To non-religious spiritual pursuers and my kids (Click FOLLOW for future Posts; See ABOUT/USING THIS SITE tab to navigate Site)

Archive for January, 2018

What Does The Bible Really Say About Hell And Heaven?

“It’s eye opening to realize that in all the evangelistic sermons found in the book of Acts, none of them make an appeal to afterlife issues. Not one. If preaching the gospel is telling people how to avoid an afterlife hell, the apostles in Acts did not preach the gospel! …Jesus’ teaching on hell is basically this: If you refuse to love, you cannot enter the kingdom of heaven (here on earth) and will end up a lonely tormented soul.”

Brian Zahnd, Chapter 10, Hellrazed edited by Kevin Miller

Jesus didn’t say all non-Christians are wicked and go to hell after death. The traditional understanding of Hell doesn’t exist in the Bible. The wicked are those who inflict evil on others. Is Gandhi really locked in hell forever tormented? When Jesus was asked how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Loving God is to love the poor and suffering like we want to be loved if in their shoes. Eternal life in Jesus’ eyes was a quality of life that begins now. Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death.  A life worth living begins here on earth by knowing your Creator loves you and seeks to empower you to shun evil and to good.


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Hell Can’t Exist If God Is Moral

“Take the idea of eternal hell for instance. Such a notion renders God a monster. Adolf Hitler choose to condemn and torture millions of Jews for a brief time, and the world considered him a war criminal. But many Christians routinely posit a God who will condemn and torture not millions, but billions, and not for a short while but for all eternity. Such a God is, simply put, unethical…Worshiping a violent, unethical God will lead to becoming a violent, unethical people.”

The Afterlife: Considering Heaven And Hell by   Jaime Clark-Soles

I have written previously on this Site that Hell is not in the Bible (Search the word Hell). There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for “hell.” The word hell, a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words, seems to have been invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience.

Will We Be A Bystander Or Hero?

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it. “

Martin Luther King

Will we be a passive witness or see evil and make a choice. Evil isn’t a disagreement over taxes, health plans, etc. What will we do when confronted with sexual or physical abuse of children or women, a family member plotting to harm others, etc.?


Do Thoughts On Justice Hint Of A Need For God?

An angry, egomaniac Deity who loves to punish comes to mind for some when thinking about God and justice. When a child or friend hurts others or themselves, is your first inclination to punish the hell out of them so they will come to their senses? Why would a heavenly Parent seem to have less of a heart than a human parent?

God’s purpose for justice isn’t to protect their ego or get even.

God and humans know even perfect justice falls short of guaranteeing changes of the heart which is the ultimate desire. God surely understands the threat of justice isn’t meant to change hearts but a last resort to deter evil in hopes one becomes convinced unselfishness leads to lack of fulfillment. God isn’t seeking to pile on when we already regret hurting others or ourselves. God thinks of justice in terms of persuading us to accept that certain actions lead to harm.

The failure of justice to change the world calls for hope for Someone greater.

Most would agree morality shouldn’t be determined by a few who are imperfect themselves. Humans fail often to achieve even their own standards in relationships.  Our need for a perfect model as an example calls for a perfect God. Some world systems of thought chase perfect justice as if it exists. But, if we take from the rich and give to the poor for equality, this often only leads to those distributing the wealth becoming the rich.

Justice or laws don’t change hearts.

Create 10 commandments and we will break the 11th commandment.  Justice is not the ultimate hope because justice cannot restore future memories robbed because of a loved one taken too soon off this earth by another’s murderous actions. An absolute Model can guide us in pursing our deep-down desires to love others as we want to be loved. Jesus was right. The heart not the law is the path to change. We desperately need a God who can help us with changes of the heart and with feelings even perfect justice cannot fulfill as the result of evil actions.


Q & A – What If Bible Not Infallible Or Misrepresents God At Times?

We do not have evidence that God supernaturally controlled the minds and words recorded by the writers of the Bible. Such a thought is contrary to God’s uncontrolling nature. God gave the writers freedom as God does all people, thus the writers initially could have recorded their misunderstandings what God is really like. Is the Bible useful then?

How would God provide an infallible book anyway?

Let’s suppose that God did perform a lobotomy and control the minds of the writers so they understood God perfectly and not impacted by personal or cultural influences. Any book, whether the Quran or the Bible, is subject to interpretation thus why scholars differ on what the Bible says about divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, hell, end-of-the world views, etc. No one can guarantee their interpretations are infallible. We don’t always know when a passage speaking on a subject doesn’t state exceptions. Jesus isn’t advocating domestic violence when advising to turn the other cheek. Suggesting God only communicates through a Book is unlikely as the Bible hasn’t been available to the majority of people born into this world.

How can we know God if not through an infallible book?  

This question may be nonsensical to those who didn’t grow up hearing the Bible was God’s infallible words to humankind. Ancient literature can’t be infallible since subject to interpretation. God though may communicate more clearly than given credit for. Who doesn’t believe in evil? Our moral outrage hints of a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions that lead to outrage. We intuitively know how to be in family, work, and other relationships. Who doesn’t know we should treat others like we want to be treated. Most believe a Creator or Supreme Being must be perfect to claim to be God. The Bible never suggests two “perfect” standards. God and human perfection are exactly the same, which most intuitively know a lot about.

Why did God bother to encourage the Bible if subject to misrepresentations? 

2 Timothy 3:16-17 is the passage most used to defend the Bible’s infallibility: “All Scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking…in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). God-breathe can mean God desired a recording of coming alongside Israel climaxing in the life of Jesus in getting to know what God is really like. Jesus said the OT pointed to His arrival (Lk. 24:27,44) rather than claiming the OT writers knew God perfectly. God used the nation of Israel, the Bible, and Jesus to enter our world in hopes to influence all toward living a life without regrets.

What are consequences of assuming the Bible is infallible?

People understandably may reject God because many actions contributed to God are contrary to morally accepted behaviors. Moses claims God ordered during war killing boys and non-virgin women but saving for yourselves virgins (Num. 31:18). Such immorality in the name of God has led others to justifying their actions in God’s name or led to many rejecting such a God. The Bible can be used selectively to justify almost any belief. Moral intuition differences can lead to discussions; interpretation differences often lead to control because supposedly such understandings are the voice of God. 

How can our interpretation differences be handled?  

We can more carefully distinguish between personal and moral matters. We cannot argue on moral grounds debatable understandings of God according to some Book.  Thievery or abuse is wrong because all would object being stolen from or abused. Actions violating one’s physical safety are obviously moral. Political decisions such as health care or taxes do not violate one’s physical rights. Two consenting adults choosing to enter a heterosexual or homosexual relationship are not violating anyone’s safety. Legal definitions of marriage could be resolved by democratic vote than resorting to dogmatism in God’s name or violence. Essential truths about a loving and caring God are obvious, but those who value the Bible would surely agree that OT writers did not have the same authority as Jesus. Jesus’ views of God were surely more perfect. Do your interpretations lead more to treating others how you would wish to be treated when disagreeing.  

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 act in unloving, controlling ways regarding beliefs. A false prophet in the Bible would be one who believed in God but denied God to justify their evil, selfish ways. True religion doesn’t seek to be served but to serve. 

Why doesn’t God communicate more directly?

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. 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 through common universal moral intuitions we all seem to have. The biblical writers are no different that we are as humans. Beliefs are not life-changing if dictated rather than freely chosen.

How can the Bible be useful then?  

It is unlikely God intended the Bible to be any more than a book for reflection in getting to know God better. God never intended a Book to take the place of a relationship with God and others. The Bible was never meant to be a story controlled by God. God got involved with the nation of Israel so they and we, by reading of their journey, begin to discover what God is truly like. The Bible was never mean to be a magical book of rules rather than a book for reflections in one’s individual circumstances. The Bible at least tell us that God wanted to come down to be with us in becoming more the person we deep down desire to be. We can come to a better understanding of God with the Bible than without the Bible, depending on our assumptions about the Book.

Does Some Violence In The OT Make Sense In Light of Terrorism?

Many may reject the thought of a good God in light of all the violence in the OT. For example, I Sam. 15:3 reports God saying: “Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy all that belongs to them. Do not spare them: put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Hundreds of OT passages seem to advocate evil behaviors in God’s name.

There are two basis viewpoints about God’s role in Scriptures. God either controlled the writers’ thoughts to perfectly represent God, or God did not control writers misunderstanding God initially and coming to a better understanding over time. OT writers were surely influenced by surrounding cultures where it was sacrilegious to not speak of God being all-powerful and controlling, thus contributing violent warfare actions to God.

I am not rationalizing all OT violence, but there are some possible explanations of many passages that seem to endorse immorality.

Many could rightly argue that the Bible advocates land-grabbing in God’s name. But, Deut. 7:1 talks of driving out the enemy while 7:3 says you must destroy the enemy totally. Extermination passages maybe are meant to be understood within the context of initially driving out the enemy. A writer doesn’t always include exceptions. Jesus wasn’t advocating spouse abuse or nations not defending themselves when saying turn the other cheek. 

Joshua speaks of utter destruction in Debir and returning to camp (10:39-43), yet the writer in the same breath spoke of survivors from Debir being destroyed (11:21). Writers either mindlessly contradicted themselves or didn’t always mean to be taken unconditionally. Moses ordered the Canaanites to be destroyed (Deut. 13:14-15) and Joshua is said to have obeyed Moses’ commands (Josh. 11:15), but survivors were left. The Bible may not mean literally to destroy all living beings when possible to avoid.

We could understand some violence in the OT in light of the current terrorism that plagues our world.

If someone attacks my family I have every right to protect them. Terrorists threaten even their own with beheadings, rape, and other atrocities. Is it always wrong for a nation to wage war against evil leadership of other nations for the sake of those under the dictatorship? Despite the loss of innocent lives, future generations may look back on the 21st century and accept nations invading lands inhabited by evildoers who seek power only to destroy their own and people of other countries.

In a recent news article, generals commented they felt empowered to decisively bomb the hell out of ISIS. They were able to hunt down ISIS leadership and destroy them and their control. A US leader may say we will destroy anything to do with ISIS. This doesn’t mean women and children will not be spared if possible. But, innocent lives may not be spared to destroy evil, as terrorists use civilians as human shields to carry out their wicked goals.

War isn’t always avoidable and innocent lives cannot always be spared in a world inhabited by evildoers.

I am not arguing that we must always rationalize violence in the OT. We don’t have to assume OT writers always understood God correctly initially. It just is not God’s nature to coerce but attempt to influence overtime so choices are one’s own. God surely understands the threat of justice doesn’t change hearts but is a last resort to deter evil. But, I am not convinced God or moral humans can be total pacifists in the world we live in.


How To Decide Which Issues To Die On A Hill For?

Differences can become conflicts when we don’t clearly define issues we must take a stand on at any cost because they are immoral. People may fight than rationally discuss issues such as health care or taxes when they have not clearly defined what issues must be considered moral in nature.

I am not arguing that anything goes.

All rational human beings oppose certain behaviors because of moral common sense. We know murder or abuse are wrong because they are wrong. Laws are possible and necessary because there are certain behaviors that we just know are immoral.

How can we determine if an issue is moral in nature to argue come hell or high water?

Behaviors toward others that you would not accept toward yourself are likely to be moral in nature. Thievery is wrong because all would object being stolen from. Same for abuse, murder, etc. Extremists impose their religious beliefs on others as if moral in nature, but they would not accept religious beliefs imposed on them. Actions violating one’s physical safety are obviously moral.

Political decisions such as health care or taxes mentioned do not violate one’s physical rights. Two consenting adults choosing to enter a heterosexual or homosexual relationship are not violating anyone’s physical safety. Legal definitions of marriage could be resolved by democratic vote than resorting to violence. Even God who supposedly thought one partner for one partner was ideal did not spend time condemning concubines in OT.

One cannot claim an issue is moral according to some book such as the Bible.

Literature is subject to interpretation thus we cannot claim for certain our view is God’s. Also, we cannot guarantee the writers always had the correct view of God and didn’t misunderstand God as times. Terrorists are misguided by demanding their interpretation of a Book. A God who created freedom couldn’t possibly be a God who seeks to control one’s beliefs or be killed. Soldiers go to war for such basic freedoms. Many only condemn homosexuals because of their supposed correct interpretations of a Book, though scholars have contrary interpretations.

We could say drinking and driving is a moral issue because impaired judgment puts others in danger. Some would argue a woman’s decision to abort is not impacting others’ rights, but some feel the unborn baby has rights to not suffer pain in anyway. At the very least we should not argue on moral grounds because of some understanding of God in a book but on medical grounds.

We must choose carefully what issues we claim are moral in nature.

Are decisions made violating one’s rights to physical safety? The beauty of a democratic society is that such decisions after rational debate can be decided on by the majority vote. Violence or hurtful words prevent such discussions. Do you act toward others how you wish to be treated when disagreeing?

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