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Archive for November, 2017

What Is God’s Main Way Of Communicating To Us?

God gets a bad rap for not communicating more or at least directly. I have written about this topic recently but I wanted to ask a different question in addressing this topic. Many hesitate to take a leap of faith because they question why a loving God would be so hidden. Many of faith are frustrated or don’t feel connected to God because of feeling clueless about God’s direction for their life. But, God’s direct communication through miracles in biblical times didn’t obtain the relationship results one would think if only God would stop hiding.

It is doubtful a Book is God’s main communication because the majority of those born into this world never had a copy of the Bible.

Even if one believes the Bible is God’s main communication to us, we can still feel that God fails to communicate directly to us. It is not uncommon for different meanings to be expressed of the same passage and different applications suggested for personal circumstances. Accepting certain abuses from your enemies may lead to changes of hearts. Jesus’ did. Others could rightly determine being passive in certain circumstances enables harmful behavior to create more victims.

God has communicated morally. 

The presence of moral anger hints of a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions that lead to outrage. How else do we explain a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated? Nations can establish laws because there is almost universal agreement on stealing, lying, or murdering. Extremists claiming to know God’s voice through a Book don’t acknowledge interpretations can be wrong. Interpretations shouldn’t contradict moral intuitions.    

God’s uncontrolling but supportive nature guides us in non-moral decisions.

What career, job, or partner to pursue in marriage are not moral in nature. Rights are not being violated so there is not just one moral option. Many assume God’s knows the future, but an already determined future makes freedom an illusion. Secondly, a predetermined future implies there is only one “right” choice to make that God should communicate to us.  God is like any good parent when it comes to future, amoral decisions – we are free to make the wisest decision at that time based on our gifts, past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations.

But, how can we know if our impressions or thoughts are from God?  

God’s impressions aren’t necessarily specific, dictatorial thoughts. In difficult situations such as whether to divorce or not, God isn’t controlling one’s freedom or the future as if predetermined. Not even God can advise future outcomes. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue. God is supportive of the wisest decisions we know under current circumstances which may include the counsel of others. God like loving parents seeks through positive influence to inspire making a difference with the gifts and passions we possess.

How does God mainly communicate?

God gives us a sense of morality for our own good, but then sets us free to follow our desires. We are asking what God wants us to do; God is asking what we want to do. God’s will for our life is for all to feel God’s empowerment to do all the good we can, for the all the people we can. During challenging times or when failing, God seeks to encourage us to keep on striving.

What To Do When Our Morality Clashes With Others?

I have suggested in previous posts that we cannot know God’s views solely through a Book such as the Bible. Literature is always subject to interpretation, thus why those who revere the Bible disagree on the same passages. No one can claim with certainty their interpretation is God’s. A Creator may also communicate through our moral intuitions which may explain a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated.

We can avoid moral clashes by not insisting any Book determines morals for all of society.

Extremists typically forms their beliefs according to their interpretations of a Book. They claim their interpretations are God’s but such dogmatism is not justifiable. Terrorists claim a loving God demands belief along with required rituals or be killed. Intuitively, we know admiration is only genuine if freely chosen. Moral intuitions can lead to discussions; interpretations justify control in God’s name.

We must accept that relationships much less nations cannot survive or thrive unless we respective one another rights to have opposing views.

The attitude of “I am right and you are wrong” destroys possibilities of peace and solutions. A democratic society affords us the privilege to vote and accept the majority view. We must protest our view peacefully in hopes of future change. Leadership of opposing views must strongly condemn violence from their followers and encourage lawful means for change.

We can better accept other opinions when distinguishing between personal and moral beliefs.

Nations can establish moral laws because stealing, abusing, or murdering obviously violates one’s personal rights and safety. Beliefs that do not endanger others can be considered personal than moral in nature. Personal relationship decisions do not violate the rights of others. Some condemn gay relationships not because of moral common sense but because they assume a Book condemns such relationships. Passages in the Bible used to condemn homosexuality are highly debatable.

Clashes begin when we insist our beliefs are those supposedly of a Supreme Being.  Christians have no business moralizing to others according to their understanding of a Book. This was hardly the example set by Jesus who represented God. Many beliefs declared moral in nature can be viewed and accepted as personal beliefs when one’s right are not endangered.

Imagine a world where we respected one another’s right to disagree concerning personal beliefs without the fear of violence.

Taxes, health care, etc. are matters to be discussed respectfully and voted upon. Convincing one of the merits of your beliefs are not accomplished through name-calling or belittling. Beliefs that are moral in nature, as opposed to personal, should be obvious to most. Immoral actions in the name of God are often justified despite interpretations of a Book are always debatable.

Were All Old Testament Laws, Including The Crazy Ones, God’s Idea?

One may assume when reading the OT laws that all the laws had God’s stamp of approval. Ancient near eastern cultures assumed it was sacrilegious to not always appease an all-powerful, all-controlling God, which many of the OT laws seem geared toward. Does God really desire self-glorification for egotistical reasons, or does God seek to influence all for their own good?

How would it work that God controlled all the OT laws established?

All OT laws were not audibly dictated by God but often originated from the minds of Moses and leadership in getting to understand God. It is not God’s nature to somehow magically control writers’ views of God, even if views were influenced more by culture than reality.  God doesn’t abandon us when we are wrong but seeks to persuade us over time what a loving God is truly like. God accepts us where we are at while encouraging us closer to the ideal for our own good.

If OT laws were God’s ideal, they would still be applicable today or at least during NT era.

If it was good to execute adulterers or those who cursed their parents back then (Lev. 20:9, 10), why wouldn’t it still be good law? Jesus instead encouraged a woman to change her lifestyle for her own good and any who have done no wrong can throw the first stone (Jn. 8:1-11). OT laws advise to retaliate eye for an eye when wronged (Deut. 19:21), possibly as a way to control the less fortunate being taken advantage of, but Jesus implies not retaliating and forgiving may be possible in certain situations (Mt. 5:38-42).

God’s gradual influence may begin to show in writings such as OT views on animal sacrifice.

Writers after the OT laws wrote that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). These passages seem to directly contradict the need for elaborate animal sacrifices in the OT laws, so God was making headway. God surely hated the idea of animal sacrifice rather than one simply taking responsibility for their actions. Confession, contriteness, and amends are what lead to healing in relationships.

One could speculate the Ten Commandments reveal God more direct involvement, than the others laws, in guiding a nation initially. The Commandments are said to be written by the “finger of God,” but this is likely a figure of speech than a physical act by God (Ex. 31:18). Worship against idols was cultural, but few disagree that idols such as materialism destroy relationships which God considers paramount. No one argues against the wisdom of “you shall no murder, steal, lie about your neighbor.” But, many of the other OT laws weren’t necessarily God’s ideal.

God is a lover of freedom. Not even God can force genuine, heart-felt change.

God used the nation of Israel, the Bible, and Jesus to come into our world in hopes to influence and persuade us, not control or coerce, toward a life without regrets. The OT laws were God beginning a relationship with a nation and bringing them along. Many of the Laws were at least a step up from surrounding cultures. Jesus’ teachings surely are more God’s ideal. The wisdom of Jesus relationally is undeniable, even to those that don’t believe in God.

 

 

Did God Really Desire Animal Sacrifices?

For good reason it is harder for many to respect a God who thinks killing animals is a good thing, just so people can feel better about wronging others. Would a loving God actually desire killing of animals in the Old Testament to supposedly atone for sins one has committed?

God must accept less than ideal practices if seeking to persuade than control.

It was not God’s desire for Israel to have Kings as rulers but God accepted their wish. God never considered divorce for frivolous reasons ideal but Moses apparently permitted divorce in God’s name to give vulnerable women protection (Mt. 19, Deut. 24). God didn’t constantly condemn concubines because it may have been a more suitable option for vulnerable women in OT cultures.

God may have accepted animal sacrifices as the lesser of two evils to at least guard against the use of child sacrifices common in OT cultures. God knew the Israelites would continue to participate in sacrifices to please gods, so God set out to eventually influence what is truly important. Animals were never tortured but carefully prepared. Since people were set on animal sacrifice, God may have used extreme animal cleanliness to point toward the importance of heart cleanliness. 

Later OT writers begin to recognize animal sacrifice was not God’s idea.

Writers after the OT laws wrote that God doesn’t like animal sacrifices but contrite hearts (Ps. 51:16-17, i.e. Jer. 7:22, Amos 5:21, Micah 6:6). OT writers were surely influenced by surrounding cultures where it was sacrilegious to not think an all-powerful and controlling God needed to be appeased through sacrifices. The writer of Hebrews says God did not desire or was pleased with sacrifice and offerings though offered in accordance with the law (10:8). OT laws often originated from assumptions that God was like all the other gods in OT cultures.

But, wasn’t Jesus’ blood to satisfy God’s need for sacrifice?

Jesus didn’t die to placate a blood-thirsty God who needed their child murdered before forgiving others and have their honor restored. Jesus overpowering His enemies was expected. Miracles grab attention but then things just go back to the way they were. Jesus accepted death rather than deny His message. God sought to influence all to not just respond to evil with evil. God is not an enabler but a motive to simply retaliate than hope to influence for good continues the cycle. The Cross wasn’t meant to change God’s attitude toward us. God sought to influence and empower us to change our unloving attitudes toward others.

It is not always wrong to participate in less than ideal situations when seeking to influence.

Most are not as offended as I am of the excepted practice of coaches yelling at their players, whether children or adults, for motivational reasons. Love and calmness rather than fear and loudness is the ideal way to inspire others. Anger is short-lived and relationally destructive. I wouldn’t necessarily ban sports or coaches who yell if I had the power to do so. One reason that I coached young people was in hopes to demonstrate a better way. Long-lasting changes don’t really happen if forced rather than through health-felt choices. 

God surely hated the idea of animal sacrifice rather than one simply taking responsibility for their actions. Confession, contriteness, and amends are what lead to healing in relationships.

 

Are There Plausible Caring Reasons Why God Doesn’t Communicate More Directly?

A main frustration or accusation against God is that if they truly had one’s best interest in mind, God would be more visible or at least communicate their message more clearly. Direct communication though may not always be the best communication style. When parents encounter constant rolling of the eyes, confrontation or directness can just push your child further away.

It isn’t obvious that direct communication always has desired results.

God dropped manna from the sky to help a nation survive in the wilderness and separated the Red Sea to escape one’s enemy, but the Israelites still did not believe God. God even came in person but Jesus’ miracles did not obtain the results suggested if God would stop hiding. It seems outward displays often only lead to cries for shortcuts that stunt moral growth. 

Direct communication still requires interpretation.

Two people hear the same voice and come away with different meanings. Jesus spoke directly yet if was if He was speaking a foreign language to some. God through Jesus used to turn the other cheek as a metaphor to stop the cycle of revenge, but some have interpreted that as women should not protect themselves against violent men.

Direct communication could be perceived as confrontational than loving.

God’s overpowering presence in our lives could lead to consuming guilt or brief obligations to obey rather than heart-felt, lasting choices. God’s interference and presence might prevent a superior world from emerging as a result of limiting the moral development and improvement of free creatures to make independent choices.  Convictions aren’t preached but caught. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time may be the best journey.

Is it possible God has communicated more than we may think? 

How do we best explain a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated except possible a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions? There is agreement on most moral matters. We know God’s moral advice for our own good because of such intuitions. God, as any loving parent, gives us the freedom to make amoral decisions based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. God isn’t keeping information hidden, as if the future is already determined making freedom an illusion. Even an all-knowing God can’t know an unknowable future. We are asking what God wants us to do; God is asking what we want to do. 

God’s invisibility and current communicative ways may be out of uncontrolling love.

If God pushed themselves on us from the beginning we may simply reject and never turn back. God communicated through our moral intuitions can allow the freedom necessary to make genuine, long-lasting decisions for our own good. God may be in the most loving ways constantly persuading and seeking to empower us to do all the good we can, for all the people we can, with the opportunities and gifts we possess.

 

What If Biblical Writers Didn’t Always Have Perfect Impressions Of God?

I have been writing about this topic ad nauseum. The Bible may not be a big part of your life. It’s just that misunderstanding the Bible can lead to possibly rejecting God for the wrong reasons. The only way for the writers to record perfect views of God was for God to audibly dictate the Bible or magically control the minds of the writers. How can the Bible be understood?

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Jesus mainly communicated how the OT pointed to His arrival (Lk. 24:27, 44) rather than the writers knew God perfectly. The passage most often used to talk about the Bible’s inspiration is subject to wide interpretation – “All Scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking…in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). It is not God’s nature to “breathe” a lobotomy and control writers’ views of God, even if views were influenced more by culture than reality. God used the nation of Israel, the Bible, and Jesus to enter our world in hopes to influence and persuade all toward a life without regrets, not control or coerce.

How would God guarantee the Bible’s infallibility anyway?

We don’t have to defend or rationalize when God is recorded as being as violent as the others gods in ancient near eastern cultures. God did not dictate words written down; we do not have to assume God somehow unexplainably controlled impressions recorded by the writers. When did God supposedly control – when the writer first spoke or wrote the words, when an editor(s) edited the original words, or finally when such recordings were gathered into a book? If God is so controlling, why doesn’t a God who claims to be not evil and all-powerful intervene more in our world? 

What happens when a Book and interpretations become our sole source of morality?

God didn’t necessarily control the minds of the writers. Besides, our interpretations of what the author meant aren’t infallible. Immoral actions in the name of God are often justified despite we cannot be sure what an author meant. Souls and families are destroyed when not understanding interpretations are debatable. Passages used to condemn homosexuality are highly debatable which should lead us to listen to our moral senses. 

How can we know what God is really like if the biblical writers didn’t always know?

God didn’t intend the Bible to be the only source of truth about God. Besides, literature is always subject to interpretation thus why those who revere the Bible disagree. We can also determine what God is like and good from evil from common universal moral intuitions. Such intuitions can be how a Creator communicates to us. Who doesn’t know to treat others like we want to be treated. Moral intuition differences more likely lead to discussions; interpretation differences frequently lead to control because supposedly such understandings are the voice of God.

Why doesn’t God communicate more clearly?

God’s invisibility can be out of uncontrolling love than cruelness. God’s overpowering presence in our lives may only lead to consuming guilt or brief obligations to obey. God’s lack of interference may allow moral development to make heart-felt, lasting choices. Forced love is an oxymoron. God in person through Jesus’ miracles did not obtain the results suggested if God would stop hiding. God though may communicate more clearly than we realize. We only need to look inwardly as to how to be in family, work, or other relationships. 

Are Old Testament authors false prophets for recording false portrayals of God?

A false prophet is different than an imperfect, sincere prophet. False prophets intentionally lie and don’t seek to represent God but their own false views. False prophets rarely act in loving, uncontrolling ways regarding beliefs. A false prophet in the Bible would be one who believed in God, but had no desire to change their evil ways so they deny such a God existed.

What good is the Bible if have to decipher views of God? 

The Bible is valuable for reflection and not meant to be a rules’ book to gain God’s favor. An uncontrolling God can give writers the freedom to grow in their understandings of God, without denying the Bible is useful for teaching through the lens of Jesus. Views of God that don’t lead to loving your neighbor more are likely to be false portrayals of a God who claims to be perfectly good.  God never intended a Book to take the place of a relationship with God and others. No belief from any book is more sacred than self-discovery about God to become a better person so to make a difference in the world.

 

 

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