On what basis do Christians reject other gods?

August 29, 2007 at 1:07 am 49 comments

ThorIn response to my previous post “Rejecting the Obvious Truth of the Gospel,” pj11 said:

Words such as “believe,” “submit,” and “bow” indicate to me that an action is required on your part to be saved. While you may not “feel” like you’ve willfully rejected Christ by doubting the truth of Scripture, it appears that your refusal to take the appropriate active response to the Gospel is a rejection of Him.

pj11, thanks for your response. You replied exactly as I would have a couple of years ago before I left Christianity. The reason I wrote the referenced article is because of the conception Christians have regarding their ‘truth’ of the Gospel. The issue for me is that the ‘Truth’ of the Bible is not at all apparent. I am not asking for a systematic proof that the Christian Gospel is true. I regard faith, wonder and mystery to be central to the creative being, and a natural part of who we are. There is room for faith, and I have never had a problem with that. I do not need proof! However, when much of the Christian Gospel, the Christian Scriptures, and the Christian Worldview is just *wrong*, and can be shown to be wrong, there is room for much doubt and ambiguity.

If God is who he says he is, and if he truly loves each and every one of us, I believe he should make himself sufficiently well known to us that we truly have no excuse if we were to reject him. However, there is sufficient reason not to believe the Christian Gospel. I remember reading some of the apologetic notes in my trusty old Thompson Chain Reference Bible, wondering how I could continue to believe this stuff with any integrity. I remember praying to God to please, PLEASE show himself to me if he was who he said he was, only to be met with non-answers in the Bible. I begged God, I pleaded with God to show himself to me and to ease my doubts. I remember my wife walking into my study, to find me with my face hot with tears crying over my open Bible and my list of unanswered questions for God. Maybe someday God will answer me; but for now, I have rejected holding on to those things which I see no reason to be true. And I am finally at peace.

Would you like it, pj11, if all your life you were threatened with eternal damnation if you did not believe that Thor was your personal Messiah and that you must submit to him? You read books about him, saw movies about him, went to fan conventions about him, collected all the legends about him, had daily readings from Homer, yet over time you just could not believe in the reality of the Truth of Thor? You enjoyed all the stories about him, you liked singing songs to him in daily devotionals, but you had to force yourself to believe in him despite not seeing any good reason to. You believed for years because your culture dictated it, but in the end you finally had to concede that there was no real truth to the existence of Thor! You looked around, investigated the claims about him, and just simply saw no objective truth behind it. You do not hate him, you just see no reason to believe he is real.

Pj11, this is not a flippant scenario that I cooked up. Why do you reject the Truth of Thor? Why do you not accept the Truth of Thor, a deity who was once worshiped as the prime deity amongst the pantheon of gods? How about something closer to home, like Allah? Have you searched the web for Islamic Apologetics? Why don’t you submit to the truth of Islam?

When you answer those simple questions, you will know exactly why I do not accept Jesus Christ as God. I have no reason to believe in the god Jesus, just has you have no reason to believe in the gods Thor or Allah. I see no objective reason to believe in Jesus just as you see no objective reason to believe in those or any other deities. And if God sends me to hell for using my brain, for not forcing myself to believe something of which I have no reason to think is true, or as Heather says, that 2+2=15, then God is a monster and this whole universe is truly mad.

- HeIsSailing

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Driving a Wedge Coming to Grips with Christian De-Conversion

49 Comments Add your own

  • 1. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 12:14 am

    HIS: A very thoughtful and compelling post … thank you. I will try to give you an honest answer from my heart.

    I have read Norse and Greek mythology and I have read the Qur’an and Hadith from cover to cover. I have carefully weighed the evidence for these “gods” to the best of my ability. In doing so, I’ve used my rational faculties as well as my heart. Like your assessment of Christ, I have not found any good reason to believe in them. More accurately, I have found good reasons not to believe in them.

    So why Christianity? My heart and my mind have been captivated by so many parts of the faith that I couldn’t list them all here … the eternality and aseity of Yahweh, the creation narrative, the battle between good and evil, the fall in the garden, the invasive nature of sin, God’s redemptive plan, His sovereignty, the covenant with Abraham, the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Moses’ life, the beauty of the Holy of Holies in the wilderness Tabernacle, David’s humble rise to kingship, the glory of Solomon’s Temple, the way God has continually forgiven His people and shown them mercy in the face of open rebellion, His continual promises for the future made through the prophets, the humility of John the Baptist, the beauty and simplicity of Christ’s teachings, His condemnation of legalism, His prayer in John 17, the way He laid down His life for His friends, the miracle of the Resurrection, the faithfulness of His disciples after the Resurrection, the history in the book of Acts, God’s use of common men to reveal Himself to the world, Paul’s brilliant exposition of justification in Romans, God’s just nature in punishing sin, the exposition of love in 1 John, and so much more!

    It really is a compelling story contained in the greatest literary work in the history of mankind. I have not found anything even close to it. I find myself incredibly challenged every day that I open the Bible. It speaks to me like no other “holy book” out there. In my opinion, there is no other “holy man” or “prophet” who can tie the sandals of Jesus of Nazareth! If I lay all the faith systems of the world side by side, one towers over the rest (IMHO).

    There’s one more thing to throw into the equation. I know I will be criticized for this … but I think you know what I’m talking about. When I surrendered to Christ in 1985, I had a genuine spiritual experience that I cannot completely explain. It was personal and it was powerful … and it has been reinforced many times over in the past 22 years. I do have a very real relationship with God.

    These things – taken together – have convinced me that Jesus is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life … and the Bible is God’s revelation to mankind, giving us everything we need to know to be saved and to worship the Creator for all of eternity.

  • 2. HeIsSailing  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:00 am

    pj11:

    I have read the Qur’an and Hadith from cover to cover….

    I am slowly working my way through the Qur’an. I read it along with several online commentaries once every week. And you are right – I find the Bible much more fascinating, much more compelling, interesting and uplifting than the Qur’an. The Bible has plenty of good stuff mixed in with some pretty bad stuff. It is a mixed bag, but I do find it much more edifying than anything else I have come across. But at the same time, there is a website much like this one (http://towelianism.wordpress.com/) made up of Islamic apostates, with one of their main contributors being from Pakistan. They say the same thing about their Qur’an. Are we looking at our Scriptures with cultural blinders? I don’t know. But at least I hope you understand my point of why it is I do not believe. If I hear one more radio evangelist say that I am willfully sending myself to hell, I think I am going to scream!

    There’s one more thing to throw into the equation. I know I will be criticized for this …

    Why would I criticize you for a highly emotional spiritual experience that is uniquely yours? I have had them too – many times. I had a real doozy of my own in 1991. Far be it from me to criticize another’s beliefs and experiences – after all, I believed for 35-40 years. I know why people believe. I fully understand it.

  • 3. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:22 am

    HIS – Clarification … I didn’t think you would criticize my spiritual experience, but perhaps others might. Thanks.

  • 4. The de-Convert  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:56 am

    pj11,

    So why Christianity? My heart and my mind have been captivated by so many parts of the faith that I couldn’t list them all here … the eternality and aseity of Yahweh, the creation narrative, the battle between good and evil, the fall in the garden, the invasive nature of sin, God’s redemptive plan, His sovereignty, the covenant with Abraham, the rags-to-riches-to-rags story of Moses’ life, the beauty of the Holy of Holies in the wilderness Tabernacle, David’s humble rise to kingship, the glory of Solomon’s Temple, the way God has continually forgiven His people and shown them mercy in the face of open rebellion, His continual promises for the future made through the prophets, the humility of John the Baptist, the beauty and simplicity of Christ’s teachings, His condemnation of legalism, His prayer in John 17, the way He laid down His life for His friends, the miracle of the Resurrection, the faithfulness of His disciples after the Resurrection, the history in the book of Acts, God’s use of common men to reveal Himself to the world, Paul’s brilliant exposition of justification in Romans, God’s just nature in punishing sin, the exposition of love in 1 John, and so much more!

    This is an impressive list. If that was all that was in the Bible, I would tend to agree that’s it’s a beautiful story.

    However, what do you do with scriptures like these:

    http://literalbible.blogspot.com/search/label/God%20Kills?&max-results=100

    Paul

  • 5. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 3:39 am

    The de-Convert- Not again! Please … we’ve covered the OT passages of genocide and violence ad nauseum on this site. You’ve got to find a new set of talking points! ;-)

    Please, please remember that God cannot be boxed into your worldview. He is not just loving, merciful, and compassionate. He is also wrathful and just. Vengeance belongs to Him as the Righteous Judge. He is to be feared. He is the One who sends calamity. He uproots nations according to His sovereign will. He punishes severely for sinful rebellion. For the unbeliever, It is a terrible thing to fall into the hands of the living God says the author of Hebrews. Jesus Himself reminds us that we should fear the One who is able to destroy both body and soul forever. According to Revelation, Jesus treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. This is the full picture of God in the Scriptures … neither you nor I have the luxury of making Him what we want Him to be. He is who He has revealed Himself to be whether we like the full picture or not.

    Personally, I wouldn’t worship a sappy God who just loved everyone, tolerated everybody’s behavior, and then shrugged off sin with a wink and a nod. I desire to worship a God who is just and who settles all accounts with precision and accuracy. Except for me! I want mercy in my case! Hmmmm … where might I find a God who is absolutely just but holds out an offer of mercy for those who will trust in Him and follow His commands? :-)

  • 6. Yueheng  |  August 29, 2007 at 5:22 am

    Pj11 wrote:

    Please, please remember that God cannot be boxed into your worldview.

    Then he goes on to say:

    Personally, I wouldn’t worship a sappy God who just loved everyone, tolerated everybody’s behavior, and then shrugged off sin with a wink and a nod. I desire to worship a God who is just and who settles all accounts with precision and accuracy.

    Pj11, On one hand, you saying that God need not conform to the worldview of non-believers. But on the other hand, you seem to have no qualms about stating that God fits in perfectly fine with your own beliefs and desire (“I desire to worship a God who is just…”). This reminds me of Karen Armstrong’s observation (found in her book “History of God”) that it is

    ‘all too easy to turn God into a larger-than-life tyrant or judge and make “him” fulfill our expectations. We can turn “God” into a Republican or a socialist, a racist or a revolutionary according to our personal views. The danger of this has led some to see a personal God as an unreligious idea, because it simply embeds us in our own prejudice and makes our human ideas absolute.’

  • 7. HeIsSailing  |  August 29, 2007 at 6:15 am

    pj11 sez:

    The de-Convert- Not again! Please … we’ve covered the OT passages of genocide and violence ad nauseum on this site. You’ve got to find a new set of talking points!

    Believe it or not The de-Convert, I gotta agree with the pastor here. Please not again!

  • 8. Epiphanist  |  August 29, 2007 at 6:59 am

    Keep crowing The de-Convert!
    I am trying to work out which side you are on. The “stiff necked people” weren’t all left behind in the days of the old book. The message still needs to get through a lot of very hard heads that the gospels were never about perpetuating the superseded beliefs of a previous age amongst gentiles. The task of the Christ was to end that age and sow the seed of the Kingdom. You do fine service to the gospels by continuing to make your point.

  • 9. The de-Convert  |  August 29, 2007 at 7:37 am

    LOL! When folks quit selling the kool-aid, I’ll quit pointing out the opposite. If pj11 had included those realities in his great list, I would not feel the need to point them out.

    pj11, if I were to poll your church members, would you say that they believe that:

    [God] is not just loving, merciful, and compassionate. He is also wrathful and just. Vengeance belongs to Him as the Righteous Judge. He is to be feared. He is the One who sends calamity. He uproots nations according to His sovereign will. He punishes severely for sinful rebellion.

    Your website states that:

    God has revealed Himself in nature, in Scripture, and in man’s conscience as the Creator, Lawgiver, and Judge.

    I think you should note that God’s definition of “Righteous” isn’t like the conscience of his creation. Our view of justice is a lot more evolved (from my perspective). God can make you choose evil and then judge you for it. Also, he is above his own rules. He can be jealous but tell you not to be. He can be hateful and tell you to love. He can be evil and tell you you’ll he’ll judge you for being evil. He can be vengeful but tell you to forgive. He can murder but give you a commandment against it….. and I can go on and on… but that’s me being that old broken record :)

    Plus there’s a whole segment of Christianity (the charismatic/WOF crowd) who do not even believe your watered down version of God’s Righteousness. Have you listened to Joel Osteen or Joyce Meyer lately?

    Paul

  • 10. The de-Convert  |  August 29, 2007 at 7:42 am

    Ephipanist,

    You don’t know how badly I wanted to believe as you probably do about Jesus’ purpose. I jumped through all types of hoops to get there. But alas, it all crumbled because that belief could NOT be sustained by the Bible. If I threw it out and just created the The de-Convert Version (which I attempted), it all worked well even though it had no credibility. But in 100 years, you never know :)

    Paul

  • 11. Shannon Lewis  |  August 29, 2007 at 8:41 am

    Hello again, my fellow Yes fan!

    I was just wondering if you’ve yet read N.T. Wright first 3 volumes to his excellent CHRISTIAN ORIGINS AND THE QUESTION OF GOD. I think you may not only find them interesting, but they may help you assemble a few pieces of the puzzle that had been troubling you.

    Take care!

  • 12. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 10:23 am

    The de-Convert… you said:

    pj11, if I were to poll your church members, would you say that they believe that:
    [God] is not just loving, merciful, and compassionate. He is also wrathful and just. Vengeance belongs to Him as the Righteous Judge. He is to be feared. He is the One who sends calamity. He uproots nations according to His sovereign will. He punishes severely for sinful rebellion.

    Answer: YES, they know all of this! I preach the entire counsel of Scripture without fear! In fact, we’re currently in week 19 of a survey of the Writing Prophets of the O.T. where we’ve studied how God led His own people into slaughter and captivity at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. This ain’t warm and fuzzy preaching! My congregation knows that God is serious about punishing sin, that He sends calamity, that He uproots nations (including Israel & Judah), and that He is to be feared and obeyed.

    Regarding your rant about God being “above His own rules” … consider this: if a qualified, duly appointed judge in a human court system condemns a man to prison (or even death) for a series of crimes, is that judge said to be “hateful” or “vengeful” or “evil” or “murderous?” Or is that judge fulfilling his responsibility as the one entrusted to carry out justice. Consider how this might relate to God and His role as Judge over His creation.

    As a side note … check out the Hebrew concept of “jealousy” and see if it doesn’t mean something different than what we’ve come to know about that word in the English language.

    Here’s my take on your situation, The de-Convert… you were sold a certain view of God by your former church leaders (perhaps in the charismatic/WOF movement). He is a God who loves you and forgives you unconditionally and desires to pour out His blessing and prosperity upon you, right? Guess what … you fell for the bait and switch tactic. Your former church leaders wanted to grow and prosper the church … so they told you half the story (only the really neat stuff) to make you feel good enough to keep coming back and giving to the work of the ministry! How close am I?

    The de-Convert… perhaps you got duped by charlatans in the church (like the despicable Joel Osteen) … but the text of Scripture has not changed. God has not changed. It seems more likely to me that your beef is with man, not God.

  • 13. Heather  |  August 29, 2007 at 11:15 am

    The de-Convert,

    He can be hateful and tell you to love. He can be evil and tell you you’ll he’ll judge you for being evil. He can be vengeful but tell you to forgive. He can murder but give you a commandment against it

    In some ways, I think it goes further than this. There is specific criteria listed in the NT that says what one does in order to be like God. And loving and forgiving and not seeking vengence is part of this. We look at the rules of what God says is good, and what “the laws” are. And yet if God goes against what he says is good, or just, what then? What basis do we have for determining God’s characteristics? To pull from Pj11′s example, it seems more like you’re saying that there is a universal rule that one doesn’t kill, the judge goes and kills someone, and then says that the rule doesn’t apply to him, he’s above it. All we’re left with, at this point, is taking the judge at his word that he is still good even though he broke the law.

  • 14. Peg  |  August 29, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Interesting discussion! Just before logging on I was reading this in The Message:

    “You have your heads in your Bibles constantly because you think you’ll find eternal life there. Those Scriptures are all about me! And here I am, standing right before you…” (ref: somewhere in John ch 5)

    Jesus is basically pointing out that so many of us spend so much time and energy looking in the Bible for answers when the Answer Himself is standing right in front of us.

    Which leads me to HIS’s observation: “In a sense, I think all Christians write their own ‘Scripture’.” In a sense I think that’s what we’re supposed to do, so long as what we write doesn’t contradict the Scriptures already written, because Scripture is what Jesus has to say about himself.

    What I mean is, for example, if Jack is friends with Tom and Dave is friends with Tom, Jack and Dave can have two totally different opinions about Tom but that doesn’t change who Tom is. If you really want to know what Tom thinks about something, you would ask him directly. Everyone who knows Tom will essentially be ‘writing their own story’ about him, but ultimately Tom is who he says he is regardless of what’s been said or written about him.

  • 15. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 12:28 pm

    Heather: why not take the challenge I issued to The de-Convert above … consider a human judge duly appointed to uphold justice in a human court system. If that judge sentences a serial killer to death because the law of the land prescribes execution as the appropriate sentence for that crime, do we consider the human judge to be a murderer? Has he broken “his own law” by passing this sentence? Has he placed himself above the law … or has he simply upheld the established law? Do we question the goodness of the judge because he passed this sentence upon someone who rightly deserved condemnation? I know the analogy doesn’t work at all levels (most analogies are imperfect) … but I think there is a parallel here which ought to be considered.

  • 16. Yueheng  |  August 29, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    Pj11 compared the God of the Bible to be a judge fulfilling his responsibility as the one entrusted to carry out justice. But what if the judge condemns a man to prison for a series of crimes according to a standard of law, but at the same time is willing to disregard the very laws that he proclaims to uphold?

    On one hand, the God of the Bible declares that children should not be punished for the sins of their fathers (Deuteronomy 24:16). But he then goes on to overturn his own instruction by ordering the killing of the Midianite children (Numbers 31) as anact of vengeance, presumably in retaliation of “offenses” committed by their fathers and forefathers. In 1 Samuel 15, the God of the Bible waged a war on the Amalekites in retaliation for their ambush of the Israelites during the time of Moses, a few centuries ago. As usual, he ordered the children slaughtered, ignoring his previous instruction in Deuteronomy 24:16 The God of the Bible also seems to have forgotten his policy of not having children suffer for the sins of their fathers when he threatened, in Exodus 20:5, to punish the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation.

    The God of the Bible prohibits lying, but he seems to have ignored this injunction when he sent a “lying spirit” to instigate the death of Ahab (1 Kings 22:22).

    The God of the Bible prohibits killing and this injunction is one reason why anti-abortionists often invoke this deity to support their cause. But in Numbers 5:11-27, one finds details of a magical abortion ritual, supposedly sanctioned by the God of the Bible, which is to be applied to women who have not been faithful.

    The God of the Bible prohibits human sacrifices. “You must not worship the LORD your God in their way, because in worshiping their gods, they do all kinds of detestable things the LORD hates. They even burn their sons and daughters in the fire as sacrifices to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:31). But somehow, this injunction seems to have been forgotten by the deity when he apparently chose to accept Jephthah’s daughter (Judges 11) and the corpses of the seven male descendants of Saul (2 Samuel 21:1-9).

    The God of the Bible sent his son to teach people to forgive “seventy times seven times” (Matthew 18:21-22). But he himself has gone on the record as saying that he will “…smash them (presumably those who refuse to worship him) one against the other, fathers and sons alike…I will allow no pity or mercy or compassion to keep me from destroying them.’ ” (Jeremiah 13:4) And there was the divine prophecy against the Babylonians in which the Lord declared that his “holy warriors” would dash the Babylonian infants to pieces before their eyes, loot Babylonian houses and ravish Babylonian women (Isaiah 13:16)

    Given that the “judge” in question does not seem too interested in following the own laws that he laid down and has been shown to have actively violated them when he felt like doing so, how can he be considered a “just” judge?

  • 17. Heather  |  August 29, 2007 at 12:51 pm

    Pj11,

    The thing is, The de-Convert is saying that God is above his own laws. I don’t think your challenge is addressing that, because you have two seperate people in your challenge: the judge and the murderer. In The de-Convert’s example, the judge and the murderer are the same person: there’s only one person, period, in The de-Convert’s example. The judge is the serial killer. The law the judge broke is the law against murdering, and yet the judge says that law does not apply to him. He is above the law that says murdering is wrong. And this example does not have the judge deciding to murder a serial killer, out of fufillment of the law. Rather, this judge decides to murder a three year old. Or a baby.

  • 18. Kim  |  August 29, 2007 at 12:52 pm

    pj11 sayeth:

    we’re currently in week 19 of a survey of the Writing Prophets of the O.T. where we’ve studied how God led His own people into slaughter and captivity at the hands of the Assyrians and Babylonians. This ain’t warm and fuzzy preaching! My congregation knows that God is serious about punishing sin, that He sends calamity, that He uproots nations (including Israel & Judah), and that He is to be feared and obeyed.

    In the church that I grew up in none of the nasty stories were hidden from us. At the age of 11 I had a very very thorough catechism teacher. She had us rigorously study the Pentateuch as well as many other books of the OT. Our teacher taught with a lot of passion and I can remember quite enjoying her classes, even though she gave us a lot of homework. I remember very well studying all those stories of genocide, ethnic cleansing, gore and murder in the Bible and being very quite fascinated by them. I have parents who lived through WWI in Nazi Germany and my father shared with me at a very early age many of the horrors he encountered during that time. So you could say I was not shocked when the nasty stories of the Bible were shared with me. Human misery seemed to be the natural order of things and it certainly did not bother me that God did these things to his enemies.

    At this age I was getting a lot of positive reinforcement from my family and church for the veracity of the Bible and Christianity. Once important piece of information that was taught was what happens to those who obey and disobey God. All through the Pentateuch and the books that follow are tales of how God favored those who were righteous and punished those who were disobeyed. There is a continuous cycle where when Israel followed God’s will it was successful and when Israel disobeyed God it was punished. Just think of the righteous rule of David/Solomon versus the wicked rule of the Omrides. The message was obvious and unmistakable, when you follow God’s law you will be blessed (in this world) and when you disobey God you will be punished (in this world).

    But even at the age of 11 my young logical did not buy it. When I looked at the world around me and with my limited knowledge of world history, I saw a world that did not operate like this. What I saw in the real world was that one could disobey God with impunity and those those that followed God might lead a life of suffering. I would hear sermons from the pulpit that if Canada does not stop its Liberal ways we will soon suffer the wrath of God…..all the meanwhile on the other side of the globe are nations that have no Christians and have been doing very well for centuries. When I asked questions about the discrepancies; I was given unsatisfying answers such as: those Christians are following false doctrine, those Christians are being tested or my favorite Satan blesses the wicked. I still believed in Christianity for several more years, but seeds of doubt were planted.

    Though this is a discussion for another topic, the irony of all these tales of genocide, ethnic cleansing, gore and murder in the Bible is that most of them never happened. There is absolutely no archaeological evidence to support these event ever occured. These tales were written in the 7-9th century BC by priestly class trying to develop a national identity for a people who were struggling for existance amid the cultural crossroads of several very dominant empires.

  • 19. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:09 pm

    Yueheng: Here we go again … re-hashing the same old verses from the Old Testament. You missed the point, my friend. Follow my logic …

    - The punishment for sin is physical death (established by God in the Garden at the very outset of mankind’s existence).
    - Every human being has sinned … yes, even the children. Note how you never have to teach children to lie, cheat, steal, or hit the other kid … they do it naturally.
    - Every human being is deserving of physical death … right now, at this very moment.
    - Any judge (divine or human) is tasked with upholding the law of the land and passing sentence.
    - At his discretion the judge may choose to show leniency and give the offender a second chance (grace).
    - But the judge is not “unrighteous” or “unjust” if he imposes the full sentence and the full sentence is carried out.

    Regarding the examples you cited, you may have come to the conclusion that these folks didn’t deserve the sentence they received. But how would you know that? Do you believe that any of them were “innocent” and free from sin? Is it possible that the Creator has more knowledge of the true condition of their hearts than you? Why is the Judge – who knows all – unjust in upholding the established law, imposing the sentence, and carrying it out?

  • 20. Yueheng  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    Kim:

    Even if the tales of genocide never happened, they still convey an idea of the Divine that many people take seriously and attempt to translate into reality in a variety of ways. Hence, these tales are worth engaging seriously.

  • 21. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:23 pm

    Heather: I disagree with your assessment of The de-Convert’s example and my analogy.

    Take Joshua’s slaughter of the people in the land of Canaan. The Canaanites had defiled the land with unspeakable sin. They had violated God’s law and were deserving of death, the established punishment for such sin. God imposed the sentence and sent the Israelites to carry out the sentence.

    Analogy with today … a criminal has committed crimes against society for which the law condemns him to death. The judge imposes the sentence and tasks the warden of the prison to carry out the sentence.

    The judge in both cases is not a murderer. He is not evil. He is simply upholding the established law. And, going a step further, neither the Israelites nor the warden should be considered evil murderers. They are fulfilling the duty given to them by the person in authority … the one upholding justice.

    See my response to Yueheng … it may help you see my logic further.

    Thoughts?

  • 22. Yueheng  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:42 pm

    Pj11:

    You seem to be side-stepping the points I have raised, which is directed not so much at the questionable ethics of the God of the Bible (let’s call him GOTB), but to the issue of whether he can be considered a “just” God, even by his own proclaimed standards. Allow me to summarize your arguments thus far:

    GOTB is the Lord of the Universe and the Boss of Everything That is. Therefore, GOB can slaughter children and infants and it will still be considered just since GOB defines justice and whatever he does is just.

    To take your argument into its logical conclusion, since GOB is the sole arbiter of justice, there is no question of him violating his own laws. When he says that his followers should not murder, it is not unjust for him to order them to wage genocide. When he says that his followers should be forgiving, it is not injustice for him to be merciless. When he says that no children should be punished for the sins of their fathers, it is not injustice for him to contradict this by ordering children to be killed for offences committed centuries ago (as in the case of the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15).

    In previous posts, you had maintained that God cannot be “boxed in” by human perspective. Yet, you (and the writers of the Bible) have chosen “justice”, a human concept (since it is a human word and used in the realm of human dialogue), to describe God. But the idea of justice, if it is to be rendered meaningful to a rational human being, has to possess standards that are logical and consistent. A person who says one thing and then proceed to do another cannot be said to be objectively just, as we understand the concept.

    If one goes on to say that “justice” is whatever an unobservable entity (like GOTB) says it is, then there really is no point in using the word to describe GOTB since this “justice” does not seem to possess standards that are logical and consistent and thus cannot be acceptable to rational human beings. Take for example, the idea that a loving and compassionate God can somehow order his holy warriors to ravish and loot (Isaiah 13:16) and still continue to be a “just” God. I think the contradiction here is quite apparent to any thinking person.

  • 23. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:43 pm

    Kim: Thanks for a thoughtful post.

    As I read your thoughts, I noticed one glaring thing I believe your teachers failed to show you about biblical theology.

    It is true that God blessed and cursed the nation of Israel based on their obedience or disobedience. Deuteronomy 28 lays out that principle very clearly … and that principle is lived out in Israel throughout the days of the kings and the prophets.

    However, as we attempt to draw that same principle into the era of the new covenant (or “the church age”), we run into some problems. First, the church is not an ethnic people. Second, the church is not a recognized nation with land or borders. The church transcends ethnicity and nationality … it is a completely different animal than Israel under the old covenant.

    Why do I share this? Take a look at Christians in the New Testament. Paul, Peter, John, Timothy, et al … these were very obedient guys who faithfully served God. Yet they suffered greatly. They were not blessed with prosperity and comfort … in fact, quite the opposite. Look at Rome … they did not suffer as a nation for their oppression of God’s people. Why not?

    I believe the answer lies here … the principle of blessing and cursing from the old covenant has been rendered obsolete by the dispensation currently in place. There is no teaching for the church in the New Testament which parallels the instructions of Deuteronomy 28 for Israel.

    Yes, the wicked prosper today … and, yes, the faithful sometimes suffer today … but only for a fleeting moment (a “vapor” compared to eternity). Justice will come on the Day of Judgment and accounts will be settled – bank on it.

  • 24. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:50 pm

    Yueheng: See my response to Heather above …

    If the law says death is the punishment … and the judge imposes the sentence … and the judge orders the warden to carry out the lethal injection … do we dare say that the judge and the warden are evil and murderous and somehow above the law?

  • 25. Heather  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:53 pm

    Pj11,

    If we can’t come to an agreement about the analogy, this isn’t going to work. You see two seperate people in it, I see one. Even in the analogy you provide for today’s time, you have a criminal and a judge. Two people. But my interpreation does not have the judge following a sentence on a criminal, it’s the judge saying that the rules do not apply to him, so he can kill without justification and yet still be law-abiding. The judge makes his own laws to follow, while holding everyone else accountable to a standard law of “not killing.” So the judge would punish a criminal for killing a baby, and yet if the judge himself killed the baby, the judge would say he has not broken the law. I am not saying that the judge orders the murderder to be killed, and thus is injust. I am saying that the judge says there is a rule “thou shalt not kill” and that law is good and just, and then goes and kills an innocent baby who has not broken the law, and the judge says that killing the baby was good and just. Justice becomes whatever the judge says, as opposed to some absolute standard to determine if the judge is just. The judge is above the very law he says is just — and that’s how I see The de-Convert describing God.

    They are fulfilling the duty given to them by the person in authority … the one upholding justice.

    But therein lies the catch — justice according to whom? We can’t determine if God is just, if all we’re left with is God is just because God says so. Yueheng is making the same points I am in this area, so I’ll not repeat them.

  • 26. Robert  |  August 29, 2007 at 1:55 pm

    pj11 wrote, “The punishment for sin is physical death.”

    A death which apparently can be meted out at any time, regardless of age or circumstance. The moment you’re born (or perhaps conceived?), you’re a sinner, and thus deserve to be killed by this “righteous” god. The only reason you’re still alive “right now, at this very moment” is because this “loving” god has checked his holy wrath. Lucky you! But don’t celebrate now, you may not be so lucky tomorrow…

    Compared to doctrines like this, Scientology–with this Galactic Overlord Xenu and body thetans,–looks positively reasonable.

  • 27. Heather  |  August 29, 2007 at 2:01 pm

    Pj11,

    If the law says death is the punishment … and the judge imposes the sentence … and the judge orders the warden to carry out the lethal injection … do we dare say that the judge and the warden are evil and murderous and somehow above the law?

    I think the difficulty here is perception. What if the law says that murdering people is injust? What if the law says one must forgive uncondiontally, in order to be like God?

    You seem to be approaching this as though the judge is acting against a criminal. We are not. We are asking what to do if the law says that not murdering people is just, and the law-giver himself goes and murders people. What do you do if the judge himself is the very one that broke the law that says murdering people is injust? This is the question we’re trying to get an answer on. I think you’d come back and say that it’s impossible, because this same law requires death, and so it’s a fufillment of the law. The problem here is that I still see this as side-stepping the issue. It doesn’t give us a means to determine if God is just or moral, because there’s no standard by which to determine this.

    And then what do you do if the law requires one to forgive another who broke the law, regardless if the person repents and even if the person deserves punishment? If God says that one is just like him if that person turns the other cheek, and then God commits the very behavior that is non-God-like, then what?

    It just seems that no matter what we say, you come back with it doesn’t matter what the other laws say, because the law requires the punishment of death. And we want to know how you take the other scenarios.

  • 28. cloudie  |  August 29, 2007 at 2:15 pm

    Pardon for intruding on this discussion but… I believe you are side-stepping the issue here? Wasn’t the topic, “why your God and not other gods?”

    I don’t claim to be an expert on religions but I’m pretty sure other beliefs (mainstream ones at least) also provide some compelling evidence for support? Why Christianity and not Islam, or Buddhism? Or even atheism for that matter (even though it’s not a religion)? Because God declared that the other gods are false gods? What if other gods declare that your God is the false one?

  • 29. pj11  |  August 29, 2007 at 2:43 pm

    Heather, Yueheng, The de-Convert, HIS & Friends – thanks for letting me serve as the resident fundie over the past couple of days … I appreciate the debate and I’d love to continue, but I have to get off this laptop and get something done this week! :-) I’ll be absent over the next couple of days, but hopefully be able to pick up on new threads beginning next week.

    Blessings to all!

  • 30. Kim  |  August 29, 2007 at 2:54 pm

    Yueheng sayeth:

    Even if the tales of genocide never happened, they still convey an idea of the Divine that many people take seriously and attempt to translate into reality in a variety of ways. Hence, these tales are worth engaging seriously.

    I completely agree. I would never suggest we should ignore them because the never happened. These tales of horror are indeed relevant as millions of people believe them to be true and underpin philosophical basis of Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Without understanding these tales it would be very difficult to understand why religious fanatics perpetrate similar acts of genocide in the name of God. If God can do it so can we, God set the example for us to follow and emulate.

    pj11 sayeth:

    I believe the answer lies here … the principle of blessing and cursing from the old covenant has been rendered obsolete by the dispensation currently in place. There is no teaching for the church in the New Testament which parallels the instructions of Deuteronomy 28 for Israel.

    Thanks for your thoughtful response and the many others I have read on this site. This piece of theology was taught to us during my teenage years and was made very clear that we no longer needed to observe OT law. However we then find out that some parts of the OT are still applicable and things are not so clear anymore. As was discussed in depth in a recent posts on this site (I will not waste time repeating the discussion here) there is no clarity on which part of the OT law is and is not applicable. There is absolutely no consensus in Christianity and an incredible amount of confusion as to what part of the OT law is obsolete and what we should still follow.

    The thousands of different Christian denominations is testament to the fact there is so much confusion and contradiction in the Bible. Anyone can pick and chose any belief they want and the find the supporting Bible versus they need. Alternatively, there are many fewer Islamic denominations since the Koran was written in a much shorter period of time and much more internally consistent.

  • 31. heatlight  |  August 29, 2007 at 4:00 pm

    HeIsSailing – N.T. Wright is leagues above and beyond Bruce. He has the potential to completely reshape the Church’s understanding of Jesus, His Mission, and the whole of Christian theology for the next century. Seriously, I don’t agree with every word he said, nor am I convinced by his every argument, but I have NEVER encountered a scholar who is more familiar with his subject (I’m beginning to doubt whether there is a single book on History, Christian theology, or Historical Jesus scholarship, that he has not read in detail), and more profound in his historical portrait of the early church. Absolutely fascinating stuff. Read it SLOWLY.

  • 32. heatlight  |  August 29, 2007 at 4:06 pm

    Oh, to comment on the post – not Buddhism because it CAN’T be true (I won’t even debate that one, for someone willing to debate it is too irrational to have a sane conversation with). Hinduism, and it’s many branches seem too primitive to reflect the world accurately, plus they do not provide a sufficient philosophical foundation to support science, which I think is an essential aspect of modern life and even faith. I’m not a Muslim because I don’t like the fruit I see in it’s founder – in spite of how Muslims try to paint it, he was a violent man – not at all appealing. And, as a Christian, I basically AM a Jew, and find much to agree with in historical Judaism. How’s that? ;-)

  • 33. Eric  |  August 29, 2007 at 5:26 pm

    The simple answer to the question is:

    “If God made his presence known, then there would be no role for faith”.

    Neglecting, to explain, however, why faith is such a good thing in the first place.

  • 34. Yueheng  |  August 29, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    pj11:

    Thank you for the conversation. Be well :)

  • 35. Heather  |  August 29, 2007 at 9:04 pm

    He has the potential to completely reshape the Church’s understanding of Jesus,

    Based on what I’ve read of N.T. Wright’s books and works, I would agree. I know his promotion on the ‘New Perspective on Paul’ is stirring the waters in evangelical scholar circles.

    I also have the first two books, in terms of ‘The New Testament and the People of God’ as well as ‘Jesus and the VIctory of God.’ I plan on reading those by next year.

    I’m also impressed in his dealings with Marcus Borg. They have a different perspective, and yet seem to treat each other with a great deal of respect.

  • 36. HeIsSailing  |  August 29, 2007 at 10:14 pm

    heatnlight and Heather both agree!

    He has the potential to completely reshape the Church’s understanding of Jesus,

    Based on what I’ve read of N.T. Wright’s books and works, I would agree.

    Dang, such high praise!! I see I am going to have to read more than a handful of essays. What do you recommend I pick up first??

  • 37. trainmaster01  |  August 30, 2007 at 2:13 am

    Y’know, it isn’t even the Christian gospel that’s under fire here – even if you mistakenly believe that it is. It’s the entire body of western history, starting with the pre-biblical inhabitants of the region in and around the Tigris and Euphrates.

    Christians, and Muslims and Hebrews, AND Philistines, Egyptians, Greeks, Macedonians, Mycenaeans, Romans, Babylonians, Phoenicians, Hittites, Sumerians, and all the rest – created a body of mythological work that led to the semitic (not to be confused with the Holocaust, please) view of a single god worshiped by all the people. And each people’s own god took precedent over their enemy’s/neighbor’s god, especially if they were the victors.

    That all changed with the Yahvists (again, don’t confuse them with the Hebrews just because they happened to hijack the Judeo-Christian-Islamic faiths) who believed that only ONE god ruled them all and in the darkness (and mornings, noons, evenings, and Sundays, too) bound them.

    Christians reject other gods because of their pre-Christian roots, coupled with the “Apostle” Paul’s inability to ever complete a simple thought AND St. Augustine’s complete and abject lack of ability to read or speak Greek when he was actively translating the early bible from the Greek. Between those two philosophical freaks, the body of biblical and pre-biblical literature was so badly mauled and twisted that we have no choice but to insist that ours is the One True and Apostolic God.

    We proved it by subverting the northern European pantheon and hijacking their holidays. We proved it by subverting the “latin american” pantheon and hijacking their wealth (and their lives). We’re still proving it by hijacking the “god-given” right of indigenous peoples – to determine their own destinies like THEY’ve been doing with blood-thirst conviction toward others for several hundred thousand years.

    Am I a Christian? Absolutely. Do I want to cram my God down your throat? Pvffft – don’t make me laugh. Worship my God IF you are prepared to accept “the truths” that my Jesus spoke about achieving hope where none should exist and finding love where love has been trampled. If that’s not your cup of tea, maybe my church ain’t for you either.

    Before you “do the math,” do your homework. Read up on the histories. Learn your comparative religions. Sample other theologies. Don’t, DO NOT, blindly condemn everyone due to your limited assumptions.

  • 38. Shannon Lewis  |  August 30, 2007 at 8:17 am

    Read, in this order:
    New Testament & the People of God
    Jesus & the Victory of God
    Resurrection of the Son of God
    and then start his works on Paul – or wait for the 4th uber-volume to come out, which is compile all of his Pauline research into one volume.

    I, too, enjoy his interactions with Bord, but I must admit that Borg is the only ‘Jesus Seminar’ fellow that doesn’t make me want to insanely bang my head against a wall while reading his books, too.

  • 39. Heather  |  August 30, 2007 at 10:45 am

    HIS,

    Dang, such high praise!! I see I am going to have to read more than a handful of essays. What do you recommend I pick up first??

    Well, here I run into a problem because I’ve only read some essays, too. However, he and Marcus Borg did co-write a book called “The Meaning of Jesus,” in which they laid out the different perspectives of Jesus, and what they meant. I enjoyed that one.

    Shannon,

    I must admit that Borg is the only ‘Jesus Seminar’ fellow that doesn’t make me want to insanely bang my head against a wall while reading his books, too.

    I feel this way about some of the conservative scholars, so I completely understand where you’re coming from on this. :)

  • 40. heatlight  |  August 30, 2007 at 11:53 am

    Ha! I do understand. I’m sure some people feel that way when reading my stuff!

    And yes – the Meaning of Jesus is one of my all-time favorite books, though someone is not likely to discover Wright’s true brilliance there.

    I find Borg refreshing because, even though he is a revisionist, he doesn’t demand that the Christian faith be interpreted from a strict naturalist/materialist world-view (like Spong & Crossan): he leaves a little room still for a genuine spiritual encounter, even if his Jesus fits best within a semi-mystical panentheist fremework Again, I disagree with him plenty, but I guess if I were to listen closely to the more theologically ‘liberal’ camp, Borg (and E.P. Sanders), would be the voices I pay closest attention to.

  • 41. jonathan  |  September 1, 2007 at 7:16 pm

    It’s interesting to see so many judging God by human standards, as if we had a God’s eye view of things.

    First off, if God created life, He certainly has the right to end it. Whether through ordering the destruction of an entire nation as documented in the Old Testament or by allowing a heart attack or stroke to end a person’s life, our times are in HIS hands. If it was somehow wrong for God to end life, wouldn’t we all live forever in our physical bodies? Or is the real argument that God doesn’t exist at all?

    Second, let’s be honest in our logic. Arguments judging God for his actions regarding the genocide of the nations inhabiting Canaan are self-defeating. From a human, or earthly perspective, the death of a person is the worst thing that can happen to him, since our life on earth is all that we have. If this statement is true, then it’s not logical to judge God since this argument presupposes that He doesn’t exist. If this statement is false and there is in fact a God and life after death, then God would be justified to end life as the author of all life. Furthermore, in this viewpoint, an eternal soul would be worth more than a mortal life, and God would be righteous in protecting the Messianic line as promised through Abraham, through which all of the nations of the world would be blessed.

    It is clear that all of the world’s religions can not be true. They are all mutually exclusive. If we say they are all true, i.e. unitarianism, in essence we are saying that they are all false due to their completely different beliefs on the identity of God and his expectations of mankind.

    I don’t believe a creator God would sow such chaos and confusion. It is more plausible that one religion is true and the others are falsehoods created by entities that don’t want us to know the truth.

    Don’t fall into the trap of judging the gospel of Christ by it’s so-called followers. There are many tares in the crop. Peter himself said there would be many false prophets and teachers that would cause the way of the truth to be blasphemed. 2 Peter 2:1-2

    Interesting to see that after two millennia it still comes down to Jesus’ own question:”But who do you say that I am?” Matthew 16:15

  • 42. Stu  |  September 2, 2007 at 11:46 am

    Hi Jonathan

    “First off, if God created life, He certainly has the right to end it”

    Why? Who says? I have the right to create life by having a child, I most certainly do not have the right to end it. You may say that God is different, but then you must explain why, as it is not obvious at all! You are making an argument as to why God is allowed to end life, but the proposition above takes as an assumption the conclusion you are trying to prove, therefore begging the question. You must demonstrate why God is allowed to end life he created when this obviously doesn’t apply to anything else in the universe.

  • 43. Stu  |  September 2, 2007 at 11:50 am

    Hi Jonathan, me again :-)

    “I don’t believe a creator God would sow such chaos and confusion. It is more plausible that one religion is true and the others are falsehoods created by entities that don’t want us to know the truth.”

    I don’t believe a creator God would allow entities to exist that spread falsehoods deceiving his creatures and causing religious wars and bloodshed and ultimately eternal suffering for the decieved ones. It is more plausible that such a God doesn’t exist.

  • 44. heatlight  |  September 2, 2007 at 7:02 pm

    Stu: so, by having a child YOU, personally, have CREATED ‘life’? Wow. You must go about it differently that I do. You see, I have 2 children, and both of them began as already living sperm and an already living egg – neither of which’s life was I even moderately responsible for creating to begin with. If you somehow go about this process different that I, I’d be very impressed to know. I think you probably realize how rediculous your rebutal was – I hate to be rude, but on occasion it’s necessary to call the pot ‘black’: that was plain stupid.

  • 45. Stu  |  September 4, 2007 at 8:10 pm

    Er .. sorry heatlight I don’t know what you’re getting at here. Are you saying you agree with Jonathan on that point?

    When humans (or any creatures) reproduce they can be said to “create life”, in the sense of a specific instance of life. Obviously they’re not creating the concept of life in general. I think part of the confusion arises here with two meanings of the word “life” being used – if God creates life (the concept, or the first instance of life), does he have the right to end life (in the sense of an individual life)? That doesn’t follow.

    Besides, you must be able to see that even if God can be said to create each individual life from scratch (as I’m sure some christians would assert), does this necessarily give him the right to end that individual life? It’s not obvious to me that this follows. Maybe I’m wrong, if so, show me.

  • 46. Stu  |  September 4, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    Hmm you also seem to be using the term “living” indiscriminately. Can you really say that a sperm and an egg are “living” in the same sense that a conscious human child is “living”?

  • 47. Heather  |  September 4, 2007 at 8:54 pm

    Stu,

    I see what you’re getting at in terms of a man and woman creating life — that life would not exist had the two partners in question performed the requirements necessary for the fetus to exist. So I wouldn’t say that a sperm or egg have the same type of life compared to a just-born baby.

  • 48. jonathan  |  September 20, 2007 at 3:13 pm

    Stu,
    In response to your question. I feel the real root of this argument is the existence of God, not his right to take away life.

    From what we can see, no living thing “lives” forever, at least in a physical sense. If we presuppose the existence of God and say that he created life, I feel it would be safe to say that he defines it’s limitations. Back to the original argument concerning the destruction of the peoples inhabiting Canaan, whether they were killed by the Israelites or died of a heart attack at age 80, the end result is the same.

    Like I said, and I feel it demonstrates God’s right to take life is the fact that we are mortal in the first place. If God didn’t have the right to take life, we would all live forever, unless you are saying that there was something wrong with God’s blueprint for life, a malfunction that leads to our death that He somehow didn’t know about.

    Maybe what you mean by saying that the author of life has no right to determine it’s end is that God created life and the universe and doesn’t really care about what happens to it. Just trying to understand your viewpoint on this.

    Regarding your post “I don’t believe a creator God would allow entities to exist that spread falsehoods….”, God, in His providence has given us freewill. In order for Him to keep people from spreading falsehoods he would have to take that away. In order for there to be able to choose to follow God out of our own freewill, He had to allow us the possibility of rejecting Him.

    As far as your comment on eternal suffering for deceived ones, I believe the seeker will find what he is looking for. The Bible says if you seek God with your whole heart, you will find Him. It also states that it is not God’s will that anyone should perish, but that all should come to repentance. The deceived ones are not innocently seeking after God and winding up in hell as you suggest, but rather have itching ears and are looking for people who say what they want to hear. What I am saying is that no one will wind up in eternal suffering without choosing to do so.
    You say it is more plausible that God doesn’t exist in light of religious deception, wars and bloodshed. From my point of view, these confirm the biblical concept of spiritual warfare. I’m not talking about jihad or trying to set up a theocracy or anything like that, but rather what Paul called “principalities, powers, the rulers of darkness, the spiritual host of wickedness” (See Ephesians Ch. 6).

  • [...] HeIsSailing : On what basis do Christians reject other gods? [...]

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Attention Christian Readers

Just in case you were wondering who we are and why we de-converted.

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Whether or not you believe in God, you should live your life with love, kindness, compassion, mercy and tolerance while trying to make the world a better place. If there is no God, you have lost nothing and will have made a positive impact on those around you. If there is a benevolent God reviewing your life, you will be judged on your actions and not just on your ability to blindly believe in creeds- when there is a significant lack of evidence on how to define God or if he/she even exists.

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