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.
Excellent stuff, Gaylor. I want to spend some time on your points but here are some initial thoughts.
I am of the opinion that Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis do more harm than good. I have had my run-ins with him. The timing of creation is not an Essential of the Christian Faith but it is important. I am convinced that Young Earth Creationism is one of the biggest roadblocks to thoughtful people otherwise following Christ. And obviously, that He did it is more important than how He did it. The "how" can be a constant source of discovery.
Dragons, unicorns, and donkeys. The genre of Revelation is such that the symbols represent events and would be familiar to the original audience. The dragon is a case of a literary device.
"Stars" can be interpreted as various objects in the sky and could include meteors, etc. in the context.
"Unicorns" (KJV) is better interpreted "oxen".
Balaam's Donkey is abhorrent to modern minds (including mine!) but is an example of a Theophany. The donkey did not know what it was saying, the narrative is clear the "the Lord" spoke through the animal similar to the burning bush, etc. What's funny is that Balaam actually answers back!
Paul did not have an immaterial, ethereal body in mind in 1 Cor. 15. Soma always means physical body when referring to a human being in NT usage. "Spiritual" (pneumatikos) means "spirit dominated" or "spirit controlled". It can be translated "supernatural" (RSV). Paul was not speaking of an immaterial body but an immortal body.
In fact, earlier in 1 Corinthians (10) Paul used the same word to describe the physical rock and physical food God supernaturally provided in the wilderness.
"The image of God" does not refer to physical characteristics of God. He has no physical characteristics. It refers to internal attributes of personhood.
Christ used rabbinic hyperbole in his teaching and "plucking out the eye" is merely a case of stretching out a teaching so it can be more clearly seen (no pun intended!). And Jesus said not to "lust". This is not the denial of God-given sexual desire. It is the control of God-given sexual desire to fully maximize it. The more intense something is, the greater it's potential for joy. The greater its potential for joy, the greater its potential for corruption!
Secondly, "lust" refers to an extra step that de-humanizes an individual; that views her as an object to be used for selfish pleasure. We should all applaud Christ's words here!
YES! And I must add as a response to this:
"1 Corinthians 15:44 shows Paul saying that we are raised in a spiritual body. What really leave it confusing is, if we were already shaped in his image, will we then be an improvement upon God?"
Gaytor, you are assuming that "shaped in His image" means being exactly like God. Omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, etc. which it obviously does not. Being shaped in His image actually means being like God in the sense of having knowledge and free will.
You have projected too much. I'm just talking about being shaped in the physical sense only. Why a new body if we already have one as good as his physically? Certainly the end reward isn't a lesser body?
There is no free will in Christianity. Free will comes with potential consequences. Christianity comes with unescapable and promised punishments. It's no longer a choice between being a dog lover or a cat lover. It's an assertion that you must love cats if you want to go to Heaven and if you even think about loving dogs, he'll know your heart and toss you into Hell. I point you back to lusting for a woman and being cast into Hell for said lust. This is not free will or even free thought.
Deluded nutjog syndrome appears to have no particular specificity.
Inquiring minds everywhere want to know, where they came from, and who they are, and where they are going.
The urgency to answer these questions has resulted in the cacophony that is now present on terra-ferma
Philosophy searches for absolute truth and Religion takes the bully pulpit .
But regardless, human frailty is a play, and as such don't expect and easy answer through normal conversation.
Moreover don't necessarily expect an answer.
But to those who speak from bully pulpits, do some introspection.
I believe there is absolute truth but I have few IMAOs seeing the nature of the frame I am built on.
But with My IMHOs I will speak.
Sure, we all want to know the answers to life's big mysteries, but what kind of person makes shit up, or believes things that other people obviously made up, simply because they can't bear to utter the words "I don't know"?