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.
If Argumentum ad Populum is your bag, there are theologians and scholars on both sides of that issue.
Agreed. There is Appropriate and Inappropriate Appeal to Authority. Something is not true just because Dr. X says it. But quoting an expert in the field can add weight to the evidence for a view.
You are describing an aspect of the Problem of Evil. It would be nice to live in a world in which people who possess free will would never misunderstand anything. Can the omni-attributes of God actualize such a world? Yes. The question is, what is the most logically feasible way for God to defeat the evil and falleness that has resulted from the gift of free will? In my opinion, that is the process taking place in this world.
Jaime, you bear a big burden of proof to declare that the way God has communicated is not the best way to communicate to mankind!
In fact, in Christian theology we are not left to our own devices and accidents of circumstance in order to know God. He has taken the initiative not only in General Revelation and Special Revelation but also directly to the "human heart".
And while free will is not necessarily the direct reason for miscommunication it certainly potentializes the evil that results in miscommunication. Christ spoke in parables for the express purpose that people who wanted more would get more, and the people who did not want anything from God would not only get less but even lose what they had!
Again, in biblical theology, God gives us an "inner witness" of himself as well as revealing himself in nature. Sadly, people willfully turn from that for various reasons and therefore do not progress in their knowledge of God.
It's specifically says in the Bible that God created evil..
(Isaiah 45:7, KJV) - "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."
"Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then is he not omnipotent.
Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.
Is he both able and willing? The whence cometh evil?
Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?"
-- Epicurus (341 BCE – 270 BCE)
When we consider the quote from the Bible in relation to the quote from Epicurus.. It then leads to the question--- If God created evil. is he then powerless to stop it? And if he is powerless to stop it-- then he's not omniscient. Which brings us to the brings us to the Omnipotence Paradox -- "Could God create a stone so heavy that even he could not lift it?"
The Hebrew word the KJV uses for "evil" is ra which means "calamity". God does not create moral evil but brings calamity in judgement or for God's purposes.
There is a hidden assumption in Epicurus, i.e. "evil is not destroyed and never will be". It's a huge burden of proof to assert that God will not ultimately destroy evil after allowing it to run its course or that God has no good purpose for allowing evil.
'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)”.'
Yom always equals a day; 24 hours. You can not argue that yom = thousand years or even a million.
Creation is a story about God restoring order from a chaotic universe. It does not explain how our world came around scientifically.
'(BTW, the word for “rib” means “side”. The story of Eve’s creation could mean God created her from Adam for symbolicpurposes. I speculate a biopsy, of sorts, from the side, with a few million variations to the DNA producing a female. )'
You cannot turn a mythological story into a scientific argument.
'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.'
The idea that the soul is immortal is due to Platonic influences in the church. Jews did not consider the soul was immortal, hell the Sadducees did not even believe in an afterlife.
The idea that one can be fully seperated from God and still survive is hard to prove Biblically and philsophically.
If life needs God to survive
Then what can survive without Him?
Hell and God's love is an oxymoron; you cannot have both.
Good and evil is an oxymoron. You cannot have both.