We Get the God We Can Handle

We Get the God We Can Handle October 29, 2009

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tailorIn yesterday’s The Moment of My Christian Conversion–And How Mistaken It Left Me, I left off wondering why God chose “to reveal of himself just enough to deeply inspire people, but not so much that they would actually agree upon the beliefs inspired by that inspiration.”

That’s right; that’s how I roll with my Rollerball.

No, but you know what I mean? You wouldn’t think that God, of all people majestic entities, would be as willing as he apparently is to leave so much of who and what he is so completely up to the interpretation of his individual adherents. I think it’s safe to say that if God wanted all of us to think and understand the exact same things about him—if he wanted to once and for all make perfectly clear exactly who he is—he would, and we would. But that hasn’t happened. And that leaves so many people who call themselves Christian with so many radically different ideas about what that does or should mean that it’s reasonable to wonder—and it’s certainly reasonable for someone outside the faith to wonder—whether or not we’re all really worshiping the same God.

One group believes in a God who holds that women should possess no authority in His church, and that when they die all homosexuals and people who don’t believe in him go straight to hell. Another group believes that women make excellent pastors and bishops, that unrepentant homosexuals are as welcomed in heaven as anyone else, and that heaven is available to all, Christian or not.

Can that really be the same God?

Of course it can. People might … get a little muddled, but God remains eternally God. (And in truth, who can blame any Christian for being at least a little confused about God? Have you tried to read the Bible?)

So for those of us who believe in his infinite wisdom and power, the question is why God has arranged it so that different people who believe in him believe such wildly different things about him.

My answer is that God is exquisitely orchestrating his relationship with every one of us in a way that exactly meshes with what each of us most needs. God knows our life, our heart, our mind, our history, our psychology. So, in the manner of a loving God, he melds into our consciousness in a way that respects us—that works with us, that ennobles us, that enhances not just who we are, but who he knows we can become.

God starts with us where we are, period. And then, within each of us, he begins working on that process by which we are all ultimately rendered the same.

Apart on earth; together in heaven.

Keeps things spicy, doesn’t it?


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  • John,

    I agree that it is probably impossible to get all Christians on the same page on all the issues addressed in God's Word, and that certainly some of them are open to interpretation, which is influenced by other factors which weigh on each of us. However, where there are absolutes spelled out clearly, we need to strive for agreement here on earth in hopes of reflecting His glory here as much as is possible. I think waiting until heaven to settle it all out can lead to unnecessary pain for those on the journey.

    For instance, your position on homosexuality, while it may be a "please everyone now and let God sort it out later" approach, is harmful. Confusion on this issue destroys families and puts men and women into bondage. The church should be the place where Christians can find straight and clear biblical answers regarding sexuality, but we leave it to culture to direct. Cowardice should not be a characteristic of Christianity. Sexuality is a reflection of God's creative intent for men and women. To treat homosexuality so flippantly shows a disregard for one of the most painful struggles Christians face. The Bible is clear about homosexuality being wrong. Surely you know that. We need to be about the business of loving homosexuals and helping them discover God's intent rather than just shrugging our shoulders.

  • Thom: Where/when did I state my position on homosexuality? I certainly didn't in this post. Which means that's … the Big Thing on your mind about God. Why are you so deeply concerned—and from the fervency of your question, I might even say obsessed–about that, of all things? (Oh. I see from your blog that you are "a married father who has fought and fallen and risen again to fight against same-sex attraction." Well, then. Never mind. Carry on. And good luck to you.)

  • Janelle: You said, "Any belief, no matter how destructive or harmful or, even, apathetic, is justified, according to your argument." The word "justified," right there, becomes a really interesting word. I didn't actually say that, at all. But forgoing any too complex exploration of the relationship between what you've asserted I said and what I actually did say, I can definitely say this: it doesn't matter whether whatever anyone believes is "justified" or not. You're not going to change anyone's beliefs, and either is anyone else. People believe what they believe. Our choice then, is to assume that either God will work on them in a way that is pleasing to him (and so is or would be to us), or that he won't. I think he will. So I don't really care what anyone else believes. I trust God to bring people to him in his own time and way.

  • John,

    My apologies. Actually, I should have said that your blog mentions differing positions on homosexuality. I don't really know what your position is and shouldn't have presumed that. I truly misspoke there.

    What you wrote: "One group believes in a God who holds that women should possess no authority in His church, and that when they die all homosexuals and people who don’t believe in him go straight to hell. Another group believes that women make excellent pastors and bishops, that unrepentant homosexuals are as welcomed in heaven as anyone else, and that heaven is available to all, Christian or not."

    What I really meant to say is that it is important for us to be clear as Christians on that particular issue. The open theology that is being presented these days by some groups that acting on out on homosexual temptations is not a sin, is not Biblical. Being tempted is certainly not a sin, but acting out on the temptation is. Gays who are Christians will certainly be in heaven, as many times our sexual brokenness is something that manifests itself in our lives before we become Christians and is not magically removed at conversion. It takes a desire and yielding to God's will. That yielding is certainly more likely to occur if we as Christian provide clarity and not confusion.

    And yes, I am a married man who has struggled with unwanted same-sex attraction, as do many men and women within the church. I hope your statement; "Carry on. And good luck to you." truly was one of support. I think you were a bit unfair to characterize my desire to help others walk to freedom in such a way as to say it is "The Big Thing on your mind about God." You don't know me, or my walk with God, well enough to be so dismissive. It is not an obsession — as you said — but an area of interest because I see people struggling with it. When you say "of all things," you are mocking something that is important. I would not have done so with issues you believe are important to you.


  • FYI, John. We do have one thing in common. My second book, "Those Not-So-Still Small Voices," was published by NavPress. And it certainly does not reflect what you assumed to be my obsession.

  • Thom: Fair enough. I sincerely apologize, and thank you for your patience. I shouldn't have allowed my exhaustion with the bombings I'm forever getting about (to quote the latest such email) "loving the gays," to prompt me to react to you too, as you say, dismissively.

    It's true we have radically different understandings of homosexuality as it relates to Christianity, but I certainly do wish you luck in your struggle to be happier, whatever that entails for you. I wish luck to anyone who is hoping that God will change them from gay to straight. Cuz that's a … tough row to hoe.

    (And let me tell you: I definitely feel sorry for anyone who's had a book published my NavPress. If your experience with them was half as bad as mine was, you've got nothing but sympathy on that from me.)

  • John,

    Thanks for your response. I appreciate it. I do agree with you that this struggle is a tough row to hoe, but my pursuit is for holiness more than happiness. I want to be on the path God designed for me, as he says in Jeremiah 29:11: "'I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." My comfort in the struggle comes from knowing that He has a hope and future for me . . . and if my desire is for Him, he'll reveal it. That's more important than the happiness, "whatever than entails for me."

    I understand the bombings you get. I get them also. This can be a very divisive issue, particularly if we forget that God loves all of us, broken as we are. We have a tendency to look at another person's brokenness as being greater or lesser than our own. Truth is, we all have, as you say "a . . . tough row to hoe."

    Thanks again . . . and keep up the good work of trying to communicate with people who are seeking to know more about God.


  • John, I'm right with you here.

    How is it the same God appears to the same people with polar opposite mind frames about him and how he works? He blesses those who depend on Him entirely for their every need, like the flowers of the field and the sparrow do, and God blesses those who, religiously, give sizable amounts of money to TBN Praise-a-thons.

    Makes me scratch my head…and worship.

  • "God starts with us where we are, period."

    This is called grace and without it, people like me would be residing in Hell right now.

    But I think – possibly – the real reason there are so many different types of Christians is that we have not been taught the true gospel. The one which Jesus taught, which was the gospel of the Kingdom of God.

  • John,

    My experience with NavPress was a ways back, so I can't really speak about how well they are representing their authors today. I worked with them directly and not through an agent. My current book is with a very good agent and hopefully she will find the perfect publisher soon. I guess you are working with different publishers now? I'm going to order a copy of your book. Though, as you said, we disagree on one particular issue, I do like the way you communicate.


  • Larry,

    Without grace, I would be your neighbor in Hell, I assure you. And you're right, we have the watered-down Gospel, and Gospel-lite, and Gospel-heavy, which places so many burdens of legalese on the Christian that we can barely see the light above our heads. Jesus was not that hard to understand.


  • Larry: But who is going to teach this "true gospel" you speak of? Who knows it? Where'd it come from? All we have is the Bible. And (and here we really disagree, Thom) the Bible is about as complex and abstruse a book as exists.

  • John,

    I'm not sure we disagree. Actually, what I said was "Jesus is not that hard to understand." The Bible as a whole is very complex. Jesus' teachings, on the other hand, not so much. Granted, we can make even simple things complex if we try to make them fit our preconceived hopes.


  • So, John. Where do you draw the line, then? Monotheism? Christianity? What defines Christianity? The Creeds? The name of Christ only?

    Just probing your thoughts!


  • “God is exquisitely orchestrating his relationship with every one of us in a way that exactly meshes with what each of us most needs…he melds into our consciousness in a way that respects us…”

    I think this is true. The Word is living and active. God speaks. And in his relationship with me he speaks differently than he does in his relationship with another believer. The Holy Spirit works in my life in a unique and personal way.

    But I don’t think that this truth is the answer to your original question, because it seems that the different beliefs in the Christian world do not always “mesh with what each of us most needs”. Any belief, no matter how destructive or harmful or, even, apathetic, is justified, according to your argument.

    Hmmm. Still thinking about this.

  • John,

    There seems to be an 800 pound gorilla in the room. You posit that God reveals himself to each individual uniquely and in a manner that makes sense to the reveal-ee. You feel that this is an intellectual answer to the obvious problem that God seems to make it very difficult to get the word out…the word that he wants to get out. Clearly it is a little puzzling that he would start that process by showing up amidst a bunch of largely illiterate, isolated, desert tribes with very limited means of communicating with the rest of the world. As you noted, he also apparently gives individuals grossly divergent messages as to what he wants.

    The problem is that what you posit might work to explain the unexplainable, but it also means that any individual can believe absolutely anything they want and still be ‘correct’. Does noone see the danger of such theology? If God ‘reveals’ himself to a simple bigot…surprise!!….God endorses his xenophobia. This idea cedes every bit of reason and introspection and is a penultimate dumbing down of our intellect.

    John; you have posited theological ideas before, but this [IMO] has to be the worst of them. It is mere whitewash of the intractable problem (which you recognize) of gross inconsistencies.

  • Mike,

    I'm sure John will respond on his own, but I couldn't help jumping in. The intractable problem of the inconsistencies is not as big a problem as we sometimes want to make it. I know there are great debates about whether the Word of God is inerrant . . . and many examples given about where things don't always line up perfectly. However, if you first take the Bible as truly being His Word and then examine the various inconsistencies as errors made by imperfect men transcribing and translating through the centuries, you can come to the conclusion that it is indeed inerrant as His Word and stands as such despite the errors men may have made in carrying it forward. The "hills to die on" are still there and the errors become less important. We have a tendency to inflate the inconsistencies to the point where we discount the validity of God's Word with the end result being the elevation of man's.

    While I don't agree with John that we can leave the reality of who God is up to everyman's individual interpretation, I do agree that God reveals Himself to us in different ways and that much of that is dependent on our willingness to perceive and receive. The differing interpretations, I think, are often due to our unwillingness to accept Him as never-changing and our desire to re-make Him into a more comfortable image that conforms to our idea of what God would be like if we could create Him today (Idolatry). The truth is and always will be: He is the Creator and we are not.

    We would do well to study harder to get a look at His true face instead of reading him through our mirror.


  • Mike: the word "penultimate" doesn't mean what you think it does. And you've utterly misread what I wrote. Not your fault; I'll gladly take responsibility for having failed to communicate what I meant. (And the truth is you make my case: we all hear what we want to/can.)

    Thom: Your articulateness is bracing. I don't think there's a thought you've expressed here that isn't predicated upon an assumption that I think definitely warrants further exploration–but you sure do say well what you say. Nice. Rare.

  • Thom,

    My real point is not about the inconsistencies, but John effectively saying that those divergent interpretations are intentional. This makes no interpretation objectively correct or incorrect and simply sweeps a theological problem under the rug…and is to my mind profoundly dangerous and anti-intellectual. The reality is that if God were who believers claim, he would be able to get a consistent message out without compromising 'free will'.

  • Thom: You're Mike's newest project. Good luck.

  • John: I'm sure that everything I say warrants further exploration. I'm always exploring, and I'm so thankful everything is not easily laid out. I think God understands our need for mysteries which drive us back to Him. I don't want to be wrong on anything if I can help it, but if I am right on the big issue, eternity is the prize.

    Mike: God truly does not compromise "free will." It was His gift to us and the exercise of it, while it creates great tension, also teaches us lessons and demonstrates the truth about Him and His design. It allows us to learn from our mistakes and gives us a greater desire to invest in the lives of others. Without it, I'm not sure what would drive us back to Him. I think the intentional divergent interpretations are a result of man's intent, not God's. My decision to believe Him at "His Word" is based in part on trust and in part on a vast experience of exercising my own free will.

    We will always have theological problems, and we shouldn't sweep them under the rug. But, as we examine them, we need to keep in mind that faith supersedes. Without faith, problems are just quizzical little things.

    LOL. I think most people who have take me on as a project give up eventually. I have a very stubborn soul


  • John – This seems like as good a time as any to appear a little suck-up-ish. As I observed my 13-year-old son sitting on our sofa reading your book "I'm OK – You're Not" earlier this week, unprompted, I was reminded how grateful I am for your message in the cacophony of Christian influences to which he is subject. At that moment and in following thoughts, I determined to make that book required reading (or at least suggested) for all of my teenagers.

    I sincerely admire a couple of things in particular about your thoughtful and provoking insights, both here and in that book: Your determined commitment to the foundational elements of the preeminence of Christ. Whatever happened in that supply closet, you definitely came away with a certitude in your commitment to Christ that is admirable, and mixed with the rest of the package that is John Shore, it generates a pleasant and unique taste that I've come to appreciate.

    Furthermore, your determined commitment to let God be God in the face of overwhelming ideological dogma from every direction is truly refreshing. I could not agree more. Let's allow the love of Christ and the power of his reconciling life, with all the righteous judgment it has and will bring to bear, to manage the boundaries and limits of tolerance. For me, I hope to exalt Christ to a point where I can merely manage my own issues, much less those of the world he has called me to love and be an extension of his light.

    Blah, blah, blah – maybe you get the point through that: you're cool; I'm a fan; let's start a new denomination!

  • "But who is going to teach this “true gospel” you speak of? Who knows it? Where’d it come from? All we have is the Bible. And (and here we really disagree, Thom) the Bible is about as complex and abstruse a book as exists."

    Actually, Christianity differs not so much on the major points as stated in the Bible but rather on minor points, such as baptism, gifts, eternal security, the rapture, etc. So on most of these minor points we could do something like dunk people in water and then sprinkle them lightly. In this manner, everyone is happy. Big deal, and not eternally important one way or the other.

    All Christianity agrees on one point: Jesus. That should be enough to at least bring us into a little bit of unity, okay?

    Now, as far as the "true gospel" goes, I was not referring to an exact theology one way or the other. Instead, I was making the point that the word "gospel" was a shortened form of the phrase which Jesus used often: "gospel of the Kingdom of God."

    And if we look at the gospel as being the "good news about the Kingdom of God," we are going to have totally different insights. We will view Christianity not as a religion to live up to, but rather a life to live out in God's kingdom, serving the King.

  • Amen, Larry. Minor points aside, our unity is in serving the King, which we can do by faith through grace and more with hearts focused on seeking than minds focused constantly on probing and disproving. Living out instead of living up would go a long way towards removing the shackles of legalism that have turned off and turned away so many.


  • Mike,

    The greatest indication to me that there is a God — and only one — at work in our universe is my own life . . . where I've been, where I am now . . . and where I know I'm going. I think sometimes the pursuit of a sharper intellect dulls one's faith to the point where neither matter.

    God is.


  • ‘Penultimate’ was a poor choice of words. I was merely meaning to convey that such ideas were major contributors to the dulling of our intellect.

    As long as y’all realize that what is being presented here is saying that

    1) God could make us understand clearly

    2) God chooses not to make us understand clearly

    3) God wants us to understand clearly

    I feel it necessary to point out that our disparate and divergent ‘understandings’ of God and his interaction with us are precisely would be unchanged if there were no God at all. This just seems like more tortured philosophical gymnastics to make theology fit the fact that there is no indication of any gods at work in our universe.

  • Thom said: "God is"

    I don't deny that you fully and wholly believe that, but you position is merely "I don't understand how I got here, therefore [my] god did it." which is an argumentative failure of the highest order.

    Just ponder that the argument that was posited in John's essay is precisely the same type of argument that one would have to formulate if one were trying to justify a non-existent god…which was the whole point of my jumping in on the thread. Replace 'God' with 'Vishnu' or 'Zeus' in his essay and you might get a feeling of what it might sound like to someone on the outside of the bubble.

    Thom said: "I think sometimes the pursuit of a sharper intellect dulls one’s faith to the point where neither matter."

    How so? Is there a time when the pursuit of knowledge and understanding are bad? Is knowledge and understanding only valid if it affirms god-belief?

  • Mike,

    You put quotes up there around a statement I did not make and thus bolstered yourself by attributing to me an argumentative failure I didn't achieve. Neither Zeus nor Vishnu claim to be the great I am and the one who was and is and ever shall be. How odd that you would argue against something I believe with something totally fictitious. Rather than arguing against the accuracy of what John did say, you try to refute it with something he might have said. That's pretty weak for a thinker.

    And no, the pursuit of knowledge is never bad in my estimation. However, if it requires setting aside faith, then it begins on pretty weak legs, apparently needing shoring up in advance to make it easier to accept wherever it leads you. My pursuit of knowledge affirms God. If yours doesn't, that's your journey, not mine.


  • Candace

    Mike wrote: "God seems to make it very difficult to get the word out…the word that he wants to get out. Clearly it is a little puzzling that he would start that process by showing up amidst a bunch of largely illiterate, isolated, desert tribes with very limited means of communicating with the rest of the world."

    Yeah, and look how poorly it worked out for Him. (grin)

  • Well, 2000 years with only 30% in the loose affiliation and all the divergent Christian sects is not something that I would put on my resume.

  • Methinks, Mike, that you should worry a little less about the resume and a little more about the relationship. It's always been pretty clear that a lot of people would reject God and His path. Jesus talks of two roads we can walk in our lives: the narrow road and the wide road. The narrow road leads to life and only a few ever find it. The wide road is the road of destruction and many find it. (This is in, of course, the book of Matthew)

    Honestly, if you're Jesus, you don't need a resume anyway . . . but I think He's accomplished what He said He would do. He came. He died. He rose again. He's made eternal life available to every man and woman. And He did all of that and still left you with the free will to reject Him and take the wide road. Diverge if you must, but . . . for heaven's sake . . . don't blame Jesus. And don't say He was just a teacher or philosopher. He said He was the Son of God. If that's not true, he really would be more of a lunatic than a teacher.


    Jesus talks of two roads we can walk in our lives: the narrow road and the wide road. The narrow road leads to life and only a few ever find it. The wide road is the road of destruction and many find it.

  • Thom said: "He said He was the Son of God. If that’s not true, he really would be more of a lunatic than a teacher."

    Does claiming that one is the Son of God make it so? What if I claimed to be the Son of God? Do you really think that Jesus was the only preacher claiming to be the Messiah? Are you familiar with other near-identical stories. A sampling:

    Horus – Sun God of Egypt, born on December 25th of the virgin Isis-Meri. Had 12 disciples he traveled about with, performing miracles such as healing the sick and walking on water. After being betrayed by Typhon, Horus was crucified, buried for 3 days, and resurrected

    Attis, of Phyrigia, born of the virgin Nana on December 25th, crucified, placed in a tomb and after 3 days, was resurrected.

    Krishna, of India, born of the virgin Devaki with a star in the east signaling his coming, performed miracles with his disciples, and upon his death was resurrected

    Dionysus of Greece, born of a virgin on December 25th, was a traveling teacher who performed miracles such as turning water into wine

    Mithra, of Persia, born of a virgin on December 25th, he had 12 disciples and performed miracles, and upon his death was buried for 3 days and thus

    In Jesus' time, there were plenty claiming to be the messiah.

    I know you concern for my relationship with God comes from a compassionate place within you, but I prefer to have a relationship with thinks that have some indication of existing.

  • Mike,

    No, claiming does not make it so. If that were the case, we would have even more than the ones you cited. My point actually was that there are many people who really revere Jesus Christ as a great and wise teacher, but nothing more. I think that would be a fallacy in that it would require dismissing the centrality of His teaching and the basis for it, as well as His most important claim. I know that there were many besides Jesus who claimed to be the Messiah. None of them fit the prophecies of the Old Testament as He does. None of them have the witnesses He does as recorded in the New Testament. Yes, I know you can find other religious writings to support other supposed Messiahs, but the Word of God is the Word of God.

    Mike, of course I have compassion for you. I would want for you the good fortune of being able to enjoy science and have assurance as well, as thinking Christians do. But, as you said, it is your preference to have a relationship with things that make sense to you and that are more tangible. That is what we do in the absence of faith. Those of us who are Christians know that without faith, there is no relationship with God and no walk with Christ. I prefer the evidence of things not seen because it enriches my life in a way that your indicatives cannot. And naturally I would want that for you as well and can pray to that end, knowing it is truly between you and God.


  • Mike: What'd you mean, now, by the second half of that last sentence?

    Also, I thought your list of Christ-like myths and so on really interesting. So I picked one to research. I chose Horus. I read the long and apparently well-researched Wikipedia article on Horus, and found nothing confirming or even mentioning the points you raise about him. Then I read this clearly well-researched article on Horus and, again, found nothing related to anything you've asserted as true about Horus.

    On religioustolerance.org (a site for which I have a great deal of respect), I did read this:

    One problem with comparing events in the life of Horus and Yeshua relates to time. Horus was a leading figure in Egyptian mythology for millennia. Folklore about him naturally proliferated during this interval. So, for example, there is more than one story about the method by which he died.

    Then I got bored (not with Egyptian mythology, but with the idea of selecting one of the zillion stories and myths about Horus and pretending it's the only one—as I already knew you'd done with Krishna, since I'm familiar with that figure)–and not at all surprised to find you doing exactly what you so relish accusing Christians of doing: filtering out of your assertion the vast amounts of readily available information that clearly contradicts or invalidates it.

  • John,

    Excuse the typo, the last half of the last sentence should have 'thinks' replaced with 'things'. So the meaning should be more obvious. But it merely echoes my central 'thesis' that it is important that something of such import should be true (as opposed to just desirable). Of course I have no reason to contest that Jesus of Nazereth existed in the person. I merely find no dispassionate reason to think that he was the son of God in light of all the other claimed messiahs and miracle workers of the era.

    Regarding Wikipedia: There is a reason that Wikipedia is verboten as source material for school essays. Anyone can edit them and if you had read the very top line you would have seen the warning "This article's factual accuracy is disputed. Please see the relevant discussion on the talk page." You are probably familiar with the discovery that the Church of Scientology has banks of human Wiki editors that expunge unflattering things from their Wiki entries.

    Regarding ReligiousTolerance.org: If you read their mission statement, it is pretty clear that it would be in their interest to not include anything that might challenge the veracity of one of their member faiths. On Horus in particular, I think relating the similarities between Jesus and Horus would be quite IN-tolerant.

    I don't know what the most credible source of Egyptian mythology might be, but there are a number that have some or all of the key elements… one being http://www.egyptiandreams.co.uk/horus.php. That said, I will do a little scholarly research on Egyptian mythology.

  • Hi John.

    You said: “Apart on earth; together in heaven.

    Keeps things spicy, doesn’t it?”

    Well, that’s one way of putting it.

    I kinda look at the bible differently. But you knew that, right? *grins*

    Here’s my querry: Does god truly intend for /everyone/ to be in heaven with him?


    I dunno about that. Here’s why: When I read the bible to me it seems clear to me that god does NOT want all of humanity in heaven with him. Now before y’all get all riled up let me show you where I’m coming from:

    How many warnings are there in the bible of the consequences of not following this particular view of god? (the bible view) How many times does god order the deaths of non-confrormants in the bible? (some estimate that overall 33+ million have perished) Does he not give instructions on weeding out non-believers and in some instances even demands they be put to death? (Do not suffer a witch to live comes to mind here.)

    Ok. Now with that in mind, does this not indicate that god only wants a certian kind of person in heaven with him? Believers of course it would seem, correct?

    But here is when I started wondering:

    Why does god order some be put to death if he wants all to be in heaven with him? Why all the rules and ways to weed out undesirables if he wants ALL to be in heaven with him? IF there are undesirables then that means he doesnt want them near him, yes? And if these undesirables do not conform and convert just the right way they are toast, yes?

    And that is what puzzles me. Why would god want EVERYONE to go to heaven when it is clear not everyone makes it?

    Oh yes, it can be said we screw that up and not god for failure to be Christian because we are born full of sin, etc, etc. BUT, is it realy that simple?

    Dont believe and you go to hell?

    IF that is the case then it is clear to me that god fully /expects/ many will not be in heaven with him. And here is where is gets depressing for me in my view: It is also clear to me that god does NOT want some in heaven with him.

    God only wants believers and only believers and will REJECT those who fail to become Christian.

    Is that it? Realy?

    Here is where the bible for me does not become so much the rulebook of how to be love and worship god, but more like instructions on how to breed a perfect human.

    And that is when I put the book down and listen to god.

    God the Creator has chosen a non-Christian path for me. Always has. And many will say the same; that god does not want them to be Christian, that they finally found god outside of Christianity, etc.

    If /that/ is true; that God leads others to non-Christian faiths, and the bible is true, then it seems that it is ALSO true that god purposely /choses/ some to be NON-Christian.

    Which of course translates that god purposely /choses/ some to go to hell.

    Of course this is just ONE way of looking at it; your millage may vary.

    Personally, I dont see God the Creator that way. Never did. If I did I would be mightly depressed. And, goshdernit, God the Creator is much too big for that.

    John, you said: “My answer is that God is exquisitely orchestrating his relationship with every one of us in a way that exactly meshes with what each of us most needs. God knows our life, our heart, our mind, our history, our psychology. So, in the manner of a loving God, he melds into our consciousness in a way that respects us—that works with us, that ennobles us, that enhances not just who we are, but who he knows we can become.”

    I agree: I feel God comes to you in the form and way you can relate to that which sings in your heart.

    It’s just that God the Creator isnt always Christian.

    Good post, John. Keep them coming!

    Be The Peace,


  • Greg Boyd puts the whole "Christianity Ripped Off Horus" thing to bed here:


  • The Internet is full of sites that both claim parallels and refute parallels between Jesus and Horus (and others). John has properly take us (me) to task to find actual, dispassionate, scholarly information on Egyptian mythology. Greg Boyd clearly has a horse in the race, so I don't think one should be citing evangelical blogs as refutation.

  • Mike: If you know the Wikipedia article on Horus to be wrong or lacking, say how. I've now done considerably more research on Horus (both online and within my own library), and haven't found in the Wiki article anything that seems sub-standard or amiss. And criticizing Religious Tolerance.org as you have shows nothing but how little you know about the intellectual integrity that uniformly informs that site.

    If I had to guess, I'd say you got the parallels you did between Horus and Christ from that crappy, wholly unsubstantiated, obviously sophomoric YouTube video on the matter.

    Boy, for a guy who can't trump enough how much he cares about intellectual rigor …

  • It has been several years since I first became aware of the parallels between the Jesus narrative and more ancient ones. Research was scattershot with some sources citing various aspects, but overall I felt it quite compelling. You rightly challenge me to do some rigorous research to back up the assertion. After all; could anything be more crippling to the Jesus story than to find that it was wholly lifted from other sources. Wouldn't that give you pause if it were? There are some that posit the argument that 'The Devil made it look like they were similar.'. I would categorize anyone that could offer such an argument to be damaged goods.

    I have begun that research and it will, necessarily, take some time (I don't have books on Egyptian mythology in the house). My library seems to be replete with kids picture books on the subject, so I am looking to find something at a bookstore. I will necessarily be ignoring books by apologists, evangelicals or anyone else with a Christian ax to grind.

    I have found myself to be wrong before and have changed or dropped an argument. If I find no credible substantiation that the Horus and Jesus narratives materially identical, then I will admit so.

    That said: To my mind, I would find such specific and significant parallels to be about the most damaging to my confidence (were I still a Christian). Am I right? If Jesus was just a photocopy of another god or gods, would that shake your faith? If not, what would? What piece of the story, if called into question, would make you doubt?

    Link to the YouTube video. I am not familiar with it.

  • Mike,

    It seems like a really odd goal, as reflected in your question, to try to figure out a way to shake someone's faith or make them doubt. I don't understand your purpose. We were already dealing with an odd issue here: that of making God in our own image, as in "we get the God we can handle."

    I also don't understand why someone who is truly interested in an intellectual pursuit would close his mind to others' perspectives, assuming anyone coming from a Christian perspective simply has an axe to grind. You sound extremely closed-minded. And to admit that something is "scattershot," but still compelling while the overwhelming first-person accounts available from millions of Christians through the generations who speak of changed lives and personal relationships with a God who indwells them is not compelling? I think you came to a conclusion that you are comfortable with and are working very hard to find a way to support it. I also think you want others to abandon their beliefs so as to lend more credibility to your own.

    You offer no benefits whatsoever to following your line of . . . I guess . . . reasoning.


  • Thom,

    It's not surprising that you perceive my ends as wanting to destroy someone's faith for no reason… but it would be incorrect. Indeed I would regret denying the thing that offers personal comfort in times of need or anguish. I have to balance this, though, with the downside of theistic faith unduly affecting public policy, education, and human relations.

    To say that my modest efforts "offer no benefits whatsoever" ignores the idea that many people believe wrongly. One can argue (I can argue) that believing a falsehood of a grand and wonderful afterlife on one's deathbed would be beneficial and offer comfort. We all wish for those comforts for all of humanity. But can one argue that society is NOT better served by believing that which is true as opposed to that which is desirable?

    It is easily demonstrated how a [not insignificant] portion of believers allow their faith to influence public policy, influence public education, and shackle scientific research. We have the likes of Mike Huckabee and Sarah Palin getting within visual distance of our nation's highest office…both of whom have stated desire to re-shape our Constitution to [their particular interpretation of] biblical standards. Theistic faith also creates divisions amongst people where no division need exist. There is, of course, the extremism that will always be erupting as long as the holy books might possibly be taken literally…and of course they will always be taken literally by those with childlike minds (and doesn't the bible promote childlike belief?).

    Is it not important that beliefs be based on factual truth? Is it not dangerous to proceed on a course dictated by an errant assumption? There is no dispassionate, objective evidence of any of the myriad gods of history having ever existed and we would be better off if we acknowledged that. Would we have a Utopia?….of course not. But we would have one less reason to do wrong/evil things. Remember; we all don't believe in many, many gods. I just believe in one fewer than most of you here.

    John's essay is a way to dismiss something that makes no sense. The important similarities between Christianity and other ancient religions is compelling. December 25th is scattered all throughout mythology as it is visually considered the winter solstice where the sun's position reaches its lowest point, seemingly sits for three days, and then begins to rise again. (more on such things later)

    The reason I asked the question of what would shake your faith is because I know what would change my mind and I can give a list of those things. Too many say that 'nothing can shake my faith'. Being passingly familiar with how the brain works; this may not really be too far from the truth for some people. It is those types of closed minds that probably don't warrant conversation and I consider them damaged goods. So I'll show you my list if you show me yours.

  • Mike,

    You have an odd habit of taking one person's words and changing them just a bit to make it easier for your rebuttal. I didn't say you wanted to destroy anyone's faith. I said "shake." They're distinctly different. Something shaken has the potential to recover and be stronger than ever. Something destroyed is gone.

    Your concept of faith as being something Christians depend on for "comfort in times of need or anguish," cheapens it to the point of it being something akin to Linus' blanket. My faith is an abiding presence that leads me to make decisions regarding career, finance, relationships . . . every aspect of life. Indeed, my faith makes me whole and thus reduces considerably the frequency of those times of need and anguish. Granted, when those times do come, I am so thankful for my faith and much prefer it to the writings of distinguished minds. To what do you turn? Geology? Anthropology? Humanism?

    Upon what factual truth do you base your beliefs? Theories posited by failed humans who came to conclusions based on . . . . ?

    Those who do not have faith and believe we would all be better off without churches and Christians and prayer and the pursuit of the fruits of the spirit — which is a goal all Christians should strive for despite the reality we will all fall short — have an odd fear about them. "We need to prove this wrong somehow," they say, "For the good of all."

    You believe that if we all came to the conclusion that there is no God, then there would be less reason to do evil? I believe that if all came to the conclusion that there is indeed one God and we actually followed His direction on how we should live, then we would have absolutely no reason to do evil. It would be absent if we truly were as loving as Christians are supposed to be. We aren't. That's why we have grace, through faith, and are forgiven. It is also why the Bible is very clear that faith, without works, is useless. If we are not demonstrating our faith, who will believe it? (Not you.) And if we are not living in love, who will believe in God. (Not you.)

    I think the bigger problem that may be keeping you from believing in God and having faith in Christ is that you have not seen the reality of it in the people who have claimed to represent Him. That is a reality that Christians need to change . . . for people like you who need greater proof.


  • My very simple question still goes unanswered: Is it not important that beliefs be based on demonstrable/factual truth?

    I make no claims to offer replacements for every thing that religion might offer an individual. If your personal comforts come at the expense of others (i.e. homosexuals, women, other faiths, or non-believers) or if they impede scientific research insert ideology into public policy or if they divide people, then I couldn't really care less about your personal comforts.

    Just answer the simple question. Anyone? Please?

  • Dear Mike: No. It isn't.

  • Mike,

    I was not under any delusion that you cared about my personal comforts. To your credit, you've been clear. Your concern is with my beliefs and you'd like to dispel them. As I said earlier, what an odd goal to want go around taking away from people what they through their own personal testimony declare as valid and valuable. If it gives you personal satisfaction to tear something down, so be it.

    My personal comforts do not come at the expense do not come at the expense of homosexuals, unbelievers, women or people of other faiths. Christianity is offered freely to all and many will never partake. They would be depriving themselves of the comfort. Consequently, if you had been to my blog, you would know that I have struggled with homosexual temptation since my early teen years. My decision to struggle instead of submit to the temptations is based on my understanding of God's will for me. Many others come to the same conclusion. I know . . . it would be so much simpler to just not believe in God. So why do I? Because of the reality of His presence in my life and His willingness to walk with me personally as someone He knows and loves. The reason you don't understand that is because you don't have it. The reason you don't have it is because you refuse it. That's your personal decision.

    Now, as to your question, the obvious — very obvious — answer to a person of faith is "no." That said, I believe we are surrounded by demonstrable and factual evidence of the existence of God. Perhaps it takes faith to see it and that is why you are blind to it.


  • Leonardo,

    Good point. Mike does demonstrate a certain faith. We can have faith in many things. I'm thankful that the One I have faith in rewards my faith with grace. We do have a problem trying to argue faith with non-believers. The very term "non-believer" kind of gets us to the end of the issue, doesn't it? If a person start with the premise that he is not going to believe what the other person is saying regardless, then from his perspective, he wins. Mike's problem is that, not understanding faith, he sees it as something temporal and shallow. Hollow victory, for sure, but in his own personal column, a victory nonetheless. Short-lived celebration.


  • odgie

    Mike wrote:

    "Greg Boyd clearly has a horse in the race, so I don’t think one should be citing evangelical blogs as refutation."

    Do you think that any of those pushing the Horus argument are devoid of an agenda or bias? Boyd is a reputable scholar recognized by believer and unbeliever alike. If you actually read the piece then you know that he quotes from non-believing scholars who actually subscribe to other myth arguments but dismiss the one concerning Horus.

    Tell you what Mike; when you find that elusive, 100% agenda-free source on any topic be it politics, religion, history, basket-weaving, or anything else under the sun, please let me know. I'd love to read such a thing.

  • Leonardo

    Dear Thom

    I made the same questions to Mike (using different words), but the problem is disposition. “…and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.” As you said it is more comfortable.

    “If anyone wants to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.”

    But I have to give that he is a good preacher of his faith, believing every writing against Christianity. And that’s our problem, christians discuss about the veracity of Scriptures, same that Jesus said:”Your word is truth.”

  • Odgie,

    You are absolutely right on 'agenda-free' sources. As I started my search I was contemplating what would be the least biased source. Most everything of what is found on-line and in print discusses and compares Christianity and pagan religion so, hence, begin with an agenda. This makes it a very difficult for my efforts because it makes no sense for me to cite an either an apologist source or a debunker source.

    The best I could hope to find is some source that incorporated ancient texts to support the points. To date, I have found a number of sites that compare pagan religions to Christianity and have begun sifting through http://www.pocm.info which ostensibly separates documented 'facts', 'reasons' and 'opinion' (I am typically ignoring the opinion sections). Importantly, the site also places ancient and scholarly writings (in blue boxes) alongside so the reader may interpret what is being said themselves.

    The site is rather voluminous and not too intuitively laid out, but if you read the 'intro' sections, I does give you a pretty effective methodology to navigate the site. Bits of the writing lean toward the snarky and, inexplicably, the home page automatically begins playing a YouTube video of a teenager coming out to his parents as an atheist. I would either turn your speakers down or go to the bottom of the home page and stop the video.

    In any case, I have already found quite a lot of compelling information but already realize the citations that I copied and pasted on Horus, Attis, Krishna, Dionysus, Mithra are, indeed not entirely accurate. What I posted originally are common interpretations found on the web…but they are, importantly, interpretations. What I found was hardly less compelling…but you should take the time and judge for yourself.

    One example as to how interpretations resulted in other gods being born on 'December 25th' is something less than accurate:

    The winter solstice is, in our calendar, December 21st-22nd. The ancients didn't even have our Julian/Gregorian calendar…so saying 'December 25th' would be nonsensical, but the celestial event of the solstice always was and always will be. The winter solstice was important for the ancients because it marked the end of the shortening of days…the world would NOT be plunged into darkness this year (surprise!). Without precise instrumentation to discern movement, the sun seems to stay low for three days before it visually begins to rise again. Hence…three days after the winter solstice is arguably December 25th….and this shows up time and time again in pagan religions. In the end…'The solstice is the reason for the season'.

    In any case; I appreciate being challenged and I have tempered my rhetoric on citing very specific pagan gods. But what I have found is hardly less compelling. Indeed; the expanded body of information that I have seen (at Mr. Shore's behest) makes it even clearer that Christianity is not notable in the continuum of ancient religions. As you will see quoted on the site: "Jesus was new—in the same way the first Honda Accord was a new car and the first Mountain Dew was a new soda pop."

  • And there's that inevitably nasty, caustic touch o' Mike the Freethinker: choosing to share with us a quote comparing the God that so many people hold in reverence to a car and a can of soda pop. I always end up blocking Mike off my site, because he always ends up proving that his pretensions about being open and interested in genuine exchange are pure bullshit. Mike's got exactly two agendas: to fight, and to drive traffic to his own blog. Drawing people in and then pissing on them is his entire routine.

  • Were we not discussing pagan origins of Christianity? It seemed a clever and apropos quip. Sorry if you are offended.

    …and I am terrible at driving viewers to my blog

  • Moreover; I don't compare Jesus to a soda pop. The quote compares old things to new things.

  • "Sorry if you are offended." The ultimate passive-aggressive apology.

  • Mike,

    Comparing Jesus or God to anything is not valid from the Christian point of view, so the arguments are destined to fall flat. Nothing is comparable to the Creator. Your argument is not new and was taken up repeatedly in the Old and New Testaments as pagan religions clung to their idols and worshiped other Gods, just a many today worship science. There was a long period of time when basically everyone just wanted all the gods to be fine. For instance, read the Book of Daniel and see how well that worked out . . . and remember, it's prophetic.

    Arguing for the sake of argument ends up nowhere. You want to put your faith in something tangible, but what you don't realize is that the presence of God in a Christian's life is very tangible. You want people to give up something they already have; we would prefer to offer you something you are lacking.


  • ***Tentatively pokes her head in and raises her hand…***

    Um, excuse me? May I offer my tiny little opinion? I promise to leave soon as I do. Ok? Thanks!

    Pardon to interrupt. But…I've stayed out of the discussion with Thom and Mike and Co. for the most part -quite interesting if not predictable, btw- but this little ditty caught my eye and I had to respond:

    Thom said: "Comparing Jesus or God to anything is not valid from the Christian point of view, so the arguments are destined to fall flat."

    If I may say then; Well of course they would fall flat! Duh.

    In my experiences (being -*gasp!*- non-Christian and all) I've pretty much learned that: If it aint Christ it aint right. Which pretty much silences /any/ discusion with any other viewpoint; and often the person outside the Chrisian faith. The non-Christian viewpoint is automatically tossed into the 'Invald' pile and there it ends. Shut down. End of story. Next contestant please.

    I've found this highly frustrating. I have sat down with folks of other faiths many times where we had shared wonderful and meaningful dialogue. They are always pleasent and polite, knowegable and a delight to meet. Native Elders, Jews, Hindus, Tibetan Monks, non-Christians of every stripe. And never once did I ever hear; 'What your faith believes is wrong. THIS is how you should believe…" Beautiful people all who were more than willing to share their table and their hospitality and humor.

    But (hey, y'all knew this was coming, right?) when I sit down with a Christian they often become uneasy and nervouse. All too soon the sharing becomes lopsided at best, shut down at worst. Sadly, most discusions end adbruptly and with the expected proselytizing attempt; 'You really should meet Jesus…' and suddenly they're late for some forgotten dentist appointment or sumsuch and off they hurry.

    And I'm baffled by that. Maybe I am naive or just plain ignorant but I always thought that sharing goes both ways? Well, its supposed to anyways. Isnt it….?


    So. Well….um…. How about them Phillies and Yankees….?

    Ok,ok. I'll leave now. Sorry to interupt.


    *** ducks back out the door***

  • Julia,

    It is really unfortunate that the Christians you have encountered have been so calloused and casual about other people's faiths. It does come across as uncaring and unloving. One thing you need to understand about Christians is that we do live under the belief that "He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, and that no one comes to the Father but through Him." That being the basis of the belief, Christianity does not lend itself to a compromising acceptance of other faiths as a valid entry point for eternal life. Still, Christians are to exhibit grace and love, or their witness is truly of little value. As a Christian I have often been embarrassed by the off-putting way some Christians treat non-believers or people who have differing beliefs. You have apparently run into more than your fair share of those types of Christians . . . and I'm sorry.

    Christians do believe Christ it the only option. However this is no reason not to engage in conversation someone who believes differently. Unfortunately, there are a great number of Christians who are pretty light when it comes to being able to defend their beliefs. We all need to study more, believers and nonbelievers alike, so we can articulate why we do or do not believe.

    In the statement I made to Mike, which you commented on, I was pointing out that for a Christian to set aside his beliefs for the sake of a comparison is not really possible. That's why the comparisons fall flat. If you truly are "born again," you and your faith become inseparable. It's important to realize from the start what you are doing when you accept Christ. It is not designed to be an on again-off again relationship and shouldn't be entered into lightly.

    The people you have know who cut you off abruptly for some invented appointment treated you rudely and put forth a false image of Christianity. Again, I'm sorry. Thankfully, they, like me when I fail and fall short, have a God who forgives. Had I the opportunity to visit with you, I would share my table, my hospitality and my humor . . . and my faith . . . hopefully without insulting your intelligence or your set of beliefs.


  • HI Thom. Thanks for taking the time to reply.

    I still dont think you understand. But, I cant blame you for it for all you are doing is behaving in teh manner your belief teaches you. I dont think there will be much common ground when it comes to Christian vs non-Christianity. And yes, I said 'vs' for that is the nature of it. It cannot be any other way. for if Christianity accepted ANY part of a non-Christian faith then it would be no longer Christianity.

    John, bless his heart, has tried time and time again to demonstrate that we all are not that different. He even wrote a book about it. Only, it isnt. We ARE different no matter how you spin it. (Sorry John). When it comes to Christianity the faith simply will not admitted that there are any simularities /ever/ with /any/ non-Christian faith. Christianity has a special connection with God and everyone else doesnt. You got God and I dont. Period. End of story.

    I get that. Really. I do. Point taken.

    But again it leaves us with nothing really left to share, does it? How can there be true sharing when one side will /never/ accept what the other has to share? Nothing I could share will ever have you understanding that I too know and feel inseperable from God. You simply will not believe. How could you? For if you did, you wouldnt be Christian. And to ask you to believe me would be telling you to abandon your faith and God for something alien. That is rude and I cannot ask that of you. (Never mind taht is exacly how I feel everytime some Christian tells me I need thier JC…)

    Thom, I would love to sit down sometime and have a cuppajoe and chat. I think it could be fun. But I fear it would be fruitless for I know where the converstation will probably end up and, well, I really dont want any more of those kinds of talks. It always ends up too ….depressing.

    So on the two sides of the chasm we will remain. The haves and have-nots.

    Maybe some day we may have that cuppajoe, Thom. Someday. God willing we may finally bridge that chasm.

    I just dont think that day will come in my lifetime…. 🙁

    Peace to you,


  • I was hoping someone else would jump in. Several astounding things have been said that I have left hanging there hoping that someone would qualify or contest them.

    1) 100% of the respondents (1) to my simple question "Is it not important that beliefs be based on factual truth?" indicated that, no, it is not important that their beliefs be true. In a weird way I admire Dale for having the 'nads' to say it so bluntly. I find it more interesting that nobody popped in to qualify it or contest it. The implications of such a mindset should be obvious to the sane, casual observer. It shouldn't then matter if the only distinction between Jesus and Osiris was their shoe size. Such a person can and will believe anything put before them.

    2) Thom said: “Comparing Jesus or God to anything is not valid from the Christian point of view, so the arguments are destined to fall flat.” and "I was pointing out that for a Christian to set aside his beliefs for the sake of a comparison is not really possible. That’s why the comparisons fall flat." Am I to interpret this as the believing Christian can not / will not look at anything that might be counter to their belief? Does it preclude one's study of pagan religions on the chance that might diminish one's confidence in the truth of their beliefs. Please say it ain't so.

  • Sorry. I forgot to turn off italics after the last quote

  • This exchange has officially gotten too stupid for me to let it continue. Comments closed.