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Archive for July, 2018

Do We Determine Good From The Bible Or Our Consciences?

“The ultimate question is whether the doctrine of the goodness of God or that of the inerrancy of Scriptures is to prevail when they conflict. I think the doctrine of the goodness of God is the more certain of the two … To this some will reply ‘ah, but we are fallen and don’t recognize good when we see it.’ But God Himself does not say that we are as fallen as all that. He constantly, in Scripture, appeals to our conscience: ‘Why do ye not of yourselves judge what is right?’ — ‘What fault hath my people found in me?’ And so on…Things are not good because God commands them; God commands certain things because he sees them to be good. (In other words, the Divine Will is the obedient servant to the Divine Reason.)” 

C.S. Lewis Collected Letters, Volume 3, p. 1437.

Most agree One who calls themselves God must be good. We can’t always determine what goodness is according to God by reading the Bible. Literature requires interpretation and scholar who respect Scriptures don’t agree God through the Bible for example condemns gays. Many argue homosexuality isn’t natural but that is your perspective. Your gay friends will tell you they can’t any more chose who they love than straights can. Are we playing God by using our moral consciences to determine what is good? That is the way God made us. When the least bit of doubt exists, shouldn’t we treat others like we want to be treated if having the same non-choices? I know, I know, pedophiles say they have no choice. Well, such relationships aren’t consensual and clearly violate the rights of others.

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Is God A Warmonger Or A Pacifist?

The Synchroblog is where bloggers write on spiritual topics – often different perspectives. This month is on God: War Or Pacifism? Links to articles will be put at end of this Post July 25th.

Many agree God is not a warmonger or total pacifist, but we may not agree when war is just. It is important how we represent God as millions and their families fight for our freedom. Just like when we tell women God supposedly thinks men have leadership qualities that women don’t. We can seek to know God through the Bible, but keep in mind the majority of people born into this world never had a Bible. If there is a Creator, they must surely give rational human beings moral sense in combating evil. Who doesn’t know it is wrong to attack others without provocation or intentionally kill civilians if war is necessary? I am convinced God is a spiritual realist!

A spiritual realist considers what the Bible has to say.

The Bible is recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus, that we don’t possess in any other documents. We can’t know if biblical writers always fully understood God or sometimes wrote down what they believed was true about God. I am not convinced a good God really felt that Israel should: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys” (I Sam. 15:3). There are hundreds of passages like this in the Old Testament suggesting God authorized genocide or other immoral acts in times of war. We might best interpret the OT through Jesus’ lens, since Jesus surely knew God’s heart better than human prophets, if contradictions exists (Heb. 1:1-3).

The New Testament through Jesus’ eyes isn’t always crystal clear though. Biblical scholars who believe in the authority of Scripture disagree what the Bible and Jesus said about critical issues such as Hell and the afterlife. We can’t always be sure the intended spiritual lesson behind Jesus’ parables.  People disagree if Jesus rules out just wars when He said: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). Was Jesus speaking against retaliation but not protection? Can individuals or a nation still love their enemies by protecting themselves against nuclear warfare either proactively or defensively? The NT is no different than reading the OT since we could be wrong what Jesus claims about God. Literature is always subject to human interpretation.

A spiritual realist knows evil when they see it.

I don’t know any pacifists when it comes to protecting their child. We shouldn’t always interpret Jesus literally. When Jesus said to love your enemies, He also said “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Mt. 5: 39). Please don’t advise wives in God’s name they must accept abuse from their husband. If a terrorist is getting ready to behead my child and I have a gun, I am going to aim as best I can and shoot to stop them. And I don’t think Jesus would condemn me. Maybe Jesus wasn’t saying that that we shouldn’t protect individuals from an evil dictator. If you would protect your own children, why not consider protecting children in a foreign land from a dictator who enslaves them for sex and other evil acts?  Maybe Jesus was simply challenging our retaliation mentality (eye for eye). Hearts seldom change if always responding tit for tat rather than forgiving if one truly seeks forgiveness.

A spiritual realist also considers human nature’s violent tendencies.

If you are anything like me, I am quick to defend myself when I have the means. I am quick to confront when thinking it may stop further victimization. Now, I may reattach a soldier’s ear miraculously if able when a comrade cuts their ear off (Lk.  22:50-51), but I don’t think this biblical example condemns all acts of violence if protective, I also don’t think Jesus throwing over tables in the temple should be used to justified violence when I am offended for God. I do think that respectful sharing of ideas can increase understandings.

So, what does a spiritual realist do when confronted with evil?

It takes an attitude of spiritual realism with the help of God and a village to make wise decisions when confronted with violence. The Bible wasn’t written to give specific solutions to problems. Circumstances and attitudes may vary from the audience Jesus was speaking to. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties! A spiritual realist exhausts all other means before considering violence, knowing violence begets violence. A spiritual realist fights the tendency to seek revenge or respond tic for tac, hoping for change by going the extra mile. Nations must use peaceful means whenever possible and only consider violence when absolutely necessary to save lives.

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 July 2018 Synchroblog on the topic of Just War and Pacifism. Here are links to others who contributed this month. Go read them all!

What Is Most Critical Solving Our Nation’s Differences?

I hope one day for a nation whose citizens handle their differences less violently and emotional. One of the most important first steps for the sake of peace is determining issues which are moral or immoral in nature. I suspect those who think all or most issues are their way or you can go to Hell don’t have many deep, positive relationships. We have to choose our battles in personal and national relationships. Failure to do so negatively impacts our children and our nation as a whole.

There are some things in life which there is no compromise.

Most agree that murder or thievery is immoral. One way to distinguish if a matter is moral is whether there is almost universal agreement on laws against certain actions. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law. Another way to discern if a matter is truly moral is whether extremists would accept actions toward themselves that they force on others. Terrorists would reject being beheaded, raped, or denied freedom of beliefs. Criminals don’t justify their actions; they deny they ever committed such crimes accused of.

We must not claim acts are immoral if the physical rights of others not violated.

Christians often condemn behaviors because of their understanding of God according to a Book. But, biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures don’t all agree the Bible condemns homosexuality which is the point. One who proclaims certain actions immoral according to a Book often fail to admit their view is only one possible interpretation. Two consenting adults who choose to be in a relationship, who feel they can no more choose who they love than straights can, are not violating anyone rights.

Abortion is more complicated because there are questions about when a baby feels pain in the womb. Still, no one can impose their beliefs on someone else because of a Book supposedly condemning such actions. It is complicated if abortion violates the rights of the unborn child, but we at least must have humane, rational discussions.

Not even God imposes moral views on others.

If God imposed supposed moral views on others, why did God not oppose concubines? King David, who probably had hundreds of concubines, was proclaimed a man after God’s heart (Acts 13:22). Why didn’t Jesus advocate for political change rather than how we love one another in our differences? Why didn’t God demand slavery be abolished? Long lasting change isn’t always best accomplished by controlling love. The Apostle Paul in the New Testament, much like God with the Israelites, perhaps understood to change society within requires independence. There may be steps necessary to accept God’s perspective – “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). 

How we can stop imposing our morality on others.

The first step in conflict which may seems obvious is committing to no verbal or physical violence so discussion can be had. This includes belittling and bullying tactics in communications. Then, we must stop moralizing our opinions so there can be discussions. In a democratic society the vote of the majority must be respected. Otherwise, choices are to move away under such a society or actively change the law you believe in for a greater good. Differences must be resolved by defending one’s reasoning, respecting the freedom of opinions, and committing to growing in understanding. The conversation changes completely when treating others how you wish to be treated if in their shoes. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos.

 

What Do You Get When Mixing Religion And Politics?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/keithgiles/2018/07/elephant-in-the-church/

“In over 6,000 years of human history, how many of mankind’s basic problems have been solved by politicians? … Even God’s Law wasn’t capable of transforming the hearts of men and women. Why do we still believe that we can do better? …. Do we really need more laws? Do we need better people writing the laws? Is our problem the lack of law enforcement? …. Is the Law capable of changing us into the image of God? ….What if there was something that could reform the convict? What if there was a formula for changing people into better citizens? What if there was hope for every broken marriage? What if every addict could find hope for life beyond their daily habit? What if there was a way to create an entire society of people who loved one another, cared for one another, and went out of their way to bless everyone around them? …. wouldn’t that be better than any political solution you had ever heard of in your life?”

You get politics when you mix religion and politics!

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Did God Really Inspire All Of The Bible?

I doubt the Bible was inspired by God in ways we typically understand inspiration. 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. God inspiring the Bible suggests a good God authorized or endorsed genocide when war was necessary. This renders goodness nonsensical and unknowable!

The Bible cannot be proved to be inspired is the point.

Many wouldn’t accept the Quran being inspired though it claims to be. It is circular logic to claim the Bible is inspired because biblical writers claim inspiration. Even if possible to prove infallibility, God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on OT writers. Besides, the Bible can’t be the definitive guide what God is like because literature requires interpretations which aren’t infallible. We can’t always know what the writer didn’t say. I once wrote telling my kids to never lie, but if lying saves a life by all means lie through your teeth.

The most used bible verse to claim inspiration is 2 Tim. 3:16: “All Scriptures is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” God-breathe is subject to wide interpretation, thus not clarifying God’s role with the Bible. God-breathe doesn’t necessarily mean God controlled biblical writings. It could mean God uses writings to touch our heart without necessarily declaring such writings are infallible or perfect views of God.

Certainty in God isn’t always a good thing.

Insisting the Bible is inspired can lead to threatening or forcing supposed certainty on others. After all, the Supreme Being’s way is surely the path to follow! Believing such a Book exists has led to condemning gays in God’s name, though those who accept Scriptures as authoritative don’t agree the Bible disapproves of homosexuality. Certainty rather than uncertainty can lead to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. But, even a perfect, certain God doesn’t force beliefs which doesn’t lead to lasting changes. 

What could be God’s role with the Bible?

The Bible is recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. It seems the more we read and talk about God the more God can influence doing good and shunning evil. God surely approved of recordings so we might keep reflecting what God is really like.

Many authors who question if the Bible is infallible or admit God accommodated less than perfect understandings of God insist the Bible is God’s inspired or authoritative word. Why would God approve of such false understandings? I know pastors and professors have more skin the game than I do. I did the same when in the mental health profession. But, to say things like “events are not authoritative; the interpretation of the narrator is” keeps the focus on worshipping a Book than God and leads to dogmatic, possible false representations of God.   

We can still know God though God didn’t inspire all of the Bible.

The possibility of an infallible or inspired Book has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others of what God is really like. A fallible Book can’t hide behind infallible interpretations. Moral laws that violate the rights of others are obvious. The majority of people born in the world have never read a Bible but have an inborn knowledge of right and wrong. A universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated hints a Creator communicates to all what is good, thus what God is like.

A fallible Bible doesn’t mean the Bible isn’t worth reading.

The Bible was written to find God not specific solutions to problems. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties! God never intended for us to check our moral conscience at the door in considering what a loving God is truly like. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love. Different opinions can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach in circumstances we face. Reading the Bible reflectively with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life.

****I originally name this Post God Did Not Inspire The Bible! I was intentionally being provocative, as I wanted to communicate doubts that the Bible was inspired by God in ways we typically understand inspiration. I think the retitle I have given the Post better captures what I wish to communicate – Did God Really Inspire All Of The Bible?  I have no doubts that God sought to influence the writers of the Bible, but it is not God’s nature to control others. The biblical writers at times could have misunderstood God and God was patient in them growing in their knowledge of what God is really like.

**** For additional Posts on rethinking the Bible go here: https://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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

 

Dear President Trump

I admit I voted for the lesser bad of two choices. I don’t often discuss politics on this spiritual blog. Our spirituality may influence our views when convinced such a vote creates the most good in the long-run. But, Christians get it wrong when thinking Jesus came to create a one-world nation as if forcing beliefs changes hearts. God only wishes to influence all to pursue good and shun evil.

We must stop imposing our morality on others.

The key to progressing as a nation comes with handling our differences with civility and lack of moral superiority. See here . Differences are normal in any relationship. Actions violating physical safety are obviously immoral. Decisions such as health care, taxes, or consenting adults entering a heterosexual or homosexual relationship are not violating anyone’s physical safety. We can have laws against murder or abuse to protect basis rights, but imposing compliance on non-moral issues makes freedom a mockery.

How we handle out differences starts at the top with leadership.

President Trump, will you please be more of a leader in this area. Obviously, you have strong views of changes this nation needs to make. You were elected over your opponent so you have more of a platform to voice those views. Sometimes I agree with your ideas; sometimes I don’t. But, we both owe each other civility when we disagree.

“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Prov. 15:1).

It is true a soft answer doesn’t always turn away anger. But, a soft answer provokes anger a lot less than belittling and name calling. The Bible may suggest to a nation what it advises parents. The Apostle Paul who wrote a great deal of the NT gave very little specific advice about parenting, but he did say “Parents, stop exasperating your children” (Eph. 6.:4). Translation: stop pissing your children off or giving them a reason to act out. President Trump, for the love of God, please stop belittling or name-calling!

Our nation’s uncivility isn’t all on President Trump.   

Sometimes voters get what they voted for. Many justify President Trump’s actions because “it’s about time someone rocked the boat.” There are better ways to defend your policies that you believe will advance a nation. Stand for President Trump’s policies if so inclined, but don’t stand for provocative behaviors. And evangelical Christian followers – stop imposing your beliefs on others through politics. Jesus didn’t come to establish a nation but change hearts.

Being provoke is no excuse for uncivility.

Just because someone belittles you is no reason to respond back in like fashion. After all, you condemn such behaviors from your adversary. Someone has to be the bigger person! Violence shouldn’t be necessary unless one is in physical danger. But, c’mon President Trump. You are the leader of our nation. Set the example. Be concerned that your son is going to grow up just like you in handling differences. Be concerned that those who voted for you and those that didn’t vote for you can be provoked to retaliate against verbosity with physicality.

In summary………

Please, Mr. President! For others – there are no excuses for bad behaviors. Don’t react but respond appropriately. All opinions can be expressed without verbal aggression so we can stand side by side to continuous evaluate the most loving approach. Differences must be resolved by defending one’s reasoning, respecting the freedom of opinions, and committing to growing in understanding.  Start conversations looking for areas you agree. Treat others how you wish to be treated if in their shoes. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but can lead to creative solutions.

 

What God May Really Be Like!

I put the word “May” in my blog name “What God May Really Be Like” to convey obviously no one can definitively say what an invisible, inaudible God is like. I write here that uncertainty isn’t all bad.  God though often gets a bad rep by many in religious circle when dogmatic in their beliefs. I call myself a God-follower because Christian has connotations I am not always proud of.

Why does it matter what we say God is really like?

Honestly, most I come in contact with don’t readily care to talk about God or what others claim about God. It is not as if I am one of those zealots that believes God is going to send others to Hell if they don’t have certain beliefs about God, Jesus, and the Bible. I am not sure why spirituality is more of a taboo subject than talking about one’s favorite book or movie. But, our understandings about God shape our attitudes toward God. Don’t believe everything you hear!

Can we declare we know God according to the Bible or Jesus?

It is an illusion to think we can know God definitively through the Bible. People who respect the Bible as authoritative disagree what God thinks about homosexuality, gender roles, and the afterlife to name only a few critical issues. We must stop declaring something immoral because the Bible says so. And, we can’t always agree what Jesus said. People disagree if Jesus challenging the OT “eye for eye” mentality allows or rules out just wars when evil is rampant. God would surely not have us rely on a Book, when the majority born into this work never had a copy.

Our moral intuitions may give glimpses of what God is like.

God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating. One possibility for a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated is a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions. The truth is there is agreement on most moral matters such as murdering, lying, stealing, or not treating others like we want to be treated. Terrorists are wrong because they don’t want to be beheaded, raped, or denied freedom of beliefs.

I am convinced God is not a hell monger.

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!

I am convinced God is not 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?

I am convinced God is not a sexist.

The Bible can be understood to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. God doesn’t favor men over women in leadership roles. Best friends, in marriage or other dyad relationships, don’t require a leader. Men may assume loving leadership means making final decisions in impasses. I have never had an issue in marriage that cannot be solve creatively without one partner making all such decisions. Besides, Jesus said being first is last so maybe the husband should always defer to his wife. 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).

I am convinced God is not mysteriously immoral but morally perfect humanly-speaking.

Some declare God is mysterious when their characterizations of God, supposedly according to the Bible, are incompatible with most people’s ideas of a perfect loving God. How can we know God if evil sometimes is good? Most agree One claiming to be God must be perfect. We know a lot about perfection because we have a sense of how we “ought” to treat our family and friends. One possibility for a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated is a personal External Force communicating through our moral intuitions. When the Bible challenges us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48), the assumption is we know what such perfection is. God’s love and perfect human love are the same.

I am convinced God is not an angry, egomaniac lover.

God’s love is the same as perfect, human, parenting, love. God’s anger is no different than a parent’s anger against immoral actions that harm their child and others. God’s desire for devotion (glory) isn’t to remind God of their greatness or we can go to Hell. Parents desire respect because they only want what we deep down desire for ourselves and others. God’s love is nourishment that leads to life transformations.

What do you imagine God is really like?

You may be right! Listen to your moral inner voice. We just seem to know what is moral or immoral in most situations. Be guided by love in treating others like you want to be treated. But, there isn’t always one solution to circumstances we face. A guilty partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may enable bad behaviors to continue. Even an all-knowing God experiences uncertainty because of an unknowable future.  God supports our gifts and passions to empower taking risks to make for a better world. God is dying to encourage us in such a journey.

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

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