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An Inconvenient Truth?


The Rhino
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A lot of fundies say that Christians who do not listen to certain
doctrine (ie sex before marriage, or homosexuality) are simply taking
parts out of the bible that get in the way of their own desires.
Cherry picking would be another way of putting it.


I do worry that this may be the case a lot of the time. Though I
feel guided by my heart, does it not also say that the heart is
flawed, and should not be trusted? Of course one could argue that the
fundies were lead to become fundies via their heart.

 

Often I find that literal bible study could be idolatry, (though I
still fear actually pronouncing that this is so). I often wonder if
God came down from the heavens, and produced some miracle for all to
see and said "actually, the bible is not written by me its
written by men who were inspired by their view of what I am",
that the fundies would say "that's not God, as he's disagreeing
with the bible". I'm not sure, though it seems plausible to me.
Is putting such blind faith in a set of books not dangerous in this
way? Still if this is not the case, is it not the progressive
Christian who is at fault for not having the faith to believe in Gods
inspired word? It's hard to tell, and there is a lot riding on the
question. It seems to me that there is either something fundamental
about faith in God (and some would say the right view point on what
God is), or God is not really concerned with what we believe, nor the
strife that this causes us at times. I think John Spong put it well
when he said we should not think of God as a man in the sky who would
see things from a human perspective. Of course then one has to ask,
what is Gods perspective? Of course the answer to this is
un-knowable, and we can only speculate through our opinion of what
the divine is. I find this worrying, as everyone's life journey is
different and often painful though also it can be wonderful. I
suppose God in his infinity must represent an infinite spectrum of
attributes. I find this both comforting; that we will all have our
place and that this place is tailored specifically for us, yet
terrifying; as my subjective view on where this place is may be
entirely wrong to the objective infinite and infallible Deity.


The only thing I can truly find solace in is that I do not control
this. It is Gods will, whether that is good for me or not. All I can
do is try to be as true to my own morals and values as I can. That
way whatever happens I know I will have done everything that I can.



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I don't know if the heart can't be trusted, Rhino. I think most of us can trust our hearts when we genuinely listen to them and act accordingly. Of course many of us find reasons to block out and ignore what our hearts are telling us.

 

From what I've seen, most fundies are just as guilty of cherry-picking or 'cafe Christianity', as they accuse others of being. They tend to ignore certain instructions of Jesus such as not to divorce, let the dead bury their own dead, and the fact that Jesus said he did not come to change one jot or tittle of Judaistic law.

 

Literal bible study IS idolatry in my opinion. The book has taken precedence over the heart. For example, what parent anywhere would wish eternal pain and suffering for their children? None I know yet people interpret the bibl this way and then call it truth! Why not listen to their hearts as parents instead?

 

Keep on reading and learning. You might actually find it is only fear that keeps many fundies so 'committed' to their God! That's not a relationship - that's child abuse!

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  • 3 weeks later...

The Rhino, on 27 Apr 2013 - 09:14, said:

 

Is putting such blind faith in a set of books not dangerous in this way? Still if this is not the case, is it not the progressive
Christian who is at fault for not having the faith to believe in Gods inspired word?

 

Progressive Christians are definitely "more" at fault in not taking the Old Testament at its word. This problem may have started right at the beginning, with the decision to bind the OT alongside the New, with the cynical agreement that everyone would "know" to ignore the commandments involving animal sacrifice. The result of that decision is a long history of abuse. Certainly, the disconnect between Jesus' message of love and the OT has become more and more apparent, starting with the movement to abolish slavery, and continuing on with issues such as capital punishment, racism, subjugation of women, discrimination based on sexual orientation.... At some point, progressive Christians need to admit that the OT isn't compatible with the Two Commandments of Love God and Love your neighbor as yourself, nor is it compatible with the divinely-inspired conscience that we were all issued.

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I take the view that the OT has inspiration and messages to offer people, as well as the nasties that reflect different cultures in different times. As I don't take the bible to be a literal account of God communicating with man, I don't have to worry about 'compatibility'. I take out of it what makes sense in today's world.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Paul's posts make sense - we cannot use a text written two + millennia ago as applicable for the 21st century.

 

Sure, there is human wisdom in the biblical texts which continue over time, but most of it was written for the situation of the times.

 

None of the authors could have possibly imagined that in 2013 humans would land a automatic robot on Mars and send back pictures and reports that I can access via something called a computer.

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Paul's posts make sense - we cannot use a text written two + millennia ago as applicable for the 21st century.

 

I agree with that, which is why I feel we should decanonize the OT. Because people do use it as applicable for today, and they'll continue to do so as long as they believe it to be above reproach, unaffected by the normal rules of morality and reason. Keeping the OT in the Bible supports such beliefs, while protestations to the opposite are ineffective by comparison.

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Jim,

 

While i respect your opinion and admire your tenacity/determination as evidenced by your book.....From a different perspective......It seems to me that keeping the OT in the Bible and education is what is bringing more and more people in these modern times to the realization that the Bible is not what the current traditional church system says it is. (God's Word and inerrant) Along that line, rather than remove it , i think leaving it alone makes a better case for how we should look at both the OT and NT. Removing the OT will in my best guess, strengthen the NT as 'God's Inerrant Word" which to me is still not healthy or conducive to what i personally see as progressive interpretation and growth.

 

Of course that is just my personal perspective of the issue and i am not saying you are incorrect in your view, i just don't presently agree with the effectiveness of the removal approach, I think PaulS has proposed in another thread education as an alternative rather than removal . Perhaps that would be more possible and effective at this period in history?

Joseph

Edited by JosephM
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Removing the OT will in my best guess, strengthen the NT as 'God's Inerrant Word" which to me is still not healthy or conducive to what i personally see as progressive interpretation and growth.

 

 

Yes, this is one of my fears also.

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I remember reading in a book by Ehrman ,that one of the reasons for connecting the OT to the NT was to make the newer "Christian " religion appear ancient. I think he stated that in Roman times (and perhaps still today) when it came to technology or military things,the new was valued. But when it came to religion the old was valued. In other words ,if this thing is truth, how come Socrates didn't know about it or Plato etc.

 

I think Burton Mack in his book The Lost Gospel Of Q says they even changed the order of the OT books . In the Christian Bible the OT ends with Malachi predicting the return of Elijah.The NT begins after telling Mathew's birth account with John the Baptist preaching in the wilderness, like Elijah returning. This seems to make the OT flow onto the NT. Mack says that the Hebrew Bible without the NT ends with the book of Chronicles. I've never seen a Hebrew Bible so I have to take his word for that.

 

MOW

Edited by MOW
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I use a Hebrew Tanakh, and I can confirm this as well.

 

Not only is the OT altered in its order, but the NT also. Paul's letters should come first, since they were written much earlier than the oldest gospel (Luke). Paul's letters are also out of order - they were arranged with the longest first, and shortest last. That means that James (one of the earliest New Testament books) is placed toward the end, while Romans (written in the middle to end of Paul's ministry) is placed first.

 

When you read them in chronological order, you get a very different perspective:

 

 

I Thessalonians, Galatians, I Corinthians (early 50s), Philemon, Phillipians, II Corinthians (mid 50s), Romans (58), Mark (70), James (unless you believe it was written by Jesus' brother, which would date it prior to 70, but since it is written in quite sophisticated, even elegant Greek - an unlikely talent for a Galilean Jew - it is more likely a different James), Colossians, Matthew, Hebrews (80s), John, Ephesians, Revelation (early to mid 90s), Jude (? mid 90s ?), Luke and Acts (late 90s) I, II, III John (100), II Thessalonians (100 - possibly written by a student of Paul, but most definitely, not Paul), I Peter, I and II Timothy (110-20), Titus, II Peter (115-25). - Marcus Borg: A Chronological New Testament

 

For example, in the Tanakh, one can see how the description of G-d mellows over time. G-d is vengeful, wrathful and mean in the earliest writings (Job / Pentateuch) and mellows out by the time of the Minor Prophets (Nevi'im). In Jonah (one of the last books written - but, not last in order), G-d is downright folksy. In Jonah, the lesson is that G-d is more concerned with taking care of your fellow man than placing importance on nationalism or religious piety.

 

BTW, it should be noted that Jews view "prophets" differently from Christians. Prophets don't just predict future events, they interpret, criticize and reflect on how Jews should respond to G-d. They even petition G-d for mercy and redemption. They hope for a moshiach to usher in an era of peace and harmony (in contrast to the upheaval of the Babylonian captivity, the divided kingdoms and the diaspora of the lost tribes). Jewish followers of Jesus imagined him in this role (fleshed out in the symbolic imagery of the gospels), although Paul took it in a totally different direction.

 

NORM

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you for that NORM. I never knew that the OT had been rearranged, but it makes sense. I was aware of the NT arrangment, but have never studied them in chronological order (which is a little bit of a guessing game). Curious to know if it changes the flavor of the interpretation.

Edited by PerpetualSeeker
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Curious to know if it changes the flavor of the interpretation.

 

I believe that it does. The New Testament compilers were very shrewd in placing the Gospels ahead of Paul's writing. It gives us the impression that Paul's letters are commentary on the Gospels rather than the other way round: the later Gospel writers were fashioning their stories to keep in line with Paul's "revelation."

 

NORM

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And if there was ever someone whom, I believe, sought to trust his heart, it was Paul. Paul didn't get his "revelation" from the OT or from the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth. His "gospel" didn't come from the other apostles. He claimed that it came directly from Christ, which some might interpret to be the ascended Jesus while others might interpret it to be the inner divine nature. But the point is that Paul clear went against the scriptures of his day that required circumcision of Gentile proselytes and that stipulated who you could fellowship with and what you could eat. The apostle Peter had a similar revelation concerning fellowshipping and eating with those whom his religion said were "unclean." We sometimes forget how renegade and revolution these people were to go against their religious culture and their scriptures in following the Spirit.

 

Interestingly (at least to me), Jesus said it is the Spirit, not the scriptures, that would lead his followers into all truth. And then he said that it is just about impossible to predict what someone born of the Spirit is going to do. But we live in a time of Christianity where being "biblical" is often the most respected status a Christian can have i.e. "They live according to the Bible." But to say that God has lead me by the heart in an area that isn't address by the Bible or that the Bible even warns against or condemns leads to sideways glances and murmers of heresy.

 

Our hearts, being human, are not infallible. But if we don't entrust them to God and entrust the Spirit to lead us forward, then what are we really following? The experiences (hearts) of others? The past? The letter of the law? Tradition for tradition's sake? Both Jesus and Paul said we are to be filled with and follow the Spirit. That is where life is.

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If we do not believe in something...we will fall for anything. I can't see a completely relativistic approach (what's OK for you is OK for you) working out in the end game. At the same time I would hold that no one is absolutely certain that he/she has the right rule book! :)

 

Are there not universal concepts that all mankind can agree on? I think they are written upon the hearts of all humans. Some have simply fenced them out.

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I reckon 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you' is a pretty reasonable universal concept to agree on and live by. I think it may also address much if the "what's ok for you is ok for you" where such doesn't harm or hurt others.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Rhino, I agree with your original post that you don't control this. No one made up the issue of whether the Bible is being used as an idol. People are either very right or very wrong in what they're doing about this. Sometimes it couldn't be more extreme, such as Mike Huckabee saying that anyone who votes for Obama is going to hell.

 

What amazes me is that no one from Huckabee's side criticized such extremism, as far as I heard. How can people hear that either side may be carrying their beliefs to the point of idolatry and not take a step back to look at that?

 

I agree that all we can do is our best. Intellectually I have no doubt that Huckabee was very wrong to say what he did, but there is a part of me that is insecure about that. If it's so obvious, why doesn't God fix someone's heart, mine or theirs? I suppose we need to learn to have faith, even in a progressive faith that looks at the way many use the Bible and sees idolatry.

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David, I suspect you're right about the need to have faith, and I think that faith is, in fact, learned, or a learned faith, an informed faith. The faith of my youth was rooted in either fear or authoritarianism. I had faith because I feared what might happen to me (here or in the afterlife) if I didn't have faith. And I had faith because I assumed that someone or something had authority over me in order to dictate to me what my beliefs should be.

 

My faith now, though not completely discarding concern about the unknown or the testimony of others, is more related to my own experiences and considerations of what makes sense to me and what, to me, seems moral. In this sense, it goes back to what Paul said about the Golden Rule. This Rule does seem common to many religions and is, IMO, quite reasonable and moral. From my point-of-view, there is a pull towards this in our world, possibly in the universe (though I won't argue about it with those who disagree). This is where I have faith that "all this" is going somewhere, not because of determinism, but due to maturation. IMO, the apostle Paul calls this "the consummation", although I might see the means and goals of it a bit differently. And as we learn, we, possibly with the Spirit's help, fix our own hearts and can bring healing and hope to the hearts of others.

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I can't help wondering about the words have faith, believe, know and think.

Here's how I see the words or at least try and use them.

 

I believe ... I have a fair amount of evidence to support my position and hence behaviour.

I know .... I have so much evidence to support my position and behaviour it is not true.

I have faith in ... I don't have convincing evidence but I believe it anyway.

I think ... The perceptions I have, that have been formed by the universe.

Edited by romansh
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The message of Jesus was love God, love neighbors, including Samaritans, and love enemies. The gospels present this clearly.

 

Love gets obscured not by debate for the sake of debate, but because many have an agenda beyond the above, such as propping up other things in the Bible or making an idol of the unborn child that isn't in the Bible at all. It's not progressives who condemn their enemies in this to hell or otherwise try to hurt them.

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A book I have just finished called Zealot, presents a convincing argument that Jesus should be taken in context of his culture and time. This book points out that Jesus himself stated several times that his 'message' was to the Jews, not the gentiles. It would seem that Jesus' 'message' didn't extend outside that circle - so to love your enemies wasn't to turn the other cheek to the Roman soldier torturing you, but was intended as a message for Jews to love their fellow Jews.

 

It seems that Paul took Jesus' message and chose himself to expand it to include gentiles.

 

Whilst the Gospels may present Jesus' currently understood message 'clearly' I think we should be at least conscious of the fact that with the gospels having been written at least 40 years after Jesus left, it is highly likely his 'message' was lost a little in translation.

 

That said, nothing stops us (or Paul) from building on that original message and developing it even further for our world today.

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A book I have just finished called Zealot, presents a convincing argument that Jesus should be taken in context of his culture and time. This book points out that Jesus himself stated several times that his 'message' was to the Jews, not the gentiles. It would seem that Jesus' 'message' didn't extend outside that circle - so to love your enemies wasn't to turn the other cheek to the Roman soldier torturing you, but was intended as a message for Jews to love their fellow Jews.

 

It seems that Paul took Jesus' message and chose himself to expand it to include gentiles.

 

Whilst the Gospels may present Jesus' currently understood message 'clearly' I think we should be at least conscious of the fact that with the gospels having been written at least 40 years after Jesus left, it is highly likely his 'message' was lost a little in translation.

 

That said, nothing stops us (or Paul) from building on that original message and developing it even further for our world today.

 

I would have a lot of respect for Reza Aslan, if he announced he was going to write about a similar study of Mohammed.

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Who is more worth following, the historical Jesus or the gospel Jesus? If it's the former, there are many authors who vary on who that was. How do you pick one to believe? It might be the latter, no matter how far the authors of the gospels went to construct words and events. What does God intend for us? If that's nothing, then what difference does it make?

 

According to Borg and Crossan, Paul was received best by the Gentiles who attended synagogues, but hadn't converted fully. It wasn't Paul who chose the Gentiles as much as the other way around. Also Paul claimed to have been told by the Spirit to preach to Gentiles. To dismiss that is to again say God has no place in this. Maybe not, but then again what difference does it make, if not?

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