28 December, 2006

The Bible – Prophecy, History, Angels and Hell

A continuation of a discussion regarding the validity of the Bible

26 Comments:

Blogger Jason said...

Prophecy
Once again, if prophecy is hogwash, how did Daniel manage to correctly predict the next four world empires? Has this feat ever been duplicated? How did the Bible predict the very precise downfall and destruction of Tyre? How is it that a variety of different people over a span of 1000 years have all perfectly forecasted the dispersion and regathering of the Jews and the establishment of the nation of Israel? Show how these have been “misconstrued” or “guessed” or done without the help of God.

Look, I’m not arguing that people haven’t predicted the fall of world empires before but who else has done so with the same precision as Daniel? Who has truthfully predicted the downfall of a world empire hundreds of years before its even been established as a world empire?

Angels
Since you’ve now read that angels don’t marry, how does Genesis 6 sit with you now?

Hell
The non-existence of hell isn’t an attempt at making Christianity more user-friendly. That’s what purgatory is for. No, hell as a place of eternal punishment is about as foreign as the concept of the immortal soul and whether or not I’m in the minority makes no difference. A million people saying the wrong thing doesn’t automatically make it right.

The verses you supplied are all very good and oft used as stock hell verses. However, please consider the following first:

1. No one specific individual in the OT or NT has ever been condemned to hell as punishment for his/her actions;
2. In Genesis, when God describes Adam and Eve’s punishment for breaking His law, hell isn’t mentioned. Instead, God tells them they will return to the dust when they die (an appropriate reversal considering they were originally formed from the dust of the ground);
3. The wages of sin is death, not eternal punishment. See Rom 6:23;
4. If the gift of God is eternal life, then the punishment of God must be the complete opposite – no life at all (See point #2 above);
5. Only one judgment is ever mentioned in Scripture – that of the judgment of Christ when he returns. Since being cursed with eternal damnation is obviously a judgment in itself, how is this reconciled in light of the obvious judgment process outlined in the Bible?

Mat 13:41-42
• If these verses are indeed talking about hell, how does this work in light of the common Christian belief that only souls go to hell (i.e. this verse talks about people going to hell, not souls from dead bodies)?
• Fire is used in Scripture for utter destruction, not for preservation in torment. Consider the following: A. Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire and brimstone and are now set forth as "an example, suffering the vengeance of eternal fire." (Jude 7, Gen. 19:24). But are these cities still burning? Scripture affirms that these cities were overthrown in a moment (Lam. 4:6) and turned to ashes. (2 Pet. 2:6 cf. Deut. 29:23). B. Nadab and Abihu (sons of Aaron) were "devoured" and died by fire which came out from the LORD. (Lev. 10:1,2). C. A fire from the LORD "consumed" the 250 men who illegally offered incense in the rebellion of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. (Nu. 16:35). D. Fire came down from God out of heaven and "consumed" the messengers from the King of Samaria during the time of the Prophet Elijah. (2 Kings 1:10).
• Instead of proof of hell, these words spoken by Christ were a harsh reminder regarding the absolute destruction of the wicked.

Matthew 18:8-9
• Note: “enter into life”. What’s the opposite of entering into life? It’s certainly not living in pain and suffering until the end of time.

Mark 9:43-48
• If you’re going to take "the fire is not quenched" literally, what about "where their worm dieth not"? Are there immortal worms in hell?
• Jesus is almost certainly quoting from Isa. 66:24. Here, this unquenchable fire is not the hell-fire of modern-day teaching. Note the differences:
• The fire is located outside Jerusalem in Israel. (Isa. 66:20). Unless I misunderstand, this is not the usual location of hell in Christian teaching.
• Travellers will observe the carcasses of the men that have transgressed against God. Christian teaching consigns souls, not bodies, to hell.
• Here’s the trash bin part: The Greek word "Gehenna" translated as "hell" comes from the Hebrew, "Ghi-Hinnom", the name of the valley to the south of Jerusalem where the kings Ahaz and Manasseh offered their sons to the Molech. (2 Chron. 28:3; 33:6; Jer. 32:35). The area was polluted by Josiah (2 Kings 23:10) and was called Topheth (altar). It subsequently became the city's garbage dump, where dead animals were thrown and refuse burned. What remained from the fire was consumed by the worm. Jesus, therefore, uses the word "Gehenna" as a symbol of complete and utter destruction, not as a term denoting eternal preservation in torment.

Luke 16:22-24
• This passage mentions neither heaven nor hell nor souls.
• This passage is a parable. Note the evidence why this section can’t be taken literally:
• The passage speaks about bodies not souls. E.g., eyes, bosom (vs. 23) tip of finger and tongue (vs. 24).
• Souls are said to be immaterial (the material body being left in the grave), how then could Lazarus (if really a soul) be carried by angels? (vs. 22).
• The passage states that there was a great gulf fixed between Abraham and the rich man, yet they could both see and converse with each other (vs. 26). Is the great gulf to be taken literally?
• Is heaven literally a place where conversations can be carried on between those enjoying bliss and those agonizing in hell?
• How could Lazarus go literally to Abraham's bosom? Abraham (as now) was unquestionably dead and without his reward. (Heb. 11:8, 13, 39, 40).

--
This isn’t a matter of you taking my word on what I have to say, just read it for yourself. We’re told no one has gone to heaven. We’re told no one has seen God. We’re told that when we die, we are the same as the beasts of the field. These statements don’t fit with the common Christian understanding of eternal punishment and the immortal soul. God has made it abundantly clear that hell, in the modern sense of the concept, doesn’t exist. It’s man, however, in his efforts to maintain power and authority over the religious masses, who have clouded the issue. As an example of how this stuff starts, we hear all the time that Adam and Eve ate an apple in the Garden of Eden, but anyone reading these verses will quickly see that it wasn’t an apple. It’s not the fault of God that this degree of misinformation is out there, it’s ours because no one wants to take the time and effort to read the Bible themselves.

Bible Evidence
There’s no hard evidence of many, many things occurring in world history but that doesn’t mean they didn’t happen. Sometimes you just need to look a little harder:
• A find in the Jordanian village of Deir Alla, which was Moabite territory in biblical times, tells of a person by the name of Bilaam ben Beor, known to the locals as a prophet who would receive his prophecies at night. These features match precisely the Bilaam described in the Bible (Numbers 21) -- his full name, occupation, nighttime prophecies. And of course, Bilaam was a Moabite.
• The settlement of Dibon is mentioned as one of the stopping points of the Israelites after their escape from Egypt. Ancient Egyptian records show that Ramesses II sacked the place in one of his military campaigns. (Charles R. Krahmalkov, "Exodus Itinerary Confirmed by Egyptian Evidence," Biblical Archaeology Review, September-October 1994, p. 58)
• Even though no trace of these places remain today, many, many other settlements the Israelites visited are also recorded on walls, columns, tablets and temples in Egypt.
• Regarding your comment that no evidence can be found of a vast number of people walking in the wilderness for 40 years, it is nearly impossible to find traces of large Bedouin encampments in the Sinai Desert from 200-300 years ago. So would one expect the remains of large encampments after 3,000 years?
• A well known Egyptian inscription dated to about 1210 BCE clearly identifies an Israel in the land of Canaan as a people that had to be reckoned with. The inscription, which depicts the victories of Pharaoh Merneptah in Canaan, reads in part: "Israel is laid waste, his seed is no more." Ancient Egyptian history proves the existence of Israel.

I can provide more if you’d like (a personal favourite is Edom & the city of Petra).

Age of the World
This is an easy one. As you probably know, there are many creation theories (Gap Theory, etc.) and all can account for the age of the earth as determined by the brutally untrustworthy method of carbon-14 dating. To put it simply, the theories account for the age of the world with the following points:
1. God created the world with age ‘built in’.
2. A gap exists between verse 1 and verse 2 of Genesis. This gap lasted for a period of billions of years.
3. The six days of creation aren’t 24-hour days. Instead, each ‘day’ lasted millions and millions of years.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with any of these because whether you’re a creationist or evolutionist, neither one has any evidence to prove the other wrong (hence the aptly named “theory” of evolution). It's a non-issue because there can be no resolution to the argument.

Global Flood
What evidence are you looking for?

World Powers
We’re told that God knows the number of hairs on our head (Luke 12:7) so that would lead me to believe God cares who “rules what speck of dirt down here”. Daniel 2:21 also says that God removes kings and sets them up. That’s good enough for me: God definitely cares.

Something from God
You’re looking for a single thing that could only have come from God and not man? Here’s six:
Genesis 1 – How did the writer correctly predict the scientifically correct order of life’s appearance on earth – physical matter, light, plants, oceanic creatures, birds, mammals, mankind – thousands of years before the first geologist stuck his shovel in the ground?
Genesis 15:15 – How did the writer know the number of stars couldn’t be counted when it wasn’t until the 17th century AD that Galileo, refuting common popular opinion, shocked the world by stating the stars in the sky were innumerable?
Job 26:7 – How did the writer possess the incredible knowledge to claim the earth was ‘suspended’ in space pre-Isaac Newton?
Job 28:25 – How did the writer know air had ‘weight’ when this was only discovered scientifically 300 years ago?
Psa 135:7 & Jeremiah 10:13 – How did the writer understand the hydrological cycle? (evaporation, translation aloft by atmospheric circulation, condensation with electrical discharges, and precipitation) Job 36:27-29 describes this process even further.
Isa 40:22 – How did the writer know the earth was ‘circular’ at least 300 years before Aristotle suggested that the earth might be a sphere? Further, there’s no Biblical reference to the earth being flat or at the centre of the universe, two widely popular views during the time of Galileo.

If the Bible was written by a rag-tag group of men, surely the knowledge of their era would have saturated their writings. This isn't the case. In fact, most, if not all of these points listed above, contradicted common scientific knowledge for the better part of the last 2000 years and yet today, in light of technological advances giving us a further understanding of our world, we know see that Bible 'science' is 100% correct.

How is this possible without direct influence from a divine being?

December 28, 2006 3:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ok, I'm here, Anonymous from Dwindling In Unbelief that is. I'll call myself Thomas and still post under Anonymous to keep from all that register stuff.

First off, on your Prophecy argument, you're going over old ground, so I will too. A) What you call accurate is only your interpretations, i.e the destruction of Tyre, etc. and B) yes, at least according to many there have been hundreds of "correct" predictions by hundreds of "prophets".

Angels: Marry? Who said anything about marry. Ever heard of premarital sex? Look, you can believe it anyway you want to but accepted christian doctrine accounts for fallen "sinful" angels. Go ask any ten preachers and tell me the results. You want to keep splitting hairs and ignoring accepted doctrine that's your business, however, unless you want to pull a Martin Luther and start your own version of christianity, which many have done/do for these very same reasons, i.e. the disagree with accepted doctrine, by all means, go for it. In the middle ages you would have been burned as a heretic, unless of course you had enough followers.

Hell: Ok, I'll have to agree that a million people saying the wrong thing doesn't make it right. That's my feelings towards religion. However, again ask 10 preachers if hell exists and tell me what they say. And by the way, there was no hell in the OT. Give Jesus credit for inventing it. Which, being the son of god, we should take his word for it, right? And please don't tell me that I'm totally incorrect about this. I would grant that possible confusion exists between hell and sheol, however, read more carefully what Jesus fully said.

No Topic Items: Yes we're told that no one has gone to heaven AND we're told that some have gone to heaven

2 Kings 2:11 And it came to pass, as they still went on, and talked, that, behold, there appeared a chariot of fire, and horses of fire, and parted them both asunder; and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven.

So did he go to heaven as we're told or end up in OZ like Dorthy?

That no one has seen god And some have seen god.

Exodus 33:11
And the Lord spake to Moses face to face, as a man speaketh to his friend.

So do you think moses kept his eyes shut or do you find contradictions here?

Ok, so it wasn't an apple. In your religion was it sex? Was it forbidden knowledge? Forbidden knowledge about sex maybe? Disobeying god? Even more to the point, considering how you view things, i.e. "I know what it says but that isn't how it was meant" the bible would seem a poor guide to god's rules. After all, we're not supposed smart enough to think like or for god, are we? Shouldn't he have "inspired" those prophets a little more specifically, or told them to "write this down" teacher style and all.

Hey, you don't have to prove to me that Israel existed. That I'll grant you that one. France existed too but that doesn't mean I buy into Nostradomaus.

Were the Israelites ever slaves in Egypt, probably since Egypt was the dominate power and had slaves, however, that doesn't mean that ten plagues later they were on a 40 year march. After all, check a map. How long would it take to get from point A to point B. AND, several hundred thousand or several million wandering around for 40 years WOULD have left evidence. Consult any arch. student. Or am I to believe that god was sweeping up after them all along. I wouldn't compare the size of the Exodus to a nomadic camp ground community. I couldn't find that needle in a haystack either but put several million in there and I'd stand a real good chance.

Age of the world: I disagree, and so do quite a number of other people, about the importance of this topic. All of the religious arguments, be they "age built in" or "longer than 24 hour days" disagree with the written word. You see, the reason fundamentalist argue so hotly against things like this is that once you allow for something in the bible that isn't quite right, you have to allow for the existance of other things in there that aren't quite right. Geez, what is some of them are biggies?

Global flood: What evidence? Well for starters the same you'd find with any local flood, i.e. common world wide sediment layer, etc. If you recall, the KT boundry was mistaken as just this thing until it was discovered to have been that pesky meteorite that wiped out the dinos.

World Powers: Yes we are told that god knows how many hairs are on our heads aren't we. We're also told many other things about god, quite a few that you disagree with. So why are you buying into this one? Because it fits your view and nothing more.

Something From God:

a) I'll take this stright off the SAB.

Genesis 1:1 - 2:3
The creation account in Genesis 1 conflicts with the order of events that are known to science. In Genesis, the earth is created before light and stars, birds and whales before reptiles and insects, and flowering plants before any animals. The true order of events was just the opposite.

Number Of Stars: Come now, are you really asking me to take THAT as proof of anything.

Suspended Earth: Here's two to think about:

1 Samuel 2:8
The pillars of the earth are the LORD's, and he hath set the world upon them.

Job 9:6
Which shaketh the earth out of her place, and the pillars thereof tremble.

Weight Of Air: You incorrectly view this as his reference was to WIND and not air. I suspect he got weight of the wind from having been blown around. Wouldn't you?

Rain And Such: Both verses say pretty much the same thing and let's see, evaporation by seeing fog on water, wind, lighting, and rain by observation.

Circular Earth: I don't have to answer this one since it has been done before:

The passage saying the earth is round is Isaiah 40:22:
He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth, and its people are like grasshoppers. He stretches out the heavens like a canopy, and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
This passage may reasonably be interpreted as referring to a flat circular earth with the heavens forming a dome above it. Such an interpretation is consistent with other passages of the Bible which refer to a solid firmament (Gen. 1:6-20, 7:11; Ezekiel 1:22-26; Job 9:8, 22:14, etc.). It is also consistent with the cosmology common in neighboring cultures.

Isaiah 11:12 refers to the "four quarters of the earth", but we do not take that as indicative of the earth's shape.


The shape of the earth may already have been known in Isaiah's time. Ancient astronomers could determine that the earth was round by observing its circular shadow move across the moon during lunar eclipses. There is some suggestion that the Egyptians knew of the earth's spherical size and shape around 2550 B.C.E. (more than a thousand years before Moses). The Greek philosopher Pythagoras, who was born in 532 B.C.E., defended the spherical theory on the basis of observations he had made of the shape of the sun and moon (Uotila 1984). If this information was known by educated Greeks and Egyptians during biblical times, its use by Isaiah is nothing special.


Closings:

Your knowledge base and your world view are religion centric. If you had real interest in discovering for yourself your own persoanl "truth" instead of so steadfastly knowing you already have it you wouldn't be asking me to respond to this listing. You would have sought out the questions, contradictions, and answers on your own, long ago. Nothing I say is going to alter your views, and believe me, I know this well.

I bid you good day!

December 29, 2006 9:29 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hi Thomas,

Thanks for the response.

Prophecy
I ask only because I’m curious but what would you consider to be an ‘accurate interpretation’ if the prophecy concerning Tyre, Daniel’s world empire predictions and the dispersion and regathering of the Jews aren’t? Nothing in any of these predictions was wrong, all contained very precise details, and all three prophecies concerned events that were hundreds and hundreds of years away. I guess what I’m wondering is, what else would have to be included in these prophecies to make them ‘real’ God-inspired prophecies? What about the cool prophecy regarding Alexander the Great in the Book of Ezekiel?

Angels
“Accepted” Christian doctrine includes things like infant sprinkling and purgatory but these doctrines are completely absent from Scripture. Sinful, fallen angels also fall into this category. There’s about as much evidence for this belief as there is angels have little halos above their head. If it’s accepted that the Bible is the Word of God and that it’s the only tool anyone needs to achieve salvation, then I’m left scratching my head as to why anyone would preach doctrines not contained within its pages. It doesn’t make sense. This isn’t a matter of splitting hairs, this is a conscious decision to follow the teachings of God rather then the teachings of men.

Mainstream Christianity says Lucifer is Satan. Does this make it right simply because it’s a Christian belief? Absolutely not. The Bible couldn’t be any clearer about who Lucifer is. You’d have to agree that there’s no excuse whatsoever for anyone to believe otherwise.

Hell
To be honest, I’ve never heard of the concept that Jesus created hell. Where does the Bible say this? And if hell is the dwelling place of Satan and all his fallen angel minions, where were they prior to the creation of their home? And what happened to all those wicked people who died in the OT? Where did they go? Limbo? A holding cell?

The easiest way to get past the troublesome hell is understanding what happens to man when he dies. We know he doesn’t go to heaven because “no man has ascended to heaven” (John 3:13, Acts 2:34) and no one has ever “seen God” (1 Timothy 6:16, 1 John 4:12). What about hell? Well, consider what the Bible says about the creation of man. The record is in plain language, which, if taken literally, leaves no doubt about exactly what we are by nature. "The Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground...out of it (the ground) wast thou (Adam) taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return" (Gen. 2:7; 3:19). There is absolutely no hint here that man has any inherent immortality; there is no part of him which will live on after death.

There is a marked Biblical emphasis on the fact that man is fundamentally composed of mere dust: "We are the clay" (Isa. 64:8); "man is of the earth, earthy" (1 Cor. 15:47); man's "foundation is in the dust" (Job 4:19); "and man shall turn again unto dust" (Job 34:14,15). Abraham admitted that he was "but dust and ashes" (Gen. 18:27).

Finally, immediately after disobeying God's command in Eden, God "drove out the man...lest he put forth his hand, and take also of the tree of life, and eat, and live for ever" (Gen. 3:24,22). If man had an immortal element within him naturally, why would this have been necessary?

Elijah
Consider these points about Elijah:
• There is solid evidence that Elijah was back on earth after he was taken away in the whirlwind. A letter was received by Jehoram, King of Judah, from Elijah after Elijah was taken to heaven. Either the letter was written before he went to heaven and delivered by a messenger on earth (unlikely), or Elijah was "caught away" as was Philip from the Gaza Road to Azotas, (about 17 miles, Acts 8:39,40) for an unspecified purpose and returned to the earth. Consider the evidence:
• Elijah had been taken to heaven in a whirlwind. (2 Kings 2:11).
• Elisha had taken over the duties of Elijah in the reign of Jehoshaphat. (2 Kings 3:10,11).,
• Jehoram received a letter from Elijah, the prophet. (2 Chron. 21:1, 9-12). King Jehoram reigned after Jehoshaphat. (2 Chron. 21:1).

Seen God
Easy peasy: God manifestation. How many times are people said to have “seen” God or “spoken” to God after having talked with an angel? Samson’s parents were terrified when they realized they had seen God (Judges 13:22), but they had only seen Him appearing as an angel. In Moses’ instance, the Hebrew word for “face” simply means “presence” (see Genesis 4:16). God spoke to Moses in a more intimate manner then He had ever done in the past. Likewise, in Genesis 32:30, Jacob saw God appearing as an angel – He did not literally see God “face to face”. In Deut 5: 24, the people heard the voice of God and only saw “his glory and his greatness” but it was an experience described as God talking to them “face to face” (:4).

Eden
Eve ate a piece of fruit from a tree. I really think it’s as simple as that. What the fruit was or what it represented isn’t important. She broke a rule, she was punished. That’s it.

The Bible is a simple, simple tool to use. The rules are clearly laid out and you don’t need a PhD to figure it out. It takes time and a bit of effort and you would probably agree that what person these days wants anything to do with that? Instead, Christians would rather be spoon-fed instead of doing a little leg work themselves. This is why false doctrines are still being taught – no one thinks they have the intelligence to figure it out for themselves. For example, the Bible says: Get baptized. Why then are there arguments about whether we should be baptized or not? The Bible says: Pray to God and your sins will be forgiven. Why then are people told to confess their sins to their priest? The Bible says the Lord God is one. Why do people maintain He’s three? People contradict the teachings of God, not God Himself.

Israel
At least we agree that France existed ☺

I’m not sure what your point was about Point A to Point B…?

The Israelites were nomadic people to the nth degree during their wilderness wanderings. No houses, no concrete foundations, no white picket fences, nothing but tents and the clothes on their back. The only evidence they would have left behind would have been scraps of garbage and maybe some ruined tents, dead bodies, etc.. I’m sure you can appreciate how these things would have disappeared over the span of a few thousand years. What kind of evidence are you looking for?

Age of the world
Genesis 1 doesn’t disagree with built in age or 24-hour symbolic days. The only record given to us is what was created on each day and the total number of days. I personally don’t buy it but I have to admit that the gap between verses one and two as consisting of billions of years is possible only because there’s no evidence to prove it wrong. Built in age is also in harmony with creation because nothing can prove it right or wrong. I should ask though, how do you think these views disagree with Scripture and how do you think the universe & life was created?

Global Flood
When it comes to the flood, I’m afraid for every point, there’s a counter-point:
Thousands and millions of fish fossils which retain all the body parts indicating very rapid burial. Under normal conditions, fish do not fossilize. Dead fish are torn apart by scavengers and disintegrated by bacteria. Fossils have been found with soft tissue like jellyfish and sponges. Things like animal tracts, fish odors, amino acids, proteins, epidermal bark in plants, cell details, chlorophyll, etc. have also been preserved. These are all signs of a catastrophic world-wide flood.

World Powers
What else are we told about God that I disagree with? If the Bible says it, I believe it and I’m perfectly okay with that. If God sets up and removes governments, I can’t very well say He doesn’t.

Something From God
1. Genesis 1:1 – 2:3. Fair enough. Good response.

2. Number Of Stars. Astronomers for centuries were giving precise numbers to the number of stars. You can understand why: before the existence of telescopes, numbering them would have taken a while but it was certainly possible. On a clear night, there are about 3,000 stars visible to the naked eye. This is far from being “innumerable”, wouldn’t you say? How did the Biblical writer know there were more stars beyond what was visible and countable?

3. Suspended Earth. Good verses. Biblically speaking, the pillars of the earth are either mountains or the ground itself, specifically in reference to earthquakes. Nonetheless, we’re still left with Job 26:7.

4. Weight of air. Again, your answer is logical. I submit that weight in relation to wind is perfectly sound. However, note that the same word for “wind” is used later on in Job 41:16 as “air”.

5. Rain and Such. A, I think you’re giving these people too much credit and B, fog on the water doesn’t “ascend” into the heavens. The process of evaporation is invisible. You’re not in the least impressed by the knowledge these three people had regarding how water gets back up into the sky? Ugh… :)

5. Circular Earth. Hm. That’s a good one too. Nice.

Closing
My knowledge base and world view are religion centric because I’m religious. Yours isn’t because you’re not, that’s why you so quickly discount Biblical prophecies as being too general, simple luck or handed out by madmen. We would ALL do well to search our questions, contradictions and answers beforehand, but you can’t criticize me for this considering you claim angels had sex with women. Surely you should have known the answers and questions to this one. :) I’m not going to say anything to change your views either and that’s quite alright. If I can go away knowing something a little bit more about the different beliefs and opinions out there, I’m a happy camper. After all, all I’m doing is seeking out the questions, contradictions and answers...

December 29, 2006 3:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Here:

Please visit the SAB and look through Ezeikel at the annotations. I'd like to hear what you think about the prophecies marked as false. I ask this with the following in mind, and also without saying that I believe any particular prophecies "came true".

If someone makes enough predictions concerning "anything" they stand a good chance of A) hitting a few by accident and B) receiving the benefit of future readers bias. I hate to keep bringing up Nostradomaus but it is exactly the same, minus the weird poetry constructs. We can all infer future possibilities simply by what's happening around us currently.

I'd also take issue with god inspiring any visions of the future as this would be a weak attempt to influence behaviour and if that was god's intentions I would expect a little better effort. I know the doctrine of free will isn't in the bible per se either, however, it is a doctrine that came about for very good reasons, i.e. to resolve serious questions with regards to conflicting teachings in the bible itself and to expalin why god allows certain things to happen within his creation that are seen as being in conflict with what he set out to accomplish.

People teach doctrines and ideas not specifically contained within the bible for several reasons, to further their own agendas, by mistake, and in a large part to resolve problems contained within the bible.

How many times have you heard that Jesus was born of a virgin even though it is well known that the concept comes as a result of a mistranslation coupled with the then current attitude of "saviors and gods" needing to have special birth circumstances. An exmination of other religions of this and prior periods would prove enlighting.

In many people's minds Jesus gets credit for creating hell because of A) the things he said and B) the later teachings of his followers based on the things he supposedly said. OT punishments by god ended with death and it's only in the NT that hell appears. Most would call the NT as almost totally Jesus inspired.

Ok, with the bible saying Elija went up to heaven and later evidence pointing to his still being around, what is one supposed to believe? Did he really not go to heaven? Did he go but on a round trip ticket? Don't see a problem here?

But the bible, your bible, says moses spoke to god FACE TO FACE. It doesn't say god was incognito or appeared as a so and so. By the way, in most cases where god supposedly appeared as a bush, angel, etc. the bible clearly points this out.

Are you not slightly guilty of inferring what you want from clearly written text. I encounter this quite often in debating religion with people, i.e. some aspects of the bible I'm told to take "as written" while others are to be taken symbolically or metaphorically. Considering god never "inspired" a "how to read the bible" document, I find this a bit on the loose side.

Ok, eve broke a rule and "she" was punished. Don't you mean that "she" broke a rule and everyone, then, now, and forever were punished? That is what the bible says isn't it. Again, there's another one of those doctrines, original sin, I keep mentioning.

Good one on France!

My A to B point is simply "it ain't that far from Egypt to Israel" and you'd have to work pretty hard to wander around for 40 years.

You can't get much lower than hunter gatherer cave men and we find plenty of them and their implements and their campsites, etc. And from far longer ago too.

I'd have to think of god as a sort of a cosmic Cecil B. Demill to buy into "built in age" The flood, etc.

How do I think the universe and life began? Deep question. I don't know that I really have an answer that I can give because I'm one of those who admits to a lack of knowledge this deep. I don't think of humans as being so special that they need a creator if that's what you mean. Could all this have happend at random? Yeah, I think it's possible, not that I'm saying it did mind you, just that it's possible. Could there be some being or force that caused all this? Yeah, that's possible too. You see, my arguments and beliefs are against religion, not specifically against the possibility of a "god being". I personally feel that if some "god being" exist it's on such a different level that human importance to it is nil. I'd figure it to be devoid of all those human qualities we see in the bible god, i.e. love, jealousy, anger, want, etc. God's always been a little to "human" for me. That's what makes religion work, you can "connect" to that inner god. Like others have said before, you know somethings up when god hates the same people you hate, etc. I can't see god as the giver of pain and pleasure, rewards and punishments, etc. All a little to "human" for me. Streets paved with gold and mansions in the sky, gardens and lands flowing with milk and honey. A whole universe created and a super being's undivided attention just for us little collections of atoms? To a being with infinite power, what would a few billion dust mites mean? Nothing unless your culture instills a sense of "something special" in you though religion and beliefs. If these help keep people in order, etc. what a bonus. It says something to me that all religions teach heaven as a place where you get what you didn't have on earth, i.e. the poor do ok, no sickness, no death, and if you live in a really sexually repressed place like the middle east, heaven becomes a hot bed of sex. Even hell is a pretty weak concept. I think a being of infinite power could come up with far worse tortures than a little fire and brimstone. So far worse that humans could not even conceive their nature. If there is a god, give him a little credit and stop making him out to be like the good neighbor down the road

I still find any comment about the number of stars as a VERY weak argument of godly inspiration.

I never meant that fog ascended into the sky to become rain but don't find it too hard to believe seeing fog/mist rising off the water, by whatever amount, could lead one to the conclusion that water comes down, it goes back up, it comes down again, over and over.

On the contrary, I give ancient peoples GREAT credit for their observational and deductive powers. I fully believe that there was an Einstein in practically every age. I also believe that all of these Einsteins are influenced by their environment and beliefs of their time periods.

I'd also point out all the major discoveries of just the past 200 years and that these were apparently done without any godly inspirations. Why then would YOU not be impressed by the knowledge of these people? Why must you attribute it to god instead of whoever had the ability to figure it out.

Ever notice how god always gets credit for things when there's no proof he was anywhere around? It's like the religious alcholic who realizes he has a problem and does something about it and ends up thanking god for "saving" him instead of congratualting himself for wising up. As I've already said, people see god when and where they want to see him, in a mountain stream, in recovering from an illness, etc. but as you say about people teaching the "wrong" things, that doesn't make it true.

By the way, my comments on your views wasn't meant as a knock.

December 30, 2006 8:47 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I forgot to address the issue of angels and premarital sex. Genesis 6 clearly says the sons of God "took them wives". Since angels don't marry, it logically follows that the sons of God mentioned in Genesis 6 can't be angels.

December 30, 2006 1:35 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I agree that prophecies can be easily made given the prophet’s current social condition. However, the prophecy of Tyre wasn’t fulfilled until hundreds and hundreds of years later. Same with Daniel. Same with the regathering of the Jews. Same with Alexander the Great. Nothing in the writer’s environment could possibly lead him to ‘cheat’ and correctly guess at an outcome considering, in most cases, the parties involved in the fulfillment of the prophecy either weren’t alive yet or hadn’t been established yet.

Other incredible prophecies to note:
• The prediction that a man named ‘Cyrus’ would allow the Jews to rebuild the temple – fulfilled 100 years later (Isa 44:28).
• Violence against Sidon (Ezek 28:22-23)
• Destruction of Samaria (Hos 13:16, Michah 1:6)
• Petra and Edom (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel)

These all had their fulfillment hundreds of years later by people who didn’t believe in the God of the Israelites.

Nostradomaus’ predictions were convoluted and generic to say the least. A prophecy naming the next four world empires isn’t convoluted. It’s exceptionally precise.

God showing visions of the future isn’t an attempt to influence when the individual seeing them has no influence over the events. For example, the dispersion of the Jews was based on the behaviour of dozens of surrounding heathen nations. The Jews weren’t influenced to disperse themselves.

Personally speaking, my beliefs are 100% Bible-based. If it’s taught by man but can’t be found in Scripture, it’s false.

Mary
What’s the mistranslation of Mary being a virgin?

Hell
I’m still not sure what you’re saying about Jesus creating hell…? Hell was a place created by men and women who needed a place for the devil to dwell in and where all those evil people got their just rewards. Heaven was created by these same people as a place where all the good people go. The concept of heaven and hell as places of punishment and reward are based on emotional ideologies formed centuries after the death of Christ. A proper understanding of the nature of man and what happens to him when he dies, something Scripture goes through great lengths to explain, quickly dispels the possibility of heaven and hell.

And I agree: Hell is a weak concept. The fact you believe God could have come up with something worse highlights the problem when the method of punishment is left to man's imagination ☺ Man created the hellish fire and brimstone, it wasn’t God. But does this mean I don’t think He’s someone to be feared? Of course not. I readily admit that His anger is something we should be avoiding. Fortunately, God isn’t irrational in His anger. Every instance of punishment and anger in Scripture coming from God is always as a result of something breaking a rule.

Heaven
Heaven won’t be that place were we get all the good stuff. It’ll be here on earth. “Thy Kingdom come…”

Elijah
I don’t see a problem with the events concerning Elijah. Elijah was whisked away for set period of time for a reason not recorded. “Heaven” doesn’t necessarily mean Elijah found himself standing on a cloud in the presence of God. The same word is translated “air” in Genesis 1:26 (“fowl of the air”). The point is, he was taking away and then eventually returned to earth to live out the rest of his life.

Moses – Face to Face
Again “face” simply means ‘presence’. For example, Adam and Eve hid themselves from the "face” of God. Sarai’s handmaid Hagar fled from her “face” in Gen 16:6,8. Cain went out from the “presence” (same Hebrew word as “face”) of God in Gen 4:16. In Gen 6:11, the word is translated “before” (as in “in front of”) and again in Gen 7:1. Moses speaking to God “face to face” tells me that Moses was allowed to interact with God on a closer level then anyone else before him. Moses was in the presence of God more often and for longer periods of time then anyone else in Scripture.

Original Sin
I’ve always been a little confused re: the doctrine of original sin. Correct me if I’m wrong but original sins means everyone is born with sin having already been ‘committed’…in a sense…? If I’ve got that right, then the question is: Did Adam’s punishment and Eve’s punishment include automatic ‘forced’ sin for every generation to come? (Genesis 3)

We’re punished because of the sins we commit, not because of something that happened during our inception. Regardless though, whether or not original sin is alive and well, there’s no question whatsoever that our sins are forgiven whenever we ask God to do so. This is another one of those overly simple concepts that mainstream Christianity has been duped into rejecting. We sin, we repent, we ask God for forgiveness. In the purest sense of this forgiveness process, original sin is irrelevant.

A to B
Okay, I understand now. Regarding WHY they were in the wilderness for 40 years, check out Numbers 14. Because of their constant state of stupidity and stubbornness, the Israelites were condemned to wander the wilderness for 40 years until the entire generation of adults had died off. Only the new generation of Israelites in addition to with Caleb and Joshua would be allowed into the land.

Cavemen
Do I believe in people who live(d) in caves? Absolutely. There are many tribes in isolated parts of the world who are still very much basic hunter-gather type folk. What I don't belive is the reliability of dating methods.

Cecil Demill
I have no idea who this guy is ☺ Regardless, our personal opinions aside, it is possible that the world was created was age built into it based on the readings of Genesis 1. It’s possible also that a gap exists between the first few verses of the chapter a few millions years long. This is why I have trouble using this is a defining factor regarding the validity of the Bible; not enough evidence exists on either side (Bible or Science) to come up with a solid answer.

God
I totally hear what you’re saying about the non-importance of humans and the ‘human-like’ qualities of God. However, for me, I think we’re have more value then simply being created by blind luck. About God’s personality & emotion, again this is personally speaking of course, I would truly fear an emotionless God. A God who never acted like He cares, a God who doesn’t care about me, a God who doesn’t understand my struggles and a God who never communicates anything positive couldn’t be a God for me. A robotic, emotionless God is worse then no God at all. I think we’d all feel like science experiments if this were the case.

Stars
The stars argument might seem weak on the surface, and I can sure see it from your point of view, but consider the technological level of the time. No telescopes, nothing to amplify the light in the sky. It’s like someone in 400BC looking at a drop of blood with the naked eye and commenting on the number of red blood cells…

Fog & Rain
Fair enough. Hydrological cycle comment obliterated ☺

Inventions
Believe me, I AM impressed with technological inventions. There are some incredibly intelligent people out there who have done great (and not so great) things for society but, and there’s always a but, we would probably both agree that the increasing rate of inventions and discoveries these past few centuries is solely dependant on the number of new tools available to achieve these things. In a culture devoid of these tools, a discovery that should technically be impossible given the lack of resources, needs to be looked at closer. How DID Job know the earth is suspended in space...?

It looks like you believe that an all-powerful deity was behind the creation of life and the universe. There’s no hard proof he was around but you seem to think he could have been…Or am I wrong?

Whether or not someone sees God when they want to is totally up to them. If that works to make their life better, then so be it. But God isn’t real because of what people say or how they say it. God is real because there’s too much out there that doesn’t make sense when He’s removed from the equation. Life, the universe, the earth, history, prophecy and how it all works together for there to be a point to our existence.

Ezekiel Prophecies in the SAB
1. The Ammonite argument is pretty weak. They’re remembered because they’re mentioned in the Bible? No, they’re not remembered because civilization has no archaeological record they ever existed.
2. Back to Tyre again. Ezekiel 26:14 clearly explains that the city was to be made like the “top of a rock” and that fishermen would spread their nets over it and that it would never be rebuilt. All three came true. It is like the top of a rock, fishermen do spread their nets over it and it was never rebuilt on the same spot, even though the abundance of fresh water springs makes it the perfect location for a city.
3. Israel isn’t safe from their neighbours as of yet since God has not “executed judgment upon all those that despise them…”. While the first parts of this prophecy have come to past (regathering of the Jews and the establishment of the nation), the culmination of this prophecy has yet to be fulfilled.
4. Egypt suffered the calamities of invasion by the Babylonians, exactly as prophesied. After wiping out huge chunks of the population, leading the rest into captivity, and imposing Babylonian rule, the land became uninhabitable in the sense of people voluntarily ‘setting down’ (the literal Hebrew translation of “inhabited”) and setting up shop.
5. This one’s a goodie. Severe droughts in Egypt are part of recorded history. For example, one particular bad one between 51 and 49 BC resulted in failed harvests and famine because the drought stopped the much needed Nile flooding. What’s interesting to note is that the Pharaoh himself was said to be the one to cause the Nile to flood (which resulted in crops, etc.). A drought in the land would signify the powerless nature of the Pharaoh resulting in a crushing moral and spiritual defeat for the Egyptians. And the affects of a severe drought? History is quite clear: a 20-year drought destroyed the Old Kingdom in around 2,200BC. The fulfilled prophecies against Egypt were devastating, economically, culturally and militarily. Egypt never did regain it’s previous might. In summary, the canals have most definitely dried up before, making the prophecy in Ezekiel completely accurate.
6. Chapter 34 is a unfulfilled future prophecy as the “covenant of peace” (:25) hasn’t yet been established. See also Ezekiel 37:26 and Zechariah 6:13.

Happy New Year!

January 01, 2007 1:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

voirdire here - Just stumbled onto your blog. I'm confused as to your beliefs regarding angels. Not the worship of angels, I get that. Rather, it seems you do not believe the bible indicates that they can fall away or sin or disobey God. Is that what you are saying? Perhaps a separate post would be helpful.

January 01, 2007 11:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Here:

Two important facts that are being overlooked concerning prophecies is A) when were they actually written and B) what changes have or have not occurred. Read Below:

What is the oldest known copy of the Bible?

The oldest known copy of the Bible (complete Bible) in the world is the Codex Sinaiticus, dating from the 3rd or 4th century A.D. The Codex, while not only translating Hebrew and Greek manuscripts into all Greek, documents the dramatic shift of preserving texts in a bound book form rather than the tradition of writing on scrolls. There is speculation this book was written in Egypt.

When the Emperor Constantine of the Eastern Empire (Greece) adopted Christianity, he commissioned the compilation of Greek versions of the principal Jewish and Christian scriptures. Although history records 50 manuscripts were written under the guidance of Eusebius, we're not totally sure this is one of those copies.

Since its discovery in bits and pieces of vellum at the Monastery of St. Catherine in Sinai, Egypt, almost half of the Old Testament has been lost. Constantin Tischendorf, a German scholar, was instrumental in the acquisition of these documents for his own country and Russia in 1844 and 1859. As is the case with antiquity, the codex carries a value not only historically, but monetarily.

The remainder of the codex is split between St. Catherine's Monastery, Sinai; the British Library, the University of Leipzip, Germany; and the National Library of Russia, St. Petersburg. Due to the fragility of the vellum, the manuscripts are kept under glass to protect them from further damage.

Current collaborative efforts are to completely digitize the codex to make it available for a world-wide audience in English; possibly German, Spanish, and modern Greek. This may include a free website, a high quality digital facsimile, and CD ROM. The oldest Bible in the world would be able to be seen by all, but not be damaged by constant handling.

The Catholic Church also has a similar copy called Codex Vaticanus, but is thought to be of a later date.

What I'm getting at is that there is more than "under godly inspiration" that could have produced your prophecies.

In a side note, I'd pose this question: Wouldn't it all be so much simpler if god's existance were a known fact? Why do you suppose he's making it so hard for so many? After all, as I've said before, I'm not opposed to god's existance. I simply can't believe in something for which there is no evidence. And before you list off any number of bible passages remember, if it was a know fact, we wouldn't be discussing it.

As to the mary virgin birth myth read below. You can find quite a bit more on the web or in studying older bible text.

The most colossal blunder of the Septuagint translators, the mistranslation of the original Hebrew text of Isaiah, 7.14, allowed deceitful early Christians to concoct their infamous prophecy that somehow the ancient Jewish text presaged the miraculous birth of their own godman.

The Hebrew original says:
'Hinneh ha-almah harah ve-yeldeth ben ve-karath shem-o immanuel.'
Honestly translated, the verse reads:
'Behold, the young woman has conceived — and bears a son and calls his name Immanuel.'
The Greek-speaking translators of Hebrew scripture (in 3rd century B.C. Alexandria) slipped up and translated 'almah' (young woman) into the Greek 'parthenos' (virgin). The Hebrew word for virgin would have been 'betulah.' The slip did not matter at the time, for in context, Isaiah’s prophesy – set in the 8th century BC but probably written in the 5th – had been given as reassurance to King Ahaz of Judah that his royal line would survive, despite the ongoing siege of Jerusalem by the Syrians. And it did. In other words, the prophesy had nothing to do with events in Judaea eight hundred years into the future!

I'd also add that the tense of the original hebrew was present as in the young woman has conceived and not WILL conceive. It was for that time period, far earlier than Jesus. Check it out. Ask your preacher, etc.

All I'm saying about hell is that prior to jesus and his followers, there wasn't one. Maybe I'm giving him credit by default.


Doesn't you view of heaven conflict with quotes from jesus as in "I go to prepare a place for you", etc.

That god who cares about your/our struggles is the same one who struck someone dead for trying to keep the ark from tipping over, who punished the israelites for complaining about being hungry, who demanded a man and his family be stoned to death for taking a shirt from Jerico after the walls fell, etc. etc. etc. Tough Love?

Well, and I'm not saying that I think job knew the earth was suspended in space, however, if you look at the moon and the starts one could make an inference. Just a thought.

You're pretty much right. I don't rule out that all powerful deity, only those not too powerful deities with human weeknesses for which I see no proof of existance and who's rules seem inane and petty, who's deeds seem curel and unkind.

Why does everyone seem to need life to have some "point"? Why is the "I exists therefore I am" not enough. How would your life change, right now, if you suddenly found out there was no god? Possibly, you might decide to make the utmost of what time you have here. Not that I'm saying you're doing or not doing anything in particular.

Happy New Year to you to!!

January 02, 2007 7:24 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hi Thomas,

I appreciate the effort in highlighting the history of the Bible but I’m not entirely sure what that has to do with when the books/prophecies were written…? Looking at the date of the Old Testament writings only, the Jews of Jesus’ time already had a Canon, since the Torah had already been canonised in some form (possibly as early as 622 BC) when the true Torah was rediscovered and ceremoniously declared official by King Josiah, according to the Bible itself. (Though it was most likely significantly edited after the Babylonian Exile in the time of Ezra c. 500 BCE, in order to take into account the later writings of the major and minor prophets.) Note that the Jews rejected the books of the Apocrypha because they were written long after Divine inspiration was agreed to have ceased.

(Out of curiousity, do you consider the historian Josephus to be a relevant and quasi-reliable source of information?)

While the most complete Bible might not be terribly old (by history’s standards), the various writings that make up the Bible, specifically the Old Testament, remain unchanged. We know this because the beliefs of the Jews, which are based on the Old Testament, have also remained unchanged for thousands of years (unlike modern religions).

Consider also the Didache, a collection of writings that critics agree was written before the 2nd century. There are even signs of it being from the 1st century including: numerous quotes from the Old Testament, the simplicity of the baptismal rite (unlike today), nothing about exorcisms (this false belief hadn’t yet permeated Christianity), the local ministers are listed as being bishops and deacons (matching Philippians 1:1), no mention of priests (Ignatius adds ‘priests’ to the list in 110’ish AD), and perhaps most important, the three orders of ministers are apostles, prophets and teachers (matching 1 Cor 12:28) – what makes this noteworthy is that there is no instance in the NT or early Christian literature of an order called apostles later the Apostolic Age. There is also no evidence of a second-century order of apostles which means the Didache might even have been written earlier then 80AD.

Consider the Codex Alexandrinus, a 5th century manuscript of the Greek Bible, containing most of the Septuagint and NT. It perfectly resembles the modern day Bible in terms of content (i.e. nothing had been changed).

Finally, and most importantly: The "oldest complete Bible" is irrelevant, as the Bible as we have it today is comprised of 66 scripts, each one defined as a book in itself (which, when all were put together after centuries of writings, is named "The Bible"). Some of these scripts, written on papyrus, date to 5-8BC. The most incredible thing though is that given these docs were written and re-scribed by dozens of people from dozens of different locations in the Middle East, collaboration between all of them in order to change vital facts, prophecies, etc. would have been difficult if not impossible. And that’s not even factoring in the high probability many would have had personal agendas in terms of what they would have wanted changed. AND that’s not even mentioning the many, many historical facts referred to in the prophecies (such as the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70AD) hadn't even happened yet. Plus, some of the events mentioned in those same books which are said to of taken place weren't believed to have happened at all, until archaeologists unearthed them. So if these events apparently never took place, and weren't discovered until our time, how could these writers have written about them unless guided by God? There can be no doubt that the writings of the Bible have their origins deep in the sand of time, long before the time of Christ.

God
This seems to be a common thread amongst Bible skeptics: questioning why God would a) make the Bible so difficult to understand and b) make it so difficult to prove He’s real. What I don’t understand is why these same people, no offense in the least, have made this sort of examination a virtual impossibility by using Christianity against itself. It’s the same argument Christians use against evolutionists: How can evolution be a fact when, forgetting for a moment the complete absence of evidence, there isn’t one common view on exactly what happened?

The reason why Christianity seems confusing is because Christians themselves are the CAUSE of the confusion. Take the doctrine of the Trinity. Is “trinity” ever mentioned in the Bible? No. Is there a verse that says “God is three”? No. Is Jesus ever called “God the son”? No. These are all common, perfectly acceptable questions an enquiring mind would ask. If Christianity maintains the Trinity to be a God-taught concept, then why is it so difficult to prove??? It doesn’t make sense!! The same goes for purgatory, the immaculate conception & ascension, sinning angels, Satan, infant sprinkling, heaven & hell and so on. The only thing these doctrines do is create confusion and I wholeheartedly agree, it’s a complete turn-off and an obvious point of attack for Bible/God skeptics.

Man-made beliefs are doomed to fail because they’ll never stand up to textual, literal or spiritual criticism (e.g. Why the age-old ‘fallen angel’ discussion with Christians and skeptics alike doesn’t just start and end with the obvious Revelation 1:1 vs. Revelation 12 comparison is beyond all comprehension ☺). True Bible-based beliefs are the complete opposite. The nature of man, the origins of sin, the origins of evil, Jesus the Son of God, baptism, salvation, etc. etc. etc. These are all incredibly easy concepts any Christian should be able to grasp but no, instead, most leave it up to “educated church leaders” to dictate what’s right and wrong instead of simply looking into things for ourselves.

No, I’m not bitter in the least ☺

I’m biased of course but I do sincerely believe God’s existence can be proven. God is proven by science and history. No one has been able to create life, no one can offer a better alternative as to where it all began (if matter collided to create this universe, where did the matter come from…?), historians use the Bible today as reference to prove and establish theories and explain archaeological finds, prophecy reflects historical fact, and so on.

Mary
I completely agree re: the verse in Isaiah 7:14. Further to the definition you provided, it appears the Hebrew word ‘almah’ simply means ‘woman of age to marry’. However, keep in mind that the prophecy of the continuance of lineage started with Eve (Gen 3:15), continued on to Abraham and eventually passed through David (2 Sam 7:12,14, Psa 132:11, Isaiah 9:5-7, Jeremiah 23:5). These are the prophecies predicting the coming of Christ. Tie in all the dozens and dozens and dozens of OT prophecies of the birth, role and death of Christ and we’re given a rather clear picture of exactly what was going to happen and where (Micah 5:1-2), even excluding the contentious verse in Isaiah 7.

I don’t have a preacher to ask. I prefer to be my own guide ☺

Hell
I also agree that before Christ there wasn’t a concept of hell as a place of eternal torment. It’s really too bad the early Church decided that all heathen and heretics would better learn their lesson by burning in hellfire for the rest of time. If it wasn't for them, hell would still be defined as the grave and a garbage heap.

John 14:2“In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Good one on the heaven quote. Not many people remember to use this one. This is my rebuttal, and please, verify for yourself.

1. This passage in John teaches nothing about going to heaven. Every reference to God's house in Scripture is to His house on the earth. See John 2:16; 2 Kings 20:5; Micah 4, esp. vs. 1, 2. It is a false assumption to read into this passage that the Father's house is in heaven.
2. The Greek word translated "mansions" is "mone" and means "abode" or "abiding place." The passage does not refer to literal mansions in the ordinary sense of the word mansion, for a mansion, by definition, is larger than a house. How then can one have mansions in a house? The simple solution is that the house referred to is a spiritual house. Carefully consider 1 Pet. 2:5, Rev. 3:12, Heb. 3:5,6 and Eph. 2:19-22. God's house is a spiritual one in which are many abiding places.
3. If Christ's disciples went to heaven at death, then how does one make sense of Christ's assurance, "I will come again, and receive you unto myself". The 'reunion' was to take place on earth, not heaven. (John 14:3).
4. Christ was going away to his Father, and would come again to the earth. Jesus said, “…and as I said unto the Jews, Whither I go, ye cannot come; so now say I to you." (John 13:33). Earlier Jesus had said to the Jews "Yet a little while am I with you, and then I go unto him that sent me. Ye shall seek me, and shall not find me: and where I am, thither ye cannot come." (John 7:33,34). See also John 8:21. Since God is in heaven (Matt. 6:9), Jesus must have been referring to his going away to heaven, a place where the disciples couldn’t go.

Tough Love
Bingo. It’s hard for us to swallow because we don’t think the punishment fits the crime but in each of the three instances you mentioned, the commandments were abundantly clear. And for the record, it was a little more then a shirt ☺:

Joshua 7:21 “When I saw among the spoils a goodly Babylonish garment, and two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold of fifty shekels weight, then I coveted them…” The people were clearly told not to take ANYTHING from the ruins of Jericho. This is all about personal responsibility.

The Ark of the Covenant was an embodiment of God's presence with the Israelites. If someone approached the ark, they would effectively be in God's presence - a sinner standing before a holy God who does not tolerate evil (Ps 5:4-6). (This is why the ark was kept behind a veil.) Hence, when Uzzah touched the ark, he was profaning it and disobeying God; he should have grabbed the poles used for carrying the ark instead, for that was their purpose (Ex 25:14-15). The ark shouldn't have been on a cart anyway, but carried on people's shoulders (1 Chr 15:15).

Job
Clever ;) But regardless, an inference isn’t enough to prove Job didn’t have divine assistance. A suspended earth is a remarkable claim, something, I don’t believe, any civilization prior to Job had made.

The Ideal God
I’m curious, forgetting proof of existence, what would be your ideal God and how would you expect to be viewed and treated by this God?

Prophecy
Talk about timing. Have you read the Pat Robertson’s latest prophecy? In 2007, there will be a terrorist attack causing a “mass killing” in the US. THIS is an example of someone using current events to predict a future event. This is the amazing thing about Bible prophecies – precise details weren’t fulfilled until hundreds of years later, something no one since then has been able to emulate. No social or political situation could hint at the end result. The same goes for the prophecies of:

• Cyrus allowing the Jews to rebuild the temple – fulfilled 100 years later (Isa 44:28).
• Violence against Sidon (Ezek 28:22-23)
• Destruction of Samaria (Hos 13:16, Michah 1:6)
• Petra and Edom (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel)

And maybe the simple fact people inherently think there is a ‘point’ to life is more then just a coincidence...? How would my life change if I found out there was no god? I'd probably live fast and die young. Drugs, booze, you name it, because who really cares and what difference does it make?

January 03, 2007 12:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Here:

Say, shouldn't we pare down our topics to a more managable number, maybe one. I know we started off from some fairly broad topics I posted elsewhere but it's getting so branched out that things are too hard to follow accurately. I'll give it a quick go on everything and then let's start off anew with a single topic if you're agreeable.

I guess the point I'm trying to make concerning the age of the bible, how many revisions, etc., which I'd also consider valid concerning many old text is:

A) We have no true way to validate all of its contents against specific timelines and thus eliminate the possibility of any "tampering".

B) As someone once said "history is written by the victors". It's no secret that the early christians destroyed a great many old writings. We don't know what all of these were and why each one was destroyed. The writings that "survived" did so because they "helped" the cause. It's also possible that certain writings who survived were also altered, i.e. Josephus. I've read many pro/con views on Josephus and would not consider either side to have the upper hand in who is right, although I have to admit that the couple of places jesus is mentioned seem somewhat "out of place".

Pardon any skipping around I do. Chasing up and down makes me dizzy.

Considering exorcisms, wherein you've got it labeled a "false belief" does this not conflict with the passages refering to jesus driving out unclean spirits, telling his diciples that they to could perform such feats, etc.?

I'm curious also, as you describe how the bible was put together, i.e. a group decided from among many writings which were "inspired" and worthy and which were not, how do you think they were able to "recognise" one from another? How does one "know" inspired versus uninspired without inspiration?

I agree that the early parts of the bible can into being, in some form, long before jesus.

I don't want to get into a discussion on evolution, however, it is not correct to say that there is no proof. Granted, there are gaps in evolutionary theory, however, much of it is well established. I see no reason to think that the remaining gaps will be filled down the road. I'd also argue that among acadamic circles there exists a common view of evolution, up to the point that the afore mentioned gaps exist. As with all science, the scientific method eventually dispenses with the wrong ones in an "evolutionary" (pardon the pun) process of refining. I doubt that this will happen to the larger "divine" aspects of religious theory. In fact, other than the confirmation of certain historical and geographical events and locations mentioned in the bible, actual "proof" of the "divine" aspects remains as nonexistant today as it did 3000 years ago.

I think skeptics use the bible "against" itself because it allows this through the conflicting passages, ideas, etc. it contains. Actually, if one so believes or disbelieves the bible, there is very little else one could use either way.

An ideal god? That's another tough one, especially for a guy that doesn't believe in one. Without getting into the nitty gritty everyday aspects I guess it'd be one who clearly spelled out everything, i.e. the inspired bible writers devoted the bulk of their time to either everyday mundane things, i.e. do this, don't do that or hell. Very little if any addresses the why and what happens next aspects. What's supposed to happen "in the next life" after resurrection, etc. Do we all sit around "in the presence of god" singing songs and tending sheep. Any NASCAR in heaven, either that one in the sky or here on earth depending on your views. What about sex? Any sex in heaven? Wars? Sickness? Insects? etc.etc.etc.

Pat Robertson is an idiot. A perfect example af religion and greed and ego. The other side of the Islamic terriost coin.

I doubt you'd live fast and die young. I know a great many nonreligious people who lead perfectly sane lives, and a few who claim to be religious who do otherwise.

January 04, 2007 8:05 AM  
Anonymous Jacques said...

Precisely because Jesus threatens unbelievers with Hell in the NT, the Church used the Purgatory as a place where stillborns and people who died before Christ's coming go to be purified, along with those who died with venial sins.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/12575a.htm#II

Christian doctrine fill in gaps and justify biblical contradictions. Were the "Word of God" perfect it wouldn't need an army of apologists through the ages.

I concur with you in that Hell was a place created by men and women. Religions were created by men and women too.

Even Jesus said "let the dead bury their dead" implying that there's no afterlife. But what does he say in Luke 23:43? Verily I say to thee, To-day with me thou shalt be in the paradise.'

Luke 16:23 and in the hades having lifted up his eyes, being in torments, he doth see Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom
After reading the above, to me is clear that Jesus believed in Hell as a place of eternal torment akin to the Hebrew Sheol and Greek Hades.

www.newadvent.org/cathen/05528b.htm
Death is not extinction; but Sheol, the underworld of the dead, in early Hebrew thought is not very different from the Babylonian Aralu or the Homeric Hades, except that Jahve is God even there.

Also, was Lazarus in heaven yet Jesus resurrected him to suffer earthly vicissitudes once again? Was Lazarus in hell? There's no soul at all and Jesus just reanimated Lazarus' body? Lazarus' soul was just asleep?

If even you know Carbon-14 is an unreliable method to measure geological ages past the million years mark, don't you think Paleogeologists and Paleontologists know better than you? They use radioactive isotopes with longer half lives other than those of carbon, such as uranium.

The Hebrew calendar counts since the Creation, we are now in 5767. 2000 years have passed since Christ's coming, 4707 years since Tyre's foundation (Herodotus). What do you think about dinosaur and hominid fossils? Did humans and animals change drastically in the 1060 years between the Creation and Tyre's foundation?
Was Earth created with fossils built-in?

Fossils are very scarce. Had the Flood happened there would be millions of fossils stacked in the same geological layer, everywhere.

There aren't any remains of animals foreign to the Middle East near the site where the Ark is supposed to have landed. There are no fossils of penguins, no kangaroos, no sloths, etc., near Mt. Ararat, Turkey.

Speaking of Turkey, the Black Sea flooding (The Mediterranean pouring its waters in the Black Sea basin) was not a global event. The Black Sea flooding was gradual, it didn't happen in just 40 days and 40 nights.

Daniel is as vague as Nostradamus in his prophecies. http://www.aboutbibleprophecy.com/daniel_2_32.htm

For example:
2. Daniel said that the head-of-gold empire would be followed by an empire symbolized by arms of silver. Christian scholars have often interpreted this to refer to the Medo-Persian empire which later conquered the Babylonian empire. The scholars say that the two arms refer to the two groups - the Medes and the Persians - who comprised the Medo-Persian empire.

Wow, amazing! The Medopersians were described with astonishing exactitude and detail! In this case the prophecy would have been valid had the author clearly written the name of that empire i.e. "Medo-Persian Empire"

According to Genesis 1:14-19 the stars, that gigantic balls of hydrogen that dwarf earth by several orders of magnitude, were made just to modify Earth's darkness a bit. Genesis also says that day, night, Earth, dirt, water, atmosphere, vegetation were created before stars. We now know stars predated Earth, and it seems logical since hydrogen is said to be the most abundant element in Universe and that helium and hard elements like iron, carbon, etc., are created by nuclear fusion in stars.

January 04, 2007 2:53 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

There's too much here to deal with in addition to the conversation with Thomas. I'll move your comment to yet another post.

January 04, 2007 3:20 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

I think you’d be hard pressed to find a good, solid criticism regarding the accuracy and timelines of Bible. Ancient manuscripts, more then 2000 years old, show no discrepancy in what was written then to what we read now in our Bibles. The Dead Sea scrolls came from the “library” of a settlement founded at Qumran before 150 B.C. and abandoned about 68 A.D. Some of the manuscript copies were made during that period, and some were written earlier (third century BC) and brought to the settlement. Ignoring spelling-oriented (orthographic) changes and similar small differences, the Dead Sea Scrolls match the Hebrew text behind today’s Old Testament, in spite of the passage of over 2,000 years (where one would expect errors to creep in).

The Bible, compared with other ancient writings, has more manuscript evidence than any 10 pieces of classical literature combined. Surely, if gross errors and signs of tampering did exist, they would have been brought to light by now.

As for history being written by the victors, this is just incorrect. The OT records dozens of military defeats, decades upon decades of captivity at the hands of the enemies of Israel, and punishment at the hands of God. If history was written by the victors, why would the Jewish writers have included these things, or allowed them to included centuries after the fact (i.e. tampering)?

The claim that Bible prophecies were written after the fact is only valid if there is proof that the Bible documents, especially those of the Old Testament, were written a long time after the events they claim to foretell. All the research of the last 100 years tends to show that the Bible documents are authentic: they really do belong to the age in which they claim to be written.

How did people figure out which writings were inspired and which weren’t? I attribute this to God as well. He inspired the writings, He ensured they’re all presented in a nice package.

And about what’s going to happen in the “next life”, why worry about it? Just get there first ☺

As for a topic, we can keep going with the age of Biblical writings or move back to prophecy or go to exorcisms/evil spirits. Whatever you’d like.

January 04, 2007 9:07 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Here:

Last few days have kept me pretty busy!

I do want to say that I think Jacques makes some very good points and in a very clear way. I hope to follow any additional discussion the two of you have.

Let's have a go on the bibles history/orgin/validity, etc.

I do find it interesting that on the one hand you use scientific and/or academic studies and determinations to support certain aspects of your arguments and on the other hand ignore or find fault in those very type things which don't agree with your view point, i.e. dating of objects, etc..

Some would claim as you do, that the bible's orgin and development are clear cut and it;s accuracy and truth proven, however, others would disagree. Those that disagree make some pretty good arguments too.

With regards to the OT, sure it is an old set of writings, no argument there. And yes, there were versions predating the earlist actual versions we have copies of, however, and I'm sure you'd agree, between the time "someone" began writing anything down and when the OT reached a "standard" form there was a gap of -------- How many years?

It's not that hard for me to imagine that the OT followed a similar evolution to stories of other oral traditions, i.e. repeated over and over with embellishments. Events such as the tale of Sodom and Gomorrah could very well have gone like this:

The actual cities existed and were destroyed in some manner and the event recorded in the bible with additions to give it a "divine" aspect when in fact it was nothing more than a natural occurrance.

If several thousand years later we find the remains of a city in the right place and dating to the time period we calculate would be right, does this mean the bible story is validated? Maybe to some but certainly not to everyone. There are quite a few such things in the bible that could have followed this same pattern.

Also, when you refer to the bible authors as recording defeats etc. you have to remember that in the majority of those cases, if not all, they are recorded as part of an admonishment, etc. Either way, that wasn't my point. My reference, and I was thinking more NT than OT at the time, to the "victors" was more in thinking of:

As christainity came to be the predominate religion of the powers to be, this allowed them to destroy many other records, etc. We know that this did in fact happen and it is well documented.

I'm a little off topic here but:

I would have to say that in the case of many OT prophecies coming true in the NT, there is ample evidence that they either did not or were misinterupted and/or in many cases phrased to seem as if they did to deceive.

Also, one would need to explain the failed bible prophecies in a convincing way, i.e. jesus said that some would not see death before his return, etc. etc. etc. in order to support any claim as to divine inspiration and accuracy without doubt. I would not think one could be divinely uninspired, especially jesus. Please don't tell me that he was refering to our generation as it looks fairly clear when he was speaking to a group that he was refering to them, otherwise, I'd hope he would have been a lot more clear.

That's about all the time I have tonight. Later..........

January 09, 2007 8:20 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hi Thomas, good to hear from you.

Bible history/origin/validity it is.

First of all, I would have to say that my discussion style is no different then anyone else’s. Bible critics use the Bible to support some arguments and then ignore or find fault with other things that don’t agree with their point (the whole debate on Tyre on the other blog site is a good example). I certainly don’t mean to ignore points though, and if I have, or do, by all means, remind me.

I mistrust carbon 14 dating to the nth degree because I’ve done quite a bit of research into it and am appalled at the lack of precision and extreme degree of errancy. But just because I don’t trust carbon dating as far as I can throw a fossil doesn’t mean I’m discounting it simply because it doesn’t agree with my viewpoint. When viewed from a neutral perspective, there are some things people label as being “proof” that actually hold no validity whatsoever. Carbon 14 dating is one of them. The Big Bang is another.

I agree 100% that oral traditions can easily be altered, even if it is accidentally (this is what makes Broken Telephone a fun game). But just because the possibility exists doesn’t mean it’s actually occurred. I could just as easily say that the oral traditions that ended up forming the OT are perfect and in the absence of proof, I’m right. As are you. It’s a perfect stalemate. This argument, the “chances are something got screwed up along the way” argument, eventually comes full circle. It’s the same one I use to challenge your theory on evolution. I say there are too many variables along the way to make evolution possible. A scientist will say that with enough time, anything can happen. I say with God, anything can happen as well.

You picked a tough subject :)

January 10, 2007 12:17 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas again:

I'm still pretty busy this week and will have to keep it short. I'm also violating the topic a bit but I did want to revisit the comment about the big bang theory, and granted, it is a theory, however, it is a theory with support that can be independently verified. For example, when viewd from earth, everything is moving away from everything else as verified by the spectra of their light being red shifted. Unless all matter started from a central point and expanded outward in all directions, i.e. the big bang, this is hard to account for. Other points are, a) general relativity, b) expansion of the universe, c) cosmic microwave background radiation, etc. You'd be hard pressed to find this verifiable support for biblical creation. You also can't find this type support for other alternate theories such as the steady state theory that basically says the universe always existed and always will. Lastly, and you'll get a kick out of me saying this, the big bang theory is not in conflict with the possibility of "god" as nobody knows what was "before" the the big bang or what actually caused the big bang.

Like I've said before, it's not the idea of "god" that I disbelieve or oppose, just all religions ideas and doctrines. It's not the question of "is there such thing as "god" that causes problems, it's all these rules, directions, do's and don't's men have written down and claim they received from "god" that cause the problems.

I'd have a much easier time believing in "god" as a doer as opposed to a talker. It's hard to put much stock in an all powerful being who worries about my foreskin, etc.

January 11, 2007 7:47 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I wholeheartedly agree that science and the Bible work generally together in regards to the creation of the universe. I don’t know enough about the fine mechanics of the big bang theory but on the surface anyhow, I don’t have a problem with God and science mixing. The movement of matter outwards from a central point, expansion of the universe, etc. don’t in any way disprove God because He is the very one who set these things in motion at the beginning.

Nonetheless, when it’s all broken down, science can’t explain how something came from nothing. Where did this energy/matter come from? How reasonable is it to assume it came into being from nothing? And even if it did come into being, what would cause it to explode?

We know from common experience that explosions are destructive and lead to disorder. How reasonable is it to assume that a "big bang" explosion produced the opposite effect - increasing "information", order and the formation of useful structures, such as stars and planets, and eventually people?

Steady State
The steady state theory was popular during the 40s but has waned in popularity as it’s since been discovered that the universe is in fact continuously changing, a view that doesn’t support steady state.

Now, I’m certainly no scientist and I wouldn’t be able to carry on an intelligent conversation if so required, but there are some fundamental problems with the scientific theory of creation. I don’t understand why the concept of God is so quickly doubted when the ridiculousness of the scientific stance on how we all came into being is there for everyone to see.

Physical laws
We know the universe is governed by several fundamental physical laws, such as electromagnetic forces, gravity, conservation of mass and energy, etc. The activities of our universe depend upon these principles like a computer program depends upon the existence of computer hardware with an instruction set. How reasonable is it to say that these great controlling principles developed by accident?

Life from dead chemicals?
Evolutionists claim that life formed from non-life (dead chemicals), so-called "abiogenesis", even though it is a biological law ("biogenesis") that life only comes from life. The probability of the simplest imaginable replicating system forming by itself from non-living chemicals has been calculated to be so very small as to be essentially zero - much less than one chance in the number of electron-sized particles that could fit in the entire visible universe! Given these odds, is it reasonable to believe that life formed itself?

Complex DNA and RNA by chance?
The continued existence (the reproduction) of a cell requires both DNA (the "plan") and RNA (the "copy mechanism"), both of which are tremendously complex. How reasonable is it to believe that these two co-dependent necessities came into existence by chance at exactly the same time?

Life is complex
We know and appreciate the tremendous amount of intelligent design and planning that went into landing a man on the moon. Yet the complexity of this task pales in comparison to the complexity of even the simplest life form. How reasonable is it to believe that purely natural processes, with no designer, no intelligence, and no plan, produced a human being.

Could an intermediate even survive?
Evolution requires the transition from one kind to another to be gradual. And don't forget that "natural selection" is supposed to retain those individuals which have developed an advantage of some sort. How could an animal intermediate between one kind and another even survive (and why would it ever be selected for), when it would not be well-suited to either its old environment or its new environment? Can you even imagine a possible sequence of small changes which takes a creature from one kind to another, all the while keeping it not only alive, but improved?

Reproduction without reproduction?
A main tenet of evolution is the idea that things develop by an (unguided) series of small changes, caused by mutations, which are "selected" for, keeping the "better" changes" over a very long period of time. How could the ability to reproduce evolve, without the ability to reproduce? Can you even imagine a theoretical scenario which would allow this to happen? And why would evolution produce two sexes, many times over? Asexual reproduction would seem to be more likely and efficient!

Plants without photosynthesis?
The process of photosynthesis in plants is very complex. How could the first plant survive unless it already possessed this remarkable capability?

Symbiotic relationships
There are many examples of plants and animals which have a "symbiotic" relationship (they need each other to survive). How can evolution explain this?

"Intelligent design" is science's first baby step into the realm of God :)

Carrying about Foreskin
God doesn’t worry about your foreskin anymore but I get your point. The fact that God interacts with His creation on the level He does (speaks to them, forgives them, loves them, acts in their lives, etc.) tells me that we’re important to Him. The fact that He’s all powerful doesn’t mean He can’t or shouldn’t be carrying about us on such a finite level. God is described in Scripture as “Father” and this is the role He plays. He isn’t an intangible spirit that lingers in the shadows, unapproachable and uncaring. In fact, it’s quite the opposite:

Deu 30:19 “…I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing: therefore choose life…”

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world…”

Titus 3:4 “But after that the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared…”

1John 4:9 “…the love of God toward us…”

Personally, I get a lot of comfort out of this.

January 12, 2007 11:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas Here:

Big bang is a bad term since everyone tends to think of an explosion, i.e. like a bomb, however, in the big bang it was more a rapid expansion of space and time with matter and energy coming into being.

What caused it to "explode" or expand? Boy would I make Larry King if I knew that one. Will we ever know? Possibly. 100 years ago we didn't know 1/100 of what we know now and what we know now is probably less than a 1/100 what we'll know 100 years from now.

Physical laws, life, DNA, etc.
The one major flaw in your arguments is that by assuming since we don't currently know the answer to certain questions, that we will never know the answer.

Can certain "dead" chemicals under the right circumstances generate "life" without a god or a designer? Possibly. I can't prove they can any more than you can prove they can't. Same for the intermediate evolutionary steps, etc.

Just as the possibility of a monkey typing "to be or not to be" on a keyboard seems far fetched, statistics tell another story. To us what seems unlikely/improbable/impossible lacking sufficient evidence either way proves nothing.

Studies show "the rate of progressive evolution (the accumulation of beneficial mutations) is faster in populations that reproduce sexually."

As to life etc. being complicated, again I'd say that's relative to ones knowledge/viewpoint. To most people it IS complicated and I persoanlly believe that's why some choose to believe in a god, however, the view that things are complicated and unexplainable can just as easily be because of a lack of understanding as opposed to truley impossible.

I believe "intelligent design" is an attempt by religious zealots to smuggle religion into schools and classrooms under a cloak of science in an effort to spread the faith under false pretenses. What's transpired over the last couple of years pretty much confirms this to me, i.e. the Dover trial, etc. It's also not even a theory in the strict sense of the word and all of its proof comes back to exactly what you've stated, i.e it's so complicated that "god" had to do it, etc. etc. etc.

Can you imagine a class where the teacher stands up and says that the sky is blue because it's god's favorite color. The fact that there's water molecules absorbing certain spectra, etc. well that's just the way god went about it. You want a look at a society dominated by religion, look at the middle east. Many of their problems and the rest of the world's problems stem from a culture raised on too much religion and not enough knowledge. I have to admit that it makes things a lot easier to say god did it or that's the way god wants it, etc. The only problem is sometimes people stop checking to see if there's another answer. Hey, this one is too complex. Must be another god one. NEXT!

Truthfully, if religion had it's way, and in the middle east it for a large part has, we'd be sending out these thoughts on parchment, provided they got past the thought police.

By the way, I'd like to know why you think there are so many different religions in existance and what makes you so certain you've got the correct one. There are quite a few choices, both old and current, with dead and rose again saviors, prophecies, creation stories, etc. Look at it from the concept point instead of the one guy got fed up and started his own sub set, etc. Why didn't god inspire on a wider geographic basis instead of simply one little spot. Also, before we hit the "his" people part with the flood and only one family left to repopulate the world, why do you think the hebrews were selected? They surely weren't the smartest, best developed, richest, cleanest, most moral, etc. They were just another disenfranchised bunch of desert dwellers who supposedly came from the same genetic source as everyone else, although, those "others" lack any creation story tying them back to the single family part but who have their own stories going back as far or even more.

January 12, 2007 7:09 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Since we don’t know what caused the Big Bang or that we don’t have the answers to physical laws, etc., they can’t be valid arguments to disprove God’s hand in creation. In other words, since we have such a complete lack of knowledge and understanding and arguably the lack of an objective viewpoint in these parts of science, perhaps we should move on to something a little more…concrete in terms of Bible discussions…?

Intelligent design has been around for 1500 years in some form or another so it’s certainly not a new phenomenon. Even more absurd then a teacher teaching that God is at the centre of creation, is the teaching of the theory of evolution and other theoretical ideas as fact. This is what’s been going on for decades and now, as soon as there’s a whiff of intelligent design in the classrooms, it’s pinned on religious fanatics trying to spread their gospel. Society is dominated by skeptics who require evidence before they believe.

I completely agree: a religious society isn’t the same as a religiously knowledgeable society. North American culture is inhabited by religious folk who really know nothing about the God they claim to worship. But then, this is how the big Christian denominations want it: People coming through the doors, bodies in the seats, voices raised on high, money in the coffers. Knowledge is frowned upon, and this was no less apparent then the inception of the Vulgate, the doctrine of papal infallibility, and the beginnings of the great “it’s a mystery” answer to all those hard questions people have been asking for centuries. I’m about as much a skeptic as you are on the validity of religion, specifically mainstream Christianity, we just go about refuting it in different ways. You use common sense, I use Scripture.

What makes me think I have the “correct” religion…ah, the age old question. ☺ My beliefs/Christadelphian beliefs, are based entirely on Scripture. Even if you're skeptical, I can honestly say that I’ve tested these beliefs, I’ve tried them and I’ve kept an open mind. I’ve taken no one’s word on it, I’ve searched things out on my own and I've been able to find a crack in the armour. Unlike 99% of Christianity, my beliefs are taken exclusively from God’s Word. Now, first of all I’m not saying this automatically makes me “right” and I'm definitely not suggesting that you have to be "Christadelphian" to be saved (because this just isn't the case). Secondly, given the vast amounts of extra-Biblical man-made material other religions use to prove their doctrines, using only the Bible is truly unique. This is why Bible conversations with other Christians don’t last too long; their need to look elsewhere for answers. If every Christian agreed that 2 Timothy 3:16 is the unequivocal truth, church tradition, blah blah blah are of no consequence, ESPECIALLY when it’s shown they contradict the teachings of the Bible.

I’m by no means a Bible expert, I’ve simply spent a lot of time going through and discussing it with people of like faith and I’m continually surprised that people think the Bible is more complicated then it really is. If the Trinity is absent from Scripture, then on what basis can it be formed as a doctrine???? Baptism, prayer, faith, works, love, knowledge, these are all fundamental teachings and each one is clearly expressed in the Bible. With the basic assumption that the Bible is the perfect and only tool required, if every Christian sat down, took a week or so off from life and really examined their beliefs free from outside influence, it would quickly become apparent what the truth really is.

Why do I think the Jews were selected to be God’s people?

Deu 7:6-7 “For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:”

The idea that God has a special relationship with the nation of Israel does not go down well today. Our society is pre-occupied with equality and equal opportunity. Why should God choose one nation out of the many that fill the globe? What is so special about that tiny strip of land between the continents, the country we now call Israel, for which He seems to have such a deep regard? A short answer to this question would be that as God is the Creator, He does not have to answer to us for what He does. We view His work from a very short time-span, compared with the eternity through which He operates. We should be prepared to wait a very long time if we want to know why He does things a certain way.

The fact that the Israelities weren’t the smartest, best developed, richest, cleanest. etc. is exactly why He chose them. It’s as Paul says in Corinthians 1Cr 1:27-28 “But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are.” What better way to prove the existence of God then to witness the enduring, timeless nature of a small group of disheveled people with less then acrimonious beginnings, persecuted and killed and hated by nation upon nation for thousands of years all bent on their destruction. The fact that Israel continues to exist as a nation and keeping in mind that the Jews of today are amongst some of the wealthiest and most influential people on the planet truly is astounding.

January 13, 2007 1:52 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas again:

Needless to say, there isn't any adequate way to counter the argument of god did/does whatever for reasons we can't explain that a believer will buy. The ole "the lord works in mysterious ways" argument, however, owing to the fact that, as you've said, the universe seems "designed" with a certain level of order "built-in", I find it hard to accept so many believing in a god who appears to do unorderly things and willingly accept the "mysterious ways" argument at face value.

You believe that god has a special fondness for the hebrews more or less because of what the "were not" as opposed to what they "were" but would you say that god has a fondness for others in this "reverse" type way?

Also, you're willing to accept that god apparently does "weird/foolish" things and makes "weird/foolish" choices simply to confound the wise, etc. while at the same time harboring a need/desire for worship/belief/obedience, etc. Does these things not seem in conflict, at least in some small way? Could you in fact raise your children to grow up to be good productive members of society under the same conditions?

This is another scenerio that I've always found both interesting and worrisome. We can't understand god but the bible is supposed to give us understanding but the bible says that god can not be understood. I'm paraphrasing a bit but I keep seeing reruns of the movie Catch 22. If you've seen it, it's something like a pilot wants to quit flying on the basis of being crazy because he's tired of dropping bombs on the enemy and risking death but since it makes perfect sense to want to quit they tell him he can't be crazy and to keep flying. More or less and as best as I remember.........

I've had people tell me that I can't judge god on human standards but at the same time try to convince me that god is the one who set all the important standards and so when I read a part of the bible where god apparently violates one of his standards or does something "weird/foolish" is see conflict and another reason to disbelieve.

We do evidently have similar views on organized religion and "false" doctrines. What do you know, common ground.........

I would ask this, skipping over us arguing about false/fullfilled prophecies again, on what definitive basis do you believe the bible to be "god's word"?

January 14, 2007 8:59 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

I think one of the barriers in this kind of conversation is the acceptance of God's actions. Us not being able to accept why God would do something isn’t a reasonable argument to say He doesn’t exist. ☺

I believe in what the Bible says so if it says the Jews are God’s chosen people, than it’s more then personal opinion or idle hypothesizing in saying that the Jews are God’s chosen people. I’m not sure though what you’re alluding to by hinting that God has a fondness for others…?

The few verses before the one I referenced in 1 Corinthians 1:27 says that the “foolishness of God is wiser then men…” For example, a bunch of people walking around town walls before they came crashing to the ground. The Israelites followed the commandment of God and the town of Jericho was delivered into their hands. The next town on the list was Ai, the which the people tried to take on their own without instruction or approval from God. The people were defeated, the point being driven home that ultimately they could do nothing without God. It’s this understanding that promotes worship, belief and obedience; man fails without God.

The Bible gives us all the understanding that’s required to gain salvation. It does so by explaining who God is, who Jesus is, what their relationship is with each other and with ourselves. 1 Corinthians 2:11-14 sums it up well: “For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. 12 We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us. 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, expressing spiritual truths in spiritual words.* 14 The man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned.”

If we believe the Bible is God’s word, then we also believe that everything we need to know about God, Jesus, the Jews, the commandments, etc. etc. etc. is contained within its pages. If we’re not given an explanation about why God did something, we can be assured it’s not important to us. God doesn’t need to explain His actions and He doesn’t require justification or validation from the things He created. My human logic and conditioned opinions play no part in the equation because I’ll never know enough of the big picture to have a proper grasp on things. For example, if God says “Baptism is necessary for salvation”, there’s no point questioning why some other ritual wasn’t used instead because it’s simply not important.

What basis do I believe the Bible is God’s word? Phew, that’s a loaded question… ☺ I'll try and keep this short. When one examines the writings found in the Bible, we discover that they are in a totally different category from the foundation documents of popular 21st century religions (Islam, Buddhism, etc.). In fact they are so different and contain such incredible characteristics that the question arises, “Who is really responsible for them? Men did the actual writing, but whose was the thinking that lies behind all of them?”

As a digression, I can’t stress enough the one vital principle to observe in all this: what the Bible writers say about themselves and their message.

The remarkable fact is that the Bible speaks of one God, having one purpose, even though the writings of the Bible have been written by dozens of different authors in many different geological locations, over the span of a dozen or so centuries. The earliest books of the Old Testament and the latest of the New are bound together by one outlook and one conviction, so that they become in fact one revelation. How this could have been accomplished in a world of human fallibility is something worthy to understand.

Now, in terms of credit, there is one common affirmation found in all the writers of the books of the Bible: it is that they were not writing their own words, but the words and thoughts of God.

I don’t like quoting extra-Biblical sources but this one is interesting. John Urquhart (The Inspiration and Accuracy of the Holy Scriptures, 1895): "…There is no conflict in it. There is but one view of the Scriptures - both of the Old and the New Testament - they are alike the Word of God ... There is one thing more of the utmost importance to our inquiry. This view has not grown. It is not a product of Christian evolution. It has been handed down right from the apostolic times. Were there no other evidence extant as to what the Apostles taught about the Scriptures, I cannot see how the conclusion could be escaped that they must have regarded both the New Testament and the Old as the very Word of God. These disciples of the Apostles would never have spoken so emphatically and unanimously, unless their masters had been equally emphatic and unanimous." (page 31)

One more comment to make. The actual writers of these scriptures - the Law, the Psalms and the Prophets, the Gospels and the Epistles and the Revelation - must also have been convinced that they were writing not their own words but the words of God Himself. In fact they say so themselves. And this was maintained in one set of writings for 1,500 years, from Moses to the apostle John, and it is found in no other set of writings anywhere in the world.

But this view of their own words is unusual. Men do not willingly ascribe the authority of their words, and especially of their ideas, to someone else. They are so often overly eager to claim the credit for what they write (eg. The Book of Mormon, the Watchtower, the Pope, etc.…). How then could this unique attitude have been preserved by every single one of the writers of the Bible? There is only one reasonable explanation: there was a divine deity behind it all, directing what was written and taught. No men of themselves could have maintained this most unnatural view of their own work over so many centuries.

Consider finally the teachings of the Bible, from views of heaven and hell, to the uniqueness of the Jews, to the coming of a saviour, to the state of death (dust to dust), etc. etc. No one book deviates from the rest in terms of these views, and if the argument is that the Church only included writings that fit together, consider how many Church doctrines are disproven using the very books they included…

January 14, 2007 11:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas:

What I mean by fondness of "others" is - why when the hebrews were apparently chosen for their lesser characteristics do we expect eternal damnation at the worst or being "left behind" at the least for our "sins" etc. Would it not make more sense for god to "try harder" with these folk than the ones who readily fall in line? After all, the bible doesn't ascribe any base/genetic, etc. difference to the hebrews to single them out and only list those things you mention.

Corinthians 2:11-14 which you quote is actually quite interesting in that it appears to say (my words) that in order to "understand" you have to have the "spirit of god", however, if the bible IS the word of god why should I require this mystical "spirit" translator and exactly how does one go about acquiring it? Again, I can't believe that go's logic involves a maze type mentality whith hoops to jump through and decoder rings. You yourself claim that all one needs is the bible but yet the bible says that without the spirit there can be no understanding. Am I missing something here? Do I have the "spirit" when I've convinced myself I finally understand, or am I only fooling myself. How am I supposed to know the diference?

I don't see any difference in a group of writers who write about a single subject (god) or a group that writes about multiple subjects (gods). So they were like minded. The fact that there are writers who write about no god actually doesn't prove them to be right does it?

You know our subject matter well and I am impressed with the diversity of things we've covered in only a few exchanges!!

As to crediting god with authorship, etc. I know you are aware that it was not uncommon for people of the times to assign authorship to more "famous" writers. If you can write something and claim to have written it AND claim it was inspired by god, seems to me you've scored double over the chap who simply signed somebody else's name.

I also can draw a comparasion of hebrew/christian prophets to the priest/oracles of other ancient beliefs. They too claimed divine inspiration and ascribed their words and writings to god(s). I've never had a chance to argue that Zeus doesn't exist, however, during "his time" he was endowed with the same "godly" powers, wisdom, etc.etc.etc. Had a great many devote followers, etc. prophets, writings, etc. etc. etc. In fact, I can't think of any god of note, of any culture, who did not supposedly have these "godly" powers, prophets, writings, teachings, etc. from Ahura Mazda to Ra to Vishnu, etc.

Can you think of any gods from ancient times who DID NOT have these type things?

You know, one of the earlist criticisms of christianity was that it focused on and appealed primarly to those of feeble mind and/or children. This is from the writings of Celsus a greek pagen writer, whose writings were destroyed by the earlier christians but by chance survived in the writings of christian author Origen of Alexandria (Contra Celsum).

Please don't think I meant this to be taken personally. I'm only attempting to show that the biblical writings were not considered to be great and wonderous insights, etc. or that their authors and prophets great men of wisdom by everyone. Would you conceed that one's view may be biased by their own beliefs?

Lastly, why do you think ordinary people, who in their everyday life are not the type to fall for scams, get rich quick deals, sounds too good to be true things, etc. fail to apply the same critical analysis to their spiritual side? After all, I can make a far better case, with supporting evidence, for big foot than one can make for the god of the bible. No, I don't believe in big foot either!!

January 15, 2007 6:47 PM  
Blogger Jason said...

Fortunately, the reasons why God picked the Jews is irrelevant to us today because it doesn’t affect our salvation.

Everyone’s told what they need to do to gain salvation so whether we run with it or not is our decision and therefore we live with the consequences. Nonetheless, the teachings in the NT go to great lengths to explain that upon baptism, there is no difference between Jew or Gentile, that both have access to the promise of salvation. Romans 3:29 also tells us that God is the God of the Gentiles (us) as well as God of the Jews. So anyone can theorize about why God picked the Jews instead of another group but for us in the 21st century, the why of the matter really has no bearing on our relationship with God.

Ah, I was wondering if you were going to pick up on that thought in 1 Corinthians. ☺ There seem to be a lot of “why should I” and “I can’t believe” comments in this post. ☺ The spirit of God isn’t a mystical translator. The spirit of God is contrasted with the “spirit of the world” in vs. 12 and is talking about having a certain mindset. An atheist doesn’t have the spirit of God (by choice) so talking to him about the Bible is pointless because it sounds foolish to him. I don’t have the spirit of the world so talking to me about how great life is without God sounds foolish to me also.

There are no mazes, no hoops and no decoder rings. If you have the spirit of the world, you’ll never need to Bible because the two contrast each other. Philippians 3:20 "For our citizenship is in heaven..." and Mathew 6:24 “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon.” So, once again, it comes down to a personal decision. What spirit to have, what master to serve. As with any relationship, God is willing to work with us but we are required to show some effort on our part.

A group of writers, separated by generations and geography, writing about one God, all whom describe Him exactly the same (God is one, God of the Jews, God is male, God has never been seen, God hears prayer, God appears through angels, etc. etc.) is more then simply being like-minded. It’s far more difficult to write about one person using identical descriptions and observations then it is to not write about a person. There is no variance in God anywhere in the OT, or even in the NT as well. No one writer ever decided to call God a woman, for example. No one ever described Him as a young man. No one ever described Him as sitting on a throne of wood (Daniel, Moses, Ezekiel and Isaiah all describe God’s throne room without a discrepancy in their observations). No one ever said they saw the face of God. And on and on and on. And the fact that these writings haven't been tampered with or modified to fit whatever current thinking was prevelant during the time of scribing or translation is astounding.

I’m not up on my ancient writing and crediting practices ☺ The funny thing about many of the OT writers is that oftentimes, the writer is presented as a less then heroic figure. Take Moses, for example, or David or Solomon. These three OT writers made some incredibly serious blunders in their life and they hardly come out smelling like roses. They talked back to God, questioned His motives, made some catastrophic life & family decisions, and the list goes on. Why would these human writers have included these embarrassing mistakes and lapses in judgment for their family and relatives to read for generations to come? Why would Moses proudly claim to his kinsfolk to have written the book of Exodus and then include the fact he murdered an Egyptian, broke the stones the 10 commandments were written on, and missed out on getting into the Promised Land because of his temper? It doesn’t make sense to me unless these writings were inspired by God because no one, no matter which era you live in, voluntarily slanders himself in a bid to win people over (whatever “winning them over” entails).

Poor Zeus. Such a short lifespan ☺ A sure sign he wasn’t on the same level as God. What other deity in the 21st century can claim a lifespan of at least 6000 years or so?

If early Christianity supposedly appealed to those of feeble mind and/or children, then I’m guessing there wouldn’t have been any of those “why is the Bible so difficult to understand?” comments we hear so much about today ☺ Regardless, with the exception of two or three books, I would agree in that very little of the OT consists of great and wondrous insights, which is why I’m so surprised people think the Bible is so complicated. Even the NT comes across in the same manner. It’s filled with simple, BASIC commandments on what people must do to be saved.

I do concede that one’s views can be biased because of his beliefs the same way one is biased because of lack of belief. But this argument can only go so far. There are too many facts on the Bible side and not enough facts from the other side to sway my mind the other way. For example, it’s a fact that there are hundreds of OT prophecies concerning the coming of Christ. Even with a bias, that facts don’t lie.

About your last point, it sounds like you do believe in a God or deity, just not the one that’s portrayed in the Bible. Did you come to this conclusion after having applied critical analysis? See, the thing with scams and get rich quick deals, etc. is that they all promise a quick return with very little work. They’re hardly a fair comparison to one’s spiritual life since being spiritual, specifically following God and reading the Bible, requires some effort. Oftentimes the effort involved comes as a result of simply trying to break away from mainstream Christianity. Religious peer pressure, the desire not to swim against the current, is far too strong for the majority of Christians to sit down and figure out if their beliefs are ones taught by God/the Bible or ones taught by men.

A Christian with the spirit of God can find ample evidence to support the existence of God and the validity of the Bible. A true skeptic with the spirit of the world can’t.

From prophecy to Bigfoot. Now THAT’S diversity ☺

January 16, 2007 10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thomas:

Running late this morning so I have to be brief.

1) I may have this wrong, however, you seem to suggest that the bible came into being through different writers, separated by some distances, without interaction. I would agree on this to a point, however, as I believe there was a common starting point from which everything else evolved, the fact that different people, in different places, times, etc. wrote along similar lines isn't too hard to account for and doesn't require divine inspiration.

2) As to either the spirit of god or the spirit of man, do you think one is born one way or another. Key point here is, if one does not have the spirit of god, how does one go about acquiring it? Would I "have it" if suddenly I decided to simply accept what the bible says without question? Would I get it by praying and simply wake up the next day with a new mind set? Again, seems like a catch 22 in that to "have it" you have to believe but to believe you have to "have it".

3) Writers have been telling seedy things on themselves forever. I could list you a hundred "tell all" books. I could say it is a) a literary device to appeal to a broader crowd and/or b) a religious device to appeal to a broader crowd, i.e. "see how sorry I was until I found god", etc.

4) Yep, poor Zeus, a victim of both political and religious change, similar to so many pagan celebrations that are now "christian" holidays.

5) I've said before that I don't exclude the possibility of "something", god or whatever one would choose to call it because I don't have that ability or knowledge. I do, on the other hand, exclude the god of the bible, quran, book of mormon, etc.

6) I do give christianity/the bible credit in that the very things I find fault with give it such a large appeal to so many, i.e. where I see conflicts, it allows for double the audience, i.e. this part says yes, that part says no and still a third part says maybe. With all the bases covered, it's hard to lose, i.e. salvation only through faith, salvation only through works, salvation through both works and faith.

January 17, 2007 8:27 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

1. It’s a little more then writing along “similar lines”. The cold facts communicated in each book are exactly what’s communicated in other books; there’s no ‘broken telephone syndrome’ even given the vast amounts of time separating some of the writers.

2. No, I don’t think people are born with the “spirit of God” or the “spirit of the world”. Paul carried with him the “spirit of the world” before his conversion; Nebuchadnezzar was staunchly anti-God for the longest time before doing a complete 180. Deut. 30 talks about choosing life or choosing death and from God’s perspective, this is voluntarily choosing to have the spirit of God or the spirit of the world.

As for how one goes about ‘getting it’, this is something only the individual can answer. For some it takes a miraculous event (Paul), for others it takes a great degree of humility (Nebuchadnezzar), for some it’s about coming to an understanding of God and the Bible (the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8). The opposite point is that Scripture records many, many people who traded in the spirit of God for the spirit of the world (the Israelites are a great example).

For further reading, Romans 6:19-20, Eph 4:22 and Col 3:5-10 all speak about changing spirits from that of the world to God.

3. Moses wasn’t attempting to appeal to a broader crowd. Except in the case of specific prophecies, the audience in the OT was always the Israelites. David had one of his own people murdered so he could get the poor guy’s wife and Solomon had his heart turned away about wives and concubines. In any ordinary situation, these events would have seriously discredited the author, but the Jews understood that God was the source of what was being written and so the author’s personal experiences were of no consequence in terms of the truthfulness and bias of what he was writing. Remember also that all of the writers had already “found God” long before their mistakes and setbacks were ever recorded. In the OT, it was God who found the individuals, not vice versa. Gideon, Samson and Moses are just a few of the more obvious examples.

4. God has never been a victim of political or religious change in the sense that neither one has managed to kill him off, unlike Zeus and the hundreds of other gods people have worshipped over the ages.

5. In all seriousness, do you exclude the God of the Bible because He doesn’t fit your concept of what a God should be?

6. Ah yes, but just because all the bases are covered doesn’t mean mankind has got it right. Look at how many verses talk about minority vs. majority when it comes to who will be saved (Mat 7:13-14, Mat 20:16, Mat 22:14, Luke 12:32, Luke 13:24, Romans 3:9-13, Romans 9:27). Surely, if the Bible was written to allow a massive cross section of people to be saved, why clearly state that many of these people won’t? And for the record, I don’t believe for a minute that it’s the Bible that appeals to many. It’s religion itself that acts as the carrot. You could ask a hundred Catholics who the first king of Israel was and I guarantee 90% of them wouldn’t have a clue. Look at how many Christians still think it was an apple that Adam and Eve ate or how many believe that angels married women in Genesis 6 ☺ If the Bible was as appealing as you say it is, people would remember and understand the details in these very basic stories. No, it’s religion that is appealing because of things like “salvation through faith alone”, infant baptism, heaven, purgatory, blah blah blah. These are all cute little manmade tools designed to keep people happy and interested in whatever religion is being preached from the pulpit. They leave the individual feeling good about life even though the Bible is quite obviously silent on these teachings, and these days, a good feeling is more valuable then feeling right.

January 17, 2007 11:44 AM  
Blogger Jason said...

Hi Thomas, haven't heard from you in a while. Hope you're well.

February 07, 2007 9:12 AM  

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