How do Christians reconcile the rapists and murderers that Jehovah gives the thumbs up for in the Old Testament?

This is an interesting question that relates to the question preached on last Sunday ‘how could a good God allow suffering?’

I reckon one of the strange stories in the   Bible is a story about rape, circumcision and murder. You can read about it in Genesis 34.

In brief Dinah one of Jacob’s daughters is raped by a guy from a different nation. Dinah’s brothers are furious and the guy    who raped Dinah wants to marry her. So      the brothers trick the guy and all of his clan. They say that only if the guy and his clan get circumcised they will let the guy marry their sister. So the guy and his clan go ahead with the very painful exercise – especially considering they didn’t have any real pain relief.

Read what the brothers do. Genesis 34:25 Three days later, while all of them were still in pain, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, Dinah’s brothers, took their swords and attacked the unsuspecting city, killing every male.

What does God think about all this? Well in the story you don’t really get God’s thoughts. You just find out that Jacob is very angry with what his sons have done.

Actually when I think about it I don’t know anywhere in the Bible were God is happy about rape and murder. I guess at this point we need to make an important distinction – in the Bible there are descriptive parts (where we are just told what happened) and prescriptive parts (where we are told what God wants us to do).

I guess the point of saying that is although there might stories about rape and murder in the Bible, that doesn’t mean God thinks they’re cool. In actual fact we know from the Bible that God really hates it when the vulnerable are taken advantage of and there will be some nasty stuff coming the way of the those who do such things. And as someone who knows a few people who have been assaulted I will be putting up my hand if God needs any help when it comes to dishing it out on the last day (not that he will… need my help that is).

But what makes me think I’m such a good guy? If anyone was to see the extent of my sin I reckon they would be crying out for justice too.

I guess we also need to talk about the wars that God is for in the Old Testament. Wars that in some cases clear the way for his people and wars in other cases that punish his people. There are probably two things to say. God made us so he can judge us however he wants (which we will hear more about on Sunday) and that a lot of the time we underestimate our own sin (rejection of God).

While the Old Testament can sound violent, if you actually think about it, Jesus has far more harsh things to say. Matthew 10:28 Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the One who can destroy both soul and body in hell.

Because we are so materialistic we think death is the worst thing that can happen to us… But in reality there is a far greater punishment in store for all of us.

But there is good news God poured out his anger on his Son – Jesus on the cross. And we can have the hope of a sure future with Jesus if we acknowledge our own sin to God and trust in the risen Lord Jesus.

This is great news for sinners like me. Jesus isn’t meek and mild he’s a fearless warrior. What’s gunna happen when you meet him?

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61 comments on “How do Christians reconcile the rapists and murderers that Jehovah gives the thumbs up for in the Old Testament?
  1. peter y says:

    you should become a copper simon

  2. David says:

    Thanks for your blog Simon. I found it really helpful in my understanding of some tricky stuff in the OT.

    Coppers aren’t like they used to be Peter – they no longer give you a kick up the rear for being a trouble maker. PC has ended that sort of stuff.

  3. Angela Pollard says:

    It was my question that you have just answered, and on the basis of your answer, I am still firmly in the unbeliever camp. The Bible clearly indicates that God aids and abets the genocide of innocent Canaanites, and actually commits murder by killing the first born sons of the Egyptians. I repeat; God killed babies and children. He is not a tut-tutting bystander.

    Your arguements; we can’t judge God by the rules he lays down for us (humans who do that are called hypocrites), and that Jesus is worse ( aren’t Jesus and God the same thing- that’s another illogic, the trinity) and finally that there are worse things than death. Well, how do I know that? The only answer is faith, and I don’t have any.
    If you are serious about outreach to unbelievers, you are going to have to do better than this. The problem s that you are stuck with an historical cultural document from a time when there were different moral standards; foreigners were expendable and rape was a crime against property not humanity.

  4. Simon Allery says:

    Angela, thanks for being open and honest.

    I might try to deal with your objections one at a time and I’m sure others will jump in, to see if we can’t get you to come and sit around the fire with us.

    1) God is a hypocrite – If God made us, if he gave us life then logically he’s got the right to tell us how to live and to take life as he chooses. The creator is not the same as his creation.

    2) Illogic of the trinity – Yeah the trinity definitely is hard to understand. But I wasn’t trying to say that Jesus is worse than God because you’re right they are the same (yet different). What I was trying to say (however, not very clearly), is that sometimes we think of the God of the Old Testament as a crazy murderer and think of Jesus as being a hippie all about love and peace. Jesus spoke more about hell than anyone else and it’s through Jesus that we know what God is like.

    3) A question of faith – If ya think God and the Bible are all a load of terry, then I am going to have a very difficult time trying to convince you of anything about the creator. The reasons I have faith or trust in Jesus are outlined below:

    a) The complexity of the world (even though it’s messed up);
    b) The historical evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection;
    c) The change from being self serving to other person centered that occurs in genuine believers; and
    d) a growing realisation of how sinful I really am.

    As I said before others will probably want to jump in and make comment. But please keep being open and honest as it’s the only way forward.

  5. Trev says:

    Hi Angela thanks for the post its good that you are honest on how you feel about God. I am wondering if you would be willing to listen to the link below.
    http://www.marshillchurch.org/media/cinemagogue/religulous-expelled
    Thanks again

  6. Angela Pollard says:

    Ok, I am working on the presumption that these surmons are designed with people like me in mind; ie people with little respect for organised religion and no faith- that’s who you are trying to bring to God -true? So you have to work with someone without faith, if you can’t then there is no point in continuing with answering our questions.

    1. I reject your assumption ” If God made us, if he gave us life then logically he’s got the right to tell us how to live and to take life as he chooses”. Logic ( your word) on this basis would allow my parents to have strangled me at birth. They are my creators, heck , it sounds like you approve of abortion. But seriously , my parent creators have my respect because they gave a me a set of rules to live by that made sense, and they lived by them too. Hypocrites make for poor law givers and enforcers. I can’t respect or obey any authority that murders childen, even if they claim to be all knowing and powerful. I am happy to “speak truth to power ” as they say!!
    2. Re the Jesus God trinity thing , we agree. I certainly agree that hippie Jesus is a myth. I would love you to explain the trinity.
    3. Re faith -see my opening remarks above.
    (a) I cannot see the causal link between the “complexity of the world” and Jehovah in particular as THE creative force ; why not Allah, Brahman, Buddha or even Ron L Hubbard’s thetans? Please explain
    (b) We could argue about the historical existence of Jesus ( was that a later insertion in Josephus or not? ) but there is certainly plenty of evidence for Muhammed as an historical person and contemporaneous references to his miraculous visions, and Joseph Smith was very real and lots of his followers at the time believed in his God given gold plates and magic spectacles -so why Jesus and not Muhammed or Joseph etcetc.
    (c) and (d) is quite possible in a non-religious life – I find it insulting that you think that us secular folks arent capable of genuine caring for others and self-improvement.

    Happy for others to have a go.

  7. Simon Allery says:

    Angela, thanks for continuing with the honesty.

    Your assumption is correct. But I guess what I was trying to say was that if someone is not open to talking about the existence of God and the reliability of the Bible then it is going to be hard to move forward. However it sounds like you are.

    1) I still don’ t think you’re understanding what I am trying to say. It’s great that your parents hooked up, had a good time, that you were the result and that they loved and cared for you. But what the Bible indicates is that even though you get 23 chromosomes from each parent, it’s God that actually knits you together and gives you life. He is the only life giver.

    Also just for the record I think abortion is wrong but that Christians could do more to support women facing that dreadful decision.

    2) In regard to the reliability of the Bible please check out the website for the ‘ can you really trust the Bible?’ talk.

    3) In regard to other religions come along to church this Sunday as this weeks question is ‘can there really be just one true religion?’ or listen to the talk from the website.

    Please take the time to listen to the talks and let me know what ya think.

  8. Angela Pollard says:

    1. I do understand what you are saying, the parent thing was meant by way of analogy. It was an attempt to put in human terms the inherent undermining of God’s alleged authority by excluding himself from the very rules he promulgates as universal. In the example I gave, (call it a parable if you like) we can clearly see that it is abhorrent for a parent to claim the right to kill their child purely on the basis of their superiority as creator, whilst also condemning murder committed by anyone else. It is not so much that God CAN do it – it is that he CHOOSES to do it, that destroys his credibility in my eyes. Going back to my original post re the Canaanites and the Egyptians, what I see is an ancient ”god”; El, Adonai, JHWH, (or more appropriately, Shaddai, the destroyer) a parochial deity of the Hebrews who is a human creation reflecting the desires of a tribe wanting divine justification to wreak vengeance upon on their enemies.

    This is the divide we seem unable to breach; you focus on God’s immanence despite his commission of (& accessory to) murders and and crucially it looks to me more like the convoluted logic of human beings trying to insulate themselves to protect their faith in a god (because of his promise of eternal life) whilst desperately trying to ignore or explain away the contradictions in a mismatched collection of ancient tales both endemic and borrowed from surrounding cultures.

    Re 2 & 3, I will check it out.

  9. Katja McPherson says:

    Look I must admit that I am a bit scared jumping in the ring with Angela because she knows where I live!

    But…re the deaths in the Old Testament:
    as horrible as it is to imagine, don’t we have to see that all those deaths – babies, Canaanites, disobedient Israelites etc – was part of God’s HUGE plan to clean up the mess that we have made of the world. To show who He is, show that we will continually mess up on our own and show His love for us in sending His own Son to die to clean up our mess.

    It is still horrific to imagine 10,000 people being wiped out for disobeying God and I shudder at the thought of it. But to me it shows that God’s love must be so huge that He knew it was necessary to bring about His plan to save me. I can’t understand that fully but I do trust His love and that He suffered and continues to suffer as all these terrible things happen. Why doesn’t he stop it now? he wants more people to accept Jesus. Angela…he could be waiting for you! 🙂

  10. Angela Pollard says:

    S’Ok Katja, everyone says that my bark is absolutely worse than my bite! And my secular belief system would never allow me to leave children motherless….

    I acknowledge that you are sustained by your Christian belief system as I am in mine. My understanding is that the invitation at the beginning of the series was for non-believers to ask questions about what we saw as the perceived barriers to accepting the Bible and practising the Christian religion. I was raised to argue and debate in order to find defects in my (and others) belief system and so I relish the opportunity to engage with real, live Christians.

    I hope we don’t bog down too quickly in an “agree to disagree” position, and as you have an omnipotent, omniscient and omnipresent God on your side, I reckon we are about even.

    That was a joke…

    OK, to restate your position: We have to believe that the Christian God has a plan to save the world that we messed up because otherwise the pain is pointless and there is no hope for eternal life. This plan includes mass death and deicide, even though God is pained by this suffering (and he can stop it right now because He is God), because only through people being inflicted with more suffering will they come to God. I hope I have paraphrased accurately.

    Time to deconstruct:
    “We have to believe that the Christian God has a plan to save the world” excludes the billions of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, etc. that are busy devoutly believing, praying, reading their own religious/ spiritual texts that are bent on telling the rest of us how to save the world. I have been told by other religionists that if only I… ( fill in the blanks: end my same sex relationship, visit Mecca, give up earthly desires, give lots of peanuts to Ganesh, etc), I too could help end the suffering in the world. So far I have heard no compelling argument as to why I should give Christianity more credibility than the multitude of religions out there.

    “God has a plan” – well as far as I can tell from my reading of the New Testament – he HAD a plan 2,000 years ago – kill part of the godhead as a scapegoat sacrifice for all sinners for all time. Jesus suffered and died so that we didn’t have to. But we still do – the world is full of suffering – so did God renege on the deal?

    But really I have no idea how this works. You live with this story as a given and I have heard it often enough that it‘s a struggle to think about it objectively. Imagine explaining it to a Martian – it sounds bonkers. Please tell me where I have got the logic wrong in this exchange:

    Christian: Jesus died for our sins, accept Jesus into your life and you will be saved.
    Martian: Good on Jesus, so I can keep on partying.
    Christian: No, you have to be good or you’ll go to hell.
    Martian: But Jesus died so I may live!
    Christian: But you have to sincerely repent of your sins and sin no more!
    Martian: And if I don’t?
    Christian: I told you- you go to hell
    Martian: So Jesus’ suffering and dying makes no difference if I continue to party?
    Christian: That’s right
    Martian: So why couldn’t Jesus have skipped that awful crucifixion if either way I have to stop sinning in order to be saved?
    Christian: Please have faith that it’s all part of God’s plan for the world
    Martian: What’s the plan again?
    Christian: Jesus died for our sins, accept Jesus into your life and you will be saved
    Martian: Never mind…

  11. Steve Cree says:

    Thanks Angela for sparking one of the more interesting and important exchanges we’ve had on our blog. I want to add a couple of things into the conversation. Or rather, to point out that the conversation is breaking down at certain key points because of a failure to grasp how worldviews work. Standing outside the Christian worldview and looking in it is easy to notice things that appear objectionable (Canaanite deaths in the OT, teachings that challenge our own lifestyle, etc). We are tempted to grab the red pen and start crossing lines out of the script before we’ve really wrestled with the characters, and the tragedy we find them in. To really assess the Christian worldview as to its coherence and whether it makes sense of our world, it is necessary to start with the possibility that if God is God, if he’s really there, that he truly is the rightful judge of our morality not the other way round. And to at least follow the consequences of that starting point and see if coherence is maintained. We all have a tendency to give special place to our own time and culture as the judge of morality. So, for example, much of the West likes the Bible’s teaching about love and forgiveness but sees it as too constrained on matters of sexuality. Many in the Middle East, however, find the Bible acceptable on sex but too easy on forgiveness. And that’s just a cultural comparison in our generation let alone the fickle nature of what we’ll all be saying a generation or two from now. But if there is a God, we should expect to find him confronting and challenging at some point. We should expect his holiness and love to tower over all history and culture. We should sit more humbly with the presuppositions born of our own context. We might even start to question what coherent basis for morality we can really have if there is no God. If we will only accept a God that agrees with what we already think in every way, we have only really found… ourselves. Further, if there is a God, it may be that with our partying Martian…. we might open our eyes not just to realities of sin but to the realities of where the real party is. That the good life we are settling for isn’t the best one. Or truly in touch with reality. Or, honestly, that good. It is attractive to us that Jesus’ death should have just annulled suffering immediately. However the Bible teaches that suffering, our own sin in contributing to it, and this fallen creation are all inextricably tied to each other. The annulment of suffering would mean our annulment. The hope bound up in Jesus’ death and resurrection, however, is not just pie in the sky but a truly restored new creation where suffering is removed, where restored forgiven sinners can finally live together in peace, where love reigns. The death of Christ to enter into our suffering and his resurrection as the signal of its ultimate demise is what distinguishes Christianity from mere religion. As for being part of this real party, you are quite right that if our morality saves us then Christ died for nothing (Galatians 2:20). Only Jesus’ death can bring us salvation, restoring us to a right relationship with God. And so the Christian claim is not for our superior morality but for the superiority, the Lordship, of Jesus. It’s a relationship not a system. So, when you truly step inside the Christian worldview Jesus’ death isn’t just a mere transaction (good I’m forgiven, can I keep on partying?…) but a redefining moment of all reality where I now want to start living under the loving rule of the one who made me, knows me, and loves me to death. Thanks for listening!

  12. Angela Pollard says:

    “To really assess the Christian worldview as to its coherence and whether it makes sense of our world, it is necessary to start with the possibility that if God is God, if he’s really there, that he truly is the rightful judge of our morality not the other way round. ”
    In terms of my posts, this is the nub of my difficulty with Christianity at the second base . I see no point in arguing first base – is there a God? because I am happy to agree that there is some creative force that keeps the universe ticking over, whether it is evolution, a giant turtle or a transcendant omniscient being. Let’s call it God and I’m happy for the purpose of this discussion. So second base needs to be sorted, ” if he’s really there, that he truly is the rightful judge of our morality” I have no idea how you get to this point so quickly. Why do you assume that a creator being that makes flowers, rocks and gerbils necessarily has any interest in our morality; what evidence is there for that ? (Maybe God has Aspergers and just like watching stuff happen, that would certainly explain a few things)
    I see no obvious authoritative link between an eternal creator being and what different humans have said over a vast period of time about what the creator being is and does. There are old spiritual beliefs (animism has been around for millenia; aspects of ‘god’ness inhabited animals, rocks and trees) , old religions ( the Hindus would argue for a system of reincarnations based on rigid hierarchies until we achieve a one-ness with the creator being) and many claim god-given texts on the flimsiest of evidence ( I include Christianity in this).
    For this discussion to work for me, I need to be able to see how the creator being can be convincingly shown to be “Jehovah” with a Christian intent. Only then can we get to third base to discuss what Christianity is and whether it has moral authority.

  13. Trev says:

    It Was Your Grace

    By Mark Altrogge

    Lyrics

    It was Your grace that drew me to the cross
    It was Your grace that gave me faith
    It was Your grace that reconciled me to Yourself
    Though I had sinned in every way
    You disarmed me of everything that I would lean on
    So I would lean on You
    And You stripped me of everything I would depend on
    So I’d depend on You

    In You alone my strength is found
    In You alone my hope abounds
    In You alone my strength is found
    My life is bound up in You

    And in my weakness give me still more grace
    Grace to cast myself on You
    In every trial let me find Your peace and joy
    And grace to humbly walk with You
    O disarm me of everything that I would lean on
    So I will lean on You
    Jesus, strip me of everything I would depend on
    So I’ll depend on You

    Give me more grace
    Give me more grace
    And new mercies every morning
    Give me new mercies

    © 2005 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI).

    For me to come to the realization of the truth of God I had to stop trying to find fault, criticize or come with and argument that would disprove the existences of God. I had to stop and listen to what was being said and take away and think well what am I going to do with this information about this man named Jesus
    It was only then that I realized that it was not Christian’s(they were sharing the joy in knowing God) that brought me to Christ but God alone through his mercy and grace of His sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and His resurrection so that I could live.
    For there is no greater love when someone is willing to die to save another but when someone is willing to die for millions so the can be in a right relationship with God their Father that’s true love.

  14. Angela Pollard says:

    Sorry Trev, that poem made me shudder, all that “stripping away” and “you alone” reminded me too much of the brainwashing and isolation behaviour that unscrupulous cult leaders use to break the free will of their members. Can I share this with you? I think it is within the spectrum of your belief system, but doesn’t risk the loss of self esteem that can cause profound damage.
    ________________________________________
    I was a neurotic for years.
    Anxious, depressed, selfish
    And everyone kept telling me to change.
    And I resented them,
    And agreed with them,
    And wanted to change
    But simply couldn’t, no matter how I tried.
    What hurt the most was that, like the others,
    my closest friend kept urging me to change,
    So I felt powerless and trapped.
    One day he said,
    “Don’t change. I love you as you are.”
    Those words were music to my ears.
    “Don’t change. Don’t change. Don’t change.
    I love you as you are.”
    I relaxed. I came alive. And suddenly I changed!
    Now I know that I couldn’t really change until I found someone to love me whether I changed or not.
    Is that how you love me God?
    From: The Song of the Bird, by Fr. Anthony de Mello, SJ.

  15. Trev says:

    For me Angela I hear a lot of fear in your words. For me I see self-esteem a dangerous way to live as it has the potential to be thinking about “me” and not others around us. I get my strength in knowing God meets all my needs and in knowing this it helps me respond in a healthy and more loving way to others.
    I would truly like to know what you really want, no what you really need in your life because I know that life with out God is pointless.
    Please do come to church and have a look for your self where not going to brain wash you hope to see you this Sunday if not hope you try and come another weekend.
    Thanks again for sharing you ideas.
    Peace

  16. Angela Pollard says:

    Trev, re “the fear in my words” I assume you were refering to my last post , and not my previous posts because I think you’d be hard-pressed to see fear in them. It was your poem that disturbed me, I see a lot of damaged people in my line of work, and your poem rang alarm bells to me about your psychological health. Your last response also worries me, I think you might consider talking to your pastor about your rejection of self-esteem, I can’t see how that’s a necessary part of being a Christian.

    I have no fear of being brainwashed. I have attended many churches, synagogues, temples etc and I have had a variety of folks praying / proselyising for my conversion to all sorts of beliefs over the 47 years of my life. Why- because I am always happy to engage in a discussion about beliefs and people mistake that for some sort of cosmic yearning. My yearning is an intellectual one – wanting to examine how people justify their (to me, irrational) beliefs. I also have strong socialist political beliefs and love a good chat with people with disparate political beliefs, so it’s not limited to one sphere of my life.

    I understand your desire to bring me to God, but there is nothing in the posts so far that make me particularly enthusiastic to come visit your church. No-one seems to be prepared to grapple with my key quesion- why do you think the creator being is a christian god? So to be honest, I expect I would find your church service very tedious – it would be based on a set of non sequiturs that would drive me nuts.

    When I was younger, I was even more outspoken than I am now. I recall when I was 16 being sent out of a Mormon temple because I refused to submit to their god in prayer . I caused quite a ruckus. But I am sure we both agree that it was a good thing that I didn’t become Mormon. We just don’t agree on whether I should become a Christian.

  17. Trev says:

    Thanks for your concern about my mental health but I am fine no need to worry and I am sure my pastor knows I am OK as well as I do talk to him as he is a very approachable guy.

    I am sure that your question has been answered quite a few times but for me the simplest answer is the Bible tells me so. Its not up to me if you want to be come a christian or not that’s between you and God, its for me to share what I believe and why . Which I believe I have.
    Thanks again for sharing what you believe in as socialism is a belief and is formed that way by the person who started the idea of it.

    All I can say is that all other beliefs is you have to save yourself by doing something “good” where as God saved us through sacrificing his son Jesus on the cross for our wrongs that is sins, He came to us we didn’t go to Him so we could be in a right relationship with Him what more do you want. All I know is that I love Him and that He has my full attention.

    So in the end Angela its up to you if you follow God or not but I know and see what he has done in my life and I am so thankful for that.

  18. Angela Pollard says:

    Hi Trev, good to hear that my concerns about your psychological state are completely unfounded.

    Just to let you know, it wasn’t my intention to “share my socialist beliefs”, that would be inappropriate in this forum. I would just trying to show that I’m not monomaniacal in interrogating religious beliefs – I do it to people who who expound their politics ( and other belief systems) as well. I have lots of beliefs that I wouldn’t share here as it doesn’t fit with the invitation I was given to post here; eg my vegetarianism and my feminist lesbianism which rejects compulsory heterosexuality.

    I understand that you believe my question has been answered by reference to the Bible, but when I ask a Muslim; how do you know God is Allah, they fervently and devoutly point to the Koran. Can you see my problem? Just as you rightly say my socialism is a human construct, I say the same about religion.

  19. Steve Cree says:

    Hi Angela. The person sitting over (not under) your key question is the audacious figure of Jesus Christ. The ruckus he caused in the Jerusalem temple led not to his eviction but to everyone else’s (Mark 11:12-19). He had less time for religion than any of us. He evicted it. It was the religious people of the day who despised and murdered him. But you can’t keep a God-man down and he rose from the dead. And so it is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that is the pointy end answer to your question. But it does more than answer it. It re-defines it. Religion is the problem not the solution.

    For me the real non sequitur is to start with the notion that we’re in a game of ‘pick a religion’ from which Christianity then needs to emerge as the winner. No, it is not that we have some established knowledge of God which Jesus (better than other contenders) conforms to. Rather, in the resurrection we have to re-think everything so that our knowledge of God conforms to Jesus. The resurrection of Jesus turned the religious world upside down. The first eyewitness Christian conversions were people such as the religious leader Saul (Paul) who then cast off his religion in the light of Jesus’ resurrection (Acts 9:1-19, Philippians 3:1-10). Jesus didn’t conform to all he’d thought about God. So now all he thought about God had to conform to Jesus. The gospels were written by people who, like you and me, were satisfied intellectually that the resurrection had happened, using all the historical/legal tests we would use (e.g. Luke 1:1-4). A book such as historian Paul Barnett’s ‘Jesus and the Logic of History’ will provide you with the compelling biblical and extra-biblical evidence that we can establish (i) that it is historically verifiable that many people died for their belief that Jesus rose from the dead. Whether you take the further step (ii) accounting for that by some other explanation (they were mistaken, liars, whatever), or that in fact Jesus did rise from the dead can then come into play. But you will be moving closer to the answer you are seeking.

    That said, I wonder if the key question you have stated is really the most controlling one in your search? Perhaps there is a heart question, “what if it really is true?” clouding the head question, “is it true?”. The Bible says that we are kidding ourselves that we are objective inquirers seeking the truth. It says that we are committed to unbelief (Romans 1:18) because we don’t like the idea of a Lord other than ourselves. In the risen Lord Jesus however we find the true Lord who, when we turn and trust in him, satisfies heads and hearts.

  20. simon says:

    Angela, once again thanks for being open and honest. It is obvious that you have thought a lot about this stuff and have a great brain.

    It has been great to see the conversation continuing and I don’t feel I can add anything to what others have already said.

    All I want to say is that I believe (because of what is written in the Bible) that there is a father in heaven who loves you very much just as you are, and that he longs for your relationship to be restored.

    I will be praying for you … not in a superior way or something – but as someone who genuinely wants you to have a relationship with Jesus.

  21. jodee says:

    Hi folks
    Congratulations to your church for inviting comments and discussions on these topics – I’ve been watching the exchanges with great interest for the last few days and I’d like to add some comments.
    The topic started with Simon answering a question on how Christians reconcile God’s approval of rape and murder in the old testament. Simon suggests that God copes with the mass destruction of people in wars because those wars “in some cases clear the way for his people and … in other cases that punish his people”.
    Katja feels “It is still horrific to imagine 10,000 people being wiped out for disobeying God and I shudder at the thought of it. But to me it shows that God’s love must be so huge that He knew it was necessary to bring about His plan to save me”.
    Therefore, if God is blasé about killing people to show his displeasure in the past, does that mean he is capable and willing to kill people to demonstrate that point in the present?
    Does this mean that the deaths of millions of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, communists, socialists etc in the concentration camps are God’s punishment for disobeying him? Did God use the Germans as a convenient tool to administer his punishment, in the same way that he used Pontius Pilate to fulfil his need to sentence Jesus to death?
    Have we been “saved” by God’s huge love which is demonstrated by killing everyone God is unhappy with? Many theologians have believed this creed – hence the church armies’ slogan of “convert or die”.
    The God of the old testament is the Hebrew God; a God that was vengeful and who proudly states that he will punish several generations for the alleged sins of their forefathers. Jesus is supposed to have introduced a new deal – a new “Christian” God concept that makes each individual responsible for their own relationship with a just and loving God.
    So why is the continued emphasis in modern Christianity on suffering, sinfulness and judgement, hell and damnation: the reiteration that God is going to punish us? This Christian God sounds no different from the old Hebrew God.
    If God created us, and God is perfect and therefore cannot make trash, then we are perfect. Simon: “All I want to say is that I believe (because of what is written in the Bible) that there is a father in heaven who loves you very much just as you are…”. Therefore, if God loves me as I am; this God who gave me freewill and a rational and inquiring mind; this God who knows I am questioning his very existence, will still love me, regardless of whether I acknowledge him or his love.
    We know and understand the universal concept of a “mother’s love” – which survives all upheavals and challenges – because the mother loves her child. Should not the same be said about God’s love?
    Why does the Christian church preach that God is so hurt and angry by my supposed rejection of him – and that the cycle of punishment will continue unless I embrace his love? Is God’s capacity for unqualified love less encompassing than that of a mother? Is that why we never speak of a “father’s love” in the same way as we do of the mother’s love? Because God is a bad tempered dictatorial old style patriarchal bloke?

    Angela is asking for the Christian church to justify its stance on these, and other, topics. To explain why the Christian church thinks it has the answers. To justify their reliance on some pretty horrible underpinning concepts from the old testament. Angela states that she has put the same questions to other religious groups who also believe they have “the answers” too. Her quest to find out is shared by many people out there; people who baulk at the same illogicality that she points out in her posts.

    Perhaps Steve Cree holds the key: “Religion is the problem, not the solution.”
    Accept that the world is a mess because of human greed and injustice; it doesn’t need a God’s tinkering to make the mess even worse. While I appreciate that some people feel the need to hope that there is “something else out there”: we really don’t like the concept that “this is all there is” – and we made it this way!

  22. Trev says:

    The best way to describe the bible is that it is God’s chosen way to reveal himself (and his Son) to us. That is not to say that God is limited to this method alone – he can choose to reveal himself to us in any number of ways and has through the ages. But he has PROMISED to reveal himself to us through the scriptures. So my answer to your question is that while the bible might not be the only way to know Jesus, it is certainly the best and most effective way. Let me explain.

    When Jesus walked this earth, a complete ‘Bible’ (as we know it) didn’t exist. People came face to face with the Lord Jesus himself. However the Old Testament (OT), or Hebrew Tanakh did exist. Jesus gives his approval to the Tanakh by saying, ‘everything written about me in the Law, the Prophets and the Psalms, must find its fulfillment’ (Luke 24:44). Since the Hebrew Tanakh was in three sections (with these headings) and existed in this form at the time of Jesus, he is actually approving of all of them. In other words, Jesus didn’t just appear out of nowhere and say ‘I’m your Lord and Saviour, the Son of God, believe in me’. He comes as the fulfillment of expectations set up by God himself in the Tanakh. In fact, Jesus says that the Hebrew Scriptures are one of the most powerful testimonies to himself (John 5:36-40). And Jesus is constantly quoting Scripture to prove that he is the long awaited Christ, the Saviour of the world. So at the beginning of Christianity, both Jesus himself and the Apostle Paul appeal to the Scriptures to have true and certain knowledge about Jesus (see Acts 17:2, 17:11).

    Now it is true that unschooled fisherman (Acts 4:13) came to know Christ purely through interaction with him. But they were all Jews and even unschooled Jews were saturated with the Scriptures through the Jewish Synagogue (this was the case, even if they were illiterate, because the Scriptures were recited orally and sung. It was an oral culture). The Synagogue was the cultural hub of Jewish society, so people would go there throughout the week, not just on the Sabbath. The unschooled fisherman, Peter, still commends the prophetic Scriptures, to study and live by (2 Peter 1:19-21).

    So Jesus and the early Apostles grounded much of their teaching on the Hebrew Scriptures. So how did these Scriptures come to be written down? Was it a man-made invention, or ordained by God? Even though the Ancient culture was an oral one, from a very early time, God commanded his words to be written down. This is because his dealings with Israel revealed who he was and what kind of relationship they could have with him. It was God’s command that ordinary Jews learn his words and write them everywhere as a constant reminder (Deut. 11:18-21). God also commanded his words to be written down so they would be preserved for future generations – the leaders and kings were to meditate on it (Exodus 34:27; Deut. 17:14-20; Joshua 1:8).

    I hope I have shown how important the Hebrew Scriptures are. But let’s imagine that someone in Jesus’ time understood the message of Jesus without the Scriptures. All well and good. But what about the great majority of people who lived after Jesus died and was raised again? How will they come to know Jesus since he isn’t physically present anymore? I hope to show that Jesus himself made provisions for the writing down of the New Testament (NT) Scriptures, and so commends to us the whole Bible as the best way to know him:

    1) Jesus is very clear that he will not be physically present forever (John 13:33), and so there needs to be another way for people to come to know him. The method that Jesus chooses is his Apostles (Luke 24:45-58; John 15:26-27). But the disciples are not able merely to recite what they heard from Jesus. They need the power of the Holy Spirit to teach them all things and make them able to witness to Jesus (Luke 24:49; John 16:12-14 & 17:20-21). The reason the NT is the best way to know Jesus, is because it is the words of the Apostles themselves written down.

    2) The NT was written down so that after the Apostles had died, future generations would be able to have a reliable witness to Jesus’ life and teachings. Is this a human invention or was it ordained by God? Jesus refers to those who will write down his message as a scribe for the kingdom of heaven. He says that they will need to testify to Jesus by referring to the old treasures (Old Testament), and the new (Jesus’ life and teachings), in Matthew 13:51-52.

    3) The Apostles realised that they need to write things down as they approached their own death (2 Peter 1:12-15). They therefore made provisions for faithful men to transmit this message from generation to generation (2 Timothy 2:1-2). All Scripture is breathed out by God (i.e inspired by him), and is the God-ordained method to know Christ (2 Tim 3:14-16). At the end of the New Testament, there is a stern warning not to add anything from the this book or take away anything from it (Revelation 22:18-19). This can be applied to the whole New Testament, since any writings written after this time would not be as authoritative since they don’t have Apostolic approval, and so don’t have approval from Jesus himself.

    But what about the person who sees a vision of Jesus and comes to know him this way? Of course this is possible and has happened to people, including a man called Sadhu Sundar Singh (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sundar_Singh). But this is very rare, and after this visionary experience, they always grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus through the Scriptures. Your concern might be that not everyone can read, or not everyone has the Scriptures. But you can take in the Scriptures orally, and the Bible society has made Scripture available orally to many remote communities of people in their own language (through an mp3-type device). What I’m saying is that this method is the way God has promised he will reveal himself to us. Otherwise we would be demanding a personal vision of Jesus to each and every one of us, which God has not promised in the Scriptures. In addition, other ways of knowing Jesus are not as trustworthy, since they have not been promised by God.

    In summary, God has always made sure that people have access to his word. And his Word is ultimately Jesus himself, who makes himself known through the Apostles, the New Testament. If you are concerned that the Bible is merely an intellectual document, be assured that through the power of the Holy Spirit, it becomes a living and active Word that engages our heart, mind and soul.

    When you accept the teaching of Jesus, we accept Jesus himself. As he says, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.”

  23. Jodee says:

    Hi Trev

    May I make an observation on one or two points of the quote from your last post?

    “At the end of the New Testament, there is a stern warning not to add anything from the this book or take away anything from it (Revelation 22:18-19). This can be applied to the whole New Testament, since any writings written after this time would not be as authoritative since they don’t have Apostolic approval, and so don’t have approval from Jesus himself.”

    Sorry Trev, but several books of the bible were removed, or edited, to comply with political and social politics of the early centuries AD – Constantine and the Council of Nicea made several revisions, including removal of references in both OT and NT to reincarnation . Additonally there is quite a difference between translated versions of the Bible; and also between the “catholic”, “protestant” and “eastern orthodox”versions.

    So which one is the authoritative version in your opinion?

    Also “But what about the person who sees a vision of Jesus and comes to know him this way? Of course this is possible and has happened to people, including a man called Sadhu Sundar Singh”

    In 2009, people who see visions or hear voices from God are diagnosed as schizophrenic. How do we know if their revelations are correct or not?

  24. Trev says:

    My question to you Jodee is this what is it that you really want to know, does the belief of christians anger you because it effects the life style you want to live?
    1) listen if you dare to one of the Got questions series the link is http://www.scpc.org.au/2009/05/13/got-questions-talk-2 this talk is on can you trust the bible? Its a good talk and should answer you question on the bible I read.

    2) I see a problem with the way both you and Angela read , you only read what you want to debate about, if you read what was said and actually think about it it might make sense.
    Your answer to visions is in the post
    “But this is very rare, and after this visionary experience, they always grow in their knowledge and love of Jesus through the Scriptures.”
    You have to always go back to the Bible.
    This is my final post on this particular blog so Jodee and Angela its up to you if you except whats been said , its up to you if you except Jesus as your saviour. Will be praying for you both. It has been a pleasure talking to you both

  25. Pete says:

    Hi folks

    Not sure if the ship has sailed already on this one, but thought I’d weigh in…

    Angela, thanks for attempting to keep the focus rigorously logical and clearly explaining where you think we Christians have failed in that regard.

    In your response to Steve above (comment 12) you ask “why do you assume that a creator being that makes flowers, rocks and gerbils necessarily has any interest in our morality?” If this is the sticking point then let me have a crack at answering it…

    To begin with (and I know you understand this but it’s worth stating again), Christians don’t actually believe that we’ve deduced this Creator-morality link by our own logic. We believe that the account of creation in the Bible describes God’s purpose for Creation, including flowers, rocks, gerbils AND US! So for Christians, God is both the author of Creation AND the ultimate author of the Bible (albeit via human minds and hands) in which he reveals his purposes for his Creation.

    And what we find in the first 2 chapters of the Bible (regardless of where one stands on how long it took for God to make everything and if/how/where some kind of evolutionary process fits in) is that God’s work is full of purpose and that that purpose is described in terms of ordered relationships. So in the Christian narrative God is neither afflicted by Asperger’s nor just sitting back keeping the world ticking over but intimately involved with his creation. Even if (and personally I doubt it) the images of God breathing life into the man’s nostrils (2:7) and walking in the garden in the cool of the day (3:8) are “anthropomorphic” the author’s intent is clear – he wants to convey the reality of intimacy, engagement and involvement. As such, God cares about how humans live, the choices they make, their “morality” if you like. And not only does he care, being their creator and having determined their overarching purpose, he also knows what is best for them. His desire is that the “very good” creation he has made should be maintained…

    I’ll stop there for now and see if there’s anything objectionable or illogical in what I’ve said so far…

  26. Angela Pollard says:

    Simon, Pete, great posts I think we are getting somewhere.
    1. I am happy to agree with you that there is a creator being in the universe because I can see that gerbils exist, and therefore they must have been created (or evolved, whatever). I haven’t actually seen a creator being; only her creations, so at this stage I accept her existence is only an assumption, I am open to alternatives.
    2. The existence of gerbils is non-contentious; I have never seen an argument that says that gerbils are made up. There isn’t a competing world view on gerbils. We do not need to spend time on this.
    3. We lose each other in the step from the assumption of god-created gerbils to the one (three) true Christian God being the actual creator being. After this point we have real trouble following each other’s arguments;
    4. I can’t see how you know anything about the creator being other than her ability to produce gerbils. Are you saying the production of gerbils must also include a plan for the right way for humans to live, because that is the inherent nature of “godness?” Is so, how do you know?
    You dismiss other religions as irrelevant to any examination of what “godness” may be, and if I ask why, you say it is a non sequitur but don’t show any deconstruction of my logic to show where it fails, you just tell me your story again.
    If I ask why moral plans are part of godness, you refer me to the resurrection as proof that Christianity is the way, the truth and the light and I say that is a non sequitur- here’s why:
    • Creator Being “X” made gerbils
    • Jesus’ death and resurrection is part of Jehovah’s moral plan for how we should live.
    • Therefore we should be all be Christians
    I just can’t get from gerbils to Jesus. For me, the conclusion does not logically follow from the premise of the preceding statements. There is a big gap there that seems to be backfilled with faith rather than logic between the gerbil and the Jesus. And if you don’t have faith, you just scratch your head in disbelief at what appears to be wishful thinking. Is that gap faith or have I missed something?
    Wouldn’t it be nice (sorry, my wife has Beachboys playing in the background) if we could at least understand each other’s thinking. I really mean that, otherwise there would be no point in me continuing.
    We could continue a lengthy discussion about extra-biblical proof, and I find that very tempting as I rarely get licence to bore people about the early first millennia –I got excited when I read your post and thought- yes but what about the hundreds of Jews that were crucified by the Romans (see Josephus) in their fight to stop the Romans defiling the temple – they died for their god beliefs – or the reasonably contemporaneous massacre of the druids by the Romans on the Isle of Mona (see Tacitus). Druids had a strong creator belief system and resisted the Roman suppression of their religion, calling on their gods to protect them as they died. But I am happy not to go down that path because I think we need to nut out our conundrum.
    As for the heart question “what if”,I have meditated on that, no resonance there. My heart works in closely with my brain and that combination has worked well for me over the years, it has delivered me a deeply fulfilling life.

  27. Steve Cree says:

    Hi Angela. I understand what you mean, “I just can’t get from gerbils to Jesus”. I don’t think you can. The biblical argument is the reverse – that you get from Jesus to gerbils. That is, it is only through Jesus that the whole reality of this planet’s past, present and future makes sense. I realise that you’re objection will remain that again I am telling Jesus’ story as the answer. But that’s his claim. And maybe for our part, that is where faith does come in, as you say. But not faith that sets aside intellect. I believe His story makes sense of history and our instincts about this world in a uniquely compelling way. But “I believe” is necessarily part of that statement.

  28. Angela Pollard says:

    Hi Steve, Ok , let me check in with your premises and conclusion:

    1. The Bible tells us Jesus existed as a god-man circa 30s CE, was executed, and rose from the dead , and this resurrection was designed to ..( I’m never clear what it was actually supposed to achieve – see previous Martian post)
    2. The Bible can be proven as fact by sourcing extra-biblical evidence and a careful reading of the text.
    3. Everyone should be a Christian .
    Is that right?

    Cheers angela

  29. Trev says:

    The answer to Q 3 is no not everyone will become a christian.

    Romans 1:16-32

    16ForI am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
    18For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20For 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. 21For 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. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.

    24Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

    26For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

  30. Angela Pollard says:

    Wow Trev, thanks for reminding me that the NT contains some pretty wild stuff. Am I being paranoid , or are you directing some divine wrath in my direction for my lesbianism: “women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature.” I guess in that case, I’m destined for hellfire.

  31. Trev says:

    No it’s not directed at you at Angela it’s not up to me to do that, I have had gay friends in the past and they knew what I believed we had respect for each other , my niece is a lesbian we have a great relationship.
    But and its the big but if you continue to travel on your journey down this road from the passage quoted you know the answer. There is hope for you though and that hope is provided through believing in Jesus and living the way he desires you to live.
    “Whoever believes in the Son (Jesus) has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath will remain on him”. John 3:36
    The only reason I chose this passage was to answer your Q3 “Everyone should be a Christian”

    If you have wondered why God chose to redeem us in the way he did, why Jesus had to suffer and die, then perhaps this extract from CS Lewis’ Mere Christianity (Fount Paperbacks, 1977) will help. The extract is from Chapter 4, The Perfect Penitent.

    We are told that Christ was killed for us, that His death has washed out our sins, and that by dying He disabled death itself. That is the formula. That is Christianity. That is what has to be believed. Any theories we build up as to how Christ’s death did all this are, in my view, quite secondary: mere plans or diagrams to be left alone if they do not help us, and, even if they do help us, not to be confused with the thing itself. All the same, some of these theories are worth looking at.

    The one most people have heard is the one about our being let off because Christ volunteered to bear a punishment instead of us. Now on the face of it that is a very silly theory. If God was prepared to let us off, why on earth did He not do so? And what possible point could there be in punishing an innocent person instead? None at all that I can see, if you are thinking of punishment in the police-court sense. On the other hand, if you think of a debt, there is plenty of point in a person who has some assets paying it on behalf of someone who has not. Or if you take “paying the penalty,” not in the sense of being punished, but in the more general sense of “footing the bill,” then, of course, it is a matter of common experience that, when one person has got himself into a hole, the trouble of getting him out usually falls on a kind friend.

    Now what was the sort of “hole” man had gotten himself into? He had tried to set up on his own, to behave as if he belonged to himself. In other words, fallen man is not simply an imperfect creature who needs improvement: he is a rebel who must lay down his arms. Laying down your arms, surrendering, saying you are sorry, realising that you have been on the wrong track and getting ready to start life over again from the ground floor – that is the only way out of a “hole.” This process of surrender – this movement full speed astern – is what Christians call repentance. Now repentance is no fun at all. It is something much harder than merely eating humble pie. It means unlearning all the self-conceit and self-will that we have been training ourselves into for thousands of years. It means undergoing a kind of death. In fact, it needs a good man to repent. And here’s the catch. Only a bad person needs to repent: only a good person can repent perfectly. The worse you are the more you need it and the less you can do it. The only person who could do it perfectly would be a perfect person – and he would not need it.

    Remember, this repentance, this willing submission to humiliation and a kind of death, is not something God demands of you before He will take you back and which He could let you off of if He chose: it is simply a description of what going back to Him is like. If you ask God to take you back without it, you are really asking Him to let you go back without going back. It cannot happen. Very well, then, we must go through with it. But the same badness which makes us need it, makes us unable to do it. Can we do it if God helps us? Yes, but what do we mean when we talk of God helping us? We mean God putting into us a bit of Himself, so to speak. He lends us a little of His reasoning powers and that is how we think: He puts a little of His love into us and that is how we love one another. When you teach a child writing, you hold its hand while it forms the letters: that is, it forms the letters because you are forming them. We love and reason because God loves and reasons and holds our hand while we do it. Now if we had not fallen, that would all be plain sailing. But unfortunately we now need God’s help in order to do something which God, in His own nature, never does at all – to surrender, to suffer, to submit, to die. Nothing in God’s nature corresponds to this process at all. So that the one road for which we now need God’s leadership most of all is a road God, in His own nature, has never walked. God can share only what He has: this thing, in His own nature, He has not.

    But supposing God became a man – suppose our human nature which can suffer and die was amalgamated with God’s nature in one person – then that person could help us. He could surrender His will, and suffer and die, because He was man; and He could do it perfectly because He was God. You and I can go through this process only if God does it in us; but God can do it only if He becomes man. Our attempts at this dying will succeed only if we men share in God’s dying, just as our thinking can succeed only because it is a drop out of the ocean of His intelligence: but we cannot share God’s dying unless God dies; and he cannot die except by being a man. That is the sense in which He pays our debt, and suffers for us what He Himself need not suffer at all.

    Hope this also helps with Q1

  32. Elaine Fragar says:

    Wow, Trev, I’ve resisted so far, but I really have to jump in at this point! What a quote! But hardly aimed at the person who speaks real aussie English! This is one of the troubles with a lot of this discussion. There is so much religioiosity that it makes nonsence of the rainbow coloured, crazy humoured, muddy-footed, grinning bloke I imaging Jesus to have been. If we are going to quote “scripture” for all this stuff, what about the Jesus who touches bleeding women and leppers, and who tells stories of outcasts being better than priests? And who categorically states that street people will get to come to the God-party just because they’ve been left out of society, while the good churchy ones will be left out? And who said “whoseover” can come. Well, I’m part of “whosover”, and I call myself a Christian – in fact, I’m an ordained minister in a main-line Christian church – and I’m a lesbian too.

    It seems as though this discussion has been like Angela and all you churchy lot are looking at an elephant. You guys are extolling the virtues of his face, while Angela is wondering why you all worship somthing that produces such a pile of excrament at the other end! And the trouble is, noone seems to noticed that the elephant is not a statue. The elephant is moving, and growing, and is preganat, and gives birth and suckles babies.

    I believe the story of God’s relationship with people is fluid. And we just CAN’T say that what the people of the Hebrew Scriptures thought about God is the beginning and the end of it. It’s an amazing old story – a fascinating story of the growth of understanding of a race of people about themselves and their spirituality. And the Greek Scriptures continue this. They are books of cointradictions – in the same way that the tail and the head of the elephant are just not the same. But they are fascinating, and alive, and laughing, and breathing, and absurd and complex and brilliant!

    And I really hope that Muslims believe the same about their own scriptures – and all other religions. Becuase what right have any of us to say we’ve got God in a box?? God is WAY bigger than that, becuase God is the loving laughing, grieving, playful, nurturing essence of creation. Well, that’s how I see it, anyway. And because I was brought up in Australia, I’ve been shown how one person, whose name was Jesus, demonstrated that, and invites me into that existence. And other people are shown other ways, and blessings on them all.

    So there’s my tuppence worth. I find this a much more fulfilling way of being with God than C. S. Lewis, or even than Romans 1 – which was written to a rather different people in a rather different situation.

  33. Jodee says:

    In the beginning God willed himself into existence. A very new God doesn’t know very much about anything and requires stimulus in order to learn. There was nothing – a void, so there was nothing for God to learn from so God decided to create universes full of diverse creations in order to gain some experience. So God either clapped his hand – see big bang theory – or said let there be light – or some particle evolved somehow.

    Eventually, God got bored experiencing the very slow lives of rocks and comets and either created animals or they evolved from primiodal slime – but either way, God now had some interesting subjects to talk to, learn about and gain some worldly (Godly) experience from.

    Eventually, even gerbils can run out of interesting conversations and God decided to create humans – or homo sapiens evolved etc etc. Now there is a species in the universe that really offers God some interesting life experiences. Remember – God cannot learn or experience anything except via observation of these evolving entities.

    So “Godly” or “scientific” observation of thousands of experimental subjects repeating life experiences over thousands of years, has given God a pretty good theroretical idea of what it is to be alive. By this stage however, God has realised that all the subjects go through a process of degeneration and death – which is an experience that God decides he has to try out. But how?

    So God syphons off a portion of himself and gets born as a semi human. This semi human offers God lots of new insights in what it means to be alive, to experience emotions, have opinions, etc. Eventually, this semi human falls foul of one of the messier options for dying which gives God the ultimate “out of this world” experience.

    God was a bit uncertain where all the dead entities had gone to all these years, and thought he could just pop up again a few days later – which created a bit of a stir. (Gods shouldn’t try to pretend they are human – they never get it right ).

    Over the millennia God has asked questions about life experiences such as: “Why do you kill the Canaanites? Wouldn’t killing Philistines be more fun?” or “Why live in Egypt? Move to Palestine – it’s a land of milk and honey”. This graduated to “Those people don’t like me – can you folk go smite them please?” and “You didn’t do what I asked – I’m going to find someone to smite you”.

    After God’s humanesque appearance in 4BCE – 30ish CE, God felt he had a good grasp of the principles of living and the concepts he personally favoured that he wanted all creation to abide by. This included not smiting as many people, being generally nicer to everyone, not conquering too many others and helping those less fortunate.

    Regretably for God, after an experiment is in motion, one can only observe what happens – as any good scientist can tell – interupting an experiment half way is a good receipe for disaster. So the quandry God is in today is how to change the direction of the experiment – especially as the subjects don’t believe the premise that what they are doing is bad (sinful). It’s not like everyone is a mass murderer or rapist – we agree that those people are bad (sinful). It’s just that WE are not “those people”.

  34. Trev says:

    Your not listening to whats being said your only continuing down the same old path that has been debated for millenniums.
    As for sin the horrors of rape and murder are horriffic and affect people for year, I have been a victim of child abuse but I see these sins no different to stealing, cheating on our tax, not asking forgivness,cheating on your wife/husband and not worshipping God as your saviour and Lord.
    In the end judgment will come every being will bow done to the King of Kings those that have Christ as their lord will be saved those that don’t will be cast into hell.
    God is not a scientist he is the creator Lord,he has put in motion a plan to bring His people in to a right relationship to save those who call Him Lord and Saviour through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Those who continue to live a life that is not what God desires will go to hell.
    I rejoice that I know this Gracious God as my King it is with joy in the healing He has brought into my life.
    I weep for you, as if he’s not part of your life than his wrath will fall upon you so its with great urgency that i say to you listen to what God has to say really think about it don’t look at His word the bible with the view of a lawyer but that of someone that needs to know Him.

  35. Steve Cree says:

    A comment for Elaine and one that I hope provides something of the clarification Angela sought a few comments back… while there is an inherent appeal in talking about how “I imagine” God to be, it usually ends up sounding more like a mere god, blithely endorsing the moral choices and cultural opinions I (and/or my society) already hold and confirming it’s OK to do and to believe whatever. The problem is, and the crucial question we need to grapple with is: if we could know God through various imaginings or religious paths, why on earth did Jesus die on the cross? Jesus himself prayed that the cup of suffering might pass from him if there was any other way. Yet he knew ultimately there wasn’t and suffered enormously to bring us forgiveness and new life. If the exclusive claims of Jesus appear arrogant, it is a greater arrogance to say, in the face of the cross of Christ, “there are other ways, y’know”.

  36. Angela Pollard says:

    So Trev, I have distilled your thoughts to:
    1. The Bible tells us Jesus existed as a god-man circa 30s CE, was executed, and rose from the dead .
    2, His resurrection was so obviously godlike that we should see the validity of Christianity as the only true religion.
    3. Jesus died as a scapegoat for all our sins. ( this mechanism still confuses me – why couldn’t God just declare an amnesty- was it just mean to impress – why not another burning bush?)
    4. His death meant that for the first time, human beings get a shot at eternal life ( no one in heaven prior to 33CE)
    5. Jesus scapegoat death only works if you truly believe:
    Jesus is God;
    we must sincerely try to follow the rules;
    despite knowing that we are inherently evil beings;
    6. Because God gave us both a sinful nature and free will, there will be lots of people in hell.

    Is that right?

  37. Angela Pollard says:

    Steve, in the dying moments of my lunchbreak, I see you have posted as I was composing my response to Trev. Can I piggyback onto that post and ask you as well as Trev if I have finally got the Christian premises right?
    But I am disturbed by the comment “arrogance in the face of the cross”- I know lots of sincere Muslims, Jews etc – who would be shocked that their genuine religious piety is seen as arrogance. Do you really believe that?

  38. Katja McPherson says:

    I haven’t looked for a while and my head hurts reading all this!

    I will just address Angela’s point 3 – why do we need Jesus death for our sins, why not just declare amnesty.

    God is a God of justice. Would we consider it justice if rapists, pedophiles, mass murderers etc. were tried, found guilty and then granted amnesty? That is not justice. Our rejection of our Creator is a wrong against the created order just like a criminal act is a wrong against our society. Such acts deserve punishment.

    In the OT animal sacrifices were made to demonstrate the need for bloodshed to pay for Israel’s wrongs against God. Now Jesus is the once for all sacrifice to take the punishment we deserve for rejecting our Creator. That is why there is no need for other forms of sacrifice today (thank goodness or that animal rights legal service would be flat out!).

    The beauty of Jesus death is that it is not God punshing an innocent third party but taking the punishment we deserve on Himself – as if the judge and executioner steps down from the bench to take our place on death row and let us go free.

  39. Trev says:

    English is the mongrel of all languages Elaine particular “Aussie” but the Language of God is pure ,true and never changing through all time.

    The gospel you read is the one thats full fills the lustful desires in your heart and mind you worship at the “church of do whatever i want “.

    If you were a true christian as you state then you would see that Jesus is the way the truth and life and no and no can get to the father but through Him
    .
    You are a false prophet deceiving people with lies that it doesn’t matter who you worship or what you do eternal life is yours the only eternal life you are promoting is eternal hell.

    For this is why I put on the armour of God ever day to combat this rubbish with God slaying down the lies of the devil that come my way.

    As for the elephant you speak making the decision to be come a christian I stood back to see the whole picture of God and I saw so many different things about Him but it wasn’t until I came closer I saw how awesome and mighty He is and the love He has for me. Jesus came to set redeem captives out of slavery into freedom John 8:32-36,to destroy the authority of the powers of darkness Eph. 1:20-23,to show us how to live Phil. 2:1-5;1 John 4:9-11,to reveal the Father to us John 1:18;Rom. 5:8, and to bring life john10:10 .This life is not just being with Jesus in heaven after we die but having a Spirit-empowered relationship with Jesus in the present.

    So get fair dinkum mate with God before its to late.

  40. Angela Pollard says:

    So (Katja, Steve, Pate, Trev) do I have it at last?
    1. The Bible tells us Jesus existed as a god-man circa 30s CE, was executed, and rose from the dead. The Bible can be verified by its text and by contemporaneous extra-biblical events.
    2, Jesus’ resurrection was so obviously godlike that it validates Christianity as the only true religion.
    3. Humans (do and will continue to) commit sinful acts that go against the rules of Christianity. As an essential requirement for cosmic justice, this requires a sentence of capital punishment (for all eternity) for those who refuse to sincerely repent. Examples of capital punishment offences (for all eternity) include unrepentant:
    atheism, religious belief other than Christianity, adultery, not keeping the Sabbath, theft, coveting, false witness, and dishonouring your parents. There is no rape, paedophilia or homosexuality mentioned in the 10 commandments but they are co-equally punishable with the other Biblical laws against shellfish consumption, divorce and having sex during your period. Pretty tough justice I’d say.
    4. Jesus’s crucifixion was a substitute punishment (scapegoat) for all the humans present and future who have sinned and will continue to sin.
    5.. His death meant that for the first time, human beings can live an eternal life ( no one in heaven prior to 33CE)
    6. Jesus scapegoat death only avoids your punishment if we truly:
    Believe Jesus is God;
    try to follow the rules;
    despite knowing that we are inherently evil beings and we will always fail in our attempts to be good.
    7. Because God gave us both a sinful nature and free will, there will be lots of people in hell.

    I reckon I have it now. Is that right?

  41. Trev says:

    If and I say if you think you have it right what is your response to it all ?

  42. Angela Pollard says:

    “If and I say if you think you have it right what is your response to it all ?”
    I’d say “now I understand how Christians follow the logic of their beliefs, thank you”.
    But Trev, I have to lodge a protest on your previous post reply to Elaine, I thought it was pretty over the top- you have treated my declared lesbian atheism with far more sensitivity. I would’ve thought a self-identified christian and ordained minister’s comments deserved atleast the same sensitivity on this site. I notice that your last post was at 3am- perhaps a troubled conscience wouldn’t let you sleep?

  43. Trev says:

    Hey Angela thanks again for your input, I guess I see Elaine stating she is a christian and a minister but living a life that does not reflect the image of Christ and not living the life that God desires us to.
    I accept you protest but I am only speaking the truth and truth sometimes can be hard I know this from personal experience.

    As for 3am thats normal time for me to awake up due to the type of work I’ve done over the past 20+years.

  44. Trev says:

    This talk Angela you may find interesting
    http://www.static.veritas.org/media/files/a09ufl01.mp3
    Its called “5 Reasons God exists and 3 Why it makes a Difference”
    its very intellectual and has some good points

  45. Trev says:

    Angela I apologize if what I said about Elaine seems harsh it wasn’t suppose to come across offensive but just to make Elaine think on what she’s saying.
    I am taking a break for awhile so hope you continue to post as this has been beneficial for me and I hope all so you so thanks for all that you have said and that goes for Jodee and Elaine.
    When it all comes down to it all for me its all about Jesus .

  46. Elaine Fragar says:

    Trev, I think what you said about me was judgemental. At least, Steve’s response was challenging, but not judgemental. I appreciate your point of view, Steve. I am not saying that “anything goes”, or that God must be the image I create, or that Christianity is not challenging to me. It was the call of Christ that encouraged me to give up a lucrative career and go into ministry. It is that same call for justice and human dignity that rejects Trev’s style of judging without first inviting open discussion (on sexuality).
    But I also believe that the conduit of spirituality is human culture. Throughout our scriptures, we read of God using the culture of the people to speak to them. If it were not for that, monogamy would have been the way to live from the beginning – which it clearly wasn’t. The same goes for the tribal wars, the place of women, and even the condemnation on wasting one’s sperm!
    Yes, Jesus died. If I look at the reason for this, I cannot simply quote Judaic culture of the pre-Christian era. Because I can’t believe in a God who requires blood sacrifice for every little sin. And neither did the prophets, if you recall – Micah 6 is one example of many – “What does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (that said in the context of a dialogue on sacrifice)
    That said, I accept the death of Jesus as being for me, for my turn-around to a new life direction and relaitionship with God. But in my cultural context, it says more about Jesus knowing what suffering for one’s beliefs is all about, and providing a way to acknowledge what I have done ot others (and God) and genuinely ask forgiveness, as well as being empowered to forgive those who hurt me.
    Jesus died for all people. But that doesn’t mean that God, who loves kindness, forgiveness and mercy, will simply throw out all those people who have tried their best in their own way to find God. I have family members who have been so brutally hurt by the church that they cannot find God within it, and have found more love and acceptance in Buddhism. I don’t blame them, knowing their story. For me, it’s a miracle I’m still a Christian, after the abuse I have received at the hands of other Christians. But that’s another matter.
    I really appreciate Angela’s position in this debate. I think the God of love, who is shown in different ways through different cultures, and whose spirit just cannot be captured, has never been shown to her. But simply quoting convenient scriptures, withour acknowledging the growing nature of faith will never do that.

  47. jodee says:

    Katja, re your two posts: on May 26th: “It is still horrific to imagine 10,000 people being wiped out for disobeying God and I shudder at the thought of it. But to me it shows that God’s love must be so huge that He knew it was necessary to bring about His plan to save me”; and from June 9th: “Our rejection of our Creator is a wrong against the created order just like a criminal act is a wrong against our society. Such acts deserve punishment;” – these are some of the stumbling blocks I have with understanding Christianity.

    First, I cannot understand how an alleged loving caring God wants to punish his creations (children) to such an extreme for behaving in manner he “disapproves” of; it’s a “spare the rod and spoil the child approach”, with the addition that if he feels like it he kills the child and tries again with someone else. I’m sure DOCS would love to interview that kind of parent and to discuss child raising philosophy with him today. My mother thought belting the stuffing out of me for any imagined infraction was also “for my own good,” but I can’t see how those beatings demonstrated her love for me and, as a consequence of those beatings, I don’t regard her with any affection whatever today.

    Second, our perceived rejection of our creator is against the created order? What created order? Did or did not God give everyone freewill to think for themselves, to develop belief systems which may or may not include acknowledgement of a God creator of some kind? Or are Christians suggesting that our ability to think independently of “set in stone” religious dogma is a criminal act?

  48. Katja McPherson says:

    Hi Jodee

    why does God punish us for behaving in a way he disapproves of? I feel that you oversimplify the matter. We are not like a child who is being disciplined for stealing cookies, we are like children who have been loved and cared for in every way possible and yet have told our loving parents to get lost and we want nothing to do with them. would parents have a right to be angry? would they try and try and try to reach out to their children but one day say enough is enough?

    God has created us, offered us relationship with Him, warned us, forgiven us, revealed himself to us, sent his Son to die for us…one day He will say enough is enough. Throughout Israel’s history you can see God’s patience: his love, their rejection, his forgiveness, his love, their rejection, his forgiveness etc. Even those 10,000 wiped out were warned for years and years to turn to God. It was not some random, vicious smiting.

    I hope you can see God as nothing like our earthly parents who fail to love us as they should but as the perfect, loving, Father waiting for you to return to the relationship you were created for.

  49. Katja McPherson says:

    Just to answer Angela’s last summary, I’M IN CAPS:
    1. The Bible tells us Jesus existed as a god-man circa 30s CE, was executed, and rose from the dead. The Bible can be verified by its text and by contemporaneous extra-biblical events. YES
    2, Jesus’ resurrection was so obviously godlike that it validates Christianity as the only true religion. YES
    3. Humans (do and will continue to) commit sinful acts that go against the rules of Christianity. HUMANS CONTINUE TO REJECT GOD. As an essential requirement for cosmic justice, this requires a sentence of capital punishment (for all eternity) for those who refuse to sincerely repent. Examples of capital punishment offences (for all eternity) include unrepentant:
    atheism, religious belief other than Christianity, adultery, not keeping the Sabbath, theft, coveting, false witness, and dishonouring your parents. There is no rape, paedophilia or homosexuality mentioned in the 10 commandments but they are co-equally punishable with the other Biblical laws against shellfish consumption, divorce and having sex during your period. Pretty tough justice I’d say. THOSE WHO REJECT GOD WILL BE ALLOWED TO LIVE OUT THE CONSEQUENCES OF THAT REJECTION WHICH IS SEPARATION FROM GOD FOR ETERNITY.
    4. Jesus’s crucifixion was a substitute punishment (scapegoat) for all the humans PAST, present and future who have sinned and will continue to sin. YES WITHOUT THE WORD “SCAPEGOAT” WHICH DOESN’T ACKNOWLEDGE THAT JESUS INTENTIONALLY & WILLINGLY TOOK ON THE ROLE OF OUR SUBSITUTE.
    5.. His death meant that for the first time, human beings can live an eternal life ( no one in heaven prior to 33CE). NO, ABRAHAM, MOSES, KING DAVID, ELIJAH…& MANY OTHERS HAD RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD & WERE PROMISED ETERNITY WITH HIM. THEY TRUSTED GOD WITHOUT KNOWING HOW HE PLANNED TO PAY FOR THEIR SIN.
    6. Jesus scapegoat (NOT THIS WORD – VOLUNTARY SUBSITUTIONARY) death only avoids your punishment if we truly:
    Believe Jesus is THE ONLY WAY TO God;
    try to follow the rules; NO
    despite knowing that we are inherently evil beings and we will always fail in our attempts to be good. THERE IS NOTHING WE CAN DO TO BE RIGHT WITH GOD, JESUS HAS DONE EVERYTHING NECESSARY ON THE CROSS. CHRISTIANS TRY TO LIVE GOD’S WAY IN GRATITUDE FOR WHAT JESUS HAS DONE NOT TO EARN SALVATION IN ANY WAY.
    7. Because God gave us both a sinful nature and free will, there will be lots of people in hell. GOD ALSO GAVE US A WAY OUT THROUGH JESUS…QUALITY NOT QUANTITY I SAY!

  50. Pete says:

    Simon wants to know if he gets a prize for initiating the second longest-running discussion in the history of the SCPC website (and in reality we all know the Safari blog from last year was the result of shameless bribery and 49 contributions from Rachael T!).

    But anyways… a few comments that I hope are helpful (hard to know where to start!)…

    Elaine, the main problem I see with your cultural-evolutionary approach to reading/understanding the Bible is that there’s no indication within scripture itself that this approach is valid. The authors of the Bible (both human and divine) seem to think that the story they are telling, though set within culture and history, is not the product of culture but rather the interpreted (“revealed”) events of God’s dealings with his beloved creation, centred around the breathtaking divine-human life, death & resurrection of the eternal son of God.

    None of us is at liberty to overlay our cultural preferences on this divine-human word. I think there are two reasons your approach to biblical interpretation has become so popular. The first is that it’s the result of our historical smugness – we believe that unlike the ignorant and superstitious peoples of the past we children of the enlightenment are the first to work out that culture influences our worldview. The second is that such a “fluid” interpretation allows us far greater scope to claim that the Bible has no real authority over us in our current circumstances. At best it is a “guide”, but even then one that must be subjected to our post-modern 21st century framework. Once again, we have come up with a way to justify our refusal to accept the word of God for what it is. How very, very convenient!

    Jodee, as for your interpretation of the biblical narrative (comment 34), I’ve gotta say it’s very imaginative! Did you make that up yourself? That’s a very ignorant & pathetic god you’ve described. Is it a story you believe or pure satire?

    And Angela (and please don’t take this as patronising in any way), I just want to say thank you again for your comments. Your genuine engagement is refreshing, your humour is warm, your logic is consistent (though perhaps at times a little “unreasonable”?). Thanks for sustaining this discussion!

    I think that the missing (or perhaps just understated) element in a lot of the discussion and in your summary above (which Katja has addressed in detail and so I won’t) is the RELATIONAL nature of the Christian faith. Although Christians believe certain things that can be summarised “propositionally”, it is inevitable that reducing Christianity to a set of propositions will rob the Christian story of its drama and pathos and power. I have to admit that even I, upon reading your combined summary (i.e. yourself & Katja), am less than drawn to believing that set of facts and basing my life on them! BUT I DO. And the reason is that behind those propositions lies the whole story of the uncompromising love of the faithful God who died for me. Even for me.

    I know you’ve read plenty of the Bible before Angela. But I wonder if you’ve ever read it with a true desire to know the God who has loved you to death? Even you. One of the gospels is the best place to start.

  51. Elaine Fragar says:

    Pete, I have already given you examples of where the culture of the people has been a conduit for their understanding of God. But a conduit doesn’t change the nature of the thing it carries – only the way it carries it. I’m not saying God changed, but that people’s undertsanding of God changed. If you have read the Bible and not seen that, then you have disturbing blinkers on.

  52. Angela Pollard says:

    Oh dear Katja, you have thrown me into the slough of despond.
    I fear that I am back with the Martians just when I thought I had it.
    Although the silver lining is that hell is no more than being separated from God. It’s fantastic to know that even if I am wrong in my atheism, eternity will be just like my life, and I am thoroughly enjoying that. I am glad the hellfire thing has been discredited by modern Christians.
    I particularly enjoyed your joke about quality over quality in heaven – but on a more serious note – you must know that the rate of unbelievers is increasing in each successive generation. In our region it has hit over 30% (40% in Byron, but enough said about that!) according to the last census. I imagine that well within the next twenty years it will reach over 50%. There is a real risk that one of your children will grow up to reject their Christian upbringing, especially of they turn out to be gay. You may be with God – but separated for all eternity from your child/ren – does your faith sustain you in the face of that real possibility?
    Re the scapegoat word, I have been using it deliberately as it has a very ancient lineage in the many “dying and rising god” mythologies, including in the Christian theology.
    “In Christian theology, the story of the scapegoat in Leviticus is interpreted as a symbolic pre-figuration of the self-sacrifice of Jesus, who takes the sins of humanity on his own head, having been driven into the ‘wilderness’ outside the city by order of the high priests. Also see John 1:29 and Hebrews Chps. 9-10” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scapegoat

    OK, here I go, but I fear failure:
    1. The Bible tells us Jesus existed as a god-man circa 30s CE, was executed, and rose from the dead. The Bible can be verified by its text and by contemporaneous extra-biblical events.
    2, Jesus’ resurrection was so obviously godlike that it validates Christianity as the only true religion.
    3. Despite the obviousness of this divine proof, the evidence of people’s past and ongoing behaviour shows that humans continue to reject God.
    4. God is constantly disappointed in human behaviour (despite the fact that he created them with this capacity) and must mete out cosmic justice as sin cannot go unpunished.
    5. Divine punishment is an eternity of separation from God for those who have rejected God.
    (at this point I’m feeling a little hysterical at the absurdity of this argument; “god made sinning man, god must punish sinning man for rejecting him, damning sinning man to an eternity of sinning without the presence of god” aghhggh, but I shall press on)
    6. Examples of such rejections of God that warrant eternal separation include:
    atheism, religious belief other than Christianity, adultery, not keeping the Sabbath, theft, coveting, false witness, and dishonouring your parents. There is no rape, paedophilia or homosexuality mentioned in the 10 commandments but they are co-equally punishable with the other Biblical laws against shellfish consumption, divorce and having sex during your period.
    7. Jesus’ crucifixion was a willing substitute punishment for all the humans past, present and future who have sinned and will continue to sin.
    8.. Jesus death and resurrection meant that for the first time, human beings can live an eternal life (except for the small selection of patriarchs and prophets in heaven prior to 33CE, but I can let this go. There are some very interesting theological debates about whether heaven in the OT was anything other than God’s dwelling place – there is certainly no evidence that ordinary folks were able to go to heaven as a reward for obeying God – the rewards were of a material nature; pasture, orchards, animals and babies- and the word hell doesn’t appear at all in the OT- it seems to be a very NT concept.)
    9. Jesus’ voluntary substitutionary death only avoids your punishment if we truly believe Jesus is the only way to God (But Jesus IS God- what about the trinity? How do you be the way to the way?).
    AM IN REAL TROUBLE NOW,
    10. There is nothing we can do to be right with God. Jesus has done everything necessary for our eternal life by dying on the on the cross. Belief is everything, good acts are nothing in themselves and do not lead to salvation.
    11. Christians try to live God’s way in gratitude for what Jesus has done (WHAT DOES THIS ACHIEVE?)
    12. Because God gave us both a sinful nature and free will, there will be lots of people in hell (which exists as a place of eternal separation from God)

    Sorry, it had to happen:
    Christian: Jesus died for our sins, accept Jesus into your life and you will be saved.
    Martian: Good on Jesus, so I can keep on partying.
    Christian: No, accepting Jesus into your life means you need to show gratitude to God by trying to stop partying.
    Martian: OK, but we both know that it’s impossible to stop partying, you were just doing it then!
    Christian: Yes, but it makes me miserable when I fail God.
    Martian: You looked pretty happy a minute ago with your neighbour’s wife.
    Christian: Yes but I am so grateful for God’s grace that even when I fail, Jesus’ sacrifice will ensure my eternal grace.
    Martian: OK, now I get it- does your neighbour’s wife have a sister? I need to be miserable for a few minutes and then I’m sure I will be sorry and want to show my gratitude to God.
    Christian: No, you still don’t understand, I really try hard to show my gratitude to God by wanting to live a good life. I dont actually HAVE to live a good life.

    Martian: OK, now I get it- I just try hard until I slip up, I apologise to God, remind myself of Jesus sacrifice then try again, only to fail, be sorry, start again, fail and so it goes. Doesn’t that drive you crazy if you know you will always fail, and God knows it and Jesus knows it?
    Christian: Did you check out those legs?

  53. Angela Pollard says:

    Pete: It is inevitable that reducing Christianity to a set of propositions will rob the Christian story of its drama and pathos and power.
    Angela: I absoloutely agree that humans are also passionate beings with a need to feed their emotional life, but if you don’t have an internally consistent and ethical arguement to guide humanity you are in danger of being left with the drama and power of an infallible pope who burns people for believing the earth rotates around the sun or a Hitler who sweeps his people away with gorgeous pageantry and cries for aryan leibensraum.
    Pete: I have to admit that even I, upon reading your combined summary (i.e. yourself & Katja), am less than drawn to believing that set of facts and basing my life on them!
    Angela: Thank you for acknowledging my problem.
    Pete: BUT I DO. And the reason is that behind those propositions lies the whole story of the uncompromising love of the faithful God who died for me. Even for me. I know you’ve read plenty of the Bible before Angela. But I wonder if you’ve ever read it with a true desire to know the God who has loved you to death? Even you. One of the gospels is the best place to start.
    Angela: I get the idea that God loved me so much that he died for me too. I assure you I have no feelings of being unworthy of god’s love ( if it existed), I was raised with rock solid self-esteem. I am just not moved by it BECAUSE of the lack of an internal consistency in the theology. I was raised to be very careful of appeals to my emotions- be it patriotism, greed, fear etc. I believe Christianity panders to people’s fear of death, the need to belong and for someone else to tell them the rules rather than figuring them out for themselves. As for reading the gospels – I could conduct numerous posts about the contradictions contained in them as well. And I think if people made the effort to read the contemporary history of biblical times, they would struggle to retain a belief in the scriptures.

  54. Magna Kawolski says:

    I have been watching this blog and would recommend ending and leave it with these Questions.
    When face with the shift from a biblical view of life toward a more libertarian understanding,do you tend to conform to the cultural mores and adopt the views of culture?
    Or do you go to the bible as the final authority on any issue? Do you consider the bible sufficient to deal with this issue?

  55. Angela Pollard says:

    Magna, I am happy to have my invitation to post to this blog removed at any time. As previously cited, the purpose of this blog was to create a dialogue between Christians and non-believers. By wanting to end the post with your two questions, you seem to be saying we have reached the “agree to disagree” point. But why do you want to shut down the conversation ? Secular society is evolving ever-further from a literal belief in Bible authority. Church attendance is plummeting in the West and many mainstream Christian denominations will disappear within a generation, particularly in western Europe. The questions I pose here are a big part of why this is happening. If you present us with a “take it or leave it” approach to biblical authority without a convincing argument – we will (are) leaving it. You may find it repugnant , but Elaine’s cultural evolutionary approach to the Bible is the only thing that will save Christianity from disappearing in the west. Holy roller threats of eternal damnation just don’t work anymore when you can see the flaws in the arguments and the hypocrisies of many of it’s powerful practitioners ( I’m thinking the Catholic Church and the American Right-wing fundamentalists).

  56. Magna Kawolski says:

    Angela I don’t attend this church so its not up to me to make that decision but I see that you are trying to change the views of this church and the truth of the bible. Its become more of a push for what you believe in and a game which I know you like to debate and you good at it.

    As for the way Christianity is heading well its actually on the increase you only have to look at this church I think they started with 10 people and over the last 10yrs it has 350 at least this is happening in other parts of Australia,Europe,Asia were millions are
    becoming Christians . Where ever you look in this world you see Christianity growing.
    Hypocrisy is in all forms of belief systems whether its socialism,communism,capitalism,atheism and the list goes on but when you let human beings in control you get this conflicting situation as its mere humans turning the things God has created upside down to meet their desires .

    As for Elaine her Ideas for an evolutionary Christianity is nothing new it started with Adam and Eve deciding not to obey Gods request not to eat the fruit so its a really old idea, its a continues flow of the same thing through the ages people living the way they want to but not the way God desires them to.

    So is this a solution to evolve going to save the church no not at all. If anything christians need to become more active in there community live there lives share the unchanging message of God and this is something I have seen this church doing and I pray more do this wish i lived closer but the talks on the site have helped me answer a lot of questions I have had about christianity .
    Thanks for showing me your true attentions on this blog but again Its not up to me if they stop this particular blog.

  57. Steve Cree says:

    Thanks MAGNA for your input and it’s encouraging to hear that the talks have been useful for you – it is interesting to hear a different perspective from someone outside our church. Regarding management of the blog, I understand where you are coming from but we really do welcome the debate and so are not so keen to ‘shut down’ any discussion – but I do agree we may reach a point where the discussion might be more fruitfully pursued in other ways. For now, however…

    ANGELA, thanks for plugging on in the discussion, but I have to say there have been a few things concerning me in your recent comments that do cause me to wonder how genuine your quest for the truth is, and how steadfast your commitment to logic… or at the very least whether you’re drawing on the whole truth at our disposal to base your conclusions.

    Your comment about “an infallible pope who burns people for believing the earth rotates around the sun” is a bit of a whoopsy historically! I’m no defender of the Pope past or present, but this specific allegation is simply not true. It is based on what you might call ‘the atheist fable of Gallileo’ as regurgitated by Richard Dawkins et al, but defies the facts as we know them from the source documents. The version of events you are carelessly believing is based on a 19th century fabrication (John William Draper’s ‘History of the Conflict between Religion and Science’) and a related 20th century play/movie (Life of Galileo – Bertollt Brecht/Joseph Losey). Good theatre, poor history. And I suspect it may be the same second-hand/popular historical method that enables you make the staggering but unsubstantiated claim, “I think if people made the effort to read the contemporary history of biblical times, they would struggle to retain a belief in the scriptures”. You need to appreciate that there are world experts on the contemporary history of biblical times who are also Christian believers. There are others who are not. But your claim as it stands is unsustainable. As for inconsistencies in the gospel, there are many people who have set out to prove exactly your contention only to find that the four gospels are exactly what you would expect to find from authentic eye-witnesses reports of genuine events – variations in emphasis and minor detail but overwhelming agreement on the essence of the matter. Not cooked up. Yet not contradictory.

    Angela, your claim of the demise of Christian belief is also stunningly selective (as Magna mentioned). In the same breath as you rightly decry Hitler you have wrongly blotted from the record what is happening elsewhere in the world than Byron Bay and Western Europe. Christianity’s growth especially in the developing world has been explosive. There are 6 times more Anglicans now in Nigeria than all the U.S. Growth in Christian belief in Africa and Latin America is massive. Korea has gone from 1% Christian to 40% in a hundred years. A similar pattern is underway in China with an expected 50 billion Chinese Christians within a generation. This will change the course of world history. Prepare yourself for chats with Chinese missionaries in the cafes of Byron.

    Further your claims regarding the dangers of appeal to biblical authority are also highly selective. William Wilberforce led the Abolition of the Slave Trade not with a call to “put away your Bibles” but to truer deeper belief in it. Martin Luther King Jnr similarly made his appeal for justice not by an embarrassed call to silence the Bible but by vehemently quoting the prophets’ call for justice, and calling the church from their hypocrisy back to biblical truth. And Desmond Tutu with Sth Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission… Yes, there are many indefensible moments in church history but what they have in common is not that they were treating biblical authority too seriously, but not seriously enough. And the correction came when commitment to the Bible was revived not silenced.

    But what happens when the Bible is silenced completely? And why the particular “keeping a record of wrongs” against Christianity? It is atheistic philosophies and worldviews that have delivered us the horrific regimes of Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro & Kin Jong-il. It is where Christianity has been ejected in favour of atheist and Darwinian social philosophies that we have witnessed the greatest atrocities in world history … Stalin (at least 20 million deaths) Mao Zedong (as many as 70 million deaths). The Age of Reason? Hitler (10 million deaths) despite his clever and deceptive use of public religious propaganda, in his inner circle (see ‘Hitler’s Table Talk’ ) called Christianity one of the greatest ‘scourges’ in history. He said “let us be the only people immunized against this disease” and promised that “through the peasantry we shall be able to destroy Christianity”. His extermination of Jews was based on a social Darwinism of ‘survival of the fittest’.

    I cannot believe that a sincere quest for the truth would allow you to be as historically biased and selective in argumentation as you are being. But atheism is not a threat to your morality/lifestyle. Christianity is. Here is the heart of my contention: you have an a priori commitment to the non-truth of Christianity with the main stumbling block being not primarily a logical one but rather a moral one. Christianity deserves special attention for you because if it were true your life would have to change. You are not on your own in arguing, whether wittingly or not, from morality to truth rather than the other way around. Some of the leading figures in modern thought and culture have rationalised their own view of morality and projected it onto a universal canvas. Truth is conformed to desire rather that desire to truth. e.g. Freud, Kinsey, Keynes, Margaret Mead, Picasso, Rousseau, Marx, Tolstoy, Ernest Hemingway, Bertold Brecht, Bertrand Russell, Jean-Paul Sartre.

    Angela, the examination of Christian propositions seems to have returned us to the ridicule of your partying Martian friend. As a different way forward, would you be willing to share the propositions/story which sustains your worldview and where they/it come from?

  58. Angela Pollard says:

    Steve, I ask you to read my comments again as I think you have missed the point of some of my arguments. Firstly, I was referring to Giordano Bruno not Galileo who I believe lived to a ripe old age. And just like gerbils, I had no idea that there is a differing world view on Bruno’s burning at the stake for his heliocentric views. I cite the Encyclopaedia Britannica in my defence:
    Giordano Bruno: Italian philosopher, astronomer, mathematician, and occultist whose theories anticipated modern science. The most notable of these were his theories of the infinite universe and the multiplicity of worlds, in which he rejected the traditional geocentric (or Earth-centred) astronomy and intuitively went beyond the Copernican heliocentric (Sun-centred) theory, which still maintained a finite universe with a sphere of fixed stars. Bruno is, perhaps, chiefly remembered for the tragic death he suffered at the stake because of the tenacity with which he maintained his unorthodox ideas at a time when both the Roman Catholic and the Reformed churches were reaffirming rigid Aristotelian and Scholastic principles in their struggle for the evangelization of Europe.http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/82258/Giordano-Brunoope
    As for the reading of contemporary biblical history and the struggle to retain belief, I cite one example that has pretty comprehensive footnotes ” The Jesus Mysteries” by Timothy Freke and Peter Gandy. I have tracked many of its assertions as much as possible and find little to argue with. Of course I am sure that there are Christian scholars that do – but my point was more populist – I think your average Christian would be shocked at the similarities between Christianity and other religions / mythologies at the time of early Christianity. I am happy to be proved wrong, maybe you would like to read it and let me know?
    As for the inconsistencies in the Gospel accounts, I agree it is ARGUABLE; that was the point of my post – there is a lot of scholarly debate out there – enough to make me dubious of relying on its accuracy to form my world view.
    As for my “stunningly selective” reference to western decline of Christianity, well yes I confess to identifying that specific selection for reason.. I singled out the west because of the reference to the cultural milieu argument that was relevant to the discussion. The questioning of literal biblical belief and the growing strength of secular values is a western phenomenon that is challenging Christianity on its home base. The African and Asian cultural milieu is vastly different and I agree that Christianity is on the rise there (and I have my opinions about that) – my point was that you will lose WESTERN Christians if you ignore the rise of secular beliefs that reject literalism.
    As for your assertion that I was pointing out the dangers of appeal to biblical authority, that’s not what I said. I said the “danger lies with an appeal to drama and power” without an “an internally consistent and ethical argument to guide humanity.” So we both agree with your condemnation of Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro & Kin Jong-il.” No argument there. You will see that I was even-handed in my examples; the pope and Hitler; one religious, one secular. So how was I biased there?
    And finally: “But atheism is not a threat to your morality/lifestyle. Christianity is” You are absolutely correct when it relates to the influence Christianity has on the laws of the land, otherwise it is no threat to me at all. For example the current ban on my ability to marry my partner, the difficulties in obtaining same sex equal entitlements is a direct result of both this country’s imposition of Christian values and the influence of the religious rights on Parliament.
    “Christianity deserves special attention for you because if it were true your life would have to change.” Or Judaism, Mormonism, Islam, Bahai and Buddhism (I was shocked to hear the Dalai Lama condemn lesbianism – does Hollywood know?). Not sure about Scientology, but given that Tom Cruise is firmly in the closet, my guess is yes. Stop feeling so special.
    But to return to one of my earlier themes – I was raised to argue and change my view if someone can convince me otherwise- so I can assure you if Christianity was convincing I’d give up my girlfriend just like I gave up bacon sandwiches when I became a vegetarian (sorry for the comparison Darlene), and the acquisition of wealth when I became a socialist. All painful.
    To reiterate numerous posts – I am here because I was invited – your Church wanted to know what we non-believers saw as obstacles to belief. I have used my best efforts to explain it to you. At times I know I have pressed your buttons, the Martian script is an example – but step into my shoes for a moment and see how it looks from here. I was reporting my interpretation of what I see as non sequiturs. Cross my heart and hope to die, that’s how it looks from here. I would still like someone to finish the Katja / Angela dialog for me as I really thought I was close.
    As for the invitation to expound my world view – have we now changed the purpose of this blog?

  59. Steve Cree says:

    Angela, you continue to make sweeping statements that are unsubstantiated – high on rhetoric and low on detail – the very approach you say your upbringing has taught you to be suspicious of. I found your last comment the most interesting and surprisingly defensive.

    The purpose of the blog remains to answer people’s questions about Christianity. True Christianity is relational (and blogs can be limited in that regard) so at some point the discussion can only be taken further when we REALLY know who we’re answering. Don’t be afraid of being exposed to the same scrutiny you have appreciated from us. My question is still there to be answered by you or we’re not really talking are we?

  60. Steve Cree says:

    Hi Angela, just pursuant to our recent exchange, it has been good to hear via Katja that you are open to the three of us meeting for lunch to take our discussion further. I hope we can fill in the remaining gaps in the Angela/Katja exchange regarding defining Christian belief. I do hope also that we can hear more from you about your worldview and understand it better, as I think the latter discussion will perhaps help identify what’s not working for you (what’s Martianese) in the former discussion.

    For anyone else following the blog (and I guess who lives locally enough) do contact us via office@scpc.org.au if you would like to meet with someone to discuss Christianity, or just join us for one of our Sunday services at Lismore High School 9:30am & 6pm.

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