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Heresy and the Limits of Belief

Christianity

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1lawecon
Jun 6, 2012, 10:49pm Top

While I'm having somewhat of a slack period at work, I thought it would be an ideal time to start a thread that either will fall completely flat or be the verbal equivalent of whacking a hornet's nest. Perhaps I am inspired in this by a former Orthodox rabbi, now teaching in a Reform Temple, with whom I am delighted - although we, of course, argue all the time. (fuzzi, hopefully, has me on "ignore," since I don't want her horrified by the thought of argument as a religious activity.)

The topic, in general, is just how far can you go before you've stepped over the edge of your faith. Let me use my own views as an example. I believe I am a Jew. I was converted according to most of the standard requirements (albeit, I am sure that no Haredi would accept me as a Jew, since there was a woman on my Beit Din). I have done a lot of studying on Jewish topics over the past decade (albeit my Hebrew is still an abomination). But more and more I am driven to wonder whether Jesus and Muhammad weren't as much Jewish prophets as many of the figures in the Tanach. (As the step back from those two steps forward, let me also state that there is no doubt in my mind that their immediate successors, the texts produced by their purported followers, and the traditions that grew up around them were, at very best, Judaism viewed through a dark glass.)

2Osbaldistone
Jun 7, 2012, 2:44am Top

I'll jump in (especially since I may be without an internet connection tomorrow, so I'll effectively have all of you on ignore. :-)

1. I find argument is a wondeful 'religious activity', in that only through open discussion with thoughtful (and hopefully fairly well read) folks whose beliefs, at least to some degree, differ from mine, can my own beliefs be challenged enough that I will actually consider why I believe what I believe. This can only result in strenghtening my faith, whether by reinforcing it's tenets or by helping me to chuck out misguided notions of often uncertain origin.

2. I see no reason to reject a heresy (either as a belief contrary to orthodox, or as an opinion at odds with the majority). Heresy does not mean un-Biblical, nor does it mean at odds with Christ's teaching. Heresy, with prayerful and studied debate, has the potential to become accepted, if not orthodox.

3. I have no problem with Jesus being a Jewish prophet and Muhammad being a prophet (if not Jewish - seems a bit late for him to fit that moniker). My reaction will come when you try to define this as the limit of their place in the history of God's interaction with mankind. And I'd have to admit to having little to say about Muhammad, because I'm just not well enough informed about what he really taught (as best we can know) for me to have an opinion.

Os.

3fuzzi
Jun 7, 2012, 8:05am Top

(2) Os, I have found that discussion and, to a certain degree, 'argument' does help strengthen faith. Over the years since my conversion, I have had to 'search the Scriptures' to show others why I believe what I believe. It has helped me to get to know my Bible even better. :)

What I don't like, and avoid, is the name-calling and so-called 'debate' that is found all over the web, including (sad to say) LibraryThing. I'll agree to disagree on certain religious points because of my belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, which most people seem to reject. That alone makes it hard to discuss faith and belief as there is little common ground for authority. What is truth, indeed?

Heresy means something different to each person who voices their opinion on it. As a Bible believing Christian, I am a heretic to other sects, other religions. Oh well... ;)

4richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 8:17am Top

Jesus can be seen I think as a Jewish prophet. He is something more to many. Same might be said of Muhammad. Buddha might be seen as coming out of a Hindu religious culture.

Religion has cultural, historical, and even geographic aspects, as well as personal aspects. To call anything a heresy is I think to deny the truth of the heretic's background and experiences.

For me the question is how to understand a scripture that sees creation centered on the Earth and man specially created as its crown. A scripture that does not know of the vastness of creation, the duration of time, the chain of being.

In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God.

That beginning was seen as the beginning in Genesis, 4000 years previous.

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth.

The word coming to dwell among us was seen as the coming into the center of the entire creation, all that there is beneath the heavens.

We are not all that there is beneath the heavens.

5lawecon
Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 8:53am Top

~3
"I'll agree to disagree on certain religious points because of my belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, which most people seem to reject. That alone makes it hard to discuss faith and belief as there is little common ground for authority. What is truth, indeed?"

I think that the issue that many people have with your position, fuzzi, is that you seem to confuse religion and Absolute Faith in what you (mistakenly) believe to be a particular source of authority. http://www.shelfari.com/groups/29350/discussions/76359/Faith-vs-Religion

There are several problems with that position, the most obvious of which is that your source of authority isn't a particular work but an anthology, an anthology selected by men whose authority you reject from a much larger body of work.

But beyond that particular issue, there is the deeper issue - there is religion and then there is dogmatism (the refusal to think and examine contrary evidence). There are many obvious examples which, I'm sure, are known to you. The dead DID NOT get up and walk among the living at the time of Jesus' death. It just didn't happen. The sun DID NOT stop in the sky for a day, regardless of what it says in Joshua. It just didn't happen. If either of those events had happened they would be highlights of human history. Neither of them are reported outside the anthology called the Bible. You can't just close your eyes and murmer "nanananana" until these problems go away, because they are not going away.

Now for some of us this isn't a problem. We view religion as the quest to understand a supreme or superior being who had some interaction with mankind. We don't expect that the records of men regarding the interaction of men with this being are going to be PERFECT AND INERRANT (no human records ever are perfect and inerrant) and we don't even imagine that the compilation of those records is DIVINELY INSPIRED, and thus without error. THAT IS WE APPLY THE SAME STANDARDS OF EVIDENCE AND LOGIC TO THIS TOPIC THAT WE APPLY TO EVERY OTHER TOPIC.

OTOH, some of us want ABSOLUTE CERTAINTY. We want what we had when we were a young child and our parents told us something. It was true. Daddy said so. But if that is the right model, there should be some intersubjective evidence that it is the right model. After all, there was such evidence in the accounts recorded in the Bible - Prophets called down the might of YHWH on the priests of Baal and those who followed Pharaoh. Jesus healed and performed miracles. These events occurred without a Bible and through the authority of God Himself, not through dogmatic assertions. If God truly speaks to you and through the Bible then there should be evidence, not just "faith." Where is that evidence?

6CSailin
Jun 7, 2012, 10:41am Top

>5 lawecon: "Where is that evidence?"

We have been given two pieces of evidence to learn about YHWH, the Almighty.

One is Creation. The other, scripture.

You cannot deny creation.....it is there....in your face.

Scriptural truth is also there.....in your face.....but alas, men have put in and taken out and made their own interpretations of the scriptures to suit their personal needs. So what version of the scriptures to follow? And which church/religion to join? So many!!

I must say, that I agree with you in your statement that religion must not be confused with faith. And also, that we need to distinguish between religion and dogmatism.

Even when we belong to a religion, I have found that no two believers in any given religious organization believe the same things.

We are independent thinkers.

We are all heretics whether we want to admit it or not........we know when we have deviated in our thinking and belief, from what we know to be right in God's eyes.....our mind is very powerful and we can convince ourselves of anything. We call it "our truth"...pr borrow words from authors and philosophers who speak about such topics.

I think, oftentimes, what happens with herectic, is, we keep the heresy to ourselves. Those around us are not aware of our divergent thinking.

I don't think I've whacked the hornets nest.......just rustled it a bit........any thoughts?



"The mind works best when it is open......like a parachute".

7StormRaven
Jun 7, 2012, 11:00am Top

You cannot deny creation.....it is there....in your face.

One can easily deny that "creation" is evidence for anything but itself.

8johnthefireman
Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 11:12am Top

>5 lawecon: lawecon, you have reopened a longstanding discussion with fuzzi on the question of scripture.

Most Christians believe (and have believed through the ages) that scripture is an important source of revelation. It contains truth and is inspired by God, but nevertheless is written by men who couch that truth in their own cultural, historical, pre-scientific, geographical, literary, religious, linguistic (etc) context. As such it needs to be interpreted in order to understand it well. As you say, it is an anthology (my scripture professors used to say it is a library, not a book), containing many different literary genres.

Most will also recognise that scripture did not come into being independently of tradition. It came out of the nascent faith community, its canon was defined by the faith community (so in fact the bible only exists as we know it because men defined it as such), it belongs to the faith community, it is interpreted by the faith community. We believe that all of this is done with God's help and guidance, but nevertheless it is done within the community, using all the tools and resources which God has given us, including biblical exegesis and the various forms of scriptural studies, history, archaeology, linguistics, science and, yes, reason.

While scripture can indeed have a personal message which means something special to me at face value without the need for extensive study, it is very dangerous for that to be extrapolated into dogma and universal truths.

fuzzi is part of a very new brand of Christianity which apparently sees things differently.

9Osbaldistone
Jun 7, 2012, 12:59pm Top

>3 fuzzi: I'll agree to disagree on certain religious points because of my belief that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, which most people seem to reject. That alone makes it hard to discuss faith and belief as there is little common ground for authority. What is truth, indeed?

I don't have a problem with your statement, except for what it leaves out. I know you rely on the Holy Spirit to guide you to Truth when you read Scripture (and, I assume, when you pray and when you hear preaching, witnessing, debate, etc.). I also assume you do not presume to have a complete and perfect understanding of God, but continue the life-long (on earth, at least) pursuit of adding to that understanding, with the aid of the HS. Because we each start on the path from very different places, and end up taking different wrong turns at times and find our way back in different ways, we are all not only making progress at different rates, but have also reached different understandings within our limited human capability and experience. I accept that my current understanding of some specific aspect of God is Truth, but I don't presume that it is the whole Truth, never to be modified, enhanced, adjusted as I continue on my journey. So when someone else who is faithfully pursuing their journey has a different understanding, I see that as either the potential for the HS to work through me for their benefit, OR for the HS to work through them for my benefit (or both, which is most likely). And I do not presume to know which until I can look back on it later and see the bright light that was shining on us the whole time.

I can see many of these points in my own journey (and many dark patches in between), and am glad for the faithful soul who bothered to argue with me about some incomplete understanding that we each held. In one instance, the 'other' was a former Baptist who had left the Church when she left home and later had become a Muslem. Her view of the Church provided me with insight that I could not easily have reached on my own, and I know that her negative view of the Church was at least partially cleared away as a result of the opportunity I was given to help her to see church people living in community in a very different way than what she had experienced as a youth. She sang with me in the church choir for a couple of years, intially because she loved to sing (she was raised Baptist, after all), but mostly because she came to love the community that embraced her. She was still Muslem when she moved on, and I don't know (and don't need to know) where she is on her faith journey now. I know she is a faithful soul, dedicated to the journey, and I know she is in God's hands. Thankfully, so am I.

The Truth is whatever the Holy Spirit is revealing to me now, which may be something I was not ready for (or not able to grasp) before, and is probably incomplete because of what I am not ready for (or not able to grasp) today. Virtually every time I return to Scripture (alone or with fellow seekers), I find something that I completely missed the last time, unless I'm just hunting for that same understanding I had before so I can present the argument. Hunting for that same understanding I had before and discovering that it has morphed, grown, changed is for me simply continued reasurrance that the HS is still working with me as I grow. When I go through periods of no growth in understanding (even, at times, losing the handle on an understanding I had grasped firmly before), I struggle to fight off a sense of desperation and reassure myself that God is preparing me for something new, in His time. I am coming out of a rather long period like this right now, and these verbose and frequent postings seem to be and outgrowth of what I believe to be a return to that wonderful awareness of God's hand in my life.

I had no intention of writing anything more than my first paragraph when I sat down to a borrowed internet connection to respond to one or two posts. But, I'm not going to edit it or rewrite it or delete all the off-topic stuff. It's there for some reason.

Os.

10fuzzi
Jun 7, 2012, 2:05pm Top

(5) The dead DID NOT get up and walk among the living at the time of Jesus' death. It just didn't happen.

I disagree, but that's nothing new. :)

(8) fuzzi is part of a very new brand of Christianity which apparently sees things differently.

It's not brand new to believe the word of God...that goes back to the early church and before. Jesus said Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. - John 5:39

Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes? - Matthew 21:42

And have ye not read this scripture; The stone which the builders rejected is become the head of the corner: -
Mark 12:10

Jesus answered and said unto them, Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. - Matthew 22:29

And Jesus answering said unto them, Do ye not therefore err, because ye know not the scriptures, neither the power of God? - Mark 12:24

And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears. - Luke 4:21

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
...
And they said one to another, Did not our heart burn within us, while he talked with us by the way, and while he opened to us the scriptures? - Luke 24:27, 32

When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. - John 2:22

For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me; for he wrote of me.
But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words? - John 5:46-47

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. - John 17:17

And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: - 2 Timothy 3:15-16

In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, - Ephesians 1:13

Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. 1 Timothy 2:15

Psalm 119
(in entirety)

Just to list a few. :)

11johnthefireman
Jun 7, 2012, 2:10pm Top

>10 fuzzi: Nobody is talking about not believing the Word of God, and I would not quarrel with any of the quotes that you cite. But as has been frequently said in these LT threads, the type of highly personalised bible literalism that you espouse is a rather new phenomenon, probably less than 200 years old. It is not the way that the bible has traditionally been interpreted.

12fuzzi
Jun 7, 2012, 2:12pm Top

(9) Os wrote: The Truth is whatever the Holy Spirit is revealing to me now, which may be something I was not ready for (or not able to grasp) before, and is probably incomplete because of what I am not ready for (or not able to grasp) today. Virtually every time I return to Scripture (alone or with fellow seekers), I find something that I completely missed the last time, unless I'm just hunting for that same understanding I had before so I can present the argument. Hunting for that same understanding I had before and discovering that it has morphed, grown, changed is for me simply continued reasurrance that the HS is still working with me as I grow. When I go through periods of no growth in understanding (even, at times, losing the handle on an understanding I had grasped firmly before), I struggle to fight off a sense of desperation and reassure myself that God is preparing me for something new, in His time. I am coming out of a rather long period like this right now, and these verbose and frequent postings seem to be and outgrowth of what I believe to be a return to that wonderful awareness of God's hand in my life.

First, thank you for your post. I appreciated all that you said, and that's not just 'lip service'.

Secondly, that was a wonderful paragraph that I quoted above: it was full of truth. There is always something new to discover in the Bible as I read and study it. I also believe that the Holy Spirit reveals things to us as we are able to understand.

But the underlying truths of Scripture, such as the gospel of Christ (1 Corinthians 15) and the inerrancy of God's word does not change. If we get to a point where we start cherry picking which verses must be true and which are probably not, then what do we have left? A book of sayings that has no authority or veracity. And that, my friend, would be tragic.

13fuzzi
Jun 7, 2012, 2:15pm Top

(11) It is not the way that the bible has traditionally been interpreted.

And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. ...
Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye. Mark 7:9, 13

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. - Colossians 2:8


I'll take the word of God over the traditions of men any day. :)

14StormRaven
Jun 7, 2012, 2:36pm Top

I'll take the word of God over the traditions of men any day. :)

Which is in itself a tradition of men. A recent tradition, but a tradition nonetheless.

15richardbsmith
Jun 7, 2012, 3:07pm Top

fuzzi,

I do not understand the concept of inerrancy as it applies to scripture. I do not understand the need for inerrancy, nor the reasoning that looks at the writing and determines that it contains no errors.

Scripture seems full of errors, at numerous levels from profound to tedious and insignificant.

16johnthefireman
Jun 7, 2012, 3:16pm Top

fuzzi, the dynamic here and on some other threads with you reminds me very much of a thread in the Catholic Tradition group called Sedevacante & The One True Catholic Church. The details are not so important and probably are only of interest to a few diehard Catholics like Tim and myself, but Sedevacantism is a tiny breakaway sect on the fringes of the Catholic Church.

An LT member called joansknight who is a fervent Sedevacantist posts loads of quotes from Catholic doctrine to prove his/her point. However none of us dispute these quotes; they are all part of genuine Catholic Church teaching. The dispute is in the interpretation of the quotes. Tim and I interpret them the same way as most other Catholics do; joansknight interprets them completely differently to support the Sedevacantist position. It's a pretty pointless exercise just to continue posting quotes which are subject to two different interpretations, especially when no effort is made to explain why one holds one position.

I get the same sense with your prolific quotes from scripture. You are trying to prove a point simply by quoting scripture, but we all accept that same scripture, so unless you are able to explain how you interpret it to support your position which is rather different from the way most Christians interpret it, we don't get very far.

And to by-pass one red herring at least, I'm not trying to say that the majority view is automatically better than the minority view, simply that it's useful to be able to support one's view other than by quoting texts which can be interpreted to support both views.

17Osbaldistone
Edited: Jun 7, 2012, 3:18pm Top

>13 fuzzi:
Someone correct me if I have my Jewish history messed up. But, surely when Mark wrote this, the "commandment of God" was the Torah, the first five books, in which Moses is quoted as saying nothing should be added or removed from this 'Instruction' from God.

There could not possibly have been a tradition of inerrent translation of either the Torah or any other scripture, nor of accepting anything written after Calvary as "the commandment of God". Mark could not have been talking about his own Gospel.

It was men of faith several hundred years later who, through prayer, meditation, worship, debate, study, and dialogue, chose the scriptures they chose to tell the Good News. And, just as they relied upon the Spirit to guide this process in judging what writings to recommend to their flock (us, as it turns out), so we rely on this same process to find the Truth that the HS will lead us to. As I said in my earlier post 9, this Truth may only be available through certain scriptures at certain times, and the same scripture may reveal something new the next time (or nothing at all). This is not cherry picking scripture, it is simply accepting that wisdom and truth can be gleaned with the help of the HS from whatever scripture we are pointed to at that time, with more and different truth to come as we continue on our journey. Our challenge, as Fuzzi points out through cherry picking (and very sweet cherries they are) Mark and Paul, (sorry, I had to poke fun here) is to continually struggle NOT to make what we want out of that scripture.

Fuzzi seems to be asking "How can you find any truth if you don't accept inerrency of what the Church Fathers chose as Scripture?". Others are asking "How can you find any truth if you don't accept that the HS will guide you to it regardless of the errors of the writers, the translators, the scribes, and the Church Fathers who chose what would be considered Scripture?" My own take is that we all (who approach this prayefuly and humbly) are being guided by the HS to the Truth, one small sliver at a time, and we don't have to demand inerrency in the printed words on the page, because we have the inerrency of the Spirit which guides us But, as far as your own faith journey, if this process reveals itself to you as inerrency, you will still have the benefit of the HS to reveal the truth (and will still have to struggle NOT to make what you want out of the scripture you to which you are led.

I probably made a mess of this, but it was clear in my heart when I started, and I'm trying not to self-edit right now. So, now It's your problem. :-)

Os.

18CSailin
Jun 7, 2012, 6:08pm Top

>17 Osbaldistone: Osbaldistone..."now It's your problem. :-)"
a great problem indeed....I understood you very clearly. Hope you enjoy the following.

That believers have, throughout history, made God's word invalid because of tradition is evident as you read the entire Bible........why do you think prophets were killed? They defended the truth, and the people did not want to hear it, they had set up their own 'traditions'. Jesus also defended God's word.......already the worshippers of the true God had made God's word invalid because of the "tradition of men" (Mark 7:8) when he came to earth.

I have this great article that speaks to this, hope you enjoy a small tid-bit of it. Here it is:

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

In the final centuries before the Common Era (Year of Jesus' birth and onward), a new philosophy developed within Judaism.

It was the concept that God gave two Laws at Mount Sinai, one written and one oral.

By the first century C.E., there were heated clashes between those who espoused this new teaching and those who rejected it.

The Pharisees were the promoters, whereas the Sadducees and the Essenes were among the opposers.

In the middle of this controversial scene, Jesus of Nazareth appeared as the promised Messiah. (Daniel 9:24, 25; Matthew 2:1-6, 22, 23) Jesus faced all those conflicting groups of Jews. In reasoning with them, he spoke against making the word of God invalid because of their tradition. (Matthew 15:3-9) Jesus also taught spiritual truths in a manner possible only for the Messiah. (John 7:45, 46) Moreover, Jesus’ true followers alone gave evidence of divine backing. They became known as Christians.—Acts 11:26.

When Jerusalem’s temple was destroyed in 70 C.E., the Pharisees were the only religious sect that survived intact. Now without priesthood, sacrifices, and temple, Pharisaical Judaism could invent substitutes for all of these, allowing tradition and interpretation to supersede written Law. This opened the door for new “sacred books” to be written.

First came the Mishnah, with its additions to and interpretations of their oral law.

Later, other collections of writings were added and called the Talmud.

At the same time, apostate Christians began taking liberties with Jesus’ teachings. Both circles spawned powerful religious systems—rabbinic authority on the one hand and church authority on the other.

Because of Jewish conflicts with pagan Rome and later with “Christian” Rome, the center of Judaism eventually shifted to Babylon. It was there that the writings of the Talmud were edited in their most complete form.

Although the rabbis claimed that the Talmud revealed the will of God more completely, many Jews sensed the increasing weight of rabbinic authority and longed for the word of God delivered to them through Moses and the prophets.

In the latter half of the eighth century C.E., Jews in Babylon who opposed rabbinic authority and belief in their oral law responded to a learned leader named Anan ben David. He proclaimed each Jew’s right to unrestricted study of the Hebrew Scriptures as the only source of true religion, without regard for rabbinic interpretation or the Talmud.

Anan taught: “Search thoroughly in the Torah the written law of God and do not rely on my opinion.” Because of this emphasis on Scripture, Anan’s followers became known as Qa‧ra‧ʼim′, a Hebrew name meaning “readers”, (English: Karaites)

There are still about 25,000 Karaites in Israel. A few thousand more can be found in other communities, mostly in Russia and the United States. Having their own oral traditions, however, they differ from the first Karaites.

19Artur
Jun 7, 2012, 9:00pm Top

Just to return to the OP, it's a very difficult subject. I've never met a Christian yet who wasn't considered a heretic by some other Christian. Although the terminology may be different, and my experience more limited, I've seen the same hold true for Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, Heathens, and others.

Most people seem to develop a very idiosyncratic version of where the acceptable edges of thier faith lie, and since it varies so much from person to person, a term like "heretic" loses meaning and force.

20lawecon
Jun 7, 2012, 9:26pm Top

~10

"(5) The dead DID NOT get up and walk among the living at the time of Jesus' death. It just didn't happen.

I disagree, but that's nothing new. :)"

Yes, I know you "disagree." But, you see, your "disagreement" has nothing to do with the truth or falsehood of statements about facts. To say that the dead got up out of their graves and walked among the living isn't a matter of agreement or disagreement, it is a matter of evidence or no evidence. The evidence is that this has never happened before or after this claimed event. The evidence is that there are very good medical and physical reasons for believing that this could not happen. The evidence is that, although this would truly be a miracle of the sort that would interest everyone, no one recorded it happening other than the anonymous author of Matthew. Those are the facts, fuzzi. Your "belief" doesn't alter those facts.

It is as if I said "My rabbi arose from his chair, flapped his arms and flew around Phoenix is plain sight of everyone." But I am the only one reporting that to have happened. No one would believe me, and with very good reasons. The reasons have to do with a complete lack of evidence that such a thing every happened, and the physical impossibility of it happening.

21madpoet
Jun 7, 2012, 10:29pm Top

Generally, I think it's good to keep an open mind, on most topics. But a religious or philosophical group is determined by what they believe, or don't believe. Wouldn't you say that a Jew who believes Jesus is the messiah is no longer a Jew, in the religious sense? (Although he or she may still be Jewish in the ethnic or cultural sense). A polytheistic Muslim is an oxymoron, since monotheism is one of the central principles of Islam. In politics, we judge whether someone is liberal or conservative based on their stand on key issues, don't we? A liberal who is opposed to gun control, wants to ban all abortions, favours tax cuts for the rich while cutting social programs for the poor, opposes public health care, and wants to bomb Iran into the Stone Age isn't much of a liberal, is he?

As Christians, though, there is such diversity of opinion it is hard to come to a consensus, or a set of core beliefs.

When a group of foreigners, here in China, decided to start a church, we had to work through some of these problems in our shared 'statement of belief'. We wanted to be as inclusive as possible, without sacrificing our principles. We all came from Protestant churches in North America, so we had some commonality already. But there were issues like Calvinism/Arminianism which were tricky. (We Arminians were in the minority.) Other, smaller issues, like baptism (adult or child? sprinkle or dunk?) we kind of skirted around, and left till the actual case arose. In the end, though, it came down to attitude: nobody wanted to quarrel, so we didn't. And we discovered that a lot of our petty differences were just that: petty.

22lawecon
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 1:15am Top

~21

"Generally, I think it's good to keep an open mind, on most topics. But a religious or philosophical group is determined by what they believe, or don't believe. Wouldn't you say that a Jew who believes Jesus is the messiah is no longer a Jew, in the religious sense? (Although he or she may still be Jewish in the ethnic or cultural sense). A polytheistic Muslim is an oxymoron, since monotheism is one of the central principles of Islam. In politics, we judge whether someone is liberal or conservative based on their stand on key issues, don't we? A liberal who is opposed to gun control, wants to ban all abortions, favours tax cuts for the rich while cutting social programs for the poor, opposes public health care, and wants to bomb Iran into the Stone Age isn't much of a liberal, is he? "

So let me see if I understand your point.

Someone who "believes" something that is contrary to all evidence is "just of another religious or philosophical group"?

The Nazis, for instance, who believed that they were the Master Race and believed that they had a right to use all other races as they wished were "just of another religious or philosophical group."

The followers of Baal, who believed that they had to throw infants into a furnace in order to maintain civilization, where "just of another religious and philosophical group."

Those who contend that they are the Second Coming of Jesus or Napoleon are "just of another religious or philosophical group."

There is really no such thing as supportable propositions about facts or morals and insupportable propositions. Such matters are all just reducible to "differences in belief." Some would say "differences in taste". You can agree or disagree with other people about what is real and what is delusion, but you certainly can never separate the one from the other, other than through what you feel really really deeply and what you instinctively reject.

Is that what you're saying? Because that is clearly what fuzzi is saying, and has been saying for many many months.

23johnthefireman
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 1:30am Top

>22 lawecon: Let me not speak for madpoet, but that's clearly not what most ecumenical Christians are saying. You're stating extreme cases, but most ecumenical Christians are far more towards the centre of the spectrum. There's a body of stuff which they agree on pretty fully, and a body of "neutral" stuff which they can live with even if they don't agree with it, and probably a body of stuff which they actually oppose but are willing to overlook in the interests of unity (but not at the level of the extreme cases that you quote). There might be something which breaks the unity and one or other denomination or individual decides they can no longer be part of the ecumenical group, but it's usually not child sacrifice or something illegal and dangerous.

I've been working ecumenically for many years, and we have our ups and downs. It usually works better when you have a practical (as opposed to purely theoretical touchy-feely) reason to get together, something to focus on. In Sudan and South Africa it was the struggle against injustice and for human rights; in madpoet's case it might be a group of foreigners seeking solidarity.

24lawecon
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 1:50am Top

And I understand that, John. I am not talking about Christians here, I am talking about people who want to repeal reality by reciting "I believe that...."

And I have no problem with people "believing" things that are beyond intersubjective testing. Was Jesus "the Messiah" in a nonJewish sense of Messiah, and is he "coming back to judge the quick and the dead?" Couldn't tell you. We could discuss what is said, but there is nothing said that violates common standards of what can't be the case.

Did Moses and the Israelites wander in the Sinai desert for 40 years? I doubt it, but, again, it doesn't contradict "everything else we know" to say so.

Did the sun stop in the sky for a day. No it didn't. If it had, the crust of the Earth would have peeled off as you peel a banana. It didn't happen. You can say it was a metaphor or a vision or something like that, but it isn't a historical fact. If you believe it is a historical fact because "the Bible says so," there is something fundamentally wrong with your understanding of reality.

As I cited in another adjacent thread we Jews have these people as well. There are thousands of people in Israel today who believe that they have the right to take other people's land away from them "because G-d gave it to us." They, like fuzzi, are relying on what they interpret as "the plain meaning of the Scriptures." You see, morals, common sense, the laws of civilization, etc., don't mean anything as against one's True Understanding of Scripture. The Bible gives one a right to take upon one's self the role of G-d, to speak for G-d, to act for G-d, don't you know?

25johnthefireman
Jun 8, 2012, 2:00am Top

>24 lawecon: Understood. Fair enough.

26madpoet
Jun 8, 2012, 3:00am Top

>22 lawecon: 'So let me see if I understand your point.

Someone who "believes" something that is contrary to all evidence is "just of another religious or philosophical group" '?

No, what I was talking about is the original topic of this thread:

'The topic, in general, is just how far can you go before you've stepped over the edge of your faith.'

It seems to me that other faiths and schools of philosophy are more easily defined than Christianity, which includes such a broad range of beliefs- especially among Protestants- that it easy to just say "Well, then, everyone who claims to be a Christian is a Christian." Or to go the other way and say, "Only those who exactly agree with me are really Christians."

But in my experience, attending nondenominational churches in Canada and China, it is possible to have a broader consensus, and still agree on the non-negotiable 'core beliefs' of Christianity. Many theological issues, while fun to discuss, aren't worth dividing the church over. The ones that really matter to us, we found, are the ones we all pretty much agree on anyways.

27madpoet
Jun 8, 2012, 3:15am Top

By the way, Lawecon, why do fuzzi and those who take the Bible literally make you so angry? Do you honestly think there is only one way to read the Bible? If there was, there would be only one kind of Jew, and only one kind of Christian. Or we'd all be Jews, or all Christians. So what if her interpretation is different from yours? That's why we have religious freedom in western countries.

28CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 8:31am Top

>26 madpoet: I like that you brought the conversation back to it's main thread.

I think when a spirit of competition instead of a spirit of cooperation dominates the faithful, all kinds of troubles occur.

Jesus said that "love" would identify his true disciples.

Many times we just don't know why certain belief systems and views are held by certain individuals. Our faith should be in God, and not in humans.

I remember when I was young, the pastor of our church died.

Then, all kinds of chaos happened......the church got divided, everyone went their own way. Followers of men are like that.

Whereas, if you have a strong faith, and are united, then it should not matter who the individual is at the head.....he is there to minister to the flock/not to fleece it.

As long as he qualifies to take the lead according to the guidelines set out in scripture, there should be not issues.

Today, it is rare to find this spirit of love and cooperation in mainstream christianity. There are some exceptions, but as a whole, I haven't seen it.

"Divide and conquer", that is the style of God's enemy and those who want to bring in men's philosophies into the christian congregation.

"Love? phooey......compassion?.....phooey......Understanding?.....phooey! This of course is mho.

I think the root cause might be that many do not have faith in the Bible as God's word. They see it as any old book, and pick and choose what to take from it.

29lawecon
Jun 8, 2012, 8:37am Top

~26

What, pray tell, does that have to do with my discussion with fuzzi, or about fuzzi's beliefs, the discussion to which you were responding? Are part of the "core beliefs" which you are describing that the dead got up and walked among the living at the time of Jesus' death?

30richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 8:44am Top

Does someone have to hold a specific view of scripture to receive salvation?

Does someone have to hold a specific view of Jesus to receive salvation?

Is salvation the proper focus of religion and belief?

Someone who is discerning/critical about scripture are they picking and choosing what they take from scripture or are they picking and choosing how they take from scripture?

31johnthefireman
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 8:54am Top

>28 CSailin: CSailin, your comments on leadership and ministry resonate to some extent with recent comments on the Leadership, Failure and Disappointment thread.

>30 richardbsmith: Richard, salvation is the big question which is coming up again and again on many threads. Some would argue that salvation is available to all through the Christ-event, whether they are explicitly aware of it or not. Others would argue that one has to be "born again" and "saved" through a specific act of believing "on" Jesus (I can never get my head around the use of the word "on" there instead of the more intuitive "in"). Both would claim support in scripture and tradition (with the "born again" variety usually putting less emphasis on tradition).

Whether salvation is what we should focus on is a good question. Maybe better just to focus on living a good life and doing the right thing.

And your final "what" v "how" question is also very good. In another thread (or this one? I lose track) I asked fuzzi whether there is really much point in constantly quoting scripture at each other when the actual scripture is not in dispute - what is in dispute is how we interpret it.

32lawecon
Jun 8, 2012, 9:04am Top

~27
"By the way, Lawecon, why do fuzzi and those who take the Bible literally make you so angry? Do you honestly think there is only one way to read the Bible? If there was, there would be only one kind of Jew, and only one kind of Christian. Or we'd all be Jews, or all Christians. So what if her interpretation is different from yours? That's why we have religious freedom in western countries. "

madpoet, you seem to have a propensity to get things backwards. Not only do I not think that there is one way to read the Bible, I don't think that it has just one "literal meaning." Complex human language almost never has one "literal meaning."

I think that reading the Bible is often the source of insights or, at least, interesting questions to discuss with others. I don't think that reading the Bible has any more significance beyond that. I don't think that the Bible is some sort of detailed guidebook to what I should or shouldn't do today or that it is word for word "from G-d".

fuzzi thinks there is only one way to read the Bible - the way that the Holy Spirit tells her to read it. Further, she thinks that it is a sin to read it differently than she does, because her reading is FROM GOD. If you differ, your reading is probably from Satan, or at least radically mistaken. You need to get born again so that you will agree with her.

It is also a sin not to do what the Bible, in her reading, tells you to do. It is, of course, O.K. to practice religious freedom, but if you do so in a way that is different from the way she practices religious freedom you will burn eternally in Hell Fire.

Now as to what bothers me about fuzzi's perspective - it is that what she has concluded is, in principle, impervious to persuasion. She can't be wrong. Contrary evidence or argument can't affect her conclusions. She has told us that many times, and it is a logical inference from her premises.

Where fuzzi ceases to be logical is when she is asked whether people should be forced to agree with her. She has told us that they shouldn't be forced to agree with her. Most people with her other views come to the opposite conclusion, and for good reasons. If the other guy will burn eternally in hell fire if he doesn't believe as you do it is only a kindness to force him, through whatever means, to agree with you. Further, to leave him unchecked to spread his poison in your society is to endanger the salvation of your children, of the weak minded, of those already subject to too much temptation. He is questioning True Authority !! He must be stopped.

Get it this time?

33nathanielcampbell
Jun 8, 2012, 9:31am Top

>27 madpoet:: While I wouldn't want to presume to know precisely why lawecon takes such umbrage at fundamental literalists, I can tell you why I do. There are two reasons:

(1) It is essentially impossible to read the Bible completely literally, because the Bible contradicts itself at the literal level time and time again. To take just one example, from the first chapter of Genesis: God creates light on the first day, but doesn't create any of the heavenly bodies that produce light (sun, stars, and the moon {yes, I know, the moon reflects the sun}) until the fourth day. Critics of Christianity love to claim that they're the first to notice this, but they're not. It's quite obvious to anyone with sense that what Genesis means by "light" on the first day has to be something other than starlight or daylight or a candle. St. Augustine noted this fact, and also noticed that Genesis nowhere describes the creation of the angels, even though angels (cherubim) show up at the end of Genesis 3. So, Augustine puzzled through these two problems and came to the idea that, when God created light on the first day, this meant that God created the angels; and when God separated the light from the dark, this meant that God cast out the fallen angels from heaven.

Indeed, a fundamental principle of Christian biblical exegesis from its very beginning is that the important meaning of the text is a mystery, hidden beneath the letter and revealed by Christ the Word Incarnate. This is how Paul reads the Old Testament in his epistles. Most succinctly he says of the rules of the Old Testament, “These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Colossians 2:17) Paul follows this method of exegesis in Romans, I Corinthians, Galatians, and Hebrews in order to explain how Christ fulfills the words of Scripture, how its meaning so far surpasses the letter because it is spoken by the Word.

Fundamentalists frequently shy away from admitting that, taken at the literal level, the biblical text makes errors and claims so outlandish and against reason as to stretch credulity. Lawecon has pointed some of those out: claims that the sun "stood still" at various points in history, or that, at the Crucifixion, the dead arose from their graves and walked around. If either of these things had actually happened, other people (i.e. non-Jews) would have noticed and written about it. But they didn't. If the Gospel of Matthew is the only evidence we have that the dead walked around, that should be a signal -- not, crucially, a signal that the Gospel is wrong, but a signal that the literal surface meaning is not the important meaning. It is a signal that we need to dig deeper to understand what Christ has signified. Indeed, one of the most influential early Christian exegetes (Origen) perceived that these "stumbling blocks" of contradiction and absurdity at the literal level are placed in Scripture intentionally by the divine author to make us stop and stumble -- and thus to force us to look longer, to look deeper, to understand better what God is trying to say to us. In the case of the sun standing still or the dead walking about, we are called to take these as signs or hallmarks (in the sense of symbols) of profound moments in the history of the relationship between God and his creation.

But because fundamentalist literalism refuses both to engage with the tradition and to engage with the text in any way that would admit diversity of opinion or creativity of thought, it refuses to see what was obvious even to Paul!

(2) Privileging this biblical literalism over rational observation is dangerous, especially when fundamentalists try to force their own errant views upon the rest of society. The easiest place to see this right now in the United States are the continued attempts to impose these literalist principles of biblical understanding on the science classroom by denying the validity of evolution. (At this point, someone's going to pipe up with the nonsense of, "it's just a theory!", at which point I would kindly ask them to understand that in science, "theory" does not mean "unproven" but rather "structural model based on proven evidence" -- after all, "gravity" is also a theory.) The broad outlines of biological evolution over billions of years are not in dispute: they are true. To understand modern biology, one must understand how evolution works. It's just that simple--and just that dangerous when we deny our children the opportunity to learn real science in the classroom.

Biblical literalists (here, "creationists") find such a claim very threatening because it appears to them that, to accept the facts of science, they must deny their faith. And here, we cycle back to point (1): it is only by basing your faith on a highly limited and dangerously blind reading of Scripture that you are faced with the false dichotomy of choosing between the two.

34CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 9:54am Top

>30 richardbsmith: richardbsmith....salvation is a gift.

Salvation is the end result......but it should not be the "focus".........

Here are some thoughts, I hope my point comes across without too much rambling.

When someone gives you a gift, you can always reject it. Or, you can accept it, look at it, decide you don't care for it that much, and put it in the back of your closet. If the person giving you the gift is someone you love very much, you will cherish the gift and use it, display it, talk about it, share it with others....etc

Walking around thinking, "I'm saved", "you're not" is to me so wrong a view of life and the spirit of what I understand God's word to relay.
Once we believe Jesus to be God's son, and we recognize that we are at enmisty with God because of inherited imperfection's, then we may choose to ask for God's forgiveness, based on Jesus's ransom sacrifice. Henceforth, it is up to us to "exercise faith" in that belief of salvation and start to make a concerted effort to live a Christian life.

We don't have to go at it alone, because we can congregate with fellow believers. Aah, but now here is where it gets tricky. Everyone is at a different stage in their christian life. Everyone comes to the house of worship with a desire to worship God, and wanting salvation, but with deeply entrenched belief systems. (Missionaries may probably be able to share some doozie stories about this.)

In the end Richard, I think God knows our hearts. He knows if we really have faith in his Son. Our faith must have works, the Bible says so.

Love for God and for our fellow humans should be the focus of a Christian's life, not salvation in mho. There comes a point when your heart is complete towards God, and your love for him and others is so strong, that salvation is like the cherry on top......

We are all a work in progress Richard, God knows us individually and is patient and merciful. He is the ultimate judge.

Maya Angelou writes of this in one of her books. She says that people walk up to her and say "I'm a Christian", and she'll reply, "Already?"
She says she is trying to live a christian life, but that that is all she can do...try. I think this is a humble way to live our christian life, our human life, we should try....make a concerted effort to try and live up to what we think/feel God expects of us individually, without looking too much at what the others around us are doing.

Thanks for reading my thoughts. :)

35richardbsmith
Jun 8, 2012, 10:04am Top

Is a prominent message within Christianity that a person must accept Jesus as Lord and Savior in order to receive salvation, such that the reason to accept Jesus as savior is to receive salvation, with the alternative of going to eternal hell?

The purpose of faith is then to be saved from hell?

36CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 10:04am Top

>33 nathanielcampbell: Nathaniel

Someone asked this question in a christian journal. Following is the reply given.

* * * * *

How could God produce light on the first day if the luminaries were not made until the fourth day?

The Hebrew word rendered “make” in verse 16 is not the same as the word for “create” used in Genesis chapter 1, verses 1, 21, and 27.
Also, the Hebrew word translated “light” in verse 3 was ʼohr, whereas the word in verse 14 was different, being ma‧ʼohr′, which refers to a luminary, or source of light.

“The heavens” that included the luminaries were created long before the “first day” even began. But their light did not reach the surface of the earth. On the first day, “there came to be light” because diffused light penetrated the cloud layers and became visible on the earth. The rotating earth thus began to have alternating day and night. (Genesis 1:1-3, 5) The sources of that light still remained invisible from the earth.

During the fourth creative period, however, a notable change took place. The sun, the moon, and the stars were now made “to shine upon the earth.” (Genesis 1:17) “God proceeded to make” them in that they could now be seen from the earth.

* * * * *

What is your knowledge of these words in Hebrew, and is the above a reasonable explanation?

37CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 10:17am Top

> 35, Richard you asked, "The purpose of faith is then to be saved from hell?"

That is not the purpose of my faith and those that worship God with spirit and truth. Our faith in Jesus ransom is to become friends with God once again, to be able to freely communicate with him through prayer, and to live with a clean conscience before God.

How sad to exercise faith just to keep from being punished in a fiery hell. It's like not cheating on a test for fear of getting caught. When the opportunity arises to cheat on the test because there is no chance of getting caught arises, then we go ahead and cheat. Whereas the person with integrity refuses to be dishonest whether there are witnesses or not. This is the spirit of God's word.......our heart condition........our seed of motivation........why do we want to be Christians? To avoid hell? Or because we Love God?

Anyways, the punishment we all have upon us is what the Bible says....."the wages of sin is _____" "DEATH". We all die....that is the punishment God warned Adam about in the Garden of Eden ("you will positively die Genesis 2:17). And the same was repeated by Paul to the Romans at chapter 6 verse 23.

On the other hand, God's gift is everlasting life to those who exercise faith in Jesus. We may die, but we will have the opportunity to live again.
This is how I see it, and what I have come to understand from my Bible studies.

38CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 10:27am Top

> 35, Richard

I wanted to add, that some Christians see life as heaven or hell.
Either you believe and are saved or you will burn in hell forever.

What I wrote above is what I have come to believe and what I freely share with others.

But, I only speak for myself and my faith.

The ultimate judge is God. He is silent, except for what he left recorded in scripture.
It is a matter of time before we all learn the truth.

39richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 10:33am Top

I think any significance placed on a distinction between create and make is quite a stretch, but I will look more close at the Hebrew and the Septuagint tomorrow morning - maybe tonight.

nathaniel perhaps you can comment on the Vulgate rendering. I am certain your Greek is better than mine, not sure about your Hebrew.

A more fundamental question about Genesis for me is not so much the particulars of the order.

There is in the Genesis accounts I think an Earth centrality that can no longer be supported in our theology.

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth...

Vs 16 - God did not make two lights, a greater one and a lesser one. He made hundreds of billions of galaxies. Earth has one light for the day and night and one big rock that reflects the one light and that shows up about half the time at night and about half the time in the day.

40CSailin
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 10:38am Top

We have so much knowledge today Richard.

God spoke in simple terms to simple people.

But, these simple terms in no way contradict our new-found knowledge through science, do they?

And, I look forward to any additional clarification on the Hebrew words.

41richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 8, 2012, 10:59am Top

We do have more knowledge today, certainly. But one of the questions of the thread is the inerrancy of scripture.

It is not our knowledge now or then that I am asking about. It is the knowledge of the one who wrote the words of the biblical creation story.

I think the creation accounts profoundly contradict what we know about origins of the universe, the solar system, and life.

ETA

Further, I think a good bit of Paul's teaching was grounded on the Creation stories and the accounts of Adam and Eve. This might put some of Paul's reasoning on some of his pronouncements in a bit of weakened position.

42richardbsmith
Jun 8, 2012, 11:07am Top

BTW, don't get your hopes up on any profound insigts from anything I will find about the differences between בָּרָ֣א and עַשׂה.

I think it is about the same different between create and make in English.

43Artur
Jun 8, 2012, 5:06pm Top

A clarification of terminology being used; Fundamentalist is not interchangeable with literalist. If used in its historic sense, before it became an increasingly meaningless and pejorative label, a fundamentalist was one who held beliefs in accord with a series of tracts published in the early twentieth century entitled "The Fundamentals". They are available today bound in book form, and are still used by many churches that retain the "fundamentalist" term.

There is nothing in The Fundamentals that requires taking all of scripture literally, and, in fact, they speak quite a bit about literary style, figures of speech, and so on. Strict literalism is different and more problematic.

Like so many terms in such discussions, the definitions get fuzzy all around, but I think it will make a clearer back and forth not to lump different ideas together (like another set that is forever being mixed together in discussions about the Bible, "inerrant" and "infallible").

44CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 5:17pm Top

>41 richardbsmith: richardbsmith: "I think the creation accounts profoundly contradict what we know about origins of the universe, the solar system, and life."

Profoundly contradict? really? What we know, at least part of it, are theories.....just theories.

How can theories contradict God's word. Examples please.

And, ETA? what is the meaning of this? I have only used in as 'estimated time of arrival'

As for Paul. Examples here will help me as well. No rush, take your time. One or two examples will be fine.



45richardbsmith
Jun 8, 2012, 5:32pm Top

edited to add

It is used to note changes made after a comment is posted.

Say I wanted to make a changeto comment 42 now. I would mark the change with ETA, just to make sure that my change is explained and makes sense given the later comments.

46CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 5:35pm Top

Oh, great....I'll make a note of this for future use. Thanks.

47lawecon
Jun 8, 2012, 6:11pm Top

~43

"A clarification of terminology being used; Fundamentalist is not interchangeable with literalist. If used in its historic sense, before it became an increasingly meaningless and pejorative label, a fundamentalist was one who held beliefs in accord with a series of tracts published in the early twentieth century entitled "The Fundamentals". They are available today bound in book form, and are still used by many churches that retain the "fundamentalist" term.

There is nothing in The Fundamentals that requires taking all of scripture literally, and, in fact, they speak quite a bit about literary style, figures of speech, and so on. Strict literalism is different and more problematic."

It may well be that all literalists are not fundamentalists. But the term "fundamentalist," none the less, has a particular meaning - at least in America. Here is approximately what it means -http://www.shelfari.com/groups/29350/discussions/74005/Fundamentalism You will not that this definition has nothing to do with whether one is Christian or Jewish or Muslim or even religious. It has to do with attitudes toward epistemology and relationships one's fellow human beings.

48Artur
Jun 8, 2012, 8:30pm Top

>47 lawecon:

As I noted, "if used in its historic sense", Fundamentalism has a particular meaning. It has since evolved into various uses, one group of which you mention, as well as being used as an incorrect synonym for literalist. It is still used in its original sense in many works on religious studies, and so some context is useful when it is used in discussion for clarity.

49fuzzi
Jun 8, 2012, 9:24pm Top

(28) Your last two sentences are 'spot on'!

50CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 9:47pm Top

(49) I am glad you feel that way.

51StormRaven
Jun 8, 2012, 10:40pm Top

What we know, at least part of it, are theories.....just theories.

When someone states that scientific theories are "just theories" it reveals that they really have no idea what they are talking about, and that until and unless they educate themselves as to what the term "theory" means when applied in science, their opinion on the matter is worthless.

52CSailin
Jun 8, 2012, 11:48pm Top

A scientific 'theory" is science shorthand for "this is how we think it works". Sometimes the theory is developed without enough information (all the variables are not known) and later observations and information shows the theory needs to be reworked. With enough information the theory becomes a very good MODEL of what is happening and the changes become fewer and further apart.

A common distinction made in science is between theories and hypotheses. Hypotheses are individual empirically testable conjectures; while theories are collections of hypotheses that are logically linked together into a coherent explanation of some aspect of reality and which have individually or jointly received some empirical support.

The development of theories is a key element of the scientific method as they are used to make predictions about the world; if these predictions fail, the theory is revised. Theories are the main goal in science and no explanation can achieve a higher "rank" (contrary to the belief that "theories" become "laws" over time).

Sometimes, for the sake of brevity, I make a statement. I say in few words what I can expound on later. Do not mistake my brevity for ignorance.

I have a deep respect for science. And you have to understand the context of my statement. Someone stated "that creation accounts profoundly contradict what we know about origins of the universe, the solar system, and life." I personally don't think so, and asked for examples.

What I do know for a fact that is in contradiction is what Creationists and Fundamentalists teach about creation........but not what the Bible teaches.
The Bible is not a science book. But when it comes to scientific accuracy, I have found it to be trustworthy.

And, while you are entitled to your opinion, but please do not assume you know me or the intentions behind my statements. Perhaps it would have been better to ask me to clarify or expound on my statement than to accuse me of not knowing what I am talking about and imply that I am not educated as to what a theory is when applied in science.

You are the only person on this site so far that has been less than kind. Oh well, everyone has bad days. Hope tomorrow you wake up happy.

53lawecon
Jun 9, 2012, 12:00am Top

Most scientists, most of the time, just "do science." They do not speculate about the "essential nature" of what they are doing, and when they do so they are generally not very good at formulating such speculations. Generally, they say something about many observations, about "induction" from those observations, and about distinctions between, like, laws and hypotheses. There are other views: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falsifiability

54richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 9:53am Top

Looking at the two words brought up in >36 CSailin: that are used to describe the acts of creation in Genesis 1.

I think there are actually more than two words used to describe the Chapter 1 creation account.

ברא is to shape or create. elohim shapes heaven and earth and man in his image.

עשה is to do or to make. elohim makes the expanse that separates the waters above from the waters below. elohim makes the two lights that are the Sun and the Moon. elohim makes the animals. And in 2.2 elohim finishes all the work he had made. (Here that same word is generally translated "had done".

Most of the other acts of creation are either the verb to be - let something be - or is a command form of the verb itself - waters swarm with swarms of nephesh chayah.

I love the word nephesh chayah, but do not see any particular significance in the words used to describe the various acts of creation.

Please anyone with better Hebrew correct anything in this comment.

ETA
some grammatical errors

55richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 11:01am Top

The significance differences for me between the scientific accounts of creation and the Genesis accounts of creation are not the different orders. Those seem small things. Although I do think the order creates issues right from the start with any claims of biblical inerrancy.

The significant difference for me is the Earth centrality that is in Genesis.

In the beginning God shaped the heavens and the earth - two realms the heaven above and the earth below. That is not the actual setup.

Maybe something like in the beginning God created the vast expanse, and he set earth in the vast expanse at its place with its great light.

The light that is day and the darkness that is night only exist for things that rotate about an axis as they revolve around a sun. Even the idea of day and night is an Earth concept, not fundamental entities that have been separated.

The Genesis accounts put the Earth in a central place that it does not hold.

The separate creation of each animal, at one time, is also not how it happened. Man was not a separate creation, we are not the crown and we are likely not the end of the chain of being, even here on Earth.

Fundamentally the theological constructs of the Genesis accounts are based on an understanding of the world/cosmos that is smaller and more Earth centered that has been shown to be true.

For me that has to change our modern theological constructs.

edited for some grammar and spelling.

56richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 10:33am Top

Paul makes several pronouncements that I think are grounded in a literal belief of the Genesis accounts.

As an example: The discussion in 1Cor 11.7ff

Woman is the glory of man for man was not made from woman, but woman from man.

If the Genesis 2.21 account is not accepted as historically accurate, then Paul's argument and pronouncement in 1 Corinthians 11 do not follow.

57madpoet
Jun 9, 2012, 10:05am Top

>26 madpoet: "What, pray tell, does that have to do with my discussion with fuzzi, or about fuzzi's beliefs, the discussion to which you were responding?"

Who said I was responding to your discussion? I was commenting on the original, general topic of the thread.

58madpoet
Jun 9, 2012, 10:28am Top

>32 lawecon: So, lawecon, you agree that there is more than one way to read the Bible, just not fuzzi's way.

You know fuzzi hasn't said half of what you attribute to her, and probably doesn't believe it either. Your logic is: fuzzi believes the Bible is literally true (as most Christians did until the last century, by the way), therefore she is a 'Bible literalist' and must believe everything else that Bible literalists believe (or that you imagine Bible literalists believe). What's the name for that logical fallacy?

59lawecon
Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 10:55am Top

~58

Well, madpoet, you will excuse me if I don't attribute much validity to your observations. For instance, after a number of interactions, you still thought that I was saying there was only one way to read the Bible. Pretty fundamental misobservation.

And, yes, I do think I know what fuzzi believes. She hasn't been a bit shy about telling people. I have participated in at least a dozen threads with her on that topic - several of which have run to several hundred posts.

You obviously don't know what she believes.

You might want to better educate yourself before you continue your assessment of my beliefs and her beliefs.

You also seem to be unable to separate your mistaken beliefs about what fuzzi believes from what I've said about inference. The inference is not from a "literal" reading of the Bible (whatever that may mean) to fundamentalist certainty. The inference is from the HS instructing you in what you should do and believe to fundamentalist certainty. If you believe that G-d is telling you what to do, you don't have to argue with other people or examine evidence. You just do it.

60StormRaven
Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 3:29pm Top

A scientific 'theory" is science shorthand for "this is how we think it works".

Despite your long-winded whining, as I expected, you don't really know what a theory is. It is not "this is how we think it works". A theory is a comprehensive explanation that accounts for an array of facts, usually supported by multiple lines of evidence. It isn't, as you seem to think, some sort of super-hypothesis, or even a compilation of multiple hypotheses.

Sometimes, for the sake of brevity, I make a statement. I say in few words what I can expound on later.

This is an incredibly silly way to make statements. Especially since you didn't imply that you were going to expand later upon your inane comment that our knowledge is based on "just theories".

Do not mistake my brevity for ignorance.

Well, given your later "expounding", I can see that it wasn't a mistake.

And you have to understand the context of my statement.

Even "in context" your statement is insipid.

Someone stated "that creation accounts profoundly contradict what we know about origins of the universe, the solar system, and life." I personally don't think so, and asked for examples.

Dismissing what we know as "just theories" is in no way connected to this argument. The theories you dismiss are built upon observed facts, hence, you cannot dismiss them as "just theories" and then try to argue that this is somehow part of arguing that the facts don't contradict the creation accounts.

61madpoet
Jun 9, 2012, 8:57pm Top

>59 lawecon: Fine, lawecon, I'll let you get back to you rants. I know fuzzi can defend herself against the likes of you (if she feels it worth her while to bother).

62CSailin
Jun 9, 2012, 11:34pm Top

> #54/55 Richard.......The earth-centered, or geocentric, view of the universe was adopted by the ancient Greeks and made famous by the philosopher Aristotle (384-322 B.C.E.) and the astronomer-astrologer Ptolemy (second century C.E.).

Because Aristotle’s concept seemed logical within the framework of existing knowledge, it endured in its basic form for almost 2,000 years. Even as late as the 16th century, French philosopher Jean Bodin expressed that popular view, stating: “No one in his senses, or imbued with the slightest knowledge of physics, will ever think that the earth, heavy and unwieldy . . . , staggers . . . around its own center and that of the sun; for at the slightest jar of the earth, we would see cities and fortresses, towns and mountains thrown down.”

Fast forward to 16th century..... Italian astronomer, mathematician, and physicist Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), also a Catholic, used telescopes that he built incorporating the newly invented lens and saw the heavens in unprecedented detail.

Even before his involvement with astronomy, Galileo had written a treatise on motion. It challenged many assumptions made by the revered Aristotle.

However, it was Galileo’s steadfast promotion of the heliocentric concept and his assertion that it harmonizes with Scripture that led to his trial by the Inquisition in 1633.

In his defense, Galileo affirmed his strong faith in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. He also argued that the Scriptures were written for ordinary people and that Biblical references to the apparent movement of the sun were not to be interpreted literally. His arguments were futile.

Because Galileo rejected an interpretation of Scripture based on Greek philosophy, he stood condemned!

NOT UNTIL 1992 did the Catholic Church OFICIALLY ADMIT to error in its judgment of Galileo.

What can we learn from these events? For one thing, Galileo had no quarrel with the Bible.........neither do I nor any of the Christians that I know.

Instead, he questioned the teachings of the church.

>>>>>>>>NOTE THIS...............One religion writer observed: “The lesson to be learned from Galileo, it appears, is not that the Church held too tightly to biblical truths; but rather that it did not hold tightly enough.” By allowing Greek philosophy to influence its theology, the church bowed to tradition rather than follow the teachings of the Bible.

I, like Paul, put my trust in the Bible Richard, not on men's interpretations and philosophies. I hope the above explanation helps you to understand what I believe.

63richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 9, 2012, 11:56pm Top

Thanks CSailin.

I don't think though your comment changes that the Genesis creation accounts are inaccurate, fundamentally, and profoundly.

If that does not necessate a change in your theology, then you are far from alone.

But you requested examples, which I gave.

64CSailin
Jun 10, 2012, 12:25am Top

I still think that you are perceiving something that is not there Richard.

I'm sure they had a beautiful view of the Milky Way back then. They had to be in awe of the universe.

Reading through the Psalms one can't help but wonder what David saw up in the heavens as he wrote the eighth psalm verse 3.....he felt small in comparison to the vast heavens.

I don't think people thought of themselves at the center Richard. And I don't think the Bible gives that message either.

Again, no telescopes back then, no rockets, no space probes; simple language, simple people. No contradiction with scientific facts as far as I'm concerned.

But, I can understand what you perhaps would have preferred. A more accurate statement......that it came out and say that the sun is at the center and that all other celestial bodies revolve around it?

And as far as animal life, do you believe in Evolution?

65richardbsmith
Jun 10, 2012, 12:31am Top

We are not speaking of awe for the heavens. That certainly was there.

We are talking about the accuracy of the Genesis accounts and what changes in theology might be considered if those accounts are not accurate.

What does a question like whether someone believes in Evolution mean?

How does one believe or not believe in evolution?

Is that like asking if someone believes in electricy or gravity?

66CSailin
Jun 10, 2012, 12:43am Top

Richard, you stated, and I quote: "The separate creation of each animal, at one time, is also not how it happened. Man was not a separate creation, we are not the crown and we are likely not the end of the chain of being, even here on Earth."

My question is straight forward enough. I wanted clarification of your statement, since many christians believe in evolution, but others do not. I do not like to assume I know what someone else believes, that is why I asked based on your above statement.

Please, it is hard carrying a conversation on line. I try to be as clear as possible.

Thanks.

67richardbsmith
Jun 10, 2012, 12:53am Top

Again what does it mean to believe in evolution? What about aspect of evolution do you consider to be a matter of faith?

68johnthefireman
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 1:21am Top

>62 CSailin: By allowing Greek philosophy to influence its theology, the church bowed to tradition rather than follow the teachings of the Bible.

I think I see the point you are making, CSalin, that it's not about what is in the bible but about how Christians interpret it. But in a way that is begging the question, as Christians are interpreting the bible whether they think they are doing so or not. The opponents of Galileo may or may not have been aware that they were under the influence of Greek philosophy; modern bible literalists may or may not be aware that they are under the influence of a raft of factors which created contemporary evangelic protestantism.

>65 richardbsmith:, 67 I like Richard's question. What is or isn't there to "believe" about evolution, any more than about electricity or gravity?

I do agree, though, that the bible does not contradict science, because the bible is not trying to teach science. It is answering different questions.

69CSailin
Jun 10, 2012, 1:25am Top

Oy......>richard.......never mind.

>68 johnthefireman: john yes....you understood my comment. Many times we are not aware that our belief system is based on a raft of influences going back hundreds of years. That is why I try to keep an opened mind. And I ask questions and try to understand where others are coming from.

Now. WHY won't richard asnwer my question? How about you. Evolution?

70johnthefireman
Jun 10, 2012, 1:28am Top

>69 CSailin: Sorry, you'll have to repeat the exact question or post number about evolution as I can only see general references when I glance back.

71richardbsmith
Jun 10, 2012, 1:31am Top

The question CSailin asked me in 64 is whether I believe in evolution.

My question is what aspect of evolution requires faith.

72richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 1:49am Top

john,

My suggestion is not that the bible is teaching science. I am suggesting that the Creation accounts present an assumption that the earth and man have been created with a status that science has shown to be in question.

That the earth was formed as the center of the world.
That mankind was formed distinct from other living things.

I do not think either holds that place that is taught in the Genesis accounts.

ETA
To address somewhat the objection that CSailin made that Greek geocentric cosmologies were not how the Hebrews understood the world. The Earth need not be at the center of a circle to be the central object of the Creation.

The earth can be flat with a firmament over it, separating the Earth from the waters above, and still be all that the heavens surround.

73CSailin
Jun 10, 2012, 1:41am Top

I'll take it as a yes.

Now, just to understand you. Have you always accepted evolution?
We are after all talking about heresy. Many who say they accept evolution are considered heretics inside their faith.

I remember when the Catholic church officially accepted the Theory of Evolution....it was broadcast on nat'l tv....it was a pretty big deal.
Did you always accept evolution as the answer to how we got here?

I'm curious, because many of the Christians I come in contact with do not accept it, while others do, but do not have a good working knowledge of it.

74richardbsmith
Jun 10, 2012, 1:51am Top

CSailin,

What do you think in evolutionary science requires faith?

75johnthefireman
Jun 10, 2012, 1:52am Top

>71 richardbsmith: I think all I can do for CSalin then is repeat your question, Richard: what aspect of evolution requires faith? Evolution appears to explain the observable facts. I use Newtonian physics when I'm dealing with the dynamics of handling a moving steam train because it works; I use relativity and quantum mechanics when dealing with different types of phenomena ("used" would be more accurate as I stopped being a physics teacher over 30 years ago). None of these require faith and I'm not sure why evolution should be any more or less a matter of faith.

76richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 2:04am Top

I might suggest another thread to discuss evolution itself? The question here has become whether the Gensis creation accounts provide an accurate basis for various theological ideas.

If Earth is the center of the world and if man was specially created as the crown of Creation, then the subsequent theological ideas are sound.

If not, then we either need to justify those theological ideas or to modify them.

Here is a possible topic for more detailed discussion of evolution, and there are others.
http://www.librarything.com/topic/132560

77richardbsmith
Jun 10, 2012, 2:00am Top

Well JTF,

I did not know of your physics background. Very impressive.

78johnthefireman
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 2:06am Top

>73 CSailin: Have you always accepted evolution?

In a way I find that a strange question. Have I always accepted relativity and quantum mechanics? Well, no, because I hadn't really heard of them until I got into the upper reaches of grammar school (high school), and I can't say I really began to understand them until I was doing my B Sc in Physics at university (and I'm not sure whether I really understood them even then - science did not turn out to be my chosen career!) So have I always accepted evolution? Well, no, not until I was taught about it and had the opportunity to read about it.

Many who say they accept evolution are considered heretics inside their faith... many of the Christians I come in contact with do not accept it...

True, but I would suggest that globally they are a minority amongst Christians, albeit a vocal and visible one. I don't tend to read evangelical protestant writers much, so most of the Christian thought that I read is not opposed to evolution.

but do not have a good working knowledge of it

At the level of specialisation of most sciences these days that's hardly surprising. I have a degree in physics and I would not even pretend to understand much of the state of the art stuff in that field now, even if I were to try to read around it and catch up.

79johnthefireman
Jun 10, 2012, 2:04am Top

>76 richardbsmith: I might suggest another thread to discuss evolution itself?

Richard, I respect your wish to keep this thread on topic. But please, not another thread on evolution and Christianity, or religion and science, or the various other permutations which we have explored again and again ad nauseam! I rest my case...

80richardbsmith
Jun 10, 2012, 2:09am Top

john,
I was intending to refer to an earlier topic.
http://www.librarything.com/topic/132560

This one was time appropriate to some degree because it was started during evolution week. :)

I was not intending that we start another topic, but.... this issue does remain.

81Osbaldistone
Jun 10, 2012, 2:57am Top

FWIW, here's another Christian who has no difficulties with evolution, laws of planetary motion, the current state of theories regarding the origin of the universe, and the two Genesis creation narratives. I see few real contradictions between what we know and what Genesis describes (knowing that Genesis is neither what we consider history nor science). I see major steps in creation that go unmentioned in the Genesis account, but the purpose of Genesis seems well served by the parts of the story it presents.

The Genesis account describes the appearance of plants, sea creatures, land animals, and man in separate steps, but does not, as I read it, make a case one way or the other regarding richard's reading "that mankind was formed distinct from other living things." It just reads to me like a simple step-by-step description that one would use when talking to a people that have no conceptual basis for understanding the continuous arc of life via evolution from the beginnings to man.

The first day to me seems to describe the condition at the instant of the Big Bang and then describes the point where the universe begins to glow with what we call visible light. "The earth was without form, and void [planets and stars did not exist] and darkness was on the face of the deep [the just-born universe?]. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters [matter/energy?]. Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light."

The Second day seems to describe the beginnings of the formation of solid bodies separate from 'Heaven'. The Third day seems to be describing the formation of solid land on which life could be sustained, somewhat concurrent with the first life forms. Granted, the sources of light to the planet would have already existed, but one could argue that life could have begun on earth by feeding on geothermal energy and/or energy from the sun even before the atmosphere cleared enough for the sun to be distinctly perceptable on earth (though there wouldn't be anything there to see the sun anyway). I don't see that the description of the Fourth day requires a Moon that is only visible at night - simply that it does not 'rule' over the day. The Fifth day description is remarkably accurate in atributing the first non-plant life-forms to the sea, followed on the Sixth day by non-plant life on dry land, including man, created separately only in that man received special attention (a soul?), but not explicitly separate in biological origin. That does get a bit dicey when the second creation account uses different language regarding man created from dust of the ground, followed by life breathed into man's nostrils. But this is clearly a different and considerably more metaphorical story, and the breath of life from God could very well be simply a more detailed account of how God provided a soul to the creature that rose up from the dust of the earth (the result of millenia of evolution?), and how God ensured this new creation had a safe and rich place to thrive and walk with God [Eden?].

I see no point in worrying about the details of the physics of the origin of the universe or Earth, or the details of evolution, so far as God's relationship to the whole of creation is concerned. Genesis is a remarkably complete story given when it was written down, but it was never meant to be science or history - it was meant to establish God's role as creator and Lord, and our relationship to Him, which it does quite well.

Os.

82johnthefireman
Jun 10, 2012, 4:34am Top

>81 Osbaldistone: Genesis... was never meant to be science or history - it was meant to establish God's role as creator and Lord, and our relationship to Him, which it does quite well

Well said.

83richardbsmith
Jun 10, 2012, 8:45am Top

Osbaldistone,

No doubt that I am in the smallest minority among Christians is seeing a distinction between the Genesis creation accounts and what science has discovered with cosmology and with biology.

It may even be a minority of one.

I appreciate the willingness you have to engage an opinion held by such a small number.

And, as with previous occasions in which I have raised similar points, I will drop the discussion.

Yet I am left with the same questions.

I do not think either account was written metaphorically. When Paul refers to Eve coming from Adam as support for his argument that women should be silent, I think he knows that Eve was formed from Adam's side.

When Paul argues a position based on that Eve transgressed, I think he knows that she was deceived by a talking snake.

Actually, I think the two accounts themselves are considerably different with respect to basic assumptions.

Given the Genesis accounts, do we think that man is the crown of the living things at the top of all life, and the ultimate form of life?

84Osbaldistone
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 11:17am Top

>83 richardbsmith:
I rattled the following off quickly before heading off to church. Hope this is reasonably sensible.

I do not think either account was written metaphorically. When Paul refers to Eve coming from Adam as support for his argument that women should be silent, I think he knows that Eve was formed from Adam's side.

When Paul argues a position based on that Eve transgressed, I think he knows that she was deceived by a talking snake.


Perhaps I am a minority in this, but I think Paul was a product of his culture and his time, and used what he understood about creation to relate his understanding and revelation. His positions on many things evolved over time as he grew in his understanding. I'm not sure if he used the Genesis account because he thought it was literally true, or because he thought it illuminated God's intent even if metaphorical.

Actually, I think the two accounts themselves are considerably different with respect to basic assumptions.

I know you do, and I can easily see why. But I think we are peering deep into the early history of a people and the early moments of their awakening to the nature of God, and I don't expect to fully understand their minds unless I allow for significant work by the Spirit, which will never result in a logical, rational, scientific argument that 'proves' the Genesis account. ETA - even so, and I suspect from your many posts that you and I are of a similar mind in this, scripture and science should not conflict in what is critical in informing our relationship with God and His creation. If they seem to do so, we need to do more science and/or spend more time in dialogue and prayerful study of scripture. The scientific method is designed to work this way. We are not always so good at honestly seeking further revelation from scripture, prayer, and dialogue.

Given the Genesis accounts, do we think that man is the crown of the living things at the top of all life, and the ultimate form of life?

God chose this species to give the gift needed to be 'God-aware' - a soul. What God chooses to do from here on is going to be exciting.

Os.

ETA (as noted); typos corrected.

85fuzzi
Jun 10, 2012, 3:36pm Top

(80) And this issue is likely to remain, too.

Those who believe in evolution, whether life from non-life, birds from dinosaurs or man from amoeba (I know it's imprecise, bear with me) have to exhibit faith in what they believe as well: none have seen the big bang (also discarded by current trends in scientific theory), none have seen life come from non-life, etc. Whatever the precise terminology is, scientists cannot PROVE their theories and hypotheses, they just believe, based upon evidence they study.

I believe what the Bible teaches, based upon my faith and the evidence...

...and "never the twain shall meet".

So instead of maligning and ridiculing those who believe in the Creation as recorded in the Bible, perhaps we could agree to disagree, hmm?

86johnthefireman
Jun 10, 2012, 3:56pm Top

>85 fuzzi: But most Christians believe what the bible teaches and at the same time see no opposition to science. You are part of a particular brand of Christianity which sees it differently, fuzzi, so it's hardly surprising that both Christians and non-Christians are interested to find out why and how. I've said to you before that I have rarely had the chance to interact at this level with your sort of Christian, so I find it extremely interesting trying to understand what makes you tick.

I don't think it's strictly accurate to refer to scientists and "their" theories and hypotheses, as if those theories don't belong to the rest of us. Quantum mechanics and relativity are essential parts of the world in which we live, whether we understand them or not; so is evolution. Scientists are a cross-section of society which includes both Christians and non-Christians; they are not a body apart from Christians.

instead of maligning and ridiculing those who believe in the Creation as recorded in the Bible, perhaps we could agree to disagree

Actually I see very little maligning and ridiculing in this thread, compared to some other threads in the past. I do see a lot of questions, of which I still think Richard's could do with an answer: people don't ask whether one "believes" in gravity or electricity, so how does belief relate to evolution?

I would also say that "those who believe in the Creation as recorded in the bible" actually include most Christians. However most of us believe that it is not a historical and scientific record but a different type of truth which is being taught.

87lawecon
Jun 10, 2012, 4:27pm Top

~44

"How can theories contradict God's word. Examples please."

I want to apologize in advance for taking things out of order like this, but I was just scanning through this thread and the above jumped out at me. I also read your later remarks on hypotheses, theories, laws, etc. (distinctions with which I do not agree, but which I do agree have been used as distinctions by practical scientist who don't think all that deeply about the character of science in general).

In any case, let me give you one example of how a "theory" can and does contradict "G-d's word." It says in Joshua that the sun stood still overhead for a day. According to Newtonian mechanics and astrophysics, the consequences of this happening are rather extreme. Should the earth suddenly stop rotating, the crust would peal off and we wouldn't be here talking about such an event.

So there is your example. I think it is a rather difficult example to explain away, unless you are now going to tell us that the Hebrew has been mistranslated or the verse is somehow metaphorical.

88CSailin
Jun 10, 2012, 8:14pm Top

> 86 "I would also say that "those who believe in the Creation as recorded in the bible" actually include most Christians. However most of us believe that
it is not a historical and scientific record but a different type of truth which is being taught."

I find this statement reasonable.

And also, believing is not the same as having faith, in my book.

Believe.....accept something as truth

Faith.....having trust

I think some confuse credulity/belief with faith.
This of course is an entirely different conversation topic.
Something that was mentioned earlier brought this to mind so I am sharing it.

89CSailin
Jun 10, 2012, 8:23pm Top

>87 lawecon: I happen to believe that nothing is impossible for God.

If there is a Creator, then why wouldn't he be able to manipulate the movement of the earth so that the sun and the moon would seem motionless to an earthly observer? Or wouldn't he be able to let the movement of the earth and the moon remain undisturbed while refracting the rays from the sun and the moon in such a way that the light from these two luminaries continues to shine?

Whatever the case, “no day has proved to be like that one” in human history.—Joshua 10:14.

90lawecon
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 8:44pm Top

~89

So, G-d can make a body so massive he can't move it? He can imagine a truth that is false? He can make you see the sun rise and the sun set simultaneously?

Tell me, just how does your G-d differ from a really powerful toxic drug? He can, and apparently does, disorder peoples' senses and their thought processes. An interesting sort of G-d to "believe in." Many of us believe in a G-d that makes people better through his example, rather than deceive them and confuse them.

And, whatever the case, it says what it says. It doesn't say that the sun appeared to stop. It says it stopped.

91richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 9:44pm Top

I think any distinction between belief and faith is hard to make.


faith

noun
1. confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another's ability.

2. belief that is not based on proof: He had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.

3. belief in God or in the doctrines or teachings of religion: the firm faith of the Pilgrims.

4. belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

5. a system of religious belief: the Christian faith; the Jewish faith.
Origin:
1200–50; Middle English feith Anglo-French fed, Old French feid, feit Latin fidem, accusative of fidēs trust, akin to fīdere to trust.

belief

1 : a state or habit of mind in which trust or confidence is placed in some person or thing

2 something believed; especially: a tenet or body of tenets held by a group

3 conviction of the truth of some statement or the reality of some being or phenomenon especially when based on examination of evidence

Origin of BELIEF

Middle English beleave, probably alteration of Old English gelēafa, from ge-, associative prefix + lēafa; akin to Old English


It looks like belief is a conviction that something is truth, especially based on evidence, and faith is a type of belief that is not based on evidence. Belief is from old French and Latin. Belief is from Old English.

92lawecon
Edited: Jun 10, 2012, 9:58pm Top

"It looks like belief is a conviction that something is truth, especially based on evidence, and faith is a type of belief that is not based on evidence. Belief is from old French and Latin. Belief is from Old English."

Perhaps.

And it is unquestionably the case that we all believe things without doing an extensive evaluation of the evidence for such belief.

The issue, in my mind, is not, however, belief without substantial evidence but adamant unconditional belief (or, if you prefer, "faith") in the face of substantial evidence to the contrary. For instance, there are very few people these days who want to argue over Newtonian theories of gravitation and mechanics, at least as rough rules of thumb over short astronomical distances. But there are still those who want to maintain that the sun stopped in the sky for a prolonged period of time on the basis of "belief" or "faith."

I don't know what you'd want to call that, but those who hold such views seem to think that murmuring "I believe" is somehow is a talisman for asserting the truth of the ridiculous. If it is part of your "belief" or "faith," other people shouldn't point out that it is ridiculous. Perhaps that is a good rule for facilitating social interaction in certain contexts, but it still is ridiculous.

93twitham
Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 1:25am Top

COuld it not be that 'faith' is an attribute first of God, then of human beings? Faith is God's warranty to us of God's steadfast loyalty to God's creation. This seems to be the emphasis of Scripture e.g. Hebrews, Romans. We respond to God's faith and are enabled to do so because of God's prior faith.

The Greek word "pistis" translated "faith" in the NT apparently meant "warranty" in secular ancient Greek.

94richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 8:01am Top

PISTIS has numerous connotations - including faithfulness and reliability; solemn promise (warranty); trust and faith; body of beliefs.

The Hebrew EMET has the sense of being firm; connotations include firmness, faithfulness, truth, steadfastness.

Amen is the Hebrew word as an adverb - truly.

But I don't think we are considering what the Greek or Hebrew words mean, because the apparent confusion of some of us is that we do not understand the difference between believe (to accept something as true) and faith (having trust - or perhaps trust?), in English.

Although one of the differences between those two words is that believe is a verb and faith is a noun. That confused me a little bit, but I was able to straighten it out so I was less confused about what was being discussed.

95eclecticdodo
Jun 11, 2012, 8:27am Top

>92 lawecon: "But there are still those who want to maintain that the sun stopped in the sky for a prolonged period of time on the basis of "belief" or "faith." "

What sort of a God would He be if He didn't have power over all He created?

I'm not saying that verse is definitely literal - I don't know. But you seem to be limiting God to the functions of nature, as if God has set up time and space and the various laws of how things work, and is unable to act outside of those. In that case he must sit back and watch the world unfold completely helpless to intervene.

96fuzzi
Jun 11, 2012, 12:52pm Top

(95) But you seem to be limiting God to the functions of nature, as if God has set up time and space and the various laws of how things work, and is unable to act outside of those. In that case he must sit back and watch the world unfold completely helpless to intervene.

And that would make God less than all powerful, omnipotent. And that would make Him into something He is not.

Let's not try to make God into something we can understand:

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. - Isaiah 55:8-9

97richardbsmith
Jun 11, 2012, 1:08pm Top

Part of lawecon's point though is that it might be expected that some of these violations of natural processes would have been witnessed by another observer.

I have often wondered how it is that a star stops over a barn.

I look at stars nightly, or at least clear night nightly, I cannot tell which house Arcturus is over.

98Osbaldistone
Jun 11, 2012, 1:51pm Top

>97 richardbsmith: I have often wondered how it is that a star stops over a barn. I look at stars nightly, or at least clear night nightly, I cannot tell which house Arcturus is over.

Not intended as THE answer, but Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn are naked eye observable 'wandering' stars which exhibit retrograde motion. That is, they will appear from Earth to slow down, stop, reverse motion for a time, and then stop and return to their 'normal' motion.

I could imagine an obsever looking at, say, Mars at a time when it is unusually close to the Earth, thereby appearing larger and brighter than normal, and seeing it as an omen. After following its movement across the heavens, when its movement appears to stop, looking down from a high observation point across a wide landscape and seeing a homestead (just outside a small village) which appears from that vantage point to be directly below the point where the wandering star came to an apparent stop.

I have no historical astronomical data to tell me whether Mars may have made an historically close approach to the Earth and, at around the same time, exhibited retrograde motion during the time-frame of Jesus' birth. Simply a thought experiment in response to your comment.

Os.

99richardbsmith
Jun 11, 2012, 2:46pm Top

Mars just finished its retrograde motion. It moved back up Leo and now is moving back down. It is a very neat thing to watch. And amazing that the folks long ago could figure out the mechanics of that motion.

100Osbaldistone
Jun 11, 2012, 3:02pm Top

>99 richardbsmith:
As backwards as astronomers at that time seem to us (what with the astrology mixed with astronomy and often alchemy), what they did accomplish with the naked eye I find mind boggling. And such accomplishments were common in many cultures across the globe.

I've tried naked eye observation before, and it wears me out for very little gain. Now, my eyes are not adequate for the task anyway.

Os.

101richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 3:45pm Top

BTW, join us on Skywatchers group. Naked eye observation is one of my favorite things. I would love to talk about what you are seeing.

102lawecon
Jun 11, 2012, 4:31pm Top

~95

Didn't we just have this discussion? If G-d is not "bound" by any regularities how is he any different than a bad drug trip? Surely his creatures should be able to expect that phenomenon and logic follow some patterns? Why is a G-d who is bound by nothing preferable to a coherent G-d?

103lawecon
Jun 11, 2012, 4:33pm Top

~96

Somehow this seems highly inconsistent coming from you, fuzzi. You are always telling us how the HS instructs you in what is correct and right and what is mistaken and bad, but now you tell us that you prefer a G=d who you, in principle, cannot understand. Which is it?

104fuzzi
Jun 11, 2012, 6:42pm Top

Or maybe God just created a bright light, like a star (a UFO) and had it lead the wise men to the Christ child?

Naw, it just couldn't happen, could it? ;)

105richardbsmith
Jun 11, 2012, 6:54pm Top

fuzzi,

Do you think it was only seen by the wize men? And it was low enough in the sky to settle just over the barn? Like say about a couple hundred feet up? Much higher and it is hard to tell what building it is over.

If it were very large, like a star, then it would likely be over more than one building. So the star would have to be smaller than most stars.

I wonder how much gravitational pull such a small star like that would have?

A UFO might have been a better solution.

106fuzzi
Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 6:59pm Top

richardbsmith:

I don't know, and it's not important. Why? Because we can argue about the star of Bethlehem, or how many angels can dance on the head of a pin all day and the next, but it won't bring you or me closer to the truth of God.

These arguments are nothing but smokescreens, red herrings, distractions from the more important, MOST important message:

Ye must be born again.

107richardbsmith
Jun 11, 2012, 7:15pm Top

Is that a work?

108fuzzi
Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 10:02pm Top

Matthew 13:15 (KJV)
For this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them.


(107) is a perfect example of Matthew 13:15.

I hope someday, Richard, that you will open your ears.

109richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 11, 2012, 10:14pm Top

Me too fuzzi.

Opening the ears, though, is that a work?

110fuzzi
Jun 11, 2012, 10:24pm Top

And here we have an excellent example of why some use the 'ignore/block' feature.

Titus 3:9-10

:)

111johnthefireman
Jun 12, 2012, 12:57am Top

>106 fuzzi: These arguments are nothing but smokescreens, red herrings, distractions from the more important, MOST important message

Funnily enough I agree with your words, fuzzi, although we're probably still disagreeing about the meaning. I do think that the star, the sun standing still, the dead coming out of their graves and that type of thing are "nothing but smokescreens, red herrings, distractions". They are literary devices used by the authors to make the point that something very important was happening. The problem comes when people suggest that they were literally true, thus distracting from the real truth that these things are supposed to point towards.

Of course we will probably also disagree on what is the MOST important message. Love God and love thy neighbour might be considered more important than "Ye must be born again". And in fact most Christians do accept the concept of being born again, as it is indeed biblical, but they don't accept the particular connotation that modern "born again" "saved" Christians attach to it.

112lawecon
Jun 12, 2012, 3:03am Top

~110

"And here we have an excellent example of why some use the 'ignore/block' feature."

Yes, indeed. It is the Librarything equivalent of sticking one's fingers in one's ears and murmuring "Na,na,na,na,na,na...."

113johnthefireman
Jun 12, 2012, 4:32am Top

>112 lawecon: I remember when the "block/ignore" feature was first introduced to LT it was considered bad form to boast about whom one had blocked. That courtesy seems to have fallen by the wayside.

114fuzzi
Jun 12, 2012, 8:11am Top

johnthefireman: Sometimes it is necessary to let people know that you've blocked them, so they stop posting about how certain people are rude and never respond to their posts (I see the quotes).

And sometimes it's needful to not necessarily be 'rude', but to be plain of speech.

I might not use 'great words', but those are not necessary to communicate the truth of God's word, as Paul set an example:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 2:1-5


115lawecon
Jun 12, 2012, 9:54am Top

~114

Isn't it wonderful that one has scriptures that can be interpreted to exalt ignorance and "faith" over facts? But only, of course, if the HS guides one rightly.

What a comfort for those who don't want to put the effort into learning the facts !!

116johnthefireman
Jun 12, 2012, 10:03am Top

>114 fuzzi: fuzzi, I have found Richard's questions to be very civil, albeit persistent. I think he is guilty of plain speech, to use your words, not rudeness.

While I of course agree with what Paul says, I think you're in danger of twisting those words for your own ends. They do not mean that one can say just anything and claim that one is speaking God's wisdom. One actually has to speak God's wisdom for it to be valid. And the fact that some people disagree with you is not an automatic test of whether it is God's wisdom or not. It might just be a load of old cobblers which neither God nor human being agrees with.

117richardbsmith
Edited: Jun 12, 2012, 12:17pm Top

Perhaps a bit too persistent.

My apologies.

118Arctic-Stranger
Jun 12, 2012, 2:10pm Top

I think we are bogging down in non-technical definitions of what constitutes a "work." This is something that persisted in the back of my mind as well.

A work could be properly defined as an action that is intended to earn merit. If I do X, God will be pleased, and love me more.

When fuzzi talks about being born again, or accepting Jesus as savior, that is a slightly different thing. It is more about accepting the love that is already there, as opposed to trying to do something to earn that love.

Here is an example from real life. I spent a lot of my college years trying to impress my dad. I changed my major to business (he was a businessman) I took up golf (he was a golfer) and countless other little things that I thought would impress him.

After a while I just gave up, and decided to go my own way. Instead of trying to function in his world, I left my job at the bank, went to seminary and became a ministers. (He was not much of a church goer.)

Later, one night we were together and I asked him what made him happy. "Seeing you do what makes you happy," he said. When I was trying to impress him, he was worried that I was trying to impress him, instead of doing what I needed to do for myself. (This is not a perfect metaphor, but no true story really is.) Anyway, once I stopped trying to please him, and just accepted that he loved me already, we got along much better.

In short, trying to please him, did not really please him. Doing what I was created to do, and just accepting his love was what he wanted. The former is a work. The latter, technically, is not. I hope the difference is clear.

I used to say, not "Have you accepted Jesus?" but "Have you accepted the fact that God ALREADY loves you?"

119eclecticdodo
Jun 12, 2012, 3:08pm Top

>102 lawecon: "Didn't we just have this discussion? If G-d is not "bound" by any regularities how is he any different than a bad drug trip? Surely his creatures should be able to expect that phenomenon and logic follow some patterns? Why is a G-d who is bound by nothing preferable to a coherent G-d?"

You set up a false dichotomy. Just because God is not bound by physical laws does not mean he is incoherent. God follows a different sort of law - being true to his own nature. The Bible (including Jewish scriptures) teaches that God is beyond human understanding (not that we can't understand him at all, but that his totally is so much greater than we can comprehend).

"How is that different from a bad drug trip?" for one thing God is real. Just because one hallucinates that one can fly, doesn't make it true. God on the other hand has complete control over his creation.

120lawecon
Jun 13, 2012, 5:38am Top

~119

""How is that different from a bad drug trip?" for one thing God is real. Just because one hallucinates that one can fly, doesn't make it true. God on the other hand has complete control over his creation."

This is fascinating. I'd really like to meet this G-d, now that my favorite magician has left town. Since you know with certainty that he is real and has complete control over his creation, could he make it over to my house for dinner Friday night? I'll even have it catered Kosher. Please have him RSVP, however.

"You set up a false dichotomy. Just because God is not bound by physical laws does not mean he is incoherent. God follows a different sort of law - being true to his own nature."

Cool. Could you tell us whether or not those laws allow the Earth to suddenly stop rotating for a day?

"The Bible (including Jewish scriptures) teaches that God is beyond human understanding (not that we can't understand him at all, but that his totally is so much greater than we can comprehend)."

Oh, and when he comes for dinner, could you ask him to please bring a translator? I wouldn't want to get into that murky territory where I don't understand him because he is beyond human understanding.

121johnthefireman
Jun 13, 2012, 5:45am Top

>120 lawecon: could he make it over to my house for dinner Friday night?

See Rowan Atkinson as Amazing Jesus

122lawecon
Jun 13, 2012, 5:45am Top

~117

Yes, persistence is only appropriate when one is trying to get at truth. It is often impolite when the person being addressed has other values in mind.

123lawecon
Edited: Jun 13, 2012, 5:53am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

124lawecon
Jun 13, 2012, 5:53am Top

~121

Now that G-d I would like to have over for dinner. He seems to have a real sense of style.

I am less sure about the G-d that eclecticdodo seems to have in mind, or sort of in mind, or imperfectly in mind, or.... (Just how do you describe one's mental impressions of a G-d that is beyond understanding?)

125johnthefireman
Edited: Jun 13, 2012, 7:09am Top

>96 fuzzi:, 104, 119 etc: Personally I think that God's omnipotence is very unlikely to mean that God did/can/will stop the sun in its tracks or the like. That would be a human understanding of God as superhero who basically is the same as us but with added powers. I can't say I do understand the omnipotence of God as it is involved in creating a universe which evolves into something ordered, coherent and complex, but I'm pretty certain that it doesn't involve by-passing that order at a whim. Perhaps there has been too much theological reflection on the power of God and not enough on the weakness and vulnerability of God. Dorothee Soelle and Sebastian Moore are two theologians who do the latter. The preferential option for the poor also emphasises a God who is more akin to the powerless than the powerful.

126richardbsmith
Jun 13, 2012, 8:27am Top

> 121

My mother loved Rowan Atkinson.

"Lord, thy one liners are as good as thy tricks, thou art indeed an all around family entertainer."

Praise be to God, I think the preacher understands us.

127lawecon
Jun 13, 2012, 9:36am Top

~125

I think that what has happened in the course of theology is that people moved from comparatives to superlatives. The comparatives probably made a great deal of sense, but the superlatives were thought, through some misunderstanding of an onthological argument, to be required.

The superlatives don't work. G-d is not all present, all powerful, all knowing and all loving. You can see that by looking around you in even "the best" of our societies. So you can either try to make a case for a "limited G-d" or you can just plain be confused and believe confused things.

Alternatively, and this seems to be an alternative that is increasingly popular, you can drop the "all loving" in any serious sense and use G-d as an excuse for your own worse propensities.

128nathanielcampbell
Jun 13, 2012, 9:51am Top

>125 johnthefireman:: There's also a strong medieval tradition that meditates on the weakness and suffering humanity of Jesus as a portal into the divine. I would recommend Julian of Norwich (and Denys Turner's excellent new book on her, Julian of Norwich, Theologian) as one place to start; and for the art of private devotion, see many of the works of Jeffrey Hamburger, including Nuns as Artists.

129johnthefireman
Jun 13, 2012, 9:51am Top

>127 lawecon: people moved from comparatives to superlatives. The comparatives probably made a great deal of sense, but the superlatives were thought, through some misunderstanding of an onthological argument, to be required

Interesting and plausible theory. I suppose one sees it a bit in the structure of Arabic names for God, all of which use the superlative (most merciful, etc). But is it really meant to mean "most" in the sense that leads to omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence, etc, or simply to mean, "A couple of orders of magnitude better than anything you or I could manage"? Good question.

130nathanielcampbell
Jun 13, 2012, 9:53am Top

>120 lawecon:: (This is a genuine question, not an attempt to be snarky). Correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe that you, lawecon, as a follower of Judaism do in fact believe in God. I'm wondering if you could perhaps explain to us a bit how you understand God -- who is S/He, how does S/He interact with the world, etc.?

131lawecon
Jun 13, 2012, 11:09am Top

He/she is as described in the Torah. A superhuman being who tried to improve humanity over a long period of time and through various strategies. Who had a mighty hand and an outstretched arm which struck down oppressors. Who elaborated rules of justice for men to deal with each other and to aspire to greater things.

Let me also answer the other side of that question. It would seem that some see Him or Her as a remote great unimaginable spirit, who may "have a plan," but whose plan and who himself is completely beyond human understanding. I find that view as not only mistaken, but barren and, in the extreme, as somewhat humorous. It usually leads to some sort of idolatry - like elevating the Bible to the word for word instruction book for living one's life.

132johnthefireman
Jun 13, 2012, 11:34am Top

>128 nathanielcampbell: Nathaniel, thanks for mentioning Julian of Norwich. The mystics should be more widely read and studied today, I believe.

133faceinbook
Jun 13, 2012, 12:12pm Top

>96 fuzzi:
"Let's not try to make God into something we can understand:"

Agree.....but you seem to want to let other's know that your "personal" understanding of him is the correct understanding while others are in the' dark. Need to have their "eyes opened" Not everyone interprets things in the same manner.....if we are never going to understand completely exactly how someone else is thinking, what difference does it make how people come to their personal perception of a Higher Power ? Why is this a matter of "right" or "wrong" ? Should be more about walking the walk if you are going to talk the talk.....at which point it fails to matter all that much how one came to understand the Creator....they obviously got the message somehow.
"By their deeds you shall know them" anyone can ascribe to anything with words....doesn't much matter in the end.
Fundamentalism doesn't leave much room for compassion which is part of the whole deal in the first place. Unfortunately there are individuals on earth who can not read....they have no way to know what the scripture says or doesn't say, they have their own idea of what is "Divine"......a compassionate God would not condem them to eternal hell. So there HAS to be more than one way......or is a relationship with God an "exclusive club" ? Cause that is what it sounds like to me when someone is so certain that they have a handle on what it is it takes to "be saved" or "get into heaven".

>131 lawecon:
"It would seem that some see Him or Her as a remote great unimaginable spirit, who may "have a plan," but whose plan and who himself is completely beyond human understanding"

The Tao that can be explained is not the true Tao"

This line has been essential to my faith. Don't know the answers, don't need to know the answers....what I need to do is to try to live in the best way possible...not for myself but as a part of a whole. If I define my faith as being the only true faith....I've separated myself from the whole...the ego starts getting in the way. So, half of what you posted does apply but on the other hand I don't think the other half is always true.....the Bible would not be my instruction book, at least not literally.

I don't think we are supposed to "know"....or have a "definition"....Why then is there a need for faith ? It is not beyond our understanding to use the teaching of the Prophets (any and all of them) so as to aspire to live a sprititual life. Harder for some than for others, this is why we tend to find spiritual leaders, ministers, priests or monks...whatever. However, once we claim that we "know" something as certain, we become somewhat fundamental in our thoughts about that subject...
Would seem to me that it is far more important to work at following those spiritual guidelines (which are all pretty much the same from religion to religion) than to "define" details regarding God and his plan. Once we start "defining" we start judging based on our perception....which is to me one of the biggest turn offs about organized faith. We are not here to judge...

135eclecticdodo
Jun 13, 2012, 3:07pm Top

>131 lawecon: "It would seem that some see Him or Her as a remote great unimaginable spirit, who may "have a plan," but whose plan and who himself is completely beyond human understanding."

again, you caricature my beliefs. I do not think God is "completely beyond" our understanding. But that his totality IS beyond us, that is, we are finite beings, unable to grasp the full depth of God, his purposes, etc. No individual can contain the fullness of human knowledge (all that is known collectively by man), what makes you think we could hope to contain the full knowledge of an infinite being and his ways? God has revealed himself to us, through his Son, his word (the Bible) and his Holy Spirit. To claim to fully know God and his ways and purposes would be arrogance in the extreme. No translator is going to solve that. Our minds are limited (some more than others). God is unlimited.

136faceinbook
Jun 13, 2012, 4:21pm Top

>135 eclecticdodo:
How does God reveal himself to those who have never heard of his son ? Those who can not read or have never been exposed to the Bible ?

137Osbaldistone
Jun 13, 2012, 4:57pm Top

>136 faceinbook:
I know of no reason why the Holy Spirit is limited to work within only those who read (or are read) the Bible. God revealed Himself to the Israelites for millenia before Jesus walked on the Earth.

Os.

138Osbaldistone
Jun 13, 2012, 5:28pm Top

>131 lawecon:
Imagine a glass sphere on which a three-dimensional hologram of an object has been enscribed. On such a sphere the entirety of the original object can be seen from any angle. However, the sphere has been smashed into an uncountable number of shards.

You pick up one shard, and you will see the object, but you will only see a 'view' of the original object that is limited by the capacity of the shard to contain information about the original object. So you pick up another shard, and you see a different view of the object. You show this to the person next to you, who shows you the shard she has picked up. You continue to pick up shards, share shards, trade shards, and study them. You gain more and more understanding of the original object, though you find that, after a time, you cannot recall all that you once knew from some of the earlier shards or smaller shards you saw. And you will never be able to assemble even 10 percent of the shards into a single, coherent piece. There will always be gaps, and there will always be vast sections that are yet to be found.

Of course, scripture and revelation do not constitute a hologram of God and God is not smashed into an uncountable number of shards. But, in many ways, the process of growing in our understanding of God is much like this. Not one of us gleaners doubts that each shard from the hologram is a 'true' image of the original object. But no one would claim that it is the only 'true' image, or that it is a complete image, or that the shard that the other guy picked up is a false image, or that anyone will someday hold the complete and unspoiled sphere in their hand. In fact, no one has ever seen a shard that shows even a glimpse of the back of the original object, but the gleaners have every reason to hope that such a shard will someday be found. Regardless, the image is so wondrous and captivating that those who have seen a part of it continue to bend down and pick up shards, despite the accumulating scars and wounds.

Os.

139johnthefireman
Jun 13, 2012, 11:41pm Top

>138 Osbaldistone: But no one would claim that it is the only 'true' image, or that it is a complete image, or that the shard that the other guy picked up is a false image

Os, I agree with you completely and I love your image, but unfortunately all too many people do make that claim...

140Osbaldistone
Jun 14, 2012, 12:37am Top

>139 johnthefireman:
The same folks who make that claim about Scripture or God, or the Holy Spirit, would never make that claim about the shard(s) they are holding in their hands. Not if they have contemplated the nature of the origin of the shards. The difference is that they believe there is a difference. And because of this, they cannot include in their own growing understanding of God the revelation held out to them by others.

Expecting a chance to teach for a moment, I once asked a 5-year old why he loves God. The answer was "Because He blesses us". A pretty good answer from that age group. But then I asked "How does He bless us?" This little boy who was probably also thinking about what's for snack-time looked at me like I was not very smart and said with no hesitation "By loving us." This beautiful shard from the image of God was handed to me freely, almost matter-of-factly, and then he ran off to get his snack. It remains a significant piece of my understanding of God even today. I only hope it remains his as well.

The point is, God reveals himself wherever it works to do so, and in pieces small enough that we can recognize them for what they are and hold on to them long enough for them to bless us as He intended. If that revelation comes from a 5-year old Sunday school kid, or a 50-year old Buddhist farmer, or a 25 year old agnostic lesbian hip-hop poet, I really don't care, because they are just as likely to pick up that shard that I need now, today, and hold it up to the light for me to see as I am to find it on my own, even if they were not even all that sure what they were looking for when they picked it up.

Os.

141ambrithill
Jun 14, 2012, 6:20am Top

I have been out of town for a while, so this thread is quite lengthy to jump into, but hey, why not? Someone, somewhere, mentioned that there were things that the Bible says happened could not be true because no other records of these major events occur. To this point, I would have to say that it may be that the other records have not been found. For example, this same argument could have been used twenty years ago about whether King David was real or not, because there were no record outside the Bible which mentioned him, but we now know that is not true. That is all for this post because while I am jumping in I have not given all of these comments enough thought to jump into the deep end just yet. :-)

142richardbsmith
Jun 14, 2012, 8:06am Top

ambrithill,

Do you think that there are aspects of legend in the biblical accounts of David and Solomon?

143lawecon
Jun 14, 2012, 8:59am Top

~141

So you think that whether or not there was a King David is likely to be as widely reported as whether or not the sun paused overhead for 24 hours or whether or not the dead arose from their graves and walked among the living? Really?

144ambrithill
Jun 14, 2012, 9:03am Top

>142 richardbsmith: I would have to say that I believe the biblical accounts of David and Solomon to be accurate. Do you think legend is behind part of their stories, and is so, which parts, and why?

>143 lawecon: You miss the point. It is not that it was not reported, just not discovered, and the same could be the case of the others.

145lawecon
Edited: Jun 14, 2012, 9:18am Top

~144

In how many places do you think it would have been reported that the sun stopped in the sky for 24 hours? I would expect that it would have been the most recorded event in human history, that it would be recorded in every society, and that if we had any substantial volume of records at all, it would include this observation. But hey, that is just me, the same me that observes that the breaking of an ice dam in prehistory that results in the flooding of an otherwise minor inland "sea" is recorded in multiple accounts WHICH WE HAVE.

OTOH, war kings that had temporary empires were a dime a dozen. I would expect that we have no record of 99% of those who have existed. Any one, just wasn't that important

"I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away".

I trust you see some difference between the two?

146ambrithill
Jun 14, 2012, 9:45am Top

I do not believe that the David/Solomon kindgom would qualify as one of those dime a dozen kingships, at least not in the Middle East.

And I suppose the minor flooding that you refer to is the flood in the Genesis account, since there are numerous flood stories in other cultures almost completely around the world, which, by the way, is exactly how Genesis describes the flood, and also the way that I believe it occurred. But, that's just me.

147johnthefireman
Jun 14, 2012, 9:50am Top

>146 ambrithill: I think the point is that the flood quite possibly was a real event, albeit interpreted in a certain way by the biblical author, whereas things like the sun stopping in the sky and the dead jumping out of their graves certainly weren't. The jury is still out as to whether the veil of the temple was rent asunder...

148richardbsmith
Jun 14, 2012, 10:31am Top

ambrithill,

Maybe some time in the next few months I will jump into a study of 1&2 Samuel and Kings/Chronicles, and take a fresh look at some biblical archeology.

I don't have specifics to discuss, but I would likely have some during a detailed reading of the books.

149Osbaldistone
Jun 14, 2012, 2:28pm Top

First, let me say that I am quite comfortable with Biblical stories containing non-historical events for the purpose of our better understanding God and his role in creation and our lives.

The idea that two armies believed that the sun stood still does not necessitate that it result in "the most recorded event in human history". In fact, if the effect that was interpreted as the sun standing still was only seen by these two armies, only one remained to relate the incident.

Now, lawecon, I know that you think a God that would give his people the equivalent of hallucinations is like the worst acid trip ever, but let me just talk hypothetically here. A God that would cloud people's minds so his chosen people can prevail does not seem so much like a bad trip, but a blessing. And mass hallucinations are a somewhat commonly reported phenomenon, though I have to admit to no knowledge of what is reported in the professional literature about such things.

So, Joshua prays for more time to destroy his enemies; God fogs the minds of Joshua's enemies and makes time seem to slow and even stop for the Israelites (perhaps, given that God is omniscient, He even messes with time dilation on the field of battle); the Israelites are allowed a great victory, and the Amorites never know what hit them.

I apologize for the sci-fi feel of this. I apologize if it is not the best thought through fictional story (I'm no novelist). But I simply want to point out that what we are reading here is the perception of a people which could as easily be the actions of God on their minds as it could be the action of God on the heavenly bodies. And, if it is the former, the lack of widespread reports of the phenomenon would make perfect sense.

Now if you see this as essentially stating that the story is a myth, well, so be it. But in such a scenario, it is not a myth that is related by those who experienced it. They are reporting their perception (based on their ability to interpret what they have experienced) of an actual intervention into human affairs by God.

But, it could also be a symbolic tale meant for some other insight that I am not ready to grasp.

Os.

150ambrithill
Edited: Jun 14, 2012, 2:29pm Top

> 148 That sounds great. Just let me know when.

151lawecon
Jun 14, 2012, 2:44pm Top

~146

"I do not believe that the David/Solomon kindgom would qualify as one of those dime a dozen kingships, at least not in the Middle East."

Another example of belief based only on The Bible?

152lawecon
Jun 14, 2012, 2:46pm Top

~149

"Now, lawecon, I know that you think a God that would give his people the equivalent of hallucinations is like the worst acid trip ever, but let me just talk hypothetically here. A God that would cloud people's minds so his chosen people can prevail does not seem so much like a bad trip, but a blessing. And mass hallucinations are a somewhat commonly reported phenomenon, though I have to admit to no knowledge of what is reported in the professional literature about such things."

So your G-d is a deceiver, but for a good purpose? Sounds like a G-d with horns I've heard about.

153ambrithill
Jun 14, 2012, 3:50pm Top

>147 johnthefireman: if the veil was rent asunder, what would you think is the meaing of this event?

154ambrithill
Jun 14, 2012, 3:52pm Top

>152 lawecon: does that mean you believe in Satan? Or are you just making hypothetical statements?

155johnthefireman
Jun 14, 2012, 4:14pm Top

>153 ambrithill: Apologies, that was just a tongue-in-cheek remark. Peter Cook deals with it so well in his Beyond the Fringe end of the world sketch. "Well, the veil of the temple is always rather dodgy, but it should be rent asunder about two minutes before we see the sign of the manifest flying what-nots up in the sky".

156Osbaldistone
Jun 14, 2012, 4:16pm Top

>152 lawecon:
The OT is full of stories of God causing people to behave in certain ways, to blind their perceptions, to prevent them from seeing or make them see, to hide his chosen from someone with evil intent. If you see this as deception, then that's your cross to bear (pardon the expression). If you see that as myth, well, same answer.

The difference between this and the one with horns you've heard about? The fruit. It's always the fruit. Which means that, yes, Satan works through believers as well. Church history has many examples of bad fruit. But many, many of good fruit, most un-recorded, much like that un-moving sun. ;-)

Os.

157ambrithill
Jun 14, 2012, 5:40pm Top

>155 johnthefireman: That is one of the things I hate about having discussions which are not face to face. It is sooooooooo hard to see that tongue in the cheek, no matter how firmly it is planted there!! :-)

158lawecon
Jun 14, 2012, 6:49pm Top

~156

So, bad methods are justified by good results? Presumably not a Christian position.

159lawecon
Jun 14, 2012, 6:50pm Top

~154

I don't know, aren't there references to Satan in the NT?

160Osbaldistone
Jun 14, 2012, 9:47pm Top

>159 lawecon: I don't know, aren't there references to Satan in the NT?

There are references to Satan/the Adversary in the OT and the NT. But is that an answer?

Os.

161Osbaldistone
Jun 14, 2012, 9:51pm Top

>159 lawecon:
You say "bad methods". I simply see the gift of scripture as one way for prayerful study to try to learn more about the nature of God. Yes, I am often uncomfortable with actions by God in scripture that seem 'wrong' by human standards. But I accept that these facts, stories, metaphors, etc., are there because there is something for me to learn from them; if not now, perhaps the next time I'm reading that book/chapter/verse. But I resist judging God's actions using human measures; that way lies madness.

Os.

162timspalding
Edited: Jun 14, 2012, 10:11pm Top

I haven't read 160 messages, but in response to message #1 ("how far can you go before you've stepped over the edge of your faith?") the answer is, I think, no better than "it depends." It's going to depend on the faith and the tradition within the faith, and how that faith and tradition sees its limits. As you note how Orthodox Judaism and reform Judaism see your situation probably differ. I can't judge which is "right"—I'm not a Jew so my true opinion is that they are both partially right—but maybe you can.

In general, however, this is an age of flip polarization. Hostile classification is one aspect of that. To ignore religion for a moment, and discuss a podcast I listen to recently, you can see this in various Conservatives saying that Meghan McCain is not "really" a Republican because, although she's in favor of small government, in favor of a strong defense, hates Obamacare, and so forth, she's in favor of gay marriage. Being a Republican is apparently a take-it-or-leave-it, all-or-nothing proposition.

Religious is different in some ways. Political parties are coalitions, and negotiations. Religious often sees boundaries as ontological facts. Even so, it's remarkable that many now seem to imagine that any disagreement within a religion puts you on the other side of that boundary.

163faceinbook
Jun 15, 2012, 7:54am Top

>162 timspalding:
"Religious is different in some ways. Political parties are coalitions, and negotiations. Religious often sees boundaries as ontological facts. Even so, it's remarkable that many now seem to imagine that any disagreement within a religion puts you on the other side of that boundary."

Actually this is nothing new. The Sunni and the Shia have been divided for centuries. The cause of the original division was primarly political rather than a faith based belief. Over the centuries the two factions have formed bigger differences in the observance of their faith but originally....not much differed other than who should lead the people. Probably a good example as to why religion should not form our politics. One's faith should not be defined by their political stance or visa versa.

Said this before...the more we continue to try and define our politics based on a faith based premise, the closer we become to that which we recently invested a great deal of money and numerous lives fighting against. The parallels are significant. The attitude of "no compromise" stems from fundamental belief systems. As you've seen from the posters on LT, the "ignore" option is used and that is that....no further consideration or thought process required. While this attitude is not all that harmful when confined to small groups of organized "believers", it is the stuff of civil wars when it comes to forming the politics of a nation.

Think it is also important to note that politicans don't necessarly adhere to the faith based principle they claiming to be the foundation of their personal stance but they are masters at using those who are prone to "ignore" rather than "consider" when it means setting aside their personal faith based beliefs and thinking outside of their own box. There is a reason that our political process has lost the ability to negotiate. To my way of thinking this is a step towards a government that is dictated rather than negotiated.

164streamsong
Jun 15, 2012, 8:50am Top

> 138 Os--The science geek in me would like to point out that while I like your image, one of the very cool properties of a hologram is that no matter how small you smash it, each piece contains the entire hologram......

165timspalding
Jun 15, 2012, 9:27am Top

>163 faceinbook:

Fair enough. Obviously religions have split over very many minor issues—whether eucharist should be leavened or unleavened, for example. But I think there's something particular to our age in extending this principle to individuals who have no inclination, interest or power to split the faith, or for that matter the party.

166Osbaldistone
Jun 17, 2012, 3:36am Top

>164 streamsong:
I'm not sure I agree, but perhaps it's only semantics. I'm also no expert on holograms.

Each piece (and this is my intent in the image I painted) contains an entire view of the hologram. The smaller the piece, the narrower the view. One shard will not contain a view of the front AND the back of the original object, but only a view from a narrow angle. I can only peek through this narrow shard - I cannot see the entire 360° of the original image. The sum total of the pieces is the full 360° view of the original object. If I've got it wrong, this is still the metaphor I use to comprehend how we all deal with our varied and changing understanding of God.

Os.

167faceinbook
Jun 17, 2012, 9:50am Top

>165 timspalding:
"But I think there's something particular to our age in extending this principle to individuals who have no inclination, interest or power to split the faith, or for that matter the party."

Perhaps because so many people are trying to convince themselves that they are correct, that they are not the one's who made any of the mistakes which have brought this country to it's current state. When there are enough individuals who need to convince themselves of their "rightness" it has a tendancy to split faiths and parties. To admit mistakes or acknowledge that change may be required is not the nature of fundamental thinking. Sadly, we seem to be choosing our leaders based on their ability to resist change and adhere to a principle that says they themselves are correct and other's are not....This is most often without listening and/or making any effort to comprehend why there is a difference of opinion. This holds true for religion as well as politics....both of which have the potential of bestowing a large amount of power on a few select individuals.
Hitting the "ignore" option in life is not, in my opinion a good idea, especially when it comes to our relationship to God.

>166 Osbaldistone:
"how we all deal with our varied and changing understanding of God."

Pulling out this particular part of your post as it seems to me to be an important component in regards to spiritual growth. Adhering to a specific religion without the benefit of understanding the foundation of various faiths would have the effect of restricting a change in our understanding of God. If we are to grow spiritually, change would be essential to this process. Seems that when people of faith study the Bible, the Torah or any other religious scripts without comparisons and exposure to differences they tend to form opinions that are more fundamental in nature. Once we open our minds, accept that differences exist and perhaps for a very good reason, we become more secure in our faith and less inclined to insist that others see things in exactly the same fashion. It makes sense that individuals are drawn to one organized religion over another as we all come to understanding in different ways.
One of the most striking aspects of "faith" as we understand it, is that those who cling to one belief system, close their eyes and ears to all others (or to anything that may challenge their faith, which to me, could be seen as an opportunity for growth) are the least secure in the faith they claim to be the foundation of their lives. When trying to convince others of the exclusive correctness of their faith, I suspect that they are really trying to convince themselves.

168Osbaldistone
Jun 17, 2012, 6:36pm Top

>167 faceinbook: close their eyes and ears to all others...are the least secure in the faith they claim to be the foundation of their lives

I worry for such as these, because when some crisis comes along that calls into question some aspect of their faith that is only present due to lack of prayerful examination, they are likely to lose faith all together. For me, the fall and crash would be unbearable.

I had friends once in a church who told me they were leaving. Their reason - to find a church where everyone agreed. I told them I belive that if they ever think they have found this, it probably only means that no one is examining their faith and no one is willing to raise their hand and ask an insightful question. They drifted from church to church for awhile, but the last I heard from them, they were pretty much without any Christian community alltogether.

Os.

169timspalding
Jun 17, 2012, 7:19pm Top

>168 Osbaldistone:

A church that agrees on everything is surely dead.

170fuzzi
Jun 17, 2012, 7:34pm Top

Our pastor jokes that if he ever found a perfect church, it would no longer be perfect if he joined it! ;)

171Osbaldistone
Jun 17, 2012, 7:42pm Top

>170 fuzzi:
The funny thing is, the church we were at when my friends left to find one that agrees just happens to have been the one congregation that I would hold up as the closest to being about what a Christian community should be about, of all the churches I've ever been associated with. I think they left the closest thing to a really great church they are likely to ever find. And it was only about 100 people. I would still be there, but for my spouse's call to serve another church. Even tried attending separate churches for awhile, but we met in church, worshiped together throughout our courtship, and separate churches felt like violating the promises we made when we married.

Os.

172ambrithill
Edited: Jun 18, 2012, 12:34am Top

>169 timspalding: I agree completely, and maybe even literally. :-)

173johnthefireman
Jun 17, 2012, 11:53pm Top

>167 faceinbook:, 167 et seq close their eyes and ears to all others...are the least secure in the faith they claim to be the foundation of their lives

I said something very similar on LT several years back and was told I was being judgemental and condescending, or words to that effect. How times change! But anyway, I agree with you, for what it's worth.

174faceinbook
Jun 18, 2012, 7:57am Top

>173 johnthefireman:
Judgemental and condescending ? Perhaps it had to do with who you were talking with ?
Don't think that we were all meant to agree....if individuals were not inclined to think outside of the box we would not have much in the way of progress. Religion evolves like anything else......Don't think that it was meant to be concrete in all aspects. Faith needs to match our times if it is to remain relevent but like anything else, change does not come without resistance.

175lawecon
Jun 18, 2012, 8:08am Top

~173

I never thought that I'd be defending faceinbook, but this same point just came up in a related thread.

There are those who believe in unlimited "forgiveness" and those who believe in giving a person his or her due. Certainly there is an argument to be had about which attitude is most appropriate, but I have to say - putting more emphasis on justice than some - that there is some case to be made for giving people their due.

One should, of course, never jump to conclusions about what is due, but when someone repeats - over and over again - the same excuses for not thinking and for justifying whatever they do - at some point a judgment is justifiably reached about that person and their propensities.

176nathanielcampbell
Jun 18, 2012, 12:13pm Top

>170 fuzzi:: That's most likely a take-off on the G. K. Chesterton saw that he would never join a church that would have him as a member.

177leonia
Aug 1, 2012, 2:37am Top

Forgiveness is given, and never deserved.

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