Christianity vs. Christianity: Who will win?

September 16, 2007 at 10:52 pm 60 comments

boxing matchI remember as a teenager, a friend’s mother devoted a lot of her energy to get me “saved.” Here I was, the son of a preacher, living a life I thought was dedicated to God, but because I did not participate in communion each week and did not believe I needed to be baptized to be saved, I was destined to spend eternity in hell. Oh, and the church I attended used musical instruments and females during worship.

From this side of the fence, I have to laugh about all the petty arguments we had within Christianity and how quickly we were to condemn other sects to hell because of their beliefs or their lack of beliefs. Mormons and JW’s of course were the biggest transgressors for not accepting Jesus as God. Catholics were a close second with their belief in purgatory, their “worship” of Mary and all those “idols” of the Saints; so they too were sliding down that grease poll straight to you know where.

There was Kenneth Copeland and company preaching heresy with their “health and wealth” gospel and talking about Jesus going to hell. The Pentecostals were speaking in tongues inspired by the devil when they thought they were being empowered by the Holy Spirit. The Baptist had their “once saved always saved” doctrine. Then Carlton Pearson came along preaching the message of universal salvation.

Confused yet? Well, I could go on for a few hours (and was tempted to) but the reality is there are those within Christianity, like Hank Hanegraaff, who dedicate their lives to demonstrating why other Christians are going to hell. There are no two groups who agree on many of the “essential” doctrine. Of course, I never did figure out who had the authority to define those “essentials”.

Here’s a comical video which demonstrates this internal struggle within Christianity. Read the subtitles to Joel Osteen’s preaching, or maybe I should say “preaching.”

- The de-Convert

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60 Comments Add your own

  • 1. HeIsSailing  |  September 16, 2007 at 11:47 pm

    Great Horny-Toads!!! That has to be the biggest friggin church congregation I have ever laid eyes on!! It must take over two months just to pass the collection plate around!!

    But more to the point, I really find it humorous when Christians accuse other Christians of false teachings which they claim are of the devil. I encourage Christians to read Matthew 12:22-32 again before they so easily attribute the works of fellow Christians to the ‘Devil’. The Pharisees did that very thing with Jesus, and Jesus stopped them and warned them not to push it. They were dangerously close to commiting the unpardonable sin by attributing his miracles to Beelzebub!!

    If Christians really believed the Bible, I would say their souls are in greater danger when they point the finger at other Christians than those atheists that participate in the Blasphemy Challenge.

  • 2. Thinking Ape  |  September 17, 2007 at 12:15 am

    The de-Convert says,

    Oh, and the church I attended used… females during worship.

    What sort of worship was that?

  • 3. SilverTiger  |  September 17, 2007 at 3:26 am

    All religious groups tend to split when they reach a certain size. Is there a major religion in the world that has not fragmented into separate sects and denominations?

    Reasons for this include differences of belief, lust for power, delusions of righteousness and so on, motives that affect all aspects of life, not just religion.

    Make fun of these disputes if you like but I think we should be glad the splitting occurs. Would you want all Christians in the world to unite under a single banner and espouse a single agenda? I wouldn’t. The very idea sends shivers down my spine.

  • 4. superhappyjen  |  September 17, 2007 at 9:02 am

    Jesus wants me to be rich…sounds reasonable to me.

    BTW: I deny the existence of the Holy Spirit

  • 5. ESVA  |  September 17, 2007 at 10:29 am

    SilverTiger:
    Splitting because of the dynamics of group size is a different phenomenon than splitting for political or doctrinal reasons. To answer your question, no, I don’t think there is a major religion in the world that hasn’t fragmented. That’s because they all suffer from the same fatal flaw: they cannot be objectively demonstrated to be true, therefore all interpretations are equally valid. Which ones dominate the others has more to do with politics than with truth.

    If “God’s Word” is objectively true, the Truth, Christians should agree about what it says and means. They shouldn’t be splitting up because of “differences in belief” and especially not because of “delusions of power.” Sure, these motives affect decisions in all areas of life, but believers are supposed to try to overcome such “worldly” motives and be exemplars of a better way.

    On those occasions when disagreements arise, there should be some objective means of investigating the matter and uncovering the TRUTH. The sad fact is, religious sects have had to learn to “disagree agreeably” (more or less) even though, if they had their druthers, they’d rather not. An exception to this is the Dominionists in the USA, who currnetly are making a pretty strong effort to run roughshod over everyone else, believers and non-believers alike.

  • 6. ESVA  |  September 17, 2007 at 10:30 am

    Correction: my previous comment should have said “delusions of righteousness” rather than “delusions of power.” Apologies.

  • 7. Brad  |  September 17, 2007 at 12:08 pm

    Ugh… Joel Osteen is nuts.

    While it is important, as you say The de-Convert, to not condemn other Christians, it is also vitally important to be discerning of what is and isn’t sound teaching (1Cor. 14: 29). The error that many Christians make is in having the assumption that (insert heretic here) is going to hell. That presupposes God’s judgment and assumes that he/she will not change before their judgment.

    It is encouraged, allowed, and required of Christians to be wary of false doctrine and to teach sound doctrine. Often, illustrating what is not good doctrine helps us understand what good doctrine is.

    I can judge a person’s actions (or belief) to be right or wrong without judging the person. We cannot claim to believe in objective reality otherwise. Relativism says that truth is derived from individual belief. It is a foundational belief that Christianity is belief in the objective reality. Ideally, one can believe this and disagree with others’ beliefs without judging that person.

    Or, in short, seek to speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)

  • 8. mewho  |  September 17, 2007 at 1:08 pm

    Joel Osteen’s version of Christianity is tailor-made for wealthy Christians living in a wealthy country. This message is simply the adaptation of the Bible to a new, wealthy world where Christians are getting rich and feeling guilty. What does the American Christian with wealth need to do? They need to go to Joel’s church and avoid the churches that maintain the old teachings of poverty, sacrifice and self-denial. (That’s where the poor Christians go to talk ill of the rich Christians and how they probably aren’t “saved”. )

    When it comes to religion and survival of the fittest, Christianity wins the prize. It’s against slavery, it’s for slavery. It’s against women, it’s for women. God can’t use evolution, God uses evolution. You can’t drink alcohol, you can drink alcohol. You can’t dance, you can dance. You can find either one supported in scripture. Sam Harris is right in saying the Bible’s teachings are muddled and contradictory. This fact makes it easy for a pastor like Joel Osteen to preach the “health and wealth” message. I see it simply as Christianity adapting to a new set of modern circumstances. In America, few people want to hear the “sick and poor” message so the Bible is reinterpreted for the next generation. If a Great Depression ever comes again, the message will again read “blessed are the poor, for theirs is the kingdom of Heaven.” It is adaptation, and it is transparent.

  • 9. lostgirlfound  |  September 17, 2007 at 3:49 pm

    No wonder we’re not about feeding the poor and taking care of each other … we’re too busy waiting for “what we’re due from God” to happen. So sad …

  • 10. karen  |  September 17, 2007 at 4:08 pm

    In the churches I attended that focused strongly on End Times theology, the biggest conflict with other Christians was over whether the rapture would occur pre-tribulation, mid-trib or post-tribulation.

    Seriously. This was THE BIG doctrinal dispute and we had reams of teaching to “prove” that an event not ever mentioned specifically by name in the bible (the rapture) would happen before the seven years of tribulation (again, a narrow interpretation of biblical prophecy), not during or after the tribulation.

    Talk about your incestuous animosity and ridiculous naval-gazing! We wouldn’t call post- or mid-tribbers non-Christians, surely, but we thought they were seriously in error. Along with this viewpoint, moderate or liberal Christians were probably not even saved – they were lukewarm in their faith and thus an abomination to god – and of course Christian sects (like JWs and Mormons) were serious violations of doctrine and very likely deceptions of the devil.

    Other religions, such as Jews, Hindus, Muslims, etc., were beyond the pale. No way were any of those people who did not call on the name of Jesus going to heaven.

    It still shocks me to hear moderate and liberal Christians say that other religions are fine, they’re just god’s way of reaching various people in various cultures. That would NEVER have flown as an option for Christians in the churches I attended.

  • 11. mewho  |  September 17, 2007 at 5:13 pm

    Great observation, Karen. I, too, grew up in churches caught up in the rapture debate. How utterly contemptuous the whole affair is! My dad is a Baptist minister and has been all his life. I love him dearly, but I don’t like to him him preach. He does series on Revelations way too often, and he gets involved in theological minutia, which I now think is poppy-cock. I used to be a minister, too, and realized that making sense of the Bible was impossible. I find Christianity so self-centered now, too, even though there are great Christians who do wonderful things. Many of my friends and family are Christians. But the religious have an end-game mentality that’s just about them, and their perspective minimizes this life. They worry about me and make me feel guilty that I’ve fallen off the truck. I compare it to the man who fell out of the boat and found himself in water six inches deep. Or the man who fell off a cliff at night and dangled there gripping a root. He gets so tired he finally gives up, let’s go, and falls six inches to the ground. I’m still trying to work around the friends and family and the social structure without a devout faith, and I will admit that’s hard. But giving up the religious baggage was easy and liberating. Religion is ancient mind and social control, and that idea was easy for me to shed. As Dan Barker would say “I saw the light!”

    I would also note that it took science to get us out of that self-absorbed mentality, where we were the center of the universe. People are so insecure, and religion is the result. I recently entertained the notion that God wanting to spend eternity with people is like me wanting to spend eternity with my goldfish. I guess I wouldn’t mind, but I hope my goldfish aren’t building up their hopes…

  • 12. bipolar2  |  September 17, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    ** Big fundie money mills pay for a war against women **

    Fundie xian males, like their muslim brethren, shudder at a technological world in which mental agility has replaced physical strength as a core measure of economic utility. This reordering of values strips away a core faith-based lie: god-ordained male supremacy.

    Unresolved to this day is a decades long struggle over gender equality — equal productive and reproductive rights. Who does The House and Senate back? The relevant group, women themselves, tens of millions of them?

    Or white male second-hand-god salesmen? Spewing pro-natalist social Darwinism tarted up as “family values”.

    Women’s aspirations, self realization, reproductive self-determination must be crushed by direct force. Xian domestic terrorism, like muslim domestic terrorism, humiliates, intimidates, and batters women back into submission.

    Protected by complicit federal and state officials, cells of xian thugs have been targeting women and their humane values for decades. Irrationality drives scientific
    knowledge about sex from America’s schools just as it drives medical research abroad.

    Fundie political ideologues must eventually embrace state totalitarianism. Their “truths” can never win popular support. An open society will repudiate a nihilism composed of literalist lies, morally repugnant beliefs, and theocratic rules.

    bipolar2
    copyright asserted 2007

  • 13. The de-Convert  |  September 17, 2007 at 9:08 pm

    Brad,

    I hope you didn’t feel I in any way discourage questioning and exposing brands of Christianity used to manipulate, abuse, or sell people a false hope. The purpose of the post was mainly to focus on the petty things (as Karen mentioned – pre-post-or mid trib discussions), etc. The use of the Joel video was to really point out the comments made by the creator. It is a bit funny from where I sit now. However, a few years ago, I would have been right there as evidence by my old Christian sites ( http://www.safechurch.com or check out the forum on Stella’s site http://www.crjournal.com ). We were all about exposing these “nuts.”

    Paul

  • 14. karen  |  September 17, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    mewho:
    I used to be a minister, too, and realized that making sense of the Bible was impossible.

    I continue to be surprised by how many former ministers, missionaries and church lay leaders (myself, for one) are turning up on ex-fundy and deconversion groups. I wonder if anyone’s ever done a study or formed a group of people like Dan Barker, you and others here? Surely there should at least be a group for former Christian leaders who’ve left the fold!

    I find Christianity so self-centered now, too, even though there are great Christians who do wonderful things. Many of my friends and family are Christians.

    I help moderate an ex-fundy support group and we were just talking about this self-centered attitude. It’s the old “god helped me find a great parking space today” or “I prayed to Jesus when I was late for church and he turned all the lights green so I didn’t miss worship!” How can these people honestly say that god has favored them or answered their prayers when millions of children are suffering and starving? In my case, it was sheer self-centeredness. I didn’t begin to think about other people’s unanswered prayers, I just praised the lord for my own. :-(

    I compare it to the man who fell out of the boat and found himself in water six inches deep. Or the man who fell off a cliff at night and dangled there gripping a root. He gets so tired he finally gives up, let’s go, and falls six inches to the ground. I’m still trying to work around the friends and family and the social structure without a devout faith, and I will admit that’s hard. But giving up the religious baggage was easy and liberating.

    Agreed. By the time I quit attending church, I was more than glad to do so! I like your six-inches-deep analogy. I’m going to have to remember that one.

  • 15. The de-Convert  |  September 17, 2007 at 10:56 pm

    me who,

    I used to be a minister, too, and realized that making sense of the Bible was impossible.

    Exactly! That’s why all the bickering is funny. Who’s to say who is right and who is wrong? It’s crazy to say the Bible defines true doctrine when there are so many different interpretations of the Bible text. Even though I once believed Jesus=God and have to say recent reading of the scriptures have given me a lot of sympathy for those who do not believe that. There’s a ton of evidence to support their claim.

    Paul

  • 16. Brad  |  September 18, 2007 at 10:19 am

    The de-Convert,

    No worries, I wholeheartedly agree that argument over non-essentials is often frivolous (especially when it comes to eschatology, since scripture says that we won’t know the hour or the day…).

    “It’s crazy to say the Bible defines true doctrine when there are so many different interpretations of the Bible text.”

    But are all those interpretations equally valid? If not, then it must be assumed that one is “most” valid over the others.

    When a (decent) journalist reports a congressional debate, he/she could take the conclusions of that debate in a number of different ways. But the intent of the speakers and the goal behind the questions should inform the meaning of the speeches themselves. The same goes for scripture. That there are many interpretations does not point to the impossibility of deriving meaning from the text, it means that the text is deep and meaningful.

  • 17. karen  |  September 18, 2007 at 1:36 pm

    Brad:
    But are all those interpretations equally valid? If not, then it must be assumed that one is “most” valid over the others.

    But Brad, surely you see that the problem with this statement is that there’s no “there there.” In other words, there’s no original party to go to and request clarification about what interpretation is most valid. Sure – pastors will say that “god told them in their hearts” this or that interpretation was right – but how do we verify the truth when everyone seems to have received a different “heart message” from god?

    That’s why your analogy with the congressional debate doesn’t hold up. Of course a journalist could go back to the source – either to the debater herself to ask for clarification, or to the written or televised transcript of what actually was spoken.

    We can’t do that with the bible. It’s ambiguous enough that almost anybody can pick up a verse and put his/her favorite interpretation on it, and justify it somehow. I grew up with teaching that insisted on interpreting literally, and going back to the ancient languages as much as possible. But there are sects who claim to do the same, yet hold to completely different interpretations of those same verses! Now, I see “emergent” Christians coming up with interpretations that are pretty much 180-degrees opposite of what fundamentalists believe, but they claim that they are the ones finding new information in ancient languages and cultural context.

    There’s simply no way to decide which is most valid, honestly, because we can’t ask god what he meant. What I’d really like to ask – and what made me suspicious in the first place – is why the whole thing is so confusing and open to mistakes and confusion anyway.

    If god is not a god of confusion, why wouldn’t he have delivered a simpler, clearer message that couldn’t be so misused and misunderstood? If you say that he had to deliver something in the cultural context of the time, okay, but why would he not use the holy spirit to prevent misinterpretations and confusions? It doesn’t make any sense at all to me, and it’s further proof that man created god, not the other way around.

  • 18. Brad  |  September 19, 2007 at 10:31 am

    Karen,

    It really is not as difficult as one would think. No, we cannot ask the biblical authors directly, but we can examine the historical context to and from which they were writing. Their use of language (John, in writing to gentiles in Antioch), rhetoric (Paul writing to the Corinthians), and the cultural influences of the time period.

    Pastors who say that God “told them in their hearts” something that flies in the face of this context is just… wrong. The Holy Spirit can certainly focus, emphasize, or bring to light certain aspects of what the text is saying, but the degree to which this has been hijacked and abused is just ridiculous.

    “is why the whole thing is so confusing and open to mistakes and confusion anyway.”

    That’s a great question. I don’t know that I have an answer for you. But what does come to mind is that, in Eden, Adam spoke directly with God, who told him in no uncertain terms not to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He and Eve were still deceived, even though there could have been very little confusion.

    Whether you take that story historically or anecdotally, I think we can all affirm that certainty is awfully difficult to nail down on a universal level (ironic isn’t it?).

    “but why would he not use the holy spirit to prevent misinterpretations and confusions? ”

    What would love be without free will or the choice not to do so? What need would there be for faith if we did not have a choice in our understanding or belief? We cannot love anyone if we do not have the choice (as illustrated in the Garden). Augustine said, “I believe in order to know.” I think that much of our understanding IS illuminated by the holy spirit once we are open to it through belief. We cannot “know” Christianity until we enter into it’s story.

    I just wrote a post about this. It is a lot more comprehensive, and you may find it interesting.

    http://seminarianblog.com/2007/09/17/lost-in-translation-part-2/

  • 19. mewho  |  September 19, 2007 at 12:04 pm

    This website is vital to me at this stage of the game. Some atheists were born free and never had the fabric of their lives interwoven with a faith. But for those of us who were brought up in the pew every Sunday morning, or even by missionary parents, this process is like detox. A website like this makes the process possible, where former Christians can think and express themselves while shedding a lifetime of faith.

    “I wish I would have taken the blue pill.” This quote from the Matrix expresses how painful de-conversion can be. Sometimes you wish you could go back but you can’t. You have seen the wizard behind the curtain. But, like Darwin’s dilemma, my wife is a devout Christian and I have pulled the carpet out from under her. I tip-toe, needless to say, but she is bright and intelligent and will listen with compassion. She, however, doesn’t want to doubt her faith. It’s a difficult place ot be.

  • 20. karen  |  September 19, 2007 at 6:27 pm

    Brad:
    No, we cannot ask the biblical authors directly, but we can examine the historical context to and from which they were writing. Their use of language (John, in writing to gentiles in Antioch), rhetoric (Paul writing to the Corinthians), and the cultural influences of the time period.

    Yeah, but those influences and the original meanings and nuances of the language are themselves all open to interpretation, argumentation and competing scholarship, right?

    The point I’m making is that the entire situation is “fluid” enough that those who represent almost any biblical position can make a reasonably good case for their point of view – and there’s no real way to judge which is more or less accurate.

    For instance, the fundamentalist pastors whose preaching I used to listen to by the hour insisted that THEY were the ones going back to the original language and culture and getting their interpretations from the authentic sources. Yet they would hold positions on certain issues that are diametrically opposed to those of more liberal pastors, or of apologists for other sects of Christianity. And they would accuse THOSE folks of being the ones taking things out of context and culture and “modernizing” it to make it more accepting to today’s secular society.

    Who’s to say whose interpretation is truly “closer” to the original? What I’ve concluded is that we’re just too far removed from that time period to be able to make that judgment fairly, and also too often colored by our own wish that a certain position be biblically justified.

    “but why would he not use the holy spirit to prevent misinterpretations and confusions? ”

    What would love be without free will or the choice not to do so? What need would there be for faith if we did not have a choice in our understanding or belief? We cannot love anyone if we do not have the choice (as illustrated in the Garden).

    Here’s another conundrum, for me. Every time I ask where the influence of the holy spirit is demonstrated in Christians – the comforter and guider promised in the NT – the rejoinder goes to free will. Why do those things have to be related? According to the teaching I received, once a believer accepted Christ and received the HS, their lives were supposed to be influenced for the better. Free will didn’t come into it.

    Why would Jesus promise a Holy Spirit if accepting it would violate someone’s free will? Yet I don’t see the evidence of this behind-the-scenes force for good in the world. Why not? Are most Christians rejecting the influence of the HS in their lives? If so – why would god bother to give it and what good does it do?

    Augustine said, “I believe in order to know.” I think that much of our understanding IS illuminated by the holy spirit once we are open to it through belief. We cannot “know” Christianity until we enter into it’s story.

    Well, as one who did believe for 30 years, and who did receive Christ and the HS, I’m not persuaded by that argument and I find most non-theists are not either.

    I don’t mean to be offensive, but my take on that advice is, “Accept something that’s not logical, for which there’s no objective evidence, just because someone’s telling you to, and then suddenly it’ll magically make sense to you.” I did that, frankly, and there was no “magic” involved: There was emotion and peer pressure and a deliberate shutting down of the doubting and questioning part of my personality, at a very young age. Once that happened – sure, I could believe! I couldn’t imagine not believing. Which is why it was such a very long, arduous process to pry those rusty doors inside my brain open again and start thinking skeptically again.

  • 21. karen  |  September 19, 2007 at 6:32 pm

    mewho:
    This quote from the Matrix expresses how painful de-conversion can be. Sometimes you wish you could go back but you can’t. You have seen the wizard behind the curtain.

    Once you realize that the emperor is naked, it’s just about impossible to mentally dress him again! :-) Interestingly enough, I remember a few major backsliders who did come back to the faith at various churches I was in. I never really talked to them about what they had been thinking, but I wish now that I had. It would have been interesting to know if they overcame their doubts, re-dressed the emperor or just came back to church due to social and family pressure.

    But, like Darwin’s dilemma, my wife is a devout Christian and I have pulled the carpet out from under her. I tip-toe, needless to say, but she is bright and intelligent and will listen with compassion. She, however, doesn’t want to doubt her faith. It’s a difficult place ot be.

    I understand exactly where you’re coming from mewho. My husband is still a devout believer and I feel very badly for him. He married a good Christian girl and wound up “unequally yoked” to an apostate – me! We have learned not to discuss the topic much, because it is too difficult. He knows that I no longer believe and over time he’s come to accept that – I think. But it’s definitely a tough situation to be in. I’ve heard of couples who deconvert together and I think they’re very fortunate.

  • 22. Heather  |  September 19, 2007 at 7:28 pm

    What would love be without free will or the choice not to do so? What need would there be for faith if we did not have a choice in our understanding or belief?

    But I don’t think this works in terms of misinterpretations and confusion. As Karen pointed out, each version of Christianity can be absolustely certain they are being guided, and everyone else is misinterpreting. They can point to the Bible for proof as to why. So can all the “others.” Because both versions would ask, whole-heartedly, for answers from the holy spirit, and receive different answers. Understanding shouldn’t follow belief — it should precede belief. You understand how something works, why it’s set up that way, and then believe. For friends, or spouses, we don’t randomly believe that someone loves us or cares for us, and then understand. We understand that the person loves us, based on “proof” and thus can make a blanket statement of believing someone loves us.

  • 23. Leopardus  |  September 20, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    Karen and mewho:

    I’m also of the “unequally yoked” crowd. My wife knows I don’t believe, but she does NOT want to think through her own belief. Happily our relationship is good though.
    As to spiritual matters, we don’t talk much about them. I think she very afraid of the thought that I might be right. Also she’s not the sort who can very readily admit to being wrong.
    I figure she must find her own way, just as I had to.
    Anyway, now that I know that it doesn’t really matter much what one believes, I have little trouble just leaving folks with their beliefs.
    Welcome to the struggle.

    Mike

    P.S. Hi Karen. I’m the wandering apostate you found on ‘Et Tu Jen’ and invited to your ex-fundy group. Thanks.

  • 24. karen  |  September 20, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    Mike:
    As to spiritual matters, we don’t talk much about them. I think she very afraid of the thought that I might be right. Also she’s not the sort who can very readily admit to being wrong.
    I figure she must find her own way, just as I had to.

    Hey Mike! (waving happily at the wandering apostate). Nice to see you here. :-) mewho, if you’re interested, I help moderate an online support group for ex-fundamentalists at Yahoo!Groups and we’d love to have you (or other deconverters here) join: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/exit-fundyism/.

    Mike, what you describe above is similar to the balancing act my husband and I have achieved. In the early going of my deconversion, he objected because he goes to men’s groups where they advance the idea that a godly man is in charge of his household and “responsible” for bringing his wife and kids to belief. (yes, these are conservative Christian groups).

    Once he got over that, and realized he could not “make” me or the kids believe, we have gotten along better. I have no problem with his continued belief, and I make no bones about him attending church, donating money weekly, etc. That’s his decision.

    I too suspect he doesn’t want to hear much about what I’m thinking because he’s afraid I might be right, and he HATES admitting he’s wrong. Also, it’s a difficult, scary thing to walk away from a lifetime of faith, and I completely understand that he might not be up for it. It’s not easy.

    That said, after 25 years (this January) together, I’m loathe to make religion the breaking point of our marriage.

  • 25. Brad  |  September 20, 2007 at 3:27 pm

    “Yeah, but those influences and the original meanings and nuances of the language are themselves all open to interpretation, argumentation and competing scholarship, right?”

    Not to a significant enough of a degree. There may be some issues on the nuances of words, but intent and practice is almost always VERY clear with just a little bit of digging.

    Karen,

    I am not a philosopher, so I am not well versed in issues such as presuppositionalism, or other isms. I do know that we are shaped by our experiences and bring certain assumptions to the table. Having been a believer for 30 years, I imagine that it was not an irreconcilable issue of doctrine alone that made you change your mind. You bring a unique worldview and perspective to the table. My intent in commenting on here is not to try to use reason for the sake of making a water-tight case for Christianity, only to discuss a few aspects of it.

    Christianity is not a set of beliefs that are to be presented and believed through reason alone. They must be participated in, tried out in community, and trusted in order to be accurately tested for truth. I believe that they not only “pass the test” but excel in it completely.

    However, Christians suck. Often. Christians do not live the standard that their faith aspires to. This applies to ethics as well as doctrine. I would say that many fundamentalist pastors want to use the text to push a cultural Christianity that (ironically) does not trust the HS to transform hearts (moralism). Liberal pastors often do not want to face the culture’s disagreement with the text, so they place more authority there. The middle of the road is humbly submitting to the text (not coming to it with an agenda) and doing faithful exegesis (as opposed to exegesis). It is a agnostic (or, at best positivist) fallacy that one cannot know truth from scripture.

    The term I like that best describes it is having an attitude of “critical realism,” recognizing that there is a “truth” that can be known, and being part of a process that critiques and IS critiqued in return. N.T. Wright has probably the best explanation of it.

    That said, many can claim to “know” what scripture says, but there is a likely chance that they are full of horse &@$# (as I’m sure you well know). But truth can, and must, be tested.

  • 26. Brad  |  September 20, 2007 at 3:30 pm

    Edit:

    “(as opposed to exegesis).” should be “(as opposed to EISegesis).”

  • 27. mewho  |  September 20, 2007 at 6:14 pm

    Brad,

    I enjoyed reading your post. I understand the search for truth, and for years I thought I would find it in Scripture. But I now realize that God writing a book is a laughable notion. God did not write a book. He would find ten thousand better means of communication than to write a book. He had to deliver an all-important message to us, one that would decide our eternal fate, and he sent a book? Dr. Seuss wrote books. Beverly Cleary wrote books. J. R. R. Tolkien wrotes books. It’s a very HUMAN activity. Not a very divine one, though.

    The Bible records God sending messages in fiery letters on a wall in Babylon. That’s impressive. The Bible records God personally writing the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. That’s supernatural. Jesus appeared physically after his resurrection to huge crowds!! That’s convincing. God shone a bright light from Heaven to Saul and spoke from the sky. God talked through a donkey. These are all examples of how a deity would communicate. He would do something outside the natural. But the Bible IS NOT outside the natural. It’s not even coherent on many important issues and certainly not error-free. On top of that, God wrote the Bible in some ancient language. All His orignals are destroyed. God doesn’t even give people the ability to read. Some people are born blind. Some people are born dyslexic. And yet we are convinced that God thought a book was HIS BEST SHOT at communicating with us? The Bible still isn’t translated into some languages. I guess God is still working on that… And there is a very simple answer as to why there are no more amazing, miraculous messages: the ones recorded in the Bible never happened in the first place. That’s why we don’t see these supernatural signs today. (Unless you believe the Virgin Mary appeared on a grilled cheese sandwich.)

    A reasonable look at the Bible reveals the truth: this is not the work of an all-powerful Creator but the work of ancient people pondering their own existence and trying to maintain some sort of civil society. They created stories that slowly changed and evolved. The text was edited to adjust to changing social pressures. Stories were borrowed and reworked. The Bible is still being retranslated, edited, reinterpreted, debated and rewritten. Some have added other books. I don’t think there is proof for God in ANY ancient texts. The Bible is the preserved Word of ancient desert nomads. You may find inspiration between it’s pages, but many others find better inspiration elsewhere.

  • 28. karen  |  September 20, 2007 at 8:27 pm

    Brad:
    Not to a significant enough of a degree. There may be some issues on the nuances of words, but intent and practice is almost always VERY clear with just a little bit of digging.

    Well, it may be VERY clear to you, but it sure is not clear to me. Especially not when, as I mentioned, the conservative pastors and scholars I studied for 30 years as just as certain that their interpretation is VERY clearly the right one.

    There’s no way for unity of interpretation to occur, nor to discover which viewpoint is more correct, in my estimation. We’re too far from the time period and the “source” is not available to settle the questions for us in person (for SOME reason!). ;-)

    Having been a believer for 30 years, I imagine that it was not an irreconcilable issue of doctrine alone that made you change your mind.

    Oh, not even close. The vagaries of doctrine was very much a later concern that only added fuel to the intellectual “fire” that resulted when I opened the floodgates of natural curiosity and questioning in my brain.

    Christianity is not a set of beliefs that are to be presented and believed through reason alone. They must be participated in, tried out in community, and trusted in order to be accurately tested for truth. I believe that they not only “pass the test” but excel in it completely.

    I understand that you feel that way, and I can only say that I reached the opposite conclusion.

    However, Christians suck. Often. Christians do not live the standard that their faith aspires to. This applies to ethics as well as doctrine.

    But – as I asked before – why? I see Christians all the time apologizing and humbling themselves like this and admitting how flawed they are, their peers are, their churches are and their denominations are. A lot of them even go so far as to say “religion sucks! good thing I’m not religious!” Why the need to disclaim so broadly?

    If Christians are supposed to have a “secret weapon” that the rest of us don’t get: i.e., the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, it seems to me that most of them should not only NOT suck, but they should excel both in ethics and in displaying clear unity on doctrinal points. Yet, that’s not what I see lived out in the real world.

    That said, many can claim to “know” what scripture says, but there is a likely chance that they are full of horse &@$# (as I’m sure you well know). But truth can, and must, be tested.

    Okay, so why can’t Christian behavior, aided by the guidance and comfort of the supernatural Holy Spirit’s presence, be “tested” and come up clearly superior? This is a major failing of the truth test, for me.

  • 29. karen  |  September 20, 2007 at 8:31 pm

    mewho:
    God did not write a book. He would find ten thousand better means of communication than to write a book. He had to deliver an all-important message to us, one that would decide our eternal fate, and he sent a book? Dr. Seuss wrote books. Beverly Cleary wrote books. J. R. R. Tolkien wrotes books. It’s a very HUMAN activity. Not a very divine one, though.

    Not to mention, it’s kind of passe, isn’t it? I mean, so many of the other gods wrote books! It’s not even trendy.

    I was discussing this very point once and someone suggested that if there were an omni-everything god trying to get a message to humankind, it might choose to communicate in the language of mathematics – something that can be universally understood across cultures, languages and even time. I thought that was an interesting idea.

  • 30. HeIsSailing  |  September 20, 2007 at 9:46 pm

    mewho sez:

    God doesn’t even give people the ability to read. Some people are born blind. Some people are born dyslexic. And yet we are convinced that God thought a book was HIS BEST SHOT at communicating with us?

    These are great points, mewho. I was told that God wanted me to read my Bible every day (getting my daily bread). Yet for the majority of Christian history, the vast bulk of the laity could not read, and were at the mercy of the clergy. What the clergy said, whether orthodox, corrupt or anywhere in between, was believed by the laity because they had no way to ‘fact check’. Even if they could read they had no Bibles of their own, since the ones in existance were chained in monestary libraries.

    So tell me just how effective God was in getting his ‘true’ message across to those poor slobs!

  • 31. HeIsSailing  |  September 20, 2007 at 10:01 pm

    Brad:

    The middle of the road is humbly submitting to the text (not coming to it with an agenda) and doing faithful exegesis (as opposed to eisegesis).

    You realize that these two processes are in the eye of the beholder, right? In another article, I interpreted the creature Leviathan in Job 41 as a choas monster whom YHVH had to destroy in order to create the world. I also once wrote an article showing that the best interpretation of the Adam and Eve story involved polytheism and had nothing to do with original sin. I think I interpreted those passages fairly, I skipped nothing, and left relatively few unanswered problems in the text. I call that pretty good exegesis.

    Not only would you call them eisogesis, you would call them anathema.

    It is not exo and eisogesis. It has nothing to do with that. It is interpreting scripture to fit a church creed and a set belief system.

    You can tell that is my biggest complaint about my old Christian ways, huh?

  • 32. HeIsSailing  |  September 20, 2007 at 10:22 pm

    I just re-read my comment, and it sounds more arrogant than it should. My apologies. My whole point though, is that there is more than one way to legitimately interpret *any* Bible passage. It is not as easy to interpret these things as you think – and it is near impossible to find the author’s intent on any number of key issues, because there are so many ways to interpret Bible passages. Methods like exogesis are more art than science, and sometimes you just have to decide the proper course of interpretation on nothing more than a gut feeling.

    Here is a challenge: How do you interpret Mark 3:28? Now tell me why it is wrong and give me another interpretation. Now tell me why that one is wrong and give me yet a third interpretation.

    I can give three interpretations for Mark 3:28 using three different methods of exogesis. I think all three have arguments in their favor. I can also think of arguments that debunk all three interpretations.. What did Mark have in mind when he wrote this? Blast if I know! Who can tell? But it is a seriously major doctrinal issue, so we had better get it straight. What do you think?

    I don’t want to hijack this article with that challenge, but tell me what you think.

  • 33. Mike  |  September 21, 2007 at 1:44 am

    There has been a ton of good conversation on this issue, and I think it really hits at the core of the difficulties we are presented with in understanding how we can know anything.

    Consider Zeno’s Paradox: If you take half the distance from you to me, and then half it again, and then half it again, and then half it again, you should be able to do that onto infinity without ever reaching me. Yet at some point, you will be able to smack me in the face, and it will hurt, and I will likely smack you right back.

    My point is this: we can refine our understanding of what an author intends when he writes something by his word choice, the textual context in which he writes, the cultural context in which he writes, the historical backqround of thought on that issue, etc ad nauseum.

    While I cannot say, ever, that I have arrived at the authors intent, I can get close enough to smack him:) Now, within Christianity there needs to be enough humility to see that there are others in smacking distance even if they are at a different point along the way, or they are equidistant along an arc (if this is too much math I apologize). But there is also a validity in claiming that someone is nowhere near the authors original intent.

    Does this make sense? Am I way off base here? Are these things that have already been considered and rejected? Let me know.

  • 34. Brad  |  September 21, 2007 at 12:57 pm

    Because there are so many very awesome and difficult questions to answer here (and Mike spoke more succinctly than in summary yof many of them), I’ll try to hit 2 points very well.

    1.) “Okay, so why can’t Christian behavior, aided by the guidance and comfort of the supernatural Holy Spirit’s presence, be “tested” and come up clearly superior? This is a major failing of the truth test, for me.”

    On a global scale, I believe it has. In the post-Christian western world, Christianity has been the “majority” for several centuries. But where it is taking root in places like China (who, numerically, has more Christians than any country), it is transforming society for the better, and liberating people long oppressed and in the minority. Where people can be comfortable and corrupted by materialism, so too does doctrine and ethics become susceptible. Christianity in Africa has brought comfort, love, and mercy to hundreds of thousands of people, and is a faith distinctly African. In fact, the majority of the world’s Christians are now what we in America would consider “minorities.” In many places, and on a holistic global scale, it has been “clearly superior.”

    In Re: to God not speaking through a written book….
    1.) Books are easier to reproduce than stone tablets, and thus would reach more people faster. They are also easier to carry. Would it not make sense (assuming God believed that faith in Him and His promises are what will save humanity) to make that as available as possible? It’s good logistics if you ask me.
    2.) If God created the world, and continually sustains it, would what we consider “mundane” also be creatively God’s? A friend once said that miracles don’t happen anymore. I replied that the birth of a baby was indeed a miracle, as it was the continuation of the original miracle of creation. We just (sometimes) take it for granted. The cognitive ability to record and disseminate information is quite the miracle!
    3.) Defining what would be “divine” or “Godly” by our standards is somewhat… contradictory. If God can be constrained by how we define Him (as opposed to How He defines Himself), how powerful of a God can He be?

  • 35. mewho  |  September 21, 2007 at 1:18 pm

    Has anyone received the e-mail from God? It’s really cool and has a great message for all of mankind. It’s by far the MOST IMPORTANT e-mail that we will ever receive. God in HIS great wisdom chose to use e-mail because it’s fast and, hey, everybody on earth gets e-mail. And if anyone doesn’t believe the e-mail is from God (it says in the the e-mail that it IS from Him) then gloom and doom on them.

    It is assumed that those without e-mail will soon have computers distributed to them by Gideon International. Until them the poor slobs will just have to be patient. Also, the power companies are working as quickly as they can to run the cable and electric lines through the dense jungles. There may be some other e-mails that say they were written by God, please IGNORE THESE. THEY ARE SPAM!

  • 36. mewho  |  September 21, 2007 at 1:22 pm

    Has anyone received the e-mail from God? It’s really cool and has a great message for all of mankind. It’s by far the MOST IMPORTANT e-mail that we will ever receive. God in HIS great wisdom chose to use e-mail because it’s fast and everybody on earth gets e-mail. And if anyone doesn’t believe the e-mail is from God (it says in the the e-mail that it IS from Him) then gloom and doom on them.

    It is assumed that those without e-mail will soon have computers distributed to them by Gideon International. Until then the poor slobs will just have to be patient. Also, the power companies are working as quickly as they can to run the cable and electric lines through the dense jungles. There may be some other e-mails that say they were written by God, please IGNORE THESE. THEY ARE SPAM! DO NOT REPLY! Once you have received the correct e-mail (you’ll just know – don’t ask) reply saying that you believe every word of it. Also electronically transfer ten percent of your checking account to the link provided. Thank you.

  • 37. mewho  |  September 21, 2007 at 1:24 pm

    My apologies for the sarcasm and the double post.

  • 38. pj11  |  September 21, 2007 at 2:31 pm

    I hate to jump in here out of the blue and possibly take the dialogue onto a new rabbit trail … but I agree with much of what mewho has said. Writing a book is surely not the most efficient way for God (or any other being) to deliver a message … particularly something as important as “how to secure eternal life.” So I ask myself, why hasn’t God been more efficient and effective in His delivery?

    If you read the parable of the sower in Mark 4, you see Jesus telling His disciples a rather shocking truth to most Christians today – most people will not understand His message because they haven’t been given the keys to the mystery of the Kingdom. They are, in Jesus’ words, “those on the outside.” Jesus spoke in parables so that only some would understand and be forgiven.

    Look, if Jesus wanted every human being to be saved, He could accomplish it in many creative ways. He could flash His appearance in the sky each day and shout in a loud God-voice, “Believe in me and you will be saved!” But He doesn’t. As mewho suggested, He could send e-mails to every human being on earth. He could send FedEx packages to every one of you. He could come down here to earth and hold a press conference … I guarantee it would be covered!

    But God has chosen to speak through a number of human authors over thousands of years and to superintend the flawed transmission of an ancient book. Then He sets out to give wisdom and understanding to some, but not to all. In the words of Scripture, no one has the ability to come to Christ unless the Father draws that person and reveals the mysterious truth to that person. God chooses … He reveals … He draws … He saves. God isn’t concerned with trying to communicate more effectively. For those who are outside the Kingdom, the Gospel is irrational foolishness. For those who have been given the mystery of the Kingdom, the Gospel (contained in the pages of Scripture) is the power of God unto salvation.

    Yes, I know this will draw fire from all sides – atheists, agnostics, and most Christians. I know that this idea makes God seem “unfair” and mean-spirited. But I’m convinced that this Reformed perspective on salvation best fits the text … and best answers the objections of mewho and HIS regarding God’s failed communication with mankind.

  • 39. Thinking Ape  |  September 21, 2007 at 3:17 pm

    The revealed text proves god reveals.

    I could imagine a mean spirited god – afterall, we anthropomorphize all of our gods because we its all we got. Humans are mean spirited and hence so are our gods. The problem is that there is no evidence for this mean spirited god apart from what we write about “Him.” Religion is ultimately the most subjective of subjective “truths” – we make it up as we go along. The “Christianity” found in every “Christian” commenter has nothing to do with the Christianity of Jesus, the Christianity of Paul, the Christianity of Mark, the Christianity of Matthew, the Christianity of Luke, or the Christianity of John.

  • 40. LeoPardus  |  September 21, 2007 at 3:25 pm

    From Brad:
    > A friend once said that miracles don’t happen anymore. I replied that the birth of a baby was indeed a miracle, as it was the continuation of the original miracle of creation. We just (sometimes) take it for granted. The cognitive ability to record and disseminate information is quite the miracle! <

    If you never see any real miracles, no problem. Just redefine the word “miracle” to mean “everyday occurrences” and viola! You’ve got miracles everywhere.

    It’s a miracle when my dog wags his tail. It’s a miracle when but a cookie. It’s a miracle that I can type emails………

    It’s a good thing no real miracles happen in such a world. We wouldn’t know what to call them.

  • 41. Heather  |  September 21, 2007 at 4:15 pm

    replied that the birth of a baby was indeed a miracle, as it was the continuation of the original miracle of creation. We just (sometimes) take it for granted.

    I would have the same difficulties with this that Leo does. A miracle, such as those recorded in the Bible, were those events that defied the natural laws, such as the resurrection, or any of the healings that Jesus did. The birth of a baby is something that happens within those natural laws.

  • 42. mewho  |  September 21, 2007 at 5:33 pm

    pj11,

    I have to be honest. At one time I thought I had been chosen and saved. I really thought I had been “called out” and “anointed” when I was a minister. I was licensed. I was ordained. It was a very privileged place to be, and I loved it. It was very comforting to know I was on God’s side.

    You write, “God chooses … For those who have been given the mystery of the Kingdom, the Gospel … is the power of God unto salvation.”

    This idea is the root of many church schisms. Does God choose or do people choose? EVERY religious person feels chosen, to a point, or that they have at least chosen correctly. People also have a need to feel important. People want to feel special in a sea of six billion.

    I went to high school with a fellow who fabricated a fantasy world where he was from another planet. He was sincere, yet delusional. He had facts and names, even reasons why he was visiting earth. He was fun to talk to and got lots of attention. We all know people who need to feel VALUED.

    Muslims have been chosen, hence, they can accept unreasonable and unfounded claims as truth. Religious people lack the ability to step outside the bubble and realize that all religions are self-induced fantasy. Those who reject ALL religions see things as they really are. Every religion is a bubble of followers hedging their bets with other followers. You might think I sound arrogant, but I think it is the pinnacle of arrogance for someone to claim that they’ve been chosen by God, because it implies that the rest of us were created destined for Hell. This is what I could and never will accept.

    I am glad to be free from god, religion, Hell, Heaven, sin, commandments, theology, etc. Even though being a minister is a nice place to be, I would never go back. I’d rather really live.

    On a side note, Christopher Hitchens has an interesting take on Heaven. He describes it as pointless, eternal monotony. He says he’s not only sure Heaven is not true, but that he’s GLAD it’s not true. What do you guys think?

  • 43. pj11  |  September 21, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    TA said: “The revealed text proves god reveals.”

    It’s far more than that. I do not trust solely in words on a page from an ancient text. First and foremost, God reveals Himself and draws His elect in a very personal way through His Spirit. This I know by experience … the text only supports what I have observed in my life.

    Look again at the passage I mentioned above (Mark 4:10-12). As Jesus said to His disciples: “To you has been given the mysteries of the Kingdom of God.” Others did not receive the same revelation. I feel privileged beyond measure to have been included in these mysteries. But to those “on the outside,” it is foolishness. Therefore, TA, your disbelief is very understandable … all you have to go on is an ancient book. I pray that someday God will reveal Himself to you in a personal and powerful way.

  • 44. pj11  |  September 21, 2007 at 5:51 pm

    mewho said: “Religious people lack the ability to step outside the bubble and realize that all religions are self-induced fantasy. Those who reject ALL religions see things as they really are … You might think I sound arrogant …”

    Ummm … yeah, that’s a tad arrogant.

  • 45. LeoPardus  |  September 21, 2007 at 7:20 pm

    On a side note, Christopher Hitchens has an interesting take on Heaven. He describes it as pointless, eternal monotony. He says he’s not only sure Heaven is not true, but that he’s GLAD it’s not true. What do you guys think?

    It would depend entirely on what heaven is thought to be. When I believed, I thought that in Heaven we would have this infinite being whom we could keep understanding bits of forever.
    Kind of like when you learn something you didn’t know before, or clear up something you didn’t understand before. Those ‘aha’ moments are fun to have, and you tend to have high praise for whomever brought them to you.
    So I saw Heaven as God constantly bringing us to newer and greater understandings and revelations about Him, the universe, ourselves, whatever. And we in turn would say, “Cool! God you are so cool.” …… or maybe we’d go all King James and say, “Thou art e’er above all and I doth magnify thine magnificence.”

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  September 21, 2007 at 7:37 pm

    God reveals Himself and draws His elect in a very personal way through His Spirit. This I know by experience … the text only supports what I have observed in my life.

    Translation: My belief is subjective.

    So your subjective belief can’t be questioned, can’t be wrong, can’t be investigated. What’s amazing is that your belief is totally centered on you. Your experience, your observation, your interpretation.

    Oh well. Believe what you want. In the end we’re both fertilizer.

  • 47. karen  |  September 21, 2007 at 8:11 pm

    .) “Okay, so why can’t Christian behavior, aided by the guidance and comfort of the supernatural Holy Spirit’s presence, be “tested” and come up clearly superior? This is a major failing of the truth test, for me.”

    On a global scale, I believe it has. In the post-Christian western world, Christianity has been the “majority” for several centuries. But where it is taking root in places like China (who, numerically, has more Christians than any country), it is transforming society for the better, and liberating people long oppressed and in the minority. Where people can be comfortable and corrupted by materialism, so too does doctrine and ethics become susceptible. Christianity in Africa has brought comfort, love, and mercy to hundreds of thousands of people, and is a faith distinctly African. In fact, the majority of the world’s Christians are now what we in America would consider “minorities.” In many places, and on a holistic global scale, it has been “clearly superior.”

    I agree that Christianity is taking root strongly in Africa and Latin America and in some parts of Asia. However, I haven’t seen stats that would persuade me that Christianity alone is changing those regions for the better.

    Much of what Protestantism did was to imbue the personal freedom for people to connect with god directly, without benefit of priest or bishop. Yes, that was/is an improvement over the tyranny of the church hierarchy. But it’s likely that democracy and Western values were more connected with deistic thinkers and freethinkers than with Christians.

    I knew and supported many, many missionaries who were “bringing Christ to the heathen” in Third World countries. Much of their message included not only Jesus as Savior but also Western values of self-determinism, entrepreneurialism and value of the individual. It would be hard to tease out the effect of those loosely aligned values from the religious doctrine that’s being taught.

    In general, I see Christians who do good and make wise decisions, I see Jews who do lots of good and make wise decisions, I see Muslims who do ditto and I see non-believers doing the same. I also see members of all the groups do harmful things to themselves and others and I see them all make poor decisions.

    If there’s a pervasive “positive influence” of having the holy spirit – sort of like the pervasive positive of having a college education – it doesn’t show up statistically.

  • 48. karen  |  September 21, 2007 at 8:14 pm

    It would depend entirely on what heaven is thought to be. When I believed, I thought that in Heaven we would have this infinite being whom we could keep understanding bits of forever.

    I had a nice idea of heaven being a place where I could indulge all those hobbies and interests I have now but just never have time to pursue, due to having to work for a living.

    And I also figured that we just WOULD be happy. No ifs, ands or buts – god would see to it that we were happy, and we would be. The idea that we’d be sort of automatons programmed to “happy mode” didn’t really bother me, because I figured if we didn’t know we were robots, we wouldn’t care.

    Weird, huh?

  • 49. karen  |  September 21, 2007 at 8:17 pm

    Look, if Jesus wanted every human being to be saved, He could accomplish it in many creative ways. He could flash His appearance in the sky each day and shout in a loud God-voice, “Believe in me and you will be saved!” But He doesn’t.

    Ah. I’m sure glad you’re one of the chosen, then. It would be uncomfortable to be one of those whom Jesus didn’t want to be saved. It’s interesting, as I think I’ve mentioned before, how everyone who believes in this pre-destination thing is always IN the club, and not outside of it. ;-)

    Real nice god you’re worshipping there!

  • 50. Thinking Ape  |  September 21, 2007 at 10:20 pm

    pj11 empathizes,

    I pray that someday God will reveal Himself to you in a personal and powerful way.

    Yea, I tried praying for that too – maybe “he” just revealed a little too much.

    As for going on an ancient text, what else should I look to? Other Christians? The so-called “body of Christ”? Again, I would prefer an eternity in hell with the Dalai Lama and ‘Saint’ Arius than spend eternity in paradise with the majority of Christians.

    Your evidence is anecdotal and thoroughly subjective, but it is the same evidence that the majority of de-converted Christians have felt. We want to believe, we have lived in the place where we were told not to doubt because doubt is [often] the enemy of faith, and so we did not doubt. We have all been there. But our genuine search for knowing our “God” forced us to ask questions that Christians don’t bother to answer and I am sorry to say, continue to do so as replies to our posts. We tend to get the same tired cliche answers we ourselves gave or the same apologetic spewage that we were taught, memorized, and believed in seminary or bible college. You take away your ancient text and you are just another Deepak Chopra or Joseph Smith.

  • 51. pj11  |  September 22, 2007 at 1:22 am

    TA: Your response was predictable.

    I was hoping to get your thoughts on the Mark 4 passage. Did Jesus really say this? Is it possible that some people been given the “mysteries” of the Kingdom while others are “on the outside?” Seems to me if the so-called later editors wanted to remove any offensive passages, this might have been one suitable for editing. But there it is … seeming to support a cloaked message only given to the elect. Of course, it doesn’t stand alone … Paul spoke often of predestination and the elect. Peter too … oh, and John also. Come to think of it, election is replete in Scripture. What do you make of it?

    Man, you must know some nasty “Christians.” I’m sorry that you’ve been so hurt by the people around you. I’m sure the Dalai Lama and Arius would be fascinating guys to hang with … truth be told, I’d love to meet them both. But I don’t think it’s the company which will make hell so unbearable. Sorry.

  • 52. pj11  |  September 22, 2007 at 1:27 am

    Karen: Thanks for winking at me!

    Presupposing that God exists and He desires that none should perish but every human being repent and come to a point of salvation (yes, I know I’m asking a lot) … can you think of any good reason why He doesn’t do MORE to get our attention? I’ve wondered this so many times! Again, the flawed transmission of an ancient text just doesn’t seem like the most savvy way to save the whole world (provided that’s what He REALLY wants). I realize election makes God sound arbitrary and unfair, but doesn’t it make more sense than the alternative?

  • 53. pj11  |  September 22, 2007 at 1:42 am

    LeoPardus said: “So your subjective belief can’t be questioned, can’t be wrong, can’t be investigated. What’s amazing is that your belief is totally centered on you. Your experience, your observation, your interpretation.”

    Well, that’s not entirely fair. Yes, there is subjectivity to my belief system … is there any belief system (or non-belief system for that matter) that DOESN’T possess some level of subjectivism? But my faith is not solely rooted in “me” or my subjective experience, as you know. It’s attached to historical data, archaeological data, anthropological data, literary data, etc. It’s not a blind faith by any means. You are free to question it, investigate it, accept it or reject it … the Creator is not threatened by your inquiries and neither am I.

  • 54. Thinking Ape  |  September 22, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    Did Jesus really say this? Is it possible that some people been given the “mysteries” of the Kingdom while others are “on the outside?”

    Or maybe the early Christians were as arrogant as today’s Christians. Early Christianity had nothing to do with a “personal relationship with Jesus Christ.” And people were not allowed to simply walk into a church building – baptism was an initiation, no baptism, no entry. Christianity was certainly turning things upside down – the new elite would be the humble, the last at the supper table. How you twist Mark 4 into some 20th century notion of spiritual elitism is incredible, although probably close to what the original author meant. This doesn’t make it true, but thanks for proving my statement:

    But our genuine search for knowing our “God” forced us to ask questions that Christians don’t bother to answer and I am sorry to say, continue to do so as replies to our posts.

    If you want to talk about the Bible, then don’t dismiss it as “some ancient text.” We can talk about it as literature set in a historical reality of the first and second century. But don’t keep switching your mind on the subject, you can’t have it both ways. The Bible is an ancient text that includes what just some early Christians thought about their new cult and attempted in a mythmaking project. But this has nothing to do with what I was asking. I could care less right now what Mark thought he was talking about. I care about what you are talking about. I want to know why you think I should care about what Mark thinks. From what I gather you say this comes from some “personal experience” and then you think I should take your word for it when I had been doing that for the majority of my life and found it to be a lie.

    I wrote what I wrote because it is common sense, which is why it was predictable. You say 1+1=3, and then when I say “no it isn’t”, you say “that was predictable.” You appear as though you only care to win an argument. Fine. You’ve won. Does that satisfy you? Probably not. I don’t care to win an argument pj11. I constantly challenge the validity of the Christian belief because I eventually got to the point that I felt duped. [The majority of] Christians don’t take their own belief system seriously enough to study it with integrity. They are content with arguing it with diverted responses and rhetoric with little substance. You get defensive when someone asks you a “hard”, but common sense question and then divert into some hermeneutic dross.

  • 55. Steelman  |  September 22, 2007 at 12:24 pm

    An honest question for pj11 regarding the doctrine of predestination.

    You said: “Therefore, TA, your disbelief is very understandable … all you have to go on is an ancient book. I pray that someday God will reveal Himself to you in a personal and powerful way.”

    What use is intercessory pray for the salvation of others in light of the doctrine of the elect? If God hasn’t already chosen TA for salvation, then your prayer is useless. If He has already chosen TA, your prayer is also useless. I’m not trying to catch you in a logic trap, or call your beliefs foolish; I expect this “problem” is something you’ve already worked out in your faith, and I’d like to understand your point of view.

    An analogy.
    The general has a complete and comprehensive plan for every area of the army’s operation; including all the logistics, nutritional considerations, and preparation of food in every mess tent. All the plans have been made and the provider contracts signed.
    Three new privates are talking about the food they’ve just been served at the mess tent. One says he wrote a letter to the general about the menu he’d prefer, didn’t get what he wanted, but maybe someday he will. Another says he wrote a similar letter, and it was answered; he was served his favorite dish! Not exactly like mom used to make, but close enough. The third says he talked with the supply sergeant and, now knowing how things really work, the first two are just fooling themselves.

    There’s more than one tangent that could be explored in my analogy, but, sticking just with the idea of predestination, I’d say the third private is the Calvanist. And as such, he wouldn’t bother writing any letters to the general about the chow.

  • 56. karen  |  September 22, 2007 at 2:09 pm

    Karen: Thanks for winking at me!

    You’re welcome!

    Presupposing that God exists and He desires that none should perish but every human being repent and come to a point of salvation (yes, I know I’m asking a lot) … can you think of any good reason why He doesn’t do MORE to get our attention? I’ve wondered this so many times! Again, the flawed transmission of an ancient text just doesn’t seem like the most savvy way to save the whole world (provided that’s what He REALLY wants). I realize election makes God sound arbitrary and unfair, but doesn’t it make more sense than the alternative?

    Neither option makes any sense to me, to be honest with you pj. That’s why I’m no longer a religious person. I found a third option – god didn’t create humanity, humanity created god(s). Yes, it’s a very radical idea – probably the most radical shift in thinking I’m likely to make in my lifetime. But there are all sorts of ways this option makes sense if you allow yourself to consider it. Problem is, most Christians are so frightened and conditioned not to question that they won’t let that ‘genie’ out of the box where it’s buried in their brains.

    See, you are already clear-headed enough to recognize that god really hasn’t done a very good job of trying to convey his message. Most Christians confronted with the obvious evidentiary problems that mewho and others have pointed out crank up the “free will” argument. As if people wouldn’t still have a choice to accept or reject god if he gave humanity a clear message about his existence.

    That’s just nonsense, as most of us apostates have concluded.

    But for some reason, you see the problem clearly but you’ve chosen a different explanation than I have. For me, the issue became clear: No evidence, most likely no god. When I heard the concept of Occam’s Razor, it became even more obvious.

    My take is that people who recognize the illogic of religion but cling to some version of it anyway are motivated by fear, emotional need and societal pressure. They are simply afraid to live in a world without the comfort and familiarity of a god. Now, I may be way off base on this, but I’ve come into contact with a lot of ex-religious people and a lot who are questioning, and that seems to be the prime issue they discuss.

  • [...] Christianity vs. Christianity: Who will win? [...]

  • 58. Alban  |  December 17, 2013 at 7:59 pm

    karen # 56 In my humble opinion, life itself in its magnificence of presence within each of us, is profound and obvious evidence. Its ability to sustain in every moment of existence without any conscious thought on our part is astounding, even mathematically so, if you count by each breath.

    Maybe some ex religious people thought that fulfillment could be found in their religion, Easier to look there I suppose than to look in the most obvious, yet more confronting place – within themselves.

    What is so plainly obvious is ultimately ignored in its simplicity, a priceless asset somehow obscured by assumption. The big one being “can’t be (literally) seen or felt”…

    What we DO then with OUR TIME that this ‘unknown’ asset affords us, ends up taking all of our attention, so much so, we box up Life’s majesty and its ability to fulfill, long before we analyze the implications of a god. Bottom line, no real appreciation and no ability to invest or ‘spend’.

    When circumstances don’t go as planned we put a face, arms and legs on that abundance, call it ‘God’ and either blame it or relentlessly ask it, as if it is some kind of genie, for all means of external health, wealth etc…although we are already endowed with the source of that help within ourselves.

    Overlooking something SO obvious may be considered negligent in a court of law. Results like unintended consequences bred by elements such as neglect and greed ignore the value of Life as our IGNORANCE of Life within our own being, is subdivided into the various flawed categories of such.

    The good news is: Life does not conduct court!! We do, of course, in society to maintain order and extend that to our image of ‘God’ making that god into our own image.

    There is no judgement by Life we need be concerned with. Rather it is the appreciation and the use of Life’s pure abundance that has always beckoned for our attention. Tragically we have placed that ability under lock and key, somehow only available to “the elect”…?

    What if it came to your attention that atheists in the source essence of life are no less and no more elect than devout theists? WHAT, NO BACKSLAPPIN’, HIGH-FIVIN’ CONGRATULATORY celebration for any one group?

    Nope. But there may be a CELEBRATION that no one can even imagine attending, much less imagining the JOY in that ‘attendance’. One that includes an interactive type of investment and a type of spending no one can accurately speculate about….unless they can get past their own lock and key.

    And who is to blame for the lock and key? LIFE? Or a god dressed up like us…or is it us? Probably the latter, but… How about chucking the blame, the guilt, the cynicism, the prejudice and the judgement for just long enough to consider wanting to unlock that lock and jump into treasure?

    For each individual it IS POSSIBLE to learn to turn your attention into that treasure! So strike that historically incorrect assumption and seek investment (of time) in that perception.

    The practicality now for a race of people considering the big picture… can we truly begin to love another WHEN we begin to feel the love that sustains each one of us? No doubt!

  • 59. Twitter Followers  |  January 31, 2014 at 8:50 pm

    What a stuff of un-ambiguity and preserveness of precious knowledge concerning unpredicted feelings.

  • 60. Alban  |  February 3, 2014 at 9:08 am

    Exactly. The unpredicted feelings are emotional. We can learn to appreciate the fullness of what is present in us vs what we think we know. That differentiation is huge. The feelings are a sign of profound yet simple realization. That comes from the heart. Wanting more understanding comes from the same place and just needs a little bit of assistance. Humbling possibly for the arrogant, necessary for the sincere. And free of charge as before and in perpetuity!

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Attention Christian Readers

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

de-conversion wager

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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