Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem

September 4, 2008 at 9:53 pm 69 comments

I bought Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem on the strength of reading his Misquoting Jesus, and I wasn’t disappointed.

There are three things about Ehrman’s writing that help me sit up and listen to what he is saying.

First, he is world renowned scholar in his field.  He has been teaching the bible at university level for years and knows the book and its documents and the scholarship associated with it inside out.

Secondly, he is a very able communicator.  The substance of the Misquoting Jesus is the scholarship surrounding the New Testament documents – a very technical subject.  Despite this, he wrote a very readable book for the non-expert.  In God’s Problem he looks at the subject of suffering and examines how, for him, the answers as to why we suffer provided in the bible seriously fail to convince him that an omnipotent and loving god exists.He moves with ease and grace through the theology and philosophy of the Old and New Testaments, all the time reminding us that despite the words, suffering is a very human problem.  The modern day examples of suffering he discusses are personal and real, and cry out for answers.  We may be able to detach ourselves from the suffering of Old Testament nations, but, as Ehrman reminds us, the obscenity of the Holocaust is closer to home, as is the suffering of our family members and neighbours.

Thirdly, he writes as someone who has had inside knowledge, not only of the bible, but of Christian apologetics.  He knows the kind of things that Christians say because for years, he was one himself.  Before gaining a PhD from Princeton, he had studied at the fundamentalist Moody Bible Institute, the Evangelical Wheaton College and was a church minister.  He doesn’t write from an assumed knowledge of what the church is saying – he knows, and he knows too that for him the answers don’t make sense when critically examined.  And for Ehrman that critical examination is all the more compelling because it is based both on strong academic argument and pastoral experience.

In times of questioning and despair, people often quote the bible to provide answers – or sometimes produce their own glib answers reflecting what they want the bible to say.  The bible, however, does not have one answer but many – and these often contradict one another.  The prophets and many of the history books tell us clearly that suffering is a punishment for sin.  Some of the Wisdom literature tells us either that suffering is a test to be endured, or that suffering is beyond comprehension and has to be accepted.  All apocalyptic texts in both the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament tell us that god will eventually make right all that is wrong with the world.  Other parts tell us that we suffer because of other sinful human beings.  Other parts tell us that god causes suffering because it is in some way redemptive.  Ehrman establishes the biblical basis for each one of these arguments and then examines the answer in the light of logic and experience.

Despite the potentially bleak subject, and despite what I thought would have been my over-familiarity with the biblical text (I read, studied, and taught the bible for over thirty years), I found this a surprisingly stimulating book.  This, in part, is due to Ehrman’s light but authoritative style and his ability both to present complex issues simply and to make potentially ‘dry stuff’ live.  However, I found it refreshing to read in at least two other ways.

First, he opened windows on the familiar biblical text, enabling me to see something different for the first time.  At times we are invited to soar over the mountains with the eagles as he draws his subject out of large parts of the bible.  We get the global picture – the woods as well as the trees.  That enabled me to have a new context for understanding particular books.  But then he deftly swoops down to some detail and provides new insights into over-familiar passages.  I especially enjoyed his commentary on the prophets, and in particular his exegesis of some of the classic suffering servant sections of Isaiah.

Secondly, he asks the real, awkward questions, that I was unwilling to seriously face when I was a Christian.  And because he asks them with such compassion and such compelling evidence from experience, it is hard for them to go away or to be dealt with by less than adequate theology and philosophy.  Here is just a sample of some of them:

  • If suffering is a punishment by god for sin (a major theme of much of the bible), why are some notoriously evil people allowed to live long and healthy lives in luxury while innocent babies are killed in car crashes or are born with birth defects?  Does everyone killed in flooding or earthquakes merit such pain and devastation?
  • Why does there have to be suffering because of sin?  Why can’t god do what you or I might choose to do?  If my child is disobedient I may express disapproval, but there doesn’t have to be a death (either of the child, or a substitute – the pet cat?)
  • If suffering is caused by the sinful actions of others, and if god is all powerful and loving, why doesn’t s(he) intervene more often to stop it.  Clearly s(he) does at times in the bible.  Why not more often?  Why allow people to have free-will sometimes and not others?
  • If suffering is redemptive in some way, what has that got to do with the eighty year old woman who was raped and strangled?
  • Why does god cause suffering so that s(he) might be glorified?  Where is the compassion and the free-will in that?

As Epicurus asked two and a half thousand years ago:

Is god willing to prevent evil, but not able?  Then he is impotent.

Is he able but not willing? Then he is malevolent.

Is he both able and willing?  Then why is there evil?

In some ways this is a very personal book.  Ehrman describes the problem of suffering and the inadequacy of the biblical answers as the biggest factor in his own loss of faith.  He was a very reluctant de-convert.  Whether or not you agree with Ehrman’s conclusions, he presents a compelling case that the Christian answers do not do justice to the weight and range of human suffering and to the enormity of the awkward questions.

- AThinkingMan

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Null Hypothesis ≠ Presuppositionalism Why Selflessness is Immoral

69 Comments Add your own

  • 1. strawdog  |  September 5, 2008 at 4:25 am

    I liked this book a lot as well. As all other Ehrman books. He has a great style and a great knowledge of the subjects at hand indeed.

  • 2. karen  |  September 5, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Thanks for the review. Ehrman debated Emergent Church darling N.T. Wright on this topic last spring. You can read their “blogalogue” over on BeliefNet.

    It’s very interesting. My read is that Wright just kept denying the reality of suffering and retreating to his ambiguous, mystical god language. Kind of a stick-fingers-in-the-ears and sing loudly approach, which is pretty much what we fundies used to do also.

  • 3. Psydan  |  September 5, 2008 at 8:03 pm

    I loved this book, and it came at the perfect time for me. It was actually recommended to me by a practicing episcopalian who was my philosophy of religion professor, and who knows Ehrman, so I figured I should give it a look.

  • 4. blesson  |  September 6, 2008 at 2:30 am

    I dont think that Ehrman has come up with something very unqiue. This is a question that has been asked for thousands of years. Its an old bird in a new disguise.

    Unfortunately, like many Ehrman is tying to tell that he knows what is good, without GOD!. How can you make absolute standards and make judgements on Good and Evil without GOD in the first place. The problem of pain does not prove the non existence of GOD, it infact challenges us to take a look at GOD.

    Pain can never be GOD’s problem, the cross is the greatest example of it.

    Answers cannot simply pacify pain… and Hence GOD sent HIS son to partake in our pain .. to find the solution for the greatest of all pain – eternal seperation from GOD.

  • 5. orDover  |  September 6, 2008 at 3:26 am

    OH! Now it all makes sense! Thanks! I was so confused for a while there.

  • 6. Hugo  |  September 7, 2008 at 3:44 pm

    Hehe, um, yea… anyway…

    karen, that sounds interesting! I’m not a big NT Wright fan myself (by which I mean I’m not particularly eager to read his books), though I do at least like his push for “social action” (just like I like McLaren’s “Secret Message”). I mostly read e.g. Marcus Borg these days, for good material on the Bible presented in a way I could *maybe* dare to pass on to family. I’d love to see what Borg et al would make with a debate like that. Typically I’d expect they wouldn’t participate. (Ditto for Spong?) Liberal Christian scholars and “panentheism”… heh, whatever that is. ;)

  • 7. bigham  |  September 9, 2008 at 12:03 am

    This comment is not really about this post, but this post had the least comments of recent ones.

    The “about” page says, “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.”

    “If there is a benevolent God… you will be judged on your actions.”

    My question, to whoever would like to answer it, is this. Are you a good person?

  • 8. bigham  |  September 9, 2008 at 12:20 am

    I actually did not even read this post before my last comment, but I read it after. This guy seems to deal a blow to Christianity, because he is a former Christian pastor and scholar.

    However, he just doesn’t get it. But for the grace of God, I wouldn’t either. By God’s grace I won’t fall away like the author did.

    I heard a story a couple weeks ago that I think is applicable here. A man adopted two sons from Russia. When he and his wife were at the orphanage there, he said it was the most chilling experience in his life. There were babies and children everywhere, but none of them were crying.

    If you have been around babies and children, you know one thing. They cry. The tragedy here was that their cries had gone unanswered for so long that they gave up and stopped crying. The adoption process took multiple days, so each day when they left the orphanage the only sound was the echoes of their footsteps in the hallway.

    Then one day, as they left, one of the boys they have now adopted screamed out “Daddy!” and fell on his face crying.

    We are like the children in that Russian orphanage. However, the difference is that we have stopped crying for a totally different reason. Our cries have ceased, not because they have gone unanswered, but because we are so proud and arrogant and foolish as to believe that we don’t need God.

    We were created to know and enjoy God forever, but we have all forsaken God, the fountain of living water, and we have turned our backs on the living God.

    So, back to my previous question. The Bible says that it is appointed to us all once to die, and then judgment. So, once again whoever would like to chime in here, are you a good person?

  • 9. Quester  |  September 9, 2008 at 12:59 am

    Bigham,

    However, he just doesn’t get it. But for the grace of God, I wouldn’t either. By God’s grace I won’t fall away like the author did.

    Sadly, it seems that God used up all His grace in His efforts to keep you from falling away, and had none left to keep the rest of us from doing the same. So, while I do not consider myself to be a particularly good person, I must try my best to be as good as I can, for clearly I can not rely on God’s grace.

    Now, if you spend a little time reading the articles on this site before posting again, particularly the ones by the red exclamation mark in the side bar, you might save yourself some embarassment and us some wasted time. At the very least, learning something about a community before commenting is the bare minimum common courtesy one can reasonably expect from someone worth communicating with.

  • 10. bigham  |  September 9, 2008 at 2:21 am

    Quester,

    Thank you for the response. I know all about the “community” that you reference. I guess you could say I have de-converted and then re-converted.

    Long story.

    Anyway, the “about” section of this site says that if you’re wrong then you will be judged by a benevolent God. The Bible says the same thing: “It is appointed to man once to die, then judgment.” You say that you do not consider yourself to be a “particularly good person,” but you try your best.

    That is admirable. But, have you kept the ten commandments?

  • 11. Rover  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:40 am

    Bigham,

    Are you really Ray Comfort?

  • 12. Rover  |  September 9, 2008 at 6:49 am

    Bigham,

    I have broken the 10 commandments, yet I still consider myself a “good person”. God has broken them too. Is God good?

  • 13. LeoPardus  |  September 9, 2008 at 10:25 am

    bigham:

    My question, to whoever would like to answer it, is this. Are you a good person?

    We can see that you think you’re going to be clever. You ask this question, then we answer “yes”, then you pounce>/b> with the killer retorts from scripture (“No one is righteous”, “Have you kept the commandments”, “Only God is good”, etc.), then we wither before the soul-dividing power of the Holy Word.

    Sorry man, but most of us de-cons around here were pastors, seminarians, apologists, study leaders, etc. We know these arguments at least as well as you do.

    And now for the next clever retort…… “You do not know the arguments as well as me because I have the Holy Spirit to teach me ALL truth, and you’ve rejected that…….”

  • 14. LeoPardus  |  September 9, 2008 at 10:26 am

    Rats! Got the bracket turned the wrong way. Curse that lack of a preview function once again.

  • 15. Quester  |  September 9, 2008 at 10:31 am

    Bigham,

    All right. I’ll play along and see if you have anything new to share.

    No. I have broken the ten commandments. Both sets, actually: Exodus 20 and Exodus 34. If it helps, though, I have never seethed a kid in it’s mother’s milk.

  • 16. ubi dubium  |  September 9, 2008 at 11:54 am

    Ooh – I’ve broken a bunch of those old laws. Let’s see – I’ve eaten shrimp and lobster and rabbit and pork, I’ve never stoned or beaten my children for being disrespectful, I’ve been tolerant of homosexuals, and I’ve even “suffered a witch to live”. By old testament standards I must be a horrible person. Or are you saying that the Ten (twelve?) Commandments are the only ones that matter? I don’t remember that being in the bible anywhere.

  • 17. MZ  |  September 9, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    Having just finished Bart Ehrman’s “God’s Problem”, I question is there is anything that is “good”? Ehrman does not go far enough. Suffering is the human condition. It comes with existence. Those who suffer the most are the losers. Those who can live well like Ehrman are the lucky ones. He has gone a long way to demonstrate that there is no basis for love, mercy, kindness. We are like other animals. Is a fish kind? Does a shark show mercy? We do not need it. It is all a function of harmonics, chemical interactions and electrical impulses. Ehrman has done yeoman’s work in removing the yoke of civility, ethics, and all the other crap that made us think we were special. Now we know that we are no better than dog shit, that there is no such thing as hope.

  • 18. bigham  |  September 9, 2008 at 12:55 pm

    My atheism/agnosticism was based in part on the supposition that, as I had been taught, God is good, loving, forgiving, etc.

    In the “about” section on this site, we see a similar supposition. What you are saying is basically this. We don’t think we are wrong, but, if we are, then God is benevolent. Therefore, even if we are wrong, He will forgive us if we do the best that we can. This is based on the false Christianity that teaches that Christianity is about doing the best that you can, and trusting that God will forgive you where you fall short.

    The truth is this, and this is what separates Christianity from all other religions. God is not just the God of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, David, Jesus, and all of the other Jews that we read about in the Bible. He is not just the God of the Christians.

    He is the God of Adam. He created all, and this gives Him the right to judge all. Where Christianity is supreme to all other religions is that Christianity alone provides atonement for sin.

    We were created to know and enjoy God. The problem is that God is too holy to look on sin. He is a perfect God and He has given us a perfect law. The problem that we have with the law is not that the law is bad, but that we are unwilling and unable to keep it. But, our greatest problem is that we will all die one day and we will all stand before a good and perfect God who will judge us on the basis of His good and perfect law.

    We will all stand guilty before Him and His perfect law. And, contrary to popular belief, He will not forgive people just because they apologize, ask for forgiveness, and/or are really and truly sorry for the bad things they have done. He promises not to leave the guilty unpunishes.

    I am saying this, and I am here spending time that I need to be devoting to my studies, because I care about you guys. I truly believe that, those of you who were part of churches and have gone away, churches have for the most part failed you, just as I believe the churches that I grew up in failed me. However, that does not excuse our guilt for breaking God’s law. The guilt for saying in our hearts to the true and living God, “I don’t need you. I don’t need your way. I’m going to do this on my own.”

    What you all need to hear is this. God will judge you. You will stand guilty before Him. He promises not to leave the guilty unpunished. The Bible teaches that there is a place called hell, prepared for the devil and his angels (Matthew 25:41), where all who are condemned in the final judgment will be sent.

    The reason that we all need Christ Jesus is not because we need Him to give us a better life. We all need Christ Jesus because He alone is the way to the Father. He alone paid the penalty to atone for sin and died as the substitute of all who believe in Him.

    We need Christ Jesus because we stand condemned before the law of God, and Christ Jesus alone fulfilled the law. He alone kept the law, and He alone can free us from the condemnation of the law. He alone is the answer to the paradox of Exodus 34:6-7. That being, of how God can be forgiving etc. as He says He is at the beginning of those two verses, while also promising not to leave the guilty unpunished.

    It is true that suffering disproves the assertion that God wants us to be happy, wealthy, and healthy. Howerver, it is absolutely and irrevocably false that there is no God, that He is unloving, or that He is bad, evil, wicked, etc. We suffer, not because of any fault in God, but because He wants us to have faith in Him.

    Our only hope in the day of judgment is to have faith in Him. Therefore it is absolutely merciful and good and loving of Him to do whatever He can to lead us to faith. Think about this. When are you more likely to cry out to God. When you win the lottery or when you find out that you have cancer? When you are in perfect bliss with the best spouse in the world, or when you find out that your spouse, the delight of your eyes, has cancer? When you have wonderful children who are healthy and happy, or when something terrible happens to your children?

    We suffer because God loves us enough to allow us to suffer, all the while hoping that our suffering will lead us to faith in Him. Gotta go to class. I wish I could read over this rambling a bit.

    Anyways, God loves you and doesn’t want you to go to hell. But, God will send all who are not “in Christ Jesus” to hell, because all have broken His law and He will not leave the guilty unpunished.

    This is the hope of God in our suffering, that our suffering would lead us to faith, by which we would be “in Christ Jesus.”

    “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” -Romans 8:1

  • 19. LeoPardus  |  September 9, 2008 at 1:13 pm

    Well ramble #18 answers Quester’s wondering, in post #15. Bigham has nothing new to offer.

  • 20. ubi dubium  |  September 9, 2008 at 1:44 pm

    Bigham spent quite awhile arguing that his god is not “benevolent”, rambling about guilt and condemnation and punishment, but then concludes with “Anyway God loves you and doesn’t want you to go to hell”. How can anybody hold both of these opinions at the same time? My head would implode from the contradiction.

  • 21. Quester  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:23 pm

    Well ramble #18 answers Quester’s wondering

    It does, LeoPardus. I try not to become cynical and give people a chance, but it gets harder as time goes on.

    I am saying this, and I am here spending time that I need to be devoting to my studies, because I care about you guys.

    Bigham, go devote your time to your studies. You have nothing to offer, here. Perhaps your studies will do you some good.

    Ehrman has done yeoman’s work in removing the yoke of civility, ethics, and all the other crap that made us think we were special. Now we know that we are no better than dog shit, that there is no such thing as hope.

    Well, MZ, as an intelligent and social animal evolved as a member of a successful herd, I will use my sentience to understand how civility and ethics may not make me special, but can give me hope. If you can’t do the same, don’t blame Ehrman. Blame it on your thought processes, which appear to be “no better than dogshit”.

  • 22. karen  |  September 9, 2008 at 3:25 pm

    Bigham has nothing new to offer.

    It would almost be fun* to keep some kind of tracker going that would count how many times evangelists come in here with something “new” and “different” to tell us and then they unload the absolutely standard, fundamentalist theological message that we (almost) all grew up hearing week in and week out for XX-many years.

    Do they truly think that this is new stuff? That we who grew up in church constantly, led bible studies, gave sermons (some of us), etc have never considered the basic gospel? I guess so.

    Of course, the sermon is always prefaced with the shocking declaration (shocking, I tell you!) that the poster was once also a deconvert/atheist/agnostic/heathen* and so can understand exactly where we are coming from.

    *I say it would “almost be fun” if it weren’t so boringly common. Not to mention the joke would be completely lost on the self-righteous evangelist.

    **Since returned to the fold and more on fire than ever!

  • 23. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 10:55 am

    To respond to a coupld of comments,

    the intention of my argument was not to show that God is not benevolent, but to show that God is not only benevolent.

    And the way that justice, condemnation, etc. can hold together with the fact that “God so loved the world…”, a.k.a. that God loves you guys and does not want you to go to hell, is this. You and I, and everybody that comes to this website, and everybody in the whole world DESERVES to go to hell.

    God says this of His people Israel in Jeremiah 2:12-13, “Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.”

    That statement could also be made of every one of us. We have all forsaken God, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out our own cisterns, broken cisterns that can hold no water.

    The Bible says that there is no such thing as an atheist, and that only a fool says in his heart there is no God. God reveals Himself to all of us in His creation.

    “For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.” -Romans 1:20-23

    Those of you who call yourselves “de-converts,” the truth is this. You have clearly perceived God’s eternal power and divine nature in the things that He has made. You are without excuse.

    I cannot make any of you believe anything different that what you already believe. My main goal here is this. I want you guys to stop thinking that if you are wrong, you will be okay on the basis of God’s benevolence. There has indeed begun a new covenant in the blood of Jesus Christ, by which God is benevolent and gracious and forgiving toward those who are “in Christ Jesus,” and therefor saved by Jesus’ death on the cross and His shed blood. Because He lived a perfect life, never sinning in though, word or deed; because He was attested to by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him; because He became a penal substitutionary atonement for all who would believe in Him by dying as a propitiation for sins; and because God raised Him from the dead on the third day; we who stand condemned by the perfect law of God, if we are “in Christ Jesus,” we stand forgiven by the perfect Son of God.

    My points are these:
    1) Ultimately, interpersonal righteousness is worthless in the eyes of God. It does not matter to Him that you are “better” than your neigbor, the criminal on the news, Adolf Hitler, etc. What matters to God is that you have broken His perfect law.
    2) God, although absolutely loving and benevolent, is absolutely just and holy and righteous. He is too holy for sin to even be in His presence, and He will not leave the guilty unpunished.
    3) All who are not “in Christ Jesus,” will go to hell, because they have earned that fate by forsaking God, the fountain of living waters.
    4) By faith alone can we be “in Christ Jesus.” All other religions are works-based religions. Where Christianity differs is that we are justified by faith, apart from works. Christians should do good works, but not because they believe they will be saved by works. We should do good works because Jesus Christ has saved us from the condemnation that we deserve for breaking God’s perfect law. And that Jesus Christ has done this for us should cause us to love Jesus Christ. And because Jesus Christ said that those who love Him will keep His commandments.

    The last part was mainly spurred on by a comment in the “message to Christians” thing where you guys claim to have been the people in your churches doing the majority of the work. That is great, but if your understanding of Christianity was that those works made you any better than anybody else, you had a terribly wrong understanding of Christianity.

    No work, no prayer, no baptism, nothing except for blood and death can atone for sins. No amount of work in a church can atone for your sins or mine, because God requires blood and death to atone for sins, because sinning against the living God is a serious and wicked crime. That you guys did all that work in your churches is great, but it was not your blood or your death. And if it was not spurred on by faith in and love for Jesus Christ, then it was done with the wrong motivations.

    Anyways, thank you guys for conversing with me. I look forward to responses.

    -David

  • 24. BigHouse  |  September 10, 2008 at 11:26 am

    You and I, and everybody that comes to this website, and everybody in the whole world DESERVES to go to hell.

    Whom do we have to thank for this condition? None other than God himself.

    He is too holy for sin to even be in His presence, and He will not leave the guilty unpunished.

    So then why did he create sinful man? What a twisted game of puppeteer. Not much different than a boy with a magnifying glass torching ants that go the wrong way.

  • 25. john t.  |  September 10, 2008 at 11:45 am

    Bighouse
    “Not much different than a boy with a magnifying glass torching ants that go the wrong way.”

    Too funny….. now that I think of it, I did feel somewhat omnipotent with that magnifying glass in my hand……Ah but then the guilt hit me ;)

  • 26. ubi dubium  |  September 10, 2008 at 12:33 pm

    Bigham –

    That was a really long sermon and I really don’t understand the point to it. You are preaching to a bunch of mostly ex-preachers. You are saying nothing new. We’ve heard it all, and we’re not buying any of it any more. If you want to have a discussion about serious subjects, please do, but you are coming across as preaching, not as listening to what other people are saying.

    Those of you who call yourselves “de-converts,” the truth is this. You have clearly perceived God’s eternal power and divine nature in the things that He has made. You are without excuse.

    No, that’s totally wrong. The de-converts, for the most part, spent years looking for “God’s eternal power” and realized that it’s just not there. They would have loved to “clearly perceive” it, but it just never happened. When I look at this planet full of billions of people believing in 10,000 different religions, I don’t see any evidence that any religion is any more “true” than any other. I’ve looked for anything to show that there is something more to “god” than a bunch of ancient mythology, stuff humans made up to suit themselves, and wishful thinking, but I’ve never seen a thing.

    So instead of preaching, can we get you to discuss a question? Perhaps one that will give you more insight into who we are, since your post shows a misunderstanding of that. Try this one: when you were a child, did you believe in Santa Claus? If so, do you still believe in Santa, and if not, what changed your mind? (no preaching, remember, just talk.)

  • 27. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    Bighouse,

    I think that all evil can be traced back to two sins. The sin of Satan, for which he was cast out of hell, and the sin of Adam, for which he was cast out of the garden of Eden.

    So, 1) the reason that you and I sin is because they sinned. Part of God’s curse on Adam and Eve as a result of their apple-biting is that they would create a species of apple-biters.

    However, it is not the sins of Satan, Adam, or Eve for which you and I will be judged. The “why” to the whole situation is a topic for discussion, but the “that” of the whole situation is of greater importance.

    Why did God decide for things to be the way they are? We can discuss that. However, that things are this way is not debatable. We all sin and we all die. Then, we are all judged. That is what matters.

    Secondly, to briefly touch on the “why” issue, these are my thoughts. 1) God will judge us, we don’t judge God. When we die and stand before Him, we will not have an opportunity to judge God. Why? Because we did not create Him, and He is not accountable to us. However, because He did create us, we are accountable to Him and He has the right to judge us.

    2) God’s ways are not our ways, but God’s ways are always better than our ways. Could God have done things differently than He has? Absolutely. Could He have done things better than He has? Who are we to say?

  • 28. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 12:54 pm

    ubi dubium,

    I would love to discuss things with you guys. I am not ready to accept that you guys have it all figured out.

    I was raised in a Christian home, like many of you. I went away from the faith when I was “out on my own,” like many of you.

    However, as I have sought to understand what God has revealed to us about Himself and about us in the Bible, I have learned a lot about both my de-conversion and my re-conversion.

    You guys think that you understand Christianity. So did I. You guys think that Christianity is a big hoax. So did I. You guys think that Christians are misled. So did I.

    Something I would like to share about my re-conversion is this. When I came to believe that the things I now believe are true, it was messy in a way. The reason was that I realized that I knew it was true all along, I had just been suppressing the truth, because I didn’t want the truth to be truth.

    The Bible tells us the same thing. Just as I knew all along that there is a God, so you guys have known and do know that there is a God. Just as I preferred darkness (sin) to the light (Jesus), so you prefer darkness to the light. Just as I suppressed the truth, so you suppress the truth.

    So, let the discussion begin there, shall we?

  • 29. Rover  |  September 10, 2008 at 1:09 pm

    Bigham,

    Can you tell me what type of Christian you are? Calvinist? Fundemental, Evangelical, etc…. I am a Christian who is struggling with his faith. I have found this group of de-cons to be very open to reasonable discussion and questions. I like to engage Christians here as well to see if they have anything to refute the decon arguments which, to be honest, are very strong.
    There are a lot of questions that I don’t have a good response to.
    Why did does God hold us accountable for a sinful disposition which we were given at birth? Why does God murder babies and send Lying Spirits to decieve in the OT? Why did Jesus and the apostles teach that his second coming would occur in their lifetime? Why couldn’t Joshua defeat iron chariots even with God on his side? Why aren’t prayers answered for christians any differently then they are answered for anyone else? If God lives in us, why are we so sinful even as believers?

    These things are tough to deal with. I hope you have some better answers then I do. Regardless, I hope you a truly seeking the truth.

  • 30. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 1:34 pm

    Rover,

    Thanks for your questions. I meant to say in my last comment, but failed to, that what I truly want is the truth. If Christianity is false, then I want to know that. Conversely, if Christianity is true, then I want all of the “decons” to know that it is true.

    I heard a guy say last week something like, “every Christian this side of heaven owes the gospel to every lost person this side of hell.” I believe that Christianity is true, and therefore I want to do all within my power to see other people believe that it is true so that they will trust in Jesus Christ and be saved from hell.

    However, if Christianity is indeed false, I want to know that. So, that is indeed part of why I have been coming to this site.

    All that to say that I admire your willingness to look for truth, wherever it may be found.

    First of all, I am a sinner just like everybody else. And, like everybody else, I don’t have all of the answers. I believe in God and I believe that the Bible is His Word. I truly believe that if we seek to find answers in His Word, and if we prayerfully seek God’s assistance in understanding things, then we will at least have a better understanding of these issues.

    James wrote that if we draw near to God, He will draw near to us. I believe the best ways for us to draw near to God are by reading His Word and seeking Him in prayer (incidentally, I trace the beginning of my de-conversion about seven years ago to the time when I stopped reading the Bible. I wonder how many of the decons here would say the same thing).

    All that to say that I may or may not be able to give satisfying answers to all of your questions. But, seek God and you will find Him. And measure what I say, or what anybody else says, against the Word of God.

    With that said, I will try to answer a couple of your questions (in a separate post).

  • 31. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 1:54 pm

    As far as “what type of Christian I am” goes, I am a Christian who believes that the Bible is the Word of God. I don’t really like labels, because people have different understanding of the terms. I am to some degree a Calvinist, a fundamentalist, and an evangelical, though I would definitely more Calvist/fundamentalist than some and less so than others. I believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, and that salvation is only available by the grace of God, through faith in Jesus Christ.

    For your struggles with your faith, I would say this. “Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of the eternal life to which you were called, and you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12). It is a fight, and we must take hold of the eternal life that is made possible by the incarnation, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, by believing, repenting of our sins, and persevering in faith.

    Your first question was, “Why did does God hold us accountable for a sinful disposition which we were given at birth?”

    The Bible teaches that both the sovereignty of God and human responsibility are absolute truths. God is all-powerful and in control, but we are also held responsible for our thoughts, words, and actions, and we will all be judged on these.

    Just as an apple tree does not become an apple tree when it produces its first apple, we sinners do not become sinners when we commit our first sin. We are born sinners, because of the sin of Adam and Eve and the curse they received as a result.

    God holds us accountable for our sins because we have free will. Because of our sinful disposition, we must depend on God every day- hence Jesus taught us to pray for our “daily bread.” We don’t pray once and become free of sin forever because we wouldn’t need God if that were the case. God gives us enough to get through what we are going through, but our sinful disposition ensures that we must and shall return to Him, which is for our good because at His right hand are blessings forevermore.

    I’d love to hear your thoughts, comments, or questions, and I will try to address your other questions later.

    May the Lord bless you and keep you,
    -David

  • 32. Rover  |  September 10, 2008 at 3:55 pm

    Bigham,

    I appreciate you trying to answer the questions but you are only giving me theological defenses that I am already aware of. What about the logic behind the answers? How can I have free will if I am born a slave to sin – see Roman 7-8. Most Calvinist believe that we cannot respond to sin unless god regenerates us first. Where is free will in this?

  • 33. bigham  |  September 10, 2008 at 7:25 pm

    First of all, since you mentioned Romans 7 and 8, I would say go ahead and read on to Romans 9.

    Paul talks about slavery from sin in Romans 7, deliverance from bondage and our victory in Christ in chapter 8.

    Your question was, “Why did/does God hold us accountable for a sinful disposition which we were given at birth?” This could be more or less paraphrased as, “why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?,” right?

    A good place to start on this issue is where Paul raises and addresses the very issue that you raise, in Romans 9:19, where he says, “You will say to me then, ‘Why does He still find fault? For who resists His will?'”

    And, our free will is everywhere in the Bible. Every time that the authors of the Bible exhorted people to believe, repent, and persevere, they were assuming that their readers had the ability to actually do those things.

    However, this by no means sidesteps or trumps God’s sovereignty. The Bible teaches both divine sovereignty and human responsibility, so although it is difficult to see how those can coexist, they are definitely not contradictory.

    By that I mean that the Bible never states that we do not have one or the other. Divine sovereignty and human responsibility seem contradictory, but the Bible would truly be contradictory on this issue if we ever read in the Bible either that God is not sovereign or that humans are not responsible. Seeming contradictions mean that we don’t understand. They don’t mean that one or the other can’t be true.

  • 34. BigHouse  |  September 10, 2008 at 7:34 pm

    Bigham, that looked like one big sidestep to me. Argument by assertion. You say there’s no contradiction, we say there is. Hmm..impasse.

  • 35. Rover  |  September 11, 2008 at 12:35 pm

    Bigham,

    Romans 9 could better be explained by saying that God sets the rules and the rule he established was “salvation by faith”. However, if you interpret it as you have, ie, in a Calvanistic fashion then it is a huge contradiction to which the calvinist must cry, “mystery”. Anyway, I don’t want to abuse this blog by taking it in a direction it was not intended to go. I just wanted to see if you had any new insights. You might want to read some Arminian theology. They do not have to hold to an illogical position. asa lama lakem

  • 36. bigham  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:05 pm

    Rover,

    I don’t have much time to respond right now, but I just wanted to say this. What is universal on this site is a sense of entitlement. All of the decons who went “above and beyond” in their churces talk as if God owes them something. As if because they made some efforts, God must prove Himself to them.

    God owes us nothing but hell. If God were only just or only fair, we would all go to hell. He has revealed Himself in creation such that when every person stands before Him in the day of judgment, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. And, at that moment every person who is not in Christ Jesus will be silent before their judge, because they will realize that they knew all along.

    God has revealed Himself in His creation, but because they prefer their sin, and because they do not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, He has given them over to their desires, and they suppress the truth.

    God is absolutely and irrevocably an unjust God. However, not in the way that unbelievers think. God is unjust because He has made a way for His enemies to become children of God. God, who created the world by the power of His word, is unjust because instead of condemnding all people to the hell that we all deserve, He became a man. He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, and lived a life completely free of sin in thought, word, and deed. He foretold His death, resurrection, and ascension back to heaven, whence He came. He sweat blood and asked the Father if there were any way that He could have the joy and glory and kingdom without the excruciating suffering of the cross. Since there was no other way, He endured the cross and despised the shame for the joy set before Him.

    Then, He rose from the dead, which was witness by over 500 people who willingly died for their testimony that their Messiah had risen, and He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father in heaven. And there He sits to this day, waiting for His gospel to reach every nation, and waiting for the Father to make His enemies His footstool.

    It is by the word of His power that every one of us breathes, eats, drinks, sleeps, walks, runs, and does everything else we do. It is by the word of His power that cars, boats, buildings, bridges, and houses are built. It is by the word of His power that grass, flowers, trees, insects, frogs, lizards, snakes, crocodiles, fish, sharks, whales, birds, cattle, horses, monkeys, and humans live.

    The injustice of God is that He crucified His own Son in my place. The injustice of God is that He knows everything that you thought, said, and did yesterday, and yet you breathe by the word of His power. The same goes for me.

    He is God over all of us. This is a decision from which we cannot abstain. If you are not for Him, you are against Him, because He is the God who created you and allows you to breathe, and He is worthy of your worship and because He is Your Lord.

    We fail to honor Him and give Him thanks. For our sin we all suffer, and for our sin all who are not in Christ Jesus will receive the punishment of divine justice, that being an eternity in hell.

    I really didn’t mean to preach again, and I really spent more time here than I should have. But this is what the people here need to hear, and their eternal souls are in the balance.

    God owes us nothing but hell. We do not understand His ways, because His wisdom is greater than our wisdom and because we are finite while He is infinite.

    I’m stopping before another rant occurs,
    David

  • 37. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    I really didn’t mean to preach again

    Um, then why did you do it?

  • 38. ubi dubium  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:41 pm

    Sigh.
    Bigham – God doesn’t “owe” us anything. Neither does Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, or the Great Pumpkin.

    If there is some kind of god out there, and if he cares whether people believe in him or not, then he could jolly well have left us some better evidence than an ancient contradictory book. Going on the evidence I can actually see, it sure looks like god is most probably fictional. Fictional characters don’t “owe” people anything.

    But this is what the people here need to hear, and their eternal souls are in the balance.

    No! The people here have already heard too much of this stuff, for some that’s what drove them away in the first place. Please stop preaching. We’ve heard it. All of it. It doesn’t work here. (And I don’t believe in souls anyway. )

  • 39. LeoPardus  |  September 11, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    Bigham REALLY isn’t getting it, is he?

  • 40. bigham  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:03 pm

    I refuse to “get it,” as long as you guys prove the Bible to me.

    When I was “re-converted,” I realized that I knew it was true all along. Every one of you will have the same realization. The only uncertainty is whether it will be on this side of death or the other.

    By the grace of God, it was on this side of death for me, even though I wanted no part of it. I “de-converted,” not because I thought Christianity was false, but because I didn’t want it to be true. Because I didn’t want it to be true, and because I saw other people not living as though it were true, I suppressed the truth and disbelieved.

    I see myself in every one of you. And tragically, every one of you will burn in hell apart from the salvation that is only available in Christ Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the almighty God.

    If that doesn’t concern any of you, then that is tragic. I may give up here, because I am less confident in internet evangelizing than in interpersonal evangelizing (The Bible says faith comes by hearing, after all).

    But I will not give up preaching Christ and Him crucified as long as there is breath in my longs, and blood in my veins.

  • 41. LeoPardus  |  September 11, 2008 at 6:34 pm

    I refuse to “get it,” as long as you guys prove the Bible to me.

    All right you guys, who went and proved the Bible to Bigham?

  • 42. BigHouse  |  September 11, 2008 at 8:52 pm

    bigham,

    So you here’s just to preach and not actually debate the ideas and reasons behind Chritianity? I’m truly surprised (rolls eyes). Too bad.

  • 43. orDover  |  September 11, 2008 at 10:48 pm

    I “de-converted,” not because I thought Christianity was false, but because I didn’t want it to be true. Because I didn’t want it to be true, and because I saw other people not living as though it were true, I suppressed the truth and disbelieved.

    Not one of us here de-converted because we WANTED Christianity to be false.

    And tragically, every one of you will burn in hell apart from the salvation that is only available in Christ Jesus, who sits at the right hand of the almighty God.

    If that doesn’t concern any of you, then that is tragic.

    Right. Because fear is a good reason to give faith to something. Didn’t we just have a post about that…I could have sworn….

  • 44. bigham  |  September 11, 2008 at 11:05 pm

    Fear of something that should not be feared is irrational. We all die. It is acknowledged in the “about” section of this site that judgment is a possibility. The Bible teaches that those who are not “in Christ Jesus” stand condemned for breaking God’s perfect law, that they will neither stand in the judgment nor in the assembly of the righteous. That condemnation is eternity in hell. If this is true, then it is not irrational for those who are not “in Christ Jesus” to fear hell. You should fear hell.

    But nevermind that, for now. How about a little “decon challenge.”

    You who profess either that there is no God, or- if there is One- that you don’t need Him.

    Go without sleep. To quote C.J. Mahaney, “Sleep is a gift, but it’s a humbling one. It’s a matter of only hours, at most, before you’re ready to again receive God’s gift of sleep… The fact that I’m so tired is a reminder that I am the creature and only [God is] the Creator. Only [He] neither slumber[s] nor sleep[s], while for me, sleep is something I cannot go without.”

    You who say you don’t need God, don’t sleep.

  • 45. bigham  |  September 11, 2008 at 11:15 pm

    Oh, and Rover (as well as any decons who would like to chip in), what do you do with this:

    “At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children.” -Matthew 11:25

    ?

  • 46. LeoPardus  |  September 11, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    bigham:

    That is without a doubt the stupidest challenge I’ve ever heard.

  • 47. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 12, 2008 at 12:04 am

    Just to echo orDover, I don’t think anyone here de-converted because we don’t want to believe, in fact there’s a lot of posts talking about how much we wanted to believe in spite of the evidence facing us.

    As for your challenge, you’ve convinced me! I can’t live without breathing, so God must exist! I can’t believe I didn’t see it before.

    Nevermind that the effects of sleep deprivation are verifiable, and the effects of a lack of God are not. That’s not important.

  • 48. bigham  |  September 12, 2008 at 12:45 am

    It is not as stupid as thinking that you, who cannot go without food, water, and sleep, can make it through your daily life without the assistance of the living God.

    The greatest evidence against God is that we are still breathing. Because He knows our every thought, word, and deed, He sustains our breathing by the power of His word, IN SPITE OF every reason not to.

    It is by His pleasure alone that you continue breathing. He does all that He pleases, so as soon as it is no longer pleasing to Him to allow your feeble heart to beat once more, or to allow your lungs to draw air once more, your time here will be done.

    And you mock Him, like a chihuahua biting the hand that holds it extended over the Grand Canyon. I have friends who have died suddenly and unexpectedly, and I”m sure the same is true for you guys. Our death is certain, and there is no promise that it won’t come as you sleep tonight.

    I say that not to lead you to believe out of the fear of death, or to wager like Pascal, but just to acknowledge the seriousness of the matter at hand. Death comes like a thief in the night.

    But, let us take a different approach, shall we?

    When I de-conned, I thought that I had a good grasp of Christianity and “the gospel.” However, I could not have been farther from understanding it.

    You who reject Christianity are rejecting its Gospel. As Mortimer Adler said, a person cannot say, “I disagree,” until he can say, “I understand.”

    You say you disagree, but do you understand? What is the Christian gospel?

  • 49. bigham  |  September 12, 2008 at 12:47 am

    (guess I should’ve said “I had friends,” eh?)

  • 50. LeoPardus  |  September 12, 2008 at 2:17 am

    I often wonder, does it take training, or does that sort of ‘stream of barely consciousness’ come naturally?

  • 51. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 12, 2008 at 2:24 am

    And you mock Him, like a chihuahua biting the hand that holds it extended over the Grand Canyon.

    Do you have a god complex? Because I quite clearly was mocking you, and your “challenge,” not any god.

  • 52. silentj  |  September 12, 2008 at 6:41 am

    Bigham,

    Honestly, you sound like you’re trying to convince yourself more than any of us. If Jesus said the above quote about knowledge, then, like Martin Luther, he probably realized that nobody would believe, because belief is unreasonable.

    As for understanding the gospel, I’ll admit to understanding the gospel the least of many of the posters on here. However, we all have the Bible and studied it. Many of us have preached it in some form or done missionary work. Perhaps we overlooked something.

    However, I don’t think so.

  • 53. Rover  |  September 12, 2008 at 6:59 am

    Bigham,

    Maybe (post 45) it is because the wise would not believe him. It is much easier to fool little children. It’s sort of like Kirk Cameron and Ray Comfort saying that to believe the Gospel you have to abandon the intellect and go to the heart. Leave the mind and appeal to emotions.

  • 54. john t.  |  September 12, 2008 at 7:52 am

    Leo, Snuggly, and the other De cons

    Im confused, a couple of months ago, you guys wouldnt even be giving this guy the time of day, what changed? Lol truly surprising.

  • 55. BigHouse  |  September 12, 2008 at 7:53 am

    And I ALWAYS listen to Mike Seaver’s advice!

  • 56. ED  |  September 12, 2008 at 12:43 pm

    “Unfortunately, like many Ehrman is tying to tell that he knows what is good, without GOD!. How can you make absolute standards and make judgements on Good and Evil without GOD in the first place.”

    If I do not have the capacity to know what is good, how could I possibly determine that god is worthy of my worship, or that he is good? Oh, I see, because it is in a book. Why should I believe your book over any other holy book? Your argument will ultimately lead you to either no god or a deterministic calvinistic one. I can’t know god because I am not one of the chosen ones. Which if that is the case, why are you wasting your time attempting to argue what I cannot understand?
    Your premise is Tertullian Fideism . faith and reason are not only irreconcilable but ultimately hostile to one another. This my friend is nonsense.

  • 57. SnugglyBuffalo  |  September 12, 2008 at 5:37 pm

    john t.-

    Im confused, a couple of months ago, you guys wouldnt even be giving this guy the time of day, what changed? Lol truly surprising.

    He kinda reminds me of Grant Dexter. I guess I really should just drop this.

  • 58. bigham  |  September 13, 2008 at 5:43 pm

    “Why should I believe your book over any other holy book?”

    Glad you asked. Unlike the gods of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., the God of the Bible speaks and then acts. However, those other gods could only be missing because they are going to the bathroom or something. Maybe their followers should pray harder.

    The Bible has both accurate history and God-breathed predictions and interpretations of history.

    God speaks before He acts. He spoke to Moses, then acted in performing the miracles and leading His people out of Egypt. He spoke through His prophets about the exile, and then acted. And, most importantly, He spoke about the coming of His Son, the God-Man, Christ Jesus.

    Tell me who this passage from the Bible is about:

    “Behold, My servant will prosper,
    He will be high and lifted up and greatly exalted.
    Just as many were astonished at you, My people,
    So His appearance was marred more than any man
    And His form more than the sons of men.
    Thus He will sprinkle many nations,
    Kings will shut their mouths on account of Him;
    For what had not been told them they will see,
    And what they had not heard they will understand.

    Who has believed our message?
    And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
    For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot,
    And like a root out of parched ground;
    He has no stately form or majesty
    That we should look upon Him,
    Nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him.
    He was despised and forsaken of men,
    A man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;
    And like one from whom men hide their face
    He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
    Surely our griefs He Himself bore,
    And our sorrows He carried;
    Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken,
    Smitten of God, and afflicted.
    But He was pierced through for our transgressions,
    He was crushed for our iniquities;
    The chastening for our well-being fell upon Him,
    And by His scourging we are healed.
    All of us like sheep have gone astray,
    Each of us has turned to his own way;
    But the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all
    To fall on Him.
    He was oppressed and He was afflicted,
    Yet He did not open His mouth;
    Like a lamb that is led to slaughter,
    And like a sheep that is silent before its shearers,
    So He did not open His mouth.
    By oppression and judgment He was taken away;
    And as for His generation, who considered
    That He was cut off out of the land of the living
    For the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due?
    His grave was assigned with wicked men,
    Yet He was with a rich man in His death,
    Because He had done no violence,
    Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.
    But the LORD was pleased
    To crush Him, putting Him to grief;
    If He would render Himself as a guilt offering,
    He will see His offspring,
    He will prolong His days,
    And the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand.
    As a result of the anguish of His soul,
    He will see it and be satisfied;
    By His knowledge the Righteous One,
    My Servant, will justify the many,
    As He will bear their iniquities.
    Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great,
    And He will divide the booty with the strong;
    Because He poured out Himself to death,
    And was numbered with the transgressors;
    Yet He Himself bore the sin of many,
    And interceded for the transgressors.”

  • 59. BigHouse  |  September 13, 2008 at 5:54 pm

    Glad you asked. Unlike the gods of Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, etc., the God of the Bible speaks and then acts.

    So it says in your little storybook..

  • 60. Born Again Hindu  |  September 14, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    Bigham,

    I was a Hindu, then became a Christian and now am a Hindu again. Please do not judge nor condemn me.

    Jesus came into this world not to condemn but to save that which was lost. Bigham., why do you condemn me?

    Jesus also did not come to judge. Bigham, why do you judge me?

    But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven….

    Bigham, please do not judge others for you shall be judged by the very measure you use against others.

    For it was Christ himself who uttered Love the Lord thy (YOUR) God with all thy heart, and all thy soul, and all thy strength, and all thy mind. (Matt. 22:37). He did not say love the Lord my God.

    I am happy with the relationship I have with my God. He is one (Hinduism is monotheistic by the way). He is life and death. He is in everything and everything is in Him.

    When Jesus said that you are the temple God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you, he was not referring to a Christian as Christianity did not come into being yet. I too am the temple of God. How can you condemn and judge me, when we are both the same? Remove religion from your heart and you will be set free. Religion is the opposite of God and it constricts thinking. Set yourself free and embrace eternity with an open mind.

    I love God to but He goes by another name with me. You can call him any name, but He remains God.

    In love,
    A Hindu

  • 61. Born Again Hindu  |  September 14, 2008 at 1:16 pm

    Bigham,

    Many things changed in my life when I came back to being a Hindu but the one thing that I found amazing was that I stopped fearing death and hell. I have no fear anymore of death and hell, something that was constantly ground into my head in church. Open your mind and explore a little. Don’t be afraid to explore. If the Bible remains your source of reference, you will find other religious books that were written far earlier having similar stories to tell. But these religious books are just that, books. I don’t need any book when I am the temple of God and God dwells within me. All knowledge comes from Him and since He dwells within me, why do I need a book to tell me about God?

    So stop fearing and shed your chains of insecurity away from your self. Remove all bindings and look within for God. Nothing has been said that was not said before, and nothing has been written that was not written before.

    I am glad I found this site. And I am glad that God led me to you.

    Be well,
    A Hindu

  • 62. bigham  |  September 18, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Thanks,

    But I’ll listen to the Bible instead of you when my soul is on the line. And it tells me that the fear of God is the beginning of knowledge.

    Sorry I haven’t posted in a few days, but hurricane Ike ran off with my electricity. When power and internet were restored, I was very pleased to see that I got a “shout-out” in a post here at de-con.com. Woo-hoo!

    Anyways, here’s a surprise for you guys: no big sermon.
    Just a thought. And one that I think might change the way that you guys look at things, if you’ll give it a chance.

    The “god” being sold by too many churches today is not the real, living God of the Bible. The God who created all things by the power of His word. So, disbelieving in the “god” that you were fed is absolutely the right thing to do, since that “god” is really just an idol anyways.

    So, my thought, which I think will help a lot of things in this world to make sense, is this:
    God doesn’t want us to be healthy, wealthy, and prosperous.
    God wants us to have faith.

    Hope you guys weren’t hit, or at least weren’t hit too hard, by Ike!

    -David

  • 63. Born Again Hindu  |  September 19, 2008 at 7:32 am

    Dear Bigham / David,

    I am glad to hear that you are well. Ike’s will come and go and maybe bigger IKE’s may come but know that you are important to God.

    Right this moment, God wants you to know that He loves you , without favor. It is my belief that I do not need any bridge to meet God since God really doesn’t need a bridge to come see me. He came to my life when I was at my deepest end. Yes, I was cheated by a Christian wife who committed adultery and is now living with her boyfriend. She refuses to allow me to see my sons. Yes, I am upset as this is the kind of teaching her church is probably teaching her while at the same time praying in the Father’s name. This is hypocrisy. This is wrong. Anyway, I am really glad that when ‘Ike’ came my way, God stood by to take my hand. He told me to remove fear and give Him my hand. He told me that there are far too wonderful things than to wallow in my misery.

    Last night when I visited the temple to pray, I asked about my sons and He replied that you have found you sons when you have found Me. Find Me and Find everything.

    I have already discarded my old ways of seeking God through a book and I embraced my life as a written testament of God’s existence. I am the temple of God and no one can take Him away from me. I am a Hindu again and I am a Dravidian, meaning it was my ancestors who were in Ethopia where civilization begin and where life was worshiped. Artifacts found in Ethopia and dated 13,000 years back have the image of Shiva imprinted on them and Shiva is the name given to God who is the creator and the destroyer. My ancestors worshiped life and knew what life and death meant. Their blood flows through me and I embrace the same worship that they have given to God / Shiva.

    Today, ‘Ike’ is till around but I place my life in God and let His goodness surround me.

    Dear Bigham,
    If you believe that you need a book, so be it. I trust that you are a better judge of yourself than any one of us. May your journey to seek God be an enjoyable one and may you truly find Him.

    In Love,
    A Hindu

  • 64. bigham  |  September 19, 2008 at 12:59 pm

    Born Again Hindu,

    Thank you for your message, and your obvious compassion. I am responding with as much compassion, if not moreso.

    I am sorry to hear about your adulterous wife, but if her church is teaching the Bible, then that is not what her church is teaching. God hates adultery and divorce, as witnessed by Jesus’ words that “what God has joined together let no man separate,” regarding marriage.

    Philosophically and logically, your position makes sense in about every area except for one. Your sin.

    If God looks down on this world with its rapists and murderers and adulterous wives who leave their husbands, and is not angry with sin, then He is unjust.

    However, regardless of whether or not we commit rape, murder, or adultery, we all sin against God. And because we all sin against God, we all have a problem, because God is angry with all sin- unless He is unjust.

    God promises not to leave the guilty unpunished. Therefore, we need a way for the penalty of our sins against the living God to be paid and we need atonement for our sins.

    We all die, and then we all face judgment. Before the judgment seat of the living God, there is nothing that the blood of our ancestors can do for us, because they sinned against God just as we have sinned against God.

    How can the penalty of your sins be paid, and how can your sins be atoned?

    In love,
    David

  • 65. Born Again Hindu  |  September 19, 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Dear David,

    Thank you for your response.

    Thank you for understanding the issues that I had to face with regard to my personal life. I agree that there is a need to address sin but I disagree with the method being employed as stated in the bible.

    The Greek word hamartia (ἁμαρτία) is usually translated as sin in the New Testament. In Classical Greek, it means “to miss the mark” or “to miss the target” which was also used in Old English archery.[

    Please understand that while we discuss and even argue about these issues, it is not my intention to judge you in any way. You should continue your pursuit of God in any way that you need to. If you are at peace, so am I.

    My immediate term of reference with regard to the bible would be the 4 gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John). I cannot accept the authenticity of the other books as they were writings by people who profess themselves to be disciples or apostles. I do not believe that one human being is made greater than the other. Jesus did not create leaders, he created teachers (disciples).

    Jesus himself did not at any point state that his blood would be needed to wash away the sins of the world. Even in the old testament, you will notice instances of God forgiving the sins of men without the shedding of blood (Isaiah 1.18). So this tells me that God can forgive sins if He wants to. He does not need an external device to bring about forgiveness.

    Well, how then does God forgive our sins? Is He able to simply say “you are forgiven” to those who turn to Him in repentance or must He first sacrifice a sinless individual before He can do this? To get the answer let us read the Bible:

    “It may be that the house of Judah will hear all the evil which I purpose to do unto them; that they may return every man from his evil way; that I may forgive their iniquity and their sin.”
    Jeremiah 36:3

    “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
    Isaiah 55:7

    “I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the LORD; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin. Selah.” Psalm 32:5

    “By mercy and truth iniquity is purged…” Proverbs 16:6

    “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

    Other verses
    Ezekiel 18:21-30, Proverbs 21:3, Hosea 6:6, Micah 6:6-8

    Even on the cross, as Jesus lay dying, he forgave the sinner next to Him. Jesus had not died yet at that point, yet He forgave.

    As for me, I do not need forgiveness as it is my heart that is of importance to God. If my heart is right and I truly worship God, than there is no sin in me. I have not missed the mark.

    There are those who do not believe in God and that is perfectly alright. Their heart has no sin since they are being truthful about their thoughts. Be truthful to yourself and be honest about all things, everything else will take care of itself.

    Now I could go on on this, but I fail to see the point. I do not judge you in your attempts to seek salvation. I believe that if you need salvation by the use of the blood of an innocent, so be it.

    Be at peace and be full of love for your fellowmen. You will see God as you yourself have turned into Him.

    In love,
    A Hindu

  • 66. bigham  |  September 20, 2008 at 12:42 am

    My Hindu Friend,

    You have totally missed the mark here, sir. Why was Abel’s sacrafice accepted and Cain’s rejected? Why did the Angel of death pass over (hence the “Passover”) those houses with lamb’s blood on the door? Why did God institute the sacrificial system?

    “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you on the altar to make atonement for your souls; sof it is the blood by reason of the life that makes atonement.” -Leviticus 17:11

    Just because blood is not mentioned in a particular verse does not mean it isn’t there. The passover lamb and the sacrificial system all pointed forward to the coming of the Messiah who would be the ultimate sacrifice. The Messiah, our spotless and sinless Lamb, was the sacrifice that ended all sacrifices. This is clearest in Isaiah 52:13-53:12.

    -His appearance was marred more than any man and His form more than the sons of men.
    -He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
    -Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; Yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening of our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.
    -But the Lord has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him.
    -He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth.
    -By oppression and judgment He was taken away.
    -the Lord was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the Lord will prosper in His hand.
    -As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities.
    -Because He poured out Himself to death, and was numbered with the transgressors; yet He Himself bore the sin of many, and interceded for the transgressors.

    I don’t know about you, but I need that!

    -David

  • 67. Born Again Hindu  |  September 20, 2008 at 10:36 am

    Dear David,

    Thank you for writing this.

    This is where we have to differ and I agree with your conclusion that your faith requires blood to be shed before sin can be forgiven. I worship life and all that is life, but I am not a vegetarian as some who are. There are people out there who will not have blood shed at all no matter what.

    My faith does not require the shedding of blood to bring about forgiveness of sin. I do not agree that God requires any sort of sacrifice to forgive me or even to listen to my pray. That would make Him a small God. God has to be above constraints to be God and He definitely loves us a lot.

    But by choosing to disagree does not mean that I would love you any less. You are allowed your freedom to worship God in any way you choose. God still listens.

    “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: two men went up to the temple to pray, (one was a “good citizen” and the other a sinner)… the Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: God, I thank you that I am not like other men- robbers, evildoers, adulterers… (but the other man) beat upon his chest and said: God, have mercy on me, a sinner. I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God.”

    It is only that I choose a certain path that brought me closer to God than I have ever been and I am glad and satisfied with this chosen path. I do not want anybody hurt, killed or be crushed because of me. I’d rather cry out to God and be truthful to Him on my own rather than use devices. God, I believe, would not have it any other way.

    “The Eternal Way”, or the “Perennial Philosophy/Harmony/Faith”, is the one name that has represented Hinduism for many thousands of years. According to Hindus, it speaks to the idea that certain spiritual principles hold eternally true, transcending man-made constructs, representing a pure science of consciousness. But this consciousness is not merely that of the body or mind and intellect, but of a supra-mental soul-state that exists within and beyond our existence, the unsullied Self of all. Religion to the Hindu is the native search for the divine within the Self, the search to find the One truth that in actuality never was lost. Truth sought with faith shall yield itself in blissful luminescence no matter the race or creed professed. Indeed, all existence, from vegetation and beasts to mankind, are subjects and objects of the eternal Dharma. This inherent faith, therefore, is also known as Arya/Noble Dharma, Veda/Knowledge Dharma, Yoga/Union Dharma, Hindu Dharma or, simply, the Dharma.

    Another major aspect of Hindu dharma that is common to practically all Hindus is that of purushartha, the “four goals of life”. They are kama, artha, dharma and moksha. It is said that all humans seek kama (pleasure, physical or emotional) and artha (power, fame and wealth), but soon, with maturity, learn to govern these legitimate desires within a higher, pragmatic framework of dharma, or moral harmony in all. Of course, the only goal that is truly infinite, whose attainment results in absolute happiness, is moksha, or liberation, (a.k.a. Mukti, Samadhi, Nirvana, etc.) from Samsara, the cycle of life, death, and existential duality.

    I wish you well in your pursuit of God. May you be blessed and be all that you choose to be and be at peace with yourself and with others who cross your path.

    In Love,
    A Hindu

  • 68. Bookmarks about Family  |  October 26, 2008 at 4:15 pm

    [...] – bookmarked by 2 members originally found by ndamus88 on 2008-10-05 Bart Ehrman’s God’s Problem http://de-conversion.com/2008/09/04/bart-ehrman%e2%80%99s-god%e2%80%99s-problem/ – bookmarked by 2 [...]

  • 69. Santiago Jones  |  November 29, 2008 at 3:00 pm

    I have read most of Prof. Ehrman’s works and listened to his full courses on CD. His approach is confrontational without being aggressive. In order to deal with the onslaught of fundy nonsense, it is necessary to stand firm. Their arguments are not based in any kind of reality. They still insist that America was intended to be a Christian nation when all documents from the Early Period of our history prove otherwise. They have an agenda. It’s not pretty. They would set us up for Armageddon if they could, just to prove a point. Watch out for the backlash from the Christian neo-cons against the new president. They are convinced he is secretly Muslim, hence, the forerunner of AntiChrist.

    As a former fundy, I have studied and digested all of the various contradictions and errors of Scripture. When pointed out, the discrepancies are quite obvious–to a thinking person.. However, the Christian tact that no matter the appearance, the Word is absolute truth stands in the way of any kind of effective intellectual argument. They know their direction. They take no prisoners.

    The coming war between the West and Islam is a feather in the cap of the fundys. It is the last great proof that Truth is on their side. And they will not stand in the way of the conflict; rather, they will rush to escalation.

    Can we stop them? Should we even try? Yes, with every fiber of our being. How? As Gandhi said, paraphrased, when there is peace in my heart, it will find its way into the world.

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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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