The Phoenix Affirmations: A Progressive Christian Statement

Chuck Queen recently shared the text of the Phoenix Affirmations in Baptist News. I am sharing them in turn below, and hope you will discuss them in the comments section.

CHRISTIAN LOVE OF GOD INCLUDES:

  1. Walking fully in the Path of Jesus without denying the legitimacy of other paths that God may provide for humanity.
  2. Listening for God’s Word, which comes through daily prayer and meditation, studying the ancient testimonies which we call Scripture, and attending to God’s present activity in the world.
  3. Celebrating the God whose Spirit pervades and whose glory is reflected in all of God’s Creation, including the earth and its ecosystems, the sacred and secular, the Christian and non-Christian, the human and non-human.
  4. Expressing our love in worship that is as sincere, vibrant, and artful as it is scriptural.

CHRISTIAN LOVE OF NEIGHBOR INCLUDES:

  1. Engaging people authentically, as Jesus did, treating all as creations made in God’s very image, regardless of race, gender, sexual orientation, age, physical or mental ability, nationality, or economic class.
  2. Standing, as Jesus does, with the outcast and oppressed, the denigrated and afflicted, seeking peace and justice with or without the support of others.
  3. Preserving religious freedom and the church’s ability to speak prophetically to government by resisting the commingling of church and state.
  4. Walking humbly with God, acknowledging our own shortcomings while honestly seeking to understand and call forth the best in others, including those who consider us their enemies.

CHRISTIAN LOVE OF SELF INCLUDES:

  1. Basing our lives on the faith that in Christ all things are made new and that we, and all people, are loved beyond our wildest imaginations—for eternity.
  2. Claiming the sacredness of both our minds and our hearts, and recognizing that faith and science, doubt and belief serve the pursuit of truth.
  3. Caring for our bodies and insisting on taking time to enjoy the benefits of prayer, reflection, worship, and recreation in addition to work.
  4. Acting on the faith that we are born with a meaning and purpose, a vocation and ministry that serve to strengthen and extend God’s realm of love.

Click through to read Queen’s thoughts about them, and see also Eric Elnes’ book, The Phoenix Affirmations: A New Vision for the Future of Christianity, for a more detailed treatment.

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  • Gary

    I tried to comment there but you have to be a Google, Disquis, or some other login person to comment. So I’ll do it here:

    “This new creed lost me at “without denying the legitimacy of other paths God may provide…”

    A comment from someone below.

    For me, this is simple. Jesus addressed an audience only in Jerusalem, as it existed around 30-33 BC. The fact that there were people in North America, Central America, South America, Australia, Asia, etc at the time (you get the idea), and the fact that mass telecommunications was nonexistent then, stretching the “salvation” card to all peoples and cultures of the world is a totally ridiculous idea. It rejects everyone else’s culture. It also ignores the fact that Jesus had an apocalyptic view of the world, as in “soon”. At some point, people have to be realistic in evaluating Jesus’s message. If rejecting every other culture and path to salvation was the message of Jesus, God would have shown up in a big worldwide broadcast screen in the sky in 33 BC, something like “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, and proclaimed it then, and not depended upon a bunch of lack luster sinners (humans), to spread the message. We seemed to be much better at spreading wars, not salvation.

    • Gary

      Had BC. Meant AD.

    • charlesburchfield

      I think if one is following a liveing loving god all contingencies for everyone who ever lived are met and affirmed in what jesus asked as he died ‘forgive them father they know not what they do.’

      • Gary

        Sounds good to me!

        • charlesburchfield

          I think if god can call a gutter drunk & criminal like me his best friend (& me recieving help and his felt presense to be sober & serene 10+ yrs) there certainly is reality in his love for every single human being who evah lived! Howza bout ‘all sinned in adam/all redeemed in christ’? Does all mean ALL!?

          • Nick G

            There was no such person as Adam – and if there had been, no-one else would be responsible for his actions.

          • charlesburchfield

            Adam responcible? no just the gift that keeps on rolling down the millenia; repeat trauma, p.t.s.d., alcoholism, psychopathy, sciopathy, personality disorders, incest, sexual abuse etc. who or what set the fire is the last thing I care abt. I wannu know who will pull me out of it!

  • John MacDonald

    Jesus clearly wasn’t a Universalist. Jesus claims He is the only way to God. In John 14:6, Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus doesn’t leave much room for debate. Jesus says whoever rejects Him “rejects the One who sent [him]” (Luke 10:16). So according to Jesus, there’s no other path to God. Also, Christianity contradicts certain other religions. For example, Hinduism says God is an impersonal force while Christianity teaches God is a personal being. Both cannot be right.

    • ChuckQueen101

      Progressives who interact in dialogue/debate with conservatives almost always are familiar with the conservative position and arguments. I really wish conservatives like yourself would at least familiarize yourself with progressive views and arguments. If you did, you would realize that no progressive believes that Jesus actually said what John says in John 14:6. That doesn’t justify dismissing John 14:6, but this was the Johannine community’s understanding of Jesus, not Jesus’ understanding of himself. Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God, not himself. The later followers of Jesus proclaimed Jesus. / James, if you are listening in I think you should do a piece on how it would facilitate discussion/debate if conservatives knew a little bit about progressive methodology, theological process, etc. You are just the scholar who should do it. I am running in to this again and again and it is so frustrating.

      • John MacDonald

        I’m an atheist – lol

        • ChuckQueen101

          Well, then if you are going to interact with progressives then at least familiarize yourself with progressive arguments so you don’t sound silly, unless of course, being silly is what you do.

          • John MacDonald

            In John 8:24 Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” Likewise 1 Cor. 15:14 says that “if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain.” The plain reading of these texts and the ones I posted before is that a person is lost unless they accept Jesus. As I said, not a universalist religion.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            You seem not to notice that the Gospel of John does not use the category of “lostness” in the way modern Evangelicals do. But ultimately, what is your point? No modern Christian views their faith in the same way ancient Christians did. Liberals openly acknowledge this. You seem to share the mistaken fundamentalist belief that it is possible to believe today precisely what early Christians did, that they all believed the same things, and that some people today actually manage to believe precisely what they did.

          • Nick G

            Of course no-one today can believe precisely what early Christians did, and of course they believed different things from each other. I’m sure John MacDonald knows both these facts as well as I do. But if you have any evidence that (once Christianity was distinct from Judaism) any of them denied the unique “saving” role of Jesus, or that he was literally raised from the dead – both of which beliefs have been common to almost all Christians historically, but which many liberal or progressive Christians now doubt or deny – I’d be very interested to hear it. (This is a genuine request – you know enormously more about early Christianty than I do, and I’d be most interested to learn that it was even more diverse than I’m already aware of.)

          • Gary

            I am getting old, and don’t follow logic as good as I use to, but you said:
            “But if you have any evidence that (once Christianity was distinct from Judaism) any of them denied the unique “saving” role of Jesus, or that he was literally raised from the dead – both of which beliefs have been common to almost all Christians historically, but which many liberal or progressive Christians now doubt or deny…”

            “Any evidence that any of them denied…”

            Seems you answered your own question.

            “Liberals now doubt..”

            Unless you are talking about the narrow case of

            “Once Christianity was distinct from Judaism…”

            When the last Ebionite or Gnostic died? But there are revived Gnostics (like in San Francisco) that are alive today. Lots of Kabbalahs in Hollywood. Maybe UU’s could be considered Gnostics.

            I assume you are talking about orthodoxy only. But orthodoxy never existed in a vacuum without other views existing, even if they were a minority.

            You need to read Bart Ehrman’s “Lost Christianities”.

          • Nick G

            Thanks for the recommendation.

            Unless you are talking about the narrow case of
            “Once Christianity was distinct from Judaism…”

            Well since I explicitly said that I was talking about that, it seems reasonable to assume that indeed I was talking about that. It is also, I think, clear from context that I was talking specifically about early Christianity.

            It doesn’t seem clear that the Ebionites were “distinct from Judaism”, and their beliefs are in any case known only through those who wrote against them. The beliefs of Gnostics seem to have been widely varied, and their relationship to Christianity is unclear.

          • Gary

            I think that is the point, that the dividing line between “other” Christianities (that is, not the orthodox) and Judaism was not very distinct. Karen King, and others, say Gnostic is a modern term that lumps a whole lot of related and unrelated groups together, and probably is not a good term. Ehrman’s book covers them (not modern ones, but the ancient ones). I think that is my favorite Ehrman book. Another good book is “The Gnostic Gospels” by Elaine Pagels. The orthodox view would say Christianity was created at Pentacost, separated in a clear break from Judaism. Christianity was a clear case of solidarity. Any Gnostics were clearly wacko heretics who might chose any member, including a woman, to lead a meeting as a bishop. No official clergy was necessary. But in reality, the first 200 years of Christianity was clearly chaos, with a wide variety of beliefs, from OT bad, Jesus a aeon, to OT good, Jesus a natural born man, no virgin required (Ebionites).

          • Gary

            From “Peter, Paul, and Mary Magdalene”, Bart Ehrman, “We know of Christians down into the second and third centuries who claimed allegiance with the teachings of James and insisted that these stood at odds with the view of the false apostle to the Gentiles, Paul. The group best known for making this claim was called the Ebionites…. What is clear is that the Ebionites, like the earliest Christians of Jerusalem, were a group of Jewish Christians who maintained that to be a follower of the Jewish messiah Jesus, it was necessary to be Jewish.”

          • John Thomas

            Personally I am willing to grant that you are right that traditional orthodox Christians would not have believed what current Progressive Christians believe now. But the problem with attitudes of many Conservative Christians and atheists is that if the understanding of traditional Christianity is proven false or not tenable based on our current understanding, entire doctrines of Christianity needs to be dispensed with. So either you should stick to traditional understanding or if not, you should not be a Christian. Firstly, I don’t believe in such dichotomous, all or none situation. Next, that would require a proper definition of what it means to be a Christian. If Christian is defined as what majority of Christians believed over last 2000 years, then you are right.

            Second problem is that there is an underlying assumption that Christians whose writings are published as orthodox Christian writings over centuries got their interpretation right about what gospels and epistles convey. Of course, the writers buttress that assumption with apostolic succession and authority. But nobody knows who wrote the gospels and epistles and whether those who interpreted these documents centuries later had any idea what its authors’ intentions were when they wrote it. There is a good possibility that these documents were originally written in one background and it was later interpreted by someone who came from a totally different background and that interpretation stuck in. One could only say that it was the most popular interpretation over centuries especially in a situation where orthodoxy was enforced with power and people other than bishops and priests were not much involved in study of scriptures.

            Liberal Christians usually accept the findings of critical Biblical scholarship especially if those findings are argued well based on available evidence and stands to scrutiny with various Biblical passages. Critical Bible scholars usually do not approach the material to conform to preexisting orthodox doctrine or conception and hence their conclusions might be different from traditional orthodox conception in many situations. I am not claiming that therefore they are right. But in most situations, at least to me, their scholarship makes much more rational sense while parsing through Biblical material than many writings of traditional orthodox Christians of previous centuries who wrote to conform Bible to given understanding of Christian doctrine.

            Finally liberal Christians are willing to grant that when our understanding of reality changes, one should be open to acknowledge that parts where authors of Bible make descriptions about reality, they are speaking from as how they understood reality and they do not stand for our current understanding of reality. But at the same time, they are willing to add that motifs that underline those writings if it is still relevant to our understanding should be accepted and not dispensed with entirely.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Quotation taken from http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/christians.htm

            The following account was written by the Roman historian Tacitus in his book Annals published a few years after the event. Tacitus was a young boy living in Rome during the time of the persecutions.

            “Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition – repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, – where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of “hating the human race.”

            End quote.

            The Gospels tell why Christianity was “repressed for a time” and that is because Jesus Christ had been put to death. The disciples shut themselves up in a room for three days, except for the rare straggler found wondering, such as Thomas had. But then Christianity “broke out yet again” at Pentecost and spread beyond Judea, the proclamation of a risen Savior their anthem. A historical record from 64 AD that is not from The Biblical Account that confirms its validity.

            Besides, the way to completely shut Christianity down was very simple: producing Jesus’ corpse. Many people knew where the body was, the Pharisees and the Romans could have easily produced the body if it existed. If Jesus was still dead then Christianity would never have boomed louder than it had ever boomed before, so loud that Tacitus took notice of them as did Nero.

          • John Thomas

            Firstly, I did not question historicity of Jesus. I still believe that a wise teacher by the name of Jesus who influenced those around him with his wisdom and interpretation of scriptures, would have lived in Jerusalem during that period and might have been crucified by Romans. I am only skeptical about how many of the sayings in the gospel account can be attributed to Jesus and how many of the events in the gospel account can be attributed to real historical Jesus and whether those sayings and events meant to be conveying deeper meanings or whether they are meant to be taken literally as most Christians currently do.

            Secondly, I am not fully convinced whether Tacitus account is about Jesus. It talks only about a messiah that suffered extreme penalty under Pilate. If Josephus is right, many messiahs were killed by Pilate and all of these messiahs had their own following. The term “Christians” itself need to be viewed with caution in my opinion. Maybe the term “Christians” was used by Romans to describe Messianic Jews during that period, we don’t know. If Josephus is right, Messianic movements rose and fell one after another under Roman imperialism during the first century and Messianism was a significant movement within Judaism of that period. It had its final climax at Bar Kochba revolt in 130 CE. So it is not clear whether he is talking about Jesus and Christians there. He could well be, but he could also well be talking about a messiah and messianic Jews who followed that messiah.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Quote: “Secondly, I am not fully convinced whether Tacitus’ account is about Jesus. It talks only about a messiah that suffered extreme penalty under Pilate. If Josephus is right, many messiahs were killed by Pilate and all of these messiahs had their own following. The term “Christians” itself needs to be viewed with caution in my opinion. Maybe the term “Christians” was used by Romans to describe Messianic Jews during that period, we don’t know. If Josephus is right, Messianic movements rose and fell one after another under Roman imperialism during the first century and Messianism was a significant movement within Judaism of that period. It had its final climax at Bar Kochba revolt in 130 CE. So it is not clear whether he is talking about Jesus and Christians there. He could well be, but he could also well be talking about a messiah and messianic Jews who followed that messiah.”

            Tacitus—“Therefore, to stop the rumor [that he had set Rome on fire], he [Emperor Nero] falsely charged with guilt, and punished with the most fearful tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were [generally] hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of that name, was put to death as a criminal by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea, in the reign of Tiberius, but the pernicious superstition – repressed for a time, broke out yet again, not only through Judea, – where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also, whither all things horrible and disgraceful flow from all quarters, as to a common receptacle, and where they are encouraged. Accordingly first those were arrested who confessed they were Christians; next on their information, a vast multitude were convicted, not so much on the charge of burning the city, as of “hating the human race.”

            You use terms such as “maybe” and “we don’t know”. Well, I think we do know and that you are being less than honest about historical facts.

            First, Josephus is known to be very accurate, so there are few instances one needs to say “if” on his account.

            Second, provide for us a historical record which says that Nero blamed the burning of Rome on anyone except Christians as is commonly understood.

            Third, provide a historical record which clearly describes any other group of messiah followers as Christians, but I believe you already said that you can’t.

          • John Thomas

            Firstly I did not reject that account. But it is not obvious that he is talking there about Jesus and Christians. He is talking only about a Christus. Christ is just a designation for Jesus, not a proper name. You have to show me Jesus was the only person who had the designation of messiah. You have to show me how Romans called messiahs, if not by the name of Christ. You have to show me how Romans addressed Messianic Jews during those period. If you can show me any historical record of the period, where Romans addressed Messianic Jews using a different term then I will be fully convinced of your claim. In my assessment, the term Christians solely as being understood followers of Jesus solidified only during later centuries. During the period of first century, it did not apply to followers of Jesus alone. If you are interested, there are even historical records of followers of Serapis Christus called Christians in Alexandria in first century. So it is not a unique term applied to followers of Jesus alone at least in the first century. Having said that, I already said that I am somewhat convinced that it could be about Jesus. Even if it were true, it changes nothing about my already held belief that a wise Jewish teacher named Jesus existed in Jerusalem.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            You have answered points 1 and 3, now answer 2.

          • John Thomas

            Even if Nero tortured Christians, you still have to prove that by “Christians” in those times, it could only mean followers of Jesus and no one else.

          • Nick G

            But the problem with attitudes of many Conservative Christians and atheists is that if the understanding of traditional Christianity is proven false or not tenable based on our current understanding, entire doctrines of Christianity needs to be dispensed with.

            If traditional Christianity has been wrong about so much, what grounds are there for thinking Christianity is right about anything?

            Second problem is that there is an underlying assumption that Christians whose writings are published as orthodox Christian writings over centuries got their interpretation right about what gospels and epistles convey.

            I don’t think I’ve made any such assumption. Rather, if people have been misled for nearly 2,000 years over what the gospels and epistles convery, that suggests they are too unclear to be useful guides to either facts or ethics.

            But at the same time, they are willing to add that motifs that underline those writings if it is still relevant to our understanding should be accepted and not dispensed with entirely.

            I don’t know what you mean here. Could you please restate?

          • John Thomas

            “If traditional Christianity has been wrong about so much, what grounds are there for thinking Christianity is right about anything?”

            So if Buddha and traditional Buddhism were wrong about reincarnation of souls, are you saying there are no grounds to think that Buddhism is right about anything it says and need to be completely dispensed with?

            “I don’t think I’ve made any such assumption. Rather, if people have been misled for nearly 2,000 years over what the gospels and epistles convery, that suggests they are too unclear to be useful guides to either facts or ethics.”

            Again you are assuming that people are misled about every aspect of what gospels and epistles convey. Even if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, his teaching will stand on its own merit whether or not he resurrected. For example, Jesus’ teaching of non-violence is still relevant in the world we live today. Jesus as a leader washing his disciples’ feet is counterintuitive to any understanding of leadership before him and it has revolutionized the understanding of leadership which was thought to be being served by others. Also there are many precepts in epistles which can still be used for ethical living.

            “I don’t know what you mean here. Could you please restate?”

            For example, Genesis account itself is a refashioning of the myths that were circulating in the region and describing the creation of everything based on how they looked at the reality. The entire account in its literal form does not in any way stands to scrutiny in how we understand reality now. But that doesn’t anyway undermine motif behind that writing which is to show that God alone is in charge of creation of everything there is. This is in contrast to earlier myths where multiple forces were in charge of creation. If that is the motif behind that writing, it could still be true even if we reject the way they expressed it.

          • Nick G

            So if Buddha and traditional Buddhism were wrong about reincarnation of souls, are you saying there are no grounds to think that Buddhism is right about anything it says and need to be completely dispensed with?

            I asked a question; i did not make an assertion. Why don’t you try answering the question I asked?

            Again you are assuming that people are misled about every aspect of what gospels and epistles convey.

            Again you are assuming (falsely, as it happens) that you know what my assumptions are.

            Even if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, his teaching will stand on its own merit whether or not he resurrected.

            What would we say today about a cult leader who told his followers they must hate their families and themselves, devoting themselves wholly to his service? About one who threatened the destruction of cities that failed to welcome his followers, and eternal torment for individuals who failed to believe his claims for himself? Is it really wise to “take… no thought for the morrow” (Matthew 6:34). Is it really a good idea to deny unhappily married couples, or women with abusive husbands, a divorce?

            But that doesn’t anyway undermine motif behind that writing which is to show that God alone is in charge of creation of everything there is. This is in contrast to earlier myths where multiple forces were in charge of creation. If that is the motif behind that writing, it could still be true even if we reject the way they expressed it.

            Thanks for the clarification. But there’s no good reason to suppose that it is true; and if it is true, it’s clear that God is not benevolent.

          • John Thomas

            “I asked a question; i did not make an assertion. Why don’t you try answering the question I asked?”

            Your question was: “If traditional Christianity has been wrong about so much, what grounds are there for thinking Christianity is right about anything?” I believe that all belief systems might have got something wrong about what they believed. But that is not a reason to think that it is wrong about everything it says. We take each of their claim on its own merit and do not use the falsity of one teaching as a reason to reject every other teaching. That is what a balanced person would do. But I would still like an answer for that question as I would like to know whether this is your stance on every other belief system.

            “Again you are assuming (falsely, as it happens) that you know what my assumptions are.”

            I am not assuming what your assumptions are. Your assumptions are patently obvious from the statements and conclusions you made in that post.

            “What would we say today about a cult leader who told his followers they must hate their families and themselves, devoting themselves wholly to his service? About one who threatened the destruction of cities that failed to welcome his followers, and eternal torment for individuals who failed to believe his claims for himself? Is it really wise to “take… no thought for the morrow” (Matthew 6:34). Is it really a good idea to deny unhappily married couples, or women with abusive husbands, a divorce?”

            Firstly if you are familiar with the works of critical bible scholars, you will know that there is lot of debate about what could be the original sayings that could be attributed to Jesus and what his later disciples put in his mouth for their theological advancement. So we don’t know what are the original sayings of Jesus.

            Secondly I cannot give an explanation for every teachings of Jesus as Jesus and I lived in different centuries and I don’t know the exact circumstances for a given saying and I don’t expect a person to be right in everything he says (P.S. I don’t believe that he was divine incarnate)

            Regarding hating their families, many scholars think that Jesus belonged to Essene sect of Jews who actually left their families to study scriptures and lead ascetic lives. It might have been addressed to his followers in the sect and not essentially to Christian community that grew out of his teachings later. The Greek word used is “miseo” which could also mean less extreme form like “love less or esteem less”. No thought for morrow is again instruction for those who are involved in ascetic practice.

            Regarding divorce, we don’t know what exactly Jesus was condemning in the situation he lived. What if people were misusing the divorce options; like marrying without any sort of commitment to stay in that relationship and want to get rid of the wife. Especially in that era, it would have been men who were divorcing women for no clear reason and pushing their lives to more misery.

            Finally even if it were true, we don’t agree with some teachings of Jesus, it does not follow from that all his teachings are not relevant. For example, when he says, greatest love one can have for another being is if one is ready to lay down his life for that being is a true statement. It is true even if we don’t want to implement it. We can say to someone that we love him or her, but it could be proved only if we are willing to sacrifice something that we hold dear to us for that person if a situation which demands it arises. Since we all have survival instinct, our life is something that we hold most dear to us and don’t want to sacrifice for anyone else. So it is true that true love is self-giving love whether we like it or not. So each teaching needs to be taken on its own merit.

            “But there’s no good reason to suppose that it is true; and if it is true, it’s clear that God is not benevolent.”

            Can you expand on it? I wish to hear your rationale for those statements.

          • Nick G

            I believe that all belief systems might have got something wrong about what they believed. But that is not a reason to think that it is wrong about everything it says. We take each of their claim on its own merit and do not use the falsity of one teaching as a reason to reject every other teaching.

            I did not do so. I asked what reason there was for thinking Christianity was right about anything. You still haven’t provided any such reason, so presumably you can’t. It is true that an individual or system can be wrong about some things and right about others, but when it is wrong about a great many – like Christianity – that is a rational ground for scepticism about its remaining claims, and we need positive reasons to credit them.I would say the same about any religion, since all of them make a lot of obviously false claims.

            I am not assuming what your assumptions are. Your assumptions are patently obvious from the statements and conclusions you made in that post.

            They are not “patently obvious”, as is clear from the fact that you got them wrong. I do not assume that “people are misled about every aspect of what gospels and epistles convey”, as you falsely claimed. I would be obliged if you would stop misrepresenting my position.

            there is lot of debate about what could be the original sayings that could be attributed to Jesus and what his later disciples put in his mouth for their theological advancement. So we don’t know what are the original sayings of Jesus.

            So since we don’t know what Jesus said, and what was put in his mouth by others, your claim that:

            Even if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, his teaching will stand on its own merit whether or not he resurrected.

            doesn’t make a lot of sense.

            For example, when he says, greatest love one can have for another being is if one is ready to lay down his life for that being is a true statement.

            Not necessarily. Many people value other things more highly than their lives; some actively want to die.

            If you think there is a good reason to believe in a single creator, then specify what it is. Certainly, none of the supposed proofs of or arguments for such stand up to rational examination, but perhaps I should have said no good reason has yet been put forward – after all, maybe you have one that you’ve been keeping to yourself. But if there is a single creator, the amount of suffering in the world makes it quite clear they cannot be benevolent.

          • John Thomas

            “I did not do so. I asked what reason there was for thinking Christianity was right about anything. You still haven’t provided any such reason, so presumably you can’t. It is true that an individual or system can be wrong about some things and right about others, but when it is wrong about a great many – like Christianity – that is a rational ground for scepticism about its remaining claims, and we need positive reasons to credit them.I would say the same about any religion, since all of them make a lot of obviously false claims.”

            First, give some examples of something that you think are right. Next, I agree that there is a rational ground for skepticism of claims of all writings but I don’t agree that there is rational ground to reject a whole writing completely without considering truth value of each of the claims individually. If after doing that, you see that none of the claims stand to scrutiny, then it is rational to reject it entirely. So I take the above statement as your personal opinion and you are entitled to it. I believe that there are lots of precepts in teachings of Jesus and epistles that can still be used for ethical living. Same goes for Buddhism. Even if Buddha was wrong about reincarnation of souls, I believe that he is right about many other precepts that he said. Same goes for Plato, Aristotle, Stoics, Vedantists and so on. You seem to take an extreme view on this matter. If you don’t know yet, current ethics draw a lot from the Christian writings. To say that Christianity has nothing to offer for ethical living is not something any balanced ethicist would ever make. Also if you are going to reject every writing and belief systems completely because of some false claims they make, you don’t have anything left to base your knowledge on.

            “They are not “patently obvious”, as is clear from the fact that you got them wrong. I do not assume that “people are misled about every aspect of what gospels and epistles convey”, as you falsely claimed. I would be obliged if you would stop misrepresenting my position.”

            If you don’t believe that people are not misled about every aspect of gospels and epistles convey, that means that you agree that there are some true ethical principles that is still relevant in gospels and epistles, that could be used as basis for ethical life. Then why should we dispense with it completely?

            “So since we don’t know what Jesus said, and what was put in his mouth by others, your claim that: Even if Jesus did not resurrect from the dead, his teaching will stand on its own merit whether or not he resurrected.” doesn’t make a lot of sense.

            I don’t see any problem there. I meant there, teachings attributed to Jesus. I don’t know every writings attributed to Aristotle have been written by one person named Aristotle. Some of them might have been written later by someone else under his name. That doesn’t prevent me in looking each of the concepts that has been laid in the book and see whether it stands on its own merit even today.

            “Not necessarily. Many people value other things more highly than their lives; some actively want to die.”

            If there is no life, there is no way we can pursue anything other. You have to have life first to pursue anything in life. Even if lets say that there are something that people value higher than life, question is whether they are willing to sacrifice that for someone they love. If they are, that means that person truly loves that person.

            “If you think there is a good reason to believe in a single creator, then specify what it is. Certainly, none of the supposed proofs of or arguments for such stand up to rational examination, but perhaps I should have said no good reason has yet been put forward – after all, maybe you have one that you’ve been keeping to yourself. But if there is a single creator, the amount of suffering in the world makes it quite clear they cannot be benevolent.”

            Well, I did not say that God creating everything is a proved fact. I take it as something that is beyond the reach of our epistemic certainty. So that statement could be true or false. So my statement that “it could still be true” still stands as you have not made any statement above that would anyway refute it. I agree that suffering makes the possibility of God as described in scriptures of Abrahamic religions as omnipotent less likely. That could only mean most popular conceptions of God might be wrong, but that shouldn’t lead us to conclude that therefore God does not exist (even though that is a possibility), only that our conceptions of God might be missing the mark.

          • Nick G

            You are still consistently misrepresenting my position. What I have been doing is asking for good reasons to think that Christianity is right about anything, that the gospels and epistles are ethically useful, and that a creator exists. You are consistently responding as if I had claimed that Christianity is definitely wrong about everything, that the gospels and epistles definitely contain no ethically useful content, and that there is definitely no creator. You have supplied no good reasons for any of the positions you hold.

            If you don’t believe that people are not misled about every aspect of gospels and epistles convey, that means that you agree that there are some true ethical principles that is still relevant in gospels and epistles

            No, that does not follow. Even if people were not misled about anything in the gospels and epistels, it could still be the case that nothing in them is relevant to ethics now. Logic’s really not your strong point, is it?

            I don’t see any problem there. I meant there, teachings attributed to Jesus.

            And yet in your previous response, you were keen to distance Jesus from some of the more repulsive sayings attributed to him on the grounds that they may have been falsely so attributed. Consistency’s not your strong point either, it seems.

            Even if lets say that there are something that people value higher than life, question is whether they are willing to sacrifice that for someone they love. If they are, that means that person truly loves that person.

            Yes, but what you said before is:

            For example, when he says, greatest love one can have for another being is if one is ready to lay down his life for that being is a true statement.

            You are now conceding that your chosen example of a strue statement attributed to Jesus isn’t always a true statement.

            Well, I did not say that God creating everything is a proved fact. I take it as something that is beyond the reach of our epistemic certainty. So that statement could be true or false.

            It could be true or false that the Great Green Arkleseizure sneezed the universe into existence, and it will end with the coming of the Great White Handkerchief. It could be true or false that the creator’s mum is about to call him down for supper, and he’ll decide to just switch the universe off rather than save it and restart later. It could be true or false that the universe spontaneously popped into existence last Thursday, and will pop out again tomorrow. So what? There’s no good reason to think that any of these things are true.

            I agree that suffering makes the possibility of God as described in scriptures of Abrahamic religions as omnipotent less likely.

            Not really. As I said, it makes a benevolent creator extremely implausible, but God as described in scriptures of Abrahamic religions is a tyrannical, pathologically jealous, dishonest, genocidal, misogynistic, psychopathic sadist.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            “What I have been doing is asking for good reasons to think that Christianity is right about anything, that the gospels and epistles are ethically useful, and that a creator exists.”

            So far as I’ve ever known, no liberal can answer your points because they are relative about their beliefs on everything. There is no reason to accept anything or reject anything. It’s all based on how we feel about things. To know good reasons about believing The Holy Bible and Jesus Christ you must ask a literalist.

            As for sound evidence that God exists, my personal favorite is the Laws of Thermodynamics. These are Scientific Laws, which means they have no known exceptions. The First Law says that matter and energy cannot be created or destroyed, only swapped between each other. The Second Law is commonly known as Entropy, all usable energy is being used up and all matter is becoming more disorderly. Simply, Law One means the universe has always existed, yet Law Two means the universe had a beginning and will have a Heat Death, where everything reaches Absolute Zero and all motion ceases.

            How can both of these Scientific Laws be in existence if all there is, ever was, or ever will be is this naturalistic universe? Only a being that is not confined within both of these Laws could ever fulfill the requirement of both. The universe is a closed system so far as Thermodynamics is concerned, but even mankind can make closed systems, and those systems were made by us, who are outside of the systems. God is outside the closed system of the universe.

          • Nick G

            According to modern cosmology, the net energy of the universe may well be zero. A brief explanation (I don’t pretend to understand the technical details myself) is given here. But even if this is not so, the first law (even assuming it does indeed hold in all circumstances) would not imply that the universe has always existed, because if it had a beginning, there would have been a first instant, when the net energy of the universe was already what it is now. There would have been no time before that instant at which it was different.

            Incidentally, we can’t create completely closed systems.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            I did not say that we’re at zero energy at this moment, net-wise or any other form. So far as I know, no scientists think that. I said that the universe will end in a Heat Death if left alone to wind-down as it is, according to the Second Law of Thermodynamics.

            According to this Law of Entropy, the beginning of the universe started with 100% usable energy and matter being completely organized. We do not have 100% usable energy now, but we still have plenty of usable energy, but less all the time. The sun is blasting energy in all directions, which most of it is lost to interstellar space. We turn on a light bulb, it gives off energy, but the energy will never be used again.

            This is where the problem lies. How can you have a beginning where no energy has been lost to an unusable state, yet have a time before that where assumedly you’d be counting to 110% energy, then 150% energy, which contradicts that energy cannot be destroyed, the First Law of Thermodynamics. The universe cannot be infinitely old as Law One demands, yet be wearing out as Law Two demands. Science has discovered an impossibility, which God is the only answer, plausible or implausible.

          • Nick G

            You have misunderstood my response – which is that the universe may actually be (and have always been) at zero net energy, so it could be of finite age without contravening the First Law – which alone is enough to demolish your claim. (Incidentally, nothing in the Second Law says that the universe started with “100% usable energy”.) I might mention that there are other possibilities, even if the universe does not have zero net energy. For example, the universe could be infinite in both time and space, so total entropy would always have been infinite. Moreover, the Second Law is statistical: entropy can fall within a closed system – it is just very unlikely to do so, for any sizeable system, within periods of billions or trillions of years; even after the “Heat Death” of a large but finite universe, at some very distant future point in time, order, and usable energy, could reappear. Furthermore, you misunderstand what is meant by a “scientific law”: it is not a provably true statement, but a description of a regularity that holds as far as we have been able to observe. Even the First Law might not hold in some circumstances, without requiring a god to break it.

            Science has discovered an impossibility, which God is the only answer, plausible or implausible.

            Are you really arrogant enough to think that somehow physicists have failed or refused to see what you think is so obvious?

          • AmbassadorHerald

            So, looking at your previous comment with this one, it all comes down to a single word—FAITH!

            Modern cosmologists are just hypothesizing about a zero-net-energy universe in order to get The Big Bang functional, but they have no way to prove it.

            Your hypothesis that extra-universal energy could enter the universe to re-kick-start it after a Heat Death is also not provable.

            Your assumption that zero-net-energy would allow the universe to pop into existence only works if you can also demonstrate how the universe has “zero-net-matter”. Both Laws of Thermodynamics apply to both matter and energy. This assumption is just a play-off of an unprovable hypothesis.

            The claim that the Laws of Thermodynamics may not operate at all locations of the universe is also unprovable, and rather nonsensical if you think about it. We are able to see out so far into the universe that we are supposedly seeing right after The Big Bang and we still see entropy at work. There is a reason these are still Laws even after all the knowledge we’ve discovered since their Law-hood was announced.

            You are basically telling me that you have faith in atheism. You do not like the Laws of Thermodynamics because they are a thorn in evolution’s side. Others see this fact as well, which is why cosmologists are trying to get around them. Faith is not fact. At least faith in God allows the facts to stay facts and follows the principle of Ockham’s Razor.

            This leads us right into your question, to which the answer is given in The Holy Bible. 2 Peter 3:5-7, “For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by The Word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth consisting out of the water and in the water: whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished: but the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same Word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the Day of Judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” (KJV, with alternate reading)

            So yes, physicists are refusing to see what is blatantly obvious. Jeremiah 17:9-10, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I The LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings.”

          • Nick G

            No, it does not come down to FAITH at all. It’s always odd when religious proselytisers accuse scientists or atheists of FAITH, since in other contexts they insist that FAITH is a wonderful thing – but in any case, the accusations are false. Unlike Biblical literalists and creationists, scientists recognise that their theories and hypotheses are provisional, and must be abandoned if contrary evidence appears. This is the very opposite of FAITH.

            Modern cosmologists are just hypothesizing about a zero-net-energy universe in order to get The Big Bang functional, but they have no way to prove it.

            Scientists are well able to distinguish between well-confirmed theories, such as the occurrence of the Big Bang, theoretically founded but still speculative hypotheses, such as the idea that the universe may have zero net energy; and invincibly ignorant nonsense such as creationism and biblical literalism.

            Your hypothesis that extra-universal energy could enter the universe to re-kick-start it after a Heat Death is also not provable.

            That is not what I said, and you are simply demonstrating that you do not understand the thermodynamics you are attempting to use. Try reading what I wrote again.

            The claim that the Laws of Thermodynamics may not operate at all locations of the universe is also unprovable, and rather nonsensical if you think about it. We are able to see out so far into the universe that
            we are supposedly seeing right after The Big Bang and we still see entropy at work.

            No, it is not nonsensical – after all, even you appear to have been able to understand it. Nor can we see “right after The Big Bang”. The oldest structures currently identified are being seen as they were several hundred million years after the Big Bang, and until around 380,000 years after the Big Bang, the universe was, according to current theory, opaque: light could not pass through it. There was a recent claim to have detected evidence of events very close to the start of the Big Bang, in the polarization patterns of light emitted at the point the universe became transparent, but this claim has now been withdrawn – an example of the plain fact that science does not rely on FAITH at all, but on respect for the evidence – something which you are completely unable to comprehend.

            There is a reason these are still Laws even after all the knowledge we’ve discovered since their Law-hood was announced.

            Indeed there is: they explain a great deal, and no evidence that they are violated has yet appeared.

            You are basically telling me that you have faith in atheism. You do not like the Laws of Thermodynamics because they are a thorn in evolution’s
            side.

            On the contrary, I consider that the laws of thermodynamics very probably are true in all circumstances, and as I have explained, this is quite possible. (Note that if God created net energy out of nothing, this would mean the First Law is not universally true, so in fact it is you who “do not like the Laws of Thermodynamics”.) Specifically, nothing about evolution (that is, the process by which life has diversified since its first appearance on earth) is in any way inconsistent with the laws of thermodynamics. I believe even Answers in Genesis has advised creationists to stop making this stupid claim.

            As for the rest of your comment, apart from its further confirmation of your arrogance, does it really not occur to you that quoting the Bible as slandering and threatening anyone who doesn’t believe the Bible is true, is only going to be convincing to people who already believe the Bible is true?

          • AmbassadorHerald

            No, it’s not a bad thing to have faith. The point is that most people, like yourself, do not see that they have faith. They think only Christians have faith, as if faith requires a deity. What makes faith good or bad is what you choose to put faith into. You are putting faith in the possible amount of net-energy we have in the universe—suggested to be zero. This being rooted completely in the desire that God does not need to be the answer to the impossible First and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. It is wishful thinking to solve a conundrum for the evolutionary religion.

            Now, about your statement on order and energy being able to reappear after a Heat Death, just where is said energy to come from? The only place I can think of is outside the universe. When a battery runs out of juice, it is dead. It does nothing, can do nothing, never will do anything. The only way for it to continue working is if somehow it could be recharged, which takes an external source of energy, independent and separate from the battery. Would not the same rule apply to a finite universe? You’d need a Universal Adapter to “plug it in” with.

            As for seeing only several hundred million years after the Big Bang, is not this a fraction of a single billion years? The universe is thought to be between 12 and 14 billion years old, which means we are seeing less than 1/12th and possibly less than 1/14th of total history since the beginning. That qualifies as just after in my book. Evolutionists are still trying to get a hypothesis together on forming complete galaxies in so little time, especially when stars take longer than this in the Nebular Hypothesis to form, starting from a static nebula to a full star.

            If you believe that both Laws of Thermodynamics apply everywhere, why even suggest that they might not? As if that would solve your problem? And trusting that God created a universe is not disbelieving in the Laws of Thermodynamics. Every Law needs a Law Giver. Someone who wrote and put said Law in operation. God is that author. The scientific principles used in making a functional automobile does not mean that the people that built it operate within the laws of an automobile. They are completely different from what they made, and so is God from this universe.

            Lastly, it does not matter ₵2 (cents) if you consider The Holy Bible true or not. Just like it does not matter if you consider New York, NY to be a real place. New York exists whether you want it to or not. The Holy Bible is true, whether you reject it or not. Each and every person takes only two stances: yes God or no God. Atheism is an unreal position. God will not send anyone to hell for “believing in no deity”. God will send people to hell for “rejecting Jesus Christ”. They chose no God, instead of yes God. Hell is the destiny of each and every person who wants to go there. The way out is clear, the way out is simple, but it takes a humble heart, and most people are too proud. Pride goes before the fall, after all (Proverb 16:18).

          • Nick G

            You are putting faith in the possible amount of net-energy we have in the universe—suggested to be zero. This being rooted completely in the desire that God does not need to be the answer to the impossible First
            and Second Laws of Thermodynamics. It is wishful thinking to solve a conundrum for the evolutionary religion.

            What ridiculous nonsense. If I was putting faith in the net energy of the universe being zero, then I would at least have to be affirming that as definitely true. I am not – as I said, it remains a speculative hypothesis. There is, of course, no such thing as “the evolutionary religion”. People of many different religions, and of none, accept the overwhelming evidence for evolution.

            Now, about your statement on order and energy being able to reappear after a Heat Death, just where is said energy to come from?

            No new energy is required. You have not got clear in your mind the distinction between energy and entropy, on which your whole argument depends. As I said, the Second Law is statistical in nature: it does not rule out a fall in entropy altogether, it just says it is extremely unlikely, for any sizeable system, on a timescale of billions or trillions of years. But if the universe continues to exist indefinitely after the “heat death”, then eventually, such a fall in entropy will indeed happen somewhere. You really should make some efort to learn about thermodynamics if you are going to try to use it in argument.

            As for seeing only several hundred million years after the Big Bang, is not this a fraction of a single billion years? The universe is thought to be between 12 and 14 billion years old, which means we are seeing
            less than 1/12th and possibly less than 1/14th of total history since the beginning. That qualifies as just after in my book.

            That is, frankly, just dishonest: you made your “just after” comment in the context of asserting that we can see entropy “at work” right back to the Big Bang: that does not mean “from some hundreds of millions of years after the Big Bang”.

            If you believe that both Laws of Thermodynamics apply everywhere, why even suggest that they might not?

            Because unlike you, I understand what a scientific law is: a formulation of a regularity that is believed to apply universally, but may not. For example, it was long thought that the conservation of matter was universal (you evidently still think this), so that was referred to as a law: but it turns out that it is not – matter can indeed be created and destroyed, by interconversion with other forms of energy.

            Every Law needs a Law Giver. Someone who wrote and put said Law in operation.

            This reveals a complete misunderstanding of what a scientific law is: it is not a piece of legislation. Words can have more than one meaning: the fact that the same word is used is a historical relic.

            I see from your last paragraph that you worship infinite evil: a being that (you believe) intends to torture people forever for being wrong. Do you do so out of fear, which would be understandable although not admirable, or do you get a sadistic thrill from imagining those who disagree with you screaming in unendurable agony?

          • AmbassadorHerald

            I just did a search on “Entropy Statistical” and you should be able to see the results here http://search.aol.com/aol/search?s_it=topsearchbox.search&v_t=client97_searchbox-ac&q=entropy+statistical

            In case you cannot see the results, the 2nd, 3rd, and 6th webpages are, respectively:

            A Statistical Definition of Entropy http://web.mit.edu/16.unified/www/FALL/thermodynamics/notes/node56.html

            The Statistical Interpretation of Entropy http://people.virginia.edu/~lz2n/mse305/notes/StatThermo.pdf

            Statistical Interpretation of Temperature and Entropy http://www.physics.udel.edu/~glyde/PHYS813/Lectures/chapter_9.pdf

            There is nothing really solid here either, the “statistical nature” of Entropy is merely an interpretation trying to give a different definition. Take the following quote for example:

            “Some evolutionists try to solve the problem by suggesting that the entropy law is only statistical and that exceptions can occur, which would allow occasional accidental increases in order. Whether this is so, however, is entirely a matter of faith. No one has ever seen such an exception, and science is based upon observation!”—Dr. Henry M. Morris http://www.icr.org/article/entropy-open-systems/

            Until some scientist can verify that Entropy at its core is merely statistical, and that it can fail to always bring disorder, it is not an act of science to make this claim but an act of wishful thinking—faith.

            It is true we can measure how disordered things are, but only if we know the original order. Magnetic letters to go on your fridge used to be very popular. If you saw a magnet for each letter of the alphabet, but not in alphabetical order and all mixed up. You might want to conclude that when they were originally put up, they were in order, but Entropy has disordered them. However, that is an assumption based on an event you did not witness, namely when the letters were put on the fridge. Maybe they were never in alphabetical order so assuming they were would give you the wrong statistic.

            However, demonstrating the amount of disorder in a system is not the same as showing the method which made that disorder is only statistical. The statistical likelihood of the Second Law of Thermodynamics, as far as Science has observed, is 100%. And 100% certainly qualifies as a given law.

            As for the Conservation of Matter, see this quote:

            “Conservation of mass implies that matter can be neither created nor destroyed—i.e., processes that change the physical or chemical properties of substances within an isolated system (such as conversion of a liquid to a gas) leave the total mass unchanged. Strictly speaking, mass is not a conserved quantity. However, except in nuclear reactions, the conversion of rest mass into other forms of mass-energy is so small that, to a high degree of precision, rest mass may be thought of as conserved.”—conservation law. (2015). In Encyclopedia Britannica. Retrieved from http://www.britannica.com/science/conservation-law

            Basically, it still applies universally.

            In regards to following Jesus, I do so because He asked me to “Follow Me” just like He asked the original 12. He was loving and welcoming and I said “Yes”. It is not His fault that many people would rather hold their selfish pride in His face and say “No”. Jesus sends people to hell only because they wanted nothing to do with Him, so He has nothing to do with them at their wishes. I do not get pleasure out of people suffering, though the most terrible ones I sure am happy they will get their just reward. But everyone pays for our crimes. You either go to hell or you come to Jesus and regret your sins. Besides, if I wanted you to suffer, I wouldn’t have told you the way out so you can not suffer. A wise person would accept what Jesus did. All alternatives are less easy, and all fail in the end.

          • John Thomas

            “You are still consistently misrepresenting my position. What I have been doing is asking for good reasons to think that Christianity is right about anything, that the gospels and epistles are ethically useful, and that a creator exists. You are consistently responding as if I had claimed that Christianity is definitely wrong about everything, that the gospels and epistles definitely contain no ethically useful content, and that there is definitely no creator. You have supplied no good reasons for any of the positions you hold.”

            I asked you few examples of things that you consider it as right so that I can know what you are talking about. Are you saying Christianity is not right about preaching non-violence? What about asking to love your enemies and forgive those who hurt you? What about if you have two blankets, give one to those who don’t have it, clothe the naked, feed the hungry? How about love your neighbor as yourself? How about give justice to those who do not have any advocates like poor, widows and orphans?

            “No, that does not follow. Even if people were not misled about anything in the gospels and epistels, it could still be the case that nothing in them is relevant to ethics now. Logic’s really not your strong point, is it?”

            I see that you did not respond to my statement that current ethics draw a lot from writings of Christian writers and any balanced ethicist would not say that Christianity has nothing to offer to ethics. If that is your personal opinion, then you are entitled to it.

            “And yet in your previous response, you were keen to distance Jesus from some of the more repulsive sayings attributed to him on the grounds that they may have been falsely so attributed. Consistency’s not your strong point either, it seems.”

            I offered skepticism that is offered by many critical Bible scholars including Bart Ehrman. But as long as we cannot prove otherwise, sayings still have to be attributed to Jesus. All I meant was to give benefit of doubt and charity considering that. Also, none of the sayings that you offered were repulsive. It just need to be understood in its context. But I do agree that there are other instances where I did not agree with what Jesus said or did. Either it was meant to be read literally or it was meant to convey a deeper meaning by its authors that I haven’t figured it yet. Personally I like to practice charity when I read ancient writings.

            Either way, even if Jesus said every saying in the gospel and even if we have decided to read it only literally, still it doesn’t matter to me in the least, if he said something wrong. As I said before, I will give due merit to him for the sayings he got right, but will acknowledge where I don’t agree with him but would not use it to undermine his wisdom in regards to what he got right. No human being is perfect. Remember my statement was “his teachings will stand on its own merit.” That means if his teachings that are relevant even now, have a truth quality to it; if not, vice versa, whether or not he resurrected.

            “Yes, but what you said before is: For example, when he says, greatest love one can have for another being is if one is ready to lay down his life for that being is a true statement. You are now conceding that your chosen example of a strue statement attributed to Jesus isn’t always a true statement.”

            I see that you ignored the first part of my response and used the second part of my response to have a go at me. Let us say that a house is on fire. The wife is trapped in a room covered with fire. Fireworkers are on the way. Now the husband took the rational stance, if he is going to jump into the room to save her, fire is so much engulfed that he is risking his own life, but once fireworkers came and went in, wife had already suffered enough burn injuries to succumb to death. Now I agree that just because he did not jump in to save her life does not mean that he did not love his wife. But consider the opposite situation. In this situation, husband runs into the fire, saved her life, but eventually succumbed to the burn injuries he suffered. Who showed the greater love here towards his wife? Now let us say, another husband says, ‘I voluntarily gave up my eager desire to spend my own time to study philosophy to satisfy my wife’s desire that I spend more time with her.” Is that love a greater love than husband who gave up his life? On a wider note, what is the best way how we can know whether someone truly love someone else?

            “It could be true or false that the Great Green Arkleseizure sneezed the universe into existence, and it will end with the coming of the Great White Handkerchief. It could be true or false that the creator’s mum is about to call him down for supper, and he’ll decide to just switch the universe off rather than save it and restart later. It could be true or false that the universe spontaneously popped into existence last Thursday, and will pop out again tomorrow. So what? There’s no good reason to think that any of these things are true.”

            Now you talk like Dawkins and other typical internet youtube atheists who have not invested enough time to study metaphysics or works of Stoics, Aristotle, Advaita Vedantists, Paul Tillich, Process theology or even lately David Bentley Hart. Even if all earlier myths were wrong, it still does not lead us to conclude that therefore a being like God does not exist. I wish to know whether you have any metaphysical view about reality. If yes, I would like you to lay it down for me.

            “Not really. As I said, it makes a benevolent creator extremely implausible, but God as described in scriptures of Abrahamic religions is a tyrannical, pathologically jealous, dishonest, genocidal, misogynistic, psychopathic sadist.”

            Not really. For example, God of process theology is a collaborative God who is constantly working with humanity to achieve its goals and by extension remove suffering. So if humans do not co-operate with God, God cannot do anything. It might not be omnipotent in that sense, but it is still benevolent.

          • Nick G

            Are you saying Christianity is not right about preaching non-violence?

            Yes, if you mean that unconditionally. Sometimes violence is a necessary evil.

            What about asking to love your enemies

            Wrong. There is no ethical obligation to love anyone, only to treat them well.

            and forgive those who hurt you?

            Demanding that people forgive those who hurt them is often a form of oppression.

            What about if you have two blankets, give one to those who don’t have it, clothe the naked, feed the hungry?

            Fine.

            How about love your neighbor as
            yourself?

            Daft. Again, there is no ethical obligation to love anyone.

            How about give justice to those who do not have any advocates like poor, widows and orphans?

            Fine.

            I offered skepticism that is offered by many critical Bible scholars including Bart Ehrman. But as long as we cannot prove otherwise, sayings still have to be attributed to Jesus. All I meant was to give benefit of doubt and charity considering that. Also, none of the sayings that you offered were repulsive. It just need to be understood in its context. But I do agree that there are other instances where I did not agree with what Jesus said or did. Either it was meant to be read literally or it
            was meant to convey a deeper meaning by its authors that I haven’t figured it yet. Personally I like to practice charity when I read
            ancient writings.

            Personally, I like to practice intellectual honesty when I read any writings.

            Even if all earlier myths were wrong, it still does not lead us to conclude that therefore a being like God does not exist.

            Nor does it mean the a being like the Great Green Arkleseizure doesn’t exist. So what? As I said, there is no good reason to think either exists.

            Now you talk like Dawkins and other typical internet youtube atheists who have not invested enough time to study metaphysics or works of Stoics, Aristotle, Advaita Vedantists, Paul Tillich, Process theology or
            even lately David Bentley Hart.

            Ah, the Courtier’s Reply in it’s purest form! But there’s no more reason to believe in the “unconditioned ground of being” (Hart) or “a collaborative God” (process theology) than in the all-powerful psychopath of the Bible. It’s perhaps worth noting that eminent philosophers are even more likely than eminent scientists to be atheists. This doesn’t prove they are right, of course, but these are the people likely to have spent most time and effort on pondering metaphysics.

            I wish to know whether you have any metaphysical view about reality.

            I’m a metaphysical (but not a methodological) naturalist: I believe (provisionally) that intentionality and other mental predicates are ontologically dependent on non-mental ones. I regard naturalism as a high-level hypothesis: show me evidence that it’s false, and I’ll reconsider. In some senses (but not all) mental properties and events are reducible to non-mental ones – in philosophical jargon, I’m a token physicalist.

          • John Thomas

            Just because you asked for it, here are some of the verses from Pauline epistles and you tell me whether they any of them has any relevance for current ethical living:

            Love should be sincere.
            Practice hospitality.
            Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
            Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
            Live at peace with everyone.
            Do not take revenge
            Live in harmony with one another.
            Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
            Do not be conceited.
            Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
            Behave decently, as in the daytime, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and debauchery, not in dissension and jealousy.
            Stop passing judgment on one another. Instead, make up your mind not to put any stumbling block or obstacle in the way of a brother or sister.
            Those who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak.
            Put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor.
            Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
            Anyone who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with their own hands, that they may have something to share with those in need.
            Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.
            Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.
            Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other.
            Do everything without grumbling.
            Rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.
            Clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
            Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone.
            Warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
            Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.
            Don’t have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments, because you know they produce quarrels.
            Encourage the young men to be self-controlled. In everything set them an example by doing what is good.

          • John MacDonald

            What does “sexual immorality” consist of?

          • John Thomas

            I am not sure whether there is an “atheist ” or “secular” definition of sexual immorality. I think any sexual acts are permissible if one is an atheist as long as it is not against the law of the land or maybe at least if one can stay under the radar of the law.

          • Nick G

            That is utterly ludicrous, and slanderous – the only-too-typical and blatantly false claim that atheists have no morality. Of course, atheists, like Christians and adherents of other religions, differ in their moral beliefs. I, like many atheists, take consent to be the main, although certainly not the only, foundation for sexual ethics.

          • Nick G

            some are relevant, some not. Since I have never said that nothing in the bbible is ethically relevant, your comment was pointless.

          • Jim

            “So we don’t know what are the original sayings of Jesus.”

            Ahh but John, we do know the original sayings of Jesus … it’s just that someone lost that Q copy (maybe the culprit was gospel author Mark’s doggie who also ate the last page of his gospel, or possibly an ancient ancestor of Mark Goodacre’s).

            :)

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Sorry for the delay in replying. I’d be interested to know what you make of the kind of Christianity represented in the letter of James in the New Testament. It doesn’t have any interest in Jesus’ death or resurrection, if the contents of that letter are anything to go by. That does not necessarily mean that the author did not believe that such things had happened. But at the very least, he apparently doesn’t interpret them theologically, nor build a theology focused on those events.

          • ChuckQueen101

            Your reading of these texts reflects the comment John Thomas made above. You are reading these texts the same way that conservatives read these texts. You would do much better if you argued with them.

        • John Thomas

          I don’t blame ChuckQueen101 as it is hard to differentiate between the writings of most atheists who comment on the internet and fundamentalist Conservative Christians as both groups take scriptures literally. I believe that most atheists that are currently most loud in US are reactionaries to fundamentalist conservative Christianity that is currently most loud in US.

          • charlesburchfield

            thx 4 that!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        Well put! I would add, however, that the one who talks about being the way in the Gospel of John is depicted as the incarnation of the light that gives light to every human being. And so the case can be made that this Gospel is less exclusivistic than its modern fundamentalist interpreters.

        • John Thomas

          Totally agree. I believe many of the verses that Jesus appeared to say in gospel of John need to be interpreted as Jesus talking as Word/Logos incarnate because writer of gospel of John sets the tone for gospel as Jesus being Word/Logos incarnate in the Prologue itself. For Greeks especially Stoics, Logos is the creative principle and rational intelligence that orders and infiltrates the universe and can be seen as the basis for all truths that is available to us. Jesus might be talking there as Word incarnate. So when he says, “I am the truth, the way and the life”, he is talking in the terms of he being the Word/Logos of God is the truth, way and life. And that Word/Logos can be understood in various other ways in other religions. In that sense, one could still argue for Universalist interpretation from that verse in my opinion.

    • Gary

      John verse, Jesus talking to Thomas. Poor Thomas. The author of John didn’t even like Thomas.

      Luke verse, right after Jesus said that, he said “Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall in any wise hurt you.” North Carolina snake handling verse. Thus, talks with a grain of salt, or you will lose your saltiness!

    • AmbassadorHerald

      Thank you so much Mr. MacDonald for your two posts regarding what The Holy Bible teaches, I am very pleased to see these things spoken out! I am even happier that an atheist knows The Gospel so well! Only thing you need to do now is allow it to change your heart and respond to Jesus Christ. Keep up the great work!

      • John MacDonald

        Thanks for the kind words. The idea that there are many different paths to heaven is a pleasant liberal idea, but it is foreign to the original Christian message.

        I don’t think I’ll be becoming Christian any time soon – lol. The idea that Jesus did miracles and rose from the grave is just as likely as all the other countless tales of miracle and magic that saturated the ancient world. Our ancient ancestors were gullible and superstitious. Religion back then was mostly a way of controlling the gullible, superstitious masses who didn’t know any better. Lucius Annaeus Seneca explained that “Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by the rulers as useful.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          I always find it interesting to see conservative religious people and atheists agreeing about the nature and character of religion, neither finding the agreement at all puzzling or problematic…

          • ccws

            …as if a tightly circumscribed, legalistic, forced, selective literalism were the ONLY way to read scripture… sigh… It bears no resemblance whatsoever to the Christianity I grew up with as an American Baptist Preacher’s Kid (including 4 years on a progressive seminary campus as an adolescent, soaking it all in)… sometimes I just want to bleeping SCREAM in frustration… /rant

          • AmbassadorHerald

            The mere fact that such strongly opposing worldviews—theism and atheism—can see the same message in The Holy Bible, the same message in The Gospel, and the same message in Jesus Christ, is evidence that this is exactly what The Sacred Scriptures teach. I do not find it weird or odd that John MacDonald agrees with what Christianity teaches from God’s Word. The Bible is not cryptic, it is not shrouded, it is not obscure, it is very plain in what it says and Jesus very specific on Who He is.

            The only people who try to make The Bible unclear are liberals (progressives), of whom I know of only two major groups. The first group are atheists intent on infiltrating the Christian churches, seminaries, and even the very minds of believers themselves. They want to destroy the faith of Christians by masquerading as Bible Scholars—and they are, only scholars at twisting Scripture to be what it is not. The other major group are Christians like James F. McGrath who have fallen prey to the schemes of our enemies and now fight with their once brothers and sisters. They are involved in a civil war.

            Truth is truth and what I have presented and what John MacDonald has presented is that truth. The only difference between atheists and liberals are that atheists are not afraid to come right out and say they want nothing to do with Jesus. Liberals are a lot less forthright, but the end result is no different. I thanked, and am thanking, God for sending John MacDonald to this blogpost and for giving him the strength to stand up and point his finger at what is really proclaimed from the sacred pages of The Holy Bible. God really does work wonders!

          • Jim

            As per your proposal that (conservative) theists and atheists both see the same message in the Holy Bible, implying that the enemy (atheists) of your enemy (progressive Christians) is … well … your friend), let’s see what your buddies are saying about the Tacitus’ account in your comment above.

            “… this line is probably an interpolation, and that Tacitus in fact originally described not the Christians being scapegoated for the fire, but followers of the Jewish instigator Chrestus first suppressed under Claudius (as reported by Suetonius …). The line about Christ being executed by Pilate was added sometime after the mid-fourth century …” [from Richard Carrier, OHJ, chapter 8, section 10]

            So it’s BFF, how sweet …. just messin wit ya … sort of :)

          • ccws

            Christus, Chrestus…damned Autocorrect! 😉

          • Jim

            :) – couldn’t get the smiley devil face going here like in facebook

          • ccws

            I know. Gotta fix that, but in the mean time…

          • ccws

            Shorter AmbassadorHerald: “The guy who affirms the same formula as I do even though he doesn’t believe it is better than the one who’s more concerned with following the life example of Jesus’s unconditional love for all than with assenting to formulas about him.” Strange bedfellows indeed… o.O

          • Nick G

            Perhaps it’s because that is the socio-historical reality, which you and your fellow religious liberals have a strong personal interest in denying to yourselves: when people who disagree fundamentally with each other agree that you’re wrong, well, maybe you’re wrong. Most Christians, at least, have historically been far closer to AmbassadorHerald’s position than yours. Probably most still are, if you consider it globally; and evidence from Europe suggests that the less exclusivist position may – at the societal rather than the personal level – just be a way-station on the way to a non-religious one.
            Edited to add: Amusingly, I see AmbassadorHerald has already made a similar point!

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Thank you so much nick.gotts for your two posts challenging what liberal theology teaches and supporting what the reality is! I am very encouraged to see these things confirmed by a person who has been at odds with me in the past! I only hope that you will respond to Jesus Christ before your final breath. Thank you again for backing up the truth!

          • Nick G

            I’m not the slightest bit interested in either your thanks or your smug condescension. If we have substantive things to discuss, fine; otherwise, I’d rather you didn’t address me directly.

          • John MacDonld

            Hermeneutics make strange bedfellows. lol

    • charlesburchfield

      jesus, i think, was identifying himself, in case we were wondering, how we are all going to find the way, truth, life. ones life is the question, his life is the answer for all of us bunnyrabbits! I do not think there is any exclusion in ‘it is finished!’

  • ccws

    “I have other sheep who are not of this fold, and I must go and gather them in as well.” —(attributed to) Jesus of Nazareth

    Jesus of Nazareth was a particular human being within a particular historical context – a Mediterranean Jewish peasant in an occupied country surrounded and permeated by Greco-Roman culture, and his message, originally spoken in Aramaic, was spread by people who wrote and spoke and thought in Greek (and later in Latin, and eventually in almost every language in the world).

    So the Jesus we “know” today is a product of at least two or three original cultures and a half dozen main languages if you include Hebrew, Coptic, and the one(s) we speak, seen mainly through one book interpreted through 2000 years of continually changing Western culture – and sadly, far too often interpreted through at most a couple of hundred years of (Anglo) American parochialism, detached from and in willful disregard of the deeper and wider history of both man and message because neither Darby nor Scofield was a scholar or historian or linguist nor cared to be (sorry, Fundagelicals, but them’s just the facts… /snark).

    ***WARNING: THOUGHT EXPERIMENT AHEAD***

    Imagine for a moment that the Incarnation had taken place in China, or India, or Mexico, or Zimbabwe. Those “Jesuses” would have lived within those contexts and come to us filtered through those cultural lenses. Would we even recognize one of those alternate Jesuses if he suddenly *POOFED* into existence before our very eyes? Likely not, I’d guess. Yet that which we in Western culture call the “Logos” – the Word and Mind of God that became incarnate in Jesus – transcends external culture, and his Greatest Commandment would be essentially the same.

    For instance, take Brahman – the Eternal Divine Soul, Ground and Source of all Being (a wonderful concept with perhaps its greatest Christian echo in Paul Tillich, who also spoke of the “God Beyond God”) – in Hinduism. Many Hindus revere Jesus as an avatar or incarnation of the Eternal, so let’s name that hypothetical Jesus Ramprasad (“gift of God”) and run with that:

    First, love God with all your heart, soul, and mind (bhakti yoga = “practice of devotion toward God, solely motivated by the sincere, loving desire to please God, rather than the hope of divine reward or the fear of divine punishment,” OK, I quoted Wikipedia, so sue me & take away my nonexistent comparative religion degree!);

    and second, love your neighbor as yourself (“This is the sum of the Dharma [duty]: do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” —Mahabharata)

    PLEASE NOTE:

    Nowhere does Jesus, or Ramprasad, say “Worship me.” He says, “Worship only God” and “FOLLOW me.”

    The Greatest Commandment is NOT “Pray the Jesus Prayer and be saved (or else you’re going to Hell).”

    It’s not “Believe in (and worship) Jesus (or else you’re going to Hell).”

    It’s not “Go to the right church (or else you’re going to Hell.)”

    It’s “Live in LOVE – for God, for your neighbor, even for your enemy.”

    Sorry, just couldn’t resist another bit of snark there, but the point still stands. God could have chosen to become incarnate as Ramprasad in India, and who’s to say that he didn’t? Our Bible doesn’t say anything about events outside the Mediterranean region. And what if the Gospel had come to us via Sanskrit scripture, translated via Gujarati and Hindi and interpreted by 2000 years of Indian culture? Would we recognize the Living Word of God and the truth of the message behind what we like to call “cultural baggage” (which of course everyone has, except us – ACK! More snark!)?

    And what if (HORRORS!) Ramprasad didn’t die a hideous death for our sins? That’s not why he came, any more than it’s why Jesus came. Jesus came to show people how to LIVE – and in his time and place, he made the Powers That Be so furious that they executed him. But his LIFE, so deeply and fully and knowingly and fearlessly lived even in the face of the most grisly and ignominious death imaginable in his day, was so powerful that he lives on in those who love him and try to be not necessarily “believers” as conventionally understood, but instead “belovers” (thank you, Marcus Borg!) and FOLLOWERS of his Greatest Commandment.

    Some of us choose to recognize and honor the Universal Message (“Love God with your entire being, and treat others as you would have them treat you”) that lies beyond the particular, and to realize that (to borrow from Bishop John Shelby Spong) if we follow the “Christ Path” as we understand it, it’s at least partly because of our cultural context.

    The Christianity I know teaches me that when I meet my Maker, I’m not going to be asked “Did you believe the right things, go to the right church, pray the right prayers, and get up in everyone’s face about it?” but “Did you show everyone the love you have for me by treating them with the unconditional love I have for you, and for them?” I leave it to the Gentle Reader to decide for him/herself whether that’s “Universalism” or not.

    Namasté, Ramprasad – the Divine Image in me salutes the Divine Image in you. Go in peace to love and serve.

    ***END OF THOUGHT EXPERIMENT. WE NOW RETURN YOU TO YOUR REGULARLY SCHEDULED CRISIS ALREADY IN PROGRESS.***

    p.s. LONG LIVE THE PHOENIX AFFIRMATIONS! I just ordered Elnes’s book on Amazon – $4 “used, like new” including shipping(!) Just hope it gets here before I leave on vacation in a week… *crosses fingers*

    p.p.s. I wrote this while listening to your songs on YouTube, James…GREAT stuff!

    • John MacDonald

      Your religion is friendly, but it’s not Christian. As I said above, in John 8:24 Jesus said, “Unless you believe that I am, you will die in your sins.” Likewise 1 Cor. 15:14 says that “if Christ be not raised, your faith is in vain.”
      Faith in Jesus is mandatory for being a Christian. For this reason Christianity is not a universalist religion.

      • John MacDonald

        And it would be odd if Jesus was a Universalist. The first commandment of the Judeo Christian religion states that “Thou shalt have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:3. KJV).”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          You seem not to realize that “universalist” involves a view of afterlife and whatnot that was itself innovative in Judaism. Conservative Jews in Jesus’ time didn’t believe in an afterlife.

          • John MacDonald

            We were considering the quote you posted about Progressive Christianity that said “CHRISTIAN LOVE OF GOD INCLUDES: Walking fully in the Path of Jesus without denying the legitimacy of other paths that God may provide for humanity.”

            My only point was that passages like John 8:24, John 14:6, 1 Cor. 15:14, and Luke 10:16 seem to suggest the only path to salvation is by accepting Jesus. This would seem to deny the legitimacy of other paths to God.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        That depends on, among other things, whether you think “all” means “all” in a variety of passages.

        But please do tell me what leads you to conclude that the historical figure of Jesus probably uttered the words placed on the lips of Jesus in John 8.

        • John MacDonald

          The author of John 8 was at very least expressing an exclusivist interpretation of what he believed the Christian faith to be.

    • AmbassadorHerald

      The Wise Men/Magi worshipped Jesus (Matthew 2:2 & 11). A leper worshipped Jesus (Matt 8:2). A ruler worshipped Jesus (Matt 9:18). Jesus’ disciples worshipped Him after He walked on water, saved Peter from drowning, and stopped the storm (Matt 14:33). A Canaanite woman worshipped Jesus (Matt 15:25). The mother of the Zebedee twins worshipped Jesus (Matt 20:20). The women looking for Jesus’ body worshipped Him when He met them on the way back (Matt 28:9). The remaining disciples worshipped Jesus, even with doubts in some of their hearts, just before He ascended (Matt 28:17).

      A demon-possessed man worshipped Jesus (Mark 5:6). The Romans who beat Jesus up worshipped Him, even if only to mock (Mark 15:19). The remaining disciples worshipped Jesus after He ascended, this time without doubts (Luke 24:52). The man born blind worshipped Jesus (John 9:38).

      Do you know what we never see in any of these instances? Jesus doing what we see Peter doing in Acts 10:25-26 (KJV), “And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, “Stand up; I myself also am a man.” ” Jesus never stopped anyone from worshipping Him. Seeing as Jesus always spoke of worshipping God only (Matthew 4:10, 18:26; Luke 4:8; and John 4:20-24) yet never stopped anyone from worshipping Himself, He was demonstrating that He Himself was in fact God incarnate!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

        So you believe that Daniel, Solomon, and the Christians in Philadelphia mentioned in Revelation 3 were God incarnate?

        • AmbassadorHerald

          You are not watching the Greek, and probably on purpose so you can twist Scripture. Not once is the word “before” used in any of the verses where Jesus is worshipped. This means that the worshipping here in Revelation 3:9 is not the same thing. These people are not worshipping the Philadelphian Christians, but worshipping God “in their presence” and “in their sight”. Since Biblical worship is nearly always with your face on the ground, your feet are behind you, so they are worshipping God along with those Christians in Philadelphia, because they are “at their feet”.

          This is how my solo study of the passage came out. Here are a few commentaries:

          Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible—“Behold, I will make them to come and worship before thy feet. The word rendered worship here, means properly to fall prostrate; and then to do homage, or to worship in the proper sense, as this was commonly done by failing prostrate. Cmt. on Mt 2:2. So far as the word is concerned, it may refer either to spiritual homage, that is, the worship of God; or it may mean respect as shown to superiors. If it is used here in the sense of Divine worship properly so called, it means that they would be constrained to come and worship “before them,” or in their very presence; if it is used in the more general signification, it means that they would be constrained to show them honour and respect. The latter is the probable meaning; that is, that they would be constrained to acknowledge that they were the children of God, or that God regarded them with his favour.”

          Coke’s Commentary on the Holy Bible—“Some understand the 9th verse, of the state of humiliation and subjection of the Jews to the Christian church; and others, of their future conversion to the faith. It has been, however, well observed, that were we more particularly acquainted with the history of those seven churches, in the times immediately succeeding the date of these epistles, we might, perhaps, find many remarkable illustrations of several passages in them, and of this among the rest. Supposing, for instance, that persons of considerable rank and dignity in Philadelphia were converted to Christianity, and the interest of the synagogue here spoken of was so weakened, or the Heathen populace of the place were so prejudiced against them, as that the chief members of the synagogue should find it necessary to court the protection of the Christians, for the security of their persons or effects, it will throw considerable light upon the place. The like observation may be applied to the clause in ver. 10.”

          Geneva Bible Footnotes—“And worship before thy feet. That is, fall down and worship either you civilly, or Christ religiously at thy feet (this is how I would rather take it) whether here in the Church (which seems more proper to the argument here) or there in the world to come, for Christ shall truly fulfil his word.”

          —–

          As for Daniel, you provide not even a chapter reference as you did with Revelation 3, therefore I shall provide it for those who do not know—Daniel 2:46. Anyone who reads this passage will notice the obvious, stated by Albert Barnes’ Notes on the Bible.

          Quote:

          Then the king Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face – This was the common method of signifying profound respect among the Orientals. Compare Ge 17:3; 50:18; Le 9:24; Nu 14:5; Jos 5:14; Jg 13:20; Re 11:16.

          And worshipped Daniel – The word rendered “worshipped” here (סגד segid), in the Chaldee portions of the Bible is uniformly rendered “worship,” Da 2:26; 3:5-7, Da 3:10-12, Da 3:14-15, Da 3:18, Da 3:28. It occurs nowhere else, and in every instance, except in the one before us, is employed with reference to the homage paid to an idol, all the other cases occurring in the third chapter respecting the image that was set up by Nebuchadnezzar. The corresponding Hebrew word (סגד sagad) occurs only in Isa 44:15, Isa 44:17, Isa 44:19; 46:6; and is, in every instance, rendered “fall down,” also with reference to idols. The proper idea, therefore, of the word here is, that the monarch meant to render “religious” homage to Daniel, or such adoration as was usually paid to idols. This is confirmed by witat is immediately added, that he commanded that an oblation should be made to him. It is not, however, necessary to suppose that Daniel “received” or “approved” this religious homage of the king, or that he left the impression on his mind that he was “willing” to be honored as a god. The prostration of the king before him, of course, he could not prevent. The views and feelings which the monarch had in doing it he could not prevent. The command to present an “oblation and sweet odors to him” he could not prevent. But it is not a fair inference that Daniel approved this, or that he did anything to countenance it, or even that he did not, in a proper manner, rebuke it: for

          End quote, for more see his notes.

          In other words, Daniel was not being worshipped as Yahweh incarnate, but as yet another new Babylonian idol. Again, you are not watching your Aramaic, but simply twisting Scripture as always.

          —–

          On account of Solomon, without a verse reference I have no idea where you even get his name from. I know Solomon turned to worship idols, but not that he was ever worshipped. However, based on the other two instances, you are not being honest about your examples. Dishonesty is supposed to be above a Christian’s character, which you claim to be.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            Actually the reason you may not be following me is that I am only focusing on the Hebrew and Greek texts and not paying attention to the English. You seem not to have been aware before this that the word “worship” in English Bibles reflects words in the original languages that denote prostration. Either prostrating oneself before another person indicates that they are God incarnate or it doesn’t. To insist that it does, and then complain that I am being dishonest when I point out that it doesn’t, is itself dishonest.

            In 1 Chronicles 29:20, we have one verb with two direct objects, God and the king.

            Throughout Revelation there is regular reference to prostrating oneself and/or falling before/at the feet of. Trying to claim that one particular turn of phrase distinguishes the act of prostration from all others simply won’t work (see especially Revelation 22:8).

          • AmbassadorHerald

            You have 100% ignored everything I wrote in my answer. Should I expect this to be a tactic you use often? I too am looking at the Greek, Aramaic, and Hebrew—which you would know had you looked at my answer in detail.

            —–

            Your first example—1 Chronicles 29:20, “And David said to all the congregation, “Now bless The LORD your God.” And all the congregation blessed The LORD God of their fathers, and bowed down their heads, and worshipped The LORD, and the king.” (KJV)

            You will notice, and no commentary is required to point it out, that King David told everyone to worship Yahweh Elohim alone. It was no fault of David’s that they decided to worship himself as well. This addition of worshipping King David was an act of sin and was in error. David did not claim to be God nor did he desire worship. Jesus claimed to be God and was able to be worshipped as God.

            —–

            Your second example—Revelation 22:8, “And I John saw these things, and heard them. And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which shewed me these things.”

            Before you make the point of the English phrase being the same here as in Revelation 3:9, compare “before thy feet” with “before the feet”, the Greek phrase is different. I explained earlier what it means in 3:9, here it means “in front of” or “against”. This was worshipping the angel, to which the angel replied.

            Revelation 22:9—“Then saith he unto me, “See thou do it not: for I am thy fellowservant, and of thy brethren the prophets, and of them which keep the sayings of this book: worship God.” ”

            Just like Peter in Acts 10:25-26 (quoted in my first response to ccws), this angel wanted no part of the worship. Worshipping Peter was sin, worshipping this angel was sin. Only God is to be worshipped, which Jesus was incarnate.

            —–

            Your third example—Revelation 15:4, “Who shall not fear Thee, O Lord, and glorify Thy name? For Thou only art holy: for all nations shall come and worship before Thee; for Thy judgments are made manifest.”

            I do not know why you recommended this verse, because it is from the Song of Moses and is giving worship to Yahweh. It does not help your cause to the slightest.

            —–

            Your fourth example—Luke 4:7 (alternate KJV reading), “If Thou therefore wilt fall down before me, all shall be Thine.”

            Parallel Passage—Matthew 4:9, “And saith unto Him, “All these things will I give Thee, if Thou wilt fall down and worship me.”

            Need I remind you that this is satan tempting Jesus? Had Jesus done this act it would have been sin, because He would have given satan that which only God alone deserves. This is why Jesus refused!

            Luke 4:8 (referenced in my first response to ccws)—“And Jesus answered and said unto him, “Get thee behind Me, satan: for it is written, “Thou shalt worship The Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” ”

            Matthew 4:10—“Then saith Jesus unto him, “Get thee hence, satan: for it is written, “Thou shalt worship The Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” ”

            —–

            You have only provided two examples of sin, one would-be sin, and one true worship. You have not dealt with my evidence countering your interpretations of Revelation 3:9 or Daniel 2:46, nor have you answered where you got Solomon’s name from. Time to deal with the evidence.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            You copying and pasting from dated online resources is not an “answer” and is both unhelpful and unnecessary. Please offer your own conclusions, perhaps based on the work of others, but in your own words. No need for plagiarism.

            You are still saying that worship of people is appropriate except when it isn’t, and when it isn’t appropriate according to you does not reflect what these texts actually say.

            It is Solomon who, in the story, is seated on Yahweh’s throne and confirmed as king, and so I presumed him to be the one before whom prostration is offered. If it is David, does that in any way affect the point? Have you actually read these passages, and not just isolated verses from them?

          • AmbassadorHerald

            The amount of misspelled words is evidence of speedy and emotional typing. I would say you just do not like that the answers work. Not dealing with evidence is just being lazy. I gave my own conclusions along with the quotations, and I gave credit where it was due, so I did not plagiarize. Why must I do all of the work when other people have already offered their work for use, and now in Public Domain?

            Edit 6/23/15—for future reference since the words are corrected: unhelful, appropriat, im amy.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            See also Revelation 15:4 and Luke 4:7.

          • Jim

            Sorry to just pop into the dialog between you and Prof McGrath (so just slap me and call me Satan), but your assessment of the meaning of Rev 3.9 above is an example of the harmonization approach (by literalists) that I had forgotten to mention in the ongoing conversation with you on the other post. That is, that English translations can obscure the original author’s intent (as naturally happens whenever translating across languages).

            So just basing exegesis on a word or two (from a back and forth with a lexicon), does not take into account an author’s particular writing style. For example, it is known that John of Patmos’ Greek was relatively poor (as compared to the much better Greek found in gMatt, gLuke and even gJohn). Basing an argument on an English translation along with a single word or two in the Greek, may not be the best strategy as it doesn’t consider how an author typically phrased his ideas. It also doesn’t mean that one can easily imply intent across multiple authors.

            But hey, that’s just my view from my armchair. Your comment on Rev 3:9 seemed very pertinent to my thoughts on harmonization mentioned elsewhere. Also, I appreciate the hard work that Bible translators have to go through, especially when one considers the number of variants available today.

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Please consult my response to James F. McGrath, but also see this Greek language expert below.
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/06/the-phoenix-affirmations-a-progressive-christian-statement.html#comment-2086783087

            A. T. Robertson’s Word Pictures

            Revelation 3:9

            I give (didô). Late omega form for didômi, but the -mi form in Re 17:13 (didoasin). These Jewish converts are a gift from Christ. For this use of didômi see Ac 2:27; 10:40; 14:3. There is ellipse of tinas before ek as in Re 2:10 (ex humôn) and see Re 2:9 for “the synagogue of Satan.” Of them which say (tôn legontôn). Ablative plural in apposition with sunagôgês. On the construction of heautous Ioudaious einai see on Re 2:9 (Ioudaious einai heautous, the order of words being immaterial). But do lie (alla pseudontai). Present middle indicative of pseudomai, explanatory positive, addition here to kai ouk eisin of Re 2:9, in contrast also with ho alêthinos of verse Re 3:7 and in Johannine style (Joh 8:44; 1Jo 1:10; 2:4). I will make them (poiêsô autous). Future active indicative of poieô, resuming the prophecy after the parenthesis (tôn—pseudontai, which say—but do lie). To come and worship (hina hêxousin kai proskunêsousin). “That they come and worship” (final clause, like facio ut in Latin, with hina and the future active of hêkô and proskuneô). The language is based on Isa 45:14; 60:14. The Jews expected homage (not worship in the strict sense) from the Gentiles, but it will come to the Christians at last (1Co 14:24). Later Ignatius (Philad. 6) warns this church against Judaizing Christians, perhaps one result of an influx of Jews. And to know (kai gnôsin). Continuation of the purpose clause with hina, but with the second aorist active subjunctive rather than the less usual future indicative. See both constructions also with hina in Re 22:14. Probably a reminiscence of Isa 43:4 in egô êgapêsa se (I loved thee), first aorist active indicative.

            Revelation 22:9

            See thou do it not (Hora mê). The angel promptly interposes (legei, dramatic present). See Re 19:10 for discussion of this same phrase hora mê when John had once before started to worship the angel in his excitement. Here we have added to the words in Re 19:10 “the prophets (tôn prophêtôn) and also “them which keep the words of this book” (tôn têrountôn tous logous tou bibliou toutou), the last a repetition from Re 22:7. In both places we have “Worship God” (tôi theôi proskunêson). And not an angel.

          • Jim

            Well since I don’t know any Greek, I can safely say that it’s all Greek to me. Admittedly, his analysis is pretty complex.

            Your clip from an electronic version of A. T. Robertson’s “Word Pictures of the New Testament” bears an apologetic tone rather than an unbiased literary analysis. And that is to be expected as he graduated from and then taught at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the 1920s-30s, where likely he would have had to sign a statement of faith in order to teach there. It’s even been said of him that he sought to equip his students with the proper tools for good preaching.

            I saw an excerpt for a promotion for “Word Pictures” that went: “Written forty years after Dr. Marvin R. Vincent wrote his Word Studies …. Robertson’s work incorporated new knowledge of his day gained from more scientific methods of language study.” Don’t you think that this notion extends to scholars today, working 80 years after Robertson?

            Now I’m not a total skeptic, and if there is ever a consensus among current scholars (including a few Koine experts who are not Christian; to reduce bias), that Robertson’s analysis is indeed dead on, then consensus it is. But until then, a pagan shall I remain.

      • ccws

        “Seeing as Jesus always spoke of worshipping God only (Matthew 4:10, 18:26; Luke 4:8; and John 4:20-24) yet never stopped anyone from worshipping Himself, He was demonstrating that He Himself was in fact God incarnate!”

        Lost in translation and confounded by the notions of multiple contextual meanings and linguistic drift (not to mention caught up in pointless profligate prooftexting and mass copy-and-paste), are we?

        In early English (including the early modern English of the KJV), “worship” = “worth” + “ship” = “the quality of being worthy” and by extension as a verb, “to acknowledge that worth in another” and hence back to a noun referring to that action. It was a generic term with no explicit mention of divinity, as it was in many other languages.

        All over the premodern world, “worship” could mean anything from showing proper respect for one of higher social status (hence the British custom of calling an aristocrat “your worship,” which persisted well into the modern era) to what we today consider “worship” – that given only to a god, typically via religious ritual. In our time and place (us ornery stuck-up modern ‘Murricans don’t bow to NOBODY, dadgummit! *grin*), it’s become almost exclusively the latter, hence the confusion. There’s also the confusion introduced by the ancient custom of worshipping rulers AS gods. Got a headache yet?

        For religious Jews as for other premoderns, there was “worship” in the general sense – showing recognition of another’s higher status – but unlike in other premodern societies, there was also “Worship” (of YHVH only). To consider bowing to another human being “Worship” as to a god would be idolatry, pure and simple. It’s important to distinguish the two, and your old-school KJV-based references (including your Greek/Hebrew/Aramaic “sources,” which are also filtered through the 400-year-old KJV and 100-year-old apologetics rather than through the broader modern disciplines of history, cultural/social anthropology, and historical linguistics) don’t do that.

        (Granted, idolatry – misplaced “Worship” – often ran rampant in Israel/Judah, confused the issue, and kept the prophets in business, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms. OTOH, when the Chosen People got monotheistic, they got SERIOUSLY monotheistic. In the three centuries of so surrounding the life of Jesus, mass outrage, riots, and even war broke out over – among other things – various rulers’ attempts to install imperial and pagan imagery in and around the Temple and require emperor worship.)

        In short, In Jesus’s time (and for many centuries afterward), it was customary to bow not only to royalty or nobility, but also to one’s elders/parents or teachers as a sign of respect. So it’s unclear whether the disciples’ bowing and “worshipping” Jesus constituted “Worshipping” him, simply giving him his customary due as their teacher, or a mix of the two. It certainly does NOT mean he was declaring himself God. He could have accepted their “worship” as social custom without considering it “Worship” of himself as God Incarnate. Indeed, as a religious Jew (albeit an unconventional one) he would have considered “Worship” of himself idolatry.

        • AmbassadorHerald

          Most of what you are working off of as your base has already been dealt with in the following comments:

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/06/the-phoenix-affirmations-a-progressive-christian-statement.html#comment-2086247132

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/06/the-phoenix-affirmations-a-progressive-christian-statement.html#comment-2086783087

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2015/06/the-phoenix-affirmations-a-progressive-christian-statement.html#comment-2086785470

          You are also forgetting that Jesus said, “I and My Father are one.” (John 10:30 KJV).

          Also, in regards to the demon-possessed man, why were the demons so terrified of Jesus? Because of James 2:19, “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble.”

          Jesus was God, and could be worshipped, and still can be worshipped.

          • ccws

            Shorter AmbassadorHerald: “My sources have been called out as academically obsolete and skewed by apologetics, so I’ll just link back to them.”

            All righty then…

          • AmbassadorHerald

            Mocking a position without giving a response, same as no one else has yet given a response, does not in any way support your own viewpoint. If you have evidence which counters the evidence presented, then provide it. If not, then consider yourself to have an answer as to why Jesus Christ can be worshiped without it being idolatry.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            You have simply copied and pasted from older materials available online from apologetically-oriented sources which agree with you, and which are thus trying to explain away or find ways to reinterpret material that does not say what they think it should. When they do it, it is no more convincing than when you do it. And so perhaps now you can understand why you need to actually engage in a different sort of discussion of the evidence, or otherwise will find that no one thinks you are a serious conversation partner?

          • AmbassadorHerald

            And you have simply ignored the things they point out. You have offered no rebuttal of their evidences, or mine. And so what if I am using sources that agree with me? Is that not what you do on a daily basis? Don’t be hypocritical. All you want to do day after day is make The Holy Bible into a book of human origins without any link to Yahweh at all. You try to explain away all the evidence to the contrary of that notion. Yes I am doing the same in the opposite way, but we’re opposites. You can’t let that stop you from engaging the arguments. Not dealing with something when presented to you is just plain cowardice and only goes to demonstrate that you have no counter. If you want people to take you seriously, then you must step it up or you are looking more and more like Romans 1:22.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

            The Bible simply is a book with human origins. Its authors in many instances wrote their names. They wrote in human languages, expressing themselves in different styles. Claiming that God was pretending to write in different human individuals’ styles is making God out to be a liar. But once again, you are free to make the case for another point of view if you wish. But if you simply post unpersuasive material from elsewhere, few people are going to consider you to be engaging in conversation with them.

            It is always ironic when a fundamentalist who is professing to be wiser than the experts tries to throw Romans 1:22 at someone else.

          • ccws

            The Bible IS a human book – a story of the human experience of the Divine working in history. Its very HUMANITY – its record of the struggles of real people like us to understand that experience, the wide variety of documents that resulted, and the obvious efforts throughout (traceable in multiple strands of thought within the scriptures themselves, not to mention long afterwards in the choice of the canon) of humans to interpret, harmonize, integrate, and live by those documents – is what makes it unique among all the sacred writings of the world.

          • ccws

            One of the first things I learned from my Baptist minister dad was that if you can’t put your faith into your own words, it isn’t really yours. Another was that a faith that runs away from new discoveries and the questions they raise isn’t worthy of the name.

            I gave you a thought experiment, and I gave you an example of historical linguistcs, from which I drew my own conclusion in my own words based on a lifetime of reading and listening to modern scholars and processing that new knowledge to make it my own. You’ve regurgitated several bunches of obsolescence, with a lack of original content that would get you a D on a term paper if you were lucky – twice if you count linking back to it. (I suspect I’d get a C but at least I’m trying. *grin*)

            When you contribute an original thought, ask a relevant question, or present something based on proper scholarship, I’ll answer you. Until then, you’re ripe for mocking.

  • ccws

    My copy of Eric Elnes’s book arrived today, just in time to take it on vacation tomorrow!

    YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYY!!!1!eleventyhundredeleven!1!!!!!