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.
I think, Kevin, that you just may have found that disciple you came here looking for --
Yes... there were sects of Christianity that believed Jesus was God... but there were also sects that firmly rejected that notion. The point was that it wasn't OFFICIAL canon until after Nicea... which is unsettling.
Skycomet, Christianity was a bit more solidified than it sounds you understand it before Nicea. I can go into details for you on the other thread, but I am worried about hijacking it. If you repost there I will go into some details and bring some primary sources for you about that all. Reading the canons of Nicea really reveals some of this stuff, because you can see the hierarchy that is already in place.
Personal opinion, Kevin R, with absolutely nothing to back it up, but I believe that a person, who as a child, has had a strong, kind, caring, tender, loving father, who had a warm loving relationship with his wife, will, as an adult, have no need for a god. Gods are symbolically the perfect fathers, missing in the average child's life.
I'm sorry Michael - I had both, caring, though imperfect, parents who both lived long lives. I can't imagine what it must have been like to be parentless at such a young age.
I have no idea what happened to Bryan B's post - possibly the Comment Police - just as I finished replying to him, his post disappeared.
There is nothing insightful about cleverly hidden proselytizing. I don't go to christian sites and talk about atheism and I will call out any christian who doesn't show the same respect.
Bryan, if you've followed any of my posts, or happened to have visited, as many others have, my own site at www.in-His-own-image.com, you know I'm not on his side against you, but if he's not welcome here, how can we call ourselves free thinkers? Otherwise, we're just a mutual admiration society. Personally, I invite his input, it challenges our ability to express our beliefs.
You might check out Atheist Nexus (http://www.atheistnexus.org/). It's for atheists and agnostics only. Part of the registration requires that you claim to be an atheist or agnostic. A majority of Christians won't do that, so the "troll factor" is relatively low.
So we can both respectfully agree to disagree - amicably, of course!
Nate, I disagree. I think that it matters how often theists come in and how many there are. It is pretty easy to ignore them if they don't make sense, but it seems that having that non-restrictive open ground is good for the whole internet in general. It allows theists to engage with Christians and others. If we all go in and cloister ourselves according to our respective ideologies, then we just get everyone stuck in their ways. I think an open policy on the internet in general is better. The internet is a melting pot of ideas, and it will benefit atheism pretty well if we go about using it to show our way is a better way.
If a ton of theists came in and tried taking over or something, then some restrictions might need to be made, but right now, it is normally one person, here or there. But having a place where no theists are allowed within the larger forum might be an idea that would bring about some good feeling of sanctuary for people who do need a break and refreshment.
But when atheists debate a theist here, we come together and that mentally reinforces how we are right, and we work together to defend what is true. It can build relationships, it can do a number of things. It helps people see each other as allies and gives us something to do together other than agree with each other a lot, or just argue with each other about things.
Frankly, I was extremely disappointed that Trevor left us. Though a staunch theist, he was intelligent, articulate, and almost ingratiatingly polite. I later learned that, while he was not asked to leave, he was dissuaded from continuing.