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.
Skycomet, we started another thread on this because this historical topic has a lot of stuff that is worth exploring. Feel free to come on over to it. http://www.thinkatheist.com/forum/topics/the-council-of-nicea-and-h...
Oh yes! The history of the development of Early Christianity is fascinating instead of terrifying... once you shed your Christian shackles and look at it as a pure dispassionate academic.
Kevin Harris is God and I would like all of you to shut up and bow down to his most excellent and majestic intellect. He is obviously superior to all of us lowly humans. All hail, the great Lord Kevin. He always wins every argument and can never be defeated.
We all need to stop contradicting him or else he will hurt us with his almighty powers given to him by super-nature. He truly is supernatural. His logic is obviously flawless and his grammar as well. Let us all sit around at his feet and learn from his wise words and book recommendations.
Look at his beautiful face and weep tears of joy, for you have seen the face of God if you look deeply into his eyes. I, for one will not try to argue with him. Resistance is futile as you all know. /////sarcasm obviously :P ///// :)
Try to not waste too much time of your life talking with him or people like him. Truly honest people will figure out atheism/reality on their own. Take care, all of you funny and sane (or even insane) people out there. :)
LOL - It's sad, so sad.
Hey, Mabel - they finally found my Uncle Sciurumimus! We always wondered what happened to him! He just went out one day for a quart of milk --
Thank you for the suggestion. I will check that out if my local public library has it... because I'm flat broke right now. :(
Also... thank you for the tolerance. It's always refreshing to run across a theist that is actually willing to talk to atheists without foaming at the mouth and accusing us of everything from being "baby-eating Satanists" to "Communists" to "Trying to take over the world." - Sometimes it makes me wonder if those kinds of people imagine us wearing nothing but black robes, with red glowing eyes and fangs. lol
I didn't tackle this one, because I didn't want to come across as contrary, but Christianity had long accepted the divinity of Christ before Nicea. It is in very early Christian writings. There were only 3 bishops of the 300 so at Nicea who sided with Arius. Nicea didn't settle the books of the Bible either. That was done later and it was the synods of Hippo and Carthage. But there is an ancient fragment that shows what people believed called the Muratorian Fragment/muratorian canon http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/muratorian.html. There also are a lot of ancient writings. Those other gospels are less legitimate than the four which are cited often in ancient writings from the 2nd and 3rd centuries.
What Nicea came up with was to settle the Arian controversy. Arius was a leader in Alexandria. It was a massive port city and the ideas he was spreading were picking up traction. But his position was a philosophical improvement attempt, not a historical tradition.
There was squabbling and pettiness at some of the councils though. Especially Chalcedon.
Yes John, I'm familiar with the Arian controversy, and don't disagree with that part of what you're saying, but according to many of my sources, there was great dispute among many of the various factions of early Christianity. Some said Yeshua was fully human, and that he was simply imbued with the "Holy Spirit," possibly at his baptism, and given superhuman powers; others said that he was in fact the son of god, and as such, was half-human and half-god; still others said that he was god himself, in the flesh, who popped down here and became human, a) to see what being human was all about, and b) to sacrifice himself to himself for sins committed by imperfect humans, which he could have prevented by creating perfect humans in the first place. Many, who believed Yeshua to actually BE god, were thought by many others to be blasphemous.
Constantine, with his empire falling apart, hoped (vainly) that religion might help reunite it, and needed everyone to come together on definitions, and thus the Council was convened.
One of my sources is Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle Cairns, while another is A History of God, by Karen Armstrong.
Arius, according to Armstrong, did not deny the divinity of Yeshua, but argued that it was blasphemous to think he was divine by nature, and in fact, agreed with Origen in this regard. He advanced another theory, that the universe was created from nothing, whereas even the Priestly Source, who wrote Genesis 1, implied, and Origen and Clement concurred, that it was created from primordial chaos, and it is the Arian ideal that prevails today.
Early Christian theologists agreed that Yeshua had bridged the gap between god and Man, but how he did it was disputed - Either Yeshua was divine, or he belonged to the created order. Athanasius maintained it was the former, Arius, the latter. In fact, he wrote to then Bishop Alexander that god was, "the only begotten, the only external, the only one without beginning, the only true, the only one who has immortality, the only wise, the only good, the only potentate" (Arius, Epistle to Alexander), and cited the prologue of St. John's Gospel, that the "Word," the "Logos," had been with god since the beginning, "Through him all things came to be, not one thing had its being, but through him." Arius insisted that the Logos had been promoted to divine status by god, and that, made Man, the Logos would obey him perfectly, but maintained that Yeshua's divinity was not natural to him, it was conferred by god, and had provided reams of scripture to support his contention.
Athanasius took the other tack - god, "saw that all created nature, if left to its own principles, was in flux and subject to dissolution. To prevent this and to keep the universe from disintegrating back into nonbeing, he made all things by his very own eternal Logos and endowed the creation with its being" (Athanasius, Against the Heathen). He contended that if the Logos were a vulnerable creature, it would be unable to save Mankind from extinction, only he who had created the world, could save it, and that meant that the Logos made flesh must be of the same nature as the Creator.
According to my sources, when the bishops met at Nicaea in 325, very few shared Athanasius' view, most held to a position somewhere between his and Arius', but Athanasius managed to impose his theology on the delegates, and with Constantine breathing down their necks, only Arius and two of his companions refused to sign the creed. Though they agreed for the first time ever, that the universe had been created ex nihilo, the Bishops also decided that the creator and the redeemer were one.
We believe in one God,
the Father Almighty,
maker of all things, visible and invisible,
and in one Lord, Jesus Christ,
the Son of God,
light from light, true God from true God,
begotten not made,
of one substance (homoousion) with the Father,
through whom all things were made,
those things that are in heaven and those things that are on earth,
who for us men and for our salvation came down and was made man,
rose again on the third day,
ascended into the heavens
and will come
to judge the living and the dead.
And we believe in the Holy Spirit.
While I accept that you are far more knowledgeable than I, and have even saved a number of your posts to use as future sources of information, I have a number of sources that differ with your post, and feel I need to present their points of view as well.
Good morning, I hope you had a happy fourth! Thanks for sharing that. That does differ, and I am interested in the adventure of sorting through this. I'll share a few things and then do some digging to see where these differing views source from.
Origen, as far as I can remember suscribed to a popular notion at the time, that time was circular and that what once was, would once again become. This is why he had to fend off accusations that he indicated that the devil would be saved. He believed that all beings were the same except for God, and that we fell down planes of existence as we became corrupted. Satan fell the furthest. Christ was the one one that didn't fall. But to Origen, souls were preexistent. One important thing about Origen though is that his positions are neither positions, nor do they represent what Christianity thought at large. He kind of goes off on his own tangents. He also doesn't make direct theological claims, but is pretty much the most intellectually dishonest apologist who ever lived, and basically says "this could explain it but it isn't necessarily how it is" for most of his stuff. He also contradicts himself and doesn't mind that he does, according to Heine. But studying Origen you will also find that he was sent to deal with heretics, and try to convince them to change their ways. Even at the time of Origen, the Church had a strong notion of heresy and practiced excommunication for it. The church had already dealt with Cerinthus on the issue of the divinity of Christ. Cerinthus tends to be forgotten in all of this.
Arius on the other hand in contrast to Origen, contended that Christ was the highest created being as you mentioned. The part about his take on creation of the universe, didn't seem important to my professor I guess so he must have skipped it, because that isn't something I have run across. Though from a quick glance, Hebrew texts show the primordial chaos being created, and then the heavens and the earth being formed from that chaos. (thinking the ANE model with the hard firmament in sky that made a bubble over the earth, the waters above the firmament ect...)
Much of the controversy centered as far as I understand, centered around defining the nature of the the Father Son and Spirit, which finally got settled as Homousia (one essence). The controversy around Arius concerned the severity of his punishment, as the council was pretty much settled on the issue he was wrong. Some wanted a slap on the wrist, and Athanasius was out for blood (declaring him a heretic).
If you look at a lot of source material, such as Justin Martyr, and other early writings, you will find that they call Jesus God.
Everything you said about Athanasius I know is true because I did a paper on that document On the Incarnation. I read it carefully. What stuck out to me most was that he didn't catch the Infinitive absolute in the hebrew language, and so made this huge theology out of "dying you shall die" when having an infinitive like that next to a statement of fact, it just reinforces it. He makes a huge treatise out of a very bad translation error. Really bad since I have some pretty crappy Hebrew skills and caught it. I do see Athanasius as innovative, and his take on it seems to create Eastern Orthodoxy as we know it today.
Anyway, I'll dig around and find some sources on this as this is all from memory at this point, and memory is unreliable, especially 5-6 year old memories. But I can see we mostly agree on Arius, with the exception that we didn't cover Arius's contention of the divinity being conferred, we just took it from the point where Arius contends that Logos is the highest created being, so I can't say anything of this... Athanasius, I completely agree on how you put it. Origen, I disagree, as I contend he thought all souls were prexistent and eternal. And I disagree about the nature of the council as having a more open view towards the Arian controversy, as opposed to how I contend, more understanding view of how Arius came to his conclusions.
How I contend it went down was that while there was more tolerance for philosophy on the matter, the historical tradition was pretty solid at the point that Jesus was God. One of the things that perplexes me though, is how Origen got away with saying what he did about Christ being divine eternal but not God, while Cerinthus was crushed for saying the Christ-spirit came upon the man Jesus at baptism...
The sources you are using seem to swing away from the center toward an agenda, but the same could be said for those that seem to uphold the traditional view on the situation as well. Anyway, off to find some sources and see what I can pull up. Those sources should point to texts we can look at on ccel.org.
John - since none of this is real, it might seem to most, that you and I are debating the equivalent of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin (trust me, they ain't born with it!), whereas in reality, we're discussing the history of the discussion of how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.
Lol, yeah. And because this history created a religion and that religion is huge, the history matters. Especially if people are discrediting that religion on account of bad history instead of discrediting it on all the other things that show it isn't true.
Do you think we should make a new thread? We can copy our parts over again for contiunity...
Sure, go ahead - you can probably do it with far less sarcasm.
Start with a premise to which I can paste my response, and we'll take it from there.
(BTW - strongly suggest you pick up a copy of the Armstrong book, I think you'd like it.)