But I Think God Is…

Many argue that faith is personal, that it’s different for all people, and that we must respect people of all faiths, and even those of no faith at all. I agree on all counts. But in this forum, I like to put forth my own set of personal beliefs – and those of anyone willing to add to the discussion – under the presumption that if you’re here reading this, you have at least some interest in matters of eternity.

I think that probably the most fundamental error in any discussion of faith starts with the words, But I think God is… Any discussion of faith that starts with those words is typically akin to a talk show or even a political debate, because it implies that the “question of God” can be resolved and solved by open debate and public consensus. But if God is real – and looking at it logically – this assumption is absurd. It presumes that we can make God in our own image.

But I Think God Is…
But I Think God Is…
But before we get into that analysis, let’s first spend some time pondering an issue that provides the entire reason such a discussion is even necessary…the rejection of Jesus Christ.

Why is Jesus Christ so “offensive” to so many people?

I can come up with two answers to this question. The first involves the judgment and hypocrisy that often comes from us Christians; we’re most assuredly guilty of this charge, but we’ll tackle that topic in a future post.

As to the second…

Do you believe that anyone has the ability to foretell the future? Some people believe in the prophecies of Nostrodamus, the 16th century French chemist who wrote of all sorts of predictions through his quatrains which many believe have come to pass. But here’s another prophecy from an even better known “prophet”, that has unequivocally come to pass:

” If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first…If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also” (John 15:18,20).

Those words were spoken by Jesus Christ nearly 2000 years ago, and they’re as true today as they were then. But why? Why did they hate Jesus then, and why is he still hated today? And since he departed the physical confines of the world nearly 2000 years ago, why does anyone care enough to be offended? Jesus didn’t come to rearrange social orders, to topple governments or to change national boundaries. So what was it about him that so many found and still find so displeasing?

Here’s my theory… take a definite position on anything, and one thing is guaranteed: many people will hate you. Jesus was very definite, he spoke with the authority of someone who knows. But in our human-ness, we don’t like definite – we prefer the wiggle room that uncertainty provides. People who are definite about things – especially in matters we can loosely call “virtues” – tend to make us nervous. Though we’re loathe to admit it, at the depths of our souls we’re only too aware of our shortcomings as human beings and of our guilt in the face of truth. And the more powerful the truth that one utters, the more repulsed we are at hearing it.

Rhetorical question: Does the fact that a teaching offends us make that teaching invalid?

A more modern reason to reject Jesus

In today’s world, there may be an even more basic reason so many dismiss Jesus as irrelevant: fewer people believe in a “god” of any sort.

Previous generations lived a mere heartbeat away from death, and they knew it. It wasn’t at all uncommon for people who grew up before World War II to have experienced the death of an immediate family member, often a childhood sibling. It was hard not to cling to faith as the last, best hope.

But we’re largely insulated from that view of death – if not from death itself – by today’s complex global systems, public safety nets, medical advances, technological breakthroughs and the ever-present and increasingly convincing entertainment media, all of which combine to deliver to us a compelling message that we’re masters of our own destiny.

This has become the ultimate “religion” of the 21st century. We don’t like to dwell on death, and like to think that one day death itself will be destroyed by our completely irrepressible, always advancing technology. As an extreme example, some people even choose to freeze their bodies at death, placing their hope in the fact that blessed technology will find a way to resurrect them to new life.

Jesus promised that if we believe in him, we would have eternal life. But eternal life with who? With God. He promised to bring us to glory. What glory? The glory of God. He promised that we’d be delivered from eternal wrath? What wrath? The wrath of God.

But if there is no God, there is no wrath, so why do we even need savior? A savior from what? The question of belief in Jesus Christ then, is even more basic than any objections to his claims and teachings.

Now, back to But I think God is…

OK, this has been an admittedly long wind-up to the main topic in the title of this post, but given the depth of the subject matter, the table first needs to be set.

I contend that one of the core objections to Jesus Christ is either an absence of belief in a sovereign God, or a lack of understanding of the nature of God. That lack of both belief and understanding is in evidence in the way we speak of God. If we preface our discussions of God with “but I think God is…” what we’re really doing is opening the possibility of creating a God of our own choosing – making God in Man’s image. As a matter of pure logic, that thinking can’t be right.

This assertion starts with a mistaken premise: that the God of the Universe is (or must be) limited to what we think he is or should be. We’re making up our own God from, presumably, a long list of buffet table-like multiple choice items. Is that who God has to be, someone who fits our idea of who he is?

Assuming that were even possible, would a God constructed by any human being be remotely capable of being the God of the Universe? To think as much is a contradiction in terms.

So let’s flip the direction a bit. Rather than beginning a discussion of God with “but I think God is…”, let’s instead start by listing some things God isn’t, based on little more than logic:

  • God isn’t constrained by the limits of our understanding
  • God isn’t constrained by our ideas of right or wrong
  • God isn’t some sort of cosmic genie waiting to do our bidding in order to prove his existence or worth to humanity
  • God isn’t constrained by our understanding of science
  • God isn’t beholden to our individual opinions of who he is
  • God isn’t beholden to the court of public opinion or even to the court of human law

Some would like to believe in God, but want a god who will “behave” (according to the values of good and evil we hold important). As well intended as that may sound on the surface, it means only accepting a limited god. This is not at all unlike paganism, which established many gods, all of whom had certain powers and certain weaknesses. But those are not gods at all; they’re more akin to super humans. In our own day super humans take the form of fictional characters in popular culture, like movies, TV and magazines. We love the idea of concentrated power, but only when we think we can control it. And when the hero is a super HUMAN, he or she can usually be controlled by something or someone.

A true God is one who is beyond our imaginations and unconstrained by our personal preferences. In a world where we’re told – and even directed – to be masters of our own destinies, that’s a hard pill to swallow. After all, a true God would have absolute power over us.

That’s a frightening proposition isn’t it, maybe even more than we can stand?

But our fear doesn’t mean God doesn’t exist. Either he does or he doesn’t, but if he does, then yes, he has absolute power over us. Our choice then is either to believe or to reject the idea of an all powerful God- but not to construct one based on our own preferences.

Only when we begin to grasp the concept of the absolute sovereignty of God do we begin to develop an understanding of who Jesus Christ is and why we need him. He is our path to that God who has absolute power over us.

If we’re serious about the searching for or knowing God – and we should be – we need to begin by asking the right questions and, more important, not running away from any answers we get. Beginning the conversation with But I think God is is never the place to start that discussion with.

What are your thoughts on this subject? Must God be who we think he is?

( Photo by Waiting For The Word )


28 Responses to But I Think God Is…

  1. This is an interesting post. I have utmost respect for you following through on your beliefs.

    I believe there is always one more question and I also believe (theoretically) that anything is possible. This basically leads me to lean towards the position that there is no god, and if we did find the entity that is good we would just have another question on our hands…. And that would be “where did god come from”. The same goes for finding the creation point of the universe…. where did the point of creating the universe come from… Anyway that is just a glimpse into my beliefs. I respect everyone for what they believe because in short…. I just don’t know and honestly I am quite content and at peace with never knowing. I know the world is the worst most digusting place, yet it is the kindest and most beautiful too.

    As for Jesus being offensive… I don’t think he is. If he was real (I mean one guy, much research suggests he may have been 3 or 4 guys at the time) then he was a really swell guys and I commend everything he every did. As for exactly what he said and did we will never know for sure. Even the translations of the bibles followed by most American’s have shown that some of the stories and beliefs being followed slightly wrong. Modern translations of the oldest bibles in Greek (I think) have shown different slants on some of the morals.

    Sorry I went off point. Jesus isn’t offensive, anyone in their right mind respects the value system and also he is shared amongst many religions. Both Judaism and Islam hold him in very high extreme and I believe they both cite him as a profit.

    What is offensive to me about religion is the things that have been done in it’s name. I don’t want to get political but President Bush used the G word to justify a lot of bad actions and people have used the G word to retaliate. Religion, in it’s organised sense’ has produced probably just as much suffering as it has saved people from themselves.

    I think religion is and should be a personal thing but that does not mean it should not be shared with friends and loved ones. However it’s name should not be used lightly, and things should not be justified under the badge of religion without serious thought!

    If there is a god that judges then I like to think I will be judged on my good nature, will to fulfill happiness of loved ones and the world in general and the fact that I just try hard to be a good person. If a god judged me on my following of them, I feel that is a bit egotistical and I would rather burn in hell, hang in purgatory or experience whatever kind pain or suffering awaits me.

    Ok I better stop here before I write a novel of thoughts (sorry that this comment is a bit unorganised, i’m in a rush)!!!

    Good luck with your forum and I hope you get some great conversations and celebrations of faith going on there.

    Thanks,

    Forest.
    http://frugalzeitgeist.com

  2. “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

    Why is this statement so true? Because God is real, and God has put inside all of us knowledge of his existence, whether we choose to believe it or not is up to us.

    @Forest: I empathize with what you say about people doing thus & so in the name of God… there have been so many terrible things done in the name of God and of religion. We have to be careful not to look to others for direction on who God is, but instead to look to God himself. You mentioned being a good person, none of us are inherently “good people,” not according to the commandments of God. If we read God’s commandments we will find that we have ALL broken a good deal of them. Where does this leave us before God? Condemned. There are no exceptions. So now what? Well… now we need a savior. The only way for us to be right before God is through that savior. That savior would have had to come to earth, live a faultless life, and die in our stead. That savior is Jesus. He is the way the truth and the life and no man cometh to the Father but by him.

    I am the chief of sinners, and I need a savior… I choose Jesus the Christ. Who do you choose? If you choose your own good works, according to the scriptures you will burn in hell. And THAT is why Jesus is offensive to many. Many do not wish to admit that he is the only way to heaven… but he is.

    If it were not for Jesus I would go to hell based on my sin, I thank God the father that he sent Jesus to suffer and die for my sin… that I may now be justified to God through his death. Praise him! 🙂

  3. Great post, Kevin! You’ve really done a good job boiling it down to the basics. I also appreciate how you point out that we can’t understand God based on our own ideas of Him. The One True God as Christians describe Him cannot be understood by man’s thinking. This is one of the very fundamental characteristics of the God we worship.

    @Forest:

    I thank you for being kind and gracious in your comment despite the fact that you don’t necessarily agree with Kevin. Many non-Christians are quick to attack and become angry rather than discuss these issues calmly.

    When we’re trying to understand God, we must not rely on our own abilities to think about who He is. If there is an all-powerful God who created the entire universe including us, how can we expect to understand Him or figure Him out? That’s like expecting an ant to comprehend collateralized debt obligations. Where would you begin?

    We must begin to ask questions about God by looking at His revelation to us. What has He said about Himself? As a Christian, I find God’s revelation to man in the Bible, in His Son Jesus Christ, and in the work of His Holy Spirit (which prompts us to seek Him). So we need to look at what God is saying to us – not what we want to say to or about God.

    The question of where God came from is actually irrelevant. If He exists, that’s all we need to know – that He does exist. It doesn’t matter how He came into being, it just matters that He is. The Bible tells us that God has no beginning or end. Now I don’t claim to understand that, but I don’t need to. I just need to know that He exists. I also don’t need to know exactly how He created the universe. (As a side note, I think it’s interesting that the Big Bang Theory can get us all the way back to a “singularity” but can’t explain where that came from. So using the logic you gave, how can we believe in the Big Bang Theory? It doesn’t explain how the universe came into being either.)

    As far as Jesus being who He said He was and who the Bible says He was, let me ask you this: If Jesus did not exist as one person, who did what the Bible says He did, and who was who He said He was, then why would so many Christians (especially early Christians who had known Jesus personally) have died for their faith in Him? Why would Christianity have continued for so long if Jesus didn’t really exist and do the things the Bible says? Are people really so crazy and blind that they would continue believing in Him for over two thousand years?

    I’m not sure where you’ve read about Greek translations of the Bible that don’t match up to the Bible we have today. Of all the literary works that we accept as accurate today (like Homer’s The Odyssey, for example), the Bible is backed up by more historical documents that agree with what we have today than any other work. What I mean is that there are thousands upon thousands of sources that show the same meaning and translation for the Bible as it today, but there are only maybe a thousand or less sources that back up The Odyssey.

    I know this is long, but please bear with me. Only two points to go.

    I completely agree with you that much of what is (or has been) done in the name of religion is hideous, disgusting, and absolutely wrong. I know many other Christians who would agree with you as well. But it’s important to remember that Jesus didn’t call people into organized religion. And it’s important to remember that people are not perfect – we’re far from it. People make mistakes. People do the wrong things. But does this mean that what people do always reflect what God desires? Please don’t think that Christians are going to be perfect examples of what Jesus taught and what God wants in our lives. We are sinful – even after we accept Christ. We will continue to fail, but God is making us new in Christ and making us more like Him. The good things you see in our lives are the things God is doing through us. The bad things you see us doing are our own bad and wrong choices – not God’s. All we can do (and should do) is ask for forgiveness from you for the ways in which our wrong choices have hurt you.

    Finally, you said if there is a God who judges, you’d like to be judged on the good things you have done. But when we judge something, do we only look at the good? Take the Olympics for example (since they’re on now). When a judge gives a score for an athlete, it’s the mistakes that generally matter the most. One big mistake and your score will suffer greatly. And these scores come from imperfect judges.

    But the God who judges us is a perfect judge. He is holy in every way – completely perfect and without mistakes. He cannot tolerate sin at all because He is perfectly good. To win the competition in God’s book, you must have a perfect score. You must be without mistake. So the question is not how many good things have you done. The question is this: how have you fallen short?

    If you’ve fallen short, God has no choice but to judge you as imperfect. You have sinned – you have fallen short (just as I have). So if we are to be judged on our own works, we will lose.

    But God has given us the gift of His Son, Jesus Christ. Jesus, who had no sin, died for us to take away our sin. So that everyone who believes in Him (who He says He is and what He promises) and professes Him as Lord can have a perfect score when it is time for God to judge. For those who believe in Christ, God will not judge based on their imperfect works. Instead, God will look at Jesus perfect life and perfect works and then give us a perfect score. Then we’ll be able to join God in Heaven.

    Before you respond, I want to ask you for forgiveness if I have offended you or my words are not perfect. I am not perfect. I prayed for quite some time before responding because I wanted God’s words to flow through me. But it’s quite likely that I still made mistakes. If so, please forgive me for those mistakes and we can work together to come to an understanding.

    I will be praying that God will continue to have His Holy Spirit work in you while you ask these questions and seek the Truth.

  4. @Forest.
    Hey. Thanks for sharing your observations.

    I completely agree with some of your observations – the world is a mixture of good and evil, beauty and disgust. Ultimately, I trace those opposing realities to the human heart. We were given something beautiful (by God) and we managed to tarnish what made it beautiful. Yet, God does not give up on us and he continues to impress his goodness on this earth – thus, giving us glimpses of goodness.

    I’m not sure as to your claims that Jesus was 3 or 4 guys at the same time. There is an organization called the Jesus Seminar. Tons of Christians dislike this group of scholars because they are so liberal and they discredit so many things about the Bible. However, even the Jesus seminar openly admits that Jesus did exist as a man. I’m not sure that anyone with scholarly credibility has suggested he was 3 or 4 guys.

    The second half of the Bible, called the New Testament was written in Greek (Koine Greek). There are textual variants in some of the manuscripts (not accurate to call them Bibles), but there is no indication that there was efforts by translators to manipulate the morality. In fact, quite the opposite is true. In the Gospel of Mark Jesus is constantly calling his followers a bunch of dull folks because they just don’t get it. Peter, one of the most outspoken disciples, denied Jesus. This is not the type of thing that would have remained if the Gospels were revised.

    Your right that a lot of horrid things have happened in the name of religion. Read the history books and it will make Bush seem like an angel. I’m thinking Crusades …

    I’m going to banking my life on something opposite than what you said. That is that I will not be judged based on my nature. You see my nature is not always good. I have nice intentions, but am often led astray. My faith is build on one foundation – that I will not be judged by my actions, but will be judged according to my relationship with Jesus. If this is not the case and we are judged based on our actions the story of this world might have a much darker ending than any of us would like to imagine.

    Thanks for stimulating some good discussion.

  5. I have a question regarding a comment of yours and one of Matt’s.

    Your comment: “It was hard not to cling to faith as the last, best hope.”
    Matt’s comment: “There are no atheists in foxholes.”

    Is the fact that life is scarier when you don’t believe in God a legitimate (or sufficient) reason to believe in God? For me at least, the answer is no.

  6. Mike, I think the point of both comments is that when we’re face to face with severe circumstances, we suddenly believe. The Bible says (loosely) that man has an inherent awareness of God. I think that’s true–at one time or another virtually everyone prays, even self declared non-believers. Usually it happens in a hospital bed, battlefield, courtroom, cemetary or jail cell. Sometimes it’s called “bargaining with the devil” but it’s actually quite the opposite.

    When all is going well in life, or at least things are within the bounds of routine, it’s easy enough to deny that knowlege. We feel self sufficient and not only do we not have an immediate perceived need for God, but we also don’t want the restrictions on our lives and behavior that would follow such a belief.

    For my own part, I don’t believe any more or less in God during one of life’s storms. But then I’m a seasoned believer, if there is such a thing, and I believe God is in both the high and low points in my life. The comments from myself and from Matt are more about people who claim not to believe.

    I hope this answers your question.

  7. Forest – First, thank you for asking honest questions. It’s been my hope that this faith forum would invite an exchange of ideas in the area of faith, even ideas that diverge from mine. I believe the open exchange of ideas helps us all to understand each others beliefs, and that can only help.

    You raised a number of points and questions that I’ll try to address one at a time.

    “I believe there is always one more question…” There was a time when I was deep into my questions too—I’m not saying this as a point of empathy–I really believed that deep, unanswerable questions represented sophistication and proper cynicism. No one was going to pull the wool over my eyes. But I came to realize that as long as we’re in this life, we’ll ALWAYS have questions, and the fact that we have them doesn’t make what ever we’re questioning improbable. At some point we make a choice to believe certain things and reject others.

    We live in a world of infinite theories, but in the end there is an ultimate truth, whether or not we can either perceive it or understand it. Our questions, no matter how many we have, don’t change that outcome. Think of a child who perpetually asks “why” no matter how many answers she’s given. Academia is actually structured to function this way, and of course, passes that method on to us.

    “…anything is possible”—maybe, but not all things are probable. Sometimes when we think this way, what we’re really doing is being none committal, holding our options open for…whatever.

    “where did god come from” and “where did the point of creating the universe come from”—these questions are an attempt to quantify infinity, which we know we can’t do. In regard to God—suspend your thoughts for a moment and consider that there is one; what would he be like? He’d be infinite. The Alpha and the Omega, without beginning or end. Now as physical beings existing in a finite world, that’s “impossible”, everything must have a beginning. That may be true based on the knowledge that we now possess, but it doesn’t represent an absolute truth. There was a time when it was commonly accepted that the earth was flat, that the sun revolved around the earth, and that the earth was the center of the universe. Today we know none of that is true, but based on the knowledge of the day, it was truth.
    Knowledge isn’t truth, and I think that’s an important distinction.

    “much research suggests he may have been 3 or 4 guys at the time”—I going to pass on this because I’m not aware of any serious scholar who believes this. There’s nothing to support it. Sadly, much of what passes as “knowledge” about Jesus is media regurgitation of various theories. I’ve seen many of these theories come and go in just my lifetime. The media loves the shock value of the sensationalism, so they’ll carry the theories to the ends of the earth. But I compare it to the Kennedy assassination, in that the farther we move from the actual event the more numerous and preposterous the theories get. This is part of man’s nature.

    If you believe that there are translation errors, particularly re: morals, I’d suggest some deep study. I think much of that belief comes from pop culture sources like the DaVinci Code, which the author initially admitted was merely a story.

    On Islam holding Jesus in high esteem as a prophet—please read the Koran—I read something in it that a Muslim cleric was not able to answer: according to that holy book, the “prophet Jesus” is the messiah who comes to Earth on judgment day. I think there’s some confusion in Islam on Jesus, and though I’ve read the Koran, I’m not an expert on Islam.

    In regard to awful things being done in the name of religion, I totally agree with you. Religion has been perverted and twisted to fit nearly any objective we can concoct. The Bible confirms that God condemns this perversion. But I also believe religion gets a bad rap in many ways–please read my post on this site, “Does Religion Really Cause War” for more on my thoughts on that topic. It’s not in the post, but I was extremely uncomfortable with the previous administrations hints of God in their policies, but I digress.

    OK, let me wrap it up on this key point…

    “If there is a god that judges then I like to think I will be judged on my good nature, will to fulfill happiness of loved ones and the world in general and the fact that I just try hard to be a good person. If a god judged me on my following of them, I feel that is a bit egotistical and I would rather burn in hell, hang in purgatory or experience whatever kind pain or suffering awaits me.”

    Logically, the idea that we’re saved by virtue of being a “good person” is too subjective to be valid. Everyone thinks of themselves as BASICALLY good people, so where’s the dividing line? This is a very common human belief, but if you think about it from God’s perspective, it gives us the ability to save ourselves which can’t be true in the face of an almighty God.

    As far as God being egotistical—if God is all powerful, the central fact is that HE, not us, defines good and evil. It can’t be any other way. Yes, God’s standard of salvation for us is our loyalty to him, and though we may not like that, it is the only possibility based on logic alone. God is not subjugated by democracy! He can (and does) choose those who are devoted to him, over those who “do good”.

    It isn’t that we aren’t required by God to do good, but good to God looks different than good in the eyes of man. Often when any of us do good, we do it either to prove our own righteousness to ourselves or to others, for self-agrandizement or in an attempt at self promotion. According to the Bible, “all of (our) good deeds are as filthy rags before the Lord”; that isn’t because God is cruel, it’s because he sees into the heart of Man and knows the real reasons we do what we do.

    Think about it, our courts and legislatures can’t even always sort out good and evil, how can we expect God to abide by our definitions? No, we’re supposed to abide by HIS pronouncements. That’s a hard pill for many to swallow, and a very common reason people don’t believe. It’s not always that we don’t believe, it’s often more that we don’t agree, which is something entirely different. But the fact that we don’t agree with something doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

    Long winded here, but you’ve asked some brilliant questions that I hope I and others have addressed in some intelligent fashion.

    Feel free to add any additional comments, or if you’d like, you have my email and can handle it that way.

    Kevin

  8. Hey Everyone, I am not offended at all! I did not expect such a response though and it’s impossible for me to respond to everyone, so I guess i’ll just windle on about a few points here. Much of my talk was ramble and not backed up with solid research so I am sure I said a few misinformed or badly structured things….

    I also hope I never offended anyone here either, it’s never my intention but I will be asking some questions in this comments…. As I said none are meant to offend.

    Firstly, I felt everybody thought I did not believe in God…. Well yes I don’t believe in god necessarily but I am open. The Christian God may well be the God that exists but then it could be the Native American God, which is essentially Nature itself….

    I really really think God has to stop being called HE, this is not constructive for society and definitely pushes Christianity in the wrong direction, I believe a god would be sexless if a god existed. I don’t know if God is every referred to have a sex in the bible.

    On that note, why have there never been any female prophets and why is god not sending a new prophet in these troubled times?

    As for infinity and the one more question thing, I agree none of it matters. With my philosophy I am always content just not knowing. I don’t see it as non-committal, I see it as contentment with not knowing.

    Here is a situation that outlines a major problem I see with holding God as the Almighty. Pain and Suffering happens at the hands of ourselves everyday. We cause war, we kill each other, we argue, we create things for money and then harm our own civilization (thinking Monsanto and other evil corps here). But when a child is born with a bad illness or disability (say the only part of his/her body that can be moved is the eyes for example) then the child has to live a life of misery. A life of absolute pain and suffering and only the occasional joy….. Now why would a just God do this to any human. Variations of this happen every day. As God’s beloved creation we should all be born pure and equal. Our troubles should come from the world, not conception and birth itself.

    The Koran, I am part way through the Koran, it certainly is a different book to the bible but definitely carries through many core beliefs. As it is a newer religion it tends to dwell on social problems of the time and many believe the writings are time sensitive to deal with a lot of bad stuff related to still existing pagan ways, such as people murdering daughters as they were not as useful as sons… etc etc. Essentially it is a very pure and good religion, much like Christianity and if a Christian and Muslim sat down to discuss their faiths based on knowledge from respective holy books they would share a LOT in common. A lot of misconceptions are thrown around about Islam. No1 women do not have to cover. This is based on your reading of the Koran but it’s coming more and more to light that it was specific to the prophets wives who were not safe at the time. Many Muslim women here in Egypt do not cover and still consider themselves Muslim. Muslim’s are also encouraged to read the Torah and Bible. The stuff about Muslims on the mainstream media is all very very skewed (trust me on this, I live in Egypt 🙂 )… I could go on about misconceptions of Islam forever but I better stop as it’s way off topic! Basically I want to let people know that a shared belief and love of God exists between these two faiths that media pushes to oppose each other….

    The Bible and Christianity have been followed for many years but I don’t think that gives any indication of it’s truth. Buddhism is much older and considering it has never used war to push itself on other nations it is surprising how wide spread it really is. Christianity, Islam and Judaism all have blood on their hands when it comes to “liberating, converting, or saving” many of the regions that now follow the respective religion.

    As for historical analysis… I think Jesus most likely existed. They have found possible census data for him, found many references (like the earliest reference of Christ just found here in Egypt last year. A bowl depicted in Greek with the words Jesus The Magician but it could have been referring to another person called Christos). I agree many events in the Bible (Torah, Koran and any Holy Book) can be backed up with history but is it too crazy to conceive that the stories have become grander over the years.

    For example Moses parting the red sea. This story could have taken place over many years, the sea could have dried up and allowed him to cross…. Some time later the Romans could have tried to cross when the sea was just low but were swept away… I don’t know for sure but just using this as an example.

    God creating the earth in seven days. Tell to a normal person with no science learning that the world was created over a course of 70million years, back in early Ad…. They would not understand. So why not create an easier story and push moral values with it. This is exactly the point of other Christian fables, such as Asops.

    I’m not saying the Bible has to be accurate for God to exist, just that I don’t think it’s wise to follow just one book and one savior. If I am wrong then as I mentioned earlier God needs to send a new Prophet soon because Hell is going to get full!!

    We have all sinned so so bad that surely just by following Jesus that is not forgiveness…. as we continue to sin everyday. Almost everytime you use an electronics device you SIN, Coltan is being exploited from the mines in Congo and many people are dying so we can have a mobile phone. Everytime we get in a car we sin as we pollute the Earth created by God. Everytime we use a piece of cheap equipment made in China or Taiwan or even some places in USA we sin as we have taken advantage of cheap labor….. We are all daily maybe even hourly sinners. Surely following one man can’t take all this away? Surely we are all hell bound?

    I really want to keep going, but I have to stop and get on with work. I really appreciate your thoughts and comments….

    ….Oh one last thing on Bible stories. I think everyone should read the bible (and other holy books). The stories hold excellent morals that we should all abide by.

    I see the story of Noah and the Arc as a perfect example. Parellel that with today. There is a huge storm coming and if we don’t do something to preserve, everything will be destroyed.

    Maybe it’s high time we do build a place of some sort to start storing eggs and fetus’s from the various animals of the world. I know places exist where Humans will survive (sadly mostly rich, high end government officials and influencing families will be the ones to survive and carry on our race!).

    Ahhhh I don’t have time to edit this comment. Bye bye for now…..

  9. Forest, my response to your last comment is longer than the original post, so I’ll email it to you…

    If anyone reading this thread would like a copy of it, please request it here in the comments and I’ll email it to you.

    Thanks,
    Kevin

  10. You can avoid making people mad by not mentioning Jesus, but when you mention God and get to the part about God’s wrath–what Jesus came to save us from–you’ll lose them anyway. Take Jesus and God’s wrath out of a discussion about God, and you’re talking about a god made in Man’s image. People will talk about that all day, but if it isn’t the true God, then it’s just a fantasy.

  11. If you had asked me who I thought God was a few weeks ago, I would have just said God and point upwards. But during the last few weeks I have seen him give me “favor” and this “favor” caused me to look back over my life to see other “favor” he has blessed me with. The challenge these days for me is tuning into him and not being bothered by the “details” that seem to come my way by well meaning people. An example, the correct way to pray. Some say we have to pray through Jesus and so on. I prefer to pray in my own way as I continue to work on my “personal” relationship with him. I do know I need to trust him more and that is not easy. So in my books, God is a “spirit” that is everywhere and we can talk to him any time without having to call a prayer line. Now I am not judging the people who feel a need to call a prayer line – it is just not in my agenda. One of my prayer requests is to have a “spiritual” mom in my life as although my biological one exists – we have never had a “healthy” relationship and I am choosing to stay away. I love reading Ruth as it reminds me of what God can do and has done. Great post as usual Kevin and love the response.

  12. Hi Angela – I’ve had a similar experience as yours. I’ve come to realize that God was with me even at times that I wasn’t walking with him. That forces you to develop a thankful heart. I look back and realize how many times I’ve messed up but it’s still been alright, which tells me that life doesn’t depend entirely on what I do. We always have to leave room for the “God effect” in our lives.

    As to prayer, the more I do it, the more I realize that prayer is really any form of communication with God. It doesn’t need to be formal. I’ll pray in my car, at my desk, while I’m watching TV, in bed at night – anywhere. That’s the point of a relationship with God – that we come to him at any time and under any circumstances. Prayer is a form of intimate worship, and there’s no wrong way to do it, except not to do it at all. That said, I frequently pray through Jesus, acknowledge my own wretchedness and try to be thankful for what God has done in my life. All three are biblical directives, but God isn’t throwing down lightening bolts if we don’t follow all the “rules”. The condition of our hearts at the time of prayer is what really matters, not the form.

  13. You seem to have forgotten that Christianity isn’t the only religion in the world. You keep talking about this Jesus character like he’s the only one. People are “rejecting him” more these days because the internet allows us to educate ourselves. Open your eyes, open your mind, think for yourself and forget about religion.

  14. Also, it’s extremely annoying to see blogs with no post or comment dates. It’s one of the factors that drive people away from your website, according to a recent study conducted at the University of Washington and published by Scientific American and Forbes. But I think more people are driven away by your Jesus bull.

  15. Hi Andrew – I’m allowing your comments to post because I’m confident that the Christian faith will survive attacks by detractors, as it has for centuries. Faith in God is a miracle, and I’m not at all sure why some people have it and others don’t. I do fully understand that non-believers “don’t get it”, and I welcome counter opinions.

    As far as educating ourselves, as you say, I’ve never seen a time in my life when so many people were so like-minded in their beliefs, and I’m not talking about religion here. There’s never been a time when so many were so educated yet so refused to think for themselves, always willing to trust some “expert” opinion.

  16. Wow Andrew, I don’t understand why you would want to visit this Faith Forum as it says it is about God???? Kevin, I am so sorry this was posted and we need you to continue to encourage us with your posts. You do not find a lot of places to interact with other people who believe the way you do. Yes, there are other religions and I am sure there are sites set up just for them. The enemy is certainly busy but we as a group will not let him affect this wonderful forum. Again Kevin thanks for this Faith Forum. I continue to tweet about it and hope you are getting your copy in your Twitter Notifications area. Blessings, Angela

  17. Thanks Angela! And for what it’s worth, I’m not the least bit discouraged. Most of the world doesn’t believe, so we have to deal with it. It just makes the mission field larger.

  18. Why do the people who believe in God spend so much time killing the other people that believe in God?

  19. I don’t get that one either Sam. It spooks me as well how many Christians are enthusiastic supporters of both war and the death penalty (my personal guess is that they’re mixing politics with faith, and politics is winning). If we follow the letter of the New Testament, we shouldn’t be killing, but turning the other cheek. Of course, I’m speaking of Christianity – there are other faiths that have no such restrictions. I have no explanation for that what so ever.

  20. On May 12, 1797 while living in Paris, France Tom Paine wrote the following letter to a Christian friend who was trying to convert Paine to Christianity. This is a hard hitting letter that raises some very interesting and haunting questions that some readers may find disturbing. It, however, goes to the heart and soul of this topic. Those brave enough to proceed can decide the merits of Paine’s response for themselves.

    “In your letter of the twentieth of March, you give me several quotations from the Bible, which you call the Word of God, to show me that my opinions on religion are wrong, and I could give you as many, from the same book to show that yours are not right; consequently, then, the Bible decides nothing, because it decides any way, and every way, one chooses to make it. 

    “But by what authority do you call the Bible the Word of God? for this is the first point to be settled. It is not your calling it so that makes it so, any more than the Mahometans calling the Koran the Word of God makes the Koran to be so. The Popish Councils of Nice and Laodicea, about 350 years after the time the person called Jesus Christ is said to have lived, voted the books that now compose what is called the New Testament to be the Word of God. This was done by yeas and nays, as we now vote a law. 

    “The Pharisees of the second temple, after the Jews returned from captivity in Babylon, did the same by the books that now compose the Old Testament, and this is all the authority there is, which to me is no authority at all. I am as capable of judging for myself as they were, and I think more so, because, as they made a living by their religion, they had a self-interest in the vote they gave. 

    “You may have an opinion that a man is inspired, but you cannot prove it, nor can you have any proof of it yourself, because you cannot see into his mind in order to know how he comes by his thoughts; and the same is the case with the word revelation. There can be no evidence of such a thing, for you can no more prove revelation than you can prove what another man dreams of, neither can he prove it himself. 

    “It is often said in the Bible that God spake unto Moses, but how do you know that God spake unto Moses? Because, you will say, the Bible says so. The Koran says, that God spake unto Mahomet, do you believe that too? No. 

    “Why not? Because, you will say, you do not believe it; and so because you do, and because you don’tis all the reason you can give for believing or disbelieving except that you will say that Mahomet was an impostor. And how do you know Moses was not an impostor? 

    “For my own part, I believe that all are impostors who pretend to hold verbal communication with the Deity. It is the way by which the world has been imposed upon; but if you think otherwise you have the same right to your opinion that I have to mine, and must answer for it in the same manner. But all this does not settle the point, whether the Bible be the Word of God, or not. It is therefore necessary to go a step further. The case then is: – 

    “You form your opinion of God from the account given of Him in the Bible; and I form my opinion of the Bible from the wisdom and goodness of God manifested in the structure of the universe, and in all works of creation. The result in these two cases will be, that you, by taking the Bible for your standard, will have a bad opinion of God; and I, by taking God for my standard, shall have a bad opinion of the Bible. 

    “The Bible represents God to be a changeable, passionate, vindictive being; making a world and then drowning it, afterwards repenting of what he had done, and promising not to do so again. Setting one nation to cut the throats of another, and stopping the course of the sun till the butchery should be done. But the works of God in the creation preach to us another doctrine. In that vast volume we see nothing to give us the idea of a changeable, passionate, vindictive God; everything we there behold impresses us with a contrary idea – that of unchangeableness and of eternal order, harmony, and goodness. 

    “The sun and the seasons return at their appointed time, and everything in the creation claims that God is unchangeable. Now, which am I to believe, a book that any impostor might make and call the Word of God, or the creation itself which none but an Almighty Power could make? For the Bible says one thing, and the creation says the contrary. The Bible represents God with all the passions of a mortal, and the creation proclaims him with all the attributes of a God. 

    “It is from the Bible that man has learned cruelty, rapine, and murder; for the belief of a cruel God makes a cruel man. That bloodthirsty man, called the prophet Samuel, makes God to say, (I Sam. xv. 3) `Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not, but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass.’ 

    “That Samuel or some other impostor might say this, is what, at this distance of time, can neither be proved nor disproved, but in my opinion it is blasphemy to say, or to believe, that God said it. All our ideas of the justice and goodness of God revolt at the impious cruelty of the Bible. It is not a God, just and good, but a devil, under the name of God, that the Bible describes. 

    “What makes this pretended order to destroy the Amalekites appear the worse, is the reason given for it. The Amalekites, four hundred years before, according to the account in Exodus xvii. (but which has the appearance of fable from the magical account it gives of Moses holding up his hands), had opposed the Israelites coming into their country, and this the Amalekites had a right to do, because the Israelites were the invaders, as the Spaniards were the invaders of Mexico. This opposition by the Amalekites, at that time, is given as a reason, that the men, women, infants and sucklings, sheep and oxen, camels and asses, that were born four hundred years afterward, should be put to death; and to complete the horror, Samuel hewed Agag, the chief of the Amalekites, in pieces, as you would hew a stick of wood. I will bestow a few observations on this case. 

    “In the first place, nobody knows who the author, or writer, of the book of Samuel was, and, therefore, the fact itself has no other proof than anonymous or hearsay evidence, which is no evidence at all. In the second place, this anonymous book says, that this slaughter was done by the express command of God: but all our ideas of the justice and goodness of God give the lie to the book, and as I never will believe any book that ascribes cruelty and injustice to God, I therefore reject the Bible as unworthy of credit. 

    “As I have now given you my reasons for believing that the Bible is not the Word of God, that it is a falsehood, I have a right to ask you your reasons for believing the contrary; but I know you can give me none, except that you were educated to believe the Bible; and as the Turks give the same reason for believing the Koran, it is evident that education makes all the difference, and that reason and truth have nothing to do in the case. 

    “You believe in the Bible from the accident of birth, and the Turks believe in the Koran from the same accident, and each calls the other infidel. But leaving the prejudice of education out of the case, the unprejudiced truth is, that all are infidels who believe falsely of God, whether they draw their creed from the Bible, or from the Koran, from the Old Testament, or from the New. 

    “When you have examined the Bible with the attention that I have done (for I do not think you know much about it), and permit yourself to have just ideas of God, you will most probably believe as I do. But I wish you to know that this answer to your letter is not written for the purpose of changing your opinion. It is written to satisfy you, and some other friends whom I esteem, that my disbelief of the Bible is founded on a pure and religious belief in God; for in my opinion the Bible is a gross libel against the justice and goodness of God, in almost every part of it.”

  21. Hi Steven and Debra – A thought provoking letter from Thomas Paine for sure, and proof that not all the founding fathers were Christians as we so often assume. It reads as if Paine had an understanding of a benevolent God, but rejected the descriptions given in the Bible as describing a capricious god that is not the god whom he worshiped. I’m at odds with that position though, because how would he (were he alive today) explain the raw cruelty that is so common in nature (our touch point to the “universe”), as one animal slaughters another for food or dominance? Or how does he reconcile fires, floods, earthquakes, disease and epidemics that are so common in the natural order? If this benevolent universe he ascribed to is his evidence of God, then his position is also at odds with itself.

    I’ve often questioned the brutality of God in the Bible, but I think they were ordered (or occurred) as an example that God is both mercy and judgement. That’s a combination that a lot of “good people” despise/reject because it establishes parameters that disturb us. When I read the Bible I see about ten parts of mercy for every part of judgement, and I see eternal benevolence in that. And for what it’s worth, the apparent brutality of the Bible seems completely consistent with the apparent brutality in the universe, which would indicate that God, the universe and the Bible are in harmony with one another.

    Paine is hardly the first or last person to use biblical examples of brutality to justify their non-belief. For my own part, I prefer the wholeness and assurances of the Bible to the opinions of Thomas Paine. A god who fits neatly within public consensus is no god at all. Nor is a god who doesn’t make us at least a little bit uncomfortable with ourselves. And not that Paine goes there, but many people who reject the concept of the God of the Bible use that rejection to support a belief in the general beneficence of Mankind. Don’t get me started on pulling that notion apart…

  22. Hi Kevin,

    We are not really sure how Paine would respond to your query regarding the raw cruelty of nature, but we do have an opinion, for whatever it is worth.

    First of all, Paine does suggest justice (somewhat akin to judgment) is integral to the concept of God in the last sentence of his letter to his Christian friend.

    Justice has its basis in the equality of mankind and the related premise that God is no respecter of persons. Injustice, on the other hand, has its basis in the inequality of mankind and that God is, in fact, a respecter of persons.

    The laws of nature (God’s law) apply equally to everyone. No one is exempt from the laws of nature. In other words, if one were to build a home below sea level, along the coast, it implies that one is either ignorant of the risks of doing so or is trusting in man-made levies to adequately resist, delay, or divert. It works until it doesn’t. Katrina was a good example. And the judgment of natural law upon New Orleans had nothing to do with spirituality. Likewise, if you loaded up a jump plane with a Baptist, a Methodist, a Presbyterian, a Catholic, a Buddhist, a Jew, an Atheist, or an Islamist, and they all jumped out of the airplane, at 10,000 feet above ground level, without a parachute, no one would have a particular advantage over the other. That is justice! The laws of nature (God’s law) are the great equalizer (or judge) of mankind. We think Paine saw the inherent judgment in natural law (God’s law) and perceived it to be more consistent and just than the kill-’em-all-and-let-God-sort-’em war chapters of the Bible.

    We are not saying that a person who chooses to build a home below sea level, along the coast, is inherently foolish but natural law, as previously evidenced, might just make us reasonably uncomfortable with the idea which is probably a good thing. So, natural law (God’s law) is perfectly capable of making us a bit uncomfortable with ourselves and the choices we make.

    It is quite evident that Paine believed in an all powerful God, was thankful for the Universe and its inherent natural justice system, and was in awe and reverence of the Creator. The point he didn’t equivocate on is that he believed in the God of Creation rather than the God of the Bible. Paine’s letter to his Christian friend challenges the authority and origins of the Bible. In essence, he challenges the reader to believe in God via what has been directly and eternally observable down through the ages by simply looking out the window versus getting it somewhat second hand, passed down through the ages in written form, over 2000 years ago, in ancient languages, and translated by humans into more than 100 English language variants. His argument is compelling and remains unanswered. Interestingly, Paine’s viewpoint, in its key part, is supported by the Bible (see Romans chapter 1) even though he might have been reluctant to quote it. Obviously the Bible, as a manuscript, didn’t exist while Paul was writing his letter to the Romans. The Bible was a committee document collated several hundred years later under the commission of a government official. So, if belief in God through the works of creation was good enough for the Apostle Paul, we may want to consider the relevance of such a position in the present time for ourselves.

  23. Hi Steven and Debra – I see some of your points but have to disagree in substance. Starting with Paul, as a trained Pharisee, he had an intimate understanding of OT scripture, which was the Bible of his day. This was of course enhanced by his Damascus Road experience, as well as the 13 years he spent in training in Jerusalem with the remaining apostles. Paul was not relying on belief in God through the works of creation. But that’s a point in itself. I don’t see creation and the Bible as being mutually exclusive. The Bible tells us the nature of God in a direct way, and creation supports it.

    As an example, in my initial response to Paine’s letter, I noted that creation is brutal at times. It does provide what we need, and maintains a certain balance to all of existence. This is entirely consistent with the mercy and judgement we see described in the Bible. But when we see the judgement of God in print in the Bible, we declare it to be capricious, while simultaneously refusing to hang such a label on creation/nature, even though it’s plainly evident there as well.

    I don’t like all that I read in the Bible, but then I don’t fully know the mind of God, and never will this side of Heaven. I do believe that God gives us direction through the Bible, through creation, through personal revelation and through the influence of others. It all points toward God (which is also confirmed in the Bible), and it’s all completely consistent. The variable of course is our reaction to it all. Some prefer to ignore it as coincidence (if they even allow themselves to consciously observe it), because it clashes with the man-centered “I’m the master of my own destiny” doctrine. That’s the most destructive belief system of all. Not that we don’t have some control/responsibility for our own actions and directions, but it’s far from absolute.

    In one of the early posts on your site you wrote something about (paraphrasing here) “nine priestly looking men in flowing black robes” to describe the Supreme Court. This fiasco of a court is what happens when mankind sees himself as being at the pinnacle of the universe and in complete control – Man as his own god. These guys and girls – the highest court in the land – are not content to rule on the constitutionality of laws, but choose to flaunt their position and power by making up entirely new laws while virtually ignoring the very Constitution they have “sworn” (in quotes because it’s obviously not true) to uphold and protect. This is probably why the God of the Bible is a God of judgement. If left to his own devices, man will gravitate toward self-worship, corruption and oppression. The farther our society drifts from the God of the Bible – to either our made up versions of a god who behaves according to our current standards, or have no belief at all – the worse things are becoming. I may not like the judgement side of God, but I get why it’s necessary. And I write this while fully acknowledging the reality that I myself am not without sin, and well deserving of that judgement.

    It seems to me that there’s a central consciousness to the universe, but we may interpret that in very different ways from one person to another. Some will use it as the basis for non-belief in a personal God, while others will react to it through pagan religions. I’m in the camp that sees it as validation of the written word of God. I think the Bible needed to be as a way of codifying the path to God, otherwise we’d make up our own notions and mostly miss the mark. We have that even with the written word, which Jesus acknowledged when he said, “let he who has ears hear”, or “let he who has eyes see”. He knew that many or most people would refuse the truth, another course of human behavior that’s thriving and well documented throughout history.

    In the end, we all need to choose this day whom we will serve (Joshua 24:15). I realize that many see self-serving interests through the Bible, but there’s plenty of evidence that its all over our culture. Maybe the problem isn’t the Bible as not being the word of God, but rather how we twist scripture for our own purposes.

    That said, when I read the Bible I try my best to suspend my own judgments and prejudices and read it for what it is. When I do, it makes perfect sense. It only starts to fall apart when it doesn’t seem to support my own preferences. And I think that’s exactly why we have the Bible, so that our own preferences will be exposed, enabling us to come before God on bended knee. That’s the only appropriate way to approach the God of the Bible and of the universe – wouldn’t you both agree?

  24. Some Bibles relate the origins and source of the Bible in the foreword or preface. In reading those forewords we came to realize how much faith has and is being placed in man or a committee of men voting yea or nay as to what was to be included or discarded in the composition of the Bible. It was a very fickle process. The Bible is, essentially, a product of the religious authorities and the state. Any union between church and state is not confidence inspiring in our opinion. After all, wasn’t Christ crucified at the hands of the religious authorities (via a yea or nay vote) and the state? In the case of the Bible, however, what was crucified by this unholy union of church and state was the truth. We have no doubt that Paul had an intimate understanding of OT scripture that we do not have today. Many of the writings he had access to were culled out in the committee decisions. A case in point is the book of Enoch. It is quoted in the book of Jude, but we are not able to look up the quotations unless we purchase a copy of Enoch separately. Tertullian wrote, ”The book of Enoch has been rejected by the Jews because it contained prophecies pertaining to Christ.” It was banned by Jerome, Hilary, Augustine and lost for over 1000 years. We have to ask, what else was left out or banned? Simply stamping Holy Bible on a book and calling it God’s word doesn’t make it so. So, it is back to the crucial point that Thomas Paine made in his letter. What makes the Bible more authoritative than the Koran or any other of the books that are often elevated and worshipped to the point of idolatry? This is the crucial question that remains to be answered.

    In answer to your question, our preference is to remain in awe and wonder at God’s creation and show our gratitude toward him and our fellow man by living our life to its fullest with gratitude and thanksgiving and treating others as we would like to be treated. Uniformity of thought or action is not our goal. If our happiness and salvation, from the woes of this world, is contingent upon others agreeing with our take on things, we are doomed to a hellish existence on this earth and perhaps beyond. Undertanding how others perceive the world around them is, however, a worthy undertaking. In understanding others and the models they ascribe to, we are better able to navigate difficult terrain with more harmonious and productive outcomes. Your faith forum and the manner in which you manage it fosters an environment of understanding. You’re to be applauded for the divergent opinions posted here.

  25. Thank you! In regard to this forum, it’s always been my intent to let it serve as an exchange of ideas, even if I don’t agree with some of the ideas. It’s only in being open to different opinions that we learn. I have myself on many occasions questioned a uniformity of beliefs among Christians, conservatives mostly, who cling to certain notions that I think are patentedly anti-biblical, and in my opinion, motivated primarily by political orientation or economic convenience. The widespread acceptance/justification of slavery by churches in the US South being one of the more blatant examples. I do believe that a lot of the apparent hypocrisy interpreted as being from the Bible is actually about Christians behaving badly.

    That said, my acceptance of the Bible as the authoritative word of God is an intellectual position on my part. I was not raised with a Bible in the home, and my parents were not evangelical Christians – or even religious. When I had questions, they had no answers. It has been a journey for me, one in which I’ve been met by God in many places along the way. There are times when I’d like to reject the Bible, but in doing so I open myself up to my own faulty perceptions, and I’m not willing to stake my eternal salvation on my own often questionable judgement.

    I had a professor in my senior year of college (international finance) who I considered to be the most brilliant of the 30+ profs that I had. He despised using a text book to guide the class, preferring round table discussions of current events in economics and international finance. But at the same time, he embraced use of the textbook on a limited basis, saying that “if we don’t have a textbook, then we don’t have any structure, and this is a b.s. course.”

    My thought is that we run the same risk in life when we try to freewheel it too much. I prefer the structure that the Bible offers, and find that based on my own experience, it harmonizes what I see around me every day. And believe me, I marvel at the natural world! But at the same time, I don’t worship it, because like me, it is a created entity.

    I can’t accept the notion of “many paths to the same God”, because it opens the door wide to anything goes. It enables us to ignore the judgement of God, and if we do I’m not at all sure that we’re “there”, as in walking with God. As I said in the original post, a God of our own choosing is no god at all. And as far as using natural laws as guideposts – I’m quite certain that humanity rejects these limits as well – routinely.

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