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.
Kevin, despite the very civilized answers you have received to your post, I believe the most common understanding of this community is that you're preaching to the wrong choir. Nobody here will ever consider any of your "clarifications" worth the time it takes to read them. Like Heather exemplified somewhere around the middle of the thread, you might as well be hypothesizing about any other fairy tales accuracy, nobody around here would blink twice.
I believe you'll feel more welcome at the Landover Baptist website. Proselytizing is actually welcome there.
Fernando, I suggest all of us ensure that we clearly know what it is to which we're opposed.
Or maybe not which we're necessarily opposed to, but simply do not believe. I agree, and that is why I investigated the Bible and Christianity to the extent that I have. I moved from a point of not knowing much about it and not really caring much to having enough exposure to be certain I do not want to follow Christ. I've checked that off my list, and I am good with it. I don't think that's opposition as much as lack of belief.
Ron, I think we're spending time on #1 throughout this thread and others. We certainly need to discuss it as thoroughly as we can.
#2 makes sense in a theistic context, particularly if God has indeed revealed himself in Christ and the Incarnation). If God exists, miracles are possible and alleged instances can be examined on a case-by-case basis.
#3 and #4 are instances of God's grace and love. Only a perfectly righteous person could atone for the sins of others.
#5 is like #2. Remember, the Christian hypothesis is "God raised Jesus from the dead", not a naturalistic anomaly, etc.
#6 is best understood in the context of the Old Testament theocracy (which is no longer in effect). God used the armies of Israel in judgement on nations who were horrible beyond belief (after giving them 400 years to repent)!
Most of the women and children fled ahead of the battle, but those who remained were killed. The question of whether this was an "atrocity" depends on whether God in fact commanded this. God gives life and takes life every single day! And, internally, God has the wisdom to know when and how. A good resource on this is, Is God a Moral Monster? by Paul Copan. The info on ancient military history alone is worth the read!
As to #7, I think the proper way to view it is not God's erecting arbitrary criteria but rescuing us from our self-imposed separation from God. Christ did not come to condemn the world (establish a sickness so as to sell the cure) but to save us (because we were condemned already).
Paul Copan in Is God a Moral Monster? is absolutely not an adherent of the Chicago Statement on Bible Inerrancy. In fact he blames many of the atrocities on the Israelites who were learning and trying to become Godly and he calls much of it hyperbole and exagerated.
#1- fine - believe in your imaginary friend. I'll stick with the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
#2- no, it makes no sense, unless of course you also accept all the other "virgin births" in mythology.
#3-4- human sacrifice and vicarious redemption, in my opinion, are not instances of grace and love- simply acknowledging "you're forgiven" would be an act of grace and love- the convoluted human sacrifice concept in Christianity is sufficient for me to reject Christianity as nonsense.
#5- does it matter? Aren't they the same "being?" It's ridiculous, regardless.
#6- there are atrocities in Revelation.
#7- and the criteria for eternal life in Christianity are?
You are going to great lengths to preserve Bronze Age mythology that, in my opinion, is completely unnecessary.
RonV - in case you're not aware of it, Pythagoras was also born of a virgin, healed the sick, and ascended to heaven at the end of his life - 300 BCE.
So....you're of the more mystical and esoteric stripe, that's cool. I like that you are introducing people to the understanding of that approach. My contention comes from God as first cause, to have a being without form and with intellect defies physics and all behavior on this planet follows the repeatable behavior of matter. That is the fundament of logic itself, if there were no pattern then nothing else could even be. I can't concede that this pattern for the universe was created, there is no evidence. I do like that you've gotten into the language and context, this is a good post!
Thanks, Donovan! I'm not sure I'm mystical or esoteric, i.e. I don't try to establish metaphor unless the context calls for it (e.g. "hand of God", "under God's wings", etc.). I just think the scriptures were written to cover broad eras, people groups, and individuals. It therefore does not fill in all the details (like how cellular mitosis works, etc. We can discover that as we go).
God's being an unembodied mind does bring up mind/body dualism. Many philosophers hold that there exists "mental substance" apart from physical embodiment, but which can interact with matter (e.g. the brain). And, I think it makes much more sense that something of the order of mind is ontologically ultimate. Matter just does not have the characteristics of being ontologically ultimate. Time, space, matter/energy is contingent.
RE: "Many philosophers hold that there exists 'mental substance' apart from physical embodiment, but which can interact with matter...."
Who would those be Kevin, Uri Gellar notwithstanding --?
It's not hard to find names. Start with Decartes. And Nobel Prize Winning Neurologist John Eccles has a similar view.