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.
So again I return to my little garden. I am still unsure why my tomatoes and chard are not doing well, I expect it is soil pH...;p). Should I ask 'God', or just run about 12 soil samples to determine my next action?
God gave you a brain (and hopefully a green thumb), use it!
I can't speak for Mr. Cox, but the union of my father's sperm with my mother's egg, combined with the genetic results of 3+ million years of evolution gave me a brain, and I do use it, incessantly.
Beautifully written! It seems that theism would predict such intuitions. And we find these overwhelmingly throughout world history in individuals and cultures.
So what best accounts for this incorrigible grasp of something deeper? I think naturalistic explanations either fail or are inferior to theistic ones. The transcendental aspects of life seem to defy mere Darwinian survival mechanisms. And there is certainly no room for humility! Quite the opposite!
Also, notice that the sword cuts both ways on being sadly mistaken! Pascal said to choose prudently when it comes to weighing those options!
And, of course, Paul said that human selfishness and sinfulness has the potential to fragment our intuitions of God into worship of the creature rather than the Creator; and that often expresses itself in various religious distortions.
Finally, I, with you, pity anyone who manages to turn beauty into ugliness. I find that it's often petty sensibilities rather than solid moral imperatives that cause that.
Actually, it seems that 'God' has retreated to the suburbs. Again you need to step back from the brink, thinking that the universe validates your preconceptions or ideology.
Can you find a place to stand, where theism is only one way of seeing among many? Being needy for validation, from any quarter, seems telling.
RE: "I tend the little garden of my own life"
Kevin, here is the atonement argument. I am interested in what you think of it.
Suppose sin is as bad as portrayed by the bible. The Bible states that God made it law that the wages of sin is death. If this is the case, after the heinous crime known as sin has been committed and the just thing to do is to punish, God instead decides to forgo justice! The reason is in order to receive personal benefit from said criminals. God either obstructs justice due to personal feelings (love) or God obstructs justice for his glory, which we call “personal gain”. Either way the loophole made for it is not only a neglect of justice, but it is a downright obstruction. And the notion of perfect justice is the only thing that gives the hell notion any credibility.
The story is that Jesus/himself takes the penalty since the penalty must be dealt out. But either God is just and sends everyone to hell and nobody can die for your sins, or God isn't just and knowing that the just punishment for mankind has to be hell, he obstructs justice by creating a new loophole that violates the intent of that law. The intent of the law that says: “the wages of sin is death” is not “the wages of sin is either death for you, or someone who wants to die for you (but someone has to die that is all that matters)” It isn't that. Circumventing the intent of that law to fulfill it on a technicality is pretty sleazy. So doing this would mean that it is okay to circumvent justice for the right reasons. It means sin can't be as big of a deal as portrayed if it isn't enough to cause God to not want to show mercy. But to get the picture of what is going on here and why it is unjust, compare it to reality: If a judge made a loophole to get out a convict for personal gain after the crime was committed, and the criminal was to stand trial, that would be obstructing justice. The loophole was created by God, after many “saved people” like the apostles, Abraham, Moses and others sinned. If the cross was instituted after those people had sinned, it is an obstruction of justice because they deserved punishment.
John, put this in the mix and let's look at it again: what about the notion of Christ being sinless and therefore an adequate channel of God's grace? Any typical human judge would be in the same boat so to speak and could atone for no one.
I do realize that! But notice the difference between external and internal questions regarding any worldview.
External questions would deal with whether the Grinch exists in reality. Internal questions would concern whether he was left handed. John is discussing an internal question with me.
BTW, I would also hope that any thoughtful atheist would see the ontological chasm between God and "the Grinch"!
Michael M, in the grand scheme that is right, but for the purpose of changing someones mind, I feel that one can't just repeat "you're wrong" all the time.
Anytime anyone has an idea, people tend to critique the internal consistency of it before they go to external. With history, we tend to use external. The problem with religion is it makes claims about both history and reality.
Internal inconsistency is a very normal way to show people what they believe may not be true.
If you want to convince someone that the Asatru religion is wrong because Thor's hammer weighs too little, then you need to argue what binding historical claims the Asatru religion has made regarding the weight of that hammer.
Micheal I understand the sentiment, but I think that is just discouraged thinking. I used to be an apologist, so I think the faithful can see the light. I have also seen a number of apologists deconvert over the years. The problem is that the large portion of the arguments used by atheists against theists suck.
That is why this thread was made really. The reason why people aren't realizing the truth about atheism is that the proverbial nail isn't being hit on the head. You have to hit the right places.
There are so many bad internal consistency arguments out there, that a theist is justified thinking atheists are wrong at this point. Those bad ones drown out the good ones. But it was the principle of intellectual honesty revealed to me by atheists that caused me to eventually deconvert. There were also a few good arguments here and there. But the bad ones gave me a false sense of confidence for far too long.
John, you are strong in scripture and knowledgeable of history of the Roman Church.
The Roman Church and Imperial Rome are synonymous with Babylon, the Harlot of the Revelation. The whole world is drunk with the filthiness of her spiritual fornications. She has imposed her orthodoxy by the sword ( Who is like the Beast and who can make war with it?). She sits on seven hill in Roman and on seven hills in Constantinople (Istanbul).
There are seven Beastly Bloodlines that ruled the Empire as prophesied. Starting with the Julio-Claudian bloodline and up to and surpassing the Severus dynasties. The Beastly bloodlines are distinguished by the persecution and slaughter of the Holy and Elect people. Nero put the Elect on poles on Vatican Hill and sit them ablaze to give light to the city. The six other Dynasties were no less intolerant. Even the prince of the prophecy of Daniel, who destroy the Temple (Vaspasian and his bloodline) is included among those that persecute and kill the Elect as history attests.
Because of these atrocities, Rome and Constantinople became drunk with the blood of the martyrs and as such God has sent it strong spirits of delusions such that it presents itself as the bastion of Orthodoxy, whereas in Truth is the bastion of the Pagan-Christian lie and blasphemy as foreseen and declared by the prophet.
The Trinity, introduced by no other than Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria, tips of iceberg of the neo-synthesis with Paganism up and including the Assumption of the Virgin and the Pantheon of Saints that have replaced the Roman Pantheon of Gods that the befuddled and hoodwinked pray to.
Borrowing from Stephen Hawking, here is a "A brief history of Time":
It actually started in the first Century. First signs of pagan Christianity appeared in Israel. There was Hellenistic Church constructed complete with a mosiac of Christ represented as Helios in a mosaic on the floor. Even the use of images is alien to Hebraic Christianity, particularly with the prohibition in the Ten Commandments.
Things came to a head with Emperor Constantine, who sees a cross in the sky and hears a voice saying, "By this sign you shall conquer". Actually a cross is a pagan symbol. There is no where in the Greek manuscripts of the new testament is the cross found. A two beam member has been etched into our minds due to 2000 years of Pagan Christianity reigning as prophesied in the Revelation. Constantine remained a pagan until his death bed, despite calling the Council of Nicea in the 4th Century A.D., which established the bases of Pagan Christianity as we know it today.
The Trinity was a concept alien to Hebraic Christianity and even to gentile Bishops, scattered throughout the Empire, However Athanansius, a Bishop of Alexandria, convinced the council of this pagan concept. Athanansius was a practitioner of Asiatic Trinitarian cults prior to becoming a Christian Bishop. At this time Gnostic contemplations of the Demiurge and the Logos were synthesized in the Roman Greek Christology. One wayward manuscript was recently uncovered in Egypt, entitled, the Gospel of Judas. Rome and Constantinople are ground zero as founts for the proliferation of the Pagan Christianity as prophesied, Christian Roman Empire being represent in the Book of Revelation as a Beast that looked like a lamb with two horns but spoke like a dragon. The two horns are the cities, Rome and Constantinople, seats of Empire and Religious apostasy. And both cities sit on seven hills as revealed in the prophecy. The pope has the title Pontifex Maximus, the title assign to Emperors which originates from Mithraism and the Babylonian Mysteries traditions.Pope wears the Miter Hat which come from worship of the God Dagon.
The Basilica is adorn with a Pantheon of Saints to replace the Roman Pantheon of Gods. Whereas Rome had gods from ever thing from wine on down, these attributes were quickly attributed to the new Roman Saints. This Paganism and Mithraism redressed in the guise of Christianity. "Babylon the Mysterious, mother of Harlots and of every abomination upon the earth ...the whole world had drunken from the cup of her abominations and the fierceness of her fornications" These cities are the Harlot riding the scarlet Beast in these prophecies. This is because she is drunk with the blood of the saints, as prophesied. The Coliseum in Rome typified her drinking cup where thousand of true Christians were slaughtered and fed to the lions. This blasphemous edifice even stands to this very day as witness to the atrocities that the Beast of Rome and Contantinople waged against the truth. Being drunk with the blood of the Saints, God has sent her strong spirits of Delusion such that she now presents herself as the fount of Christianity. whereas in true she is the very fount of apostasy long ago heralded in the prophecies. Look to the Court yard of the Vatican and there is the Obelisk, the standing image, that cause Israel to go into captivity when it was erect in front of the temple in Jerusalem. This is also the origin of church spires and steeples. And combined with the Constantine Cross, and Mithraism Holidays, Christmas (Jews didn't celebrate birthdays, nor winter festivals coinciding with the winter solstice, or the Venereal Equinox, Easter, which come from the babylonian God Isthar, Astarte.
For nearly a thousand years this Beast has spiritually dominated Europe and Russia despite the original empire fragmenting into Kingdoms, though Byzantium, Constantinople, empire east, last until the 13th Century. These two horns, cities remain the seats of apostasy. Both Europe and Russia fall under the auspices of the the Latin Rite and the Orthodox Rite. And as recently as 2007 both Rites have acknowledged the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. This is an ominous sign of the great apostasy and deception to come as the Beast that looked like a lamb but spoke like a dragon blows life into the Imperial Roman Empire. This genesis is in process as we speak as the EU pushes eastward. Turkey is at its footsteps and Russia may be assimilated this Century.
King James Version (KJV)
17 And there came one of the seven angels which had the seven vials, and talked with me, saying unto me, Come hither; I will shew unto thee the judgment of the great whore that sitteth upon many waters:
2 With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth have been made drunk with the wine of her fornication.
3 So he carried me away in the spirit into the wilderness: and I saw a woman sit upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns.
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
5 And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon The Great, The Mother Of Harlots And Abominations Of The Earth.
6 And I saw the woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus: and when I saw her, I wondered with great admiration.
7 And the angel said unto me, Wherefore didst thou marvel? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast that carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns.
8 The beast that thou sawest was, and is not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition: and they that dwell on the earth shall wonder, whose names were not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world, when they behold the beast that was, and is not, and yet is.
9 And here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, on which the woman sitteth.
10 And there are seven kings: five are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he cometh, he must continue a short space.
11 And the beast that was, and is not, even he is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into perdition.
12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast.
13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast.
14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
15 And he saith unto me, The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.
16 And the ten horns which thou sawest upon the beast, these shall hate the whore, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and burn her with fire.
17 For God hath put in their hearts to fulfil his will, and to agree, and give their kingdom unto the beast, until the words of God shall be fulfilled.
18 And the woman which thou sawest is that great city, which reigneth over the kings of the earth.