I’d like to burn some very typical straw men. Hopefully, in the debate over Christianity, these unnecessary issues can be avoided.
Creation - Neither Genesis nor any of the scriptures demands that the earth and universe is only 6- to 10- thousand years old. The Hebrew word for “day” (yom) could mean long periods of time. The words “there was morning and there was evening, the first day” could be translated “there was beginning and ending, the first (yom)”.
(BTW, the narrative moves to the surface of the earth in Genesis 1:2. While stars were certainly already in existence, their light was not visible on the surface of the earth until the opaque early atmosphere cleared).
Adam and Eve – While scripture does indicate they were specially created, there are gaps in the biblical genealogies that could place Adam and Eve back 60- to 90-thousand years. This would also predict increasing discovery of a common DNA originating between east Africa and the Mesopotamia.
(BTW, the word for “rib” means “side”. The story of Eve’s creation could mean God created her from Adam for symbolic purposes. I speculate a biopsy, of sorts, from the side, with a few million variations to the DNA producing a female. )
Talking Snakes - A boa constrictor with vocal cords is not in view here. That image comes largely from medieval art. The “serpent” in the garden was intelligent and used for evil. One can only speculate what sort of being it was (perhaps one no longer extant).
The Flood – The fact that a great flood is found in various cultures indicates that it happened. Two questions emerge: which account is most accurate and whether the flood was global or local.
I’m of the opinion that the flood was regional rather than global for several reasons. First, while the flood was universal in effect, it was only regional in extent due to human’s not having moved much beyond the Mesopotamia at the time. A global flood was unnecessary.
Secondly, language like “under all the heavens”, “all the earth”, etc. are most likely from the perspective of the observer, i.e. a flood from horizon to horizon. “Mountains” could be translated “hills” with rain and water “covering” (or running over) them rather than submerging them.
Thirdly, this would mean there were not polar bears and penguins, etc. on the ark, but only animals indigenous to the region and of special relation to man.
Fourthly, a global flood would have torn the ark to pieces, no matter how well built. And it certainly would not have landed anywhere near its original location.
Fifthly, the scripture itself said a “large wind” was used in the evaporation process. Such a wind would have virtually no effect in a global flood.
Finally, if the flood were only regional why not just have Noah, his family, and whatever animals needed, hike out of the area and be safe? Why a big specifically-built ark? I think because God often operates via symbols teaching important truths or significance, i.e. salvation in Christ or deliverance through troubled waters (trials).
Use of Metaphor – The scriptures use metaphor and other literary devices. One need only utilize common exegetical analysis and context to determine what any author meant as literal or metaphorical (and on a case-by-case basis).
Inerrancy – If there are consequential or factual errors in the Bible that does not mean Christianity is false. However, I find it remarkable how well the Bible holds up to scrutiny and that there are plausible answers to discrepancies. Personally, I hold to the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy.
Hell – is not a place of torture (external) but of torment (internal). There are many descriptions of hell in the scriptures. The “fire” is most likely not the chemical combustion we’re familiar with. It, combined with all the other descriptions, reduces to separation from God and the judgment of God.
This does not make hell more tolerable (that’s not possible). But it does dispel hillbilly theology that has poor souls swatting flames for eternity! Christ depicted conversation taking place “in the flames”. No person could have a conversation while on fire! On our familiar planet, one is in mindless torture if burning.
It is, however, a profound tragedy to be eternally separated from God. It is a “spiritual chaos” one enters when the intact “self” survives the physical body. There are indications that some kind of body could exist in hell.
Heaven – is a remarkably physical place. It is not ethereal or immaterial. It is a combination of a “new heaven and new earth”. We will live on earth in physical bodies that are “spiritual” which nonetheless have access to one another and continued exploration of the universe without many of the limits of current bodies affected by entropy, etc. Christ’s resurrected body could be touched and he ate food, etc. This describes the redeemed, resurrected body.
This is not to be confused with an intermediary state which is not physical. At death, one goes either into the very presence of God to await the resurrection of the body, or in a state of chaos to await final judgment.
“God will not allow anything to happen in your life that you can’t handle” – False! Scripturally, there are plenty of things that happen that one cannot handle! Devastating things! The accurate teaching is that nothing will happen that God’s grace will not get one through.
“You must become like children” - Christ said to “humble yourself like a little child”. It does not mean to be naïve, ignorant, gullible, or irrational.
Pascal’s Wager – This is not an argument for God nor necessarily addressed to atheists. Pascal used a popular gambling motif to shake the French laity out of spiritual complacency and to at least move them in the direction of God.
Further, the Wager, as it is commonly used, is not allowed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15. He said if Christ was not risen, then the jig is up! Christianity is false! He did not say believe it anyway “just in case” or because it provides a positive way of life.
I hope these internal considerations provide food for thought.
...there are plausible answers to discrepancies - Kevin
I don't think you're completely wrong here. But the word "plausible" is not really significant to this kind of discussion, in my opinion. For a true believer in the supernatural, it's not necessary that the content of a religious story be plausible, because nothing is impossible for an omnipotent deity.
For most non-believers (including myself), the relative plausibility of a story about the supernatural is not significant; what is significant is the lack of evidence that anything supernatural has occurred, regardless of how plausible or implausible.
So I think this conversation is mostly wasted effort on both sides.
If the Hebrew word for "day" could mean a long period of time, then they didn't really have a word equivalent to our word for a 24 hour period. You're telling me they got along for centuries without such a word? That really beggars the imagination. Even back then, people needed to mark time with basic accuracy so that someone could ask, "When can I return to pick up the work?" "Come back in five days" would be understood. I'm sure the answer wouldn't be "Come back in five long periods of time."
Kevin, I have a name for your God: The God of the Leftovers. Whatever is leftover that science hasn't disproven yet, is where your ever evaporating God lives.
Kevin, ultimately and in practical terms, Christianity consists in what Christians believe. In that sense, you are a dissenter in the Christian fold. But since even your greatly diluted form of Christianity can't possibly be true, why all the effort? While we don't know exactly how the universe was created, that it was created by a magical sorcerer doesn't even pass the giggle test.
I find it sad and simultaneously amusing how every single Christian I've spoken to believes that they no more about God and the Bible than any priest or supposed "man of God" who has ever walked the Earth.
"Neither Genesis nor any of the scriptures demands that the earth and universe is only 6- to 10- thousand years old."
I really don't care. It doesn't take a genius to know that the Earth is quite older than that and I am glad that you are aware of it. Whatever the bible says, people seem convinced that it is 6-10 thousand years old, and it is annoying.
"While scripture does indicate they were specially created, there are gaps in the biblical genealogies that could place Adam and Eve back 60- to 90-thousand years."
That does not mean that they existed.
"The “serpent” in the garden was intelligent and used for evil. One can only speculate what sort of being it was (perhaps one no longer extant)."
Of course, it would be one that is no longer extant, because that would mean that you would have to explain why whatever creature it may have been would be any less ridiculous than a talking snake.
"The scriptures use metaphor and other literary devices."
Though you have given no example, it seems that everyone who says this is only able to do so when they have discovered that they are out of reasons for why I should believe the passage literally.
"If there are consequential or factual errors in the Bible that does not mean Christianity is false."
So, the Bible is not the infallible word of God.
"Hell – is not a place of torture (external) but of torment (internal)."
Doesn't make it any less bullshit.
"The accurate teaching is that nothing will happen that God’s grace will not get one through."
I'm sure that there are many things that people did not get through, despite "God's grace."
"The fact that a great flood is found in various cultures indicates that it happened."
I'm sure that there have been many floods of large enough size that from the view of an uneducated observe, the water would appear to go on forever.
After having read most of the commentary. I think as someone said earlier that it is wasted effort on either side. The atheists are going to remain atheists, the theists will most likely remain so. it doesn't matter really how many inconsistencies the theists are shown, they simply have a rationale for all of it.
if for a moment God created eve and adam and a serpent and the snake made man to sin, the problem should be really between God and the snake. Man is not to blame for any of it and thus should not be punished and even if he was to be why must i suffer the consequences of an apple i didn't see or do not have an idea how it looked?
I find it sad and simultaneously amusing how every single Christian I've spoken to believes that they know more about God and the Bible than any priest or supposed "man of God" who has ever walked the Earth.
Yep. Thousands of sects and opinions, and every time they all think their version of christianity/islam/peter pan is the only real and logical one. They all have the one real truth. Of course. And everybody else has it all wrong, and they're always misrepresenting the faith. Not to forget, us poor atheists have fallen into the trap of those misleading other sects! Thank gawd this man came along and enlightened us with the real truth!
I think we have created a new soap box venue.
Kevin: Sadly it looks like you have stumbled into the 'making sense out of non-sense zone'. Reading your postings does indicate a reasonable intelligence, but a rather wasteing subject. Atleast you have not reduced yourself to trying to determine a method to compute the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. I think I tried once, it is somewhere between zero and infinite, both sides might indicate that the idea is meaningless.
What about the question: What happens when an irresistable force meets an immovable object?
Is this an honest question or mostly intellectual masturbation?
Reading your material reminds me of conversations with Star Trek groupes. They know everything about ship design, show plots, etc, but could not build a ship to save their souls!
Come on Kevin, you are wasting yourself!
There could just be another word for day in hebrew or the context of the sentence could tell you which definition. Words can mean more than one thing. Frankly, this discussion is pointless because neither of us speaks hebrew.
Do not make the assumption that the biblical writers were stupid. Indoctrinated into religion, yes but probably some of the smartest people of there times. The people who composed the Iliad and the Odyssey believed in those gods and their are still really good.
I do disagree with him overall. It seems a little ridiculous. But hey he should receive some credit for incorporating some of what we have learned about our world into his religion.
We forget that people wrote what they knew. One would think we now know more.