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.
All belief is built on supposition.
Supposition, infinitely regressing justification, or circular 'proofs'.
You can question my motives all you wish. Data applies to all disciplines as well as the scientific method.
Perhaps you can show me the moral standard by which you judge the concept of God in Christianity and why you think God fails. But please read one of my replies on "atrocities" above.
Kevin, because humans and animals are unable to know the right things to do all the time, we use something we call value to measure everything. It works very similar to weight. We assign value to everything based by what we take in from our senses about everything.
This helps us figure out what to do. So please understand that all values are simply just measurements of data. That is why we call decision making "weighing decisions". It doesn't matter how many times you mismeasure something, what really matters is the actual appropriate measurement. So values can't be arbitrary. They can be misunderstood, people can misinterpret the appropriate value of things. But their appropriate worth is fixed for the specifics of every possible situation.
So things aren't of arbitrary value without God. There are just a lot of potential situations and the right thing to do in each differs. From there, you can get the gist of what is right and what is wrong. You won't have it perfect, but once you know values need to be fixed for every potential scenario, you can definitely tell what is bizarrely wrong. There are a lot of calls that you can make.
What is right, is right regardless of there being a YHWH. So let the judging of the main character of the bible commence.
Very thoughtful! Yet, we must not confuse moral epistemology with moral ontology. How we ascertain moral values ("our senses" as you say) is not the same as the justification or grounds for objective moral values and duties.
Belief in God is not required to recognize moral values and duties and act accordingly, but grounding moral values and duties objectively certainly seems to require the existence of God.
So I agree with your point on how moral values can be applied subjectively (Applied Ethics), but what grounds objective morality is a different question.
Where it ties in is that if values are measurements of data, then accuracy is something that comes before values. That grounds it pretty solidly.
It is much like how dopamine and seratonin are the only things you truly love, accuracy is the only thing that matters to you as far as decision-making goes. Though you could argue survival, but not sure which one wins that one.
John, sounds like I need to start a thread on the Moral Argument for God. Would you be interested?
Yes, but the problem is that most atheists do not understand what you mean by this argument. I know your argument. You are trying to say only God justifies morals. The further claim is that without God the morals have no definite values.
The nature of measurement is only concerned with accuracy. It has no contending option. The problem is that if values are measurements, then they have definite correct values in every scenario.
And you can't reject those values, because a rejection only happens as a reaction to values. An accurate measurement will never lead you to reject accurate values. That's because you have to re-value in order to reject previous values. And every time you measure, what you are doing is trying to be accurate. There is no alternative way to measure other than to try to be accurate.
Well said James , But for one problem , Ive re-read that piece way to many times now and can find no ref. to data. help before I go crazy from repete readings ;)P
Dear Pam: I thought Kevin mentions 'data' in reference to biblical text somewhere in the series of emails. I do hope I did not misread, but Kevin did responde again. It is unclear how much utility/value is offered via the conversation. So much seems like pushing emthy carts up steep hills.