As Donald T Might Say: “The Bible is overrated”

As Donald T Might Say: “The Bible is overrated” March 7, 2017

Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

LUKE MOON (current Evangelical Christian): I’m in Israel with a bunch of Christian leaders from the US. We are here to listen and learn about Israel and the Palestinian conflict. I’m hosting the group. One of our speakers suggested that there is a victim/villain narrative on both sides and its difficult to see beyond these two narratives. He suggested what we need is empathy, but not too much. I thought of you when he said that. I’d love to get your thoughts on how empathy plays out in major international conflicts.

FRANK SCHAEFFER (former Evangelical Christian): Safe travels Luke. Dehumanizing the “other” is the basis of all enemy lists. And when you add to that claims of God being on “our” side you have a problem. The enemy isn’t just dehumanized but damned. Even God hates them… and if you are a Christian or Muslim, that means that besides killing them, they are also facing another eternal death. Speaking of which: What about the Christian theology that is sympathetic to Jews, as in it “supports” Israel, but also says that Jews will burn in hell? In other words, that six-year-old child gassed in Poland in 1942 awakes to eternal flames moments later because she forgot to “accept Jesus.” Nice. When it comes to a lack of empathy, of course, that is where right and left meet. Pol Pot had no problem killing anyone who had an education, and Trump branded Mexicans as rapists and thugs… before unleashing agents to split up families of these “bad people” and send all those “terrorist” dishwashers and hotel cleaners home…

BTW speaking of empathy… if our joint blog here means anything it’s because even in these times we can disagree but still see each other as human…

LUKE: Every belief system deals with the question of how God (if there is one) will deal with the unbeliever after death and suffering prior to death. I think that Christian theology deals with this issue in a variety of ways. Most important is that suffering is not meaningless. The suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust is being confronted each day as the Jews rebuild their nation, have children, and live life. The question of the eternal destiny of those that have died is up to God and will be consistent with his character and nature.

FRANK: Which is why I don’t believe in hell… How could God be more of an asshole than me? When I compare how I treat my grandchildren to how I treated my children, I understand that even in a short 64 years I learned to have more empathy. To accept most evangelical or Roman Catholic or Eastern Orthodox versions of God in his/her/its fundamentalist form is to believe that God has learned less than us about how to be a decent forgiving person…

That said, I have to admit I pretty much agree with what you just said: “Most important is that suffering is not meaningless.” But then you go on and say it has meaning because Israel is thriving… and of course there is another side to that. One could say that the suffering of the white settlers from the Dutch East India Company in South Africa in the 17th century was also given meaning as they built an apartheid state very similar to what Jews are now up to in Israel. They will soon have a non-Jewish majority that they rule rather brutally. I lived in South Africa for a year in the late 80s… The Israeli Jews better figure this out sooner than later.

LUKE: The idea that we have become more forgiving or more gracious than God is ridiculous. You are breathing right now because of His general grace. The gospel story is literally the most explicit example of God’s willingness to deal with his creation in a way contrary to the way that creation responds to him, particularly humans. I recognize that there are many views on hell. I am in the camp the believes that God will not force people to spend eternity with him. That too is gracious.

To see what is happening here is Israel the way I see it and the way I show it, you need to come with me sometime. I think it is different than you expect. There are good people doing good work.

FRANK: I love how moments ago you said “if there is a God” as part of your set up, but then seconds later drill down in Evangelical-Speak as if you know anything about what even you must admit is a bit of an inscrutable mystery. You seem to lose sight of the “if” that needs to be there. My point was that assuming (for a moment) there is a God, it’s rather silly to saddle this poor deity with a very bad biography as our source of information about him/her/it. I think a more accurate description is in what we see in our own experiences than what’s in a more or less random collection of stories. (After all, someone said we are made in God’s image.) I don’t think we evolve past God, but that maybe the descriptions in the Bible and Koran are inaccurate. .. or as your mentor Donald T might say, “The Bible is overrated.” Your turn for the last word…

LUKE: Right now I see experiences of war and peace, love and hate, faithfulness and unfaithfulness, strength and weakness. I’m in a hotel overlooking that valley that has seen 26 wars going back thousands of years. These wars are still having an impact on our lives today. I think those wars meant something. God has a plan, to pick up your appeal to the finiteness, we may not understand his plan, but it’s a good plan.

Schaeffer & Moon is written on the fly in a real-time chat room format and lightly proofed by Patheos editors.

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