be under. I can understand your issues with the fundamentalist (or otherwise) doctrines of hell. It's your second reason that isn't a logical one.In hind sight, if Christianity wasn't "black and white", why was I reading passages that promised to punish unbelievers? Why was I reading that "Jesus" was the ONLY way to ONLY one "God"?(rhetorically asked) Rhetorical or not – the answer for MOST people in a similar situation is that they're committed to "the bible", not to Christ. Whether that applies to you, I don't know, but much of what you've said here suggests it does.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    Lewis – "My question would be – Is this a logical conclusion, or an emotional one? I ask this because the bible itself, interaction between God and man given in accounts within the bible, human nature, the human experience, and practically everything we know about the world would argue against the logic of it." Lewis, I am a very logical person. I make decisions based on logic, not emotion. It's part of my personality and who I am. And I personally think that my argument there is thoroughly logical. As to the rest of what you said here, I completely disagree.

  • Annoyedamous

    I STILL haven't seen anybody give REASONS why one interpretation of the Bible should be preferred to another.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    So you think the bible is evidence of complete agreement, or that life in general is evidence that, given the same parameters, criteria, material evidence, et cetera, that people will always reach the same conclusions?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    I think that if two people in a given situation are both working hard to listen to Jesus, and Jesus really talks directly to people, he should not tell them things that contradict.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    @Annoyedamous…Because some interpretations are better than others?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05596138376570543467 Lewis

    Libby…But then aren't you projecting your own idea of who you think Jesus should be into the equation?

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/10562805251128821984 Libby Anne

    All I'm doing is assuming that Jesus is consistent.


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