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.
not long ago i lived with a man who suffered organic brain syndrome. in this situation, it meant he would repeat himself a lot. one of the things he would say was that he wanted to be like when he was a kid; before he got all messed up. kind of reminded me of the uncle in napoleon dynamite.
this got me thinking about what the difference is between childhood and adulthood other than the responsibility. one of the differences i thought about the most was how when i was a child i appreciated everything SO MUCH MORE than i do now, e.g., i wanted to keep used smoke balls on the fourth.
this is what "you must become like little children" means to me.
I don't think I appreciate anything less, but I find that my couriosity is bound up with income limits rather badly.
I feel the most 'old' when I pound up against limits. ;p(
It is not ad hoc to look at the data and try to clear up misconceptions. I think Christian Theism is rational and does not need ad hoc rationalizations.
And, in fact, there is only one Christianity. The various denominations and disagreements are largely over peripheral rather than essential issues. Further, just because people (including me) screw a system up, does not mean the system itself is false.
Good hermeneutics tries to uncover what X is (and that it's not "Y"),
My statement on peripheral issues was not addressed to Eden but to the statement that "there are so many christianities".
this is driving me nuts->which fallacy is that?
According to Christopher DiCarlo's How to become a really good pain in the ass page 128, an Ad Hoc Fallacy "...involves the addition of more premises in the attempt to save a particular belief or position....It becomes fallacious, however, when one's new propositions do not possess convincing evidence but merely reflect a person's biased ties to the cherished belief or position"
I hope this was helpful.
It is not necessarily Ad Hoc to apply hermeneutics to the text. We can however discuss where you think what I said was contrived.
You use the term 'data' like it is an attempt to wrap your stuff in the language of the sciences. I think at core, there is a question about, if what you offer as 'data' is about anything but belief?
You can believe any number of things. As a general course, I think I suspect more than I know. So far the attempt to create an impression that 'God' is worthy of respect fails on the obvious textual and historical 'data'. It seems that 'God', even if it exists, is unworthy of respect. On the basis of moral or ethical teachings, 'God' is niether consistent or moral. If 'its' moral mandates are valid, then 'it' should also follow them. The 'data' does seem to support this. Just on this one point, since much of the rest is open to apolgetic rationalization, 'God' seems to have serious criminal tendencies. If all of this is metaphorical, with christian 'god' more like a mythical Roman/Greek god, I think we can dispence with in as just another bad model for civilization. I do have to thank the christians for trying.
Watching all of this go down I have to wonder why so much time is spent on this issue. It seems to me that if humans spent as much time thinking about 'the right thing to do' and determining what causes such horrible results that can befall humans and the planet, we might all be better off. But the reality seems that humans would rather read about the ugliness of history, look for a behavioral model in 'God/god' and then memic it. This only seems to set us up for another round of crazyness with no more insight than before. The christian god seems more like a bad disfunctional parent, 'do As I say, not as I do!' If the human family is from disfunction roots, a break with the past and some 'N' step recovery program is needed. I think we could start this by challenging 'metaphor daddy', insight therapy(questioning), and a hardy 'we do not believe in you daddy, but thanks for all the great ideas' Atheism....
So the REAL question seems to be, do you believe you know the difference between belief and knowledge?
Belief is what you do, and hold to, in light of the knowledge you possess.
Faith is not a way of knowing something, It's what you do with what you know.