The Nature of God

File:Christ Pantocrator ca 1500.jpg“They sell the New Testament within the same cover as the Old Testament because they go together. So to say that refuting the story of creation in Genesis has NO IMPACT on Christianity doesn’t seem entirely correct to me. Upon what notion of God is Christianity built, if not the one who created the universe and Adam in seven days?”

Robert Moore’s comment angered me, as did his post, which I perceived as ignorant, arrogant and missing the most important matters. Why do people believe New-Earth Creationism? is an interesting question, but you will not find the answer in the Bible.

Christianity is not built on a single notion of God. It is extremely wide, with many different sects, and many would deny the Christianity of others who claim to be Christian. It has included Deism, the forerunner of rationalist atheism, a belief in a Creator who does not intervene in the Created world, and Theism, a belief in a personal God who answers prayer. It includes knowledge of God through reading the Bible, personal experience, and the Traditions of the Church. The Sea of Faith movement are Christians who see God purely as a metaphor. As a Quaker I would say “Christ has come to teach his people himself”- God is in the Leadings of people, now, who speak as moved by the Spirit- or our Higher Selves: the experience is more important than the words used to describe it.

I think the Bible shows growth in the understanding of God- the tale of Abraham and Isaac shows a movement from the idea of a God who demands human sacrifice to a God who does not- and the New Testament gives a new emphasis to God as loving Parent. Of course the New Testament God is a new understanding: God in a human being, God as Spirit speaking through human beings, God as Victim, crucified by man and unresisting. And God is the same God, and the perceptions in the New Testament have their roots in the Old.

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If we believe in God or value the Bible, must we believe God created the World in six days? No, because it is not true, and never intended as a scientific theory of creation. But it is a beautiful story, containing truth: God saw what God had made, and behold, it was very good. What about Jesus walking on the water, or changing water into wine? I don’t know. I do not think I need to form a view on whether these things happened, and (as the Gospels were written decades after the crucifixion) that some stories might be untrue does not refute all of them.

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I get it, Robert, I really do. I told a blogger that the Earth was 4.5bn years old. He said he had considered the evidence, and he tended to that view,  but for him “the jury was still out”. Evidence for: the science of geology. Evidence against: the Book of Genesis, read in an ignorant way. I told another the “narrow way” meant being yourself and self-actualising as against the “broad way”, trying to conform and be “normal” and he said, no, Jesus got to self-actualise, but we have to die to self and become Christ-like. The opposing views, “be your true self” and “surrendering self and following Christ”, are closer together than the words indicate (I think- he would disagree) but still.

These are damaging views, and I understand the sense of disconnect when you criticise them and people withdraw from you because you are Bad; and the need to assert the Truth against them. But Christianity is so much more than that.

42 thoughts on “The Nature of God

  1. “I may have the wrong impression of Christianity altogether, but my understanding is that they sell the New Testament within the same cover as the Old Testament because they go together.”

    First off, you misquoted me and made me sound as arrogant as you’re accusing me of being, which is disappointing because I know you’re better than that.

    Second, you’re not quoting the comment where I said that once I reach the New Testament I may find that I don’t even want to refute Christianity. I’ve read Genesis and half of Exodus. You’re 100% correct, I don’t understand Christianity yet. But you’re wrong in portraying me as someone who ignorantly claims to. Why would you do that?

    The God I was taught about in church is the one who created the Earth, caused the flood, led Moses out of Egypt, AND sent Christ. Neither I nor any mainstream Christian I know was taught to view the Bible as symbolic literature. I was told, and many still believe, that it’s true. I have NEVER ONCE claimed that there’s no symbolic value in the Bible. If Christianity is a “path” to you, then you and I don’t even disagree.

    Why are you so angry, Clare?

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    • Comment 292 on your blog. I cut and pasted from a comment with your picture on it, and the link.

      You may not wish to refute Christianity. That depends on which Christianity. I do not portray you as someone who claims to understand Christianity, but as one considering a particular notion of God which, to paraphrase Dawkins, I am also atheistic about. I quoted you mainstream Evangelical Christians- the Church of Scotland’s own press- declaring that Genesis is story not factual account. I do not even contend, here, that you believe New-Earth Creationism is an essential part of Christianity, but your comment here comes close to asserting that.

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      • You cut, pasted, and changed the capitalization, Clare, creating a totally different context by leaving out the first half of my sentence. I cut and pasted the same sentence from the same comment, without changing it. What you left out makes a huge difference in the tone of my words. But okay. If villainizing my atheism helps you to vent your anger then I won’t interfere. But you will never, not ever, see me do that to you.

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        • You will find nothing in the New Testament to refute an assertion that God created the World in six days. All your circumlocutions, “Doesn’t seem entirely correct”, “I may have the wrong impression altogether”, do not materially alter your point. And- that God did not create the World in six days does not reduce the value of the Bible, or of Christianity, at all.

          I do not “villanise” your atheism. What I am doing is more subtle than that.

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      • Well first of all, pardon me for not knowing what I will or will not find in a book I’ve never read.

        Second, pardon me for thinking that reading it is the logical solution to that problem.

        Third, I wouldn’t NEED to find a refutation of New Earth Creationism in order to validate the New Testament. I could, for instance, find that it states explicitly that the Old Testament is a collection of parables. I could find that Christ himself says, “The early Hebrews were all wrong about the nature of God.” Or I could find – as you seem to have found – that the fundamentals of Christianity stand on their own two legs, without relying on the authority of the Old Testament.

        You have repeatedly stated that I will not find the reason that Christians believe in God by reading the Bible. I can’t think of anything more absurd than that. Every Christian I have ever met believes in God because of the Bible, or at least because they were taught to believe in God by someone who believed because of the Bible. Whether it is interpreted literally or figuratively makes a world of difference – you’re right. But if the Bible isn’t true, then upon what notion of God is Christianity based? How many Christians do you really think there would be today, if the Old Testament had never been written?

        MY impression – MINE, ME, ROBERT MOORES – is that Christ and his God rode into our world on the authority of the Old Testament. I am not familiar enough with the Bible to say this for certain. It’s what I was taught by flawed human beings. But if that’s the case, then Christ and his God are no more real than the Old Testament is authoritative. And if I’m wrong – which I certainly could be – then I assume there’s no better way to realize the error of my ways than by reading the Bible.

        I have found your insight, your historical knowledge, and your intellectual abilities extremely valuable in my efforts. I don’t remember ever saying anything to the contrary. Your presence and your knowledge have been welcome, and continue to be. I don’t understand what all of this mental fencing and foiling is about.

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        • Robert, I have never stated that you will not find the reason Christians believe in God by reading the Bible. I have said, repeatedly, that you will not find the reason Christians living now believe in NEC by reading the Bible.

          And, that the world is 4.5 bn years old does not make Genesis chapter 1 “untrue” in any but a literal sense. As you pointed out in your post, it appears to imply that space is the same size as the Earth and that the world is flat, but then to the writer, and indeed to me, the story of people on Earth is far more important than the story of a whole galaxy: it is the only story I may influence.

          If, after reading the whole Bible, you are to decide that you do not find sufficient evidence (as opposed to reasons) to believe in NEC, what then? What conclusions might you draw from that? You are quite at liberty to say, you have not yet addressed that question, because you have not finished reading the Bible.

          My point is that refutation of NEC refutes nothing but NEC. It does not refute the Bible, or Christianity, or God.

          You will find Jesus quoted as saying, “You have heard that… but I say to you…”

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      • Okay.

        I can continue to argue with a few of the little details you brought up, but that doesn’t matter, because now we have arrived at the source of our miscommunication.

        I am not refuting New Earth Creationism. I am refuting THE BIBLE. The words that I have read in THE BIBLE, I refute.

        That those words have so far only covered the story of creation means that I have so far only refuted the story of creation. If you think that I have not, after reading the book of Genesis, found anything to refute but the story of creation, then I don’t even know what that could mean.

        You have made it clear that it’s possible to believe in God without taking the book of Genesis literally. I am intrigued, but not yet convinced. So far, the only reason I am aware of that anyone even knows the name of this particular God is because men wrote a story about him. If that story isn’t true, then I must continue looking for another reason to believe in this God. Perhaps I will find it, and I will believe in him but believe that the world is 4.5 billion years old at the same time, because somehow the evidence for God will not conflict with the inaccuracy of Genesis Chapter 1.

        But my very narrow understanding of Christianity – the very personal experience I have with the Christian churches of my upbringing – says that if there is no EVIDENCE (I understand the difference between “evidence” and “reasons”) of God being real due to some inarguable piece of truth somewhere in the Bible, then there is no REASON for me to live my life according to that God’s demands wherever I disagree with them.

        If that God isn’t real, and if I’m not going to a very real, very literal Hell for supporting gay marriage despite the clear and oft-quoted declaration in Leviticus, then the whole game is changed. I am empowered to interpret the world, morality, love, and generosity according to standards of MY OWN CHOOSING. I need not concern myself with the authority of this invisible God. In that case, I would like to liberate others from the fictional authority of ‘God’.

        The Higgs Boson was first theorized because the behaviors of known particles indicated the presence of something as yet unobserved, but predictable in its own behavior. We could see that there was something we weren’t seeing, because particles danced as if they were in the presence of another dancer. We could see that if this mystery dancer were real, it would behave in a certain way that caused the visible dancers to behave in their certain ways.

        I think the search for ‘God’ is like that. We can see that we are missing something. None of the answers we have about the universe make sense without something that we have yet to observe.

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        • I cannot persuade you to believe in God. Certainly not through comments on blogs. And so I will not try.

          I am in favour of equal marriage and the woman’s right to choose in abortion (and the joint right to choose contraception). And yet I call myself Christian. We agree on a great deal. My Christian acceptance of abortion in part comes from attitudes to the Bible which you will not find justified in the Bible itself.

          God of the Gaps in our knowledge? Well, God did not design each individual species on the planet. We have only had the evidence of that for about two centuries. But I do not think that my belief in evolution by natural selection and the survival of the fittest is incompatible with my belief in God. And Peter Higgs and others theorised what the Higgs particle would do, and what indications of its existence it would give, and that is entirely different from using “God” as the universal stop-gap theory.

          I believe you are not going to any Hell in your understanding of it- Dante’s, or the Lake of Fire, or anything like that. I think Hell is a metaphor for states here on Earth.

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    • I may have the wrong impression of Christianity altogether, but my understanding is that they sell the New Testament within the same cover as the Old Testament because they go together. So to say that refuting the story of creation in Genesis has NO IMPACT on Christianity doesn’t seem entirely correct to me. Upon what notion of God is Christianity built, if not the one who created the universe and Adam in seven days?

      I am coming back to this after so long, because it has niggled at me occasionally. How much circumlocution do you want? You couch it in the form of a question- arguably seeking information, but really expressing incredulity that refutation of NEC would not refute all of Christianity. The use of a question allows you to pretend that you are seeking information, rather than making a ridiculous, arrogant claim. “Doesn’t seem entirely correct to me”- a litotes makes the point more strongly, rather than less. Again, assertion, but couched in the form of wondering, not sure, so you might weasel out of the accusation of arrogance. I quoted all that circumlocution- what does “Well, I may have the wrong understanding of Christianity altogether, but my understanding is” add to it? Again, the mere pretense at an open mind, then the bald assertion.

      Refuting NEC does not refute Christianity. All your bold, arrogant, puffed up assertions to the contrary are merely ridiculous. I am sorry I did not quote the whole paragraph now, because I gave you the chance, again, to weasel out of an accusation of arrogance.

      I hope you get this through the “Comments I’ve made” section of your dashboard, because I want to introduce you to Daniel Walldammit, who has an interesting take on belief in Creation myths.

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      • “I may have the wrong impression of Christianity altogether, but my understanding is…”

        That was an invitation for you or anyone else to correct my understanding that New Testament notions of God are based ENTIRELY upon Old Testament notions of God. You have yet to correct me very effectively. Did Jesus say that notions of God were open to interpretation? I don’t know, I haven’t read his words yet. That is, again, an open invitation. Correct me if I need correcting. Have I been direct enough for you, or is that more circumlocution?

        Did Jesus teach from the Old Testament, or not? Is Jesus purported to be the very LITERAL fulfillment of LITERAL prophecies in the Old Testament, or not? That is how I understand it. Am I wrong, or not?

        Once again you say that I believe I can refute Christianity by refuting New Earth Creationism. Once again I correct you: I am refuting every word of the Old Testament which I have read so far, not just New Earth Creationism. I say that the God who is described there does not exist, and if he doesn’t exist then WHOSE SON WAS JESUS SUPPOSED TO BE?

        If you are arguing that Jesus did not literally have to be the son of God in order for Christianity to hold true, then okay, you win. But you’re winning a fight I was never fighting.

        The Christians I know believe that Jesus was born to a virgin, and that virgin was given child by God, making Jesus the son of God. Did Jesus not claim as much himself? Perhaps the error I am making is in assuming that he did? I’ll know when I get there, or when you decide to address the actual debate rather than hide behind your accusations of arrogance. But in the meantime, it’s a very simple problem. If Jesus is credited with being the son of God, then refuting the existence of God refutes the truth of that. And if that is not true, then what authority has Jesus to dictate our behavior today? What ‘price’ did he pay for our ‘sins’? He was – in that case – another schmuck like any of us, and his death is not our salvation at all. He’s just a man who taught some really positive things, aided by blatant lies, and was consequently executed. He was a guy who died, his death no more valuable to humanity than most others.

        Metaphorically, the story of Jesus as I know it is highly valuable. I’ve never argued that. But if it’s only a metaphor, then the human race is open to something so UNTHINKABLE to modern day people it’s almost guaranteed to start a fight just saying it: We’re open to write a new metaphor, based on new understanding. It doesn’t even have to acknowledge the old metaphor, because the old metaphor was just a metaphor. The idea that the God of Abraham must be incorporated into our new understanding of the universe is the very thing against which I stand.

        All the historical accounts, all the philosophers who have explained why the God of the Bible is real, have based their thoughts upon the image of God described in the Old Testament, either directly, or because they base them on the New Testament, which is based upon the Old Testament image. If I’m wrong, explain why. Stop just saying, “You’re arrogant, that’s why you’re wrong,” and tell me something useful. Otherwise, let’s just drop this.

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      • As for Walldammit’s post Primitive Superstition and Proxy Fundamentalism:

        He says, quite plainly and correctly, “To understand the elder’s reference one needn’t start by assuming he literally believes in the events described in the narrative above, or even that such a belief is relevant to his answer. One need only recognize that he found the story to be a useful reference point, and that he chose to use that reference point as a means of communicating a sense of the current state of his community.”

        I don’t know how many times you need to hear me say this, but: I AGREE, ALREADY. As a metaphorical reference point, Abrahamic religions make a certain amount of sense. The flip side to this, and one which the Christians I know would NEVER concede, is that the Navajo creation myths are absolutely as relevant today as Christianity. If you agree with that statement, we agree.

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        • I do not know the value of the Navajo creation myths, or the whole belief system, because I have not studied them. As for God, I have told you repeatedly that there are different understandings of God in the Bible, and yet you expend all that effort, intellect and rhetorical skill to say, now, that the Flood probably did not happen as described in the Bible. What a complete waste of effort. Honestly, so what?

          Our understanding of God grows as our understanding of humanity grows. I understand that St Anselm altered the understanding of the Crucifixion. You will not find your answers as to why people believe what we believe in the Bible. As I have told you repeatedly.

          And- “You have yet to correct me very effectively” shows how limited your “invitation” really was.

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  2. I know many Christians who view the creation story in Genesis as allegory, and many who view it as history; and I find both opinions to be equally edifying. As a Jewish man, I understand the teaching power of parables, but I also know the power of faith in God over science. The Talmud teaches both the historical aspect, as well as the allegorical aspect of the creation story, and leaves room for interpretation. The same can be said of the Tanakh. The Bible doesn’t venture into apologetics, it tells you the story, and you make up your mind. What astounds me is your condescending attitude toward anyone who decides to believe something other than you. You haven’t been given any special revelation through Quaker theology, so what right do you have to question anyone else’s interpretation of Scripture? Here is a quote from your piece;

    ” Christianity is not built on a single notion of God.It is extremely wide, with many different sects, and many would deny the Christianity of others who claim to be Christian.”

    You prove yourself to be guilty of this assertion by saying this;

    ” I told ablogger that the Earth was 4.5bn years old. He said he had considered the evidence, and he tended to that view, but for him “the jury was still out”. Evidence for:the science of geology. Evidence against:the Book of Genesis, read in an ignorant way.”

    You put quite a bit of “faith” in scientific theories, but call the faith of other Christians who believe the Genesis account “Ignorant” This attitude of superiority and smugness is obviously the product of self actualization. Remember what your Bible says;

    ——Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for. By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. –
    Hebrews 11:1-3

    Translation: Don’t attack others for believing something you find to be contrary to science. Funny how the Hebrews author uses creation as an example. I don’t question your salvation. You are entitled to your beliefs. I take issue with your attitude toward those who believe differenItly than you. I commend Robert for exploring Scripture with an open mind. As a believer in Christ, I think you should be encouraging him, instead of writing spiteful hit pieces. I would not blame you for not approving this comment.

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    • Mmm. Do you believe that the World was created less than ten thousand years ago? If so, or if you are undecided, how do you respond to the assertions of geologists and astronomers that it is billions of years old? If not, or if you are undecided, what evidence do you think there is that it is so young?

      This matters because truth matters, and religion is part of the search for truth. Not believing falsehood.

      I dare to imagine that Robert will eventually decide that the world was not created less than ten thousand years ago. And in your first paragraph about the Bible “leaving room for interpretation” you make of his quest for the reasons for belief in new earth creationism in the Bible a fool’s errand.

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      • Robert’s quest is not about New or Old Earth theories, it’s about understanding Christianity and Christians, which you admit covers many different beliefs. I don’t understand why you’re so hung up on this creation issue, that you feel the need to inhibit his progress. Maybe you should go back and read his reasons for starting his quest. http://basichumanity.com/2012/06/27/an-atheist-reading-the-bible-prologue/

        And you are right, truth does matter. You are looking for truth in science, I find it through faith. Again, remember what your Bible says;

        —‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’.-John 1:14

        ——Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. -John 14:6

        ——For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.-John 1:17

        You seem to be a very intelligent person, Clare. I wish you would back up your assumptions with Scripture, instead of relying on your own intelligence to form opinions. Remember what your Bible says;

        —–Trust in the Lord with all your heart
        and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him,
        and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes;
        fear the Lord and shun evil.-Proverbs 3:5-7

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        • In the post you cite, Robert writes, “I am going to read every word of the Holy Bible, and I’m not going to stop until I understand what it means to people.”

          My main critique is that this is impossible. From reading it you may find the truth about it, but not why people believe what they believe about it. To find that, you need to know about things from two thousand years of history since, such as the Enlightenment and the Reformation.

          Robert spent a great deal of time in the post I was criticising pointing out that Genesis 1 is not literally true. No, the Heavens are not the same size as the Earth. No, the Earth is not flat. But, so what?

          Tony, do you believe in NEC?

          Do you think non-belief in NEC is incompatible with being a Christian?

          My main point is that NEC is ridiculous and false, and the belief that it is a necessary part of Christianity is a stumbling-block, driving people from the Faith.

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      • “My main point is that NEC is ridiculous and false, and the belief that it is a necessary part of Christianity is a stumbling-block, driving people from the Faith.”

        Clare, that’s exactly what I’m asking. If the Bible isn’t literally true, then what drives people TOWARD the Faith? From whence does God come, if not from the Bible?

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        • I think that you can answer that yourself, in part.

          What drives people toward the Faith? That their parents were Christian, that their community is Christian and they want to bond with their community are two strong reasons, and certainly started me on The Way. Finding beauty and wonder and value in the Bible is part of what keeps me on it. Saying that the Heavens are much, much bigger than the Earth misses the point. Much of the Bible is not literally true. That does not diminish its value.

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      • Yes, I believe in NEC; but I understand those that don’t. I do not think belief in NEC is a prerequisite for faith in Christ. I don’t blame or judge you for not believing in a young earth, I just don’t understand why you feel the need to attack those who do.

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      • “Much of the Bible is not literally true. That does not diminish its value.”

        It diminishes its value greatly if it isn’t true. It takes it from its privileged position as ‘The Truth’ and relegates it, like any other view of the world (including atheism), to a position as ‘one way to reach The Truth’. And that’s all I’m trying to do. I’m trying to get people to see that there is wonder and beauty in any view of the universe, if you want to see wonder and beauty. I certainly do, even without the Bible.

        But to say that people are Christian because people they know are Christian doesn’t answer the question of where Christianity comes from and why people believe in it. What I want to know is why people believe God is real. If I grew up in a community where we believed the universe was created by Leprechauns, do you place the same value on that faith?

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        • There are other kinds of truth besides literal truth. Dorothea Casaubon did not exist. Middlemarch is true.

          If someone believes in leprechauns, I look for the value in that belief, for the individual and generally.

          I have had experiences which I call experiences of God, just as Isaiah or Jeremiah did.

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      • “If someone believes in leprechauns, I look for the value in that belief, for the individual and generally.”

        Once again I say to you: We don’t disagree.

        I’m sure you don’t believe leprechauns created the universe. Believing that God did holds no more truth for me than that. I don’t dispute the value of your belief FOR YOU. I dispute religion’s tyranny over people who don’t believe it. If you aren’t a religious tyrant, then we’re on the same side of this. We just see the details differently. And isn’t that the joy of being alive, that all of us are unique?

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    • Tony:

      “As a believer in Christ, I think you should be encouraging him…”

      I meant to say earlier that I really appreciated that. That, I think, is the most on-point statement any of us have made here today. If you believe in Christ, and you see a person struggling to comprehend Christ, it makes a great deal of sense to encourage understanding of Christ. Especially if you believe Christ to be the inevitable truth. Why argue about the details, instead of just nudging him along on the path with faith that he will come to understand?

      Thank you. I can’t imagine anything more glorifying of Christ than the sentiment behind your words.

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      • Robert, I am very glad that you are going to read the recorded words of Jesus. I think they are intensely valuable, whether he was God or not.

        You read “Turn the other cheek”. Rather than thinking, “well, that will only result in more bullying and oppression” and so rejecting it and thinking no more on it, I ask you to consider what value it could possibly have? And with the other sayings.

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      • If I’m being honest, the recorded words of Jesus are probably the only part of this whole endeavor I am really excited about. I have always known that the essence of Christianity is there, not in Genesis. I just don’t want to go into them blind. If Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament, then I want to hear the prophecies first.

        I am constantly refuting the literal truth of the Bible, but that’s not the only reason I’m doing this. I believe that there are huge, incredibly huge, teachings of love and compassion in the words of Christ, and I am firmly in support of that message. In fact, I can easily forgive Jesus if he turns out to be an out-and-out liar who faked all of his miracles just trying to get the public at large to hear the greater meaning in his words. I will certainly retain what good I find in his message.

        In all of the debating, maybe I haven’t emphasized that enough. I want a world where we love each other. I’m very happy if Jesus spreads that same desire among others. It’s the use of the Bible to hurt people that bothers me. And the use of the Bible to hurt people – I think – comes from a massive misunderstanding of what it is. But before I can correct that massive misunderstanding, I need to know what the Bible says. That’s what I’m trying to do.

        Along the way, I will refute things that seem illogical. Maybe I’ll change my mind a dozen times. I don’t know. But whatever the outcome, it will be based on my personal experience of the Bible, not some other scholar’s book about what it means. And within the term “scholar” I include both theist and atheist influence. I will not be told how to interpret it – I am intelligent enough to make of it what I will.

        Conversations along the way have been fruitful and enlightening, and I hope they continue. There is, for me, more meaning in this than in most other things I have ever done with my life, excepting only marriage and parenting.

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        • One trouble is that what I would characterise as “Oppressive christianity”- homosexuality is Abominable, Original Sin, etc- can be justified from the Bible. I could do it myself with a little research, though it is not a task which would please me. From within, that Christianity is seen as Liberating, and perhaps for its adherents it genuinely is, a discipline freeing them from a life of sin.

          I love the books of Marcus J Borg, who uses the Bible to justify Liberal Christianity. I too want a World where we love each other- even those I call “Oppressive Christians” want that- and I could give you copious authority from the Bible in favour of it.

          If you want to read Jesus, do not omit the Gospel of Thomas. Some think that the Biblical Gospel of John was written deliberately to refute it.

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      • You know how I feel about your quest. I believe the Bible speaks to those who are seeking truth. I am assuming that Scripture will reveal truth to you, sans the doctrinal gymnastics that may come later. I’m sure you will run into opposition, I just don’t expect that opposition to come from Christians.

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  3. Clare, when you one refuses the creation story as not being factual, then the idea of God must change. I also find your statement a bit contradictory, to say we don’t have to accept that he created the world in six days and then proceed to say we can learn that he saw what he had made to be good; what had he made?. And to say the God of the NT does not desire human sacrifice, what is Jesus doing on the cross[the validity of this story will be of debate in future]. What do you conceive God to be?
    You are right when you say christianity is based on different notions of God; this is true since different generations have revised how they conceive god.

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    • Because it is a story. Even twenty years ago, people could not have worked out that the universe is 13.7 bn years old, leave alone two thousand years ago. The story, for the Jews in Exile in Babylon, was that God created the whole Earth, not just coming to being out of chaos like other creation myths. The lesson that the Earth is good holds, because it is what the writer believed, and I take his word for it, because it fits my observations.

      As for sacrifice, according to orthodoxy God provides the sacrifice himself; Jesus says on the cross “Today you will be with me in paradise”, and on the third day rises to eternal glory.

      We learn more of God. That is what people do.

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  4. Clare, I hope you don’t take it as a given that Jesus was a historical figure. There have been many studies on his historicity and a lot is found to be wanting, that being the case I can’t agree with you that we learn about God from him. The bible accounts are written by guys who are not witnesses and are anonymous.
    The earth being good, I don’t think so. It has some scenic places but it’s a harsh place; sometimes too cold, other times too hot and wet. We are in a constant struggle to survive.
    But providing the sacrifice himself does not negate the point I said he still wants human sacrifice. But then why would he sacrifice himself to himself if you take Jesus to be divine?[Am making an assumption you do, I could be wrong]

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    • You see, I do not think “Why would God sacrifice himself to himself?” is a useful question. I think, “what value could that story have?” is more useful. I do not think literal belief in the story is necessary, it may have been that way, it might not. Yes, there are doubts about the historical Jesus. I do believe in him as a historical figure without necessarily thinking that all the words and actions ascribed to him in the Gospels are historical.

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  5. Clare, I think you are in a big dilemma or rather I see quite a dilemma here. To believe in christ you must do a lot of rationalization on your part, filtering through all the information just to find a line that would be most acceptable to you.

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    • Indeed. You got me! Confirmation bias!

      And yet- Christianity is not a dogma, but a Way. I am concerned how to live well, and the stories help me in that quest. I think Jesus was a pioneer on that Way. I do not necessarily trust Christian scholars to report accurately how original he was, but I think he has some value as a Mystic.

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  6. I think we can only take the story of Jesus metaphorically, but if we agree on that then any story can do. We can take the story of Pythagoras, Confucius, Buddha! Without dogma, I think Christianity would have died eons ago.
    Just asking, are you a mystic?

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    • I do value the story of Confucius, and especially the Buddha, Lao Tze of the Tao Te Ching, and the Mahabharata, even though I do not believe in Arjuna as a historical figure. I do believe in Jesus as a historical figure. I do not think the evidence decisive.

      Yes, I am a mystic.

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      • I think you should look at Jesus as a metaphor if you must in the conception of the mind of St. Paul. I don’t think he existed as told in the gospels.
        I would like to know how mystics conceive god and whether this is shared across the board or is it subjective, each mystic with their own conception and if you have time to enlighten me more on Quakers if you will.

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      • No-one sees another as they really are, but if we try, we can come closer. We see them as projections of things in ourselves, sometimes unconscious. Some say the Gospel of Thomas was written about the time of Paul’s first letters.

        Have a look at my tag Quaker. It is not systematic, I am afraid. A good book is “A Light that is Shining” by Harvey Gillman.

        Mystics seek truth. We are not capable of expressing it fully in words. The words are not a box, safely and concretely to categorise, explain and comprehend truth, but a Springboard, to journey further in to truth. So the words are metaphors- like, for example, God creating Everything and calling it Good.

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      • I have heard, am not certain, but that Paul’s epistles are written before the Gospels.
        I will look at the blog post and hopefully get to look at the book.

        I will tell you what I have found to be God of the mystics.

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        • As I understand it, the earliest of Paul’s letters are thought to have been written around 55AD, Mark’s gospel in the 60s, John’s gospel in the 90s. Some epistles, particularly the pastoral epistles, are thought to have been written much later, by another writer. The Gospel of Thomas, which only survives in fragments and in a translation to Coptic, may have been written down in the 50s, though some put it later than 100AD.

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  7. Thanks for the information I just had a rough idea. How do you manage being a christian with what you know about the bible as being mythical and knowing the kind of information available explaining the physical universe?

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