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Archive for January, 2016

Are We Better Off If The Bible Was Less Confusing?

One might rightly challenge why a loving God would not make the Bible clearer. Misinterpretations of the Bible have led to defending racism, inequality of the sexes, or that God favors certain nations over other nations. God didn’t purposely make the Bible unclear, but can a God who values freedom make a writer’s words not subject to confusion. How can the Bible be different than other literatures, especially written over a thousand years ago by different authors in different languages, and not be subject to different interpretations by future generations? What I am writing today is subject to misunderstandings so therefore should I never write?

Let’s say it was possible to write without words being subject to confusion by the reader. If the Bible were plain in meaning would there be less selfishness in the world, which was Jesus’ main message? Nathan convicted King David of his adulterous and murderous actions though the use of an allegory. David was less likely to regret his actions with plainspoken talk. Jesus didn’t purposely use parables to confuse his audience. Parables though enable one to continue to think on a subject to eventually accept the lesson intended. Straight talk often falls on deaf ears both with children and adults. Clear meaning doesn’t always produce positive results.

There can be some benefits to lack of clarity if necessary. I often wish I knew exactly what gifts my wife wanted. I angst over what gift my wife may wish for on her birthday or special holiday. If I knew exactly what she wanted, I miss out on the greater joy of giving her the perfect gift that I discovered on my own. I would feel a void in my life if deprived of the inspiration that results from intellectual curiosity and exploration of the meaning of a biblical test. If I fully understood God and didn’t have to discover that over time, I may think less often about God rather than spend time getting to know God. Getting to know God over time allows me make changes in my life later that I may not when initially reading God’s guidance.

The problem may not be that the Bible is confusing; the bigger challenge is what we do with lack of clarity. Confusion allows me to develop in the area of charity if I should choose. Certainty has led me to push “supposed” truth onto others. The Bible isn’t always crystal clear yet we are offended when people do not accept what we think the Bible means. Clearness doesn’t always produce graciousness toward others. There is reasonable debate whether Genesis 1-11 reveals historical facts or whether writers used other literary genres to convey theological truths about God’s relationship with humans. Does clearness matter more than how we handle confusion?

Confusion would be less problematic if we all considered one another’s opinion gracefully, as long as they don’t violate the freedom of others, so to work out our own convictions with as much consistency as possible. The truth is I might be wrong, you might be wrong, or we both might be wrong. Even if God could control us both being wrong, there is so much of the Bible that is clear that we can agree on and live by. We often try to make the Bible a bunch of rules that only divide people. Lack of clarity can lead to developing charity in our life and allow us to be more engaged and dependent on God that we would otherwise. I am convinced understanding meaning over time may lead to more meaningful changes in my life when looking back.

Are Their Plausible Reasons Why God Seems So Hidden or Distant?

One may rightly question why a loving God seems to keep their distance. Are there plausible reasons why God is physically invisible and cognitively or emotionally hidden to many? The Bible doesn’t teach that all who don’t believe there is a Creator are simply suppressing what they know to be true deep down. Paul instead said “many knew God…they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (Rm. 1:21, 29). They believed God existed but sought to justify their wicked ways. Many don’t believe in a God or lack a passion for God, but this is not always for immoral reasons. I am confident all God-folks have such friends.

I am mainly writing to suggest if there is God, there might be plausible reasons or justification for God not revealing themselves more openly. Let’s suggest for the sake of argument there are those who are convinced there is a God and those who are convinced there isn’t a God. If you believe in a God, why do you not trust God to reveal themselves to others when deemed the best time to do so? Jesus didn’t require people kneel and express belief in God. Jesus respected everyone’s journey. Jesus only had an axe to grind with the religious of the day who implied for their own benefit that obedience is taught not caught. Jesus simply wanted us to know our Creator loves us and desires to empower us to be the unselfish people we deep down desire to be.

The nature of one’s relationship with their Creator, of lack of, may be impacted by understanding if there are rational reasons why God is so hidden. Loving parents makes themselves obvious to their children. As the story goes God was visible in the beginning with Adam and Eve. When the first couple went against God’s advice, it was humans that ran and hid from God. As rebellion continued (at least it does for me), God apparently decided it was in our best interest if God not continue to overwhelm us in person. Being in the presence of others we offend isn’t always initially conducive for lasting change. God wanted us to come to them on our own terms rather than out of feelings of obligation or awe. God wanted it to be all about us and not God. Loving parents desire their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to feeling manipulated.

Miracles make God more obvious but don’t always lead to belief. God dropped manna from the sky to survive in the wilderness, but the Israelites turned on God when Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments. Miracles often lead to seeking only physical cures and not spiritual cures. A healed soul is far better than just a healed body. We parents tend to shower our children with gifts to avoid the painful realities of a free world, but interference can prevent growth and self-satisfaction resulting from making wise, independent choices.

Freedom is absolutely necessary for authentic relationships. Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the very best world. When evil was chosen in the beginning and continues today, God’s constant interference and presence may prevent a superior world from emerging as a result of the moral development and improvement of free creatures. Also, God may know a person may reject them now as opposed to a time in the future – even after death – so one can best choose their destiny. God revealing himself after swearing to change can lead to more guilt. God may hide himself not out of cruelness but love as timing can be important in relationships.

Let’s not accuse those who believe as needing a crutch and those that don’t believe of being wicked and not knowing their feelings. If it is a sin to doubt God exists, then Christians sin if they doubt God in troubled times. A traumatic experience such as being raped by one’s father can keep one from wanting to have anything to do with God their Father. Some are taught growing up God is a sadistic torturer who burns people in Hell forever if they don’t believe in God, which is a direct contradiction of a loving God. People are not immoral because they doubt or don’t accept certain teachings without reflection. Readers know their own reasons for not believing and they are valid as reasons for believing.

Honestly, I can think of many reasons that we are better off with moral people that are less religious than others. I can understand why some may think the Bible teaches hierarchical relationship between the genders, though I would argue such a stance is a haven for abuse by men. But, most Churches don’t state interpretations are fallible and encourage sharing and considering one another’s opinions gracefully as God helps individuals work out their own convictions with as much consistency as possible. Churches encourage good morals but sometimes the message they give about God may not reveal what God is truly like. I wonder if we are better off sometimes with no message about God than the wrong message about God.

A parent, who has a child taken from them at birth, stills loves that child though that child may not know them or believe they even exist. We cannot assume that not feeling God’s presence means there is no relationship from God’s perspective. Nonresistant nonbelief is obviously plausible and reasonable if such a belief is not used to justify selfish behaviors. Spiritual discussions should only take place if both parties wish to discuss such matters for their own benefit. It seems to me as a God-person, to not have an open-mind what others are saying about themselves lacks faith in God revealing themselves to others if they trust exist. It seems to me there are rational reasons why God may not make their presence always so obvious.

Why Is Freedom Of Beliefs So Important In Religion?

It is hard to imagine anyone would believe that a loving God condones blowing up innocent people. It is hard to believe anyone would think that a loving God would condone beheadings and videotaping such despicable actions in the name of their God.  Victims are not even asked their beliefs, because terrorists clearly kill for their own selfish reasons. But, we may be able to prevent the radicalization of some if we can convince a loving God would never deny one the freedom to choose their beliefs, even if they are opposed to their God’s.

Those who believe in the God of the Bible must be able to defend why their God respects the freedom of beliefs. God has respected freedom of beliefs from the very beginning; otherwise, God who is powerful enough to create would annihilate immediately those who oppose God by choosing evil. Spiritual or human parents brings children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love, because they understand controlling decisions doesn’t result in true love. Freedom is necessary for authenticity, the highest good in relationships, or we could accuse God of not creating the “best” world. Only the God of terrorists supposedly thinks that controlling or destroying freedom of decisions leads to the highest good for the world.

The God of the Bible does not control decisions in this lifetime or the life to come. The traditional understanding of Hell, where you will burn forever after death for not believing in God while on earth, is a fabrication that doesn’t exist in the Bible. Hell, not a translation but a substitution for certain Hebrew and Greek words, is an invention over the centuries to scare people into submission and obedience. Jesus did not threaten a non-existing Hell in His interactions. As it turns out God is a respecter of freedom in this life and life after death.

The God of the Bible respects the freedom of beliefs while on earth as evident by Jesus’ life. Jesus interacted in a non-threatening matter except with religious hypocrites who taught religion is self-serving rather than self-sacrificing. Jesus didn’t die to appease God’s anger and honor so God could love us. God is not a blood-thirsty Creator. Jesus faced undeserved suffering to gain credibility and influence. Jesus’ main message was treating others like you want to be treated (Mt. 7:12). Jesus only tried to convince us to be the unselfish people we deep down desire to be. Religions emphasize rules and obedience; Jesus talked about a relationship and God’s unimaginable love. A friendship with God can empower one to shun evil and do good. Jesus understood selflessness is chosen not forced.

The God of the Bible did not choose war to impose Israelite beliefs on other nations. There are some challenging passages in the Old Testament, but God didn’t prefer violence over peaceful alternatives. See here for further discussion. God never condoned torture or rape when war was necessary. God never insisted any nation believe in God or else. The Canaanites were involved in evil practices including burning their children as sacrifices to their gods (Deut. 12: 31; Lev. 18:21). Driving the Canaanites out of their land and into neighboring nations where they would be the minority could force them to change their evil practices. Despite the loss of innocent lives, future generations may look back on the 21st century and agree with nations invading lands inhabited by evildoers who seek power only to destroy freedom other than their own.

The God of the Bible never thought fear lead to any kind of desired relationship. A survey of the times “fear of God” is used in the Bible suggests fearing God was synonymous with fearing evil. Fear was for evil folks in the Bible, not those did not impose their ways on others. God’s judgments during lawlessness were to protect the innocent and hopefully redeem the guilty, but punishment can only deter but not change one’s heart. Fearing God is only necessary in an immoral world. “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (I Jn. 4:18).

The God of the Bible does not suggest women are to be under the authority of men as if half the world needs a mediator between them and God. This only encourages dominance on the man’s part. God did not create a male-controlled relationship between Adam and Eve in the beginning. Nations thereafter chose to be patriarchal. Jesus clearly encouraged equality between the sexes and mutual respect against culture norms. The Apostle Paul advised husbands to love their wives as their own bodies. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. The gods of the nations in biblical times were described as either male or female. By contrast, the Jews did not speculate about the gender of God. In the Old Testament the word for God’s spirit is feminine. The Greek noun for the Holy Spirit in the New Testament is gender-neutral.

I understand appealing to the Bible may not be always the best thing. One has to wonder if we might be better off without the Bible as often interpretations are not acknowledged as possibly being fallible. The truth is you might be right, I might be right, or we may both be wrong. All humans have an internal moral compass and most can agree on good from evil. We must consider if a biblical teaching seems plausible based on what a loving God or parent would be like. Questions about God must be solved on biblical and relational grounds since interpretations are imperfect. Bad theology has consequences. We often don’t trust our own God to guide individuals. We, as God does, must allow each the freedom to come to their understanding of God if they are not violating the rights of others.

Men who videotape beheadings are simply evil and sometimes the only way to combat such evil is to destroy it. But, early in the radicalization process some may be open to reasoning. But, we must inform the law, even on our own family members, when we notice beliefs that can lead to blowing up innocent people. One hint terrorists are misguided is they don’t just blow themselves up to spread their gospel. Jesus didn’t come to conquer the evil Roman Empire; Jesus sacrificed His own life to influence others. Any religion that is based on control than service is not truly religious. You are free to even blaspheme God but you can’t treat others immorally without consequences. God pursued a friendship rather than overpowering or demanding obedience in hopes of changing the world for good.

Why Do Some Pursue God And Others Don’t While On Earth?

Do we really think that one believes in God because they are more enlightened or moral? I cannot explain why I personally think about God as often as I do, but I can tell you that I am not more spiritual than many non-God folks. If I thought I treated my wife a lot more like Jesus would than I do, I may advise otherwise. I can say I am a better man, husband, father, and friend because of my conversations with God. Some admit they were hell-bent in pursing evil until they meet God. Let’s not accuse those who believe as needing a crutch and those that don’t believe of being in denial and suppressing the truth.

The value God and parents place on freedom may help to justify the dissimilarity of our circumstances and how we are influenced. Freedom is necessary for authenticity, the highest good in relationships, or we could accuse God of not creating the “best” world. Human or spiritual parent brings children into the world hoping their children freely reciprocate their love because controlling or destroying free, moral decisions doesn’t result in true love.

It matters the environment you grew up in as to whether you may believe in God. Some despise their Heavenly Parent because of their earthly parents. If there is a Creator, we may only realize when meeting that God is not a representation but perfection of our earthly parent we always desired. We don’t only get into heaven based on decisions and beliefs in the short time here on earth. Do we really think a thief is going to enter Paradise but not others with lesser sins simply because they weren’t next to Jesus hanging on Cross right before their last breathe?

Hell in the Bible is a substitution not a correct translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words. Hell is an invention over the centuries to scare people into obedience. Like God is going to sadistically torture people forever for their beliefs while here on earth a short time! If it turns out there is a God, we can be hopeful Universalists. God will remove all components that led to any unfounded thinking. Would anyone in their right mind not choose living in heaven with a loving God? God who gives millions of chances here on earth will give one a second change when meeting their Creator after death if justice can be defended in such a scenario.

The possibility of eternal decisions after death doesn’t lead to less urgency to change on earth. Do you really think it doesn’t matter how you treat others here on earth if there isn’t a law against your actions? It is not God’s nature to give up on an addict after their 10th relapse. It is God’s love, not fear, that can lead to being the unselfish people we deep down desire to be. Victims will be vindicated when the guilty face their sins before their Creator.

A Muslim or Christian may or may not worship the same God but strive to love others how they wish to be loved. Some Buddhists have more the heart of Jesus than those who call themselves Christians. More people than not born into the world have never heard the name of Jesus. Entrance into Heaven doesn’t depend on a decision one didn’t have an opportunity to make. Specific knowledge of Christ or saying the right words is suspect as being necessary. Those who don’t believe are not wicked people in denial. If it is a sin to doubt God exists, then Christians sin if they doubt God in troubled times.

Some may ask why Jesus even came if beliefs don’t matter. We all have internal moral compasses. Jesus was asked how one obtains eternal life. Jesus said simply to love God and love others as yourself (Lk.10:25-27). Changing directions, not perfection, was Jesus’ message or heaven will be empty. Jesus talked about how true living begins here on earth by understanding how much your Creator loves you. Such knowledge empowers one to shun evil and be the unselfish person we all desire to be deep down. If you wish you had more of a connection with your Creator, reconsider any beliefs about God that keep you from pursuing a close friendship.


How Should God-Folks Share Their Beliefs?

The truth is spiritual-minded folks can do more harm than good when telling others about God. In our world today it is important to distinguish the god of religious extremists from the God of the Bible. The God of the Bible surely is not like the God of terrorists who supposedly thinks that imposing upon or destroying freedom of beliefs results in true love. God invites one into a relationship rather than demanding obedience in hopes of changing the world for good.

Jesus in His interactions did not insist in belief or else. When the religious wanted to stone a woman for adultery, Jesus got the crowd to look in the mirror and told the woman “go now, and leave your life of sin” (John 8). C’mon! Didn’t Jesus have a better evangelical spiel in case He never saw the woman again? Jesus interacted with other naturally in a loving way. Of course Jesus knew His ways bring true joy in the long run. Jesus didn’t demand saying some prayer as if one’s final destination depended on it. If friends are engaging in immoral actions, we too might suggest they stop because they are only hurting themselves and those they love.

If people do want to talk about God and what Jesus believed, Jesus summed up all He stood for by advising to treat others like you want to be treated (Mt. 7:12). Mark records Jesus’ main message is simply to love God and love others as yourself (12:28-34). Least you think God is egotistical, loving God is loving ourselves and others like we want to be loved. Jesus interacted with others as if obedience is caught not taught. Once you come to know who God truly is, such a friendship can empower one to shun evil and do good.

It may be obvious for those not weighed down by misbeliefs about God that loving others and hopefully receiving love back is the purpose of relationships. Who thinks when getting with friends one should have a hidden agenda! I love taking about God with others. It is like asking me to play tennis. Anytime, anywhere! I believe knowing who God truly is can be life transforming and helpful in a chaotic world. Such discussions should never be forced. And don’t be so self-righteous. Many of us god-folks are put to shame by those less spiritual-minded when it comes to how we treat others. God simply wishes to be a part of one’s life if they desire or need to feel more connected with their Creator.

It’s nice to be able to be with friends without feeling there has to be a hidden agenda to save their soul. Years ago I tried to give one friend a church bulletin to attend church. They had never expressed such a need. The relationship was never the same. I recently was talking to a friend about God as it came up naturally. When I was much younger I felt compelled to talk about God regardless if there was an invitation. Friendships are damaged unless the agenda is to be a loving friend. If people wanted nothing to do with God, a friend respects that.

Jesus confronted the religious for their hypocrisy because they were claiming to know what God was like. Otherwise, Jesus simply loved others as they wanted to be loved. That is what friends do. The only reason I want to discuss God with others when they want is because I treasure my relationship with God. When you read a good book or see a good movie, you want to share that with others. When others are searching spiritual matters or looking for more of a relationship with their Creator, any time any place. I love doing that!


How Can We Know God’s Voice If Not Audible?

God speaking to us audible could leave us compelled to obey rather than free to love a God in our own time and on our own terms. People may come to believe in God for the wrong reasons when awestruck. If God doesn’t speak to us, how do we know when our thoughts are God’s? God clearly doesn’t speak audibly to most people, no matter how spiritual they may be. We don’t have to wonder whether to kill, gossip, etc. Jesus’ main message to love others like you want to be loved is intuitive. Lack of certainty in non-moral decisions though may not be bad news when understanding freedom.

It is important to understand why God created and continues to value freedom when making a multiple of decisions on a daily basis. Only terrorists think controlling or destroying free decisions results in true love. Without freedom we could accuse God of not creating the very best world where only true, authentic relationships can develop. If freedom and determinism were compatible, then a loving God would have created a world in which all persons freely did only good at all times. Even human parents bring children into the world desiring their children freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced.

It may matter what one thinks about God and the future. It is not heresy to ask if God knows the future if the future is open and unknowable. God certainly knows what they are going to do in the future. Many prefer to believe God knows the future for feelings of security that God already knows what is going to happen and how they will respond. Some prefer to believe God doesn’t know the future because it empowers them to relate to a God that doesn’t have to control to be in control. Many feel if God already knows what someone is going to do, we are not truly free to do anything different. Even a loving God cannot create life, impossible to exist without death, violence, suffering, and struggle and yet there be genuine free will.

Why does it matter if God knows my future when it comes to recognizing God’s voice? If God knows the future, one may logically think God has a specific will or path for their lives. We may fear we will end up with God’s second best. Since God does not speak audible to most of us and one can never know for sure if an impression is from God, this can lead to confusion or anger with God. Authors speak about God guiding us through whispers and signs but this leads to more guess work and discouragement. If the future is open, we do not have to search for God’s Holy Grail in what decisions to make. We are truly free to dream and pursue our aspirations to make for a better world which is both God’s and our desire deep down.

God’s will is accomplished by doing all the good we can, in all the places we can, at all the times we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can. Many paths can be chosen if the future is open. We just can’t go wrong with a desire to love God who always has our best interest in mind. Are you wondering whether to take certain relationship risks or take a different path than you are traveling? Take risks and attempt great things for God and know God will be with you regardless of the outcome. Don’t live in fear or demand certainty which God cannot guarantee in a free world. Feel empowered to make the wisest decision based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. That is freeing!

*If too hard to believe God doesn’t know the future, it can be suggested God knows what is going to happen in the future ahead of time. There doesn’t have to be a specific script for individuals or God hasn’t predetermined our future choices. God can simply know what decisions we are going to make. We still don’t have to angst over God’s supposed specific plan since there are many paths to accomplish God’s will. For example loving parents want their children to make for a better world whatever profession they choose.

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