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.
“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
This is the single most irritating statement I hear from Christians, besides maybe, "You are just angry at God." The things people say to atheists in times of trouble are simply maddening. "If you believed in God, He would help you through this."
Maybe one's belief in a compassionate and protective deity is a comfort during difficult times, but having people say things like that does not make an atheist suddenly able to believe! There is not an on/off switch that will create faith except, I presume, absolute, infallible, sensible proof such as Jesus himself knocking on my door. Of course I would believe if I saw God!
As it is I have not been able to whip up any faith even in my darkest moments, even when I wished I could. For people like me, Christians work against themselves with this line of "reasoning." It is incredibly insensitive, insulting and hurtful in my experience. I understand why Christians say it, but it's a bit like saying, "You know, if you were only born independently wealthy, life would be so much easier." Or, "If only you had been born with different genes, you wouldn't have cancer right now." Of course my experience of life might be better if I believed in a being who could infallibly guide me through all situations, but that's just it! I don't! I can't, and my experience in life so far tells me that I am very unlikely to ever do so.
So I wish Christians would just do away with that line of reasoning. As it is, when I am talking to one and he or she starts up with that nonsense, the conversation is usually over shortly thereafter.
I am then usually asked, "Why are you so angry at God?" I am not. I am angry at Christians who insist on blindly throwing these hurtful assertions at me when I am in a highly vulnerable position. I am angry about the opportunistic nature of these conversations and about the degree of distress they actually add to the situation. I have had the experience of looking at my daughter's body, on a ventilator in the ICU, and wishing I believed in a comfortable afterlife to which to release her. All that existed was the harsh reality of the situation. And yes, I got through it, but it did not appear to me to be through God's grace at all.
RE: "I hope these internal considerations provide food for thought."
Oh, they do, but I'm on a low-BS diet. It never ceases to amaze me, how theists can view the collection of misinformation in the Bible, think to themselves, "I KNOW this SOUNDS like BS, but since GodDidIt, it must be true, so let's take a closer look and find ways to spin it so it comes out smelling a little better."
RE: "The Flood – The fact that a great flood is found in various cultures indicates that it happened."
100+ on the BSometer, but an oft-used argument by theists. Of course, most regions of the world, at one time or another, have experienced floods - ask New Orleans - but there is absolutely no indication anywhere in science that they happened simultaneously. I'll give you this, you're at least wise enough to recognize that the 2900 BCE flood, caused by the Euphrates River overflowing it's banks and flooding an area the equivalent size of three counties, to a depth of 15 cubits, as being the exaggeration of a local, to whom HIS world was THE world, then you can't be entirely beyond the reach of reason.
The ACTUAL Flood
RE: the Bible's ark being a metaphor for your god's "deliverance through troubled waters" - I'd say, rather, that it was an effort of the Jewish religious leaders trying to put a spin on an actual historical evert - the trading barge that King Ziusudra hopped aboard, during the actual flood, which was loaded with cotton, cattle and beer (Oh, my!). A trading barge, loaded with common items? How plebeian! I know, I know! Let's say he was so noble that god chose to save him and drown everybody else -- but they're gonna ask about the animals, aren't they? OK, how about this -- (and the rest is theist pseudo-history)
And let's not forget that a much better means to "deliverance through troubled waters," was discovered just last century, when Simon and Garfunkle suggested a bridge.
RE: "It is, however, a profound tragedy to be eternally separated from God." - only if you accept the existence of such an entity - we choose not to do so, tragedy averted.
The problem with the strategy of many wishy-washy Christians like you interpreting the Bible as metaphor, is that you give yourself free rein to devise whatever strained metaphors you like out of nothing but your imagination. And some of yours, like the Adam biopsy, are real doozies. But how about providing some real, empirical, scientific, historical EVIDENCE?! I know, you don’t regard actual evidence as being as valid as personal faith in your acceptance of Christ as saviour. So be it. But if you are going to try to wriggle out of your logic dilemma by inventing fanciful metaphorical interpretations of Biblical inanities, you might as well go whole hog and accept the scriptural text as the gospel it purports to be, warts and all. If, for instance, you speculate that perhaps the Noachic Flood may have really only inundated the Middle East (which is a pretty impressive event, in itself), then you would be forced to concede that God DIDN’T actually drown all life on Earth, did He? You would then have to come up with a different metaphorical excuse for that unambiguous claim in Genesis (perhaps the funniest book ever written). But why? If faith is your guide, why not accept every word in your Holy Book literally, as it was written by your God? Unless, of course, you believe God, Himself, is a metaphor for something like, say, evoution. Now THERE’S a metaphor I could buy into. But I’m sorry, the gobbledegook you have cooked up is simply beyond incredible.
Oh... that was beautifully written Dale. Like+
When the Bible said it made Adam out of mud, is the word they used from mud also sometimes used to refer to a womb of a early human ancestor? When the Bible says God put Adam to sleep and removed his rib and made an Eve voodoo doll, is the phrase of putting a man to sleep and removing his rib sometimes referred to a woman being born out of the womb of an early human ancestor?
You speak of metaphors. Perhaps the entire story of Jesus is a metaphor ongoing today. Half of the ten commandments talk about not making yourself a God or worshiping other gods and basically condemn Jesus. So when Jesus was saying to worship him instead of God, maybe the Bible uses this to show if you do this, God will let you get nailed to a cross and a bunch of idiots will waste their lives for thousands of years thinking you are god.
These metaphors do not change a thing. We have all heard this stuff before. Some of us have thought this stuff before. I know you think we are all ignorant to Christianity and think you are all morons that think the world is 6,000 years old, but we don't. In fact most of the people that try to debate us have researched it enough to know that part of the Bible is a lie or "metaphor" and they accept a very old earth. The problem is, in general, we have researched it even more and realized the entire Bible is a lie or "metaphor".
The thing is, if you woke up tomorrow with complete amnesia and everyone else was dead. You could read and in front of you you had some science books, a Bible, The Ovid, and various other religious text. You would not choose to be a christian. Plain and simple. You are only one because that is what was ingrained in you as a child. And you realize it is all a lie but that creates cognitive dissonance with the world view you have internalized. So you search and twist the Bible to make sense to you. But it doesnt. It is a Frankenstein belief. If you have a personal relationship with God, then throw out the Bible. You don't need it. It could be flawed, it is flawed. Use your relationship with God to figure out what he wants instead of reading ancient passages of how God wants you to murder women who are not virgins and trying to justify how that was before Jesus fulfilled the law, whatever the hell that means.
I kind of like the metaphor angle though. I'd argue that the entire Bible is a metaphor for atheism. God is the metaphorical representation of atheists, and the message is a warning: when you have the power to radically manipulate your environment and shape your surroundings, be careful what you do 'cause you're probably going to f' it all up, and there's no one up above you to clean up the mess.
The only literal thing in the Bible was that thing about not eating shellfish. I am vaguely aware that later on in the Bible, gentiles are told they don't have to abide by the shellfish thing, but that section was also a metaphor for something or other. I know it's a metaphor because, taken literally, it would inconveniently contradict that other thing I said, and that would just be silly.
You only believe in Yahweh and his zombie son Jesus because it's the dogma you grew up with. You'd be defending Krishna if you gew up in Calcutta.
the problem with the christian creation myth isnt so much when it occurred, but rather the order of events that took place. Genesis states that god created the earth, and THEN the stars. Anyone who has read anything about cosmology knows how this cannot happen...
creation 1: 'heavens and earth' -- okay, maybe by heavens he means space.
creation 2: Light -- creating an earth before light and electromagnetism has a means of binding atoms? You can't have light without electromagnetism.
creation 3:a "vault" that god calls sky. --okay, no real problems.
creation 4: land and vegetation. --no real problems there.
creation 5: "lights" in the vault of the sky to be used as signs for sacred times. --hmm, sounds like stars, doesn't it? Maybe by heavens in creation 1 he means heaven itself?
I'm reading this out of my old dusty bible, this by itself is enough to discredit the entire creation myth completely.
It is bizar that one flaw is not enough. If we found a modern human that dated back to before the dinosars, we would quickly rethink evolution. I doubt anyone would start saying, "Well, maybe evolution is more like a metaphor. It is still true. Just that skeleton is a metaphor."
Janet, I KNOW you're too young to remember "Alley Oop," and certainly "Oola" - not to mention "Dinny" --
(OK, for your generation, think, "Fred and Wilma" --)
Matthew B - the problem with theists, is that they make no effort to uncover the actual history behind those who wrote the Bible - they decide that it is the truth and there is no other alternative.
The truth lies not in the Bible, but in the history of the Bible.
Kevin, since so much of Christianity is, you admit, a metaphor, haven't you considered that God, too, is a metaphor of sorts?