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The Bible may be one major reason people are done with religion or spirituality. I am not convinced most people are opposed to believing in the possibility of a God out of rebellion; instead understandings about God shape attitudes toward God. Don’t believe everything you hear about the Bible! Biblical authors were possibly encouraged by God to write about their experiences, but I have my doubts that God always controlled their thoughts/words of the Bible.

It is perfectly normal to question the Bible and God.  

I Samuel 15:3 says God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” There are hundreds of passages like this in the Old Testament. Is there any rational reason that a good God would endorse genocide? Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind acceptance may lead to a more accurate understanding of God. God, like any parent, rather be challenged than ignored.

We really can’t know if the Bible is infallible or our interpretations are correct.  

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired because biblical writers make such a claim. Many do not accept the Quran being infallible because it claims to be. Writers weren’t saying they always heard an audible voice when writing “God said.”  God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on biblical writers’ impressions of God. 

Besides, literature require interpretation and we can’t be sure of a writer’s meaning. Forget the Older Testament! Scholars disagree what God thinks about divorce, homosexuality, hell, etc. in the NT. The reality of disagreement makes infallibility an impossibility. Many don’t openly admit their interpretations may be wrong but give the impression their interpretations are infallible. 

Why might people insist on a perfect Bible.  

Pastors and professors may lose their job questioning the Bible being the definitively guide on what God is like. I didn’t always speak openly about my mental health profession for fear of losing my job. See my journey with the Bible here.  It is objected that if the Bible isn’t inspired, “then you can’t know God for certain.” This assumes of course interpretations are infallible. Many leaders aren’t comfortable claiming uncertainty. It is easier giving advice due to supposed certainty rather than listening and helping one make their own decisions.

It is said we can’t know God if not through the Bible. 

Did billions born into this world who never had a Bible or heard of Jesus know nothing about their Creator? Even the Bible claims we best know God through God’s spirit than the written word. Universal moral outrage toward murder, abuse, etc., hints of a common, human Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. Why do most oppose murder, abuse, thievery, etc. whether believing in God or not? We just know we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. The reason some condemn women in the priesthood is because supposedly a Book disapproves in God’s name. 

It is said uncertainty about God leads to chaos or lawlessness.

Certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. Failing to read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love and putting oneself in another’s shoes has led to condemning gays in God’s name. Uncertainty can force us to accept one another’s differences. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but can be resolved by remaining open-minded to new understandings and creative solutions. 

It is said the Bible is of no value if it misrepresents God. 

The Bible records beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. God can draw us to do good and shun evil when talking about God or reading the Bible reflectively in striving to be more the person we desire to be. But remember, the majority born never had a Bible so God may speak to us by other means. 

Don’t read the Bible if it discourages you from loving others like you want to loved. We may be better off without the Bible if a Book replaces our relationship with God and common moral sense. Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems as circumstances vary. The issue is our heart in solving problems. Reading the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life. 

It is said God is inhumane for not being more visible or clear. 

Direct communication isn’t always magical. God supposedly spoke audibly to Moses (Ex. 20) to keep the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments,  but some assumed that meant not helping an injured soul on the Sabbath. God’s overpowering presence in our lives may only lead to consuming guilt or fearful obligations to obey. There may be plausible justification for God not revealing themselves more openly. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time may be the best journey. Beliefs are seldom life-changing if not through a relationship rather than being told what to do.   

It is said mortals should not question God but there are dangers assuming Bible infallible.   

Many reject God because of what an infallible Bible supposedly says about God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired thus justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. We must use common moral sense. Even Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem worried that Truth always requires discernment.  

What might a world look like if Bible folks didn’t argue because the Bible says so? 

  • Imagine a world if women and gays were treated equally and not condemned according to God
  • Imagine a world where all followed the clear teachings of the Bible by looking out for the interests of others with God’s help
  • Imagine what a perfect God is like if the Bible didn’t exist
  • Imagine the Bible is worth reading but it matters how we read it
  • Imagine if religious leaders encourage a journey seeking self- understanding of God

For further elaboration seehttps://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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Citizens have vastly different opinions but why can’t we disagree as a nation without all the current chaos by recognizing that certain behaviors are just plain wrong in marriage, friendships, and among citizens. Imagine if all felt safe to express themselves no matter their opinions!

Physical violence is wrong.

It is obvious physical violence is off the table in personal relationships unless protecting yourself from danger. Can you imagine the uproar if people stood by while partners were physically abusing one another? We can peacefully protest but violent protestors must be called out by their own leadership. Those privileged whose rights aren’t being violated must not remain silent when those of a different gender or color are not treated equally.

Emotional violence is obviously wrong.

Is it ever okay for one to verbally abuse their partner? Those who have President Trump’s attention – call him out every time he belittles or name-calls. One can still agree with some of President Trump’s policies but oppose emotionally abusive, provocative behaviors. There are better ways to defend policies that you believe will advance a nation without violating one emotionally.

But, a nation has moral issues that marriages don’t!

Partners fall out of love when each start acting if their way is right. An issue is obviously moral when there is practically universal agreement and one in physical danger. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law. Until we stop claiming morality according to a Book or our own intuitions, we will never be able to solve our differences. It is a dictatorship not a democracy when we impose our will on non-moral issues such as health care or taxes, where there are legitimate pros and cons.

We can’t change our partner or a nation but we can try to be a part of the solution.

  • Renounce all acts of physical or verbal violence
  • Stop claiming your views are morally superior to those you disagree with
  • Defend your reasoning, accept the freedom of opinions, and respect the voting process
  • Happily married couples and citizen begin conversations by looking for areas to agree while treating others the way they wish to be treated but it takes two to tango

 

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I Timothy 2:12-14 may be the most frequent passage used in Scriptures to deny women and men are equal in God’s eyes when comes to spiritual authority: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. For Adam was formed first, then Eve. And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.” There are several hints that this passage and the Bible do not make such a declaration and God believe roles depends on gifts not gender.

Is our interpretation of the Bible the only way to understand God? 

Who should be the CEO or preach? The most qualified or gifted in my mind. It seems doubtful an all-knowing God would suggest women to be under the authority of men when history has proven men are prone to dominate women anyway. The Bible cannot be our only source for discerning God’s true nature, because there are different interpretations of the same passage. It is best to question an interpretation that doesn’t make rational or moral sense to us.

Why would a biblical writer contradict themselves about God?

Many think the Apostle Paul wrote or served as editor for I Timothy as well as letters to the Corinthians and Romans. Paul affirmed and didn’t condemn women praying and prophesying (I Cor. 11:4-5). Paul mentions in practically the same breath that roles are according to one’s gifts and doesn’t mention gender (I Cor. 12:4-11). Romans 16 is only one of many chapters in the Bible that speaks of women in leadership roles, similar to both Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26). Doesn’t this presuppose that women can teach men, that it depends on the situation if a man or woman should lead?

Does I Timothy suggest advice given due to circumstances existing?  

Paul could have in a different culture encouraged men to be silent for the sake of peace. Paul in this same passage advises women to avoid certain hairstyles or jewelry (I Tim: 2:9), but seldom do churches make the same prohibitions as they do women teaching. Paul gave a list of rules for widows but they are ignored as assumed to be cultural (I Tim. 5). Paul likely used the first couple as an example of what to avoid – Eve prevailing upon Adam to go against God’s ways. But, if such a sin keeps women from preaching for eternity, maybe men shouldn’t preach either. Paul says Adam was responsible for what happened in the garden (Rom. 5: 12).

What if suggested the Bible teaches roles according to the color of a person’s skin?  

I hope you would take a stand if someone suggested God advocated racism or favoritism. Concerning women I am going to stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations. Interpretations are not infallible! Do we really want to suggest that God doesn’t trust women to handle the Truth? Many men prove they can’t handle the Truth! Our beliefs are important because they shape actions. When a husband assume spiritual leadership over their wives, many men assume leadership means making final decisions in an impasse. I have never had an impasse in marriage that cannot be solve creatively without one partner making all such decisions.

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The Synchroblog is where bloggers write on spiritual topics – often different perspectives. This month is about the Flood in Genesis and God’s actions. Links to other articles below

I don’t blame those who morally question the story of the Flood in the Bible. There were surely a few people innocent of evil so horrific justifying such actions by God. We condemn people drowning just one child in a bathtub or a litter of puppies in the river. Why does God supposedly not blink an eye killing millions? Are humans holier or more moral than God?

Should we dare question God? 

Assuming stories in the Bible are always literal leads to rationalizing God’s behaviors and claiming God can do whatever and mere mortals must not question God. I have my doubts this is the thinking of a relational God. What loving parent, spiritual or human, commands morally “do as I say not what I do.” If a good God encourages us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48), how can we know what is good if God’s actions sometimes are evil according to our moral senses?

Does God seek our fear or respect to help in our battle against self-centeredness? Leaders don’t have true followers by commanding rather than earning respect. Fear only leads to brief obligations often out of guilt. Jesus who claimed to be God in flesh didn’t initiate relationships by demanding respect. Jesus got His dander up the most with the religious elite who portrayed God as demanding obedience rather than desiring a relationship through mutual respect. 

Doesn’t the Bible claim there was a literal flood where eight survived?

John Walton and Tremper Longman III in The Lost World Of The Flood suggest Old Testament writers used accepted literary practices in the Near East such as hyperbole in writing about historical events to convey spiritual insights. Other ancient literature wrote about local floods in their lands. It is not fabrication when a local flood is used to illustrate global human problems and convey spiritual food for thought.

There are literary cues to suggest that the Genesis stories were not always literal. There is a talking serpent. Are trees magical or used as a literary device to discuss a relationship between God and humans? The sun and moon were said to not be created until Day 4, though light and darkness is mentioned on Day 1. Many scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures suggest the creation narrative weren’t written to convey actual creation events to begin history but to convey God’s desire to bring order to existing chaos. We must be open-minded not dogmatic regarding interpretations so to not lead people to reject God for the wrong reasons.

What are some possible spiritual lessons from Genesis and the Flood?

It takes faith either way to believe there was or wasn’t a Creator. The Bible encourages us to consider there is a God who desires relationships with humans. The Creator of the Bible respects freedom and knows what humans know – freedom not force leads to genuine transformations. God warns us of the sometime catastrophic dangers of freedom. Unrestrained freedom only leads to destruction in relationships. A loving God only teaches what loving parents teach their children.

What are we to believe about God?

We cannot know with certainty the intent of writers thousands of years ago. Relax! Literature can’t mean anything. Only extremists don’t accept that their interpretations feed their hunger for power and control rather than love and freedom. It seems the idea of infallible Books has led to subjective interpretations being proclaimed as “certainty” in God’s name. The only reason some condemn gays or women entering the priesthood is because supposedly a Book disapproves in God’s name. It is best we read the Bible with a questioning spirit motivated by love and putting oneself in another’s shoes. A universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated hints a Creator communicates to all what is good. God’s influence may be most recognizable when we have thoughts to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down.

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts only. No other unrelated emails will be sent. Go to About/Using This Site tab at top of page or Menu on phones to help navigate this Site. If you wish to discuss anything I have written, you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com

This post was part of the September 2018 Synchroblog on the topic of the flood. Here are the other contributors to this month’s topic. Go and read them all!

It is said that God demands worship and awe which may discourage a close relationship and oppose God’s wishes.  God, like any loving parent, only hopes to persuade through mutual respect that their love is in one’s best interest. We weren’t created to worship God so shut up and give God the glory. God surely created us to share life together.

Doesn’t the Bible command respect for God?

It is easy to read the Old Testament and think that God demanded respect from the Israelites or else! The OT also speaks of Abraham and Moses thinking of God as a Friend. It matters how one reads the Bible. The writers in getting to know God were influenced by their culture where gods were to be feared and revered. But, then Jesus who claimed to be God in flesh didn’t initiate relationships by demanding respect. Jesus got His dander up the most with the religious elite who portrayed God as demanding obedience rather than desiring a relationship.

God’s uncontrolling nature suggests God’s desire for genuine relationships.

If God was controlling or demanded obedience or respect, wouldn’t there be a lot less evil in the world? God doesn’t appear to be like the God of extremists who think that controlling or destroying free, moral decisions result in true love. It may that a God who respects freedom can’t always intervene to stop evil. God may know what we humans know – freedom not force likely leads to genuine, lasting transformations.

The Bible isn’t the only place to understand God and relationships.

The Bible doesn’t even claim to be the specific or only guide to Truth. Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem worried that Truth always requires discernment. Those who claim biblical writers always understood God perfectly likely accept that God created us in God’s image (Gen. 1:27). That passage has a sense of God desiring we represent God here on earth. How can we represent an inaudible God who leaves us with a Book subject to interpretation if we don’t share moral and relationship expectations influenced by God’s Spirit?

Who do you have the most genuine, closest relationships?

I know some may consider it heresy to suggest parents should earn not expect respect as their children age. My parents grew up in the generation where children were expected to be seen and not hear. Parents weren’t seeking to earn their child’s respect must less become close friends as they grew older. Parents were always parents and children were always children.

I was convinced that my children were more likely to act on my guidance, which should be in their best interest, when they desired to do so out of respect than commanded to do so. “Do as I say and not what I do” didn’t make sense to me. Our obedience has absolutely nothing to do with God’s love or a parent’s love for us. Employees or parents have genuine followers not by demanding respect but when there is a sense of mutual respect.

God seeks a close relationship through mutual respect.

God never thought fear led to life-changing transformations. Has gloomy uncertainty as to God’s favor conquered your battles against self-centeredness or long-standing habitual sins? Getting to know what God is truly like can inspire us to be the kind of persons we deep down truly want to be. You can’t get enough of a person or God because you have so much respect, not because you are commanded to love. Love out of fear often only leads to brief obligations out of guilt. My prayers alone or with others doesn’t begin: “Dear God, the Holy One, the Feared Creator of the Universe…” Such talk doesn’t invite getting to know one’s Creator. I talk to God as if a close Friend, and I haven’t been struck dead yet!

 

It is suggested Jesus showed a better way through example and words, than the Old Testament, by dealing with enemies and relationships by non-violent means. But, would Jesus condemn a nation who sought peaceful means to resolve terrorist threats but when necessary protected themselves? Would Jesus really condemn an individual citizen who opened fire on one seeking to kill all in site in a school setting? If you would protect your own children, why not consider means to protect children in a foreign land from a dictator who enslaves them for sex and other evil acts?

It matters how we represent God when it comes to violence.

Condemning others in God’s name when we aren’t absolutely sure of God’s disapproval can drive people to unwarranted feelings of guilt with God or cause people to reject God for wrong reasons. One may think: “Why would a God who doesn’t intervene always in evil not allow me to protect myself.”  Obviously, God is opposed to beheading others for their religious beliefs. When we advise God opposes all violence, implying it is wrong to protect ourselves against evil, such words condemn military individuals fighting for freedoms or private citizen forced to protect their family or others in a dangerous situation. Does God really condemn all violence?

The Bible can’t be our only source for guiding us about God. 

The Bible surely wasn’t written to be an answer book as to what God would do in our unique situation. Jesus often didn’t answer questions directly. Jesus sought to change hearts which changes how we solve our problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties. Besides, literature requires interpretation and we don’t always agree what the writer meant speaking for God. Even the Bible tells us the Word of God has never been the Bible but flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14). Jesus’ Spirit now lives in us to guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience can lead to more accurate understandings of God.

Does Jesus really oppose all violence?  

As you might suspect since the Bible must be interpreted, there is disagreement about the passage most often used to advice Jesus speaks to a new way in dealing with our enemies: “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also…You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Mt. 5: 39, 43-44). I just don’t know anyone in their right mind that would advise a wife being beat by their husband to turn the other cheek or not protect themselves. It is possible the literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means” which is more in line with Rm. 12:17: “Do not repay anyone evil for evil.”  

I am opposed to pulling verses from the Bible to prove a point, but there are passages which can suggest God is not opposed to protective violence. In Acts 23 the Apostle Paul, who wrote much of the NT, defended himself quite strongly and then requested military protection from being killed by religious leaders. Jesus didn’t exactly turn the other cheek when struck while defending His innocence (Jn. 18:22-23). Parables are not meant to be taken strictly literally, but one might think if Jesus was opposed to all violence His teaching would have less violent metaphors (i.e. Mt. 13, 18, 25; Mk. 12; Luke 20). Evil is real and may require a violent response.

What we can know for certain about God and violence.   

The majority may agree that God would oppose violence if more peaceful means were available to individuals or nations. More often than not violence begets violence. If we are always looking to meet violence with violence and never consider peaceful means, there will never be room for changes of heart and forgiveness. But, if you think niceness always begets niceness and a soft answer always turns away wrath, you may be leaving a slew of victims behind. In fact, some may only change when forcefully confronted with the pain they are causing. Though we may not know exactly what God would do in each situation, human shortcomings suggest violence should be our last option. If you are anything like me, I am quick to defend myself and confront others without consideration of other possibilities.

Lack of certainty what God or Jesus would do doesn’t have to lead to chaos.

Supposed certainty in the name of God has led to justifying genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and other atrocities. Being unable to declare the certainty of our opinions about God forces us to listen, think carefully, and come to an agreement. I don’t always know what God would do in personal or national situations. I do think the Bible as a whole encourages not seeking revenge and praying for ways to change hearts. I can’t say God would never advise a nation or individual to meet evil with force.  Future lives may be saved. I do think the Bible as a whole encourages exhausting all peaceful ways possible. God surely desires a world where all look out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties.

 

Do you hear things about God that lead to not wanting to even bother with God? Are you a person of faith but some teachings about God create questions or difficulties in talking about God to others should the subject naturally come up? I heard teachings about God in the church that just didn’t seem true of a good or loving God. It is only human nature to have a close relationship with those you respect. Why wouldn’t that be true of our relationship with God? Maybe we shouldn’t believe everything we hear about God!

What can we know about God?

Even scholars can look at the same passages in Scripture and come up with different interpretations. Jesus spoke in hyperboles and metaphors which can lead to vastly different interpretations. Besides, the Bible can’t be the only way to know what God is like since over half the people born in this world never had a Bible to read. We all seem to have an inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated – there are “oughts” in our relationships. God surely has given us a moral, intuitive sense what a loving God must be like.   

God can’t possibly be a homophobe.

It makes no sense to me why God would condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can. Just ask heterosexuals or homosexuals. Some only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. So, shouldn’t we be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices?

God can’t possibly be a sexist by favoring men in leadership positions.

God surely knew what many of us sense – appointing men as authority over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part, which can be conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men. Women don’t need male leadership in marriage; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29). When the Bible says: “Women should remain silent in the churches” (I Cor. 14:34), maybe the writer would encourage men to be silent in certain situations for the sake of peace. The same writer had just assumed women, without condemning, could prophesize during worship (I Cor. 14:34). See here for rethinking if God is a sexist!

Hell!

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. Hell seems to be an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Our traditional understanding of Hell is no more a translation of the Greek word Gehenna (the name of a real valley near Jerusalem) in the New Testament than Atlanta is for Chicago. Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies!

Can God be dogmatic about which religion you choose.

The majority of people born in this world have never heard of Jesus in the Bible. Suggesting a loving God insists one can only come to God through Jesus is to ignore the realities of our world. The vast majority of people born choose or rebel against the religion where they are born, whether be Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Those who have heard of Jesus often have a distorted view of God. When the Bible speaks of being saved, it isn’t about escaping hell and going to heaven but allowing God to help avoid self-destructive ways for our own best interests. Do you believe that? 

God doesn’t encourage hidden agendas in relationships.

People often avoid God-folks because they can smell a hidden agenda a mile away. It simply is wrong to engage in friendships with others for the purpose of converting them to believe as you do without advising them upfront of your agenda. God-folks struggle to talk about God, for how do you explain a good God is supposedly a homophone, sexist, or sadistic torturer. It turns out God wants for our relationship what we want – not a means to an end (conversion) but an opportunity to share life and love one another.

God can’t be a religious extremist.

Extremists wish to force you to believe what they think is true of God according to some Book. What is not acknowledged is literature requires interpretation so their understanding may be wrong. A truly, loving God would never force one to love but give the freedom to love or reject Them. Forced love is an oxymoron. You can’t get enough of a person or God because you have so much respect, not because you are commanded to love. Love by force only leads to brief obligations out of guilt.

God is not cruel by being invisible and inaudible.

If God cared why doesn’t God make their Presence obvious? God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parent push their agendas, even if in their children best interests, they may rebel against coercion and never turn back. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may more allow moral development for lasting convictions. A Creator may not reveal themselves for reasons we haven’t thought of and would accept in time. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing personal convictions may better lead to heart-felt lasting choices that turn out to be in our best interests.

Imagine God really is good news!

Listen to your moral inner voice. You may be right about God! If God claims to be Love and encourages us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5: 48), how can we follow in God footsteps unless God has empowered us somehow to know. And what loving Parent, earthly or heavenly,  doesn’t seek to help you be the best you can be for your best interests and the interests of others!

 

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