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A Hypothetical Question For All


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If at the moment you take your last breath you find yourself facing the god of the Old Testament and Jesus, and you had to choose between one or the other, who would you choose, Jesus or the OT god? All you have to go on is what has been written about them. Your choice is to spend an eternity with Jesus or the OT god, the consequences are unknown.

 

 

Would you choose to spend an eternity under the authority of a god who demands blood sacrifice, who orders the slaughter of infants and entire races of people, who really abhors homosexuals, and who demands our worship or would you choose to spend an eternity under the rule of a potential King who loves all humanity impartially and who would give his life to save his friends? Would you choose the one you learned to fear or the one you fell in love with?

 

 

Easy question, right?

 

 

I'll be honest, I'm one who believes that the Old Testament and the New Testament represent two different gods, the OT a false god who is keen on war and wrath, and the NT a god who loves everyone impartially, Jesus being the one who revealed this god to us. One concept of god instills fear while the other tends to comfort.

 

 

The reality I think is that most would choose Jesus if only because of his moral character. A person doesn't need to believe in the miracles or the resurrection to truly value and believe in what Jesus taught us about love after all. On the other hand, what if the god of the OT is the one true god? Would you still choose Jesus based on your own personal sense of morality, knowing how atrocious many of the demands were given by the god represented in the OT?

 

 

I'd still choose Jesus, but only because I know that what he taught us about love is pure, good, right, holy, moral, and able to lead us to a better, more abundant life.

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Guest billmc

James, I think I'll save my "official" response for later. But I would like to add that it is Jesus, not Yahweh (the God of the OT), who threatened people with everlasting fire. Yahweh may have called for people to be killed, but Jesus taught what most traditional Christians call "hell", eternal torment. If you didn't believe in Yahweh, you were killed. If you don't believe in Jesus, according to popular Christianity, you are tormented in fire forevermore.

 

Do I have a choice of Mister Rogers?

 

:lol:

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Hypothetically, I would choose option D: none of the above. :)

 

Here's why:

  1. The OT God chose favorites and demanded sacrifice.
  2. I don't believe Jesus is divine, though that is for another discussion thread
  3. A hypthetical option C being the NT God, then the NT God is still a localized male deity playing favorites

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James, I think I'll save my "official" response for later. But I would like to add that it is Jesus, not Yahweh (the God of the OT), who threatened people with everlasting fire. Yahweh may have called for people to be killed, but Jesus taught what most traditional Christians call "hell", eternal torment. If you didn't believe in Yahweh, you were killed. If you don't believe in Jesus, according to popular Christianity, you are tormented in fire forevermore.

 

Do I have a choice of Mister Rogers?

 

:lol:

 

 

I'm reminded of Malachi 3 .......

 

 

"But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner's fire and like fullers' soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD."

 

....... and

 

 

"I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into the barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

 

 

I take this to be allegorical. We endure an "age" of purification on earth, tried by fire (Life under the sun) whereby we are purified by both life experience and by the Spirit (Love), the way of the tree of life said to be kept by a flaming sword which turns every which way. Perhaps this is in reference to the sun.

 

 

Perhaps we are living in the furnace. Perhaps the way of the tree of life is kept by the very thing that allows life on this planet (The sun). Jesus is said to baptize us with both Spirit and fire, or perhaps it would be better said by our very lives under the sun and then by the Spirit of truth, our comforter or "love".

 

 

When Jesus speaks of fire, perhaps he is referring to life on earth. We must first be tried and tested by life before we are able to be made new after all. I really don't think that fire as Jesus used the term is a bad thing.

 

 

It is a necessary element when it comes to humanity growing, evolving, and developing as a species, whereby the chaff (Impurities/tares) we posses is burned by the process of living and by the Spirit of love, so that the wheat (That which is of worth) can be preserved.

 

 

But that's just my take. :D

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Hypothetically, I would choose option D: none of the above. :)

 

Here's why:

  1. The OT God chose favorites and demanded sacrifice.
  2. I don't believe Jesus is divine, though that is for another discussion thread
  3. A hypthetical option C being the NT God, then the NT God is still a localized male deity playing favorites

 

 

 

 

Good points. Even so, with option C whose to say that the term "father" wasn't used to simply imply a "parental figure"? It doesn't necessarily need to imply a male figure, but rather that Jesus used the term to identify God as a parental figure. I'd still choose Jesus being that the OT god and him were the only two options I gave, hehe! :)

 

 

I do wonder what you think might happen by choosing neither [if] we did face only the two figures after we died?

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Honestly, I would take Jehovah. As bad as he is, the worst he would do is kill you. Jesus will cast you into hellfire for eternity*

 

I have mixed feelings about Jesus. I remember that on one occasion as a kid I prayed for God to protect me from Jesus.

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Honestly, I would take Jehovah. As bad as he is, the worst he would do is kill you. Jesus will cast you into hellfire for eternity*

 

I have mixed feelings about Jesus. I remember that on one occasion as a kid I prayed for God to protect me from Jesus.

 

 

Fair enough ....... Sad though. I couldn't imagine having such fear of Jesus as a child, but I must admit that I too feared him at one point in my life. Even so, I believe in love and Jesus' recorded life is what woke me up to this amazing Spirit. What if hell is what we experience before we are made new creations? What if hell is simply an *age of suffering we experience before we embrace the love of God? What if when Jesus spoke of hell he was speaking of a damaged spiritual and/or emotional state of mind? Often times we must hit the bottom before we are able to work our way to the top, life itself being "hell" for many people. I no longer fear it, as I have experienced the power of Gods Spirit in me and I'm not sure it can ever be taken away.

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I no longer fear it, as I have experienced the power of Gods Spirit in me and I'm not sure it can ever be taken away.

 

That's been my experience also.

 

So is there possibly an option C of meeting the Spirit, who is, in Jewish terms, of a feminine gender, the very essence or breath of life?

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As I understand it, after reading many books by progressive authors, and re-reading scripture in context – God is the same throughout the old and new testaments. The vengefulness, demand for sacrifice, violence etc were never God’s will, but human projections. God’s true nature as loving, long-suffering parent, revealed in Jesus, was there from the beginning -- the grace offered in the new testament is available in the old as well. The bible is a record of how our perception of God slowly evolved through history. The new testament is a universal text, going out to all peoples, and the old was directed specifically at the nation of Israel. At least that’s how it makes sense to me.

Edited by rivanna
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God and the universe are evolving together. Andrew Newberg, based on his brain imaging of religious experiences, is saying that different parts of our brain support different types of God and these -authoritarian, critical, analytic, benevolent and mystical- follow the evolution of the brain - the authoritarian god supported by activity in the oldest part of the brain. All possibilities exist as potential. The more healthy choice for our improved cognitive function and personal peace would be to think on a compassionate and loving god.

 

What the future holds? Option E I have no idea.

 

Dutch

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Guest billmc

I take this to be allegorical. We endure an "age" of purification on earth, tried by fire (Life under the sun) whereby we are purified by both life experience and by the Spirit (Love), the way of the tree of life said to be kept by a flaming sword which turns every which way. Perhaps this is in reference to the sun. Perhaps we are living in the furnace. But that's just my take. :D

 

That’s true, James, hell could be a metaphor. Therefore, so could heaven. ;)

 

As has been mentioned in this thread, I believe that Yahweh is a human construct of God, a false face so-to-speak. And I think that even Jesus has been and continues to be twisted into a Yahweh-type. We see this most clearly in the book of Revelation and in the popular “Left Behind” novels.

 

For me, I believe I have already encountered and experienced God, and that I continue to do so. And in these experiences, I’ve found that perfect love casts out my fears – fears that I am a slave to my past, fears that I don’t measure up to God’s expectations of me now, fears of what will happen to me after I die. To me, the focus of Jesus’ teachings was on how to live in the present, in the here and now, not on how to go to heaven after we die. So though I don’t at all mean to deride your OP, the question is not one that haunts me. I’m more concerned with living my life today in such a way that people might see enough of the Spirit in me that they will listen to and follow the Spirit within them more closely.

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James,

 

I liked Rivanna's (Karens) response very much as an explanation of the Old and New Testament. I also like Bill's post above mine and as billmc said in that post, "the question is not one that haunts me".

 

Since i have never met the man Jesus for myself nor am i certain of the accuracy or context of the words in the Bible i would chose not to response to such a hypothetical question. To me, hypotheticals have no existence in reality. But since this is the cafe, you have picked a most appropriate place for asking such a question and getting responses of others which i have enjoyed reading.

 

Thank you,

Joseph

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As I understand it, after reading many books by progressive authors, and re-reading scripture in context – God is the same throughout the old and new testaments. The vengefulness, demand for sacrifice, violence etc were never God’s will, but human projections. God’s true nature as loving, long-suffering parent, revealed in Jesus, was there from the beginning -- the grace offered in the new testament is available in the old as well. The bible is a record of how our perception of God slowly evolved through history. The new testament is a universal text, going out to all peoples, and the old was directed specifically at the nation of Israel. At least that’s how it makes sense to me.

 

 

 

I agree, but wouldn't this still make the god described in much of the OT false? This is the 'image' that many worship/ed, but if that image was simply mans perception of god and god was in actually something much different, then the god worshiped would have been false, no? I agree that our perceptions change but I also believe that Jesus revealed the true nature of god (Love). The bible being as you say a history of how our perceptions changed throughout the ages.

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I really like rivanna's answer, which I will paraphrase as 'same God, evolving perception.'

 

There are a few assumptions in the question which provote my thought. It is stated as if there are two books, the OT and the NT. In reality, there are many more books and snippets of writing strung together in books which have come down to use together as the Christian bible (with a few books in the middle that are in some of our bibles but not all). So the idea of there being consistent coherent representations which you can constuct by taking different subsets of the bible is a challenging assertion.

 

I did read a book once (and I have it somewhere as I bought it in hardcopy) which used mathematical game theory to analysis the behavior characteristics of the ancient Jewish God as revealed in the Torah. The example I remember is how this God choose to reveal or not reveal himself. Did he value belief more if the believer had to believe without revelation for example. The book was mainly about exploring interesting game theory problems but it had a similar idea to yours which is to try to sketch a behavioral pattern of God from the bible, in order to define the behavior of the 'god' player in the games.

 

As an aside, I spent a little more time over at CARM reading some of the (very brutal) debates and it seems that the fundamentalist with strict literalist views of the bible really are the bullies holding sway there. One debate which caught my attention was about those they called 'reflectionist' who did not accept literally that God created two sources of light, the sun and the moon. The so called 'reflectionist' who based on science say that the moon just reflects light and is not a source of light are deminishing the true interpretation of the creation story. Another thread of interest was a fight between those who know creation happened 6000-7000 years ago versus some who thought it could have been up to 30,000 years ago due to some ambiguity in the meaning of 'generations' in the bible.

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That's been my experience also.

 

So is there possibly an option C of meeting the Spirit, who is, in Jewish terms, of a feminine gender, the very essence or breath of life?

 

 

But Bill .... You've already met the Spirit, no? That is the beauty of knowing the essence of life (God). The Spirit ultimately leads us to life and liberty. Jesus being one who had been graced with this Spirit or rather essence and breath of life. I presented the hypothetical question for kicks, but seriously what if they were your only two choices? I want to know which you would choose, a potential king who loves impartially or a god of war who demands our worship? To me the choice is easy, based on my own sense of morality.

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That’s true, James, hell could be a metaphor. Therefore, so could heaven. ;)

 

As has been mentioned in this thread, I believe that Yahweh is a human construct of God, a false face so-to-speak. And I think that even Jesus has been and continues to be twisted into a Yahweh-type. We see this most clearly in the book of Revelation and in the popular “Left Behind” novels.

 

For me, I believe I have already encountered and experienced God, and that I continue to do so. And in these experiences, I’ve found that perfect love casts out my fears – fears that I am a slave to my past, fears that I don’t measure up to God’s expectations of me now, fears of what will happen to me after I die. To me, the focus of Jesus’ teachings was on how to live in the present, in the here and now, not on how to go to heaven after we die. So though I don’t at all mean to deride your OP, the question is not one that haunts me. I’m more concerned with living my life today in such a way that people might see enough of the Spirit in me that they will listen to and follow the Spirit within them more closely.

 

 

Absolutely, Bill! I am one who is not too concerned with what comes after, but rather I choose to live my life in a manner beneficial to the human race .... I presented the hypothetical for kicks; not because I view the after life (If any) to be of much importance. What matters most is what we do today to make the world a better place for our descendants. Nice post!!!

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God and the universe are evolving together. Andrew Newberg, based on his brain imaging of religious experiences, is saying that different parts of our brain support different types of God and these -authoritarian, critical, analytic, benevolent and mystical- follow the evolution of the brain - the authoritarian god supported by activity in the oldest part of the brain. All possibilities exist as potential. The more healthy choice for our improved cognitive function and personal peace would be to think on a compassionate and loving god.

 

What the future holds? Option E I have no idea.

 

Dutch

 

 

I'm actually a Panentheist, but I also believe that the essence of life (God) is love. I find it difficult to believe in a god that exists within existence, who demands worship, etc. It's much easier to view life (Existence/reality) to be our supreme authority. It keeps me in check and prevents me from becoming too superstitious.

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James,

 

I liked Rivanna's (Karens) response very much as an explanation of the Old and New Testament. I also like Bill's post above mine and as billmc said in that post, "the question is not one that haunts me".

 

Since i have never met the man Jesus for myself nor am i certain of the accuracy or context of the words in the Bible i would chose not to response to such a hypothetical question. To me, hypotheticals have no existence in reality. But since this is the cafe, you have picked a most appropriate place for asking such a question and getting responses of others which i have enjoyed reading.

 

Thank you,

Joseph

 

 

I am enjoying the replies as well ......

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I really like rivanna's answer, which I will paraphrase as 'same God, evolving perception.'

 

There are a few assumptions in the question which provote my thought. It is stated as if there are two books, the OT and the NT. In reality, there are many more books and snippets of writing strung together in books which have come down to use together as the Christian bible (with a few books in the middle that are in some of our bibles but not all). So the idea of there being consistent coherent representations which you can constuct by taking different subsets of the bible is a challenging assertion.

 

I did read a book once (and I have it somewhere as I bought it in hardcopy) which used mathematical game theory to analysis the behavior characteristics of the ancient Jewish God as revealed in the Torah. The example I remember is how this God choose to reveal or not reveal himself. Did he value belief more if the believer had to believe without revelation for example. The book was mainly about exploring interesting game theory problems but it had a similar idea to yours which is to try to sketch a behavioral pattern of God from the bible, in order to define the behavior of the 'god' player in the games.

 

As an aside, I spent a little more time over at CARM reading some of the (very brutal) debates and it seems that the fundamentalist with strict literalist views of the bible really are the bullies holding sway there. One debate which caught my attention was about those they called 'reflectionist' who did not accept literally that God created two sources of light, the sun and the moon. The so called 'reflectionist' who based on science say that the moon just reflects light and is not a source of light are deminishing the true interpretation of the creation story. Another thread of interest was a fight between those who know creation happened 6000-7000 years ago versus some who thought it could have been up to 30,000 years ago due to some ambiguity in the meaning of 'generations' in the bible.

 

I'm still posting at CARM <sigh>. It's hard to get away from that place, lol! I agree with your sentiments about the bible, Scott. It is very difficult to gain a coherent construct of god from it, and like Solomon suggested, "And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.".

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Guest billmc

But Bill .... You've already met the Spirit, no?

 

I believe so. But I can't prove my experiences to anyone. And it's not necessary that I do so, at least for me. I probably should have worded my reply that, at death, we might be "absorbed into" or "melded with" the Spirit (which I believe is God). All sense of separation disappears.

 

I presented the hypothetical question for kicks...

 

I took your OP that way from the start, James. ;) I didn't think you were looking for eschatological theology, but, rather, for conversation considering the contrast between God as revealed in the OT and in the NT.

 

...but seriously what if they were your only two choices? I want to know which you would choose, a potential king who loves impartially or a god of war who demands our worship? To me the choice is easy, based on my own sense of morality.

 

Well, my choice would be the same as yours. I'm admittedly crazy, but I'm not a masochist. :rolleyes:

 

But...I also believe that Jesus was a Jew who believed in Yahweh. So I'm not convinced that Jesus tried to give us a totally different picture of God than what the OT presents. I believe in "progressive understanding" of God rather than in "progressive revelation." I'm sure you know the difference, but "progressive revelation" says that God revealed himself gradually as we humans were able to take it. "Progressive understanding" says that God has always been the same (which is another subject), but that *our* understanding of God has progressed over time.

 

For instance, IMO, the Jews first believed Yahweh to be a tribal warrior god whose main purpose was to give them a particular piece of land and to help them retain it as long as they remained faithful to him. And they believed that God sanctioned and even enabled them to kill their enemies in order to accomplish this. But by the end of the OT, Yahweh, the great warrior god, is seen more as a broken-hearted lover. He is not as concerned over property rights as he is about how his people are treating one another. And it is into this "modified" understanding of Yahweh that Jesus steps. So while I think Jesus, being a good Jew, believed in Yahweh, his understanding of God was much more progressive than Moses' or Joshua's understanding of God. I don't think that Jesus presented us with a different god, just a clearer understanding of what God desired from his people all along.

 

Good topic! This topic does come up from time to time here and it is refreshing to read different people's considerations of it.

Edited by billmc
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Guest billmc

I am one who is not too concerned with what comes after, but rather I choose to live my life in a manner beneficial to the human race .... I presented the hypothetical for kicks; not because I view the after life (If any) to be of much importance. What matters most is what we do today to make the world a better place for our descendants.

 

Me, too! But, and from what little I know about you (looking forward to knowing more), you probably know that Christianity and Jesus are often presented through the "evangelical" question of:

 

"If you died today, do you know where you would go?"

 

IMO, I simply think this is the wrong question. On so many levels. There are, again IMO, two fundamental misunderstandings implied in this question:

 

1. Christianity and following Jesus is primarily about a place we go (or don't go) after we die. To me, Christianity and following Jesus should be about personal and social transformation here and now, about God's kingdom coming to earth now.

 

2. We meet God and Jesus primarily when we die. I.e. Divinity is separated from us now and we have to wait until after death to meet/discover it. And you had better hope that you have all your doctrines and creeds in order so that, at death's door, you *finally* get to meet God/Jesus and know them. But Jesus defined eternal life as knowing God now, as experiencing life and everything that goes with it to the full, to abundance.

 

So I think the "evangelical" call (not saying you asked it) misses the point. I would ask, "How have you met God in your life today? How have others met God in your life today?" If you wait for death to "meet God", maybe you missed one of life's biggest blessings.

 

(Bill steps down from his soapbox :) )

 

Again, good subject.

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"Progressive understanding" says that God has always been the same (which is another subject), but that *our* understanding of God has progressed over time.

 

That is an excellent point. It does appear to me that the early conception of god in the OT was of a war god who was one among many and lived in a tent which was carried around with the nomadic tribe he had attached himself to. The nomads settled down and decided eventually that this god was greater than the other war gods and in fact this god was the creator of everything. Then the other gods fade from the picture and become simply idols or demons. The completed cannonical representation of this god to me is the representation in Paradise Lost by John Milton. Paradise Lost captures the classic idea of the white bearded old man god sitting in heaven looking down on earth in the same way that the poem "Twas the Night Before Christmas" captures the classic vision of Santa Claus. These poems clean up the storys and give a finished product. With Santa Claus the memory faded that this was a saint in the catholic church, Saint Nicholas who put coins in childrens shoes left outside their doors a few weeks before christmas.

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This was such a good question that I've been thinking about it on and off all day. Not only did the original hypothetical make me think, but everyone’s responses did, too. I thought of Jesus' question to his disciples, “Who do you say I am?”. I thought of the first commandment. I wondered about gender-specific attributes we assign to God. Most especially, though, I thought about my own beliefs, especially those about death and what, if anything, comes afterward.

 

My mother died recently, and two things give me tremendous comfort. The first is that my mother lives on in her children & grandchildren through our stories of her and the love we had for her, and in the children and grandchildren of the people she ministered to in hospice. The second, an idea I've borrowed from Praying A New Story by Michael Morwood, is that my mother has returned to the Source and Sustainer of all. If my life and death can be as beautiful as my mother's was, I'll die happy. :rolleyes:

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