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.

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Any good evidence for that?

Because something is written and preserved does not mean it is true.

Thank you, Kevin - now why don't you tell us how you differentiate between the claims made on behalf of Horace and those made on behalf of Jesus?

"Because something is written and preserved does not mean it is true."


B-b-b-bingo!

Why do you bother attempting to clear up misconceptions, Kevin? Do you think any atheist on this site is just going to be like "wow, I didn't realize that!"

It's not going to happen. And do you wanna know why? Because the argument is actually irrelevant. You may think you've found the correct version of Christianity and wish that atheists understood where you're coming from... but we don't believe any of it at all. This is like arguing about the nuances of Hamlet. There are hundreds of ways to interpret that one, fairly short story. I personally don't think he was insane. I think he was the only right-thinking person. But what does it matter? Philosophers and book critics will never agree, and there's not really a right answer.

Yes, I know you think there is, and that it's vitally important. But, as Heather pointed out, the rest of us view Christianity as mythology, or pure fiction. It's all up for interpretation. And this would be an interesting debate if you weren't actually trying to argue that Harry Potter is a real boy. We're not on the same page in that sense. You've come into a book club trying to argue the fictional story we're discussing is a true story. You may want to change your strategy.

Wait, Harry Potter is not real? Nooooooooooooooooo!

Great discussion all around but I tend to agree with Cara here. This is all irrelevant because I would say 99% of the believers do not follow your (Kevin) ideas or "realizations". Their arguments are simplistic and easy to refute. Sheep. I prefer to be the goat.
I try to be an informed sheep! And the value of the sheep is determined by the value of the Shepherd.
Actually the value of the sheep is determined by the forces of market demand, which were meticulously observed by those who developed the foundations of the field of economics.  The condition of the sheep is much more within the realm of influence of the shepherd, although this leads me to wonder what this has to do with Santa Claus not fitting down the chimney?
I posted this here after years of interactions with my atheist friends online and in person. These are common things that are intellectual roadblocks to those who would otherwise fairly consider the claims of Christ.
I'm also puzzled by your postmodernist view that claims arguments are irrelevant because there will always be disagreements! It reduces to "there is no truth because disagreements over truth exist". Yes! That IS what you're saying! It's all just what you think personally and then the denial of what someone else thinks personally! Good luck with that! It matters not what you think about Hamlet. What did the author intend?
If you think something is myth, fine. It's another matter to show why; to point out mythological development, and demonstrate the literary genre under consideration is mythical.
(FYI, Harry is of the fictional literary genre and has nothing to do with the question of what is ontologically ultimate and the historical grounds for the life of Christ).
So you recognized the intellectual roadblocks to swallowing the assertion of myth as reality, but rather than reconsider your motivations for the assertion you just start re-interpreting the observations?  This is nothing more than reaching facts based on decisions rather than reaching decisions based on facts.
Zeus then. Or Ra. Or Odin. Pick a god, any god...
I think what Cara is getting at is that to us atheists the bible is fiction and that to convince us your arguments have to come from outside your religion.  If you have strong, objective, empirical evidence of a deity, then we will start to take you seriously--but not til then.

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