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.
I think the most effective evangelicals are people who don't evangelize at all. They just live in such a way that people want to be in their presence and know how they are the way they are.
I totally agree with you on this! I am Christian but I disagree with how so many evangelicals try to force their beliefs on others instead of living it out.
One thing I would like to point out is that I do not view Christianity as a religion because in my experience religion is a set of beliefs that requires its believers to complete certain tasks or "religious duties", or so that is how religion is often viewed. And when I think of religion my first reaction is, "I think doing something purely because you are required to do it and for no other reason is ridiculous!" The only things you could say that are required of Christians are to love God and love others. As a Christian my focus in life is not to cram my views down others' throats or force people to believe in God. I just want to live my life as close to how the man named Jesus in the Bible lived is life. Which in fact I would expect most Atheists would mostly agree with the way Jesus lived his life. Just as an example, he did not judge a single person and he taught people not to judge others. There were people who wanted to kill a woman because she committed adultery. Instead of judging the woman, Jesus saw beyond that and saw good in her. I want to live my life trying to see good in everyone I come by and I would think everyone would want to do the same.
That's just my little side note because I don't want people to write Christians off because they think we are all just out to force our beliefs down your throat. I think Kevin has handled this discussion perfectly and I just joined thinkatheist.com but I look forward to reading and having healthy, friendly discussions with you guys! Even though we disagree. :)
And also, I do care what everyone has to say and what you believe and why you believe it so if you would like to chat I would love to hear what you have to say!
Actually the pericope adulterae was a fraudulent piece of scripture inserted in the 2nd century. You seem to have over looked Jesus' racism and his command to hate your own family. Furthermore, if you were really going to try to follow his message you would sell everything you own and give every penny to the poor and then run around the countryside telling people the good news.
Anyway, you aren't into religion though so I guess that means you don't actually read the bible. That seems to be a requirement for maintaining a belief in Christianity.
"Furthermore, if you were really going to try to follow his message you would sell everything you own and give every penny to the poor and then run around the countryside telling people the good news."
Exactly! It's right there in the text. It's always astounded me how any Christian who takes their religion seriously doesn't do this. Several years ago (when I was Catholic), I was inches from being a priest on two different occasions. It was the scripture about the rich man that pushed me to that point, because that was what I was supposed to do as a Christian, a follower of Christ. I was to give up everything to include myself and live by the dictates of someone else.
Being a theist, I believed that God owned me. I became an atheist when I realized that I was the only one truly responsible for myself.
Thanks, Austin and welcome!
There is a post from Kara in this thread that brings home some of what you're saying about evangelism. Kara was hiking on a mountain and it seems the person she was with spent the time exercising his apologetics on her. Why not just be on the mountain? While his motives may have been good, the biggest apologetic was the mountain they were on and the experience itself!
While it's cool to discuss the Big Questions vigorously and often, sometimes it's better to just be quiet and breathe it in!
YOU, Austin, are the one Christian I have ever met, that I could enjoy sharing a Barbeque with every other weekend or so, if I weren't 150 million years old!
I applaud your refreshing outlook!
One thing I would like to point out is that I do not view Christianity as a religion because in my experience religion is a set of beliefs that requires its believers to complete certain tasks or "religious duties", or so that is how religion is often viewed.
Austin, Christians have a duty to evangelize. Christianity, like Islam, is an evangelical faith. Jesus didn't just say "Go out there and lead by example" he said "Go out there, proclaim the truth, and make converts."
True, some Christians take their duty very seriously and have come to be called "evangelicals," but evangelism is a duty of every Christian,
With all due respect Heather I must disagree with you. The pericope adulterae has created doubts if it was actually written by John due to the combination of characters used that are not typical to his writing and the obelus’ that often surround the passage in manuscripts that appear to mark that it is an interpolation. Though at the same time those who argue the fact that it was initially written by John, more specifically his scribe, do not doubt that the story it is describing actually happened. The people who argue against Johannine authorship say that Papias initially recorded two smaller versions of this story and the story recorded in John is a compilation of the two.
You also mentioned that you believe Jesus is a racist. I believe the passage you are referring to is most likely Mathew 15:22-26. In this passage, a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus asking him to take a demon out of her possessed daughter. When Jesus refers to her as a “dog”, the original Greek text uses “kunarion” which means puppy or little dog. The Greek word for dog is “kuon”. With that being said we can ask the question of why did Jesus refer to her as a puppy? Jewish law actually referred to Gentiles as dogs and so Jesus was actually doing the opposite of being racist and toned down from calling her a dog. Based on the context that follows it is not at all a stretch to say that Jesus was in fact testing the woman’s faith, which based on her response was actually very strong. Jesus did in fact cure the woman’s daughter so why would he do that, in addition to telling her that her faith was great if he was racist? There is also the fact that Jesus rebuked his disciples for being racist against Samaritans for not believing in Jesus (Luke 9:51-56). You can also look at the account when Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well. She even asked him why he is associating with her because Jews did not normally associate with Samaritans (Luke 4:1-26).
Referring to Jesus’ command to hate your family, I am familiar with the confusion of Luke 14:26. The confusion is actually due to an improper translation. The Greek word translated into “hate” in this passage is “miseo” which is actually more accurately translated “to have lesser love for”. Jesus was actually using hyperbole in the passage by basically saying, “You should love God so much that the love that you have for the people you love most on earth (your family) should seem like hatred in comparison.” Jesus used hyperbole a lot in his teaching. Another example would be the parable of the mustard seed. Jesus said the mustard seed would grow into a tree that is larger than all the other garden plants and large enough that birds make nests in its branches. Everyone he was talking to would knew that a mustard plant actually only grew to be around 35 to 40 inches in height so they would have understood that Jesus was using exaggeration to get his point across.
I believe when saying I should sell everything I possess you are referring to the story of Jesus talking to the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17-31). Jesus knew what that man loved over everything else and that happened to be his material possessions. Jesus was not saying that everyone is required to sell all that we own. He was not saying that philanthropy or poverty is a requirement for salvation. Jesus picked the thing he knew the man loved most in life to test if he would really give up everything for God. This story is mainly a lesson that we are to love nothing before God or our neighbors.
I also want to touch on when you say Jesus commands us to run around telling the good news. I think that refers to Jesus’ “Great Commission” which is Mathew 28:16-20. He says, “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them…and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Now it is obvious that he is commanding us to make disciples but the real question is how do we do that? To simplify my answer to this question I would just think Jesus would say to “make disciples” we should love God and love our neighbors and by truly doing that our lives will reflect our love for others and people will want to live the way we do.
Nowhere in the Bible does it say you are required to run around telling everyone “the good news”. Unseen I have to disagree with you. I would actually say Jesus did say to go out and lead by example. Evangelism is actually not a duty of every Christian; we are only called to love other people.
At the same time there is nowhere in the Bible that says we are required to read it. I read the Bible purely because I enjoy it and I learn a lot from it. I hope this helps you to better understand where I am coming from. I don’t mean to sound “preachy” and I don’t want to make you feel like I am just saying this to “convert” anyone reading this that disagrees with me. Heather noted some points that I felt deserved attention and I wanted to defend my personal views.
All of you thank you for your comments and making me feel welcome to the site, like I said I love to have friendly discussions with people of all different worldviews and backgrounds. And Arch I am sorry that it seems you have met some bad examples of Christianity (which sadly there are in fact many out there) but I would love to have a Barbeque with you any time! Haha. (Sorry it took me a little while to respond but I am on vacation). I hope this comment wasn't too long. XD
RE: "(Sorry it took me a little while to respond but I am on vacation)."
I can certainly understand that Austin, I've recently moved from my cardboard box under a bridge, to one near the river, where the fish are jumpin' and the cotton is high. After all, it's Summertime.
Miseo doesn't mean love less. I was never able to afford a copy of BAGD to check that claim, so I had to do an online search about it. I understood it as being a allusion to how hate is used in the OT. But it doesn't mean love less.
BAGD is the standard. It really can't be argued with. Also when you check it in Liddell Scott Jones, the classical Greek lexicon it doesn't mean "Love less".
I could go into it, but it seems that it is tied into the use in the LXX of misetai in relation to Jacob and Lea. Strongs says that love less thing, but the actual quality lexicons don't do that. And taking LXX as saying hate in terms of "love less" is a really benign translation. In Deut 24:3, for instance, it can't be love less, as it is talking about a man who wants to kick his wife to the curb.
But when checking what a word means in the NT, you always check its use in the LXX.
Then you don't just disagree with me about the pericope adulterae - you disagree with the majority of biblical scholars. The problem with cult inductees is their brain cannot process facts that conflict with their faith and they'll fabricate any sort of rationalization to maintain that faith. So you know the stories are a 2nd century addition, but you just tell yourself that the stories are true and therefore addition was justified. Under rabbinic law, the woman would have to be presented to her judge alongside the man with whom she had committed adultery. The authors of this fable weren't even aware of that, suggesting they weren't even Jewish. I know you'll have a rationalization for this as well though.
Don't pretend to have inside knowledge of Ancient Greek here. Cite a credible academic source for your claim or just say, "I've rationalized this in my mind because if I don't I believe I'll burn in hell." One or the other, but I don't need the details of your rationalization, ok - just say you've rationalized it and be done with it.
Whether or not the bible says that you should read the entire bible is irrelevant - what would be the point if you had to read the whole thing just to find the instruction that says you are obligated to read the whole thing. If you are going to base you life on a book, however, particularly a book that promotes misogyny and homophobia, then you better damn well read the whole thing, front to back and back to front. Extremely few Christians do, however, because they are just cult indoctrinated sheep that do and think exactly what they are told.
Maybe this is an atheist oasis to get away from the fundies! But I didn't get that impression. I hope it's a place to come and think. Yet, I do think atheism has profound consequences and should be scrutinized like any other view.
I do try to ask and not assume what someone believes. The reason for this thread is to offer food for thought based on what I think are misconceptions, many of which I read on this site.
But rather than impose or be rude, I just try to name my posts so that people can check them out if interested. And thank you for the compliment.