Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Why do Churches have locks?

Recently we were informed of another incident in which a person shot a number of people in a public location—in this instance a Church camp and a Church. It is a sad commentary on our times--we have become so acclimated to this on the news, we refer to it as “another” shooting, and before the media has completed their frenzy on one situation, we have heard of a new one.

This recent situation ended differently than most in that an armed security guard shot and killed the assailant during his assault. Although the details are sketchy, the media reports this guard was in place because of concern over security issues, both from past embarrassments (Ted Haggard) and possibly being forewarned of the shooting at the camp.

For full disclosure, I should note I own handguns myself, I strongly support the concept of qualified citizens privately owning guns, and I have had a concealed weapons permit in the past. I am genuinely glad this guard was armed, used her weapon, and was successful in stopping this murderer. I am thankful the church had the foresight to instill this program.

However, it does bring in to sharp focus the fact of how little Christians act as if there is a God. Every church I have ever attended had locks on the door. Every church I attended in the past two decades also has an alarm system.

If God was in control—why would there need to be locks? Oh, we can claim God doesn’t want us to be stupid, and we should use common sense and wisdom, yet this flies in the face of 1 Cor. 1:20-21 which says the wisdom of the world is foolishness. Banks put locks on doors. Stores and business put locks on doors. We would say that is wise of them to do so. But is a Christian demonstrating a lack of faith by doing the same thing the world does?

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to not worry about what you will eat, or drink, not even to worry about your life! Matt. 6:25-34. Why, then, should Churches have to lock their doors to worry about robbers?

Ever attend a church which has a building project? Perhaps needs a new roof? The same thing—a chart is put up in the lobby in the form of a thermometer, with each “goal” of contribution being a mark, and as the money comes in from the members, it is slowly filled in with red. Does the church say, “We need a new roof—don’t worry—God will provide”? Nope. The church says, “We need a new roof. Let us pray, and pass the plate.”

Part of the line items in a church budge is “insurance.” Including fire insurance. The author and finisher of the universe is unable to stop a fire? Of course not! The church just does not quite have enough faith to think it would for them!

And in this situation a church recognized a viable problem, and instituted a safety precaution. Just like any business would. The church felt God might not stop an assailant, but the bullets propelled from a gun fired by a person would. And they were right.

Although I am informed by many theists there is a God, what I observe is they don’t act like there is one. The church says there is a God watching over them; but has a lock on the door. There is a God who will provide; but has insurance. Here, the Church said, “There is a God; but just in case we better get a gun.”

For the sake of the people who were not harmed, I am glad the theists didn’t believe in their God on that day.

98 comments:

  1. I am not sure that is really a fair blog there Dagoods - I find it slanted and unrealisitic.

    First off, you compare a church with a business and how God shoudl take care of the church so it needs no locks...but don't Christians people work in those banks or people of other faiths? Shouldn't there be no locks anywhere if this is the case?

    Secondly, the idea Christians think God needs to intervene in every single thing is backed by what exactly - from Christian theology? I have never heard this idea come from a Christian person's mouth - except that God will take care of it/you. Now how that works out is never quite specified in depth - but why do we have to get all literal about it? That's narrow minded in scope.

    Thirdly, how is gun control the savior and the culprit in the same scenario...only in America.

    I have studied this case from the first publications - did you know this kid was involved in conversations with people that de-converted from Evangelicalism? On-line? For 2 years? I was quite intrigued by that aspect of it.

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  2. Dagoods,

    It's a good, logical and "fair" question as far as I can see, if the Christian in question wishes to use the bible to support their actions.

    Societyvs, you state "... the idea Christians think God needs to intervene in every single thing is backed by what exactly - from Christian theology? I have never heard this idea come from a Christian person's mouth - except that God will take care of it/you" Yet the one passage that Dagoods quotes (and of course there are more) from Matthew is purportedly from the head of the Christian faith, Jesus. That same Jesus is reported to have said, "...if a man asks for your coat, give him your shirt also..." So, why shouldn't the contents of a church be available as well? Where does one properly draw the line if we cannot "get all literal about it?"

    DagoodS, I'd be curious to know if you had a hand gun before you de-coverted?

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  3. The short answer from the Reformed perspective is that we acknowledge that we live in a broken world where people do break into churches and steal things (at my old church, someone actually broke in and stole our "Penny House", a 4'x2'x3' piggy bank for kids to put in their pennies for Habitat for Humanity. Amazingly, they never did find the perp).

    We tend to think that it says more about human nature than anything else.

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  4. SocietyVs,

    I am a human. I am sure I am slanted and unrealistic. Comes with the nature of the thing. *grin*

    Actually, due to the difficulty in defining the term “God” one wonders how we can determine what God intervenes in. If one defines it as the creator and sustainer of the universe, then that particular God IS involved in everything, down to the movements of electrons within atoms. If, however, one defines it as merely a deistic instigator who set in place certain laws, and then let the clock run its own, regardless of outcome, then yes, I could see that definition not having God intervene in anything.

    From most of my background and study (and if you want me to look up some links, I can) Christians hold God as the sustainer of the universe. Meaning he is, by definition, actually intervening at every moment. (‘Course this immediately flies in the face of Free Will, which is why that can of worms never quit shuts.) I agree Christianity does not claim God will always “intervene” in a way in which we think beneficial. God may not always stop the robber. But God always can. Which then raises the issue of faith—if one has faith strong enough to move mountains Matt. 17:20, 21:21 (and I understand that is hyperbole) then one surely has enough faith that God will prevent a fire in the sanctuary if he so desires. Wouldn’t that premium be better spent buying food for the poor?

    Am I reading the verses too literal? How can we allegorize the notation of faith that can move mountains? Or ask and it will be given to you? Matt. 7:7. Or that it is at the Lord’s will as to whether you live or die? James 4:15. Or God will supply all your needs? Phil. 4:19. Or how do we allegorize Matt. 6:25-31?

    This may be narrow in scope, but I have yet to see a methodology by which we can determine what is allegory and what is literal within what the Christian claims are the promises of God. To a non-believer (me) it looks as if the Christian DOES want to worry and DOES NOT want to rely upon God to supply their needs, so they claim these verses are not to be construed literally in order to avoid the implications. Christians want bank accounts, stock portfolios and insurance. ‘Cause they aren’t so certain God will be there, like they claim to me.

    No, I did not know the murderer was involved in conversations with deconverts. Thanks for the input—do you have a link? I would be curious to know where such conversations were taking place; there are not that many spots on-line.

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  5. paul,

    Yes. I have owned handguns for a number of years. I defended a murderer who killed a man’s only daughter. The man threatened to kill my client, his lawyer, and “anyone who got in his way.” He had nothing to live for; the police thought the threat was viable.

    I obtained a concealed weapons permit.

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  6. Flycandler,

    Yeah, I know about the “cursed world.” However—doesn’t God work in a cursed world environment? Couldn’t God sustain a church if he desired? Again, that elusive definition of a God—he can create a universe of 100’s of billions of galaxies with 100’s of billions of stars in each, yet due to sin (which he created) he can’t stop a church from burning?

    Hard to swallow from the non-believer aspect. A Reformed theologian might also claim the person who stole the pennies needed it more than Habitat for Humanity, and it was God’s will the robber should have it…

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  7. A Reformed theologian might say that, but I doubt anyone would take him seriously.

    I think that at its very heart, Reformed Christianity (by which I specifically mean the traditions that trace themselves historically and intellectually to John Calvin) has a great deal of agnosticism. We realize that there is an awful lot about the will of God that we will never understand, but we trust that the final result will be toward some good.

    The Christians who really exasperate me (you know of whom I speak) are the ones who try to use the religion to explain everything in the universe. Can't quite comprehend the concept of abiogenesis? Poof! Intelligent designer! Horrific attack by terrorists on innocent civilians? Poof! God's revenge on "the gays and the lesbians, the ACLU, People for the American Way" etc.

    The honest truth is that none of us know for certain; we can't. We are not God, and it's mighty presumptuous for us to make up God's mind for God. The honest person of faith has just that: faith, a trust that there's something larger than ourselves and the physical world. We can't prove it and shouldn't attempt to. The church caused me to try to fall away from my faith, but I think that at the end of the day, it was that deep, inner trust that helped me to return to (a much better IMO) church.

    Where I get into the most trouble with my more conservative brethren and sisteren is how I then deal with people who do not share my faith tradition or those with no faith at all. It is not my job to save your soul (in the true spirit of the Reformation, I don't think it's my job to save my own soul). I can, however (in terms that have been hijacked and robbed of meaning), testify as to what I think and believe. You can take it or leave it, but know that I love and respect you as a member of the human family.

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  8. Never mind, SocietyVs, I read on your blog, and found the links. Thanks.

    If you want to read some chilling posts written by the shooter, go Here

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  9. This sounds, in a way, similar to another dicussion you were involved with on another blog, about the website of God hating amputees. I forget who introduced the point, but it was about how Christians pray for healings on those things that actually stand a chance in being healed -- such as cancer, or diseases on those areas. But people don't pray for a limb to be restored, because they know the natural laws don't work that way. It's incredibly coincidental, because if there is a supernatural God, it would follow that there'd be quite a few supernature interventions within the "right" religion. Instead, the healings are due to the medical progress made throughout history. Cancer only has a cure after it is studied and so forth.

    It seems the same way here: you can pray that God will provide, and yet act as though the outcome is directly dependent upon your decisions. Locks put on the church affect if someone might choose it as an easy robbery target. If money must be raised, people advertise it, knowing that the only way it gets raised is through what they do or do not do. It's almost impossible to see how prayer alters the outcome. Or how to see the hand of God in the first place, when it's so easily blended with human decisions.

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  10. Well I'm glad to see the shooter wasn't you, dagoods (just kidding, of course).

    Flycandler is right that the locks say more about the world than they do about God.

    The point you missed is that God created us for himself, not for us. Thus we can't simply impose our will on things and say this is God or not God. We're setting ourselves up for unbelief.

    Here's a humorous example of your fundraising dilemma. My church had a "project" they harrassed everybody to contribute to even though the majority could not grasp the reason or mission of the architecturally horrific addition. There was a communal sigh of relief when the city shot it down 9-0. The few folks who thought God was in on the project, "directing it", are surprisingly still theists. But most of the congregation looked up to heaven and said, "Ah, there is a God!"

    How does God provide? Apparently, you kept on breathing while you wrote this post. You didn't faint from lack of nutrition, so there's proof enough that God provides. The Stones put it best: "You can't al;ways get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need..."

    Regards.

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  11. Whoops. That Stones line again:
    You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you'll find, you get what you need...ooh,ooh,ooh"

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  12. See, this is what I mean about my fellow Christians. Someone disagrees with the architectural plans for his church (which, if Jim is talking about his own is Presbyterian, meaning that the congregation has to vote on budgets and building plans), and instead of using the democratic process within the church to make his opinion known, bitches about having to contribute MONEY(!) to the upkeep & improvement of the church and then uses the power of civil government to impose his will on the church, then thanks God for it.

    Oy vay.

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  13. Apparently, you kept on breathing while you wrote this post. You didn't faint from lack of nutrition, so there's proof enough that God provides.

    Jim, I strongly suggest you take a science class.

    "The will of god" doesn't mean anything, because no matter what happens, it's the will of god.

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  14. So tell me, Fly, what was Jim talking about again? As nearly always you add "facts" to my post and then drive yourself nuts about something I didn't say. I had nothing to do with turning down the church's proposal. And no, it was not for the "upkeep" of the church. It was a big, dubious addition - a bunch of rooms and a gymn for 25 million dollars. Oy vay is right.

    BB
    What is a science class going to tell me? Science only describes how something works.

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  15. Science only describes how something works.

    Indeed. You appear to consider how ordinary things work something of a mystery.

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  16. Jim, read more carefully before fulminating. I was speaking about a nebulous "someone" and described how they attempted to undermine the democratic processes in the Presbyterian Church in the name of their personal aesthetics and stinginess.

    It brings up an interesting point. You were obviously against this project. Did you even attend the congregational meeting in which the project was approved or did you sneak out the back to get to the Denny's on Belvedere Road before everyone else? If you did stick around, how did you vote? Did you raise any concerns in the meeting? Or did you just cheer on those in the church who failed in their constitutional duty in church and instead tried to get the civil government to interfere on their behalf?

    New classrooms and a gym aren't part of "upkeep"? So there will be fewer Sunday School classes and no outreach to the community? Are you going to sleep better knowing that some kid will shoot up instead of shooting hoops in a building you find aesthetically displeasing?

    As Gandhi purportedly said, "I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

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  17. That's hysterical, Fly. No church members were needed to derail the project. The non-church-going neighbors killed it hands down.

    You assume this new addition is in a bad neighborhood where kids shoot up. It actually would sit on the hottest retail street in Fort Lauderdale. If we want to make a difference we could put a complex three times the size further west where we might find children shooting up.

    No room for Sunday school? We have plenty of open rooms on Sunday morning.

    I think you need to look around and see where your "nebulous someone" is hanging out. I have a hunch he might be you.:-)

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  18. OneSmallStep: It's almost impossible to see how prayer alters the outcome. Or how to see the hand of God in the first place, when it's so easily blended with human decisions.

    As usual, your comments are enlightening. You are quite correct-the blending of human actions with what humans claim God does or does not makes it impossible to determine which is which. Almost as if there wasn’t a god at all…

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  19. Jim Jordan,

    I am not talking about imposing a will. God says “ask and you shall receive.” God says he will supply your needs. God says to not worry. I cited the verses previously. God says if you have enough faith, mountains will move.

    Now, if what you are saying is regardless of what we ask, regardless of a person’s faith, regardless of whether we worry or not, God will do whatever God will do; then what is the point of faith, prayer or lack of worry?

    What is always frustrating about these conversations (and I have used this analogy in the past) is that no matter what we say about God, the Christian can hop from one leg to the other, claiming the exact opposite (because the Bible claims opposite claims), all the while telling me they are levitating:

    Christian: I am levitating.
    Me: No you are not; your left leg is on the ground.
    Christian: [Hop. Puts right leg down, lifts left leg] No it isn’t. See—my left leg is off the ground—I am levitating.
    Me: No you are not; your right leg is now on the ground.
    Christian: [Hop. Puts left leg down, lifts right leg] No it isn’t. See—my right leg is off the ground—I am levitating.

    Back and forth we go; each time I tell them their one leg is down, they lift it, and keep claiming both legs are up. In the present situation we have:

    Me: God says he will provide if you ask:
    Christian: No, God will do what he desires.
    Me: So God does NOT have to Answer prayer.
    Christian: No, God answers prayer.
    Me: So God will provide if you have enough faith.
    Christian: Not if it is against his will.
    Me: So having faith is useless if God is going to do it anyway.
    Christian: God says if we have we can move mountains.

    Back and forth we can go, each utilizing different verses in the Bible. Oh…wait…so far only one of us has used actual Scripture to support their claim. The Barefoot Bum is correct—if the “will of God” is whatever happens, then “will of God” has no meaning. It is the same as “what we observe.”

    Your example of the church attempting to add-on is good. If the City votes it down, the people believe it is the will of God. However, if they revise the plan, and the city approves it—it just became the “will of God” to place a momentary obstacle in the path. If, after the approval, funds are not sufficiently collect, it becomes the “will of God” it didn’t happen. If a benefactor comes along at the last moment, and provides the influx of funds, it becomes the “will of God” there was a delay. If the benefactor demands modifications, it was the “will of God” the changes were implemented.

    And so on and so on and so on…It is a continual review of the past, claiming, “Oh—that must have been the will of God.” Unfortunately, one would also (to be consistent) then claim everything was the will of God, from the Tsunami, to the genocides, to a child being born with cancer. To sin which has occurred, to evil entering the world—we lose all free will (that precious defense of the Problem of Evil) since everything, EVERYTHING is simply the will of God. And we (and to be consistent God) are automations, going through the motions of whatever has been foreordained we do.

    Jim Jordan: How does God provide? Apparently, you kept on breathing while you wrote this post. You didn't faint from lack of nutrition, so there's proof enough that God provides

    No, but about 1250 children under the age of 5 died from starvation or treatable diseases while I wrote it. How did God provide for them? What proof is THAT to claim your concept of God provides?

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  20. "Comes with the nature of the thing" (Dagoods)

    True, I think it just part of us - can't say I am not limited in what I am able to express (since I know I am).

    "Am I reading the verses too literal?" (Dagoods)

    That's where my question is coming from - since I do banter about with other Christians and even a Jewish lady - I have seen that some intepretations of actual literal events need not be always made for literal points.

    "but I have yet to see a methodology by which we can determine what is allegory and what is literal" (Dagoods)

    True - but then that is a discussion in and of itself - which does not preclude that it cannnot exist - but that we do not know how that method might work.

    "To a non-believer (me) it looks as if the Christian DOES want to worry and DOES NOT want to rely upon God to supply their needs, so they claim these verses are not to be construed literally in order to avoid the implications." *Dagoods)

    Okay, what about me as a 'Christian' in the generic term you banter about - do I fit in to that definition? Or Flycandler? Or OSS? We all make claims to this faith based on a logic + faith mix - we also make claims about this 'literal' interpretation we see in verious denominations or websites - are we to be lumped into that pile also?

    I do have locks on my door (pretty standard in society) - but if everything was stolen from me - it's not the end of the world (ie: I am still alive to re-think how to get back to daily life - and nothing wrong with seeking justice). Maybe the point in Matthew is just that simple - defining value and what that means to someone of faith. It's not that we need to look at all levels of being robbed or beaten and what not - but that those things are not ideal for anyone in society as far as being values to base life on. They all hearken back to treating other people with dignity (ie: what we also desire in life).

    I see prayer the same exact way - I wouldn't ask of God something I can't very well be involved in myself. If I am praying to God for a house - then I think prayer there is meaning I need to step towards what will get me a house in this society. I see prayer as developing goals with your faith that you step towards. That's why i am harsh in criticism for people that say 'pray for them' when we are well able of developing a community to rally around them.

    I am sorry, I just find some of the statements you made as pigeon holing for someone that has faith in God - and assumptions about how God works as narrow. There are people that actually think faith is a good thing and then actually use it to promote healthier living for all involved in society - and don't have wicked God complexes and fears about the whole theology thing - we are fairly normal.

    Just like the idea I wouldn't lump you and another more narrow minded atheist together - because you're both different and have various ways of thinking through things.

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  21. DagoodS,

    **You are quite correct-the blending of human actions with what humans claim God does or does not makes it impossible to determine which is which. Almost as if there wasn’t a god at all…**

    Yup. This would be easily resolved if we had another modern day resurrection, or fire thrown onto a water-soaked Ba'al statue. No dilemma there.

    Maybe this should be contrasted with the earliest Christians, around Paul's time. I would think that a church not having locks would be a radical reliance on God. So did early Christians have that type of attitude? In this situation, would they have had locks on their doors?

    **How does God provide? Apparently, you kept on breathing while you wrote this post. You didn't faint from lack of nutrition, so there's proof enough that God provides.**

    I also have a difficult time seeing this as proof, both because DagoodS has food because he has money and can cook (I'm presuming. Maybe he can only make sandwhiches :). Plus, what does this say about those who don't have food? It would almost reek of favoritism, in that God provides for some, and not others. It becomes way too arbitrary. If anything, if we compare those who have food to those who don't, those who don't might be the majority. Then what?

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  22. Scientists and skeptics, lawyers, engineers and computer programmers, even philosophers do try to think univocally, and precisely, in other words, "narrowly" in a certain sense.

    The broader a term is, the less it means. "Over there" means very little, 78.628ºN-23.672ºE means a lot. "Hauling ass" means something, but 183.2 MPH means much more. Thus-and-such is true means a lot more than either this, that or the other is true.

    This sense of narrowness as precision and univocality seems often confused with narrowness in the sense of being close-minded, unwilling to consider alternatives. We're willing to consider alternatives, but if you're going to talk about truth, we want to know precisely what you mean so we can evaluate whether on not you're correct or mistaken.

    Any scripture can also be interpreted in a literary manner. There's nothing wrong with that: literature is terrific. But the thing about literature is that the reader brings as much or more to the table as the text — and this was the case even before the deconstructionists arrived on the scene.

    The trouble is that literary truthfulness is a horse of a completely color than factual truthfulness. That the two distinct concepts share the same word says more about the fluidity and perversity of natural language than about the world outside our heads.

    And fundamentally, these are the two legs that the theistic apologist hops on: factual truth vs. literary truth. But they're fundamentally different and almost completely mutually exclusive.

    If you want to view scripture as literature, there's nothing factual to discuss. I don't share your taste, but there's no arguing it. I'm frankly amazed that anyone can reconcile a humanistic, modern ethic out of a literary interpretation of the Abrahamic scriptures, but Western Civilization forces me to admit that millions manage to do so. (It seems to help that few Christians (and fewer Muslims) actually read their own scripture in any depth.) But you have to read a modern ethic into these scriptures; you can't pull it out. This is perfectly legitimate in a literary sense: that's what literature is all about, an interaction between the reader and the writer.

    But of course if it's legitimate for you to read what you want into scripture, it's equally legitimate for me to read what I want to read into it. It doesn't mean anything to call either of us mistaken in any sense, just as neither my wife (who thinks Dickens is the greatest thing to hit print since cave paintings) nor I (who thinks Dickens is a pompous penny-a-word blowhard). We simply have different taste in literature.

    If that's all that there was, if it were simply the case that Jim uses a powerful literary metaphor he calls "God" to organize his life, and Dagood or I use a (much less) powerful literary metaphor we call "atheism" to organize our lives, there would be no more basis of disagreement than if we were talking about the literary merit of Dickens. Each of us has to live our own life as best he can, and no one can live another's life.

    But of course, it's not so simple. The problem is that theists make specific claims about reality, the reality outside our heads: a god exists, it wants us do this, it doesn't want us to do that; if we comply we'll go to heaven and if we don't we'll go to hell.

    But it doesn't work to make claims about reality using literary metaphors. Reality is, by definition, the world we all share. You can't build a car or a house, you can't grow crops or hunt reindeer, you can't avoid falling off cliffs and being eaten by tigers with literary metaphors, no matter how powerful or compelling. You need to be precise, univocal, "narrow" in just the same way that literary metaphors are not narrow if you are going to survive and prosper. And like it or not, with six billion people on this planet, we're stuck with a brittle, technological civilization that requires constant precise thinking if it is not to collapse.

    You theists are welcome to your literary metaphor, so long, of course, as you obey the law and stick to democratic institutions. But to hop between factual truth and literary metaphor and claim that you're levitating is not just an offense against reason, it imperils all our lives.

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  23. SocietyVs,

    I cannot improve upon what The Barefoot Bum said. So I won’t try.

    Unfortunately, a whole group of people use the term “Christian.” We have seen its use argued as narrowly as applying to only those with very specific beliefs, and as broadly to anyone (including an atheist) who does something perceived as “WWJD.” I have even seen atheists argue that they are entitled to be called “Christians” because they act “Christ-like.” (I personally disagree, but the point is made that “Christian” as a term has become almost as nebulous as “God.”)

    Do I think the generic term “Christian” applies to you, OneSmallStep and flycandler? I let you all decide. Do I think at least you propose a God who is personally involved in each human’s life, and is over-all concerned about the well-being of that human? From your writing, I would say “yes.” Do you hold the Bible as authoritative to some degree? Again, from your writing, I would say, “yes.”

    Can you justify that these verses are allegoric, while at the same time claim Jesus literally said them? I haven’t seen that one yet.

    Look, if you disagree with how I read these verses, or claim they are not literal—show me. Explain the method you use. Explain how you derived this method. To tell me you think there might (or might not) be a method which may (or may not) allow you to interpret these verses in such a manner to allow you to ignore their literal meaning is not every helpful.

    So, yes—I would say until demonstrated differently, from what I have seen you write, I was given the impression you would be a Christian who did want to worry, and did not want to completely rely upon God to provide your need.

    SocietyVs: There are people that actually think faith is a good thing and then actually use it to promote healthier living for all involved in society - and don't have wicked God complexes and fears about the whole theology thing - we are fairly normal.

    But the problem is—this exact statement could be made by a variety of people with extremely diverse beliefs. A fundamentalist who refuses to allow their child to read anything but the Bible believes they are “fairly normal” and such a limitation “promotes healthier living.” A Muslim imposing hijab believes that is “fairly normal” and “promotes healthier living.”

    In fact, I cannot think of a single theistic belief, that doesn’t believe it is “fairly normal” and “promotes healthier living” regardless of its limitations or lack thereof, in contrast to all those “other” and “very wrong” theistic beliefs.

    And how much “faith” is involved in locking doors, having armed security guards, and promoting building programs? That appears to be sound reasoning to me.

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  24. OneSmallStep: So did early Christians have that type of attitude? In this situation, would they have had locks on their doors?

    Interesting question. Of course, part of the problem is the complete difference in our societies. If Christianity initially was popular among peasants, then they most likely did NOT have locks on their door.

    However, most homes were one-room affairs, and a number of homes would be joined together with a common courtyard. Further, peasants were poor. Extremely poor. (What is the old adage? “Why do I rob banks? ‘Cause that is where the money is.”) There would very likely be someone home—either the mother or children.

    Also they had a very different view of the future. Bruce Malina says it humorously—“They didn’t have ‘eschatology;’ they had ‘nextatology’ as in ‘What will happen next?’” They did not have savings’ plans, or bank accounts, or stored items—they worried about obtaining enough food to live through the next day, the next week, the next month. (Part of the popularity of the Sermon on the Mount’s “Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.”)

    It was only the rich who would have barns and locks and storage units. The question is whether Christianity was initially popular among these rich.

    Acts, of course, claims the rich sold off lands to jointly share in a socialistic fashion. (Acts 4:34). But I question so much of the claimed history of Acts, I can hardly bring myself to rely upon it to demonstrate (once again) people relying upon money—not God.

    We don’t know enough about “early Christianity” to determine who did what. I suspect the peasants did not use locks (just like they did prior to being Christians) and the rich did (just like they did prior to being Christians.)

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  25. I know it's drifting off topic, but I can't let it go just yet, especially by someone claiming to argue in favor of Christianity.

    Jim, did you lie when you said "But most of the congregation looked up to heaven and said, 'Ah, there is a God!'"

    Where was "most of the congregation" when they voted on this project? Why (to get back on track) did they distrust not only God but the institution of the church and the real power it granted them in favor of the civil government that is legally separated from religion? If you had all these objections, why did you not speak up in the congregational meeting? Did you vote in favor of the project while intending to fight it outside the church? Again, did you even bother to stick around for the meeting after worship or did you sneak out the back door like so many do?

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  26. "If you want to view scripture as literature, there's nothing factual to discuss" (BB)

    That's not altogether true with the scriptures - since there is a common belief that these people really existed (Tanakh) and Jesus/Paul (NT) - so we are dealing with a genre of real people who wrote (or people whop wrote for/about them). They seem to be stories about events and teachings in regards to those events - what humanity can learn from that. So in one essence it's literature for literature's sake and yet in another sense it's pseudo-history.

    "But to hop between factual truth and literary metaphor and claim that you're levitating is not just an offense against reason, it imperils all our lives." (BB)

    Interesting, how so?

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  27. "Can you justify that these verses are allegoric, while at the same time claim Jesus literally said them? I haven’t seen that one yet." (Dagoods)

    We're gonna play that one again, okay.

    Some things are obvious allegory (parables) and some things are not. But this is the thing it takes time to figure out - like the miracles, the virgin birth, etc...were they allegory? Possibly. Were they literal happenings - even if they were - how would we truly know (ie: proof one way or the other on an event some 2000 years past)? All we have is the writings to use as for building values - that much we are sure of.

    As for literal, well what does that look like is the real question. For example, prayer is a literal thing - something that can be done/an action. But the teaching on prayer that follows is different and we need to break down what that means - since teachings are not about being literal but providing direction.

    As for Jesus saying them - well I think the disciples wrote of Jesus - and I think the sayings attributed likely did come from him. What proof do I have - that's the one where we walk down a road without concensus.

    "allow you to interpret these verses in such a manner to allow you to ignore their literal meaning" (Dagoods)

    Literal meaning - you act as if the one meaning that can be pulled out is all there is to that (end of story). I do believe I provided you a method from a Jewish lady once - or do you recall that? In that method - based on rabbinical ideas - we see that allegorical is part of the interpretation, so is symbology, and literalness. So contrary to popular belief there are methods out there for studying passages - even the one's you mention. Here is my take:

    Something can be told literally, or symbolically and still contain a deeper meaning than what's the surface value. For example, you use the idea about moving a mountain via faith...literally we are talking about only mountains there and need to define 'faith' (which seems to be something we 'do'). But upon deeper inspection we see this is not only literal in idea - but that moving a mountain means 'moving something bigger than we thought we could move' - not just mountains. Faith also becomes an 'action' - but basically is trust in God - or in his 'teachings' (as I use faith and belief - which plays back on Judaic motifs). So one could in essence say, if I want to move something huge in my path (ie: the Berlin Wall) - I need to trust God's teachings for guidance for that to happen. Now that seems like a real stretch - but it's all about what is being implied by each idea in the sentence and how we define it.

    "And how much “faith” is involved in locking doors, having armed security guards, and promoting building programs? That appears to be sound reasoning to me." (Dagoods)

    Since when do faith and reason have to be considered opposites? For me, my faith rests upon trusting what God has passed onto us (teachings - a real book I can read) and reason is about thinking through something fairly and honestly. For me, faith and reason work together.

    As for the faith you do mean here - trusting unto reasonable stupidity - well of course the church wouldn't do that - that makes no human sense (even with my definition).

    People steal - this is well known phenomenon throughout history - companies like Wiser's make locks that most people use - they buy and use them for the church. I think people trust God with their stuff - but don't trust all of society to have that same attitude with their stuff.

    As for the shooting, that was already known before the church opened it's doors. They hired an armed guard as a pre-caution - since it is well known these shootings happen in America and no group seems exempt (also no guns - no need for armed guard). I don't think the church expected their to be OK Corral on their church steps that day - but that's what happened. They didn't have faith in people - that's what that shows me.

    Why does faith have to be stupid for it to be faith - that's the part I don't quite get (it seems to be a part of your definition of faith as a word)?

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  28. Dagood:

    A Muslim imposing hijab believes that is “fairly normal” and “promotes healthier living.”

    Not only that, but a Muslim murdering his daughter for objecting to the hijab also believes he is fairly normal and is promoting healthier living, in just the same sense that we believe that imprisoning or executing murderers is normal and promotes healthier living.

    It's important to note that just the sincerity of one's beliefs is no guide to their truth or value.

    SocietyVs:

    That's not altogether true with the scriptures - since there is a common belief that these people really existed (Tanakh) and Jesus/Paul (NT)

    Well, the commonly acknowledged historiocity of all the scriptures is minimal at best, and, of course, is utterly irrelevant in a religious sense: Who cares only that Paul said something; we want to know if what he says about god is factually true. To the extent that the factual truth of his remarks is irrelevant (such as his discourse on love), only natural reason is necessary to find it compelling and "truthful" in the literary sense — indeed whether Paul himself actually said it has no effect on its literary power.

    Interesting, how so?

    Because, as I mentioned in my comment, we live in a rather brittle technological society. Without technology, the Earth could support only a few hundred million people, a billion at most. We cannot operate a technological society on literary metaphors.

    Some things are obvious allegory (parables) and some things are not.

    Any time someone uses the word "obviously", alarm bells go off in my mind. Not that I necessarily disagree with you: the Song of Solomon obviously contains much metaphorical content; one does not expect that the beloved literally has two baby deer attached to her chest.

    But philosophers and theologians often introduce the "obvious" to avoid explaining what distinguishes obvious cases and then applying that method to non-obvious cases. Rather, they simply tacitly assume that because we can make obvious distinctions, there must be some method, and then choose a method which makes (mirable dictu!) exactly the non-obvious distinctions they wish to make.

    This tactic is very popular not only in theology but also secular philosophy.

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  29. Why does faith have to be stupid for it to be faith - that's the part I don't quite get (it seems to be a part of your definition of faith as a word)?

    Because if a statement was sensible, we'd believe it because it was sensible; no faith would be required. Faith is required only for those statements that cannot be rationally justified.

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  30. OK, SocietyVs

    Now you are saying it will take time to figure out a method to determine what is allegoric and what is literal. I was not asking how long it will take—I am asking for what it is. If you don’t have one at this moment, that’s perfectly fine. The question would then be—how do we go about utilizing our time to determine what the method should be?

    In other words—what are you doing to come up with a method?

    Do you think Jesus was God? If you think the disciples accurately recorded what Jesus said—were they recording the very words of God? If so, why can I not take your God for what your God said?

    SocietyVs: Literal meaning - you act as if the one meaning that can be pulled out is all there is to that (end of story).

    Oh, no. I am quite aware that countless meanings can be pulled out of the various passages within various religious writings. Watch it happen all the time. What I find interesting is that the verses I cited are part of a sermon. Not a parable (although there is hyperbole.) Quite straightforwardly presented.

    And I am told the “correct” meaning is that the words do no mean what they literally say. Oh, no—they mean something quite different. See, what the words literally say is hard—it would require people to do things which seem unreasonably stupid. Why—if people followed those words they couldn’t have bank accounts, or closets full of clothing, or stock portfolios or college funds, or more than one car, or locks on their doors!

    So I am informed that no, no, no,--that COULDN’T be the meaning—it must mean something else. Why? Well—we don’t have a method for that yet. But whatever the meaning, it will allow the Christian claiming these are God’s words to have their bank accounts, and locks and armed guards.

    I see a meaning derived in order to live exactly as if there was no god at all. Curious that is how it ends up.

    While faith and reason may not be opposites, they are certainly not synonymous, either. They do not mean the same thing. Look at what you utilize to explain locks on doors. Observation (people steal), manufacture (lock), and implementation (put on door). That is reason, reason, reason. Where is the “faith” in any of that? What is the difference between “faith” and reason, then?

    More: I think people trust God with their stuff…

    SocietyVs, I’ve been around long enough to know this is not true. Think about it—God. The actual creator of such marvelous concepts such as time, and quantum physics. A being that with a breath can create Galaxies! A being who could wipe out every living entity on this planet with nary a thought. Or, could make each of us eternal. Could remove the necessity of food, or remove the necessity of sleep without even blinking. A being that it is laughable to even think of hiding from, or barring by steel, or out-witting.

    If your wallet was in God’s hands—what is the possibility of me (a mere human) stealing it? Can I sneak up on God? People put their paychecks in banks all the time. Many don’t even know the name of the teller who takes it, the process by which a check is cashed, or how they are able to get $40 out of the ATM later that evening. People are relying upon a complex computer system to keep track of these deposits/withdrawals/transfers of funds, dependant upon humans with data entry.

    Yet they trust the bank. They trust they can get their funds back from past experience. Do I see that “trust” when people give things to God? They trust the bank to not lose their funds; do they equally trust God to not do so? Or are they more reassured by the bank guard than the creator of the universe directly saying, “Do not worry; I will take care of you.”

    SocietyVs, I have heard the talk. “I trust in God.” I have heard it ‘till my ears are full. But what this non-believer SEES are Christians who have no interest in trusting God with anything they have an ounce of control over. Sure, they’ll “trust” God when the doctors say they can do no more, or the bank account has run dry, or they have exhausted all their options. But prior to that? They have locks and armed Guards. As if god maybe can’t be trusted to do the right thing.

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  31. A lot of catch-up reading to do.

    Fly, the expansion project was not properly offered to the congregation in my opinion. I do not recall a vote - and the motto of the session and pastor was "we know what we are doing, trust in us". Of course, I employed a bit of metaphor in saying that the majority of the congregation looked up to heaven and said, "Ah, there is a God". That would sound funny actually rising from the congregation during the "time for mission" minute, now, wouldn't it? :-)

    Barefoot
    But to hop between factual truth and literary metaphor and claim that you're levitating is not just an offense against reason, it imperils all our lives.

    Pot kettle black I think is the proper term. What is factual about your belief that all this around us came about by accident? What in the world is the "will of science" if the "will of God" is meaningless? Is that you levitating or are you sitting on a pile of rhino poo?

    Dagoods
    Your god is obsequious to his creation. No wonder you don't believe he exists. He doesn't.

    For example, you wrote Sure, they’ll “trust” God when the doctors say they can do no more, or the bank account has run dry, or they have exhausted all their options.

    Yes, when all else fails we trust God - what else are we going to trust? The question is simple, either there is God or there is nothing. Do you really think there is nothing? If this life is meaningless why then does 99.5% of humanity say it has meaning?

    Also you wrote As if god maybe can’t be trusted to do the right thing.

    True! Actually God can't be trusted. That is, He can't be trusted to do precisely what I want him to do the way I want Him to do it.

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  32. DagoodS,

    **If Christianity initially was popular among peasants, then they most likely did NOT have locks on their door. **

    True. After all, they'd have little material goods to protect, and death wasn't something early Christians feared in the first place ... which would then lead to an interesting question regarding this church. Why is death "bad?" I mean, in many ways, it simply means that one is now on one's way to heaven, based on many doctrines. So if someone does come in and shoot a church, and people do die ... in a way, isn't that a good thing, overall? They're in heaven. I don't say this to dismiss the horror of the event, or to tell people they shouldn't mourn. After all, I hate it when this life is just treated as a stepping stone to heaven. And God's wisdom is supposed to overule the world's wisdom, which would say avoid danger, put locks on one's door, and so forth.

    **I suspect the peasants did not use locks (just like they did prior to being Christians) and the rich did (just like they did prior to being Christians.)**

    I wonder about this just based on Paul's writings. He seemed to throw himself into a lot of dangerous situations, because he knew God was in control and no matter what, he'd be okay. After all, if someone did come in to do harm, Paul could see it as an opportunity to share the gospel, or just an opportunity to see God's power in action.

    **Now you are saying it will take time to figure out a method to determine what is allegoric and what is literal. I was not asking how long it will take—I am asking for what it is.**

    I think you'd run into another problem in determining a method -- simply because we take it as an allegory does not mean that it was written as such. Like the creation stories in Genesis -- if the writers meant those in a literal fashion, then if we take them as allegorical would then call into question who is guided by God.

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  33. Jim Jordan:

    What is factual about your belief that all this around us came about by accident?

    Jim, if you're going to put words in my mouth, please do so accurately. You are bearing false witness, a.k.a. lying.

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  34. Jim: You're also rude ("Is that you levitating or are you sitting on a pile of rhino poo?") as well as illiterate: "Your god is obsequious to his creation." I think the word you're looking for is "ubiquitous".

    Jumpin' Jesus on a pogo stick. What is it with these Christians. Do they have a seizure every time they hear the word "God" and act like they're back in the third grade?

    I'm generally tolerant of minor errors (I make enough of them myself), but when you combine stupidity with assholiness, the long knives come out.

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  35. Barefoot,
    I do mean obsequious, not ubiquitous. McDonald's are ubiquitous. I was saying Dagoods' version of god is obsequious, yeah, he's a brown-noser.

    I apologize if you think I was rude. I have called you a genius in the past and I stand by those remarks.

    If you think we are not here by accident, why in blazes are we here then?

    Assholiness? Did you steal that term from Stephen Colbert?

    Cheers. And remember no hard feelings even if we throw soft poo at each other on occassion.

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  36. Fair enough, Jim.

    But please don't attribute beliefs to me that I do not have and for which have no justification or evidence to to support.

    If you think that my beliefs entail or assume something false, you are free to argue the position.

    I'm neither a genius nor an idiot. I'm just an ordinary guy.

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  37. I see the Problem of Evil as a problem that our our own ethical intuitions appear incommensurable with the kind of ethic we must attribute to a god to explain the universe. You appear to concur, at least, that these two ethical systems are incommensurable, or at least vastly different.

    If we operated our own modern system of laws and justice on the principles that we must attribute to the Christian God, we would have a very very different society. The concept of guilty/not-guilty would appear to be very wrong: All people are inherently and utterly guilty by nature, and deserve eternal torment. If so, it seems pointless to spend so much time in our courts examining a person's actions, and deciding whether their actions merit punishment: Their inherent depravity merits punishment, and only grace, not good conduct, warrants mercy.

    Indeed, the sole measure of whether an action is good is if a god actually commands it (just sincerely believing god commanded an action is not a sufficient justification.) But then how am I to act? No god has ever directly given me any commands to do or not do, and I'm not going to take an individual person's word for it. I'm completely confused by a multitude of scriptures, and interpretations of scriptures, all of which have contradictory commands, when those commands are even clear and unambiguous.

    (Alternatively, everything I do is at god's commands (how could I frustrate the will of an omnipotent being?) and anything I might do would be at god's implicit command and thus good.)

    If we are simply "stuck" with our human notions of good, then what does it mean to call the Christian God "good"? If good just means, whatever God wants and/or does, the predicate is vacuous: It doesn't draw any distinction. In this case, you don't believe something false, there's no actual belief; it doesn't mean anything; calling God good is just a slogan, like "Go 'Niners!".

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  38. Just as a side note...

    For full disclosure, I should note I own handguns myself, I strongly support the concept of qualified citizens privately owning guns, and I have had a concealed weapons permit in the past. I am genuinely glad this guard was armed, used her weapon, and was successful in stopping this murderer.

    Would that all gun ownership advocates were as sensible. I don't agree with you: I would have it that guns were at not so easy to obtain that any half-witted psychopath could get his hands on one, but that seems a physical fact difficult to change in the short-term. The gunman would perhaps have been able to kill fewer people, or none at all, before he was restrained. But that's hypothetical; who's to know for sure.

    Absent trying to track down and confiscate hundreds of millions of weapons (more indeed than we have people) the idea of having armed, trained and publicly accountable guards seems a fair compromise.

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  39. And yes, Jim, the theory of evolution, which you so quaintly misrepresent, is indeed justified by facts.

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  40. Jim Jordan: Your God is obsequious to his creation.

    Had to look that word up. (Wonder who else had to?) “showing a great willingness to serve or obey; fawning.”

    Hey—I’m just following the dance; I ain’t leading it. It is your inspired written words that claim “Ask, and you shall receive.” It is your inspired written words that claim, “if you have faith, you can move mountains.” It is your inspired written words that claim “God will supply all your needs.” It is your inspired written words that claim “Do not worry about tomorrow, God will provide food and clothing for you.”

    So apparently you DO agree with my previous question--regardless of how one prays, or how much faith one has, or what promises God may have made—God will do what God will do. What was the Bible, then—one big punking? Is God laughing with his angels, “…and then…get this, get this,…and THEN they actually bought it! Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha. If they think I will actually answer their prayers, or provide for them, or even give a cat’s whisker about faith….oh ho ho ho ho….it is too rich!...Too Rich! Me—a god! DIE for them? Oh stop…oh stop! It is killing me…”

    Sorry, Jim Jordan, but the Bible serves up a god concept that shows a “great willingness to serve or obey.” If I believe with my heart and confess with my mouth that Jesus is Lord—does God “have” to obey and save me? (Romans 10:9) Or is that still an option? If I violate one of God’s commands—does God have to punish me? Or is that an option, too?

    See, Christians have created a God who is actively involved in a relationship with the human race. Further, they place certain restrictions and demands upon that relationship. I find it stunning as a mere human, a being God could wiff out, can make God angry, or regret, or happy, or sad, or jealous, or infuriated, or loving, or…the list goes on. But with each of those words, part of the relationship is dependant on me. So yes—the God concept I am working with here IS obsequious. Otherwise it is an arbitrary being. Is that what you are saying?

    The fact that people find meaning in their lives has nothing to do with whether there is a god or not. We might as well claim that since Dog’s Bark, Earth must have a moon.

    I am still curious as to how you say God provided for the 60,000 children that died from preventable disease and starvation since the last time I asked this question…

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  41. ***Oh, we can claim God doesn’t want us to be stupid, and we should use common sense and wisdom, yet this flies in the face of 1 Cor. 1:20-21 which says the wisdom of the world is foolishness. (DagoodS)

    Exactly what is the line between God's wisdom and the wisdom of the world?

    ***In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said to not worry about what you will eat, or drink, not even to worry about your life! Matt. 6:25-34. (DagoodS)

    Was Jesus implying here that we shouldn't bother eating or drinking or living?

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  42. jennypo: Exactly what is the line between God's wisdom and the wisdom of the world?

    I don’t have a clue. Paul was writing to a specific audience, and attempting to distinguish Christian belief from Jewish belief and Greek belief. Apparently he thought it important to claim Christianity was not based on “wisdom of the world.” In a typical Pauline structure, he mixes his metaphors, and claims worldly wisdom is foolishness, and worldly foolishness is wisdom. Whatever that means.

    (Take, for example, the decision making of those who crucified Christ as referenced in 1 Cor. 2:7-8. If this was worldly wise, then it was spiritually foolish. But the crucifixion of Christ is key to Christianity so it is NOT spiritually foolish. Therefore, if the crucifixion of Christ was spiritually wise, it must have been worldly foolish. Did the priests think they were being foolish when they did this? Of course not! They thought they were being wise, which means it was actually spiritually foolish, but really was spiritually wise! See how Paul can’t keep this straight, either? And he wrote it!)

    As to your second question—we have to think of the audience the author of Matthew was writing to. If it was peasants, the primary concern they would have was what to eat tomorrow. If the author was attempting to calm this concern, and reinforce the doctrine of Christianity sustaining their needs—this would suit perfectly.

    If one wants to hold to inspiration, I would say Jesus is saying that he will supply food, clothing and shelter, so don’t worry about it. Would Jesus have a mortgage? Or a bank account?

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  43. **So apparently you DO agree with my previous question--regardless of how one prays, or how much faith one has, or what promises God may have made—God will do what God will do. **

    Which would actually raise a question of how one can trust in the first place, or what that trust is based on. If there is a 50/50 chance that the answer to a prayer is no, then how does one go about determining what to base that trust on? The Bible says that we can trust God with our lives, and yet people who do so die every day. If "life" is defined as the soul only and a place in heaven rather than hell, then it can be argued that God does give us life ... only, conventiently, we have no way of verifying that. And the very idea of "life" is suddenly constricted to fit a narrow definition. If we are told that God will provide, and yet see a lot of people who trust in God who have no home, food, or their country, then it calls into question the concept of "provide." Of course, "provide" can then be interpreted as God will provide hope or comfort or other intangible qualities. But again, "provide" becomes incredibly narrow.

    Don't the very words themselves lose any meaning, at this point? It could almost lead someone to asking why bother trusting in the first place, if God does what He wants when He wants. It'll happen or not happen, so why bother trusting?

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  44. "we want to know if what he says about god is factually true." (BB)

    Well there are some things that can't be proven factually true - like God is love - but it's still a great concept (love). I look at the gospels with the intent it is trying to teach values (which seems like the focus from within the teachings) and not so much about if Jesus is in some trinity. I know what you are saying – we cannot prove that – but that’s where I can only use ‘trust’ the disciples wrote what they say Jesus said (I can’t prove that 100% one way or another).

    “Without technology, the Earth could support only a few hundred million people, a billion at most.” (BB)

    What is this based on?

    “But philosophers and theologians often introduce the "obvious" to avoid explaining what distinguishes obvious cases and then applying that method to non-obvious cases” (BB)

    I agree – but I am more than willing to explain any and all things form the gospel as to how they relate to definition. Now I may not be 100% accurate – but at the least – I will be very consistent in theology – then from there you can pick apart what you see as a methodology.

    “Faith is required only for those statements that cannot be rationally justified” (BB)

    Define faith…I think it happens to carry more the tone of ‘trust’ than actual ‘blind faith’.

    “In other words—what are you doing to come up with a method?” (Dagoods)

    I offered you one a long time ago from a Jewish perspective – for some reason you seem to ‘forget this’? But if we want to develop the method I am using – well I am down for the long haul so ask away – but not in a blog format – that takes way too long to do.

    “If so, why can I not take your God for what your God said?” (Dagoods)

    I think you can – but I asked for reasonableness in interpretation – and for some odd reason – this seems to be asking too much? Why?

    “That is reason, reason, reason. Where is the “faith” in any of that?” (Dagoods)

    Well the locks have to work don’t they – isn’t there an element of trust they will? Also an element of trust that the person who made the locks was doing a good job? We use faith (trust) a lot in society. Maybe we have become a less trusting society.

    I will state clearly - as a Christian person my faith can make sense in reality - and shouldn't it? Do I have to say good bye to my faith to find reason? I think I do a fairly nice job with what I am given to be honest - I just don't want to be categorized - since I am not doing that either of you - which I think is fair. But if either of you have questions for me - I will answer the best I can and that's all I can do (even come over to my site and see what I am all about). I know Dagoods actually but BB I haven't met you yet.

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  45. ***But the crucifixion of Christ is key to Christianity so it is NOT spiritually foolish. (DagoodS)

    The crucifixion of Christ is by no means key to Christianity. It is entirely incidental.

    What is absolutely key to Christianity is the death and resurrection of Christ. The crucifixion is the result of human choice. Christ's death and resurrection are the result of his own choice, and that alone.

    "No one takes my life from me. I give my life of my own free will. I have the authority to give my life, and I have the authority to take my life back again. This is what my Father ordered me to do." (John 10:18)

    "Jesus answered Pilate, "You wouldn't have any authority over me if it hadn't been given to you from above. That's why the man who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin." (John 19:11)

    There are two things the Bible makes very clear: One is that no one, not even Pilate, had the power to kill Jesus Christ. He is God. He cannot be killed. He laid down his own life. The other is that sin is not related to the results of our choices, but the very choices themselves.

    "Whoever hates his brother is a murderer..." (I John 3:15)

    Thus hate = murder, regardless of whether or not blood is ever spilt. Hatred is a desire to destroy. Since our power is limited, we are judged on our choices, not on our ability to bring about the results.

    DagoodS, your interpretation of Jesus' advice not to WORRY about tomorrow as an excuse not to PLAN for tomorrow doesn't match his life, his teachings, or the teachings of the Old Testament.

    "Would Jesus have a mortgage? Or a bank account?" (DagoodS)

    This kind of speculation leads us into hazy thinking. Nobody knows. What we do know is what Jesus DID do, not what he would do.

    The Pharisees of his day tried also tried to push him into the same kind of "disconnected-from-earth" state. "Would the Son of God pay taxes?" is what they asked. Turns out he would. Yup, he got the money from a fish, but he did have a day job until it was time for him to begin revealing himself publicly. Why didn't he just loll about, demonstrating his reliance on God? Come to think of it, why wasn't he rich, if God could give him anything?

    God can provide for us despite our inability to provide for ourselves. What he cannot do is force us to accept it from him. I demonstrate my choice by what I do. I won't criticize someone who doesn't lock their door as a demonstration of faith in God. I do lock my door as a demonstration of my belief that I am responsible, not for my own safety, but for the resources that God gives me. If I am unable to lock my door for some reason, then as a Christian, I may have the very same assurance that I do with a lock, that the God who I allow to make choices for my life will choose whether or not to allow a thief to enter.

    Neither the lock nor the crucifixion have any effect on the God of the Universe. Rather, my choices affect me and what I will allow myself to receive from God.

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  46. SocietyVs:

    Well there are some things that can't be proven factually true - like God is love - but it's still a great concept (love).

    Indeed. Love is a great concept regardless of whether Paul is factually true, whether god exists, or even if Paul were an entirely fictional character.

    but that’s where I can only use ‘trust’ the disciples wrote what they say Jesus said (I can’t prove that 100% one way or another).

    First of all, get your mind off of 100%. There isn't 100% of anything. No irrationality is necessary to operate under uncertainty.

    My point is that for "great" concepts, you don't need to have any confidence at all in the literal truth. We know that somebody said or wrote every word that's written in the Bible, obviously the authors wrote it. The good concepts are good in and of themselves; they don't become good by virtue of being spoken by a god, a son of a god, a prophet of a god, or a god's scribe. They are good by virtue of having being said, full stop.

    “Without technology, the Earth could support only a few hundred million people, a billion at most.” (BB)

    What is this based on?


    A pretty good understanding of modern industrial and agricultural technology.

    I am more than willing to explain any and all things form the gospel as to how they relate to definition.

    I'm sure you can explain. What I want to know is: can you justify it as the simplest methodology to decide only the obvious cases?

    The naturalistic methodology is to simply say, if and only if it were unreasonable that an ordinary natural person of the historical time could be mistaken on some point, we should interpret the text allegorically. For instance, it is unreasonable that an ordinary natural person would be mistaken about small forest animals sprouting from a woman's chest; therefore we're justified in interpreting the text naturally.

    It is not unreasonable to suppose, however, that a person of 1000 BCE would mistake a bat for a bird; so we're justified in interpreting the phrase literally.

    Another way of looking at it that doesn't presume pure naturalism is to suppose that, by virtue of 2000-3000 years of history, we have at least a better grasp of ethics and science. We can ask: how would a well-educated natural person of today express modern ideas about ethics and morals to a primitive people, knowing he would be believed and (more-or-less) obeyed by his audience.

    In both cases, the Bible has to be viewed as deficient. At the very least, the commandment, "If anyone rapes a woman, you must chop off his 'nads," would appear.

    If you assume that God wrote the Bible, and God is always truthful, and God always has good reason for appearing unclear, then of course the "meaning" of the Bible is whatever meaning makes it true. But this exegesis just reduces to, "Whatever I believe to be true is true, and regardless of what I believe, the Bible 'supports' it."

    Well the locks have to work don’t they – isn’t there an element of trust they will?

    You're starting to equivocate on different meanings of "trust".

    There's trust in the sense of "confident expectation". I'm confident that locks will work, but that confidence is rationally justified: I have actually experienced locks working, and I've never experienced them "magically" not working.

    There's trust in the sense of "default fatalism." I lock my door, but even if the lock works, I'm still not 100% I won't get robbed. I can't even be 100% sure if I buy a rottweiler, put iron bars on the window, and my wife and I take shifts patrolling the house with a shotgun. If someone burglarizes me, I'll do my best to have him legally punished, but again I can't be 100% sure that will happen.

    So, I do what's reasonable to avoid it, but if I get burgled, I get burgled. It's not the end of the world and life will go on. Again, this sense of "trust" is rationally justifiable: I'm a small person in a big world, and there are definite limits to the satisfaction of my will, and there's no point in worrying overmuch about those limits.

    Then there's the sense of "'active' fatalism", where someone intentionally does not take steps to prevent or punish the outcome whatever it might be. This is the sense in which we skeptics expect believers to trust in God.

    My wife signs on everything I own. She could, if she wished, clean me out and split. I don't even have a natural expectation that she won't do so: My first wife, whom I trusted just as much as my current wife, did exactly that. I've made the declaration: whatever my wife chooses to do, that's what's going to happen, for good or ill. This is still a rational position because I value that sort of trust and its benefits more than I value my money.

    I would be very impressed indeed if Christians didn't put conditions on their trust in God. They might say, "The door is unlocked; if it is Thy will that some person have my stuff, Thy will be done." It's much less impressive to say, "if it is Thy will that some person have my stuff, Thy will be done... but you'll have to provide him with a crowbar, the knowledge to defeat an alarm, and the ability to avoid the police or he's shit out of luck."

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  47. BB
    This statement literally jumped off the screen at me:

    My first wife, whom I trusted just as much as my current wife, did exactly that. I've made the declaration: whatever my wife chooses to do, that's what's going to happen, for good or ill. This is still a rational position because I value that sort of trust and its benefits more than I value my money.

    That makes sense because your wife is a person and you trust her. That's precisely how I view myself in relationship to God.

    When Jesus said we'd have to be like those little children in order to go to heaven, he was not saying that we should be impressionable as a child, a blank slate, but that we should trust God without question as a child trusts their parents.

    Now the hypothetical church people who say, "If it's thy will that other people have my stuff...OK. Leave the door unlocked." They are acting as if they don't need to be aware of anything. If God was unaware like that, then he probably wouldn't have created us.

    One of the most important principles in the Bible is that God created man in his image. If we look in the mirror we see a person who makes conscious decisions and who has senses that make them acutely aware of their surroundings [think Descartes]. With this comes responsibility. Our innate conscience pushes us toward making better choices and being progressively more aware of the world.

    To abdicate that responsibility under some emasculated guise of "obedience to God's will" is contradictory, or for lack of a better word, ungodly.

    Last, God's will would necessarily use knowledge of all things, both physical and spiritual, past, present, and future. You cited that the concept that people employ in trying to identify God's will in every little detail becomes meaningless. That is correct. It's a little like a gnat trying to figure out calculus: If you land on certain lines on the page when the wind is not blowing, you get good luck - the great gnat-god is with you!

    So why does Jesus say "Ask and you shall receive" if we have little or no idea what it is we will receive? Well, I do know I've asked for things specifically and received them specifically many times. And there are other times I haven't received what I asked for. Does that mean that the law of averages is in place and God really isn't there or just isn't listening?

    I think the answer is in the statement by Jesus that "your Father knows what you need before you even ask". Why then do we have to ask?

    Because it takes the focus away from the self and puts it on God. Every thief and murderer has in common the problem of the self-centered universe. They order their worldview around the self either individually or their group [mafia, gang, etc.] as an extension of self.

    Anyone can turn away from the self as the vehicle that drives their life decisions. An atheist could dedicate themselves to helping children and place those children's needs at their response center.

    A Christian can do the same because he is serving God. The beauty of authentic Christianity is that it fuses the centrality of God with love of other people.

    I find the truth that it is "not about me" to be very liberating. Now I can focus more energy on what I'm supposed to be doing with this creative-analytical-aware God-image I've been given.

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  48. After reading your latest post, Jim, I have no idea what it means to trust in God in the same sense that I do not trust in God, other than that you appear to repeat various vacuous slogans, including "I trust in God." Other than that, I don't see how you and I behave differently.

    One of the persistent questions I have of Christians and other religious people is what precisely their religion means, and, more importantly whether the religion means anything factually truthful. What is difference between being religious and being irreligious? Does this difference have anything to do — in any determinable sense — with being "correct" versus "mistaken"?

    It means something that I trust my wife in a sense that I do not trust either you or Dagood: I restrict both of you from access to my money in a way I do not restrict my wife. This is an empirically determinable difference: Walk into my bank and try to close my account and get a cashier's check, and you'll see the difference. (If you're not simply laughed out of the bank, I'll post bail for you, but you'll have to pay me back.)

    I'm unimpressed by slogans, and I'm not particularly impressed by arbitrary ethical principles. Slogans are vacuous, and everyone acts according to her own arbitrary ethical standards. (Strictly speaking, we can infer a person's ethical standards only by appealing to their actions as evidence.)

    The only difference I can detect in this area are that religious believers' words tend to be at variance with their actions more often than non-criminal non-theists. (Criminal non-theists have a good reason for hypocrisy. I might exempt non-theist politicians — they also have a rational foundation for hypocrisy — but there appears to be only two at a national or state level, Rep. Pete Stark, D-California and Jesse Ventura, former governor of Minnesota.)

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  49. Barefoot replied**One of the persistent questions I have of Christians and other religious people is what precisely their religion means, and, more importantly whether the religion means anything factually truthful.

    I don't consider my relationship with God a religion. Like I said, God is a person I trust and like my wife, give of my time and money.

    Is he factually true, you ask. That depends on what we mean by "factually true". If factually true means we can send him to a laboratory and have it verified that he exists, then the answer is no. If factually true means he makes himself known to me I would then say yes.

    I'd like your opinion on Wittgenstein's Philosophy of religion.

    BB continues**Slogans are vacuous, and everyone acts according to her own arbitrary ethical standards. (Strictly speaking, we can infer a person's ethical standards only by appealing to their actions as evidence.)

    You can't get any more universal than "Love God, Love your neighbor". I'd like to see an example of what you mean by "arbitrary ethical standards" and how "Love God, Love your neighbor" could be described thusly.

    BB**The only difference I can detect in this area are that religious believers' words tend to be at variance with their actions more often than non-criminal non-theists.

    And what is the smoking gun here? A Christian pledges to keep the highest possible moral standard that the Bible lays out. The atheist pledges to keep the standard that suits him. How could the atheist stray from his code of ethics if it is his own code? So what if his code doesn't lead him to criminality? Is that a statement of fact that the atheist is "good"?

    You exclude criminal non-theists from the equation but not corrupted Christians. Why?

    Hasta la vista, BB. !-)

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  50. Is he factually true, you ask. That depends on what we mean by "factually true".

    What I mean by "factually true" is simply this: Am I mistaken in believing that no god exists? Or do we simply disagree? (I mean "simply disagree" in the same sense that we might simply disagree over the best flavor of ice cream; neither of us are in any way mistaken.)

    I'd like your opinion on Wittgenstein's Philosophy of religion.

    My opinion of academic philosophy is pretty much the same as my opinion of theology: 99% of it is vacuous bullshit. It would be 100%, but every now and again, a theologian or philosopher will manage to say something sensible, perhaps by accident.

    If you'd like to discuss anything specific, feel free to bring it up directly.

    You can't get any more universal than "Love God, Love your neighbor"

    No you can't. And that's the problem. It's such a universal slogan that you can do anything and call it "loving god and loving your neighbor."

    How could the atheist stray from his code of ethics if it is his own code?

    It is difficult indeed.

    So what if his code doesn't lead him to criminality?

    Criminality was used as a justification for hypocrisy. Atheists and Christians are equally likely to be criminals, and indeed, Christians and Atheists, statistically speaking, act in about the same ways at about the same rate.

    But non-criminal Christians seem to be much more likely to engage in one specific action than non-criminal Atheists: Hypocrisy. They say they act in a particular way, but their actions do not match their words.

    As you say, since the Atheist explicitly says he adheres to his own code, hypocrisy makes little sense, unless he has a reason to want to fool people, such as being a criminal and wanting to stay out of jail.

    But why would a Christian want to fool me about whether she believes divorce is bad? I really don't care whether or not she divorces. There's no reason to be hypocritical on points like this.

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  51. SocietyVs,

    I discuss with numerous people on numerous forums with numerous theistic beliefs. I genuinely do not remember your methodology from a Jewish perspective that would determine Jesus saying, “Ask, and you shall receive” is allegorical and not literal, in that Jesus did not mean a person would actually ask and receive. (By the way, has anyone bothered to READ Matt 7:7-12? Where Christ says if you ask for a fish, whose dad would give a snake? Or if you ask for bread, who gives a stone? And how God would do so much more. Seems quite clear Christ is saying God provides what is requested!)

    Not sure why you put “forget this” in quotes, as if I am being disingenuous in some fashion.

    I’ve asked twice, I’ll ask a third time (why IS IT, that it takes three or four requests when discussing these things.)—can you put this Jewish Perspective method in a few sentences to refresh my memory. Thanks

    I am curious how you would differentiate between the words “trust” and “faith”? I very, very often see when I start questioning Christians as to the definition of faith; they seem to want to slip back to “trust.” “Trust” is expectation based upon past experience. It is founded in reason. I have numerous times attempted to open a door that was locked. And could not. After 1000’s of such attempts, to observe a locked door, and presume it will not open is simply reasonable.

    Anyone who has been locked out of their house or car quickly discovers how difficult it is for a layperson to “get around” a lock

    Is this what you mean by “faith”? That, based upon past experience, you make a reasonable presumption the event which has occurred 999,999 times before will happen one more time?

    Worse, this does not bolster the position one can claim they are even trusting God (let alone having faith.) By placing locks between their material possessions and the world, they are telling me that 999,999 times before it was the LOCK that kept the person out—not God.

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  52. jennypo,

    *shrug* When I said the crucifixion was key to Christianity I was drawing that out of the passage. See 1 Cor. 1:23; 2:2, 8. If you disagree with it—take it up with your own inspired writing and Paul.

    jennypo: DagoodS, your interpretation of Jesus' advice not to WORRY about tomorrow as an excuse not to PLAN for tomorrow doesn't match his life, his teachings, or the teachings of the Old Testament

    Right! Exactly! How many times have we seen teaching in direct contradiction with the actions of Jesus! So what method do we use to determine which one to follow—do we follow what Jesus said or do we follow what Jesus did? It all but defines, “Do as I say; not as I do.” Even Jesus didn’t seem to trust God!

    jennypo, imagine I wrote a paper and asked you to critique it. You point out a statement I made in paragraph one, and demonstrate it is not correct. I then point out I made a contradictory statement in paragraph two that follows what you are saying. How does this help the validity of my paper? Why is it people think by pointing out the contradictory nature of the various books of the Bible, this somehow supports their position?

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  53. Jim Jordan: …God is a person I trust and like my wife, give of my time and money.

    I am sorry, Jim Jordan, but this is posh and nonsense. You can claim it; you can state it over and over. Yet in the past you have written blogs on the problem of taxes being increased on your investment property. If you really trusted God with your money—why would this be a problem? Why would you care?

    I also remember a blog entry complaining of your tenant making late (and sometimes not at all) payments. Again—if you really trusted God with your money why would you care if the tenant is late or never pays at all?

    Sure—you trust God with your time and money. Just the amount you can afford. We are skeptics—we watch what you say to see if it aligns with what you do.

    Can you imagine Paris Hilton complaining about increased taxes? Or someone owing her money and not paying it back? It is ridiculous—why? Because she actually trusts the Hilton fortune to be sufficient to cause her to not worry about such triffles.

    You have a God who is millions if not billions more powerful and rich and sufficient than the Hilton fortune. Or so you say. You have a God who says, “If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in Heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Or so you say.

    Yet you ACT as if…well…maybe God isn’t in control ‘cause he let the State of Florida raise taxes on ya.

    I will now give up asking how God protected the now 120,000 children who died of starvation and preventable diseases since I first asked you how God was protecting them. It would seem you will not be answering that question.

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  54. The Barefoot Bum: I would be very impressed indeed if Christians didn't put conditions on their trust in God. They might say, "The door is unlocked; if it is Thy will that some person have my stuff, Thy will be done." It's much less impressive to say, "if it is Thy will that some person have my stuff, Thy will be done... but you'll have to provide him with a crowbar, the knowledge to defeat an alarm, and the ability to avoid the police or he's shit out of luck."

    Not only is this laugh-out loud funny; it sums up this entire blog and all the comments in one very nicely put paragraph.

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  55. Not only is this laugh-out loud funny; it sums up this entire blog and all the comments in one very nicely put paragraph.

    <bows> I aim to please.

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  56. Dagoods,

    Again—if you really trusted God with your money why would you care if the tenant is late or never pays at all?


    This is an embarrassing gaffe, DagoodS. My tenant and God are two different things. I am trusting the tenant with my money, not God, in the case of my investment property. Based on your assessment, Christians should be walking around homeless and naked looking to Heaven with a smile on their face.

    You apparently think you can defeat Christianity by first dumbing it down.

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  57. Dagoods, Your answer about the 120,000 dead children begs a question: "Where are they now?"

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  58. We don't need to dumb down Christianity. The Christians have done that for us.

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  59. "[O]ne of the virtues of atheism is that not every aspect of one's life has to be yoked to some clingy deity who feels totally left out if you don't include Him in everything you do." -- Greg Beato (via Pharyngula)

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  60. "Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom,
    but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles,
    but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God." (1 Corinthians 1:22-24)

    Dagoods, the fact that Christ was crucified tells us about humanity. It tells us that our hatred of a gentle man was so great that we called for his torture and death. It tells us that we are more interested in politics than we are in God. It tells us that we have sought power, money, position more than goodness, love, truth. That is our shame and our foolishness.

    But God, without negating our choice in the matter, gave himself through the very thing we chose - crucifixion. It is only spiritual wisdom that recognizes this, the Bible tells us.

    Christ crucified is preached because in the historical fact of the crucifixion, we have the foolishness of human sin juxtaposed with the wisdom of God - the willing sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

    Our response to God-with-us could easily have been demonstrated in a different way without affecting Christianity one iota, but it wasn't. I don't think I really need to clarify that I wasn't saying that the Bible doesn't give any weight to the historical fact of the crucifixion in relation to Christianity, but there you have it.

    "Right! Exactly! How many times have we seen teaching in direct contradiction with the actions of Jesus! So what method do we use to determine which one to follow—do we follow what Jesus said or do we follow what Jesus did?" (DagoodS)

    No doubt you've received lots of teaching that contradicts the actions of Jesus. This is, of course, what we all get when we impose our own ideas, or allow someone else to do it for us, on any collection of writing, not merely the Bible. If we really want to understand what's being written, then we have no choice but to allow it to modify itself.

    If we insist upon imposing our interpretations on single passages without allowing other passages to adjust or approve our assumptions, then we are left with meaninglessness. We can say that meaninglessness is inherent in the writing, but even the wisdom clearly in practice in the world will condemn us.

    Any discussion on such a ground is equivalent to children squabbling with their fingers in their ears, each singing loudly, La la la!

    The kind of stupidity that refuses locks and insurance for no good reason when both are readily available is not easily covered up by the "faith in God" blanket. In fact, this the same kind of proud short-sightedness that says, "If Jesus is coming, then why worry about the environment?" As humans, we are not responsible for results. We are responsible for our choices ALONE.

    Neither the lock on my door nor the mug I carry to the coffee shop make much difference in this world or any difference to God, but my recognition of my human responsibilities is vitally important.

    Jesus, in both his life and his teaching, did not advocate a withdrawal from secular human life. He participated in it. God-become-flesh went to weddings, cried at funerals, cooked fish, and payed taxes. What he transforms in us is not our ties to humanity, but the motives behind all that we do. They aren't easily seen or identified by the human eye, but God knows every one of us to our heart's dim core.

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  61. ** My tenant and God are two different things. I am trusting the tenant with my money, not God,**

    But in terms of the tenant and your money, aren't you trusting God that the outcome will still be good? And thus, indirectly, doesn't this mean you are trusting God that the money will not affect you, either through having it or not having it? The whole "all things work together for good" idea? I think that was DagoodS' point -- if there is the radical trust called for in the Bible, then worrying about the outcome of anything, such as a tenant being late, shouldn't be an issue.

    **Your answer about the 120,000 dead children begs a question: "Where are they now?"**

    We don't know. Depending on which Christian one asks, they are either in heaven, I would say purgatory but I believe that has been declared to no longer exist? Or not in heaven either through hell or anniliation. But the point with this is that we can't look at the food we have and say it's proof that God provides, if there are 120,000 children starving to death somewhere. If food itself serves as proof, then shouldn't the lack of food also serve as proof?

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  62. jennypo: You really need to learn the difference between fact, especially historical fact, and fantasy, fiction and the exercise of the imagination.

    Your story is very cute, but great Caesar's ghost! you Christians will believe anything, apparently the less sensible, the better.

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  63. **It tells us that our hatred of a gentle man was so great that we called for his torture and death. It tells us that we are more interested in politics than we are in God. It tells us that we have sought power, money, position more than goodness, love, truth. That is our shame and our foolishness. **

    Have we really called for that, though? Jesus' beloved disciple and many of the women did not call for Jesus' crucifixion. Who is to say we wouldn't act like them? It clearly isn't impossible to do so. I don't even think we can say it was about our hatred, because for three years leading up to that, Jesus had a massive following. He was hated by the religious elites, and eventually a crowd joined -- but who is to say everyone Jesus met or healed was in that crowd, hating him? Who is to say that it means every single person is more interested in politics?

    **Our response to God-with-us could easily have been demonstrated in a different way without affecting Christianity one iota, but it wasn't.**

    I may be misunderstanding something here, but without that death, you have no Christianity. Without a death, there is no resurrection. The death itself is just as important, given what it leads to. Part of what the cross was suppose to accomplish was to signify that death would not be a victor, because it would be overcome.

    There is also the idea of one dying with Christ, so that one eventually comes to life with Christ, as well as the fact that all cosmic powers opposing God were nailed to the cross and discarded. If anything, you needed a death like the crucifixion, with the pain it provided as well as the social status it held, as well as the events leading up to it, simply to prove that God can overcome anything, demonstrated by the resurrection. So I don't think the crucifixion was meant to deal with us in that way at all, but rather used because of what it symbolized, in terms of the shame and degredation, and how little effect those two had over God.

    **No doubt you've received lots of teaching that contradicts the actions of Jesus**

    But he's not saying that he's received teachings from other contemporary people that contradict what Jesus. He's saying that the words Jesus uses contradict the actions that Jesus performed. The "teaching" he's referring to here are other statements one finds in the Tanakh, or in Jesus' own life.

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  64. OSS
    Of course I'm trusting God that the outcome will be good. But that's different than checking my brain at the door per Dagoods' version of Christianity.

    God made food possible just as he makes life possible. The micromanaging/ psychoanalysis of God you mentioned is exactly the fallacy I opposed in my 2:06 pm Dec. 15 post. Neither food nor lack of it is much proof of God's will. The fact that we are here breathing and can take a pizza and convert it to poo while extracting its protein and carbs and fat to give us energy is proof enough that God is way cool.

    He's saying that the words Jesus uses contradict the actions that Jesus performed.

    I've read those accusations of Jesus, OSS, and they're terribly weak. One example he had was: If Jesus says we are in danger of Hell if we call someone a fool, then calls someone a fool himself, He must be contradicting Himself. The obvious assumption in that reasoning is that Jesus can't be divine because He doesn't follow the advice He gives us. But if Jesus is divine, then He has the right to call anyone a fool. In fact, I would have to agree that Jesus was correct in every case, perfectly correct!

    Jenny said**What he transforms in us is not our ties to humanity, but the motives behind all that we do.

    Well said, Jenny. Looks like you know your Christianity.

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  65. Jim,

    **Of course I'm trusting God that the outcome will be good. But that's different than checking my brain at the door per Dagoods' version of Christianity. **

    But all he asked was if you are trusting God, why worry if the tenant will be late? Or why comment on it at all? You trust that the outcome is good, regardless. Look, if someone tells me that they are trusting the outcome to be good, then the expectation is going to be that they have some sort of peace on the situation, or that it doesn't emotionally affect them.

    **But if Jesus is divine, then He has the right to call anyone a fool. In fact, I would have to agree that Jesus was correct in every case, perfectly correct!**

    Then you've got two different sorts of standards going on, Jim. One for God, and one for the rest of us. This is also an example of "Do as I say, not as I do." If we say that it is good to not call people a fool, then wouldn't a reasonable expectation be that the person saying that would also not call people a fool? How can it be good if it is done by God? If God directly tells me, "Don't call people a fool, it's bad," then that would be a way that I'd evaluate whether someone behaves good or bad. I would especially use that to evaluate God, because He should follow the standards He praises.

    And if it is done by God, and good, and yet good if not done by us, then how on earth can one provide an accurate definition of "good"? The very act of possessing divinity does not accord any sort of right. That's too close to the "might makes right" argument. If Jesus is divine, does he also have the right to willfully murder?

    And it has nothing to do with whether the other person merits being called a "fool." Per the requirements given to the rest of us, we still aren't supposed to do it.

    ** Neither food nor lack of it is much proof of God's will.**

    You didn't earlier say that God makes food possible, you directly used it as proof that God provides. Although, here you are mentioning the word "will" and earlier it was "provide." Are you distinguishing between the two?

    The other problem here is that we're getting vaguer in terms of how God provides. Now it's how the human body functions, in terms of demonstrating what God is -- in this case, God being cool. And now it's just that God makes food and life possible, but this makes God incredibly distant. In terms of what many parts of the Bible say, it does mention that God will provide -- to go back to what DagoodS earlier quoted, in that if we who are bad will give our son bread when he asks, then God, being good, will give that much more.

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  66. OSS**But all he asked was if you are trusting God, why worry if the tenant will be late? Or why comment on it at all? You trust that the outcome is good, regardless. Look, if someone tells me that they are trusting the outcome to be good, then the expectation is going to be that they have some sort of peace on the situation, or that it doesn't emotionally affect them.


    I trust the outcome will be good, but I'm also going to file an eviction notice when he gets seriously delinquent. Is that contradictory?
    NOOOOOOO!
    We are agents of free will. God wants us to call on Him, to acknowledge Him, and that is to our benefit. But we are the children of God, not slaves.

    Regarding Jesus being able to call someone a fool, you wrote**Then you've got two different sorts of standards going on, Jim. One for God, and one for the rest of us. This is also an example of "Do as I say, not as I do." If we say that it is good to not call people a fool, then wouldn't a reasonable expectation be that the person saying that would also not call people a fool?

    If I call you a fool, I'm in danger of the fires of Hell (Matthew 5). If Jesus calls you a fool, it's because you are. God is the judge of all facts. If Jesus claimed to be a teacher only and not God, then He would be a hypocrite. But He claimed to be God so this complaint does not hold water.

    You didn't earlier say that God makes food possible, you directly used it as proof that God provides. Although, here you are mentioning the word "will" and earlier it was "provide." Are you distinguishing between the two?

    God willed food into existence to provide for us. How's that?


    The other problem here is that we're getting vaguer in terms of how God provides.

    No, really? I remember referencing a gnat trying to figure out calculus to demonstrate our ability to understand how God provides.

    I think you should all go back and read the book of Job.

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  67. Jim,

    **We are agents of free will. God wants us to call on Him, to acknowledge Him, and that is to our benefit. But we are the children of God, not slaves.**

    Where is anyone saying that we're slaves if demonstrating this type of trust? Radical trust on God doesn't make one a slave, nor does radical trust negate free will. If anything, that type of radical trust would call for free will in extreme forms, because of how much someone would want to take matters into his/her own hand.

    All we are saying is why worry about it? Why worry about whether the tenant pays or not, or what the tenant does?

    And technically, I would say that you're still a slave, you're just a slave to Christ, rather than sin. :) Semantics, but I'm an English Lit major.

    **If I call you a fool, I'm in danger of the fires of Hell (Matthew 5). If Jesus calls you a fool, it's because you are. God is the judge of all facts.**

    So it's not a reasonable expectation to have the giver and creator of rules actually follow the very rules he says are good? This has nothing to do with what someone's status is in terms of hell -- this has to do with a direct statement, given by this supposed creator of the rules, indicating that you do not call a person a fool. That is bad. Even if he is God, this is *still* a situation of "Do as I say, not as I do."

    And again -- if Jesus is divine, is it okay if he willfully murders someone? All I see here is that you seem to be saying that since Jesus is divine/God, he can do no wrong. But there's no way to judge whether or not he's even capable of doing wrong , there's no set of standards to evaluate that statement. It's ultimately based on a set of assumptions: God must be good, and so anything God does is okay.

    If I am going to be told by a God that I must do good or suffer the consquences, then I'm going to make certain I know what "good" means, and how one does it. So I would look to this God and see how God defines good. I would then evaluate this God based on his own definitions of good. What else would I use to determine that I'm following a good God, and not one that wants to eat babies for breakfast?

    I don't have that method here, Jim. Not based on what's being provided in explaining Jesus' actions.

    (and please don't respond to this with the point of the gospel isn't that one must do good or suffer)

    **But He claimed to be God so this complaint does not hold water.**

    This is not how you determine whether someone is a hypocrite -- you don't do so based on who or what the person is, you do based on whether the person's actions support what they say.

    **God willed food into existence to provide for us. How's that?**

    Thank you for the clarification. I do think you're going to run into problems in using this as any sort of proof, though, because of the indirect nature. It's more of a God set everything in motion, what you do is up to you. You can either harvest the food or not, and if you starve, it's your fault. So it's not that God is keeping DagoodS alive through providing food. What's really keeping DagoodS alive is DagoodS decision to do something with the food.

    But what about those who can't harvest or farm their own food? The dispersement of food is not even. Not all nations are able to develop the same amount of food, so their dependence would then be on those nations with an overabudence of food.

    Under the definition you are providing, you could say that God did provide food for the starving children, because it was willed into existence. But that's not how most conceptualize the idea of "provide." It entails a direction connection.

    **No, really? I remember referencing a gnat trying to figure out calculus to demonstrate our ability to understand how God provides.**

    If you (general you, not specific you) have that little comprehension, then it's going to be incredibly difficult to not only develop trust, but have others determine what that trust is based on. That is why the vagueness troubles some of those posting on this board. This seems to be falling into the following:

    Person A: "God provides."
    Person B: "How?"
    Person A: "To try and figure that out would be like a gnat deciphering calculus."

    So why would person B trust that God does provide, if no concrete examples can be offered? We can't use those who have enough food, those who are or are not killed, those who have good homes and so forth. What can we use, then, to evaluate this claim?

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  68. **if no concrete examples can be offered? We can't use those who have enough food, those who are or are not killed, those who have good homes and so forth. What can we use, then, to evaluate this claim?**

    To head this off from where it's possible it might go -- this is not a materialistic outlook in the sense that God will provide everything I materially want. This is the outlook that refers to material needs -- food. Shelter. Security. This is looking at the starving children, or the genocides and elements like that. This is not asking why someone didn't get a car s/he really wanted. This is not saying that God should do everything I want, or that God should follow my dictates.

    I don't know if you'd respond in this nature, Jim, but please do not comment on how this is a rejection of God or something out of selfish desires. There is nothing selfish about wanting starving children to have food and if it is treated as such, then it is incredibly dismissive to the children who have died, or those who have compassion towards the children.

    This is asking how to evaluate someone based on how we'd evaluate a loving parent -- do they keep the child safe? Do they provide food? Do they provide a safe, loving environment, and demonstrate they care for the child?

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  69. OSS writes**And again -- if Jesus is divine, is it okay if he willfully murders someone? All I see here is that you seem to be saying that since Jesus is divine/God, he can do no wrong.

    This is typical of your whole response. You are simply writing nihilistic agitprop.

    Good night.

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  70. Jim,

    **This is typical of your whole response. You are simply writing nihilistic agitprop. **

    If I'm asking for clarification as to the discussion on calling people fools -- that since Jesus is divine, he can call a person a fool, and so I'm wondering where the line is drawn, how exactly is that propoganda on a belief that traditional values and beliefs are silly, and that existence is senseless or useless? Or, if you prefer, propoganda on a doctrine that says there are no objective truths?

    How on earth do you get any of this from my response? If life were senseless, why would I be bothered by children starving to death? Why would I be bothered by determining whether the God that's followed is in fact good?

    And if I don't care about objective truths, why am I attempting to establish the truth itself by determining what Jesus' status as divine entitles him to do or not do? If there are no objective truths, then it wouldn't matter to me what Jesus does or doesn't do, based on divinity, because there wouldn't be objective truths in the first place to be potentially violated.

    As it is, you still haven't answered the question. I am curious as to where you draw that line. The answer may or may not be that Jesus wouldn't do that, but that does not answer the question, which is a yes/no response. Does divinity give someone the right to willfully murder?

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  71. Here's the thing... We skeptical atheists know that you Christians have justified Christianity to your own satisfaction: that's why you're still Christians. You Christians should also realize that we skeptical atheists have not justified Christianity (or any other religion) to our own satisfaction.

    This thread really looks like each side making the above claims: Dagood offers his reasons why he does finds the notion of "trust in God" unsatisfactory, and I can't read Jim's or jennypo's comments as anything other than, "Well, the concept does satisfy us."

    There does not seem to be any argument about the content of the idea: Everyone seems pretty much on the same page: whatever "trust in God" does mean, it doesn't mean leaving your door unlocked.

    This blog exists at least in part for Dagood to explain why he finds Christianity unsatisfactory. It seems to me that there are two approaches to disagreeing with him.

    The first approach is the raw assertion, "I do find Christianity satisfactory." All well and good: it's a free country, and you have the right to be satisfied by any reasons you like, or no reasons at all. But so what? We already know that millions of people find Christianity satisfactory.

    The second approach would be the more subtle, "With all due respect, you are mistaken in finding Christianity unsatisfactory because..." and then try to offer persuasive arguments why Dagood (and/or his atheist, agnostic, or non-Christian commenters such as myself) is actually mistaken; arguments that we will find persuasive.

    I suspect that people's feelings may be hurt because we skeptics are reading the believers' comments as arguments intended to persuade us, whereas the believers' comments are, rather, intended to describe the fact that they themselves are persuaded to Christianity.

    The context, though, is not symmetrical. This is a skeptical blog, and the context really does privilege a particular audience — skeptics — and privileges the interpretation of comments as intended to persuade skeptics. Jim Jordan, for instance, has his own blog, where he establishes his own context, audience and preferred interpretation. And good for him.

    To make a long story short (too late!) I'm trying to give some advice to Jim and Jenny: If you're not here to persuade skeptics, why are you here at all? If you just want to describe your views and tell the world why you're well-enough satisfied to hold those views, it would seem vastly more effective to establish a context, i.e. your own blog, where that approach would be interpreted correctly. Commenting here would seem a gigantic waste of time, as your remarks are almost certain to be misinterpreted.

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  72. advice to Jim and Jenny: If you're not here to persuade skeptics, why are you here at all? If you just want to describe your views and tell the world why you're well-enough satisfied to hold those views, it would seem vastly more effective to establish a context, i.e. your own blog, where that approach would be interpreted correctly. Commenting here would seem a gigantic waste of time, as your remarks are almost certain to be misinterpreted.

    You're probably right there, BB. I assure you we only comment when something peaks our interest. The question raised in the title of the post is a good question.

    Ironically, at least half of the visitor comments on my blog are from agnostics or atheists. I think more Christians would comment but I think they get scared off. :-)

    OSS
    A more detailed response to your most recent comments. You wrote**And again -- if Jesus is divine, is it okay if he willfully murders someone?

    This was a stretch from calling a person a fool who is a fool. But now that you mention it, the Old Testament has many such instances of the creator wiping out his creation. In that context it's not so much murder as it is God changing His mind, much like when we delete one comment and write another in its place before posting. Jesus is an apple, humans are oranges.

    If you are going to disprove Jesus' claim you'd have to find something else to chew on.

    If that doesn't answer your question, let me know.

    P.S. I don't want to leave the impression that Jesus goes around killing people. Jesus came as a savior, not as a vigilante. Christians believe we have a new covenant with one judgment at the end.

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  73. Thanks to everyone participating in this blog discussion. I especially enjoyed reading OneSmallStep and The Barefoot Bum. I lost count how many times I would be reading the comments, formulating responses in my head, only to see one or the other had already commented precisely what I had been thinking. Often putting it in better words than I could.

    Thank you, SocietyVs, Jim Jordan and jennypo for contributing as well. It is not always easy to discuss with skeptics, and your persistence should be recognized.

    After reading the comments, I thought I would touch on a few issues, but at this point it seems a bit petty. We could go back and forth forever, it seems. If there is something in particular anyone would like me to address, I would be happy to do so. If there is something you think I am avoiding; I would be happy to respond as well. But I am seeing a greater and greater disconnect occurring. The more I say, the more I see responses and think, “Where did THAT come from? I have provided verses with no verses in response. No methodology. No….” (whoops. I am starting to comment again…*grin*)

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  74. "by virtue of 2000-3000 years of history, we have at least a better grasp of ethics and science." (BB)

    Science - yes - ethics - no.

    In the last 150 years alone in the West we have seen the subjugation of Indigenous populations (even outright hatred of them), slavery and segregation of African peoples, the 2 largest wars that caused the most death in human history, persecution and murder of 6 million innocent Jewish people, Wars in Latin America, the American war story which basically includes a war in each generation since 1950, etc. Ethically, if I was judging history - war, death, murder, hate, racism, etc...all these things happened on such mass scales it did change our mind on them.

    Also, just so we both are clear - ethically speaking mind you - this is the only generation(s) that actually have the ability to wipe out humanity - will they? Only time will tell. I am not sure our ethics have gotten better.

    “But this exegesis just reduces to, "Whatever I believe to be true is true, and regardless of what I believe, the Bible 'supports' it."” (BB)

    Not exactly, because you can’t make something say what it isn’t saying. If someone writes ‘love your neighbor as yourself’ – I can’t make that mean hatred (it’s opposite). It is also so similar to other sayings ‘treat others how you want to be treated’ – that makes interpretation easy (but it is still in the hand of each person to determine how that will work out). As for prayer and ideas of ‘faith’ – why can’t these be open to interpretation as well – why do they have to be literal (one of way of looking at it) and that’s that?

    “and I've never experienced them "magically" not working.” (BB)

    You’ve never brought a faulty product before? There doesn’t need to be ‘magic’ involved – just bad craftsmanship.

    “This is the sense in which we skeptics expect believers to trust in God” (BB)

    It’s a generalization of what and how belief should look – it’s also as narrow-minded as being fundamentalist…since not all people see ‘faith’ this way and this belittles that for one way of thinking – a way I think is ludicrous.

    “I would be very impressed indeed if Christians didn't put conditions on their trust in God” (BB)

    All this because we ‘put locks on the door’ – this is straight ‘out to lunch’ – sorry about that BB and Dagoods – it is. You expect a rational person of faith to address what has to be the most irrational idea ever – don’t use locks to ‘prove’ I trust God. Why don’t we just walk up to the top of the Eiffel tower and you ask me to jump to prove angels also exist (maybe they will catch me or God will stop me in mid-air). Now what you both are asking is ridiculous and actually anti-faith examples what Christians have to work with. God seems to point us to ‘trusting His words’ (an actual thing) – not this blind garbage you seem to think is what true faith means. That’s a faith founded on nothing but faith as an idea.

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  75. “can you put this Jewish Perspective method in a few sentences to refresh my memory. Thanks” (Dagoods)

    Dagoods, I have made comment about how this interpretation would work a few comments back (yet you paint it like I never said NOTHING – and this is 3rd or 4th time you have to ask – bullsh*t). Now I will have to find that actual thing Yael posted – I know it was 4 letters and is a rabbinical tool for interpreting pieces of scripture (a lense).

    ““Trust” is expectation based upon past experience” (Dagoods)

    If this is so – then I would question the validity of that definition. Trust is something we do because we believe the other party will act in accordance to our belief about them. It’s not always based on experience – at some point you have to start at no trust in the person. Eventually it gets to experience – but I have made a lot of friends by trusting them with no knowledge of their pasts.

    When I use trust about ‘God’ I am basing this on something actual – written words claimed to be written by people inspired of God (namely the gospels). I trust those words to lead me to values to that will enhance my life – not to some bank teller of a God who obeys my every idea and whim (ie: ask and you shall receive (every time)) – which I find very short-sighted. I think the idea is ‘ask’ – since this is part of the path to getting a goal accomplished – but to think every time I ask it will happen is for me to control God’s hands more than Him mine (which is counter to actual teachings in the bible – ie: thy will be done – also seen in a prayer example).

    ““Ask, and you shall receive” is allegorical and not literal, in that Jesus did not mean a person would actually ask and receive. (By the way, has anyone bothered to READ Matt 7:7-12?” (Dagoods)

    You ask = you receive (it’s a literal happening). Now how that happens is a whole other story (or when). I have read that passage and I base my ideas on prayer on those passages also. I find it odd that Jesus uses examples of people helping one another – is he pointing to an idea about God’s community – about asking, seeking, and knocking? Jesus mentions God gives ‘good gifts’ to his children – is ‘gift’ literal or is that about an idea (ie: wisdom or compassion)? I look at that passage – which comes after the whole Matt 6 thing on ‘God provides’ – and I think God is leaving this in His community’s hands to help provide and care for one another (or why vs. 12 in this context?).

    “Worse, this does not bolster the position one can claim they are even trusting God” (Dagoods)

    Why…cause they can’t ‘prove’ their faith by not using locks? That’s not how faith works nor is portrayed even via examples of Jesus – so to me the point is moot. Your version of what ‘trusting God’ means is something taught against even within the very words of Jesus – so yeah – I guess you have a point (just not one that is relevant to a Christian definition of ‘faith/trust’).

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  76. SocietyVs: Dagoods, I have made comment about how this interpretation would work a few comments back…

    Where? Quote some of it, for God's sake, so we stop thinking you're just making shit up now.

    I read all your comments here, twice, and don't see anything even resembling a methodology. The closest thing I can find is your statement that there are "deeper meanings", which, rather than explaining how one can arrive reliably at a given meaning, seems only to provide an excuse to switch between several possible ones, without giving guidance as to which one should be used, other than "the one that agrees with me".

    What DagoodS has been asking for, is a methodology to reliably determine when such a deeper meaning exists, and should be used in lieu of the face-value meaning of the text, and of course what that meaning would be. To sift through the various possible meanings, and choose the one we were intended to use.

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  77. “I would be very impressed indeed if Christians didn't put conditions on their trust in God” (BB)

    All this because we ‘put locks on the door’ – this is straight ‘out to lunch’ – sorry about that BB and Dagoods – it is. You expect a rational person of faith to address what has to be the most irrational idea ever – don’t use locks to ‘prove’ I trust God.


    Locking your door is an example, an instance serving to reference the general case. The question, in what sense does the believer "trust" in God? It is clearly not the sense (in the specific case) of not locking one's door and seemingly not in the more general sense of not taking precautions to avert what would be detrimental by one's own immediate, material standards. (Indeed I offered a clear example where trust actually means not taking such precautions.)

    It seems intellectually dishonest that in the very same thread where you urge us to consider "deeper" meanings in the text, you restrict yourself to rebutting a perversely superficial reading of the question. Especially since, not being inerrant deities intent on communicating ultimate truth, a degree of charity is expected in ordinary discourse.

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  78. Jim,

    I am very much grinding this dead horse into dust by bringing this up again. And I apologize for that, because I'm sure somebody somewhere is rolling his/her eyes. But I do not see this as an answer, because it's a yes/no question. If this is dealing with an objective truth, then that's all the response should entail. What I'm told right now is that the question is a stretch, and the second part looks like an attempt of an answer, except I wouldn't consider it as such, since you say the acts in the Tanakh don't qualify as murder.

    **In that context it's not so much murder as it is God changing His mind, much like when we delete one comment and write another in its place before posting.**

    But do you realize that in order to make this not be murder, essentially a person has to be reduced to nothing more than a deleted comment? Where's the instrinstic value in that? All humans have incredible worth to God, regardless of the crimes they've committed -- they're a little lower than angels/a god, and crowned man with glory and honor. And yet they're suddenly compared to a deleted comment. With this type of distance drawn between the immoral act and the victims, it can be easy to justify any sort of action. "They weren't really people in the first place, so it's okay to kill them." If I actually made this type of comparison after a genocide to one of the survivors, I would fully expect to get punched, if not worse.

    **This was a stretch from calling a person a fool who is a fool.**

    First, the idea behind this was that Jesus' status as divine gives him the right to use terms he tells us not to use, even if those terms are valid. Therefore, the next logical step would be to see where that line is drawn, in terms of what else the divinity allows Jesus to do or not do compared to what he says is immoral.

    Second, Christianity presents sin as all sins are equal. There is no difference between calling someone a fool and murdering them. How often do you hear people think that they're okay with God because they haven't murdered someone? With any conservative Christian I would ask, they'd say that wasn't enough, or we're all two steps away from being a Hitler. If they've lusted, they've sinned, and thus aren't good. If they call someone a fool, they aren't good.

    Not only that, but the saying itself has nothing to do with whether a person is a fool or not. THere are some people out there who are fools in every sense of the word. We are not allowed to call them as such, even though it is what they are. It would be, to pull somewhat from your later analogy, calling an apple an apple. **We still are not allowed to do so.** And obviously the saying is geared to those who call people fools when they feel the people are fools -- otherwise, why utter the word "fool" at all?

    (And there is a difference between telling someone they are on the wrong path -- aka acting foolishly -- and actually calling them a fool).

    Perhaps this is where some of the conflict is coming from: when I say we aren't supposed to call people a fool, I mean that we aren't supposed to call someone who is foolish a fool. I see this because when one feels that another is a fool, there is usually a great deal of derision behind that sentement, in the fact that the other is too stupid to comprehend. Such feelings reduces the humanity of "the fool."

    **Jesus is an apple, humans are oranges.**

    This comparison doesn't work for me. First, because it goes back to the two different standards. We are told what is moral/immoral for the oranges. How do we determine if the apple is moral/immoral, then?

    Second, it doesn't work if man is supposed to be the image and likeness of God. It would have to be, if using Christian concepts, Jesus is an apple and we are bruised apples (semantics again, but word usage matters a great deal to me). You need the commonality in order for man to see what he is supposed to be the image of. And if a man searches for the source of that image, and sees that part of being that image is not calling fools "fool," and then see that Jesus does use "fool," what would the man base his perception of that image on? If man is instead an orange, it would be futile to look at the apple for a hint of anything.

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  79. OSS, don't worry about being wordy, we're all guilty.

    One thing I see recurring in your comments is that you will not consider the implication of God's authority or Jesus' authority. I'll explain further.

    In Matthew 5:21-22 Jesus tells us that anyone who is angry with his brother and calls him a fool is in danger of the fires of Hell. This is similar to what God warned Cain about in Genesis 4:6-7, that his anger for his brother was leading him to do wrong, and sin was crouching at his door. Its the same message.

    Now Jesus tells his disciples in Matthew 7:1-2, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."

    Over and over Jesus tells us he is the judge. In Mark 5 and Luke 8, we see the same story of a ruler in the synagogue who comes to Jesus begging to revive his dead daughter. Jesus doesn't hesitate at all and goes with the ruler at once to help the erstwhile opponent [Jairus] who called on Him. Does it look to you like Jesus holds a grudge? Did He commit that murder in his heart that he warned us against?

    I think its a very weak argument that Jesus broke his own rules. It would take a narrow, arbitrary view to persist in believing such a thing.

    BTW the apple and orange comparison was to show the difference between Jesus' authority and our authority. They ar e completely different, even though we are made in the same image. In regards to image, that Jesus is an apple and we are bruised apples, your analogy works quite nicely. Take care.

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  80. Jim,

    Is there a reason why you're not giving a yes/no answer to the question? Seriously, this is looking like avoidance. I have been told that it's a stretch, that the Tanakh briefly deals with the topic only it's not really murder, and now that I'm not considering the implication of God's authority.

    I am. The implication of God's authority is that He will have ways of judging that we won't -- He can see things that we won't, and His character would determine that all decisions are just, fair, merciful and loving. But the best type of authority is one that follows its own rules to the letter, because it demonstrates the type of authority, as well as how much value the authority places in the rules.

    **"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you."**

    But this isn't a warning about who will do the judging, or nor is the focus on who does the judging. It's warning people to be very careful in the standards they use to judge others, because those in turn are used to determine if you follow what you see as right/wrong. It's going back to the take the beam out of your eye before you focus on the speck in someone else's. If you think it's wrong for people to steal, that same standard will be applied to you. Do you follow what you think is right?

    **Does it look to you like Jesus holds a grudge? Did He commit that murder in his heart that he warned us against?**

    But this is using Jesus' behavior to evaluate whether or not he holds a grudge, or commits the murder in his heart. Here, he followed the values he advocated. Yet we can't do the same when looking at situations where Jesus calls the Pharisees fools? You can refer to someone as a fool without holding a permananet grudge. You can refer to someone as a fool, and later help them when they request it.

    **BTW the apple and orange comparison was to show the difference between Jesus' authority and our authority.**

    And I got that -- which is why I'm saying this looks like two standards, and making the situation relative to who is doing the judging. And if God has the authority to do whatever he wants, be it call people fools or casually wipe them out, if He has the authority to be above His own rules, then I have no way of trusting this God. This God is not restrained by any sort of rules. This God will lay down rules and guidelines that are good, and then break them, because He's God, and that gives Him the authority. This God could tell me I won't go to hell, and then on judgement day, change His mind. This God may have told me that He does not lie, but God can define "lie" however He wants. This God is not required to be consistent.

    There is no method here to ensure that the God being followed is good. Or truthful. Or just. Not if I can't even use the very criteria that God praises as good. If all that's left is simply taking someone at their word, with no actions to evaluate ... then that's a very weak way in which to afford someone trust. Honestly, if this is all you're left with ... how do you know God is good? How do you evaluate that?

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  81. Jim Jordan,

    Would you agree your God has the authority to change his mind and send me to heaven in your place and you to hell in my stead?

    Jim Jordan: In that context it's not so much murder as it is God changing His mind, much like when we delete one comment and write another in its place before posting.

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  82. OSS**But the best type of authority is one that follows its own rules to the letter, because it demonstrates the type of authority, as well as how much value the authority places in the rules.

    1) I showed that Jesus follows his own rules.

    2) Jesus did not lie, steal, murder or break any of the 10 Commandments.

    3) How doers it "demonstrate the type of authority"? What type of authority is it?

    But this isn't a warning about who will do the judging, or nor is the focus on who does the judging.

    How is that? "You will be judged" means "you will be judged" by a JUDGE.

    It's warning people to be very careful in the standards they use to judge others, because those in turn are used to determine if you follow what you see as right/wrong.

    No, its telling us to be careful how we judge others - we are setting the context of our own judging.

    It's going back to the take the beam out of your eye before you focus on the speck in someone else's.

    No relation whatsoever.

    If you think it's wrong for people to steal, that same standard will be applied to you. Do you follow what you think is right?

    Not stealing is an objective moral rule in our Bible. It doesn't matter what I think. I certainly hope you don't think this has something to do with Matthew 7:1-2. That would be embarrassing.

    And I got that -- which is why I'm saying this looks like two standards, and making the situation relative to who is doing the judging. And if God has the authority to do whatever he wants, be it call people fools or casually wipe them out...blah, blah, blah....

    One last time, one of Jesus' attributes is that he did not break any of God's laws. He did not sin. That said, you still refuse to give God any authority, not even hypothetically for the sake of debate. You're like debating a brick wall.

    There is no method here to ensure that the God being followed is good. Or truthful. Or just. Not if I can't even use the very criteria that God praises as good.

    Use the "very criteria" to do what? Judge God? How ridiculous. God gives us life and breathe and we indict him on a technicality that we have created ourselves. That sounds like what happened to Jesus!

    I think there is little to nothing more to discuss. Its been a good debate because the disagreement has been clarified.

    Dagoods
    Of course, God has the authority to do anything He wants. I trust that he would save both of us!

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  83. Jim,

    **I showed that Jesus follows his own rules. **

    You provided two examples and used them to say that Jesus did not have murder in his heart or hold a grudge. With the 'fool' example, you then said it was in a different category, because Jesus has the authority to determine who is and is not a fool. Had Jesus held anger, it seems like you would've said he had the authority to be angry at the person.

    **How doers it "demonstrate the type of authority"? What type of authority is it? **

    Serious authority or arbitrary authority. Serious authority would follow its own rules. Arbitrary authority makes whatever rules it wants, and changes them to suit its desires.

    **How is that? "You will be judged" means "you will be judged" by a JUDGE. **

    Please read what I said again -- it's not a warning about who the judge is. The focus is not to identify the judge. I never said there wouldn't be a judgement (which would not necessarily involve Jesus. You could be judged by your own conscious).

    The focus is on the methods the person uses to judge other people. And yes, there is a relation to the beam and the plank, because if you're busy judging someone for making cruel remarks every thirty days, make very sure that you are not someone who makes those comments every thirty seconds. If you are going to judge someone for being spiteful, then you yourself will be evaluated against if you are spiteful.

    **No, its telling us to be careful how we judge others - we are setting the context of our own judging.**

    Jim, this is what I said: be careful of what standards you use to judge others, because those standards will be used to judge you.

    **one of Jesus' attributes is that he did not break any of God's laws. He did not sin. **

    But this is a meaningless attribute. If God has the authority to do whatever He wants, then what does it even mean to say that Jesus did not sin? Even if he did sin, the rules of sin only apply to us. Jesus is under a different authority, and if he does something that we qualify as sin, it's not actually sin, per this discussion. God gets to decide what is and is not sin, and has the authority to make that decision. So God could murder, and say its not a sin, and who are we to argue?

    **Not stealing is an objective moral rule in our Bible. It doesn't matter what I think.**

    Jim, this was an example tying into the standards, not a statement as to the subjectivity of theft. As it is, I think it's useless to call it an objective standard -- what if God says that someone should steal their neighbor's car? We can't say that God wouldn't order that, because God has the authority to determine what is and is not theft, and if it's left up to His discretion, then theft is whatever He says it is.

    Not only that, but it does matter, because this is relative. If there is someone whose child is starving, and if that parent doesn't steal food, the child dies, do we find the theft wrong? Especially if the country is denying the parent the food in the first place? In this case, the stanard of the child surviving has outweight the standard of "theft is wrong," and the latter theft has actually become determental to the child's survival.

    **Use the "very criteria" to do what? Judge God? How ridiculous.**

    Use the criteria to decide if I am in fact following a God who is good and an evil entity or something of that nature. I would find it sobering that you find it ridiculous, because I hope you do judge God, in the sense of determining who you give your allegience to.

    Don't *you* want to make sure you are actually following the God who gave you light and breath? I would hope you have a method other than "God said so." Even Jesus said evaluate him based on concrete evidence -- he said if people didn't believe what he said, they should judge based on the works performed in God's name.

    **That said, you still refuse to give God any authority, not even hypothetically for the sake of debate. **

    It's a bit of a leap to say that simply because I do not say God has the authority to do whatever He wants, I don't give any authority whatsoever.

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  84. OSS,

    Your whole grievance with the Christian God is summed up in your sentence: If God has the authority to do whatever He wants, then what does it even mean to say that Jesus did not sin?

    I said that God has the authority and likely enough reasons to pulverize his own creation. But the good news is that he doesn't do that. Where is this contradictory?

    Face it, you're making a leap here: God has the authority to make sinner a saint (Romans 4:17), but where does he make sin OK?

    ANd this...It's a bit of a leap to say that simply because I do not say God has the authority to do whatever He wants, I don't give any authority whatsoever.


    What does this mean? That you would trust God with your car but not your life? Is it not meaningless that you give God just a little or limited authority?

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  85. "I'm trying to give some advice to Jim and Jenny: If you're not here to persuade skeptics, why are you here at all?" (The Barefoot Bum)

    I'm interested that you would even ask such a question. But here are my two reasons:

    I find it both interesting and good intellectual exercise to consider perspectives different from mine. It doesn't happen everyday, but I have been given great insights by atheists and people with a variety of other viewpoints that conflict with mine. Truth, as most things, shows up better in contrast. Most of my close friends are atheists. I find that our conversations are much more respectful, interesting, and useful when we try to understand even while we don't agree.

    Talk too often with people like yourself and you'll find that you've got all the answers, but you end up running out of questions. :^)

    Secondly, I strive to provide, in my admittedly limited way, a bit of balance to the discussion. I certainly am not interested in convincing someone against what they are already convinced of, but there are seekers among us. They deserve to realize that there is a great big world of perspectives out there. I can't offer them all, but I offer mine as you offer yours. Misinterpret as you like - no hard feelings.

    If you feel my comments are misplaced, I promise not to leave them on your blog. :^)

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  86. “Where? Quote some of it, for God's sake” (Micah)

    “In that method - based on rabbinical ideas - we see that allegorical is part of the interpretation, so is symbology, and literalness.” (SVS) – Happy Micah?

    Irregardless, the method I learned from Yaelbatsarah was a 4 part thing that ventured from the written word to a deeper meaning in the section of a certain passage (via 4 steps of interpretation). One can look at something and say it was literal (has meaning or an action) but how that looks is altogether different. I am not sure what we all mean by ‘literal’ when we use it either – do we mean the passage is ‘one thing’ and can only be ‘one thing’? As for Yael’s method – I will have to e-mail her about it.

    “To sift through the various possible meanings, and choose the one we were intended to use.” (Micah)

    Very interesting - after talking with the Jewish community I am more than convinced there are various meanings to the Tanakh passages – and this was intended by the writings. As for the NT – I think the gospels might fall into the idea of various interpretations for one passage or idea (ie: a parable).

    Ex: ‘Love the Lord your God’
    Meaning: We are to love God (literal/requires an action).
    Debate: However, what does love in this manner look like? Is following the words and commandments a sign ‘of that love’? Is the sacrificial life the ‘sign of love’ towards God? Is prayer and worship that ‘sign of love’?
    Answer: Love can mean and look like a lot of various ideas. Love is not necessarily an ‘action’ but an attitude – whereas loving someone requires love become an action.

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  87. “you restrict yourself to rebutting a perversely superficial reading of the question.” (BB)

    Not necessarily BB, I answered the question – that kind of ‘trust’ you propose as a literal meaning is likely not the case since this idea is actually taught against early on in that same gospel (Matthew).

    You say to ‘trust’ God is not to take any precautions about ‘locking my door’ – okay – what does it prove? What if you and I go to my house and I say to you ‘I am going to trust God today and not lock my door while I am at work – away from the house’ (you are the witness). Then we come back to my home later in the day and nothing is gone – is my trust in ‘God’ verified? Is the deists ‘proof of God’ made more real? No. We can chalk that up to chance or that no one came to my house at all that day. Yet by your ‘literal’ meaning ‘trust’ did happen since I both said it and did it and it worked.

    In my above example I think that kind of trust is ridiculous. Now if I say I trust the teachings of Jesus and what they say – then what if I can show them as actually working? Is it not still trust in God (ie: His words)? This is where I differ with you and Dagoods on the point you make: (a) you want to prove trust in God via some action (not locking my door); (b) I want to prove trust via something we know we have (God’s word). And I can easily do that – but I cannot bring God to you – just ain’t gonna happen. Now if that makes God less real to you – so be it; but I am not sure the line of reasoning is all that good either.

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  88. “Where? Quote some of it, for God's sake” (Micah)

    “In that method - based on rabbinical ideas - we see that allegorical is part of the interpretation, so is symbology, and literalness.” (SVS) – Happy Micah?


    You've got to be kidding. Could I possibly be happy that you insisted, somewhat offensively, that you had given your methodology, and that DagoodS was merely pretending not to have noticed it; and then when challenged, you produce only a reference to the existence of the methodology, and nothing resembling an explanation of it (as I already pointed out in my last comment)?

    “To sift through the various possible meanings, and choose the one we were intended to use.” (Micah)

    Very interesting - after talking with the Jewish community I am more than convinced there are various meanings to the Tanakh passages – and this was intended by the writings.


    That's fine. Let me rephrase it, then: the methodology needs to give us a reliable means to "choose which ones we were intended to use" (and which we are not).

    You still haven't done anything other than open up the possibility for many different interpretations, potentially simultaneously. That's fine, but we already had that when we started. What DagoodS, and others, have been griping about, is that Christians use this opportunity of multiple interpretations, to pick just the ones that suit them, based on nothing other than "because I think that's what it means". What DagoodS has asked for (repeatedly), but has failed to receive (to the surprise of no one, I imagine), is a methodology that may be used to arrive at those conclusions, through a reliable and verifiable system (by which I mean that one can check conclusions by it, and not that it is verified as the "right" methodology: we'll be happy with any methodology).

    Instead of just saying, "well, that one shouldn't be taken at face value," which is what appears to happen.

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  89. SocietyVs,

    When I say I am looking for a methodology, I am looking for something a person will stick with regardless of whether they like it or not. If someone tells me they have a method by which they determine whether the statement of Jesus is to be literally applied or allegorically applied, I am keen to observe whether they would stay consistent within that methodology especially when doing so hurts their own position.

    For a simple example, through my study I am persuaded the author of Luke utilized the Gospel of Matthew when writing his Gospel. So I look to Matthew when explaining Luke. However, there is difficulty in explaining why Luke would not have utilized Matthew’s nativity story. Why change it so much?

    It is easy for me to simply waive my hand and claim “Maybe that wasn’t in the copy Luke had” but then someone could question how valuable my method of “Look to Matthew for Luke’s source” is, when every time there is a problem, I simply say, “Luke didn’t have Matthew for that part.”

    In the same way, I am informed Jesus made many statements. Many we need to take literally. Like “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” or “Love your neighbor.” Fine. Great. But then I come across some hard statements. Statements which would be very difficult to live up to. Things like “Ask and you shall receive.” “Do not worry about food and clothing and shelter.”

    So I look to the Christian and say, “Love each other. Pretty good rule. I agree with that.” To which the Christian replies, “Yep.” Then I say, “But that not worrying, and giving all you have to the poor; I couldn’t do that.” To which the Christian says, “Me, neither! I consider those words ‘allegorical’ in that I don’t have to literally follow them.”

    Why is it the easy rules (“Condemn heretics!”) the Christian always, Always, ALWAYS claim are literal and the hard rules—the rules the Christian would find difficult to actually live by—the Christian always, Always, ALWAYS justifies as not being obligatory since they are allegorical.

    SocietyVs, in a word your method allows you to do whatever you want to do. Which is mostly living as if God isn’t…quite…in…control.

    SocietyVs: You say to ‘trust’ God is not to take any precautions about ‘locking my door’ – okay – what does it prove?

    It would prove to us you actually believed this book had some divine nature within. That it was more than words put on paper by humans. The fact that you are afraid to actually treat it as if it was God himself speaking these words is argument enough you don’t believe it was God himself speaking these words.

    Imagine you came to me with a broken product. And I brought out a manual I claimed was from the manufacturer, and included the necessary information to repair the product. And as I started to repair it, you notice Step 14 requires a certain part. An expensive part. A part I do not want to spend money on. And I tell you, “Oh, I interpret the manual differently. I’m not going to use that part” How convinced are you of my reliance upon the manual?

    You guys tell us this is the written word of God. Divine in nature. Unique in communication. But then we actually have the audacity to open the thing and read it! At which point, we say, “Wait a minute. This book, this book you claim from God, this book you claim I can rely upon says you shouldn’t worry about such things as food and clothing. That God will take care of you. That God has the very numbers of your hair numbered. Why do ya’ll act as if he doesn’t? As if you DO have to worry and take care of your own needs and sustenance?”

    At which point I am informed it doesn’t really say that—it says (somewhere, I can’t seem to find where) you are justified in having bank accounts, stock portfolios, new cars, giant SUV’s, college funds, and locks to keep all those items preciously maintained.

    What would it prove? That you actually believe what you say.

    SocietyVs: This is where I differ with you and Dagoods on the point you make: (a) you want to prove trust in God via some action (not locking my door); (b) I want to prove trust via something we know we have (God’s word).

    Curious you would write this considering your most recent blog entry says the exact opposite:

    SocietyVs: To me, a belief without an action to it - is not a real belief - it’s like smoke and mirrors - magic - because you think with that belief you did something when in fact you did not Here

    I agree with your blog statement (nor surprisingly) A belief Jesus will care for you, regardless of what other humans do, without an action to it is like smoke and mirrors.

    Do you have faith in Yale or God? One I see belief with action; one I do not.

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  90. “Could I possibly be happy that you insisted, somewhat offensively, that you had given your methodology” (Micah)

    Agreed – I don’t have the whole interpretation guide from Yael and still haven’t gotten it – but I honestly thought Dagoods would remember it. I was wrong on this one – no problem – when I get the method I will present it.

    “the methodology needs to give us a reliable means to "choose which ones we were intended to use" (and which we are not).” (Micah)

    I think I stated fairly clearly there can be more than one interpretation to a passage – why does ‘one meaning’ have to flow from the writings? Isn’t this us also reading in to the passage to narrow it?

    “I am keen to observe whether they would stay consistent within that methodology especially when doing so hurts their own position.” (Dagoods)

    Agreed…but I am not a specialist in methodology and I do have one I use – context and what is being implied. Your example on ‘ask and receive’ is accurate – I have stated that – there is an action (pray) and there is an outcome (receive) – is that literal? Yes – it is a ‘happening’. I am not denying a single iota of this – what I am saying is from the action (prayer) to the outcome (receive) there is ‘us’ still and our involvement. Now pray (action) can be seen as saying just the prayer then waiting on God. I see prayers as goals/hopes – maybe there is part of the prayer where we interact with God via living that thing we asked of God to reach an outcome. Why is this not viable? I still see the action (prayer) – then us believing (living) our prayer – then the outcome (receive). Makes sense to me considering a lot of times this idea is riddled with the idea of ‘believe’ (and what that word means).

    “SocietyVs, in a word your method allows you to do whatever you want to do. Which is mostly living as if God isn’t…quite…in…control.” (Dagoods)

    This may very well be true but I am staying true to the ideas and values I learn from those gospels and that’s my really only goal with those writings. All I know is I am grateful for the knowledge these teachings have given me – they moved me from a place of existence to one with ‘more living’ – I really have very little bad to say about them. Now I may adding in more than is there – but I see that as necessary elaboration on an idea/teaching – same as my teacher did (Jesus does this a lot with Tanakh teachings to point out an idea – which we never find in direct teachings in the Tanakh – also rabbi’s in general do this). Yet this is not valid as a type of methodology? What’s wrong with elaboration – isn’t this also a process of growth in a field of study? I make them do whatever I want them to do – define whatever?

    “It would prove to us you actually believed this book had some divine nature within” (Dagoods)

    Well come over I guess and say hi to the wife and my home, sleep over – then in the morning before we leave I will say to God ‘I trust you to watch my home’ – I wont’ lock my doors - and if nothing is gone when we come back – I proved I trust God. But I would to God if I did that – someone would steal all my stuff for being someone of no faith whatsoever that I need to prove to someone He exists…that’s why this seems like such a joke to me (it’s a type of irony).

    “How convinced are you of my reliance upon the manual?” (Dagoods)

    I wouldn’t be all that convinced but what if there was more than ‘one part’ that could fill in for the original and the product would still work? That’s the real conundrum.

    “As if you DO have to worry and take care of your own needs and sustenance?”” (Dagoods)

    Key word is ‘worry’ there my man. How are you so sure I am worried about those things in that passage – like shelter and clothing? These just aren’t things I bog my mind down with as for ‘worrying’.

    “Curious you would write this considering your most recent blog entry says the exact opposite” (Dagoods)

    Dagoods read it very closely – look at the words I am using. I am merely defining the word ‘belief’ and that in the gospels that word is an action (not separate from the actual word – or – believe = action + thought). Now we are talking about using ‘faith’ as an action item – and I agree it is. But the way you are using it is nonsensical from my perspective (Jesus teaches against this exact thing and I honor that teaching as well – do not test God). But I use faith as an action word – like I have faith in God – but faith (as the action) needs to be defined as to ‘what action(s)’? I think I mentioned this about ‘love’ earlier in a post…anybody read these things? Faith in God could be as simple as following the teachings – and that’s how I look at it.

    “Do you have faith in Yale or God? One I see belief with action; one I do not.” (Dagoods)

    Yael is her name – and yes I have faith in her (I have never met her but I trust the things she has written as accurate). As for God, the one I am guessing you claim you see no action about, bold claim, well, how well do you know me (on a real living level)?

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  91. “the methodology needs to give us a reliable means to "choose which ones we were intended to use" (and which we are not).” (Micah)

    I think I stated fairly clearly there can be more than one interpretation to a passage – why does ‘one meaning’ have to flow from the writings? Isn’t this us also reading in to the passage to narrow it? (SocietyVs)


    My intended point, in the above comment you quoted, is that we need a methodology to tell us which ones to allow, and which to disallow. Multiple meanings are perfectly fine; it's how you choose which meanings to keep and which to toss away that mystifies.

    That a passage has multiple meanings, doesn't change that Christians still say, "nope, not this one" to whichever of the meanings doesn't fit their perspectives. I'm fine with multiple meanings; what I'm not fine with is throwing some of them out arbitrarily (without method: that's what we're looking for, I believe)—especially when the meanings being thrown out are the most-straightforward readings.

    I think the point of confusion is that we're not looking for a method to extract extra meanings from a text; we're looking to understand what method is used to decide which meanings to apply to a text.

    DagoodS already gave some good examples of how Christians will look at certain texts (such as ask-and-receive) and say, "well, you can't take that one at face value, there's certain caveats," etc. What we're looking for is the method that allows them to discount the obvious meaning and substitute another, which can be applied consistently throughout all (or perhaps even just a category) of scripture.

    The truth is, AFAICT, that the "method" used to do this is: Does the straightforward reading agree perfectly with everything else I've read and accepted from the Bible, and with obvious and observable realities? If yes, then use that reading (and look for other, possibly deeper, meanings); if no, then the intended meaning must have been something else (since the Bible, being the word of God, is 100% true, and therefore cannot contradict either itself or easily-verified realities). Find the other meaning and reject the more obvious ones.

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  92. SocietyVs,

    "Yale" is a company that makes locks.

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  93. "Yale" is a company that makes locks.

    LOL! I totally thought you were referring to Yael, too. And Yale brings the university to mind much quicker... FWIW, Master might have been a bit less ambiguous.

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  94. Sorry about that Dagoods - I thought you meant Yael also - my bad. We have wiser's up in Canada as a big lock conpany.

    Here is the site for that Rabbinical methodology: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pardes_(Jewish_exegesis)

    But here it is fleshed out:

    Pshat (פְּשָׁט) — the "simple meaning" of a verse or passage

    Remez (רֶמֶז) — "hints" of a deeper meaning beyond just the literal words

    Drash (דְּרַשׁ) — "interpretation"; unraveling midrashic meaning by comparing words and forms in the passage to similar occurrences elsewhere

    Sod (סוֹד) — the "secret" or mystical meaning of a passage, as given through inspiration or revelation

    Now that is an actual methodology used within Rabbinic Judaism for some time now - and leads to the ideas that a passage can mean more than one thing - which has always been my point.

    We can stop at Pshat if we so want to - but this is not true to how a passage was discussed in Jewish circles (which would be a fore-runner of Christian Jewish circles in my opinion). This view is both historical and can provide further meaning to a passage - not that it isn't literal - but it can be saying more than just 'one thing'.

    No I am aware that this does sit well with yourself, Micah, or BB - but this historical in view and the way scripture has been viewed for some time. You may be right about the idea the majority of Christianity may just use 'literal' meanings - I am not going to argue that - that's also true. I don't however and I have provided a methodology to back my view up (which I think is quite useful).

    Any thoughts?

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  95. "we're looking for is the method that allows them to discount the obvious meaning and substitute another" (Micah)

    I have supplied a method but what troubles me is that you seem to be looking for one 'single' meaning irregardless of what is said by anyone to the contrary. I think a passage can be viewed in many ways and can come to mean a few ideas - what's so wrong with that?

    I have given a few examples of the passages given by Dagoods - and I think I did a really fair job - and now provide a methodology (a historical one) that both backs this up. Do we need to literally resurrect the writers of the texts to point out what aspects of interpretations they used? I am not sure how much more anyone can do to point out the passages/scripture are not about just 'one meaning' - not matter how literal that passage looks (it still needs to be fleshed out fully).

    For example, one could look at the idea 'the word became flesh' and see one single thing/idea - Jesus. I look at that idea and see the idea of the 'word' (God's words) becoming flesh (everyone) as a teaching - that we need to look at those words/passages and see how that becomes alive/real (flesh) in daily life. Am I really that far off from what John intends with that writing? I don't think so.

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  96. SocietyVs, you're still missing the point. I have repeated, several times now, that I have no problem with multiple meanings. No one has recommended "stopping at Pshat", and nobody is complaining about deep, hidden, and even secret meanings. Hell, you can find all of those things in secular literature, and even song lyrics.

    I don't see how you can decide that I'm "looking for one single meaning", despite my claims to the contrary. What, then, gives you the right to suppose that I'm lying to you when I say that? It looks to me as if you are arbitrarily deciding for yourself what I'm really asking for (despite detailed and differing efforts to tell you myself), so you can supply whatever it was that you wished to supply in the first place, regardless of whether it's what I've asked for.

    Please, carefully, read the numerous posts that actually describe what we're requesting (I'm not going to bother to outline it yet again), and then provide that if you choose, rather than supplying interesting, but completely irrelevant, methods for doing something completely different.

    I don't care how many meanings we come up with. What I desire to know, is by what method do you discard the meanings that don't sit right with you? You keep giving a method for adding extra meanings; what I want to know is what method or you using for the ones you're subtracting?

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