Roar the word

The members of this church of Christ say Jesus is the head of their congregation, and his message its only doctrine, so I would think there’d be some mention of loving one another and being joyful. Instead, the theme of today’s sermon is sin.

The minister is pale around his eyes where sunglasses go. I imagine him on a speed boat with blue glitter racing stripes. He tells us the story of David seeing Bathsheba and, even though she’s married, he’s determined to have her—which he does—and this sin unleashes a world of pain. The preacher says this shows us we must always, always say “no” to temptation. He tells us, “You can say ‘no’ a thousand times and just one ‘yes’ undoes it. It’s like a child with a cookie!” The message is almost identical to the Baptist minister’s the week before. That minister was once a cop who received a communication from God that he must “roar” the word of Jesus Christ. Luckily, God’s instructions coincided with his retirement. He warns the congregation to turn away from worldly things, to stay away from those activities like drinking alcohol because that is how you “open the door wide to Satan.” He shouts, “My job is not to be tolerant! My job is to explain what Jesus Christ wants!”

At the end of both sermons, my temples were left throbbing. Is sinning really so black and white? What’s wrong with a kid eating a cookie? If I went just on what these two preachers said, I would walk away thinking the goal was to stay away from “demonic” influences and “unclean” people—but what does that mean? Jesus laid his hands on lepers and socialized with prostitutes.

Throughout the New Testament, Jesus entreats us to throw our assumptions out the window: people we think are holy may not be, just as the wicked could be righteous. At a Methodist church several weeks earlier, the female minister even told us that if we wanted to be true evangelists, we should “go to where the people are, go into the night clubs, and in those places be example of Christ’s acceptance.” I remember this very clearly because it conjured a mental image of me sitting at a bar trying to beam rays of unconditional love onto the dance floor. Would I need to stick to ginger ale? She didn’t specify.

After the service at the church of Christ, I was perusing the literature table when the preacher approached me. Up close, I could see blotches of sun damage across his forehead and cheeks. I told him his sermon was impressive and I meant it; for every statement he made, he directed us to a line in the Bible. We were flipping back and forth like maniacs. “Well, I know a thing or two about sin,” he said, “There was a time when I smoked a lot of marijuana and ended up in jail.”  I nod, surprised by this revelation—not that it happened, but that he would share it with me. Before I left, he handed me a workbook on being a better Christian.

“Read this,” he said. “It has a lot of good info on sin.”

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59 thoughts on “Roar the word

  1. Hello Corinna,

    I love reading about your journey!

    Jesus did spend time with tax collectors and prostitutes and we are commissioned to go “into the world” to spread His Word and to be the salt and the light in the darkness. But we need to be careful that when we go “into” the world we don’t “become part of” the world and the wordly beliefs…being careful not to judge others (because there but by the Grace of God go I) but love and serve others. Our kindness might be the only Gospel teaching they experience.

    Matthew 5:13-16: You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot. You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

    But the Bible also cautioins us about who we “surround” ourselves with because we are likely to become like the people we spend the majority of our time with. It is important to surround ourselves with godly people who will lead us closer to the Lord. A friend of mine has a great saying, “Friends are like buttons on an elevator…they either take you up or they take you down.” There is no such thing as a “neutral” relationship. Unfortunately, it is more likely that friends will drag one friend down to their level than for one friend to lift those friends up out of the muck.

    Proverbs 13:20: Walk with the wise and become wise; associate with fools and get in trouble.

    I Corinthians 15:33: Do not be misled: “Bad company corrupts good character.”

    God Bless you and may He increase your wisdom and discernment as you seek a closer relationship with Him.

    Pam

      • Corrina, The only thing that a person needs to do to remove themselves from the world category is found in Romans 10:9-10 “That if you confess with your mouth, Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.” Salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. We simply need to believe that we are sinners in need of a Savior (Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.) and confess this to the Lord and accept His gift. The simplicity of it all is what is difficult for most people to grasp. I will continue to pray for you as you continue on your journey:-)

        • If you do this, you are stil not saved, for you need to be baptised too. You then recieve the holy ghost and he tells you what to do.

          • The church of Christ that Corinna attended might say this as well, but Scripture does not. Some have understood certain Bible verses (e.g., at the end of Peter’s sermon at Pentecost in Acts 2) as saying this, but these are unclear at best, and most churches would go along with what Jo L says above about salvation being a gift by faith, as with the thief on the cross. Baptism is certainly important as a public identification with Jesus and step of obedience. If Jesus’ statements throughout the Gospels are true at all, they tell us that God looks on the heart.

          • What about the thief on the cross in Luke 23:42-43? He certainly didn’t get a chance to get baptized yet Jesus told him that today he would be with Him in paradise.

  2. I’ll take some sin in a tin cup, to go, please.

    My daughter and I watched Walt Disney’s 1960′s vintage movie Pollyanna free on YouTube the other day. It was most likely posted in sin as violation of copyright laws. The movie was about Pollyanna’s positive attitude. The preacher in her little town used a hellfire and brimstone, “scare the paints off of em” approach. Little girl Pollyanna convinced him to focus on the good in his congregation. Which as you might expect changed the whole town’s attitude.

    I’ve heard it said that obedience comes from having enough love. I once drove 1,200 miles for our Church summer conference. I was running late and had pulled over in Wyoming between Rapid City and Sheridan to sleep a few hours. I was determined to make it without stopping, but I was young. So I headed out the next morning and made down hwy 89 to the conference just north of Yellowstone park. I walked in tired and hungry to register so I could find my camp ground and get some sleep. A wall of love hit me like a giant marshmallow pillow as I approached this sweet lady at the registration desk. My tiredness fell away and I just felt bliss.

    Since that time I’ve felt those vibrations on and off. Knowing how the the heights of Gods love feels has kept me on the path to the Summit of Being. Putting on the full mind of Christ is no easy task. But the trek upwards is well worth the pain!

  3. The members of this church of Christ say Jesus is the head of their congregation, and his message its only doctrine, so I would think there’d be some mention of loving one another and being joyful. Instead, the theme of today’s sermon is sin.

    Are you under the impression that Jesus never spoke about sin? Or, are we only ever supposed to talk about the “good” parts? (I’m asking those questions seriously, not sarcastically…)

    • Hi Steven, I suppose my impression is that his primary message was one of love and compassion–for ourselves and others. I wouldn’t expect that to be the only thing discussed but perhaps coming back to it every now and then might be healthy. All I know is that for several Sundays in a row I was thinking to myself, “Boy, this isn’t very ‘good news’!”

      • The good news is not that we aren’t sinners……….and Jesus did, indeed, address that subject…..the “Good News” is that repentance keeps our sins from condemning us eternally.

    • This is unfortunately why our natiion is becoming the way that it is. We are told to “tolerate” and not to call a sin a sin. God destroyed the whole world (minus Noah and his family) with the flood due to sin. He destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah because of sin. We are absolutely supposed to love one another but we are not commanded anywhere in the Bible to put up with sin and ignore that fact that it’s all around us.

  4. Boy, have you hit me on a sore spot today. You have no idea how desperately I wish that sin is only something in a bottle that you can “just say no”. It makes life so much simpler. But at some point in the Scripture (and I am too tired right now to remember it or look it up) we are told that it is not what a man puts in his mouth that causes sin, but what comes out of his heart.

    That is a whole different kettle of fish, and a WHOLE lot more difficult to live with, avoid, do penance for, etc. etc.

    Today I was presented with knowledge that someone I know deliberately and wholeheartedly hurt someone I love. The someone I love is the mother of the friend who died in Greece. This ‘first’ someone called the mother of my friend a liar and abandoned her, physically, at a desperate time. When I found out about it, I felt such anger that it spilled out of me, and I found myself wishing the very worst possible things would happen to the ‘first’. I was being seriously Old Testament about it…..wishing anything awful (emotionally) that I could think of to make the ‘first’ feel what she made my friend feel.

    You want to talk about sin???/ I was/am sinning with a gigantic capitol S. And the worst part is that I know that I cannot go on this way, and I must ask God to help me walk away from the anger. At least I have enough Grace within me to know that I of myself am helpless to do more than sin and God is going to have to do the work. The best I can do is say “i DON’T want to feel/think this. Help!”

    What I am saying to you is that I, personally, don’t think that sin is EVER simple enough to be put down in a pamphlet. The closest we come to that is the 10 commandments. And heaven help me, I usually manage to break at least one of those a day. And I am not going to say which ones!!!

    Yet there is one commandment Jesus gave that get’s you as close to a sinless state as any “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and mind and soul, AND YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.” I find that an easier guide line to not sinning (even if I seldom manage to stick to it for more than a minute at a time). And I find that it acts as an excellent barometer to the state of my spiritual health. When I am in sin, as I am now, it is a huge, red, neon glowing sign that reads “AhhhOOOOOOgaH!! Stop, look and Listen”.

    My hope is that my anger turns to prayer: first for myself, then for the person I am so angry with, and third, for the friend harmed. And I believe God will do that good work in me; I just don’t know how long it will take.

    • When I can’t seem to get it right on the mark (which is what I learned in Church means sin) I say something taught to us by our Pastor. Saint Catherine of Siena would say, “Thou thee ALL, i the nothing” recognizing that it is God in me that does the work.

      If someone complements me, I can respond “Praise God”. I can get myself out of the way.

      It is much easier let myself be a blob of nothingness and let God be the doer in me! As shed my skins of sin and become sinless, my sinful, prideful parts cannot take credit. That mind in me that was in Christ Jesus is the doer!

      Increment by increment I, as a co-creator with God, forge my permanent identity in God. I can then follow the 12 disciples and ascend with Jesus!

        • You are welcome, Patti! Praise God that you got something out of my words. I’m sure to the initiated, this concept of putting on the mind of Christ may sound dorkier that a nerd’s grin! Some really do penetrate into the mysteries of God as a mystic into living the life of the prophets of old. Fact is both stranger and more exciting than Hollywood Fiction! In fact, why bother turning on the TV accept to know the latest news and take a brake from reality when the air gets a little thin.

    • “You can say ‘no’ a thousand times and just one ‘yes’ undoes it.” If this is an accurate reflection of what the “pastor” was saying, then why bother trying to be “good”? Then there’s not much “good news” in the “good news” (gospel). I guess this would mean, Patti, that your anger and frustration would undo all the love you’ve ever shown….which it most assuredly does not…..and aren’t we glad! Reminds me of what Jesus was telling Peter before he actually denied knowing him: “I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” Jesus “knows our every weakness” as one hymn says, and certainly knew Peters–and yours–so when you turn from your anger (or its emotion), come back and let us in on some of the good work God is doing in you. The Father is making you more like our Brother! Thanks for being so honest. Christians have a big problem with doing precisely that–afraid of what other Christians might think….you know the story about the couple arguing all the way to church but when they get there, walk in all smiles as though nothing is wrong? Of course, we all laugh at that, because it’s us!….awkward!!

      • I appreciate the encouragement….and boy, is it sorely needed. I needed to hear what you said, and I do. Right now I am in the innie/outtie stage. One moment I shudder at my own anger and beg forgiveness and the next, I am praying Psalms again, screaming (metaphorically speaking) for God to reign vengeance down in spades. A pastor told me once that that was one of the best purposes of the Psalms – to give us a chance to get the rage off our chests by asking God to do it, And knowing He won’t, lol…….

        I have at least reached the point where I can pray that God will make me WANT to not feel what I feel. That is a first step. And I have always figured there is no point in lying about how I feel, because who knows what you are really thinking better than God???

        Thanks for the encouragement. Isn’t it funny how we can so easily forgive a sin committed against ourselves, but find it so difficult to forgive a sing committed against someone we love?

        Yours in Christ

        • I’ll be praying, Patti….We have some dear friends who have a plaque just inside their front door. It reads: “A friend is a person who knows the way you really are, and loves you anyway…” God as our Father loves us the way only a perfect father could….That statement catches some wrong, because they have bitter memories of fathers who pulled away from them or were never satisfied with their performance. God invented fatherhood and motherhood (parenthood) and is the model for both…His love for his children is unconditional, and no matter how imperfectly we love him and pull away from him, he never pulls away from us. You’ll always be an ‘innie’ with him.
          sorry for not reading this sooner….been busy and playing catch-up today.. :-||

  5. As usual, I enjoyed your writing Corinna. It was because of this kind of preaching that I knew that once I had left a Bible based Christian church where so many were placed in the line of judgment, I would be in no church unless it had a loving, inclusive and positive message that allowed me to walk my life with ease and grace with the only threats being those that were self-imposed because of the choices I made and for which I could forgive myself and make a more functional and loving choice that would take me in a different direction. That’s one of the processes for gaining wisdom. As Jesus said, “If thine eye offend thee, pluck it out.” He wasn’t saying “blind yourself”…Nor was he saying, “Wait ’til I shed my blood and I’ll take care of that .” In effect he said: “If your choices cause disharmony in the way you look at life do away with the cause of the disharmony.” The responsibility is ours alone to change how we think about things and the choices we make.

    • Sometimes the more fundamental side focuses extraordinarily on “sin management” as if that is all Christianity is about. But it’s not! I love what Patti has said here. Sin is ultimately a heart problem, and it raises its ugly head again and again. Yet Jesus has not given up on us. And when we do fail, He helps us get up and keep moving forward. To add to the Scriptures listed here, Jesus said, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Another one is “Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.” Peter wrote that one.

      Patti, I am so sorry about your friend’s passing. How wonderful that she lived to the ripe old age of 88. I hope your memories of her comfort you at this time. Surely she is alive and well today, smiling down on you, her special blessing.

      Ginger

      • Her passing was a gift, as she was blind, deaf, dumb and paralyzed. I am grateful that God took her. And yes….she is. My prayer is that her husband of 68 years can come through his grief to know that.

    • Frank, Thank you for your words. These are ideas that I understand and can get behind. I am greatly in favor of being aware of and responsible for the choices I make, and for , as you say, changing directions and forgiving myself when I do make a poor choice. I am also in a loving, inclusive church where we look at doing right instead of trying to not do wrong.. if that makes sense.
      Merrill T.

  6. The preacher seems to treat God like a cosmic accountant ..”A thousand ‘No’s’ gets you 100 points, but that one ‘Yes” deducts 125. I grew up Roman Catholic, which can also take this view. I remember reading a book on Purgatory that precisely laid out the years you’d spend there for any given type of sin.

    This approach ignores Jesus’ own words: “For man this iimpossible, but for God nothing is impossible.” We are saved by grace–unearned and unearnable. Acknowledging this in itself transforms your life. Knowing you’ve been given a gift you can never pay back brings humility, understanding, and forgiveness of others. When we humbly ask God to forgive our sins and give us strength to resist them in the future, we admit our reliance on Him. He doesn’t ignore our transgressions; the Bible speaks of setting our sins as far “as the East is from the West”, but never says God just forgets about them. The New Testament speaks extensively of how important admitting our sins before God is so He can work his forgiving power on us. There’s nothing mushy or relativistic about it: We will be judged, but if we confess, we will be forgiven.Judgmentnt without forgiveness is just revenge, and forgiveness without judgment has no value. Like all things God does, they are in perfect balance, with an end toward our final salvation.

    • Tim, (He doesn’t ignore our transgressions; the Bible speaks of setting our sins as far “as the East is from the West”, but never says God just forgets about them. ” Isaiah 43:25 I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” “Jeremiah 31:34b For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” If we ask forgiveness of our sins, He does forget about them according to these verses. What an example of mercy!

  7. What if…
    …we shifted our focus?
    …we stopped looking at sin — my sin, your sin, other people’s sin, and instead looked at the good? Those attributes in ourselves and others and nature and God that we admire, that make things better, that are beautiful.
    What if we thought about how we could be more like that, and thought about and prayed about how to become more like that, while at the same time consciously enjoyed and praised the good — in ourselves, in others, in nature, in God?
    Maybe thinking about sin works for some people. But it didn’t work for me. For most of my life, I was focused on my faults, and church helped me get real good at it. There was always something I was doing wrong, something I should be repenting/confessing, some “project” I ought to be working on. Every sermon, every teaching was a reminder of what a sinner I am, and what’s wrong with the world these days.
    I don’t remember when I stopped focusing on sin. I didn’t make a decision or anything. It just started happening when I stopped going to church. After about a year I realized I was a nicer person, more helpful, more loving, more grateful, more generous, more full of wonder, less full of anxiety and fear and dread. I like myself better, and I like other people better.
    When I hurt someone, I apologize. When I make a mistake, I tell God I’m sorry. It’s not like I’m ignoring the bad behavior of the world and me, I’m just not focused on it, my eyes are elsewhere.
    I talked about this to a Baptist friend one day. As she listened I could see her stiffening. Finally she said, “But if everybody did that, evil and sin would grow stronger! We have to show people their sin, God wants us not to keep silent!”
    I would rather think about, talk about, try to resemble, the God who said, “Come to me, all you who work so hard to be good and are so heavyladen with your sins, and I’ll give you rest.”

  8. Huh, the lesson I gleaned from the tale of David and Bathsheba is that “it’s good to be King” (eg King David). Per the Torah, the punishment for both parties engaging in adultery is death by stoning: it was a sin against God that required capital punishment to atone, so as to not “defile the land”.

    Instead, the Bible says King David arranged for the husband he cockolded to be killed (David had him transferred to the front lines, after he wouldn’t play along with David’s efforts to cover his adultery), yet David lived to tell the tale. His “punishment” from God supposedly was for the child to die after birth. Oh, darn….

    Hmmm, is this Biblical morality in action? If you like that, you’ll LOVE seeING how the Bible handles the issue of the immorality of slavery.

  9. Years ago before I started in management in the pharmaceutical industry I was required to take coursework on motivation. I was taught that motivation through “fear” is only good for short periods of time. It is better to motivate through encouragement and showing people what good looks like. Christ and God the Father want Christians to succeed and that is why we see motivation under the law in the Old Testament fail because of our human nature and motivation by love and grace which is not of works but of faith in the New Testament. Christ showed us what good looks like and the Apostle Paul preached grace not works. Human nature is something we work to overcome but with God’s Spirit we win more battles than we lose and in the end, Christ is our judge not a preacher…not any church. God wants all to be saved and Christ has made this possible….for all!

    • “God wants all to be saved and Christ has made this possible….for all!”

      So let me see if I’ve got this straight:

      The so-called ‘perfect’ Adam (which doesn’t sound like he was made by God as ‘perfect’, since God was displeased by a mortal of his own making, but I digress….) sinned, and hence all humanity was doomed thereafter. Apparently dIsobedience to YHWH (fruit stealing, AKA petty larceny) wasn’t atoned with the penalty God decreed afterwards: poor crop yields, and eventually the death of the sinner himself (Eve got off with childbirth pains AND death; snakie had to crawl on his belly, which seems like a light punishment as most snakes don’t seem to mind it).

      According to Jewish sacrificial rites, certain sins could be atoned by offering a blood sacrifice to YHWH, but since Adam was ‘perfect’ and mankind was imperfect, God had to provide the “perfect” sacrifice so that humans could pay him back. So he gave Jesus to mankind on our behalf, so he could in essence pay himself back the debt. Convoluted, no? Who made up the convoluted sacrifice rules, again, except YHWH?

      Here’s a novel idea: how about cutting out the middle man, and God just forgiving the indebtedness? Wouldn’t that be the same thing, and no one had to die on a cross? Didn’t Jesus say that we should do charitable acts in private (“do not let your right hand know what your left hand is doing”, etc)? How is YHWH doing that, or doesn’t that same principle apply to him?

  10. In my (not-so-humble?) opinion, the heart of God’s message to us is summarized in the word “grace.” That is, receiving goodness when we don’t deserve it. The focus of the message of what God did for us is to shower goodness on humanity when we have not really earned it. The topic of sin is only helpful in so much as we remember that Jesus’ sacrifice makes sense only when we understand our need.

    I hear in Dave’s comment an interpretation of Genesis that Adam & Eve were convicted of “fruit stealing,” a seemingly small infraction. And that God’s subsequent judgment on them and all of humanity is wildly unfair in light of that. My understanding is that Adam & Eve’s choice, using their newly discovered gift of freedom, was to decide to be their own gods and break the one law that God had given them. We were given the freedom to choose and God allowed us that choice and we bore the consequences of that choice. Yes, God could have snapped his fingers from heaven and said, “I forgive ‘em.” But instead, he came as a person to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Jesus’ sacrifice shows how significant sin is to God. Our instinct is to minimize our culpability. In going to the cross, Jesus felt the weight of our offense so that the forgiveness had meaning. How big is the sin problem? Look at Jesus’ sacrifice and that is how big.

    Reading your blog and all the comments is wonderful. Thank you all.

    • Mark said:

      “The focus of the message of what God did for us is to shower goodness on humanity when we have not really earned it”

      So, what could humanity POSSIBLY DO in order to actually EARN God’s grace, since you say it cannot be earned (and why am I thinking of Wayne and Garth’s false humility, prostrating with, “we’re not worthy!”?

      Mark said:

      “I hear in Dave’s comment an interpretation of Genesis that Adam & Eve were convicted of “fruit stealing,” a seemingly small infraction….”

      Actually, I think characterizing it as “fruit theft” actually over-states the seriousness of the offense, since as you say, it really is written as a pure test of obedience (or more accurately, it’s as if God wanted to play a round of “Mother May I?” with Adam and Eve, and they (and the rest of humanity) lost the game since they were impatient and desired to GAIN WISDOM, a trait which God told them the forbidden fruit imparted. Genesis 3:6 (NIV) CLEARLY states the THREE reasons why Eve saw the fruit as desirable:

      “When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for GAINING WISDOM, she took some and ate it.”

      (BTW, few readers realize the serpent is described in the Torah in Genesis 3:1 with the Hebrew word, ‘arum’, which elsewhere in the Bible the word is translated as, ‘wise’ or ‘prudent’. Of course, most modern Bible translators are ‘arum’ enough themselves NOT to use THAT adjective for the serpent, as it doesn’t fit with Christian theological interpretation of the serpent being Satan! Many translations handle it by saying the serpent was the “cleverest” of the beasts of the field, and a few(eg Jehovah’s Witnesses ‘New World Translation”) use the word, “cautious”.

      In fact, the JW’s NWT handles Genesis 3:6 by completely dropping any reference to the fruit imparting wisdom:

      “6 Consequently the woman saw that the tree was good for food and that it was something to be longed for to the eyes, yes, the tree was desirable to look upon.”

      DOH! That translation completely removes the element of Eve seeing the fruit as being desirous to make her wise, which is a pretty important element of the story!)

      Anyway, a PROPERLY-TRANSLATED account of Adam and Eve raises a whole bunch of OTHER questions, eg what is the Biblical antonym of ‘wise’? Answer: ‘foolish’. So, can Adam and Eve be considered to be ‘perfect’, when the Bible basically implies they lacked wisdom (and Eve wouldn’t see the fruit as desirable to GAIN wisdom, if she already POSSESSED wisdom, right)? Wouldn’t that imply they were essentially created as fools? Notice how they only realized they had done something wrong AFTER eating the fruit that “opened their eyes” and gave them wisdom? Note that they felt “naked” (exposed) only AFTER eating, as well.

      Now, could they really be held accountable for disobeying, since God made them as fools, and they clearly lacked the ability to understand the consequences of their actions? They were created as children, who ALSO engage in activities without anticipating consequences of actions. We don’t sentence children to death for being children, since we understand they have ‘diminished capacity’ for sound reasoning.

      I love the Adam/Eve account, as anyone who’s read ancient myths can see it obviously is based on a much-older common myth, being a retelling of a story that predates Judaism, eg Hesiod’s Prometheus is the same account: simply replace YHWH with Zeus, Adam and Eve with the Greek mortals, and Prometheus bearing fire (which often represented knowledge in Greek mythology) with the serpent tempting Eve with knowledge of good and bad, and you’ve got the same exact story.

      The Eve character also contains elements of Pandora, where her fatal flaw was being impatient and desirous of wisdom, not wanting to wait for God to dole it out; Pandora’s Box was opened, explaining how all kinds of ills were brought on humanity, with only hope remaining in the box (where Genesis 3:16 supposedly foreshadows the hope of Christ).

      It’s a shame that people feel the need to read the Bible as somehow different from all the other ancient literary traditions (eg the epic of Gilgamesh, and other beautiful ancient mythologies), as if it’s to be taken as truth.

      • Oddly enough, I’ve read many of those ancient literary traditions, AND the Bible…..and there IS a difference. I don’t have the time or energy to debate you on those differences, and it would be a waste of time to do so, because faith isn’t really debatable. I will also say that the majority of difference is found in the New Testament. Amongst all those myths and stories and literary traditions, I really don’t remember of any that bears any resemblance to what Jesus did, said, and proclaimed.

        None of them that I can recollect have the same ‘flavor’, if you will.

        Mostly, what I would say is you are welcome to be sarcastic or contemptuous, or doubting, as you choose, and it neither changes my faith nor makes me angry. I can’t explain what you want to know, but I can wish that sometime, you can experience the same Grace I feel and understand. Til then (or not), peace be upon you.

        Yours in Christ

        • “Oddly enough, I’ve read many of those ancient literary traditions, AND the Bible…..and there IS a difference.”

          I’m guessing you’ve never read the original ancient Hebrew/Greek of the Bible, as much of what is called “Biblical translation” is more like filling in the gaps to make the words and concepts accessible and suitable for modern readers. Problem is, what’s lost is lexical anachronisms, puns (most readers have NO IDEA that the Bible contains puns, ie plays on Hebrew words that rhyme); as a result, many of the latent meanings are lost (which is just as good for modern translators, as these types of irregularities would be a shock to most modern readers and don’t exactly build their faith).

          Conversely, a work like the Epic of Gilgamesh (the oldest written lyrical poem known to man) contains all of the same grist and emotion, being a product of ancient men who wrestled with the same desire to explain their World, just like modern men do. Like the Bible, the work also been heavily redacted and compiled over centuries and was even lost to history until it was rediscovered.

          But the point is, reading a text always involves the reader imposing their world views on it: it’s not possible for most readers to counter this, esp if they’re not even aware that a potential problem exists.

          BTW, no offense, but I doubt you’ve read much about the ancient World if you truly think Jesus, an itinerant preacher who claimed to be (yet another) Jewish messiah, is unique. Instead, he was one in a long line of messiah claimants and apocalyptics who appeared both before and after he operated (eg Bar Kochba is a name some readers may recognize, as he led the Jewish Revolt against Rome that ended extremely poorly for him and his followers).

          If it was the travellng peaceful man that you think of as unique, realize there is a long history of the same, eg ascetics from India (wandering Vedic tradition) and Greece who traveled to foreign lands, taught, discussed philosophy, etc. some of whom even engaged in practices of foraging for food like a cow (the book of Daniel contains an account of King Nebuchadnezzer supposedly going mad and foraging for grass: it’s likely he wasn’t insane, but was influenced by Indian religious beliefs which were imported with trade, and the Hebrew writer either wasn’t aware of this vegetarian dietary practice, or he WAS, but was intentionally dismissive of Far Eastern religious thought and dietary practices).

          If you care to learn about historical context of the ancient World in which Christianity developed, a good start would be reading Thomas McEvilley’s “The Shape of Ancient Thought”. He discusses the cultural interchange between India and Greece under common Persian rule, which also explains why Judaism (and hence Christianity) contains so many elements stolen from Zoroasterian beliefs (eg duality, binary “good vs evil” thinking).

          Or not: most people are quite happy to cling to their Sunday-School-taught views of the ancient World, so as not to not deprive themselves of that warm/fuzzy “God loves me!” feeling. That’s your right, of course, but as an ex-fundamentalist Christian who thought I had “the Truth” about the Bible (and hence know the feeling well: been there, done it), I decided to do what Paul admonishes in Corinthians: not to think/reason like a child any longer, but to look into the undeniable evidence. The evidence leads MY faith, not vice-versa.

          • so Dave, it seems as though you’ve had quite a disenchanting experience with fundamentalism. I’ve been there, done that as well. What happened? Did you find the body of Jesus? Christians have often been the greatest hindrance for people coming to know Jesus. Gandhi once said, “I like your Christ. I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

            • No, I wouldn’t characterize it as “disenchanting”, as much as mind-numbing to realize I was expected to ignore rationality and scientific knowledge to accept the tall tales contained in the Bible as literal truths. Adults aren’t expect to believe fairy tales anywhere else in life, even in cases where the story contains less continuity errors (eg Tolkien’s LOTR) than the Bible. But somehow religious faith is expectted to trump rationality.

              The more I learned about the World and human behavior/psychology (was a biology major in undergrad and went on to become a doctor) the greater the disconnect between evidence and religious faith, eg evolution is a well-established scientific FACT, proven from multiple diverse fields of science (fossil evidence, DNA analysis, etc), and iin fact serves as a unifying theory of life that holds the information together; TONS of evidence points to it’s truth. It is only undeniable to anyone who doesn’t WANT to examine the evidence (which IS a challenge: eg most people aren’t going to study organic chemistry and biochemistry in order to understand the evidence).

              With the Bible, I’m supposed to believe God either created man from mud (Genesis 2) or by verbal decree (Genesis 1), where both methods are “borrowed” from the older Mesopotamian Enuma elish (and are found in Greek Hesiod, as well). Thanks, but I’ve read enough creation myths to recognize a Hebrew rewrite of the same ol’ story; Genesis 1 is poetic, but only if you’ve never bothered to examine the other beliefs of ancients from the period.

              Many people find Jesus to be compelling character, not realizing some of his best stuff wasn’t novel or unique (eg based on Buddhist influence introduced to the ANE quite earlier, which most readers don’t realize). Jesus tended to over-use the “paradox” rhetorical device (he who is first is last, the greatest is the least, etc), which strikes most readers as inscrutable and wise, until you realize it’s kinda silly. Greek Christians basically co-opted the ancient Jewish Tanakh in order to create their new religion: it’s called ‘syncretism’, and it’s been going on for as long as men have existed.

                • And what about resurrection? :)

                  Death is a part of the natural cycle of life, but since the beginning of recorded history narcissistic men have been searching for a way to become the exception to the law of entropy, from Ponce DeLeon’s fountain of youth, to the “Tree of Life” in the Genesis’ account). The concept of resurrection (cheating death) appeals to man’s narcissism, playing to people’s fear and unwillingness to face up to their mortality (Ricky Garvais’ movie, “The Invention of Lying”, gets close to the mark of revealing the dynamic that likely led to religious belief to provide a comforting belief). Biologically, death is a recycling of the components of the organism, allowing the raw materials to be reformed into another life-form. Proteins we eat are broken down into amino acids, and our food’s basic components literally become part of our bodies.

                  Believing we will be resurrected is rather hubristic, in itself: the scheme smacks of playing”the :I believe in God” game in order to “look out for #1″ (ie to not go to Hell, if you believe in that). The concept is just as much the spiritual equivalent of dog-eat-dog thinking as any secular corporate raider/venture capitalist engages in. Why does anyone need the threat of eternal punishment/rewards hanging over their head in order to be a good person for it’s own sake? How about goodness for it’s own intrinsic reward? Do all Christian believers REALLY need promises of eternal rewards/punishments to be kind to others?

                  So who’s motives are purer? I have more respect for an atheist who is kind to others and lives an ethical life, performing acts of charity for the benefit of his common man, since he doesn’t do it with any expectations of gaining rewards from a God.

                  • From what you’ve said, Dave, I would have to conclude that you’ve never seriously investigated the resurrection, whether it actually happened or not. All that you said may be true, but if it happened, it happened. And if it happened, then the rest might just be real as well. I went through my first 21 years assuming I was a Christian until, laying in a hospital ward in South Vietnam with some rather large holes in my body, I began to wonder if Jesus weren’t just a cosmic Santa Claus after all. For once in my life, I was actually honest about some of that stuff–and I had to admit to myself that I didn’t really know. (I didn’t think about dying while in combat–that’s a sure way to buy a ticket home in a bag). After a lapse of several months, I was challenged to look into the empty tomb. My first love and degree was in history, so I did what I was trained to do and even tried to disprove it. I couldn’t escape what I was finding. And though I went through several years looking at the “rewards/punishments” angle, worried as to whether God could ever really care about a person like me, I eventually discovered that he is a Father who genuinely delights in his children, and his motives are always pure, even though mine often amount to no more than bullshit.

                • Yeah, I’m familiar with AIG: in case you’re not aware, there’s a veritable cottage industry built by those who tell believers what they want to hear, in order to build up their flagging faith and doubts (triggering cognitive dissonance). AIG is considered a laughing-stock amongst serious scholars and scientists.

                  In case you’re not aware (and don’t follow paleontology), there’s been some astonishing fossils coming out of China within the past few decades which reveal many new species to add to the well-known Archaeopteryx fossils: not only are “gaps” being filled, but the evolutionary tree is being modified (branched out) to accommodate the recent evidence. See, that’s how science works: the conclusions FOLLOW the evidence, not vice-versa, and theories are ALWAYS open to modification when new compelling evidence is uncovered. If you’re looking for certainties and absolutes, then you’ll have to stick to the Bible which claims to have it. Science cannot rest on laurels, unlike the Gods.

                  Of course, the old joke is that Xian fundies rejoice when a new transitory fossil is discovered, as it means two new “gaps” have been created as a result. You cannot win with people who will only believe what they WANT to believe, cuz the Bibul tells them so.

                  In case you don’t know, in all of science, there is NO other theory (not even the ‘theory of gravity’) which is more solidly backed by evidence than biology’s theory of evolution: there is ZERO doubt that the process occurred and is occurring, and can be observed in species which replicate on a faster time-scale (eg the development of drug resistance amongst bacteria is a common example of evolution in action, as is development of pesticide-resistant insects; Google for “London Underground mosquito” for changes in the last century noted in Culex).

                  Oh, and the word ‘theory’ doesn’t mean what many laypeople thinks it means, as if scientists are uncertain about the idea and not willing to call it anything “stronger” than a theory (eg “fact” of evolution). In fact, there is NO designation in science higher than calling an idea a “theory”, an idea which is supported by multiple lines of evidence (and ideas that are NOT supported by evidence are called “hypotheses”). Unfortunately, abuse of these terms is so widespread amongst non-scientists (eg “conspiracy theories” SHOULD actually be called “conspiracy hypotheses”) such that it’s a pointless battle. But fact is, NO idea in science is more highly-accepted than evolution, since it’s built on so many facts.

                  The many varieties of dogs also points to directed selection changing the appearance of members of species, where wolves/coyotes/hyenas/canines are potentially in the process of moving apart; felines (cheetahs, jaguars, lions, tigers, domestic house cats) are either in the process of separating, or have already done so. There’s no rule that new species MUST form; sometimes they do.

                  Fact is, ALL living organisms are potentially “transitory” organisms leading to new species: that’s how evolution works, even in humans.

                  Speciation is not an instant process, where you can definitively say, “this one is a chicken, and this is one was the proto-chicken”, but instead is a result of gradual changes that accumulate over long periods of time (genetic drift). That’s why the question which bothered ancient Greeks (“which came first: the chicken or the egg?”) is really a classic false dilemma, if you understand evolution: the true answer is not an either/or answer, and science paints with a much broader brush, since we cannot determine with scalpel-like precision exactly which individual constitutes a different species and which one is not.

                  • PS not only can we observe evolution occurring in the time-span of bacteria, we actually understand the MECHANISMS of how it occurs at the molecular (eg DNA) level. In fact, man manipulates DNA to treat certain disease: it’s called ‘gene therapy’. We actually have genetic engineering now, or controlling the phenotype of the organism to manipulate certain traits.

                    BTW, Darwin wasn’t the end-all and be-all of the theory of evolution: he simply provided the ground-work upon which MANY subsequent scientists have operated (eg Watson and Crick’s discovery of DNA was expected, based on his work, as well as the work of Gregor Mendel, a 19th Century monk who did early work on genetics). In other words, no one has stopped with Darwin’s ideas (some of which were off, but clarified with further studies).

                    If anyone wants to catch up on what we know about evolution and even that which Darwin never knew (and couldn’t know, in his time), here’s an excellent PBS video:

                    http://video.pbs.org/video/1372073556/

                  • Dave, I guess that we’ll just have to agree to disagree. I do know that in the end, we will all know the truth. If what I believe is wrong and the Bible, which I base my whole existence upon, ends up to be a book of myths, then I really have nothing to loose. I’ll just cease to exist like everyone else. However, if what I believe is right…..

                    Romans 14:10b-11 For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat. It is written: “As surely as I live, says the Lord, every knee will bow before me; every tongue will confess to God.”

                    I’m just curious, what do you think happens after a person dies?

                    • Jo L, whether you realize it or not, you’ve just rephrased the tired ol’ “Pascal’s Wager”, an argument for the existence of God which appeared 450 yrs ago in Xian apolegetic writings. Blaise Pascal asked what if there was a God and you ended up going to Hell? He was attempting to play probabilities, basically saying that we should hedge our bet by just going through the motions if you really don’t believe. You can easily see it’s nothing more than yet another thinly-veiled appeal to fear (threat of going to Hell).

                      There’s so many logical problems with that approach:

                      1) If there IS a God, how do you know He is YHWH, the Jewish God depicted in the Bible? Not Ahuru Mazda? Zeus? Not Brahma/Vishu/Shiva/Thor/Waheguru, or any of the other literally thousands of other names of God(s) who’ve been worshiped since the dawn of mankind (it’s interesting that people generally believe in the God of their family and/or culture)?

                      2) If there IS an omniscient (all-knowing) God, do you think He wouldn’t see through the duplicitous and self-serving rouse of believing in Him to save one’s own skin? In fact, one cannot even entertain the idea of Pascal’s Wager without admitting some doubt in God’s existence, which is a sin, in and of itself. But for an unbeliever (like me), how exactly am I supposed to FORCE myself to believe in spite of all available evidence to the contrary? I’d literally need to sustain closed-head trauma and be a drooling vegetable, in order to believe in supernatural forces.

                      And not coincidentally, that is exactly WHY the Bible makes even considering God’s non-existence as a sin, a thought crime (a concept which Jesus introduced, BTW, with his words that even thinking of adultery is a sin). It’s exactly WHY the Bible engages in vicious ad hominem against unbelievers, labeling anyone who says there is no God as a “fool”, etc. The ancient Hebrews made atheism a crime requiring the death penalty (and it’s interesting to recall that Jesus was accused of blasphemy for saying he WAS a divine being, an offense equally deserving of death, just as mortals saying they don’t believe in God).

                      Now, at least for me, any group that wants to control my thinking, and is not even willing to present cogent logical evidence to prove their position, is going to be a problem for me.

                      3) Surely a God who had the power to create life itself would be a Master Scientist, and would place value in rational thought, AKA the scientific method? Why would such a being DEMAND blind faith, without proving his existence? What’s so great about “faith” (a trait which scammers commonly exploit in their victims)?

                      4) But it’s even worse than that: doesn’t the Bible claim to value THE TRUTH, AKA REALITY, over everything? If evolution is TRUE, and Genesis a myth, then why shouldn’t it be said and recognized as such? Why must humanity DENY the obvious, the overwhelming evidence which absolutely undermines faith (and is it truthful to call it “faith”, when in fact you’d be believing DESPITE evidence to the contrary? It’s more akin to ignoring the obvious red flags, bordering on delusion)?

                      Fact is, many people are LOCKED into religiosity simply due to familial and cultural social pressures (and many say, “if not the Bible, then what?” They think they’re going to become an amoral hedonist sociopath, which is only THEIR view of non-believers). Some are able to stay grounded, and at least tell themselves that it may not be “truth-truth”, and are able to maintain a semblance of rationality as a result. Many do NOT, and feel they have to impose THEIR delusions on others in the name of serving their imaginary God.

                      The fact is, being an atheist requires HARD WORK and study, only because so many people in the U.S. aren’t willing to do the independent thinking and research required to be a knowledgeable evidence-based atheist (and I don’t want anyone to be an atheist, based on MY word: sorry, but you’ve gotta do the hard work yourself, which often means knowing science AND the Bible BETTER than many ‘believers’).

                      Frankly, many people are just too damned lazy to bother with it, and so they just go with the flow.

          • I actually am familiar with the majority of what you’ve offered. And I actually have read original Hebrew/Greek translations (only a tiny bit), and I am familiar with the other messiah’s. I could easily respond that my evidence is as valid as yours, or yours is as valid as mine – which is to say neither can be proved. So again I say, peace be unto you. I wish you peace and the Grace of Jesus Christ.

            Yours in Christ.
            PS: And in a little bit of tit for tat that I simply do not have the strength to resist, I would remind you that Jesus told us we must be as little children to enter the Kingdom. Now, don’t explode, just ignore me.

            • Oh, I see you were specifically referring to the account of JESUS’ resurrection, and not just to the concept of resurrection, in general.

              The concept is quite old, being found amongst the ancient Egyptians who pre-dated Christianity by at least 2,000 yrs, and is found in pre-Christ rabbinic thought which mentions an Earthly resurrection of the dead, where ‘the waters of life’ (dew of resurrection) is added to the dessicated coccyx (tail bone) of the deceased and a new body supposedly grows around it (as long as it wasn’t too damaged, eg burned into ashes. Hence why Jews strongly discourage cremation). Of course, Buddhists have long had the concept of eternal rebirth, AKA reincarnation, etc).

              But as far as the resurrection of Jesus, if someone accepts that Jesus was able to PERFORM resurrection on others (eg Lazarus), then it’s no big leap to believe he would be resurrected, too. After all, the idea is that healers were harnessing the power of their deity in order to perform miracles, and the deity certainly could act directly, if he wanted. But the idea of resurrecting the dead was hardly original or novel to early Jewish and Gentile readers of the 1st century Gospels, and none took it as “new” concept., since it wasn’t.

              Of course, Satan is blamed for having dominion over death, and hence Jesus’ resurrection was supposed to be a HUGE slap in his face, an affront to Satan. Problem is, Genesis explains that human mortality resulted from GOD’S punishment for disobedience (and the serpent was clearly under God’s control, too, as he was punished to crawl on the earth and eat dust; emnity between seeds, bruising in head, etc), which is clearly stated in verse 24:

              22 Then the LORD God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of Us, knowing good and evil; and now, he might stretch out his hand, and take also from the tree of life, and eat, and live forever”—23 therefore the LORD God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.24 So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned every direction to guard the way to the tree of life.

              Blocking access to the “tree of life” with a cherubim and flaming sword is not an act of benign neglect, but active participation in their deaths. Depriving someone of anything needed to sustain life is murder, for whatever reason they do it. If it were a nurse who did the same, they’d be accused of being an angel of death. At the very least, an omnipotent God actively empowered Satan by handing over the reigns of death to him. That’s not the act of adversary, but more like playing “good cop/bad cop”.

              But even there, remember that God actively limited the lifespan of mankind to 120 years, after the Flood. He didn’t hand over the reigns completely, and recall that GOD sentenced the serpent into the role of villain (that is, for those who buy the Xian interpretation of serpent = Satan; Jews don’t read it that way AT ALL).

              Anyway, I’m wondering how you say you investigated Jesus resurrection (in your words, you “tried to disprove it”)?

              Of course, there’s no way to disprove ANY miraculous claim, and hence why the burden of proof is on the person who makes an extraordinary claim to prove it (or to have them repeat it under controlled conditions) before anyone accepts it. There’s all kinds of outrageous and nonsensical ideas floating around that clever people dream up, and none of us HAVE to believe it: it’s no big secret that people DO lie and are wrong (and not just lie to others, but to themselves, sometimes consciously and sometimes not). But maybe you’ve uncovered incontrovertible evidence that the rest of the World has missed? Call me doubtful, but I wasn’t born (or reborn) yesterday.

              And that’s the nice thing about adopting rationality: we aren’t forced to bog the mind down with fantastic and illogical unproven nonsense, until there’s a good reason (ie evidence) to support acceptance of ideas. If we place truths above ego and faith, then you HAVE to remain flexible to let the beliefs follow the evidence, and not vice-versa.

  11. Dave, I sincerely appreciate all of your vast knowledge of history/science that you have shared with us. Sadly enough, I do agree that many Christians don’t really know what to base their beliefs on or how to share their faith with other people. Many just believe what their parents taught them and that’s good enough for them. Being part of conversations that have started due to Corrina’s journey has definately challenged me to research my beliefs more. Thanks to all of you who have helped me to sharpen my faith.

    I honestly believe that you would have an answer to anything that I could possibly say to refute the statements that you have made in the last few posts. That being said, one thing that you can not deny or disprove are the testimonies of people whose lives have been dramatically changed after coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Walt has posted several times just briefly about his testimony. That cannot be disproved. My testimony of what Christ has done in my life cannot be disproved.

    Sometimes one’s knowledge can get in the way of just simply accepting the gift of salvation that Christ offers. It seems too easy to be true. Having faith like a child makes it so much easier. Matthew 18:3 And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

    Again, I commend you on all of the time and study that you have devoted to the effort of trying to disprove the existence of God. What a different world this would be if Christians would step up and spend that much time in the Word!

    • What joy your post gave me, and what delight. My sentiments exactly. And I add to it, if you COULD prove the arguments we have made, then it wouldn’t be faith. You are not saved by truth, you are saved by faith.

      Here’s to children. :)

      • Ditto ditto to Jo L and Patti! And Jo L, thanks for the affirmation of my testimony. I would mention that we have a “reasonable faith.” It is NOT intellectual suicide, rather it takes some intellectual rigor to get past some of the “obfuscations” that some throw up against what we believe. In my life, I find that God can be “sneaky” when needed. When I began to investigate the resurrection, I was pretty much relying on my training and instincts in historical investigation and logical argument. They served me well. To top that off, (this was 1970-71), my good friend gave me Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis. I considered myself at the time some sort of “intellectual” and I knew that Lewis was this certified incredibly smart man, Oxford Don, well regarded by the intellectual community, believer as well as unbeliever. His book presents the classical argument about Jesus: liar, lunatic, or true. It was not long after reading his book that I date my salvation (Summer of ’71), though, as I look back, my faith was weak, and my belief was very intellectual. I generally now refer to faith in Christ as “trust,” for trust is something that is built in relationship, not in books. God has proved himself to me over and over in the course of 40-plus years as a believer. When my wife Michelle and I came to Christ, we went off to a Bible School which was very fundamentalist and legalistic (don’t smoke, chew, or go with girls that do) and that offered a bit of security in our lives (I came of age in the 60s, turning 21 in 69 in Vietnam), and that turbulent time left me really unsettled. Some of my Christian “life” was really a fear-based effort to keep rules because, even though I knew I was “saved by faith,” I really struggled with trusting God’s love and kept myself on a performance treadmill always trying to please him. There’s a lot of Christians still on that treadmill. Over the years, I’ve come to understand the father-heart of the Father (he invented fatherhood, after all), and know that he delights in me as his son–and you two as his daughters–and even when he has to hit me upside the head with a 2 x 4, I now know its his love. Sorry for all the rambling. I’ve been very touched reading Dave’s posts, and I see myself in much of what he says. What I was trying to say at the top of this by ‘reasonable faith’ is that our reason has a place, but ultimately we sit on a chair by faith. It’s never a blind leap (as apparently some who have contributed to Corinna’s blog seem to think). Rest in him, Walt

        • Walt said:

          “His book presents the classical argument about Jesus: liar, lunatic, or true.”

          CS Lewis seemed to think those are the ONLY alternatives, which is illogical (Lewis is falling for the logical fallacy called “exclusion of alternatives”, and many Xians display ‘either/or’ binary logic, which is part of the belief system, being introduced by Zoroasterian influences (eg “good vs evil” reductionist thinking, when real-life is rarely black and white).

          The alternative CS Lewis doesn’t consider is also the most likely: Jesus was a bright young male borne into a Hebrew culture which lauded the appearance of a Jewish messiah, where many such boys were encouraged to believe they WERE “the one” (like so many other young Jewish men for almost 1,000 years before Jesus was born).

          It’s much like how young children find they have a talent for music, and are encouraged to develop their talent based on positive feedback they receive from parents, adults, etc. The account of finding a young Jesus in the Temple impressing the rabbis with his intellect and mastery of the Torah is very revealing of the attitude in which he was raised.

          If an adult Jesus were examined today, he’d likely be diagnosed as having a Messiah complex; that’s NOT a mental illness, but naturally develops in some as a result of their environment. It wouldn’t normally be a problem, except the belief would prove deadly to so many young Jews AFTER Roman oppression upped the ante of making such a claim: Rome viewed it as a political threat, and they moved to suppress such Jewish radical elements (where even though Jesus claimed to be peaceful, it was a matter of guilt by association: there were violent overthrows attempted by Jewish messiah claimaints both BEFORE and AFTER Christ was killed).

          So Jesus paid the price for professing a belief that wouldn’t have proved dangerous, had he been borne only a few centuries before (eg tunlike the Romans, the Persians were VERY TOLERANT of religious practices of those they’ve conquered, even building tributes to the conquered foreign Gods.

          As an aside, many XIans are unaware that the first benefactors of Zoroasterian’s prohibitions against the practice of slavery WERE the Jews, who were being held captive in Babylon! In fact, the Persian leader Cyrus who liberated them and allowed them to return to their homeland is referred to as a Jewish messiah. It’s interesting that the Jews who were the benefactors of anti-slavery laws started the practice up when they were released, and hence the divinely-inspired Bible missed the opportunity to claim the moral high ground by prohibiting slavery (and it still hasn’t).

    • Jo L said:

      “Thanks to all of you who have helped me to sharpen my faith.”

      Xians should have nothing to fear by having their beliefs challenged, since isn’t that what the Bible advises (“test all things, and hold fast to what is good” is what Paul supposedly said)? The Bible uses metaphors of faith being strengthened by challenge, like a sword made stronger after being passed through fire. And even though Paul deprecated Greeks and their silly rationalist logical approach, he also had to pay lip service to it at times (as in the scripture above).

      As you say, many Xians aren’t willing to examine the World for themselves, or simply leave it at the wonderment stage (“Oh, lookie at the pretty animuls that God made!”). I’m more impressed by Xians who actually bother to LEARN something about “God’s creations” rather than remain ignorant of what IS known, as if they’re afraid of what ideas they’d be exposed to. Many are willing to erase knowledge to protect their faith, sacrificing their own rationality (and that of others: book-burning, anyone?) on the altar to their God, as believing in the Bible literally pretty much requires as much (and the writers of the Gospels knew that: hence why they wrote about valuing FAITH, making it as a VIRTUE, not a deficit. So many people had faith when Bush said weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq, since a God-fearing man wouldn’t LIE, would he?).

      “That being said, one thing that you can not deny or disprove are the testimonies of people whose lives have been dramatically changed after coming to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. Walt has posted several times just briefly about his testimony. That cannot be disproved. My testimony of what Christ has done in my life cannot be disproved.”

      Sure, so let’s track down the testimonials of Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Shintoists, Satanists, etc, and listen to THEIR accounts of how their religious faith has proved to be valuable in their lives. In advertising, a customer testimonial IS PERSUASIVE, as it MAY be indicative of a valuable product, but it’s far from “proof”, since everyone’s individual mileage may vary. It’s basically an “appeal to popularity”, saying that millions of people cannot be wrong (and if you believe THAT, then consider the millions of German citizens who went along with the whole Hitler thing, or XIans who led the Crusades, or the Muslims who led their Crusades to kill the infidels). Not exactly a stellar tract record, huh?

      Or maybe we should consider my account of how accepting rationality in MY heart has played a positive role in MY life, where I didn’t waste the only life I HAVE (in this “Worldly” system of things) in the name of chasing a pipe-dream of eternal life in the New System of Things (yes, I was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness)?

      Or better yet, let’s find the littlest victims of the RCC child abuse scandal who’ve suffered physical/emotional damage at the hands of pedophile priests (who were shuffled from parish to parish to protect the reputation of the Church)? Let’s ask those young believers in Jeebus what a source of joy and strength religion has played in THEIR lives?

      Are you starting to see a problem with personal testimony?

      Another problem with this whole angle of reasoning is it’s “benefits-based” justification of the payoffs of being a Christian. Hey, I agree there’s benefits to being a member of a group, even one that’s not based on actual TRUTHS: it’s fun to be part of a large group for potlucks/social events/singing, etc, or getting a sense of belonging to something that’s bigger than ourselves, a member of a community. For those who don’t want to think too deeply for themselves, belonging to a religion gives them a ready-made, pre-packaged sense of purpose in life. No doubt, it works for many.

      The only problem is, what happens when some eventually figure out their entire life has been built upon a grand LIE? eg my fleshly brother spent the best years of his youthful life special-pioneering as a JW, and serving at Bethel. He was a very smart guy, so eventually dug deeper in scholarship (conducting independent research, which is a BIG no-no for JWs) to figure out it was all a lie: after some time, it dawned on his that Armageddon will never come, and it was all a religious scam.

      He was DEVASTATED, adrift like a boat without a rudder (as even the Bible says) after he realized the practical joke was on him, and his entire World had been yanked from under his feet: most everything he believed up to that point was a lie, giving his youthful time and energy to a religious pamphlet-publishing corporation that was masquerading as a religion to gain tax-free status (he “awoke” when he was in his early 40′s, after almost three decades of volunteer slave labor given to the JWs). Times like that, I wish there actually WAS a Hell, as there should be a special place reserved for those who profit from deception, whether secular (Bernie Madoff) or religious.

      What a wasted potential of a human life, when he could’ve/should’ve spent those years doing something to improve the human condition in the HERE and NOW (he was very smart, but he didn’t go to college, since he believed “the end was near” and was told the preaching work took priority over education). Rather than waiting on Jehovah to fix all of the World’s problems in the “New System”, he may have been a brilliant contributor to humanity to discover a cure for diseases, rather than forced to perform mundane blue-collar work.

      THAT’S my problem with basing one’s entire life on a lie: one’s World-view drives decision-making, whether it’s when making financial decisions to plan for a retirement, or choice of careers, or when in the voting booth. I think of the depressed woman who killed her son and then herself last year, leaving a note saying that by killing him he’d be assured to go to Heaven, knowing she’d go to Hell. From a Xian theological perspective, her logic makes perfect sense; the problem with her conclusion is that the whole scenario is a MYTH, a lie.

      A perfect example of how religious ideology is absolutely dangerous to some people (and others around them, eg her son), who cannot handle the emotional turmoil of the prospects of eternal torment, Armageddon, etc.

      Hopefully some here are not so jaded about human nature as to believe that people cannot come together to do good things WITHOUT having to use the crutch of pretenses of an invisible sky Daddy….. If that’s true, then humanity really hasn’t progressed much from the Neanderthal era on the spiritual/ethical/moral front.

      “Sometimes one’s knowledge can get in the way of just simply accepting the gift of salvation that Christ offers. It seems too easy to be true. Having faith like a child makes it so much easier. Matthew 18:3 And He said: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

      Remember that Adam and Eve were described as having been created in a child-like state (where the Bible even states that the serpent was clever, and hence able to pull the wool over a clearly naive Eve). Naivity and trusting others didn’t turn out so well for them, did it? Look at the original Hebrew words used in Genesis to describe the snake vs Eve: the serpent was described as “arum” (which elsewhere is translated as ‘prudent’, and modern translations handle as ‘wise’, ‘clever’, ‘cautious’). Eve was desirous of wisdom (where snakes were considered to possess wisdom,hence why Jesus later advised his disciples to be like cautious like snakes).

      BTW, the original Hebraic connotation of a talking serpent is lost on modern readers, who are unaware of the ancient beliefs that surrounded snakes as holding the secrets of eternal life (and hence why it was no coincidence that the snake was hanging around the center of the Garden, BTW). Ancients believed snakes possessed special powers of healing, regenerating their skins (which was thought to be their rebirth), and hence mastery over death. That’s why the modern symbol of medicine, the caduceus, features a snake; also why Moses had a bronze serpent mounted on a pole to hear snakebites in the Wilderness).

      So a faith-filled Eve had faith in (trusted) a clever serpent, and supposedly that was the great sin. Does Eve’s naivety (a synonym for ‘faith’) sound like the problem, or the solution?

      (PS to believe the account, you also need to overlook the MAJOR continuity error of juxtaposing beliefs of ancient Hebrews and Egyptians about snakes onto the mindset of Eve, when the story of the fall is supposedly set thousands of years BEFORE such beliefs existed. You also need to overlook the existence of a “sword” thousands of years BEFORE the Iron/Bronze Age. Not to mention, God’s culpability of being an irresponsible custodianship, placing this dangerous fruit within their reach: it’s analogous of leaving sweet-tasting antifreeze where an infant can drink it, since Adam and Eve didn’t possess the wisdom to make rational decisions.)

      “Again, I commend you on all of the time and study that you have devoted to the effort of trying to disprove the existence of God. What a different world this would be if Christians would step up and spend that much time in the Word!”

      True dat, as I’m actually MORE knowledgeable of the cultural context of the ancient World than I EVER was as a believer when only reading JW publications. Of course, I look at ALL sources of information (and mostly skip over the emotionally-packed “feel good” devotional fluff, designed to make the reader feel good). I find the topic to be fascinating, where the REAL between-the-lines story is infinitely more interesting than the story that most people listen to in a Sunday sermon.

      One clarification: the burden is not on me to DISPROVE God, but on believers to PROVE the existence of God. That’s how rules of rationalism work: the one who makes an extraordinary claim cannot expect others to accept it at face-value, but needs to present supportive evidence. eg If I say I see pink fairies and you don’t see them, the onus is on me to prove it. Otherwise, you’re going to call 911 a report a psychotic person who is seeing complex visual imagery and hallucinations (which is often, but not always, a sign of mental illnesses like schizophrenia, a much more-likely known explanation for the phenomena of people claiming to see things).

      BTW, the irony is that almost ALL Xians pooh-pooh those followers who believe in ANY other deity (Zeus, Ba’al, Thor, etc) aside from their own. They often view these others as being deluded (or they offer the excuse, “they’re being deceived by an angel of darkness who appears as an angel of Light, just like Jesus warned”: that allows them to dismiss others’ beliefs by explaining it in terms of THEIR beliefs, not even aware of how dismissive and insulting it is to tell someone they are worshiping the Devil, not the “true” God). So aren’t Xians then atheists (non-believers) in EVERYONE else’s Gods, but their own Gods?

      Jesus spoke a truism when he said that which we criticize in others is often that which we cannot even see in ourselves (with the “splinter vs 2×4 in the eye” reference). Freud later termed the phenomenon as “projection”.

      • Dave, “One clarification: the burden is not on me to DISPROVE God…” By the length of your posts, it appears to me that this is exactly what you are trying to do. If that is not the case, why are you following Corinna’s journey in the first place? Maybe you are searching for something yourself and just don’t realize it. Like it or not, I’m praying for you as well as Corrina and a few other people following her journey.

        • Dave, I’ve been thinking more about our conversations. You’re obviously an extremely intelligent individual who deeply investigates the scientific details. As I said before, I admire that quality in you as it challenges me in my faith. But realize this, you are attempting to scientifically prove that which cannot be scientifically proven. You are looking for that which satisfies your mind – which clearly must be done for all of us. But you are missing a key element of your being – that being your heart and soul. It’s that side of humans that involves art, beauty, laughter … and love.

          How does one scientifically prove the existence of those things? It can’t be done. Yet, we know they exist. You’ll likely say something like “that’s emotional and has no place in science”. Certainly, no one should base all their conclusions, decisions and beliefs on this side of their being. Likewise, as humans, we must realize that one cannot rely solely on our intellect to determine the existence of things like art, beauty and love. As these things cannot be scientifically proven, neither can they be scientifically disproved.

          So, what is a man of science to do? If love cannot be scientifically proven, that does not mean it does not exist. Trying to live a life in absence of love, laughter, art or beauty does not mean these things do exist – it simply means a lonely life lacking richness and fulfillment.
          No one will ever accept the existence of God by looking to the scientific method… And rather or not you will admit it to yourself, you are desperately seeking for truth. My guess is that deep in your soul, you are hoping that God exists.

          As you have a longing to fill the God sized void that only God can fill…that’s where faith enters. You see … God never said to prove He exists. Faith is the evidence of things unseen.

          When you’ve considered the evidence, now you’re forced to do something with it. The next step Is faith…ask God to reveal Himself to you through His Word in a real and radical way. (The Bible says in essence “faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God” and “knock and the door will be open.”)

          It’s time to look to the other side of your being and start knocking on the door.

  12. Jo L said:

    “Dave, I’ve been thinking more about our conversations. You’re obviously an extremely intelligent individual who deeply investigates the scientific details. As I said before, I admire that quality in you as it challenges me in my faith. But realize this, you are attempting to scientifically prove that which cannot be scientifically proven. You are looking for that which satisfies your mind – which clearly must be done for all of us. But you are missing a key element of your being – that being your heart and soul. It’s that side of humans that involves art, beauty, laughter … and love.

    How does one scientifically prove the existence of those things? It can’t be done. Yet, we know they exist.”

    Huh? No scientist doubts that art, music, beauty, love, and laughter exist: in fact, you can “prove” they exist (eg music is known to be sound waves which can be recorded, analyzed with scientific instruments (oscilloscopes, etc) and can/is explained at the micro- and macro- level by the study of music theory, psycho-acoustics, etc). Many scientists spend their careers studying the physical, anatomical, and biological basis of the arts, and their cultural development, as well as biochemistry behind human emotions.

    Similarly, many scientists are accomplished artists/musicians, and personally understand the concept of tapping into the non-analytical parts of the brain.

    (I’m a jazz musician, and assure you I “get” he idea of being so connected with your instrument that you’re able to intently listen to what musicians around you are “saying” with their instruments, able to effortlessly react to what they play. It’s magical when such non-verbal communication happens, when it becomes more like an ‘out of body’ experience. In music, the idea is you need to understand harmony/music theory so well that it becomes 2nd nature, and you don’t have to think about “the rules”: that’s when the “magic” commences.)

    Of course, my point was/is that the study and unraveling of the mysteries of life INCREASES their enjoyment; it doesn’t diminish it. XIans are often content to leave looking at nature at the “magical” wonderment phase, as if learning the “secret” would spoil the experience. In fact, it’s the OPPOSITE: understanding INCREASES the enjoyment, as the REAL story is much more amazing than seeing a butterfly and saying, “lookie how pretty God made it.”

    (BTW, Richard Dawkins wrote a book for teens making that very point, “The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True”. It’s a good read for adults, too.)

    “No one will ever accept the existence of God by looking to the scientific method… And rather or not you will admit it to yourself, you are desperately seeking for truth. My guess is that deep in your soul, you are hoping that God exists.”

    That’s a pretty typical Xian response, ALA those who say, “by denying God, you are showing hatred for God”. Uh, nope. I don’t HATE God, just as I don’t hate Santa Claus: there’s no reason to hate something which I don’t believe exists. What I DO hate is those who say I HAVE to believe in an ancient figment of man’s imagination, or who try to pass laws that are based on such ancient tribal thinking (I’m mixing cotton and poly: don’t stone me!).

    In fact, it’s precisely BECAUSE I am seeking truths (based on reality) that I DON’T believe God exists.

    As a rationalist, I try not to look at available evidence only through rose-colored glasses, and don’t turn from ugly or uncomfortable truths. It takes moral courage and intellectual integrity to do that, as so many people sublimate their beliefs to the group (and also HATE anyone who dares to say anything different: isn’t that the message of Jesus, who was killed for daring to speak against the prevailing attitudes of the Jews and Romans?).

    But yeah: wouldn’t it be GREAT if a perfect being existed, who would right all wrongs, and solve all the World’s problems? Sure, and everyone would be wealthy, live forever, and have a pet Panda. Wishful thinking is great!

    “When you’ve considered the evidence, now you’re forced to do something with it. The next step Is faith…ask God to reveal Himself to you through His Word in a real and radical way. (The Bible says in essence “faith comes from hearing and hearing from the Word of God” and “knock and the door will be open.”)”

    Wait: are you telling me what I should do, or telling yourself what YOU need to do? It’s interesting how the advice we give to others is often the advice we cannot accept for ourselves. :)

    Hmmm, now WHY exactly would the Bible place FAITH as such a valuable trait for us to have, even above rationality? Did God not create man with a brain that is so capable of reasoning and rational thought, placing that BELOW trust?

    Scammers also say, “relax: trust me!” In fact, that’s the HALLMARK of a scam; a betrayal of one’s trust (blind or otherwise).

    BTW, it’s interesting that you make the reference to the “other side of the brain”: there is a growing discipline in science called neurotheology, looking at the neuro-anatomical basis of religiosity. A relatively old book (1980′s) on the subject is Jayne’s “Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind”. While certain elements of Jayne’s hypotheses are rightly challenged (and some have been disproven), the work over-all still stands as valid, tying the appearance of consciousness and abstract thought in humans with the reduction of beliefs in God(s).

    @@@@

    The answer to the truth/falsity of the bible is not answered by only one approach (“science”), but by rationally examination of cultural context and development (study of sociology), recorded history (which is NOT science, although it may use science to verify dates, eg carbon dating), textual analysis (which may use statistics), archaeology, palentology, etc.

    Most Xians feel their faith can be strengthened simply by generating a glowing vibe inside themselves, AKA basking in God’s love. As a musician, I know all about getting in the zone, and creating a mental state right for creating and expressing music. Unfortunately, people often confuse that which is internally-generated with that which is external to themselves (and that inability to tell is often what accounts for those people who “hear” God speaking to them: Jaynes gets into that, in his book). Xians (and others) sort of self-hypnotize, in order to “let God in”.

    About “proof” of God’s existence:

    In a theoretical discipline like mathematics, mathematicians speak of ‘proof’s’, where they “prove” an equation or theorem. Realize that math relies on an agreed-upon body of conventions, which are quite arbitrary: eg it uses symbols, with meanings which everyone agrees to rely upon (language is another example of a convention, where we agree to the definitions of scrawls on a page, arranged in a certain order, and agree that certain sounds represent ideas). So when a mathematician says, “I’ve PROVEN a theorem”, it simply means that the theorem is harmonious with the other elements of the system. It does NOT mean that the theory represents a physical reality, or is universal (and can be applied to ALL circumstances).

    For example, Einstein’s theory of gravity modified Newton’s equations, NOT because Newton’s laws didn’t work (they did), but because Einstein realized that the old theory didn’t hold in certain exceptional situations unlikely to be encountered by most of us (eg black holes, etc). So Einstein didn’t DISPROVE Newton’s Laws; he modified for special circumstances. Neither can be said to be ABSOLUTE, but applicable to different circumstances.

    So instead of dealing in absolute certainty (where rarely can anything be ‘proven’ as ABSOLUTE in real-world phenomena (eg biology)), most sciences communicate in the language of science: probabilities, the odds that something is likely to have occurred (based on statistical analysis). The judicial system also runs on probabilities, where different standards of certainty are required to convict defendants, depending on the seriousness of the accusation (hence phrases like “beyond a reasonable doubt”, etc).

    Rational people do the same, because waiting for absolute proof means you’ll NEVER make a decision, instead being trapped in limbo of what psychologists refer to as “paralysis of analysis” (AKA waiting for an absolute sign). Real life rarely gives us ABSOLUTES.

    As a thought experiment, I’ll ask Xians what reasonable proof could conceivably be presented to them that would:

    1) Confirm that God exists,

    2) Convince them that God doesn’t exist.

    Most don’t have a problem with 1: since they already believe, they don’t need to confirm anything. Some might say witnessing a miracle would be nice to strengthen their faith.

    Personal experience is persuasive evidence to many (although not entirely convincing to anyone who knows about the science of perception, and human ability to create illusions that fool other men, eg illusionists like Penn and Teller).

    I know Xians whose faith is bolstered by a belief in evil forces (demons), based on their personally experiencing ‘night terrors’ (which I’ve experienced myself: it can be alarming, if you don’t know WHAT it is). Some genuinely believe these episodes are caused by demons trying to attack them, holding them down. Most are shocked when I show them a Wikipedia page on night terrors, showing a mix of relieved disappointment (after their personal experience with supernatural forces loses it’s “proof”, it also undermined their belief in angels).

    Richard Dawkins book, “God Delusion” contains many more accounts of the problem with personal experience, since the human mind plays tricks (which psychology studies).

    But back to the prior point of witnessing a miracle, thus reaffirming their faith in God:

    Remember the Exodus account which says the Israelites witnessed MANY miracles (10 plagues? Red Sea parting? Manna from heaven? Water from crags?). Yet they STILL worshiped Ba’al the first chance they got? Huh?

    So, were they just stupid? Or, is the story a myth? (which is what the archaeological evidence indicates: there is absolutely NO evidence from history or archaeology to indicate an Exodus occurred as told in the Bible, and there’s MUCH evidence to indicate it DIDN’T happen as told: read any book on this topic, by William Devers or Israel Finkelstein, if this is news to you).

    To the 2nd question (“what evidence could possibly be presented to you that would prove God doesn’t exist?”), that one’s not so easy for them to answer.

    Some will unhesitatingly say that NO evidence could convince them, since they’ve already made up their mind that He DOES exist.

    Now, that’s a HUGE red flag for closed-minded bigoted thinking, ie someone who remains trapped in a belief EVEN AFTER presented with overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, it’s also human nature (and psychologists have conducted experiments where they’ve told people afterwards that they were fooled, and explained HOW they created an illusion in order to trick them; but even after being told this, some people STILL clung to belief in the illusion DESPITE revelation. Why? Beliefs are personal extension of one’s egos: admitting to being fooled, even to oneself, goes against the grain of most people’s egos).

    As a rationalist, I always need to allow my beliefs to remain modifiable, as available evidence is constantly changing. Scientists SHOULD do the same, but they’re human; it’s human nature to get cozy up with ones own ideas, and hence overcoming inertia is a challenge for all.

    Bottom line is God is the only being who could definitively clear up any and all questions about his existence, once and for all: the fact he HASN’T availed himself of the opportunity SHOULD speak spades (esp when suffering is allowed to happen, or when evil acts are carried out in His name). We know God is depicted as liking to play games: is he playing “Hide and Seek”?

    (And what was Genesis 3, except the invention of the first child’s game, “Mother, May I?”, where Eve lost the game when she didn’t ask politely before TAKING wisdom? But isn’t that what foolish and naive beings do: act rashly, not considering the consequences of their actions (anyone who’s raised a child can relate to that)? For Eve NOT to act rashly would’ve been the real shocker; she acted perfectly in accord with the way she was created (lacking in wisdom: otherwise she wouldn’t have been DESIROUS of the wisdom-giving fruit). So God carries the culpability, as the so-called “wise being”, the one who SHOULD know better. No sane person punishes a young puppy after it chews up tasty leather slippers that the owner left on the floor where the puppy could get to them. Same reason we child-proof cabinets BEFORE an accident happens: it’s responsible parenting, being a custodian.

    Note that God HAD the means to child-proof the Garden (remember the cherubim and flaming sword?), to prevent foolish humans from eating fruit that was actually like medicine to them (as it actually CURED their foolishness: God admitted later that it HAD “opened their eyes” and “made them like Gods”, and gave them “like us, with the wisdom of a God”.)

    If God REALLY didn’t want them to gain wisdom in the first place, then why didn’t he protect them from the fruit?

    Answer: it would ruin the whole story, and rob it as a valid explanation. Looking at it sociologically, the account served as an “origins myth”, attempting to explain to Hebrews how they got to this point in their relationship with God.

    But more importantly, ithe story likely serves a functional role as a cautionary tale, saying, “See what happens when you don’t obey God EXACTLY?” That’s important in the Tanakh, a book of laws, with passages which lay out many laws attributed to God. It’s like when going to traffic school after getting a ticket, and the course starts with gruesome pictures taken from auto accidents: the attempt is to convey why it’s important to pay attention. Same dynamic with Garden of Eden account: grab the listener’s attention.

    Note that a young King Solomon was granted a generous serving of wisdom from God, but only AFTER God appeared to him in a dream and asked Solomon what he desired most: young Solomon said ‘wisdom’, and it was given to him. This account is supposed to serve as the counter to Adam and Eve, showing the RIGHT way to gain wisdom from God (which still doesn’t explain why God created the wisdom-granting tree in the first place: was he planning on doing some beta-testing with the fruit on them, as an experiment?)

    The lesson is that humans should ask before taking what is God’s: OK, sure. But the questionable value of that “lesson” doesn’t resolve the logical inconsistencies with the story. If a kid turned that kind of story into his English teacher for a creative writing assignment, they’d get it back with a “fail” grade (advising them to rethink the story).

    • I have just finished reading through all 56 comments – phew! Thought-provoking reading, though! It reminds me of someone’s response to the question, “Why are you an atheist?”, which was, “I didn’t have an imaginary friend when I was a child, why would I need one as an adult?”. . .

  13. I’m working my way through your blog, so perhaps you address this later, but this church of Christ you attended is one congregation in a very loose association of congregations that emerged from what religious historians call the Restoration Movement. Born out of camp meetings on what was the American frontier in the early 19th century, reformers such as Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, & Walter Scott lead a movement that proclaimed Christian unity as it’s polar star, achieved by pairing so-called scriptural purity with a commitment to unity. These Campbellites, as many congregations were called, practiced believers baptism and weekly communion. As the frontier pushed further west, these towns became more settled and many sought to emulate the Presbyterian or Episcopalian churches down the street. They adopted organs/pianos, Missionary Societies, and annual gatherings. By the turn of the 20th century, those congregations located in rural, poorer places began to pull away, not being able to afford the organs, hymnbooks, contributions to missions that the town congregations could. They clung dearly to the scriptural purity the movement began with and thus evolved into the churches of Christ acapella while the more urban, wealthier congregations continued to evolve into middle-class, county-seat institutions referred to as the Christian Churches (Disciples of Christ). In 1968, the gathering of these congregations, the General Assembly, moved to incorporate into an actual denomination, covenantal in polity rather than hierarchical. Many congregations disagreed with this move, fearing it would result in a central government and lead to more liberal practices such as ordaining women. These church became a loose network referred to as the Independent Christian Churches. What was left after this restructure formed The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the US & Canada, one of the smallest of the mainline protestant denominations. And yes — we did ordain women, and some regions ordain LGBT folk, and we just this summer approved a resolution to welcome all people regardless of race, sexual orientation, nationality, SES, ability, etc.

    • Hi Rev, Thank you for the explanation. I think of all the Christian denominations I visited, I’ve had the most trouble understanding this particular area. I also visited a “United Church of Christ” that seemed like the polar extreme of the Church of Christ I visited and now I’m wondering if this reflects the break you mention. This is probably one area I need to go back and do a bit of adding to flesh out my experience. Thank you for helping me understand the distinctions…and thank you for reading!

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