Saturday, June 20, 2009

Facts and/or Truth

By Bill Colburn


I am repeatedly fascinated by the tension held between 'fact' and 'truth' in the Bible. By this I mean that some things may not be 'factual', but could none-the-less be 'truth'. Why this tickles me is that it runs measurably counter to the way I was raised to think. I used to think that if the bible is truth, then what it says must also be unquestionably factual. If God is perfect then inspiration is perfect and thus everything it says must be fact.

It was in this logic that I recently listened to a preacher/friend interpret the bible story of the Rich Man and Lazarus - using metaphor as literal fact, proving that hell is a place where the unjust are eternally toasted and tormented. When I later mildly challenged his presentation, he responded with the belief that Jesus would not have told a story that wasn't factually accurate, right?

When folks are taught to think about inspiration in this way the result is a concocted interpretation of scripture that conforms to our need to fit God into our finite controllable little boxes rather than entering into a transcendent delight of worshipping the infinite, eternal, Creator God. The scriptures do not present themselves as a book of facts, but as a record of testimonies designed to lift us out of our limited perceptions into the humbling eternal truth of God who is far beyond even our wildest imaginations. Rather than grounding us in manageable temporal realities, it invites us beyond what can be seen and understood - into the realm of faith. The Bible, in many ways, is a projective, a spiritual Rorschach of sorts, eliciting faith through our life-long, daily interactions with it.

A couple of examples from the gospels may suffice to further agitate this notion. John the Baptist was imagined, by some, to have literally been Elijah - returned in the flesh - as Malachi promised. Jesus responded to the queries about his cousin with these words,

"if you are willing to accept it, my cousin John is Elijah".

If we are willing to accept it? Was John or was John not Elijah? At least that is how I once responded to the text. Uncomfortably, in 'fact', John the Baptist was not Elijah. Yet, in 'truth' he was. Don't you just love a 'yes and no' answer?

From another perspective, Jesus tells us that we can be factually guilty, yet simultaneously innocent. In Matthew 12, the disciples of Jesus were accused of breaking the Sabbath. Jesus never denies this as factual. Rather, he pointed the Pharisees back to the scriptures, to David who in 'fact' broke the law, but was in 'truth' innocent.

He then spoke of the priests who in 'fact' broke the Sabbath law, but were also, in 'truth', innocent. Here the facts pointed to guilt, yet the truth pointed to innocence. Why? Well, of course, they used the law lawfully (1 Tim 1:8). The law is not about the law. It was given to lead us to Christ, the compassionate one. Mercy trumps all other purposes for the law.

I used to be a formidably proud, narrow-minded legalist. I perceived scripture as merely two-dimensional. I needed to understand everything on that plane of plain facts. I wanted it all to make sense if it was going to be a part of my life. I spent most of my time trying to make everything manageable within my reality. Such an approach seemed unarguably reasonable. I could only imagine a God who spoke in eternally confirmable facts. I couldn't imagine God making divine accommodations for finite human minds. There wasn't any lisp, as John Calvin once wrote. As a result, there wasn't any room for the unexplainable - no opportunity for the Spirit - thus no transformation in my life.

When we insist on extracting only 'facts' from scripture rather than allowing the Spirit to use the scriptures to lead us to Jesus - the 'Truth' - we get bogged down and 'heavy laden'. There isn't any rest in a penchant for proving everything. Our rest comes in trusting in Christ alone, who is - in fact - the Truth. We need every letter of the law to lead us to Jesus, who gifts us with the Spirit, who, in turn, helps us to live out the spirit of the law - which is to be like Jesus.

26 comments:

  1. This is an excellent article, and is generally the way I view the Bible and have for a long time. It is a spiritual book about Truth (Christ).
    Unfortunately the mindset of Bible critics as well as many religionists is to read the Bible literally and try to make it fit the facts as they understand them.
    The Bible cannot pass the "scientific method" as perceived by most in the sciences. Those who look for literalism in the book will be disappointed and/or come up with distortions of God. The book is about Truth and Love as it is in Jesus rather than sterile facts.

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  2. So how far do you go with this? Is the idea of Jesus existing at all truthful, but not factual? Is the idea of Jesus being our sacrifice truthful, but not factual?

    And what makes the Bible any better source of truth than any other mythology about god or gods that don't happen to be factual?

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  3. And that's exactly the problem with the fundamentalist mindframe. If we realize the bathwater is dirty, we think we have to throw the baby out with it.

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  4. I'm not talking about a fundamentalist mindframe. The problem is deciding what part of the bathwater is dirty?

    The "baby" to me is not Jesus, because we have no way of testing whether its Jesus who said these things. We can test which ones do what they claim, and which ones are imbedded in the cultures they came from.

    And I think it is quite clear from the history of who put these scriptures together and why, that, for the most part, they are made up. And the only power they have really had is the parts that speak to our lives, not the people reported to be saying them.

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  5. Well, I am a person of faith who finds great value and inspiration in the scriptures. I try to balance faith and reason in forming my conclusions on what God is telling me through them. I don't know if I succeed, but I do my best. Richard, I'm sure you also strive to balance faith and reason, but we certainly appear to be at very different conclusions as to what that balance is.

    I should add that I disagree about scriptural compilation--I do think the agenda, process and people were very flawed. I don't agree that this provides us with clear conclusions as to how much or little is factual.

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  6. "Well, I am a person of faith who finds great value and inspiration in the scriptures. I try to balance faith and reason in forming my conclusions on what God is telling me through them."

    You certainly have a right to believe what you want, but historically Christian people of faith have determined from their reading of these same scriptures that god is going to kill everyone who is not a Christian. And its not very difficult to come to that conclusion.

    And fortunately reason has been a very strong opponent of the type of faith which would feel instructed by god to kill others who did not follow their particular version of faith. From the facts of Christian history it makes sense to me to weaken the authority of this type of literature rather than redefining it through semantic redefinition. Because, redefinition is not a very powerful deterrent to prevent the violence advocated by portions of scripture.

    Plus it was these same men who compiled scripture that began the violence against other faiths and even other Christian faiths. History tells us that it was violence that spread Christianity very rapidly, not faith.

    So, I am glad that there are Christians who are able to interpret the Bible in non violent ways, but ultimately the Bible teaches us that god's final solution is a solution of violence and destruction that is called in very Orwellian doublespeak "restoration" and "redemption."

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  7. I don't support twisting and turning interpretations to explain violence or contradictions in the Bible. I do support putting the Bible in it's proper context. It is a journal of the Jewish and Christian pursuit & understanding of God over thousands of years It was written by imperfect human beings with an imperfect view of God. It's imperfection doesn't render it useless as a valuable resource and reference, nor does it render it void of any inspiration at all.

    For me, the Bible is the largest source of inspiration in my life. It has influenced many of my core philosophies, including non-violence, tolerance, love, and caring for the needy. Once I accepted the fact that their are contradictions and imperfections, I became free to really dive into the philosophy of Christ, which is in stark contrast to the violence in the old testament. That is not to say the Old Testament doesn't have any value. I find special inspiration in the words of Isaiah, as he renounced his own nation's inhabitance for getting rich at the expense of the poor. How relevant those words are today!

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  8. "I do support putting the Bible in it's proper context. It is a journal of the Jewish and Christian pursuit & understanding of God over thousands of years It was written by imperfect human beings with an imperfect view of God. It's imperfection doesn't render it useless as a valuable resource and reference, nor does it render it void of any inspiration at all."

    I made no point in support of either of these ideas. Yes its a valuable resource on the history of western thought and ideas. Even Richard Dawkins believes that an understanding of the Bible is essential to the understanding of western culture. And yes it has its human inspired portions. The Bible may provide unique ideas, but that alone does not qualify it for more consideration than any other human publication.

    The point I did make is that it is not any more inspired than other books that have contributed to our understanding of the meaning of life. Because it is flawed, it needs to be on equal critical evaluation along with any other writing that claims or does not claim inspiration.

    If I were to point to a pinnacle of achievement I would say that Isaac Newton's Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica would come much closer to being divine than the Bible. This far exceeds the Bible in wonder and yet there are no claims of inspiration and its author clearly admits its human origin. It opens to the world not only scientific windows, but started the scientific revolution that allowed humanity to break away from a cruel and inhuman church steeped in the a literal superstitious view of the Bible. All other intolerant and cruel human institutions including Nazi Germany, pale in comparison to the terrible deeds of this Christian Church that ruled the human mind and body for over 1000 years.

    It is no wonder that humanists are very cautious about endorsing the bible as any type of authority over the actions of men. We don't need another 1000 years of irrational cruelty. I would far rather take the Bible with a rational view, than an inspirational one if we are to preserve it safely within the bounds of human decency.

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  9. "It makes sense to me to weaken the authority of this type of literature rather than redefining it through semantic redefinition."

    That is the quote I was responding to with my first paragraph in the last post. I should have clarified that. Semantic redefinition is how many Christians have justified disturbing ideas in the Bible, though the new meanings they attach are clearly based on what they want it to say, and thus it is improbable that these are really the intended meanings. I was arguing that my view on interpreting the Bible does not focus on semantics, but on the appropriate classification of the book itself. When the Bible is classified as inerrant, absolute word of God, semantic redefinition has to be used just to keep it from contradicting itself.

    As for the Crusades and other religious persecutions led by so-called "Christians", it doesn't take semantic redefinition to recognize that they are in direct opposition to the teachings and example of the Biblical account of Christ. But to justify the Crusades Biblically, leaders would have had to semantically redefine Christ's teachings and example to match them with a the ideas of the early Old Testament. I imagine that is exactly what they did.

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  10. I should add that I can sort of agree with "weaken(ing) the authority of this type of literature", though I wouldn't phrase it that way. Those of us who put the Bible in the context I have argued for, are seen as weakening it by many on the inerrancy side of the argument. I would argue that this actually strengthens it.

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  11. "But to justify the Crusades Biblically, leaders would have had to semantically redefine Christ's teachings and example to match them with a the ideas of the early Old Testament. I imagine that is exactly what they did."

    That is what they did because the early Christian scripture WAS the Old Testament. The very concept of a written authority was developed by the gnostics long before the orthodox branch of Christianity began to form its scripture. Some of the gnostics thought the god of the OT was evil and that Jesus came to free us from this god.

    The problem was that Rome and its neo-platonic Christian philosophers felt that for Christianity to have any credibility they had to incorporate an older text and this happened to be the OT. Rome was also enamored with the idea of law and the law of god fit right into this respect for a technology that allowed the formation of an empire.

    The Bible as we know it wasn't formed until after the 4th century and its present form is a result of many different versions and collections.

    I doubt if any god had anything to do with this process. What we do have is some breakthroughs in human ethics that have been recognized by secularists and people of faith. It took a secular revolution to finally put portions of it into practice in any kind of societal way. The examples of government within scripture are horrendous.

    "I should add that I can sort of agree with "weaken(ing) the authority of this type of literature", though I wouldn't phrase it that way. Those of us who put the Bible in the context I have argued for, are seen as weakening it by many on the inerrancy side of the argument. I would argue that this actually strengthens it."

    Strengthens what specifically? The Bible? I don't see how...

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  12. It is certainly sad to see what a misunderstanding of God's will can do to His reputation. Jesus warned, "The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service."

    This is not a new problem, and it is still ongoing. But to destroy someone's name through misconstruing his words doesn't change that person's character, only his perceived character. And it happens all the time, purposely.

    So it shouldn't surprise us to see the same thing happen to God by His enemy. There was nothing He did wrong, even in the Old Testament, in the way of justice.

    When the man in charge of the German concentration camps was finally apprehended recently and condemned to death, was that condemnation unjust? We all agree that it was just. When a mass murderer is executed we breathe a sigh of relief.

    Wikipedia says of Jeffrey Dahmer, "His murders were particularly gruesome, involving rape, torture, dismemberment, necrophilia and cannibalism." Who will argue that he shouldn't die for his misdeeds?

    The actions directed by the Lord toward nations and tribes who we can suspect, and archeology is finding, were doing equally grievous acts were just actions. But if I've never come to know God as a God who would take all that justice upon His own head and know the infinitely worse destruction of hell, then I will not accept that those nations which were destroyed deserved their sentence of destruction.

    Its only in the light of the cross that we can see that what happened in the Old Testament was just. And if the whole Old Testament were studied before making judgment on it, the reader would find that often the God who sent judgment on nations finally sent it on Israel because they had become equally violent and outrageously wicked as those nations which had been previously destroyed for the same wickedness.

    Justice is not violence, its good. Its a form of mercy. But if I'm prejudiced toward a person who stands for justice, it doesn't matter what you say, I'll hate that person and disavow anything he says to be right.

    Please Richard, before throwing out the Bible, read the whole thing. Its the only honest thing to do.

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  13. David posted
    "And if the whole Old Testament were studied before making judgment on it, the reader would find that often the God who sent judgment on nations finally sent it on Israel because they had become equally violent"

    You might want to read about my history before making judgements about me. I have read the OT many times. I am very familiar with a number of commentaries, the conflict series, and have made the choices about what I believe based on lots of evidence.

    The point you are missing in your statement is that God ordered Israel to be violent. He ordered them to kill every man, woman, and child and if they didn't comply they would be killed. The death penalty was the form of "justice" for just about any offense including gathering wood on the Sabbath. It is very difficult to construe that as justice in any other context and that's the dishonesty of this type of apologetic.

    Even though God is acting as a mass murderer and is ordering people to participate in this type of violence, this god is not held accountable. The god of the OT tolerates even the occasional human sacrifice to himself. That's because promises are more important than human life.

    "Please Richard, before throwing out the Bible, read the whole thing. Its the only honest thing to do."

    I have read the whole thing and when you get to the specifics, your premise breaks down rather early on in the narrative. To me, the honest thing to do is to evaluate the Bible using the same standards of truth we use for any other claim of truth.

    Your point only works when you stay vague, general, and use these broad generalizations that have no specific evidence.

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  14. Harty,
    One can read the Bible through and come up with all sorts of beliefs. It's like the constitution, whatever you want it to say you will find it there. If one doesn't want to believe, they will find plenty of reasons not to. The biblical culture is far from our own. Trying to read a book written in a different time and place and putting a 21st-century worldview on it is not logical to me.
    I personally do not think the Bible can be read without prayer for the Holy Spirit and really wanting to know its meaning. I call it discernment. The theme is God's love for humans and how they react. The OT is about Christ when seen with the eyes of faith. All I can say is we tend to see what we want to, and perhaps that is the test of faith and character over the long term. Perhaps it is like a buffet where we can choose the healthy foods that build us up or the unhealthy foods that destroy--it's a choice.
    Sometimes I think people hear different music to live by (dance to a different tune) or perhaps think in a different dimension and it's hard to convince someone who doesn't hear it or see it. It's all very subjective.
    If salvation through Christ is the ultimate meaning and purpose of the Bible, we find truth, peace, love, compassion and humility in His life as the True Representative of God. For me I am always amazed at how well it (the Bible) comes together in Him.

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  15. Ellamae posted,

    "One can read the Bible through and come up with all sorts of beliefs. It's like the constitution, whatever you want it to say you will find it there. "

    And that includes the beliefs that you bring to reading the Bible. If you are coming to the Bible with the belief that its the word of god, then you are going to find all kinds of things to support that view.

    For me, the facts don't bear that out. Just as the Church had a problem with the Bible's earth centric view being proven false, so has the current church had problems with the Bible being shown to be the result of much more human motivations and sources.

    Ellamae posted,

    "Trying to read a book written in a different time and place and putting a 21st-century worldview on it is not logical to me."

    It doesn't make sense if you are trying to understand history. If I'm trying to understand how to live my life and its meaning, an iron age ethical system is simply not up to the task.

    Ellamae posted,

    "I personally do not think the Bible can be read without prayer for the Holy Spirit and really wanting to know its meaning. I call it discernment. The theme is God's love for humans and how they react. The OT is about Christ when seen with the eyes of faith. All I can say is we tend to see what we want to, and perhaps that is the test of faith and character over the long term."

    That's fine if it stays personal. The problem with many Christians is that the nature of their belief calls them to interpret everyone else's view of the world as inferior, bad, or in extreme cases needing to be destroyed. Your method simply is not enough to stand on for determining if its true or not for me.

    My intuition and discernment tells me a far different story and this is after a LOT of research.

    "Sometimes I think people hear different music to live by (dance to a different tune) or perhaps think in a different dimension and it's hard to convince someone who doesn't hear it or see it. It's all very subjective."

    And because its subjective it seems more honest to admit that we don't know.

    "If salvation through Christ is the ultimate meaning and purpose of the Bible, we find truth, peace, love, compassion and humility in His life as the True Representative of God. For me I am always amazed at how well it (the Bible) comes together in Him."

    There are many ways to find truth, peace, and love that have nothing to do with the Bible or Jesus. That tells me that the Bible is not an exclusive holder of salvation in that form.

    What I observe is that as soon as someone finds these things outside of Christianity, the fearful warnings and threats of death messages come out.

    Any idea that needs to coerce its members to believe, really needs to be examined more closely.

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  16. HR
    "And that includes the beliefs that you bring to reading the Bible. If you are coming to the Bible with the belief that its the word of god, then you are going to find all kinds of things to support that view."
    And if you come to it with a cynical spirit or learned distortions, you will find that too!
    "Church had a problem with the Bible's earth centric view being proven false"
    It was dealing with this earth only, and the people didn't have today's knowledge. It also dealt with humans' relationship with God. All else was not relevant. You speak from an absolutist viewpoint.
    "My intuition and discernment tells me a far different story and this is after a LOT of research."
    You aren't the only one who has researched; believers also do and come up with different concepts. Many times they turn from unbelief to belief. (read CS Lewis)
    I suspect you have read Erhman and liberal theologians and philosphers--it's all in what we choose to read. Education is a kind of brainwashing but we choose who will brainwash us.
    I've done a bit of that too.
    "And because its subjective it seems more honest to admit that we don't know."
    Honest for who? Wouldn't it be dishonest to deny one's personal experience or the weight of evidence as one understands it? Why do you think others are dishonest and you are not?
    "There are many ways to find truth, peace, and love that have nothing to do with the Bible or Jesus. That tells me that the Bible is not an exclusive holder of salvation in that form."
    Unlike some I do not claim that peace, love, etc. comes only through Christianity. There is a "relaxation response" that if practiced brings feelings of peace and is accumultive. It can work with many religious meditations or secular ones. Being in nature is another way. Research indicates there is a part of the brain devoted to spiritual experiences. I have an interest in health and spirituality and how the brain works in faith.
    Reading history also tells me that the biblical period was a violent one for all cultures and the Jews seem to have been the most civilized except when they turned from God. God always zeroed in on their treatment of others and the poor. He also was against the horrible practices of the pagan religions then.
    I also notice that humanitarian work is almost always done by faith groups. I don't think I am out of line in saying they are mostly Jewish and Christian faiths. This in spite of the sometimes violent history whey then parted from following the love of Christ and even made idols of Him but had no heart for Him.
    "What I observe is that as soon as someone finds these things outside of Christianity, the fearful warnings and threats of death messages come out."
    I have no idea what this mysterious note is saying--something to do with past distortions you were taught? It is certainly the opposite for me and millions of others who find hope, life, forgiveness, and joy in Christ.
    There must be something beyond just disagreement here. But that's OK. I learn from these discussions and hope you do as well.
    God bless.

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  17. Ellamae posted

    "There must be something beyond just disagreement here."

    I think I need to address this first. There is absolutely no ill will or malice or anything negative being directed at you personally. This does speak to your method of determining what is true. You have no evidence, that I know of, that there would be anything else going on here other than a disagreement with your views.

    When I speak of "the fearful warnings and threats of death messages come out." I don't have to go very far in the bible, the book we are talking about, to find these. The dishonesty is not recognizing that these are here and the majority of Christianity throughout all time has applied these in violent manners. Or they teach that God has and will apply violence to achieve his ends. Just because you do not does not negate this fact.

    Now I am very glad that you don't apply these violently, but I'm not talking about you. I'm talking about Christianity and its application of truth. Don't make this personal, I'm not.

    "Wouldn't it be dishonest to deny one's personal experience or the weight of evidence as one understands it? Why do you think others are dishonest and you are not?"

    I'm not asking you to deny your own experience. What I am saying is that what may be true for me personally and what may be true for you personally are not true for everyone. To claim that my truth is true for everyone is dishonest. And that is what Christians do all the time. They claim that Jesus is the only way to truth. If you don't know about that then I wonder what you have been reading about your own history.

    Ellamae posted

    "And if you come to it with a cynical spirit or learned distortions, you will find that too!"

    This reveals your own prejudice. You have assumed that the only possible way I could not see the Bible the way you do is if I have a cynical spirit or it has "something to do with past distortions [I was] taught?" There is absolutely no recognition that I may have come to my point of view from an honest evaluation of the facts.

    In your view I have read all the wrong things and have been swayed to my viewpoints because I have some character fault. You have no way of knowing this and that is what is dishonest.

    On the other hand I can understand how you hold what you believe and I have told you so. I don't agree with it for me personally, but I freely admit that you have come to your own belief honestly from a sense of respect.

    In reality I have know way of knowing this either. Only you can evaluate this.

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  18. HR: I didn't say you had a character flaw and apologize if it came through like that. But your posts are definitely cynical by any stretch of the imgination. I am cynical too at times.
    You are actually asking good questions, though I don't see them as objective (I'm not). They are questions asked by every thinking person who ever read the Bible. But there are also other very positive statements about the character of God (His love is everlasting) and his Representation in Jesus, and we shouldn't ignore those as if they didn't exist. Otherwise how can it be a balanced evaluation?
    Again we weren't there, and to me there is much symbolism in the biblical stories. I would go so far as to say that what they mean is more important than whether they actually happened as stated. I find some of them amazing, but it all needs to be studied in depth with a willingness to listen and be open to other viewpoints. I have tried to do this. I understand some don't have the interest in this sort of research or may be more experience oriented (I'm not referring to you).
    I am in no position to question your honesty. I am just saying we are all programmed to some extent by our background and experience. I certainly am.
    It takes courage to keep questioning the rest of us as you do and keep us challenged. I just hope you get as much out of it as I do.

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  19. Ellamae stated,

    "I didn't say you had a character flaw and apologize if it came through like that. But your posts are definitely cynical by any stretch of the imgination."

    I am not being cynical at all. Disbelief is not cynicism.

    "But there are also other very positive statements about the character of God (His love is everlasting) and his Representation in Jesus, and we shouldn't ignore those as if they didn't exist. Otherwise how can it be a balanced evaluation?"

    There are certain things that are deal breakers no matter how many other good things are said. In the matter of god in general there might be some consideration of love, but certainly not the god of the bible. One would not say we need to have a balanced view of Hitler since he was a very good artist. And the god of the bible exceeds Hitlers cruelty by several orders of magnitude. This is not being cynical, it is simply observing all the death dealt by the OT god and the descriptions in Revelation of god's wrath.

    Now I certainly can consider the bible in a mythological way, but I would never take its claims of knowledge about the nature of man and god seriously since it presents such immature solutions.

    Oscar Wilde puts it rather well when he states, "A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it."

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  20. If you take Revelation literally and not symbolically, maybe. Try reading the text THE SECRETS OF REVELATION by Doukhan, a Jewish scholar at Andrews. All these visions have meanings in the old Hebrew mind.
    How is Jesus like Hitler? I am confused here. Jesus is God. God says He is love. He punished the pagans who burned their children in fires to their gods and other ghastly things--they were like Hitler. Try reading some histories of the times. I suggest THE HISTORY OF THE ANCIENT WORLD by Susan Wise Bauer.
    The people of the Bible WERE immature and primitive. And when looking at the cruelties in the world today, many still are primitive. And you can't explain the presence of evil without the origin of a personal evil force. It's a battle, and sometimes destruction of evil has to happen in real life.
    The deaths that happen today are not total (first). You might say no one has actually died yet except Jesus(second death as noted in Revelation). Only He could come back from it and save us from it. All are alive in the mind/memory (files) of God. Today's struggles are only temporary as I have come to understand it. That is a God of love.

    What do you think of the world now? Do child molesters and killers deserve to be treated with anything other than destruction if they don't repent?
    Would you want to live with them in a new world? Do you find total chaos and destruction by humans a better alternative to Christ?
    If the OT God is cruel, what do you think of the salvation story of Christ? I truly believe humans would have destroyed themselves by now if God hadn't kept it from happening.
    If one doesn't know, isn't it healthier to choose the best answer? And happier?
    You need not answer all these questions, but they just come to mind as we discuss these

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  21. "How is Jesus like Hitler? I am confused here. Jesus is God. God says He is love."

    Well if Jesus was the god of the OT, then that god behaved worse than Hitler. This is basically semantics anyway. My topic has been the Bible and its description of god, not Jesus as God.

    "He punished the pagans who burned their children in fires to their gods and other ghastly things--they were like Hitler."

    He punished them by having the Jews kill their children. Apparently doing ghastly things to the children wasn't the issue. This is a pretty immature solution. This is more likely men making up a justification for genocide by attributing it to god.

    Plus, this is a gross over simplification of the ancient world. A pagan religion called Janism didn't believe in killing anyone and was dedicated to pacifism. It predates Buddhism. Just like today there were many different ethical systems in play and the Jews hardly had the high moral ground.

    As the Christian church gained power it killed and tortured many pagans. It destroyed centuries of learning. It was directly responsible for the dark ages and this was based on precedents outlined in the OT directing the people of god to kill unbelievers.

    Pagan services became punishable by death in 356.

    Christian Emperor Theodosius (408-450) even had children executed, because they had been playing with remains of pagan statues.

    According to Christian chroniclers he "followed meticulously all Christian teachings..."

    In 6th century pagans were declared void of all rights.

    In the early fourth century the philosopher Sopatros was executed on demand of Christian authorities.

    The world famous female philosopher Hypatia of Alexandria was torn to pieces with glass fragments by a hysterical Christian mob led by a Christian minister named Peter, in a church, in 415.

    "Do you find total chaos and destruction by humans a better alternative to Christ? "

    The truth is, as violent as the world is today, your chances of being a victim of violence is far less today. I believe that more harm is done by spreading false fear.

    Yes we need to protect our children, but lets not exaggerate the dangers either. And lets not use the fact of violence in the world to suggest that the violence perpetrated god in the manner described in the Bible as being any better.

    In general, I find those who have no religious affiliation to be far safer to be with than believers of all sorts.

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  22. Please remember the executioners of the middle ages you talk about were Christian in name only. As rejectors of Jesus' life and love they were worse than pagans. They were Christianity gone wrong--the majority were Romanists who hijacked the Christian movement. When Constantine saw his "vision" (probably a political move), he destroyed the sprit of the Christian church--they were no long followers of Jesus as a whole.
    Though a large number of people are followers of Christ in today's denominations, the church movement--Roman Catholicism and Protestants have never recovered from the traditions of the takeover.

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  23. Ellamae posted "Please remember the executioners of the middle ages you talk about were Christian in name only."

    This may be true but Christianity from the onset began killing pagans as early as the 2nd century. And it was these same Christians who formed the New Testament and chose to include the Old Testament. These are the people who composed the Bible.

    It was actually the gnostics who first formed writings. It was in response to this that the early Catholic Church began the New Testament. And initially it was the early Church's reading of the Old Testament that formed its policies toward pagans. The Old Testament clearly indicates that pagans should be killed.

    If it wasn't for this violent conversion of the world by the Catholic church Christianity would not be followed by the numbers we have today.

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  24. I am not sure where you get your history since there are no footnotes, etc. The apostacy began rather quickly. I can't agree with what you have said and it doesn't have back-up material that shows the circumstances nor is there any balance. I have been reading a book entitled
    A Case for the Existence of God by Dean L. Overman. I am recommending it for your reading.
    It would appear neither of us needs to carry this on as there is nothing to learn from it. We keep repeating ourselves. I am, through experience and evidence, settled where I am in belief--it works for me; and it is apparently the same with you.

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  25. Ellamae posted "I am not sure where you get your history since there are no footnotes, etc."

    There are many sources for the history that are easy to find. The important part is that you actually read it.

    Ellamae posted "I can't agree with what you have said and it doesn't have back-up material that shows the circumstances nor is there any balance."

    Well, you have to read the history first and then determine what is a balanced view.

    Ellamae posted "A Case for the Existence of God by Dean L. Overman. I am recommending it for your reading."

    This really has nothing to do with a case for the Christian god. I am open to the idea of god in general, but I am also very frank in stating that I simply don't know since I don't think this is provable

    I am reasonably certain that the god in the bible does not exist.

    I also agree with Dean Overman that discovering truth requires non rational modes of knowledge. This doesn't mean that the god of the Bible is the default god. If there is such a thing as god, this god would be beyond description and would interface with us in ways beyond our comprehension.

    One major problem with the Christian god is that the Bible's description is too simple. Its stuck in iron age tribalism and treated as if it was this profound insight into the nature of god. One simply has to look at the nations who followed the Bible seriously as a way to govern their people. You find violence, intolerance, and fear. Its really that simple.

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  26. I don't believe there has ever been a nation who followed the Bible seriously to govern their people--Never!
    Violence, intolerance, and fear are the results of tribalism, nationalism, and political tyranny. Some have used religion so-called to justify it and others haven't (communism). But NO nation has ever followed the Bible seriously.
    The people of the Bible were simple and used stories to talk about God and most everything that happened to them they attributed directly to God (including storms and earthquakes). A handful of prophets tried to direct them in justice and taking care of the poor and setting them apart from the barbaric society of the age, but were generally rejected or misunderstood.
    You are right that the god portrayed in the OT Bible-- to those who read it without depth, insight, context, and piecemeal-- does not exist. They will find only a shallow human portrayal.
    There are footsteps of God in every reputable religion, but only those who seek after right-doing will find this God.
    The Bible is honest about the human condition and its capabilities--good and bad. It is not a pleasant fairy tale with warm, fuzzy feelings. It is about a God who punishes the wicked who devour the weak and will one day rid the earth of them. Yet this God is kind enough to take the greatest risk of all--the chance of losing part of itself (Christ)forever to give eternal life to the imperfect who are willing to listen. Their suffering here is only temporary.
    His life and death are retroactive and all-encompassing for humanity. I believe it is through total and longlasting rejection of His Spirit that they lose out.
    For the atheist this will make no difference, for they will get what they believed in all along--death.
    I find in Adventism teachings that make more sense for me than other Christian groups. Again the doctrinal concepts must be savored and not taken in a shallow way. I would be, along with you, an agnostic if all of Christianity taught that God had a devil on payroll to burn the sinful forever. I think truth is progressive, and this church is part of that progression--you might say it is evolving.

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