No two Christians worship the same God.

March 30, 2009 at 12:15 pm 49 comments

When I was still a theology major in college, I remember reading a book comparing and contrasting Wesleyan-Arminian theology with Calvinist theology. The result? I became thoroughly convinced that in a very real way, the two sects of Christianity were not worshipping the same God. I was uncomfortable with proposing the idea that one of them was “wrong,” but it seemed obvious to me that there were some irreconcilable differences between a Calvinists perception of God and a Wesleyan’s perception of God. Each school of thought reduces the essential qualities of God to different attributes. While the characteristics of justice (Calvinism focus) and mercy (Wesleyan focus) are not mutually exclusive, the elevation of either of these characteristics over the other does present a different person.

The Calvinist God is defined by his strict adherence to justice. His creation of the universe and His relationship to it are quite different than a God whose essential property is mercy. Although my systematic theology professor—a man who I admire greatly for both his intellect and integrity—came very close to making the claim that these two conceptions of God are not presentations of the same divine person, but he always shied away from saying it outright. And with good reason, the claim opens up a Pandora’s box of sorts.

There are some very serious ramifications for this line of thought. It indicates that at least one of these two sects of Christianity is not worshipping the correct Person. They are worshipping an idol of a God. A twisted version of the “one true God.” Then again, these are not the only two “versions” of God within the Christian faith. Catholic theology, charismatic theology, orthodox theology… they all present their own spin on who God is. Despite the surface similarities between the deities of each of these schools of thought, to say that the God of the Southern Baptist is the same as the God of the Russian Orthodox is a bit of a stretch.

Even within these various schools of thought, are there any two persons who worship the same deity? Do any two Baptists have an identical understanding of who God is? When I was a devout Christian, I had serious differences of opinion with those to whom I was close in the church. Although some of them seemed innocent enough, some of them created within us a very, very different idea of who God was.

Granted, my perception of someone does not necessitate that they fit into that perception. The fact that four people all might have a very different understanding of who I am does not mean that any of their thoughts have an effect on my personhood.

But Christian faith is a little bit different than a casual friendship. For the Christian, faith should have affects on all aspects of life. Faith determines how one views the world, interacts with other people, and makes decisions. So a Christian’s understanding of their God is absolutely crucial to their so-called relationship with God—and by extension their relationship with the world.

The way I see it though, these slight (and great) differences of opinion on who God is not only cause Christians to interact with God and the world differently, but they create individual Gods that each of them serve and worship. The difference between a transcendent deity and a material being is that while our perceptions of other people are skewed by our own prejudices and experiences, there is a physically existing person to serve as a basis for our understanding. With a deity, we have nothing but ideas, outside influences, prejudices, circumstances, and experience to serve as a basis for understanding that deity.

In any church on a given Sunday, there might be a hundred people all singing a hymn or worship song, listening to a sermon, or partaking in a prayer. Each of those hundred people have slightly—and sometimes greatly—different views of who the object of those songs, sermons and prayers is. They are each worshipping their own god, a synthesis of their own tastes and the influences of external stimuli. None of them are objectively worshipping the same God.

The whole thing seems interesting to me in light of the fact that I often hear an “us vs. them” attitude among certain sects of Christians, but even amongst themselves, there really is no united idea of who the supposed core of their existence is.

I have a mild—and perhaps masochistic—addiction to conservative Christian talk radio. Weird, I know, but I can’t get enough of it. I listen as co-hosts take turns viciously attacking liberals, atheists, feminists, homosexuals, and everyone else with an agenda to bring down the demise of western civilization. I can’t help but smile when I think about the slight—and perhaps huge—differences in opinion between the hosts on who God is. If only they were able to understand the other’s idea of who God is, they would more than likely turn on each other.

- CarriedTheCross

Entry filed under: CarriedTheCross. Tags: , , .

Some problems with calling the Bible God’s Word 1st True Revelation of The Great Alien Unveiling

49 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  March 30, 2009 at 1:39 pm

    Great Post, the bible says that God is not the arthur of confusion, but with the various denominations and even within a specific denomination, folks have thier own views on who or what God is…confusing to me! nevertheless that’s the life your average church goer/believer lives. Most Cathalics believe in purgatory (god will give bad people a chance fo redemption after death), then your Baptist will say its either heaven or Hell, no grey area. In this case which one do you go with? Great Post.

  • 2. Jim T.  |  March 30, 2009 at 2:41 pm

    Great post! I think you are quite right. After years of studying Arminian and Calvinist views, I recently came to the conclusion that they are actually different religions, but happen to share the same scripture and some of the same traditions and vocabulary. They look similar, especially to the outsider, but from the inside they could not be further apart.

    As someone who would like to have a correct view of God and doctrine, this is quite confounding. When researching different topics, it’s alarming just how many True Christianities there are. Seems like there should only be one. Seems like there are innumerable people and groups that have everything figured out. Of course, some choose to aggressively contend with those that they perceive to be False Christianities. And there’s just no end to it.

    Another good example is how the beloved Billy Graham is viewed by some Christians. There are Christians that absolutely hate Billy Graham, and view him as a pawn of Satan who is preaching a false gospel. Just Google “Billy Graham hell” and you’ll find all sorts of interesting stuff.

    How is an innocent bystander (whether a believer or not) supposed to be make sense of it? Personally, I’ve tried long enough, and I’ve grown tired of it. Ideally, you might like to say that they’re all just different understandings of the one true God. But they just plain don’t fit together. The Arminian God is totally different than the Calvinist God. Their views of His supposed character, motivation, and purpose for His creation are totally unrelated. Not only can they both not be right, they can’t both be a little right, with the truth somewhere in the middle. What does that leave?

    How is a bystander supposed to judge claims about God? For instance, Church A claims it has correct doctrine and claims Church B is under the control of Satan and his invisible minions. But, Church B claims it has correct doctrine and claims Church A is under the control of Satan and his invisible minions. Great, okay, now what? Should I just choose the one closest to home?

    I believe there are two factors that really let all of this happen, and will probably never cease: 1) appeals to mystery, and 2) invisible creatures that are able to influence thoughts. Any doctrinal system is possible, because any holes in the system can be attributed to mystery. For instance, a person can easily claim “My doctrine is complete and perfect. Any problems you find are either just a mystery with a solution yet to be revealed, or perhaps your mind is clouded by Invisible Create X.” We can all do it!

    So, again, where does this leave an innocent bystander trying to understand the world? For me, I’m becoming increasingly convinced that everyone is just making stuff up. Who knows anything true about God? Nobody, as far as I can tell.

  • 3. LeoPardus  |  March 30, 2009 at 2:55 pm

    Jim T:

    Sounds like you’re thinking things through OK. Some thoughts/queries I had on reading:

    invisible creatures that are able to influence thoughts.

    Are you saying you think such things exist? If so, why?

    I’m becoming increasingly convinced that everyone is just making stuff up.

    I’ve been saying that for some time now. Seems pretty obvious.

    Who knows anything true about God? Nobody, as far as I can tell.

    Try this: There is no God. At least no personal one that is concerned or involved in the life of humans or their world.
    (No, I can’t prove that in an absolute way. It just makes perfect sense of all the information available.)

  • 4. Jim T.  |  March 30, 2009 at 3:32 pm

    LeoPardus >> “invisible creatures that are able to influence thoughts.” Are you saying you think such things exist? If so, why?

    Oh no, not at all! I have no reason to believe that they do exist, but plenty of bizarre examples of people claiming that they do exist. Sorry for being unclear.

    What I meant was that as long as people have those elements to use (mystery and invisible creatures), then they can rationally make any claim. It’s the perfect way for anyone to make an impenetrable doctrinal system.

    I could probably fit special revelation into that group too.

    LeoPardus >> “I’m becoming increasingly convinced that everyone is just making stuff up.” I’ve been saying that for some time now. Seems pretty obvious.

    Even if some people are not making it up, and actually believe something true, the rest of us would never know. There’s no way to discern it.

  • 5. Quester  |  March 30, 2009 at 3:42 pm

    Jim T.

    That sounds a lot like the train of thought that compelled me to ask my bishop for an indefinite revokal of my licence to minister. I hit the point you describe, then could not in good conscience continue to preach.

    Carried,

    The biggest thing to shock me on leaving the church is how many people are happily creating their own gods, without admitting it to themselves. I plan on posting on that subject soon.

  • 6. ArchangelChuck  |  March 30, 2009 at 3:51 pm

    Even if some people are not making it up, and actually believe something true, the rest of us would never know. There’s no way to discern it.

    Which means that it’s best to assume that those people are delusional.

  • 7. Luke  |  March 30, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    great post! no Christian speaks the same way about God nor engages the world the same way. i would say that neither do any of us here. we all are carrying our family histories, context, and personal experiences around and these color our view of any given situation.

    even the bible is like this! genesis sounds very different from deut, which sounds different from the prophets (who sound very different from each other) and all this sounds different from the gospels (then we notice the synoptic problem etc) who sound different from Paul, from James, from John and from Revelation. it’s messy.

    so this means that we can come to a variety of views.. that the world is completely relative. that there is no God and that all this stuff is made up. that there is a God and that no one view can hold it. that there is a God and it’s one of the bible and that you just don’t have the Holy Spirit to connect all these things. that there is one objective truth and my group has it (ergo yours doesn’t) and so on.

    i think i would fall into the there is a force that holds everything together and no one view can hold it. no one view can hold all of reality… it’s a big universe out there.. and causality is a messy thing. we usually focus on the effect but never the cause.

    rant over… great post.. as you can see it’s stimulated a lot of thought for me and i dunno how much of it is helpful ;-)

  • 8. Sarah  |  March 30, 2009 at 8:36 pm

    I’ve started bringing up this issue to my Christian friends (who don’t understand why I no longer believer in God). I start by asking them “which God”? They can’t ever define what they mean, and usually shut up once they realize what they’re saying (or unable to say). Of course, that’s not before telling me they’re praying for me to find the truth ;)

  • 9. LeoPardus  |  March 30, 2009 at 10:20 pm

    I start by asking them “which God”?

    Why the god of mystery of course. :) That one leaves you kind of wondering “WTF?!” doesn’t it?

  • 10. paleale  |  March 30, 2009 at 10:33 pm

    Great post! I was amused by the bit about listening to Christian talk radio. I had actually dialed in today! Lol! Perhaps there are a few more masochists out there who still tune in to remember what we left behind. I’m reminded of Lot’s wife who was turned into a pillar of salt. Maybe I should start leaving the salt off my margarita.

  • 11. Rover  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:32 am

    Most atheists hold different views about many many things. Does that mean that none of them are correct? You may say that at least they agree there is no God, Well at least Christians believe there is a God. Calvinists and Arminians may have many different views concerning God, but they at start with the fact that there is a God. We all of our internal and external filters that we process knowledge through. I don’t think that makes the knowledge incorrect.

  • 12. atimetorend  |  March 31, 2009 at 8:46 am

    Rover said, “Calvinists and Arminians may have many different views concerning God, but they at start with the fact that there is a God.”

    I think that misses the point of the original post, that despite outward appearance, the religions of Calvinism and Arminianism seem distinctly separate, as though they worship completely different gods. Of course it doesn’t make the knowledge incorrect, but it would undermine what a lot of Christians think about the consistency of their beliefs. Starting with the same starting point of believing God exists only gets you so far in the world of orthodox Christianity, just ask a Mormon.

  • 13. ArchangelChuck  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:00 am

    “Most atheists hold different views about many many things. Does that mean that none of them are correct?”

    Erm… Irrelevant. We’re talking about the myriad of differing and conflicting opinions on the interpretation of what the Christian god — the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, if you need clarification — is: his will, intentions, motivations, who he hates, which politicians he would vote for, and so on. As Christians purport to worship the same god, this clearly poses a problem which you’re ignoring, dare I say willfully?

  • 14. TitforTat  |  March 31, 2009 at 10:05 am

    Isnt that the great thing about stories, everyone reads something a little differently. Im curious how many people actually make the story work for them without having to indoctrinate others to “their” version. Afterall there are a fair bit of Religious people who are pretty damn happy and are not in the least bit trying to convert others.

  • 15. LeoPardus  |  March 31, 2009 at 10:19 am

    Rover:

    Most atheists hold different views about many many things. Does that mean that none of them are correct? You may say that at least they agree there is no God, Well at least Christians believe there is a God.

    This is a classic non sequitur. Really, Christians just gotta study formal logic and critical thinking. Of course there’s a damn, good reason they don’t.

    Calvinists and Arminians may have many different views concerning God, but they at start with the fact that there is a God.

    Again with the desperate need for thinking skills. The “fact”? No. They start with the “presupposition”. Please don’t tell me that I must explain the difference between a fact and a presupposition.

    We all of our internal and external filters that we process knowledge through.

    Writing skills are needed too.

    Look fella, Christians don’t believe in any ol’ deity. They believe in “the one and only God”. That deity is supposed to be consistent. Yet believers all present contradictory deities. Since there is only supposed to be one God, yet there are 2 billion gods presented by Christians, it must be the case that at least 1.999999999 billion of those deities are not the real one. Now you wanna point us to the one guy or gal who has it right?

  • 16. Yurka  |  March 31, 2009 at 11:25 am

    I have a mild—and perhaps masochistic—addiction to conservative Christian talk radio. Weird, I know, but I can’t get enough of it. I listen as co-hosts take turns viciously attacking liberals, atheists, feminists, homosexuals, and everyone else with an agenda to bring down the demise of western civilization.

    Excellent. Then how do you explain the following? James White is severely critical of William Craig’s apologetic, but he does not anathematize him. Why? Maybe you have mistaken adiaphora for core doctrine. Craig endorses Plantinga, yet Plantinga is a Calvinist.

    I’d say as long as long as someone believes they are incapable of contributing to their own salvation, they are Christian. Arminians may be a bit hesitant about this, but they are still Christian. In other words. They are both apprehending the same real thing accurately, but in the details they matter. Why should minor differences/inaccuracies in their apprehensions matter, when they comprehend the essentials accurately?

    Obviously, Charles Finney and Fred Phelps fall into the reductio ad absurdem areas, but why would they cause you to think Christianity is false? Would you think democracy is a bad idea because of a few corrupt politicians, or that law enforcement is a bad idea because of a few bad cops or judges?

  • 17. Yurka  |  March 31, 2009 at 11:28 am

    Instead of “in the details they matter” I mean “in the details they differ”. Freudian slip? :)

  • 18. BenevolentInquisitor  |  March 31, 2009 at 12:45 pm

    This was a contributing factor in my leaving the church. Isn’t the spirit supposed to lead believers to all truth? I couldn’t understand how so many well-meaning people could be lead in so many different directions in the search for a single God.

    I listent to religious radio too, usually Catholic. Al Kresta is a great interviewer and he discusses current topics as well. Beats all the commercials!

  • 19. Josh (guitarstrummr)  |  March 31, 2009 at 1:34 pm

    What a good post.

    One of the things that made me realize just how ridiculous this all was was discovering new sects of Christianity that disagreed on radical issues from what I was taught…. and they were kinder and less judgmental!

    So I suddenly had a weird dilemma. They were exhibiting more “fruits” of the HS, but the people I grew up with claimed that the things they were doing were not actulally from the HS and they were wrong in their theology.

    So, now I had people with bad theology who were demonstrating the fruits of the HS better than the people with the “right” theology.

    Try to figure that one out. How could both groups possibly have the same HS?

  • 20. LeoPardus  |  March 31, 2009 at 1:56 pm

    Here’s how Josh:

    HS= horse shit

  • 21. Joshua  |  March 31, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    Wish someone had told me before…

  • 22. atimetorend  |  March 31, 2009 at 4:57 pm

    Don’t atheists and agnostics sometimes exhibit more “fruits” than fundamentalist Christians, not just progressive/liberal Christians, right? Do they have the same HS, or is it different?

  • 23. Anonymous  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:11 pm

    No two Christians worship the same God.

    I guess the religion of the average American Protestant is Confusianism. :-|

    Despite the surface similarities between the deities of each of these schools of thought, to say that the God of the Southern Baptist is the same as the God of the Russian Orthodox is a bit of a stretch.

    I’ve already heard this before, used in a propagandistic manner by former Protestants converting to Orthodoxy.

  • 24. Lucian  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    No two Christians worship the same God.

    I guess the religion of the average American Protestant is Confusianism. :-|

    Despite the surface similarities between the deities of each of these schools of thought, to say that the God of the Southern Baptist is the same as the God of the Russian Orthodox is a bit of a stretch.

    I’ve already heard this before, used in a propagandistic manner by former Protestants converting to Orthodoxy.

  • 25. LeoPardus  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:25 pm

    I’ve already heard this before, used in a propagandistic manner by former Protestants converting to Orthodoxy.

    Yep. P’s converting to the EOC are often quite graceless. The most common conversation in an EOC convert congregation is, “Look how stupid the P’s are.”

    It’s also interesting to note that the overwhelming majority of P’s who convert to EOC remain P in much of their theology, and almost all of their outlook and behavior.

  • 26. Anonymous  |  March 31, 2009 at 5:54 pm

    P’s converting to the EOC are often quite graceless

    Well, You see, that’s what happens when one abandons Sola Gratia! :D — I mean: what else did Ya expect? 8)

  • 27. LeoPardus  |  March 31, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Ah good point!

    And the reason they often hop to another church after a while is because they abandoned Sola Fide, right?

    And they read the Ancient Fathers because they’ve abandoned Sole Scriptura.

    But one thing they don’t abandon…. Sola Mio ! :)

  • 28. Joe  |  March 31, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    Man, that is unbelievable. When I read post #20 I immediately think “now there is an apostate”. To take the HS which represents the Holy Spirit (and the poster knows this) and then equate it with the terminology used is actually quite blasphemous.

    The blasphemy itself is not what is truly amazing. It is the flippancy in which it is used. This shows a heart now devoid of any of the honor or respect due to God.

  • 29. Lucian  |  March 31, 2009 at 6:25 pm

    And the reason they often hop to another church after a while is because they abandoned Sola Fide, right?

    No: that would be the reason for why some of our converts chose to become atheists (You know: no ‘fide’ at all, whatsoever). 8) — Serves us right, I guess… ;)

  • 30. Rover  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:48 pm

    Sorry for my failure to edit my last post, but hey why not have one more reason to criticize my point of view. :) But please don’t dismiss my point so easily. All groups have variations within them. Atheists as well as Christians. Peter disputed with Paul, yet both had the HS. Perhpas this is how “one man sharpens another”. Atheists with differing viewpoints can in fact create a more robust atheism. Not all Christian variations are acceptable but a degree of variation is healthy and causes us to dig for knowledge. We (christians) and you (atheists/agnostics) can clearly identify Fundamentalist Christians. How can you do this? Well we have a certain set of beliefs that we agree upon and you can identify us very easily. My point is this. Variation does not necessarily invalidate truth. There can be many reasons for variation. By saying this I don’t mean to invalidate your point. I know some will not understand my vascilation, but that is ok. Certainly variation can suggest that something is not true, but more evidence then simply variation of views needs to be brought to the table in order to prove that the core is invalid. So perhaps in combination with all of the other atheist arguments this is a valid argument, but not in isolation. As always I appreciate the dialogue on this site and I really don’t mind the insults so let em rip!

  • 31. Eve's Apple  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Precisely the point I made on my post on the Bible being the Word of God. How do you know which church to join? They all claim to have the truth, and yet they contradict each other in so many ways.

    I suspect that the vast majority of those who call themselves Evangelical, fundamentalist or non-denominational (I am not sure what that is except to say what it is not–not Baptist, not Lutheran, not Catholic) join a church because they like its atmosphere, not because they were seeking out the truth. They have found a home and they are happy there. They don’t see any need to dig deeper. When I asked one person why she joined the Nazarenes, as opposed to any other denomination, she couldn’t really answer. Apparently they came along at the right time in her life. “But how do you know they are the right church?” “God would have told me if they weren’t.”

    I am not a Mormon, but I can certainly relate to the story of Joseph Smith praying for guidance about what church he should join. The answer he received (or came up with) was “none of them.” The rest is history. If you want to know what doctrinal controversies were raging in 19th century America, go to the Book of Mormon. I believe Smith knew exactly what he was doing when he concocted his tale about Lamanites and Nephites in the New World. As pre-Columbian history, it makes no sense that these two groups would battle over Christian doctrines centuries before Christ, but if you read it as a parable of what was going on in Smith’s day, it makes a great deal of sense. He was thumbing his nose at the established sects! Smith, as I see it, was throwing down a challenge. Accept or reject. Unfortunately for him, it got out of hand and backfired.

    Now, as I said, I am not a Mormon and I am not trying to convert anyone to that faith, but I do think that Smith’s challenge ought to be taken seriously. Yes, I am aware that he introduced doctrines that were not considered “orthodox’. Yet some of his biggest detractors follow a rabbi who likewise aroused controversy over his interpretation of scripture. It is hard for anyone who is not Jewish (or Muslim for that matter) to understand the horror aroused by the very idea of a human being calling himself (or allowing himself to be called) God. That is so utterly anathema to the religion Christianity sprang from, that they don’t even like talking about it. But Christians have no problems with saying that the Jewish interpretation of scripture is wrong, that they were sadly mistaken about the Messiah–and the rest of us are supposed to accept that on faith. Well, I say if that is so, then maybe Joseph Smith’s claims are equally valid. Or maybe neither are valid.

  • 32. Quester  |  March 31, 2009 at 7:56 pm

    Rover,

    I’m not sure that this article is an argument that God does not exist, but simply that Christians disagree about the characteristics and will they attribute to the God they worship. This points, not necessarily to a non-existant god, but to one we have insufficient evidence for.

    Joe@28,

    I’m glad something was able to reveal to you what sort of blog you’re on. Around here, blasphemy tends to be seen as a victimless crime.

  • 33. Rover  |  March 31, 2009 at 8:08 pm

    My apologize Quester. I thougth his point was that since God is unknowable to any degree of certainty then belief in Him is an excercise in futility. I have reread his article and I can see where I may have read things into his statements. I guess I sort of proved his point or did I contradict it…..

  • 34. Rover  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    “Since there is only supposed to be one God, yet there are 2 billion gods presented by Christians, it must be the case that at least 1.999999999 billion of those deities are not the real one.”

    Did someone say non sequitur?

  • 35. Quester  |  March 31, 2009 at 9:18 pm

    All right, Rover, I’ll bite. How is this a non-sequitur?

  • 36. Rover  |  April 1, 2009 at 6:58 am

    Quester,

    Leopardus basically said I was ignorant and my argument was a non-sequitur. For a moment I thought “LeoPardus” was my wifes web identity. :)
    He then ends his comment with the statement in post 34. I am just an unlearned man, but does the premise that there are variations in Christianity mean that we believe in 2 billion unique dieties? I don’t believe this is deductive logic, but I can accept it as inductive. I can understand exaggerration as well,, but the conclusion still doesn’t seem to be born out of the premise unless you take it to an illogical extreme. Hey I could be wrong.

  • 37. Not a Church Goer anymore  |  April 1, 2009 at 10:58 am

    The premise is that with over 1 billion believers, there are 1 billion individual beliefs on who or what God is…that’s the fallicy of the whole faith, their is nothing absolute or concrete, it can’t be measured or pinpointed to any degree.

  • 38. Joshua  |  April 1, 2009 at 11:02 am

    “This points, not necessarily to a non-existant god, but to one we have insufficient evidence for.”

    This is a brilliant point. I think most people on de-con probaby have reached this conclusion at one time and then realized that it seems pointless to posit truths about a god or what he is like or what he would do or his attitude toward humankind.

    This is a key fundamental issue for why so many people find Christianity flawed.

    What is so sad – so, so, sad – is that most Christians will probably read this comment and immediately assume that the problem is not their faith… it is that they need to present their faith better. Sadly, thus will begin a massive amount of energy and work in their own life to patch up their Christianity so that it doesn’t look bad. But this only proves the secular point: Christians just invent a faith as they go along.

    It will never occur to many that the problem of different viewpoints all claiming the same source is evidence that their god is only in their mind and not in reality.

  • 39. Joshua  |  April 1, 2009 at 11:05 am

    If a Christian has to work hard to make Christianity look good, then this is evidence Christianity is human invention and that its god is no better than Christians invent him to appear.

  • 40. Joshua  |  April 1, 2009 at 11:12 am

    “I am just an unlearned man, but does the premise that there are variations in Christianity mean that we believe in 2 billion unique dieties? I don’t believe this is deductive logic, but I can accept it as inductive.”

    Think about it Rover. If Christians around the globe all claim to know the same God, but disagree on fundamental aspects of his character and how he interacts with the world, then this is good evidence that there is not enough interaction by god with the world to be conclusive about his character.

    So, people just start making shit up about him. And as soon as you are making shit up… you might as well all have different gods.

    Heck, this is exactly what all the biblical authors were doing: reinventing god to fit the data. God is a 3500+ year invention that keeps being tweaked by each individual sect to fit how they view the world. So each sect ends up with their own “brand” of god with unique characteristics and presents their god as the only one. Of course, they use a lot of the same parts of the invention that work really well (like the resurrection, atonement, etc.) because those pieces of the invention have been proven to be effective in some way.

    But its still all invention.

  • 41. atimetorend  |  April 1, 2009 at 11:26 am

    Heck, this is exactly what all the biblical authors were doing: reinventing god to fit the data.

    I have read about Christianity using midrash, reinterpreting older texts and traditions, to recast the stories as the “new testament.” And that they were following in a rich tradition of doing this, as the “old testament” authors had the prophets doing with earlier revelations. Revelations built on revelations. This can in a sense be a beautiful thing in a literary tradition of people writing about God. And it can allow a religion to “reinvent” itself to fit the data as times change. I believe that is a fine way to practice religion and to seek God. Or maybe you could say, there is a way “making shit up” can have some sort of redeeming value at some level.

    The problem is when that becomes rigid, dogmatic, inflexible. The texts written by 150 AD (or whatever date you choose) and the canon fixed by 400 AD (or whatever date you choose) become authoritative and fixed in time. And then fundamentalism tries to enforce those beliefs on others, and insists it is NOT an invention, it is how God fixed things a certain way at a certain time, and they never change. And everyone must believe them. Or else! For me, that is where religion loses its beauty and becomes coercive and intellectually vacant dreck.

  • 42. Joshua  |  April 1, 2009 at 11:34 am

    Good points atimetorend.

    It seems to me is that religion is nothing more than reinventing a perfect human-like character as the source of everything in the universe as we discover more about the universe. Each piece of new data either fits the character (god) we have already invented and is accepted as “evidence” or it does not fit the character we have invented and is thrown out as bad data (like creationism) or we simply reinvent the character to fit the new data.

    Why not just remove the character?

  • 43. atimetorend  |  April 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Why not just remove the character?

    Joshua, I agree, and that is pretty much what I’ve done.

    At the same time, I can appreciate studying religion and can find something interesting and beautiful (in some ways) by seeing it as a form of midrash. Something more literary than historic or scientific. And that helps me to better appreciate the relationships I have with Christians, to the extent that we can discuss the religion in a non-dogmatic way.

  • 44. Robert  |  April 1, 2009 at 1:12 pm

    Great post. Christians all worship a being called “God”; but the characteristics of God differ greatly from each other. Just look at what someone like John Piper says about God compared to the deity presented by George MacDonald. An infinite difference.

  • 45. Rover  |  April 1, 2009 at 8:21 pm

    Robert,

    The even worse thing about someone like John Piper is that his teachings often contradict one another.

  • 46. james Laker  |  April 2, 2009 at 1:59 am

    I was just reading over things I was finding on the internet and came across a couple of your blogs. Thank you for the challenges and the honesty. Dr. Matthews was one of my favorite professors too. I hope things are well with you and that we will all continue to learn and find the most beautiful way. James Laker

  • 47. John  |  April 23, 2009 at 10:51 am

    I will agree that the lines of orthodoxy lowercase “o” are ridiculous within Christianity. However there is also a doctrine of particular permissibility within most types of Christianity. This allows people to have alleged misconceptions about God and remain considered in good standing under the umbrella of Christianity. Generally a form is still a form of Christianity if it meets a few particular benchmarks, but is considered by the majority to be a very misguided form. However, as pointed out, for each sect, everyone is misguided minus the particular sect. Although I consider the thinking absurd now, I would have to contend that they mostly still fall under the umbrella of Christianity regardless of their different view of God. (i still capitalize God, even if I doubt his existence.)

    On a side note, the comparing of Protestant and Orthodox Christianity is much like comparing apples to oranges. They are drastically different. Whoever made the Sola-Gratia comment was clearly speaking in ignorance. The EO do believe in grace, and the nature of their doctrine doesn’t even allow for a God that looks upon his creation judicially. Within EO, wrath is considered a metaphor for obtaining a distorted perception of God that causes one to hate all things good and essentially wallow in self destructive thought and practice for eternity. Much like gollum in LOTR…

    In regard to Sola Scriptura, the notion is retarded. Sola scriptura doesn’t have any good reasons to justify the formation of canon, and what should be called scripture in the first place.

    It then turns to weak arguments that make presuppositions about God, how although he allows all sorts of other confusing things in the world, such as allowing his Church to fall into error, would have not allowed the sacred scriptures of the church that allegedly fell into error have been accidently canonized books that weren’t scripture.

    The window for the Church to simply have dropped so many doctrines that the Protestant Evangelicals think they dropped early on, is so small that it is unfeasible that such doctrines held importance in the early Church.

    There would have been a large historical controversy had something like that taken place, and there just wasn’t. There was no centralizing authority at the time either, and no means of mass communication or consolidating of power, so such a change would have been slow coming in that era. There would be evidence of resistance. There is simply nothing.

    There is enough early Christian written material left behind to know this. Scholars know what the doctrines of early Christianity were, and Sola-Scriptura wasn’t an essential for the early Church.

  • 48. LeoPardus  |  April 23, 2009 at 11:16 am

    John:

    You make some good points. A couple corrections in case you want to know (though I know that as a doubter, you may not care).

    The EO do believe in grace, and the nature of their doctrine doesn’t even allow for a God that looks upon his creation judicially.

    Actually they do allow that. Like so many things though, they temper judiciality with other attributes like forgiveness, long-suffering, etc.

    Within EO, wrath is considered a metaphor for obtaining a distorted perception of God

    Partially. They still do recognize that God has wrath. After all they do have the OT still. Kinda hard to dance around wrath there. :)

    The window for the Church to simply have dropped so many doctrines that the Protestant Evangelicals think they dropped early on, is so small that it is unfeasible that such doctrines held importance in the early Church

    Which doctrines, apart from Sola Scriptura, are you meaning here?

    There was no centralizing authority at the time either

    Oh yes there was so far as we can tell. Not totally centralized of course (a la a papacy) but hierarchical, with bishops and patriarchs.

  • 49. cag  |  March 11, 2014 at 10:37 pm

    Jabrik, perhaps you should look up Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Centre).

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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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