Creationism: Snapshot No. 4

Creationism: Snapshot No. 4 July 12, 2005

Sunrise in Samaria

Halfway back to Jerusalem from Jericho, our bus full of American students stopped at a place designed to lure busloads of Americans. The Good Samaritan Inn is not really an inn, it's a gift shop. It sells postcards, T-shirts and souvenirs such as olive-wood crosses hand carved with care by Muslim and Jewish craftsmen.

The gift shop takes its name, of course, from the story of the Good Samaritan (see Luke 10:25-37). It's a clever name and a clever pretext for locating a gift shop on this ancient roadway.

But, to answer the question frequently asked by American tourists, it is not at the site of the "real" inn from the story. There is no such place. It's not that kind of story.

"Who is my neighbor?" a teacher of the law asks Jesus. And Jesus, in reply, tells this story. It's not exactly a straight answer, but then the teacher of the law wasn't asking the right question. "Who is my neighbor?" he asked, meaning "Who is it that I am required to love?" Jesus' parabolic answer, essentially, is "Just be a neighbor. Real neighbors don't ask questions like that."

The story of the Good Samaritan is a good story, a beautiful and well-crafted story. It is a story that conveys important truths. But it is not a true story. Jesus never claims to be retelling an actual event that actually happened.

It's not the kind of story that anyone could tell as a "true story." There was no journalist present to offer such a report. No one was present to witness all the elements in this story, which is told from the perspective of an omniscient, third-person narrator and not from the perspective of an eyewitness.

If your response to the tenth chapter of Luke is to set out on an archaeological expedition in search of the actual site of the actual Good Samaritan's Inn, then you've completely misunderstood the story. Not only would you have utterly missed the point, but you'd be inflicting other, different meaning on the passage. This is a refined and elaborate form of illiteracy, but it is still illiteracy.

Many Christians insist on this same illiterate approach to the first chapter of Genesis. They insist on reading it "literally," by which they mean taking a story that is not a journalistic eyewitness account and pretending that it is one.

This is the same problem an earlier generation of Christians encountered when their "literal" interpretation of Psalm 19 — "the sun rises at one end of the heavens and follows its course to the other end" — required them to reject Galileo and Copernicus.

The late John Paul II's apology to Galileo did not constitute a rejection of Psalm 19 or a dismissal of that passage. It constituted a rejection of the purportedly "literal" interpretation of the Psalm which inflicted on it whole constructs of meaning alien to the text itself.

The sun rises. The sun sets. A certain man was traveling from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell among thieves. The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.


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66 responses to “Creationism: Snapshot No. 4”

  1. Huston Smith has some very valuable things to say about Logos and Mythos. They are the two categories of knowledge, and have been since the beginnings of human civilization.
    Logos is the knowledge of number and fact.
    Mythos is the knowledge of symbol and metaphor.
    Both exist side-by-side, or hand-in hand. Or they did, until Reneé Descartes. Mythos got thrown out with the bathwater, because you coudn’t “prove” such knowledge.
    Logos is deductive. Mythos is inductive,
    Logos is…logical. Mythos is intuitive.
    The Bible is Mythos. We treat it as Logos at our peril. And it doesen’t help that John uses Logos, “the Word” to describe Jesus.

  2. Could it be said that you and this post are to Biblical historicists are what Hans Frei is to the likes of Schleiermacher?

  3. I’m right in the middle of Karen Armstrongs The Battle for God where she discusses mythos and logos a lot. She says you can’t (or maybe shouldn’t) put logos into mythos (you can’t prove God exists) and you can’t put mythos into logos (Genesis is not an accurate history of the creation of the earth). The book’s subject is the emergence of fundamentalism in Christianity, Judaism and Islam. So far, she seems to be saying that fundamentalism is an inevitable backlash against the secularization of society. That is, when logos displaces mythos, some people need so desparately a sense of myth that they turn to fundamentalism.

  4. Good series of posts. I adhere to the ID idea, which to my most serious creationist friends means I’m liberal. I have a friend who’s dad works at AiG (Answers in Genesis, probably the biggest creationist organization out there) so I have heard the arguements and I’ve never really been comfortable with the arguements- probably because they tied everything in Genesis with the very existance of Christianity. They spoke of Genesis of being the foundation of faith but Jesus says that he is… so I was very confused.
    Pure Darwinism (maybe not Darwin himself) and Pure Creationism are totally exclusive of each other, with no possible comprimise. But in the movie Master and Commander,
    Dr. Maturin wonders out loud if God had created the creatures but gave them ways to change.
    This quote and your posts are good for showing that the real problem isn’t the science (by the laws of science, no one can totally know), but that they never consider the possible philosophical problems.

  5. What a great series of posts! Your meditation on the Good Samaritan recalls Tim O’Brien’s story, “How to Tell a True War Story,” from his collection The Things They Carried.

  6. Kirala, it’s because fundamentalists are basically modern, deep down. We have no interest in mythos, like Descartes. It’s gobbeldegook, a waste of time. If it ain’t logos, it ain’t truth.

  7. Reading all these comments is really good- some clever minds displayed here.
    However, I was getting giddy going around back and forth in the “debate”. Ultimately, it is all only just interesting stuff to chat about on the net if there is not some “connection” possible with this God of creation or evolution who is talked about a lot in the bible and other “religious” books, and if a connection is possible, so what? I mean, surely there would need to be something BIG added to and
    fulfilled in our human existence for all the thinking and net time alone to be worthwhile?
    It seems to me from the banter, that the debate about creation vs evolution doesnt really matter IF an encounter with God is possible and fulfilling in an ongoing way. If an encounter and life journey with God is not possible, then why bother arguing about 6 days? Perhaps the bible only BECOMES truth (and useable truth at that) in the context of and circumstances where there is already in existence an experiential friendship with God. Before that occurs, it is all very debatable, as the posts to this website attest. If an encounter and friendship with God can occur, the pressure to try to prove God’s existence or the bible’s authenticity would come right off, and in fact, should hardly matter. In other words, it may not be what we “believe”, but what we receive from God, and what affect that has on me. IF God did enter history in Jesus, it would seem logical that God went to that length so that humans could see what He had in mind for them to experience and be like(God probably snookered Himself here originally with the free will thing so you’d expect He’d need to do something pretty unusual). Then it would follow that if a spiritual encounter can happen and humans can receive something from God (despite diverse beliefs about Him and/or Jesus), the validity of the BIG encounter would,after a short period of time, be evidenced by a marked similarity to Jesus in terms of spontaneous behavour and underlying character, seeded into the human spirit by the God Spirit. And as Jesus is reported as describing himself as gentle and humble, these two traits would be evidenced, particulalry under stress and pressure. What think ye?

  8. I can no longer resist the urge to point out the fact that ID is complete bollocks, creationism given a quick makeover in an attempt to make it fit for public schools. It’s not science, it’s not philosophy, it’s not honest, and it’s most certainly not ‘liberal’.

  9. The point of the story of the Good Samaritan is pretty obvious–it’s advice on how to behave. Advice/good examples don’t need time and space markers, especially when the behavior recommended is pretty feasible.
    It seems to me that Psalm 19 is talking about the heavens as experienced ordinary observers in a hot climate. (You wouldn’t get the same effect if you said “the sun rises as though it was hard to wake up, then takes a bit of the edge off the cold”.) It isn’t about astronomy.
    But what is the mythic point of Genesis? That God has a hands-on relationship with the world in a general sort of way?

  10. it’s because fundamentalists are basically modern, deep down.
    That’s very perceptive. I’ve never heard it put that way, but it really works for me. Both modernism and fundamentalism strike me as intellectually arrogant: both seem to say “we can know everything.” I believe that God and ultimate reality can ONLY be communicated through metaphor and poetry. I agree with Lao Tzu: “The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao.” In other words, if it’s logos, it ain’t Truth. That’s not to say that logos is worthless, but if you’re going to approach the Ultimate, you have to leave it behind.

  11. Beth: Good reference to Tao, and I agree completely. That concept has really been on my mind lately. I just finished Living Buddha, Living Chist (which is a fantastic book). That basic idea was expounded on pretty “extensively” therein. We can only describe things that exist in creation, since god exists outside creation, no description will ever be accurate. You can at best describe the “shadow” of god. Getting hung up on the description of the shadow, or even the shadow itself, hampers the direct experience of god. So don’t do that.

  12. Which reminds me of John Scotus Eriugena, about 100 or 1200 years ago – our understanding of terms like ‘good’, ‘benevolent’, ‘truthful’, etc can only be a human understanding, and so when we use any of those words to describe God, we are being inaccurate. Might as well call God ‘bad’, ‘malevolent’, or ‘dishonest’, it would be about as accurate. While God possesses all these qualities, he does so in a divine way – he is ‘hyper-good’ – which is not humanly comprehensible.
    (But good luck trying to derive moral imperatives from the unknowable and incomprehensible)

  13. Don, to my mind whether you have a pesonal relationship with Jesus is completely irrelevant to creationism or evolution. It is the fundamentalist christian theology and agenda that has a problem with 1) believing in evolution and 2) not believing in creationism, specifically the literal version in Genesis.
    So all you seem to be suggesting is a blog commenter’s version of a pastor’s altar call on Sunday morning. In other words “get em converted, then work on indoctrinating the convertee with the finer points of a particular Christian flavor of theology.

  14. That’s very perceptive.
    Thanks, Beth. But really it’s just the result of growing up in the church I did; the churches of Christ are very open about our relationship to the Enlightenment. (Alexander Campbell called Locke “the Christian philosopher.”) For a while I thought perhaps we were unusual in that relationship, but further reading indicated that evangelical fundies just talked about it less.
    Given the environment of the Second Great Awakening, Campbell and the people he attracted found the notion of direct experience of the divine oppressive rather than liberating. According to the “frontier Calvinists” he had to deal with, such experiences came only in the hyper-emotionalism of tent revivals, which had little effect on his temperament, and without having one you were doomed to hell. We tend to consider “direct experience” both impossible and unimportant; I remember a time when the phrase “personal relationship with God” was still verboten, though that has changed more recently.

  15. J Swift, No, what I mean is that in comparison to a conscious enjoyment of a friendship with God, the “how” of why the universe exists is no more than an item of interest for dinner party discussion.
    The problem with fundamentalists is the focus on correct doctrine and neat belief system. Basically, its faith in one’s faith which will produce a hard, judgmental attitude to others and a simplistic life view. The only way God gets proved in this life is in the personal realm, where faith is not about believing in His existence, whether supported by creationism or not, but whether or not I can trust Him not to let me down in my daily affairs.
    Most fundamentalists are terrified of the close encounter of a third kind Chrisitianity, but hey, what can you do if its your experience?

  16. Ray
    I can’t believe that I’m actually (almost) defending ID, but I think I would say something more along the lines that I can respect individuals who basically accept the findings of modern science but think that God may have influenced things in certain directions (i.e., it wasn’t merely a Deist creation); given the necessarily incomplete nature of scientific thought, this must always be a possibility. What I find worthy of vigorous attack is the “intelligent design” establishment, led by the likes of Johnson, Behe, and Dembski, which has basically become nothing more than a politicized PR machine oiled with every marketer’s and lawyer’s trick in the book. These men are certain not liberal, not very scientific, and are certainly a far cry from any form of honesty (the intentional errors they make in citing real science, like Gould’s theory of punctuated equilibrium, is nothing short of appalling; if there was a court for academic dishonesty, Johnson would’ve been put away long ago); their aim is nothing short of cultural domination (see The Wedge of Truth) through a strategy to win power through a combination pseudo-science and fear.

  17. A ‘God of the gaps’ philosophy is defensible, if you’re talking about God acting at the undetectable quantum level. I don’t really see the point, but its not completely wrong, in the way that ID is. ID argues that some things couldn’t have evolved, which places them in Reagan’s bind.

  18. A ‘God of the gaps’ philosophy is defensible, if you’re talking about God acting at the undetectable quantum level. I don’t really see the point, but its not completely wrong, in the way that ID is. ID argues that some things couldn’t have evolved, which places them in Reagan’s bind.

  19. “Einstein was wrong. Not only does got play dice with the Universe, but the dice are loaded.”
    -Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
    That much of ID I’ll grant you; but it still shouldn’t be taught in schools. That’s what insanely complicated videogames are for.

  20. “Einstein was wrong. Not only does god play dice with the Universe, but the dice are loaded.”
    -Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri

  21. Some conservative Christians appear to think that because the Bible is viewed as God’s Word, every word of it must be “true.” At least I imagine this must be the basis of trying to take every word literally.
    But it’s still a book! It was written across a time span prior to the invention of, say, science or journalism – or even historiography, as we know it today. It’s unfortunate and a bit ironic that many within the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition, which sees God as acting in history, want to view the Bible in anachronistic terms!

  22. Devon,
    Thanks for that book link. Thich Nhat Hanh is one of my favorite Zen masters and since his life is in many ways the embodiment of we in the West would call “Christian principles” — compassion, generosity, forgiveness, etc — he seem an ideal person to write such a book.
    Mabus,
    I can appreciate Campbell’s distate for that emphasis on ecstatic experience. A friend of mine told me about her sister’s great distress at never having spoken in tongues. In her church, it was assumed that if you’d never spoken in tongues, you’d never really been filled with the Holy Spirit, and that meant you were a “second class” Christian.
    Still, I would differentiate between ecstatic experience and direct experience. Ecstatic experiences may be direct experiences, but they’re not the only kind. Seeing a beautiful sunrise and being filled with wonder at the glory of Creation or responding to a stranger in need as if he were your brother maybe be just as authentic “direct experience” as any revival-tent ecstasy. God may speak with great claps of thunder, but He may also speak through a still, small voice.

  23. Any “god of the gaps” theology, ID included, will eventually come to naught, and leave its followers bereft — there just isn’t any meaningful scientfic or theological component to it.
    I think Bonhoeffer made the point in his Prison Letters that Christianity must move itself from the periphery of life (where it tries to fill in the gaps between scientific discoveries) and return to the center of life, to see God in science and society. By definition, God is large enough to encompass all of Creation; the Church must attempt to be large enough to encompass God.

  24. Hey Beth, re Campbell’s distaste etc… you are on my wavelength. And all this fuss and tension (I have seen some people get really mad) about creationism bugs me. If the bible started at Exodus, I doubt that any enquiring person living today using accepted scientific methods would come up with a “how it was done” theory closely resembling Genesis. Yet that does not mean at all that God didnt do it as Genesis states and we humans are just yet to discover significant things that absolutely support that. I think the whole passionate debate and creationist industry distracts from what an encounter with the risen Christ does for our human existence. As I said to Ray in this discussion, if this is your experience ie. is if God has sought you out in a direct way, apologetic creation vs evolution debates becomes incidental if not superfluous.

  25. Don, what then are persons like myself to do? If there is anyone whom God has truly sought out in a direct way, I’m not him. My knowledge of God is limited to what I find in Scripture, and whatever I can scrape together from the natural world.
    Beth, the funny thing is that I view such things as a skeptic. Agnostics wonder at the beauty of sunsets; atheists help strangers. The experience doesn’t convert them. How, then, is it a direct encounter with God?

  26. The experience doesn’t convert them. How, then, is it a direct encounter with God?
    Because god is greater than any codification of religion could possibly hope to contain, what would an athiest or agnostic convert to apon viewing a sunset or marvelling at nature? does a muslim not find the same god within a sunset as a christian or a jew? then cannot an atheist find beauty and love on his own terms and in his own atheist way, even if that beauty and love both stem from a god who the atheist is not used to proscribing beauty or love to.
    I’m sure somebody famous once mentioned something like “God does not convert, people do” though for the life of me i can’t remember their name.

  27. Is the sunrise an encounter with God or an encounter with beauty? I can understand a believer saying “there is beauty, therefore there is God”, but I can’t think of it as a direct experience.

  28. Especially when an encounter with beauty results in “God says to put some clothes on, woman!”

  29. Especially when an encounter with beauty results in “God says to put some clothes on, woman!”

  30. The experience doesn’t convert them. How, then, is it a direct encounter with God?
    Couldn’t someone encounter God without knowing it’s God they encountered? If I read “The Trial” and really got it, if I were filled with the spirit of the work and its author, I would have a direct experience of the mind of Franz Kafka. But if the title page were missing and no one told me who the author was, the experience wouldn’t turn me into a Kafka fan. I wouldn’t even know that Kafka had ever existed.
    I agree with R Mildred. A Muslim would call the author of that sunset “Allah”. An atheist would call it “nature”. A Buddhist would call pure love “Buddha Nature.” A Christian would call it “Christ Consciousness” or “the Holy Spirit.” I believe those are all just names that people invented, and no one name is better than any other. Clearly, you believe differently, but can you also believe that God as you understand Him could be encountered by people who have never even heard of Jesus or the Church of Christ?

  31. Again, its hard to think of that as a _direct_ encounter. I think there’s a pretty important difference between meeting Kafka and reading one of his books – you might learn more about him from the book, but it’s still indirect.

  32. Ray, I meant “direct” as opposed to “mediated”. By reading Kafka’s books you are encountering him directly, rather than learning about him second-hand through someone else’s description.
    Similarly, in experiencing the sunset, you are encountering the Creator yourself as opposed to reading about Paul’s experiences with Him, or listening to a preacher’s interpretation of Him.

  33. I think it’s still ‘mediated’ to be honest. Read Kafka’s book and you’re reading a book Kafka wrote, not talking to Kafka. Watch the sun go down and you’re seeing something God created, not seeing God.

  34. Mabus, I can truly empathise.
    When I was 13 I was “converted” in a traditional evangelical Baptist church via the alter call vehicle. In my 5th decade, I can now recognise that I was indeed captivated by the intriging Christian story and the emphasis placed on God’s grace and forgiveness towards me, not to mention just a little bit of subtle peer pressure from my youth group friends that one needed to “go down the front” and “make a decision for Christ”. I took my new found faith very seriously and dived in deep,becoming for my age, a very knowledgeable bible student, which I noted gave me respect and acceptance withing the church scene. This involvement continued for some 35 years,with only one church change along the way – Baptist to church of Christ. The emphasis was always know your bible and beware of “unsound” doctrine. It is only now I realise what was unspoken during all those years of receiving instruction. And that is, the bible has made the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life in the way Jesus intimated in the Gospel of John Chapters 14 -17 basically unnecessary and redundant for this age we live in. This is not often stated but is in the shadow of what is said and constantly emphasised viz.,”the bible is the ultimate authority”. This has been going on for hundreds of years in the Protestant world, and it seens to me the Catholic tradition did the same thing except replace the word “bible” with “church”. I have concluded that Satan has been exceptionally clever with giving both Catholics and Protestants alike, a final tangible authority to place their faith in. If Paul were alive today, he may have written another Galations letter,rebuking the church for making the bible, including his own letters the new “law”. Jesus saw it coming (as He understands what we are made of) and remarked that religious people search the Scriptures because they believe these contain the key to eternal life, but says He, you will not COME to Me. The Apostle said people can have a form of religion, but deny the power of it.
    Back to my story. All of the above was me. Full of correct beliefs (if you know what I mean)but no experience of a “conscious enjoyment of His presence”… that was for Heaven only, down the track. I cant say unequivocally if my journey can be yours, but for me, the change did not happen until there came a point in my life where circumstances brought me to an end of myself, where my spiritual condition was one of utter poverty and helplessness, and I cried out to God from the bottom of my person/soul/mind. All the years of using terms like “having a personal relationship with Jesus” and understanding the doctrine of the Trinity etc became suddenly real and not just jargon. Jesus’ words that the “kingdom of God is within you” became relevant and not just a “deemed” condition.
    It was like for 35 years I had been looking at an uninteresting view of a mountain, thinking that’s the only view possible of it, and then one day being uprooted and put into a place where I got to see it from the other side, and what a view it is.
    As I have since learned however, very very few of my many evangelical friends are interested, some do not want to know at all. But thats the response if you have placed your faith in your beliefs and doctrines and that is why creationists are so passionate about “proving” the Genesis record of events – if it all happened otherwise, their faith is shipwrecked and in some cases a person’s whole life’s work and meaning goes down the gurglur. Very confronting to deal with.
    “Blessed are the poor in spirit for THEIRS is the kingdom of Heaven”. Jesus.

  35. Mabus, I can truly empathise.
    When I was 13 I was “converted” in a traditional evangelical Baptist church via the alter call vehicle. In my 5th decade, I can now recognise that I was indeed captivated by the intriging Christian story and the emphasis placed on God’s grace and forgiveness towards me, not to mention just a little bit of subtle peer pressure from my youth group friends that one needed to “go down the front” and “make a decision for Christ”. I took my new found faith very seriously and dived in deep,becoming for my age, a very knowledgeable bible student, which I noted gave me respect and acceptance withing the church scene. This involvement continued for some 35 years,with only one church change along the way – Baptist to church of Christ. The emphasis was always know your bible and beware of “unsound” doctrine. It is only now I realise what was unspoken during all those years of receiving instruction. And that is, the bible has made the presence of the Holy Spirit in a person’s life in the way Jesus intimated in the Gospel of John Chapters 14 -17 basically unnecessary and redundant for this age we live in. This is not often stated but is in the shadow of what is said and constantly emphasised viz.,”the bible is the ultimate authority”. This has been going on for hundreds of years in the Protestant world, and it seens to me the Catholic tradition did the same thing except replace the word “bible” with “church”. I have concluded that Satan has been exceptionally clever with giving both Catholics and Protestants alike, a final tangible authority to place their faith in. If Paul were alive today, he may have written another Galations letter,rebuking the church for making the bible, including his own letters the new “law”. Jesus saw it coming (as He understands what we are made of) and remarked that religious people search the Scriptures because they believe these contain the key to eternal life, but says He, you will not COME to Me. The Apostle said people can have a form of religion, but deny the power of it.
    Back to my story. All of the above was me. Full of correct beliefs (if you know what I mean)but no experience of a “conscious enjoyment of His presence”… that was for Heaven only, down the track. I cant say unequivocally if my journey can be yours, but for me, the change did not happen until there came a point in my life where circumstances brought me to an end of myself, where my spiritual condition was one of utter poverty and helplessness, and I cried out to God from the bottom of my person/soul/mind. All the years of using terms like “having a personal relationship with Jesus” and understanding the doctrine of the Trinity etc became suddenly real and not just jargon. Jesus’ words that the “kingdom of God is within you” became relevant and not just a “deemed” condition.
    It was like for 35 years I had been looking at an uninteresting view of a mountain, thinking that’s the only view possible of it, and then one day being uprooted and put into a place where I got to see it from the other side, and what a view it is.
    As I have since learned however, very very few of my many evangelical friends are interested, some do not want to know at all. But thats the response if you have placed your faith in your beliefs and doctrines and that is why creationists are so passionate about “proving” the Genesis record of events – if it all happened otherwise, their faith is shipwrecked and in some cases a person’s whole life’s work and meaning goes down the gurglur. Very confronting to deal with.
    “Blessed are the poor in spirit for THEIRS is the kingdom of Heaven”. Jesus.

  36. Watch the sun go down and you’re seeing something God created, not seeing God.
    Ah, but that assumes that god is seperate form God’s creations, Kafka’s thought process’ are contained within his books, even if they are mere momentary glimpses, an experience of his thought process can still be ascertained from this second hand source. and there is also no reason to assume that a face to face conversation with kafka would yield more of a direct understanding of his central sentient “self” than reading his novels.
    Though I think that there is a slight difference between mine and Ray’s conceptualisation of what constitutes a “direct” experience with God, to my mind at least, a direct experience is inherently non-direct as only our finite comprehension of an infinite and incorporeal being could ever be.

  37. I adhere to the ID idea, which to my most serious creationist friends means I’m liberal.
    There’s something more conservative than ID?
    Nancy, there’s another dimension to the Parable of the Good Samaritan that people often miss. In Jesus’ time it was more obvious: the Samaritans were a religious minority among the Jews, thought inferior. Yet when it came down to it the two Jews (supposedly God’s chosen) ignored the man who needed their help, yet the Samaritan ended up being the righteous one.
    The problem with fundamentalists is the focus on correct doctrine and neat belief system.
    I’d say that’s the problem of western religions in general.

  38. The sun is a god, and the being that Christians call satan is much stronger then the the god they worship. This is what I believe.
    Frankly, every time I seek god I always end up getting the wrong answers. Nobody has been able to explain why this is to me.
    Oh, right, I wanted to mention Logos and Mythos. The distinction between these two forms of thought is a modern invention. In the time of the bible, they were comingled thouroughly.
    There is no evidence within the text of the bible itself to indicate what is literal and what is allegorical, aside from calling some of Jesus’ stories parables. But if genesis is allegorical, why not decide that Christ is an allegorical character, and not a real man? What about Moses and the things he did? Did he really fight Egyptian sorcerors?
    Fundamentalists see the bible as logos because the text itself offer no markers to demonstrate that it is using the mythological voice, and because Christian faith has always been predicated on the idea that at least some parts of the bible are literally true.

  39. The sun is a god, and the being that Christians call satan is much stronger then the the god they worship. This is what I believe.
    Frankly, every time I seek god I always end up getting the wrong answers. Nobody has been able to explain why this is to me.
    Oh, right, I wanted to mention Logos and Mythos. The distinction between these two forms of thought is a modern invention. In the time of the bible, they were comingled thouroughly.
    There is no evidence within the text of the bible itself to indicate what is literal and what is allegorical, aside from calling some of Jesus’ stories parables. But if genesis is allegorical, why not decide that Christ is an allegorical character, and not a real man? What about Moses and the things he did? Did he really fight Egyptian sorcerors?
    Fundamentalists see the bible as logos because the text itself offer no markers to demonstrate that it is using the mythological voice, and because Christian faith has always been predicated on the idea that at least some parts of the bible are literally true.

  40. Calling fundies biblical literalists isn’t entirely accurate though, they’re fiercly literal about certain parts of the bible, while at the same time being fiercly metaphorical about others, in other words they can make the distinction when they want to.
    For example, Jesus commands his followers to feed the hungry, yet a good little fundijellocube will explain to you that what jesus Meant was to feed the hungry of faith. Likewise, we are not all brothers and sisters under the lord, well, Certain people aren’t, not that I’m a Racist/anti-semite/intolerant/homophobic or anything, I just reckon the world would be better if I didn’t have to see That particualr group of humanity any more. Their whole warped conceptualisaiton of christianity is based on misreadings, misunderstandings and outright lies and untruths done in the name of acheiving for themselves temporal power and getting to heaven in the cheapest way possible.

  41. Don> I honestly don’t know if I really understand what you mean by “coming to the end of yourself”. I do know that twice in the last few years I have encountered the end of my own resources, though in regard to physical matters–first a health problem, then joblessness and poverty–and cried out for help. I didn’t get what I was looking for, and though in time my problems faded, each time I was temporarily left with the impression that God had no concern for my well-being in any sense. I was thrown back on my own resources, which I had thought bankrupt, and eventually I prevailed through them.
    In the wake of these events–whether because of them or not–I came to a realization. It is not the churches of Christ, or not the “old-line” churches anyway, that devalue grace. Grace is not only some mysterious, inexplicable experience. Grace, after all, is simply “unmerited favor”–and so it encompasses everything that God gives us. Human assistance, the physical resources we have, our capabilities, life itself–and yes, writings that explain the history of his dealings with us and give us his unambiguous standards–all arise out of grace. To shove all that aside in favor of a mystic experience–that is what devalues grace, by reducing it to a tiny fragment of itself. Any God worth believing in is bigger than the inside of my head.
    I’m sorry if that’s not what you hoped to hear, Don. I presume that you would find no peace where I am today, and I regret that. For my part, I struggle with my beliefs daily, and ironically, I find peace in that struggle; it assures me that I continue to grow.

  42. Any God worth believing in is bigger than the inside of my head.That’s gorgeous. Can I quote you on that? Much more succinct and to-the-point than my own attempts to phrase the concept.

  43. Mabus,
    Rather than devaluing grace, the consequence of receiving from God rather than depending upon one’s believing in God, or more to my point, believing things about God removes the burden of trying to get one’s beliefs “right” in order to be in God’s good books. That is why I am not wringing my hands over creationism vs evolution. Indeed, in His grace, I think (now) that God is very forgiving of human attempts to be in the group or be the individual who has got every aspect of Christian thought 100% correct. If you manage to get it 99% right, while one of fringe sects is say, 50% right, who’s to say God in His perfection, is going to applaud and reward the 99 percenter? You see, this leans on human (believing) effort instead of grace. But if grace is but a concept it will not cause changes in me that I could not have done under my own steam and exertion. Jesus spoke to the Samaritan woman telling her of a gift that would cause her never to thirst again. He also spoke of the gift welling up in the receipient into streams of eternal life. It speaks of something coming in from without that is unexpected and graciously undeserved (considering our track record as a species), resulting in something spontaneous and refreshing in the real life experience. Belief driven people will tend to rationalise these statements of Jesus as being either a state to be looked forward to in heaven or worked towards over a lifetime, attained through a discipline lifestyle. But Jesus speaks as though it is God doing the believing, ie, believing we are able to receive His Spirit and treat the Gift with the respect such generosity and grace deserves.
    Mabus, your response does not surprise me and as I said previously, my journey may not be quite yours. I only know where once I took comfort in knowing my doctrines, I now know love for Jesus. Jesus told us that God is SEEKING worshipers, who will worship Him with the heart of a trusting little child (my paraphrase). Often children get to an end of themselves trying to do a thing, because they just dont (and cant) know what they dont know. All I can say is keep open and honest with God.Read several times John 14-16, and maybe Pilgrims Progress, in the knowledge that these words in the gospel were some of the final words Jesus spoke to those He was about to leave physically – He obviously wanted to make sure they “got it”. Ultimately, I think God in His seeking and Gifting,just desires a relationship with us like what is suggested in Genesis, relaxed but respectful.

  44. Hi, I just linked over from somewhere, maybe Buzzflash.
    I want to comment on the idea of having a ‘direct experience with the creator’…
    A few posters have written about their spiritual experiences with the implication that these experiences offer proof not only of the existence of the deity in question but also of the rightness of their particular doctrine.
    Well, I don’t doubt that these people have had very profound and moving experiences. I don’t doubt it because I’ve had them as well. I’ve had the Salvation Experience. I’ve felt the presense of God in the midst of a glorious praise and worship service… as hands were raised and toungues were spoken and music was played, there was no doubt that God was there among us. Even while alone, praying quietly at home or walking through a forest I’ve felt that Christ was walking right beside me.
    Devout Christians and Born-again believers will often offer up these emotional experiences as forming the bedrock of their faith. “I just know there’s a God. I’ve felt his presense many times. I’ve had very deep and real experiences with a personal God. He is as real to me as that mountain over there.” My contention is that such experiences offer no such evidence.
    I felt Jesus was walking with me. But my feelings… my profoundly deep and moving feelings were no proof that He actually was.
    I know people of other religions who tell me they have equally deep, moving experiences in their faith. Some of my friends can have deep, moving experiences anytime they want… they’re available in a convienient pill form.
    I’ve watched movies and been completely horrified by the events on the screen, though in reality, I was sitting in the cinema in no danger whatsoever. I’ve fallen in love, “She is surely The One meant for me”, only to find that the exact same feelings can arise for someone else.
    People feel things. The mind can be triggered to produce such profound experiences. It proves nothing. We are modern whether we like it or not. We cannot build our on this foundation.
    But of course the real Christians would step up to the challenge and say that these experiences can be imitated. They can be falsified by… Satan (you guessed it). That is, their experiences are indeed genuine while all the others are evil illusions, deceptions of the Devil.
    Satan is such a convenient character.

  45. The same thing Mohammed experienced in his cave near Mecca?
    The same thing Michael travesser experienced?
    The same thing Sri Aurobindo experienced in prison?

  46. What did The Apostle Paul experience….?? How the hell should I know…?
    Maybe it’s the same thing I experienced the first time I watched “The Galaxy Being”…

  47. I want to comment on the idea of having a ‘direct experience with the creator’…
    A few posters have written about their spiritual experiences with the implication that these experiences offer proof not only of the existence of the deity in question but also of the rightness of their particular doctrine.
    Might I humbly suggest that you reread the posts in question? IIRC, I’m the only one here who went on about ‘direct experience’, and I certainly never offered it as “proof not only of the existence of the deity in question but also of the rightness of their particular doctrine.” Nor am I likely to. I am an agnostic, and I am also a spiritual pragmatist — that is, I believe that the ‘right’ set of beliefs for any particular person, is whatever makes them better, happier people.

  48. Zug,
    The proof that He was actually there, as alluded to in your first post, is whether the encounter produces a lasting and changed disposition that is favourable towards His character being developed in you.
    As opposed to imitiating it, which soon becomes exhausting. The proof is in the pudding, not the recipe, including hand raising etc.
    Many people encountered Jesus during His life and were touched, impressed,confronted or offended by Him, but only a few were profoundly changed for good, in both senses of the word. Those that were, as I read it, were those whose attitude was, or became one one of brokenness or as I have put it to Mabus, at an end of themselves. Those that are “full of themselves” are in no condition to receive anything out of the ordinary from God. Its not that God won’t, He simply can’t.
    As far as Paul goes, I’m simply asking you to consider his encounter, where he was in his religous pursuits at the time, and what the encounter produced in his life thereafter. “How the hell should you know” is all in the book of Acts.I am sure Paul also “felt” the experience, and his subsequent blindness.
    Unless Christinaity can result in as Peter puts it, becoming a “partaker of the Divine nature”, it has nothing more to offer than any other religous pursuit, and deserves to be held up as not being able to deliver the goods. But if it can, and in laymann’s terms, it results in a close friendship with God and the behaviour of Jesus being spontaneously demonstated in one’s life,, then it should surely deserve a less dismissive approach.

  49. Why do you think that Paul encountered God, but Joseph Smith didn’t, and Mohammed didn’t encounter Gabriel?

  50. The proof is in the pudding
    Or, as someone once said, “By their fruits shall you know them.” I agree with nearly everything you wrpte. In fact I wanted to put something similar in my last post, but couldn’t find the words to put it as clearly as you did. It’s not so much the experience itself, but the effects of the experience on our lives that determines its value, and tells is whether we’re on the right spiritual path.
    My only issue with your comment is the one that Ray raised: how does any of this make Christianity any more valuable or authentic than any other religion or even atheism? From what I’ve seen virtually all belief systems have the power to profoundly change people for the good (and virtually all can be used to encourage and justify great evil).

  51. The proof is in the pudding
    Or, as someone once said, “By their fruits shall you know them.” I agree with nearly everything you wrpte. In fact I wanted to put something similar in my last post, but couldn’t find the words to put it as clearly as you did. It’s not so much the experience itself, but the effects of the experience on our lives that determines its value, and tells is whether we’re on the right spiritual path.
    My only issue with your comment is the one that Ray raised: how does any of this make Christianity any more valuable or authentic than any other religion or even atheism? From what I’ve seen virtually all belief systems have the power to profoundly change people for the good (and virtually all can be used to encourage and justify great evil).

  52. Beth and Ray,
    Hmmm. I enter dangerous territory. I actually havent said anything about other people who claim to have encountered God, but I get your point. I suppose one can only know what one knows, in terms of the experiential ie. if it works, dont fix it!
    However, and you guys can join the dots, IF Jesus was who he seems to claim he was (albeit somewhat cryptically), then logically, He would have to be a hard, but I suppose not impossible, act to follow.

  53. Oh, and Beth, ever noticed that in the world there is no shortage of recipe books, but not many really good cake shops?

  54. Trying to join the dots…
    IF Jesus really was the son of/God then he would have a major impact on the lives of his followers. Is that what you mean?
    So your argument is –
    IF an experience is of the one true god,
    THEN it would have a major effect on the life of the person having the experience.
    Paul’s life changed dramatically after his religious experience THEREFORE it was an experience of the one true god.
    This is the logical fallacy of affirming the consequent.
    ‘If A then B’ does not imply ‘if B then A’. The example we used in college was ‘IF it was raining THEN the ground will be wet’, which is true, but the ground could also be wet because of a burst pipe, so you can’t argue that the ground being wet means it must have been raining. Similarly, just because an experience changed your life, doesn’t mean it must have been an experience of the one, true god.

  55. Sure, but that’s not relevant to the logical form of the argument. At that point you’re no longer arguing ‘A > B’, ‘B’, ‘therefore A’, you’re arguing ‘A > B’, ‘B’, ‘C’, ‘therefore A’ and assuming that ‘B & C > A’ is valid. You’re not assuming the consequent, you’re assuming the presence of some unstated axiom.
    To get back to the problem, the situation is this –
    You want to argue that Paul’s experience was a true religious experience of the one, true, real god. (statement 1)
    You also want to argue (I assume) that Mohammed and Joseph Smith’s experiences were not true religious experiences of the one, true, real god. (statement 2)
    Your argument for statement 1 is that Paul’s experience was life-changing, and lead to him being an extremely active and successful proselytiser for the religion he became a believer in. But the same argument can be made for statement 2, because Mohammed and Joseph Smith also became extremely active and successful proselytisers. So I think you have to find a different argument for statement 1.

  56. Do you know the god of aesthetics? Similar to the christian god. On my website, I’m explaining the likeness and nature of aesthetics enlightened genius. My explanation is based on my own first hand experience. When refering to the concept of creationism, it should be referred to aesthetics, because when it comes to creating anything and it also being relative to beauty and truth, the genius is god’s go between. Jesus’ teachings did not and does not have the authority over the concept of creationism or the sin shared by the artist, scientist, theologian, philosopher, … . At judgment, the genius sits on that throne. Fear him.

  57. Creationism

    Last part:
    …The story of the Good Samaritan is a good story, a beautiful and well-crafted story. It is a story that conveys important truths. But it is not a true story. Jesus never claims to be retelling an actual event that actually happened.
    It…

  58. “No one was present to witness all the elements in this story, which is told from the perspective of an omniscient, third-person narrator…”

    Surely Jesus was uniquely entitled to that perspective.

    Just quibbling.