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Archive for August, 2018

Rethinking The Bible – We Can’t Know Biblical Writers Understood God Perfectly!

The writers didn’t claim to always be talking to God directly; they often wrote about their impressions from God. Besides, the writers’ words are subject to interpretation and we may get their correct views wrong so the Bible can’t be our absolute understanding of God. Many may admit God accommodated writers’ less than perfect understandings of God but insist the Bible is God’s inspired or authoritative word. But, why would God inspire or claim authoritative false understandings? We must be careful misrepresenting God, so others don’t reject God for the wrong reasons. I address here questions, as briefly as possible, that come to mind when questioning if the biblical writers understood God perfectly.  A link for more detailed explanations listed at the end.

Can we prove or disprove writers understood God perfectly?

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

Even if we could prove writers understood God perfectly, are interpretations perfect?

The Bible can’t be the definitive guide what God is like because interpretations of literature aren’t infallible. Scholars disagree what God according to the Bible thinks about divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, hell, end-of-the world views, etc. The fact that we may disagree, even if we had the original autographs, make infallibility an impossibility.  We can’t know if a writer may advise another audience differently, since no circumstances are exactly the same. Jesus said turn the other cheek but would He give such advice to a wife being beat by their husband?

Why we have every right to question if God inspired all of the Bible?

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. When believing writers understood God perfectly, one is tempted to rationalize how a good God could endorse genocide. This renders goodness nonsensical and unknowable! It is appropriate to ask if God really inspired such a thought. Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience can lead to a more accurate understanding of God.

Is a fallible Bible really worse than an infallible Bible?

When one is certain what God thinks according to the Bible and fails to acknowledge their interpretation could be wrong, this can lead to forcing supposed certainty on others and other unloving actions. It has led to claiming God condemns gays and women can’t serve as priests or pastors. A fallible Book can lead to acting more loving by listening to differences openly, leading to new understandings and creative solutions. Different opinions, that don’t violate the physical rights of others, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach which is God’s approach (I Jn. 4:8).

How can we know God if not through the Bible?

Our moral outrage hints of a common, human Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. All are opposed to murder, abuse, thievery, etc. whether you believe in God or not. All object from    being stolen from. We just know if something is moral or immoral. The only reason some condemn gays or women entering the priesthood is because supposedly a Book disapproves in God’s name. Even the Bible seems to suggest Jesus was a more exact representation of God than prophets (Heb. 1:1-3), so we should interpret all of Scriptures through Jesus’ example and words as best we can.

Are there dangers in assuming biblical writers understood God perfectly?

An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the supposed name of God. Different opinions must stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach, rather than forcing our opinions on others in the name of God.

Might the Bible actually defend what you believe true about a perfect God?

Hell is not biblical. No Hebrew or Greek word pictures what our word Hell suggests – a fiery torture chamber. The Bible doesn’t deny women entrance into priesthood, or say husbands are leaders over their wives. My Bible suggests women need unselfish men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29). Many, many biblical scholars who believe in the authority of Scriptures do not believe the Bible condemns monogamous, gay relationships.

Why bother reading the Bible if we can’t trust the writers always understood God?

The Bible claims to be God-breathe which can literally mean God-spirited (2 Tim. 3:16). The Bible didn’t exist as we know when the Apostle Paul wrote this statement. Could this passage mean God uses writings on paper about God to touch our spirit? The Bible records beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. God can draw us to do good and shun evil when talking or reading about God. But, the majority born never had a Bible so God can speak to us by other means. 

Keep in mind most biblical scholars accept that the Gospels – stories about Jesus – were written within 30-50 years of Jesus’ life. Legends do not develop within such a short time, as eyewitnesses can dispute claims made. Historical research can only suggest probabilities not certainties, but the Bible’s historical reliability far surpasses any other ancient literatures. When making up stuff you don’t report your leader was crucified, that your hero was rejected by their family, and followers doubted Jesus’ claims including being God in flesh – unless you are reporting the facts. Jesus simply was not the stuff legends were made up.  See here

Do God-Followers have to read the Bible or are we better off without the Bible?

The Bible can be used to unite and encourage or divide and discourage. Don’t read the Bible if it discourages you from loving others like you want to loved. Keep in mind that billions of people have lived and died without any knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. We may be better off without the Bible if a Book replaces our relationship with God and common moral sense. But, it can be helpful for individual religions to have written records so contradictions can be weighed respectfully to determine what is more likely truth about a loving God. 

Was the Bible written to answer my specific question?   

The Bible is often read as if an answer Book for our particular dilemma. One may read the passage about turning your other cheek and assume God says we can’t defend ourselves against violence. When I write I am not hoping one picks a random sentence (aka verse in the Bible) to address their problem. The Bible can’t record all the speaker didn’t say in a situation or might say differently if speaking to a different audience with their unique circumstances. Divorce is not ideal but in some circumstances, it might be best. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly but spoke about our hearts. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when dealing with difficulties?

How can we read the Bible?

Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems. The issue is our heart in solving problems as circumstances vary. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love.  Don’t check your moral conscience at the door as you consider what a loving God is really like. Unquestioning obedience has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. Reading the Bible reflectively rather than with blind obedience can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life.

Why would God allow so much uncertainty?  

It is more logical to suggest we can’t be certain what an invisible, inaudibly God thinks, but supposed certainty has led to justifying atrocities as slavery and theologians such as St. Augustine not opposing the execution of those not agreeing with their theology. God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses, but God’s overpowering presence in our lives may only lead to consuming guilt or fearful obligations to obey. How is human physical presence working in keeping you on the straight and narrow and not hiding actions from human partners or friends?  Beliefs are seldom life-changing or lasting if not freely chosen. God may know human nature benefits more through a relationship than being told what to do.

Why do we hold on to an infallible or inspired view of the Bible?

I know pastors and professors may lose their job speaking openly by questioning the Bible being the definitively guide on what God is like. I didn’t always speak openly about my profession – Mental Health. When you have written books with one view, it isn’t easy to go in an opposite direction. See my journey with the Bible  here. It is commonly suggested if the Bible isn’t inspired, “then you can’t know God for sure.” This assumes of course interpretations are infallible. Many leaders aren’t comfortable claiming uncertainty. It is much easier giving advice due to supposed certainty rather than listening and helping one make their own decisions. Even the Bible tells us the Word of God isn’t a Book but flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14), whose Spirit now lives in us (Jn. 14:16-17).

Can you imagine a world where Bible folks didn’t assume they were right about God according to the Bible?  

  • Imagine a world were women were treated equally and gays were not condemned according to God
  • Imagine a world where all followed the main teachings of the Bible by looking out for the interests of others and not just themselves with God’s help
  • Imagine what a perfect God is like if the Bible didn’t exist
  • Imagine the Bible is worth reading but it matters how we read it
  • Imagine a journey getting to know God as opposed to be told for sure what God is like

Do you use others’ perceptions of God to not seek understanding of God on your own?

If seeking more explanation of questions asked above, please see here.

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How Does The Holy Spirit Mentioned In The Bible Guide Us?

I know, I know, some saw the title Holy Spirit and thought Ghost or whatever. Just think of God’s Spirit residing in us as other influential voices in our lives. I recently wrote on where a God-follower gets guidance in determining right from wrong or making wise decisions not necessarily moral in nature. I wrote our moral institutions aren’t always the devil’s tool and the Bible can’t be our definitive authority. I failed to discuss the Spirit’s guidance according to Scriptures.

Our moral intuitions can serve as a guide.

The majority of people born into this world never had a Bible. If there is a Creator, they surely would give human beings moral sense in understanding good from evil. We just seem to know what is moral or immoral. Criminals don’t defend but deny their murderous actions. One possibility for a universal compulsion 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.

Regarding non-moral issues it is natural to think an all-knowing, powerful God can advise of best outcomes for the future, but a predetermined future makes freedom nonsensical. Freedom must be important to God or surely there would be a lot less evil in the world. God doesn’t seek to dictate future decisions but encourage and support our gifts and passions to make for a better world. We are free to make our own decisions while being open to the Spirit’s influence to act in the best interest of not just ourselves but others.

The Bible can’t be our final authority any more than a Pope.

It is magically thinking to believe we can know God absolutely through the Bible. Interpretation is required! Scholars who respect the Bible as authoritative disagree what God thinks about homosexuality, gender roles, and the afterlife to name a few critical issues. We can’t declare something immoral because the Bible says so. And, we can’t declare Jesus the end all. Jesus said: “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt. 5:44). Jesus also said: “if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek” (Mt. 5:39). Was Jesus arguing we can’t love our enemies if we must use violence to protect victims from dictators or abusive men? 

Even the Bible claims God’s Spirit guides us not a Book.  

The Bible tells us the Word of God has never been the Bible but flesh in the body of Jesus (Jn. 1:1-14). The Apostle Paul told his audience faith comes from the word (Rm. 10:17). The Bible hadn’t been written so Paul must have been referring to Jesus. Jesus is an exact representation of God as opposed to the prophets (Heb. 1: 1-3). Jesus’ Spirit now lives in us (Jn. 14:16-17), and the Spirit knows the thoughts of God (I Cor. 2: 11-16). [Please see Keith Giles, Jesus Unbounded, that we know God through Jesus and now the Spirit than the Bible].

We can’t always be certain if our impressions are the Spirit’s voice.

We can’t claim certainty with an invisible, inaudibly Spirit. I have suggested here why uncertainty may be less chaotic than certainty about God. Declaring the certainty or morality of our opinions keeps us from listening and expressing ideas openly. Certainty often leads to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Some make it seem as if the Spirit speaks truth to them and not others, and their interpretation of a Book is right over others. And husbands – if the Spirit is telling your partner something different, think again. Why would the Spirit advise partners differently unless They are a marriage wrecker? 

The Spirit doesn’t have to speak to influence.

We want the Spirit to somehow give us special insights into future decisions or people we encounter, but such desires undervalue God’s respect for freedom and thus an undetermined future. Doesn’t the Spirit mostly speak through influencing? We know the Spirit’s influence when we have thoughts to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down despite our constant failures. We know the Spirit’s influence when we recognize violence begets violence and respond non-violently. We know the Spirit’s influence when we have wronged someone, we quickly confess and make amends. That just isn’t always natural. The Spirit can help us to not fear death and have hope of being reunited with our loves ones. I am convinced the Spirit speaks to us when we hear: I love you, I forgive you; I won’t abandon you; I want what you want deep down; I am not really like who some people say I am. Are you open to the Spirit’s influence?

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How Know Terrorists And Extremists Don’t Know What God Is Really Like?


Forced love is an oxymoron

If you love something set it free. If it doesn’t come back, it was never yours in the first place

In your human relationships that you can’t get enough of, do you love them because you were commanded to

Love by choice leads to heart-felt, long-lasting choices, not brief obligations to obey motived by fear or guilt

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How Can Our Nation Handle Differences Less Chaotically?

Who doesn’t know the best way to handle differences of opinion is respectfully. It is a no-brainer that we should talk to others like we want them to talk to us. Emotional abuse or physical violence is just wrong! But what keeps us from putting that understanding into action? I have written about this ad nauseum so I am going to try to put it all together. The way individuals handle their differences in political and personal relationships is harming our nation as well as our children.

The first step in handling differences respectfully is to stop claiming moral superiority.

One way to determine morality from immorality is if a law is even necessary. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law. Spiritual-minded people are often the worse actors. In a Facebook group discussion, I may suggest the Bible can’t be the final word about God since even biblical scholars disagree on meaning of the same passages. God-folks start by saying I am wrong and nonsensically claim I know better than God. Until we stop claiming morality according to a Book or our own intuitions, we will never be able to solve our differences. Imposing our will on non-moral issues such as health care, taxes, or marriage makes freedom a mockery.

Who doesn’t know physical violence is wrong.

It is obvious physical violence is off the table in personal relationships unless protecting yourself from danger. Politics is no different. We must peacefully protest and violent protestors must be called out by their own leadership, so we can discuss solutions to our differences. It is horrible when people of different color or gender don’t naturally have the same rights. Those who enjoy their rights protected must not remain silent.  Authorities such as police must be obeyed and their actions reviewed by outside parties for possible expulsion or criminal charges. Martin Luther King demonstrated change is possible through peaceful means, but I would like to think today more of us privileged support equality.

Who doesn’t know emotional violence is wrong.

It isn’t right that President Trump belittles and name-calls. His family and those under his leadership should call him out. But, 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! If parents are an important example for their children, so is leadership an important example to their citizens. 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. Differences can be resolved by respecting the freedom of opinions and committing to growing in understanding.

Differences can lead to creative solutions than chaos.

  • We must first stop claiming our views are morally superior to those we disagree with
  • We must handle differences with physical and emotional civility
  • We can begin conversations by looking for areas we agree
  • We can discuss differences by defending our reasoning, respecting the opinions of others, and committing to growing in understanding
  • In a democratic society the vote of the majority must be followed until voted on again

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