To those done with religion but not God and my kids (Click FOLLOW for future Posts; See ABOUT/USING THIS SITE tab to navigate Site)

Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

Can God Be Whoever The Hell God Wants To Be? In Whose Image?

I disagree with images of God that are frequently claimed by Christians according to their understanding of the Bible. An objection I get in my writings is that I am attempting to make God in my own image. It is defended God can be a sexist, racist, or homophobe if God wants to be. To even claim God can be a sexist implies a universal view toward mistreating women. Does God?

You can’t make God in the Bible’s image. 

Biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures don’t agree that God condemns homosexuality or that God forbids women from being preachers or priests. See here.  See here. Do you really think God would deny women being preachers or priests or CEO of a business though more qualified than all male candidates? We can’t be certain what the image of God is according to the Bible because literature is subject to interpretation. “Biblical truths” are debatable.

You can’t make God in a “male” image.

We don’t think of God having more of the male than female anatomy. Both male and female best describe God’s image (Genesis 1:26). God is described as a woman in childbirth (Isaiah 42:14), or “a great eagle with powerful wings, long feathers and full plumage of varied colors” (Ezek. 17:3).  Clearly, God is neither male, female, nor an eagle in terms of gender or form.  The gods of the nations in biblical times were described as either male or female; the Jews did not speculate about the gender of God. The reason for more male references is the patriarchal cultures writers lived in. 

Whose image do we make God in? 

An analogy helps to discern what might be commonalities in understanding God. The Bible refers to God as our Heavenly Father/Parent. God obviously isn’t exactly like human parents for we cannot be in all places at one time, but the Bible encourages imitating or being perfect like God (Eph. 5:1; Mt. 5:48). It is natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. Human and God’s perfection are surely the same. How you wished to be loved by your parents is how God loves us. God’s image is a perfect, loving Parent!

God can’t be a sexist according to human understandings!

Most would agree it is immoral to favor one based on the color of their skin. Most would agree that is racist or bigotry. An argument could be made that to favor men over women for particular roles is sexist or bigotry. I am convinced most Christians or Muslims would not deny women equality or roles they are gifted for unless they believed they should in the name of God according to their understanding or interpretation of some Book.

What are God’s rights?

God would only claim perfect, human rights. Such claims are always in the best interests of others we claim to love – other-centered than self-centered. God loves us how we know we ought to love others. We don’t always know what perfect love entails, but we aren’t clueless. We can’t know if the biblical writers always understood God perfectly or whether our interpretation of what they write is correct. Beliefs that don’t seemingly lead to loving your neighbor more may be amiss, because they are contrary to our moral intuitions of perfection.

Why your image of God matters!

Our understanding of God can determine the depth of our relationship with God and how we might treat others. If God really created Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. If we believe God is really warlike, we may justify our actions in war when we shouldn’t. If God condemns gays, we will condemn gays out of devotion to God. If we believe God thinks men have authority over women in some positions, that will filter down to your wives, daughters, and friends and stifle their gifts. Imagine what you believe a perfect God is like in your life and the lives of others you interact with. You may be right!

 Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com If you wish to discuss anything I have written, you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com  

Is God More Mysterious Or Knowable?

I used the word “more” in the title of this blog because it seems obvious that we can’t totally understand an invisible or inaudible Being. It does seem intuitive that a God who creates freedom does so to have authentic relationships. Relationships dominated by mystery are difficult to have. Christians claim God communicates via the Holy Spirit. Would such a Spirit speak in a foreign or understandable language?  

How would a Creator communicate?

Universal moral outrage and agreement on the golden rule hints of a Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. Criminals don’t defend but deny their actions. The Bible challenges: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Perfect human love and God’s love are the same. We don’t always know what perfect love entails, but we know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly as our Creator loves us.

Does the Old Testament really declare God a mystery? 

The notion of a relational seeking God being mysterious, and not revealing, may only come from a Book. We aren’t as knowledgeable as God who is in all places at all times, but that doesn’t make God unknowable. Isaiah 55:8-9 is the most common passage to claim that God sometimes is a mystery: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” This passage isn’t suggesting we can’t understand God. The context suggests God exhorts us to forsake wicked ways (v.7) and turn to God’s higher, righteous ways (vs. 8-9). I know how to go low or high!

Does the New Testament really declare God a mystery? 

Jesus didn’t speak in parables to purposely hide His message. Nathan had more success confronting David indirectly with a parable (2 Sam 12). God’s truth is perplexing often to one’s heart not the mind. The “mystery of Christ” mentioned in the NT only reveals that God’s plan to bless all through Israel by way of Christ wasn’t fully revealed until after OT times. Paul says: “My goal is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Col 2: 3-4). 

Assuming God is mysterious may only come from one’s understanding of a Book about God.

Biblical interpreters play the mystery card when their understanding suggests God’s morals are not the same as human morals. Isn’t this because we all have an inborn intuition that God and human perfect love are the same? Language breaks down if we say God’s evil sometimes is mysteriously good. If God is evil sometimes humanly speaking, are we supposed to hate God? If God isn’t understandable, why does the Bible ask us to imitate God (Eph. 5:1)?   

Why your view of God matters!

Our understanding of God can determine the depth of our relationship with God and how we might treat others. If God really created Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. If we believe God is really warlike, we may justify our actions in war when we shouldn’t. If God condemns gays, we will condemn gays out of devotion to God. If we believe God thinks men have authority over women in some positions, that will filter down to your wives, daughters, and friends and stifle their gifts. Imagine what you believe a perfect God is like in your life and the lives of others you interact with. You may be right!

 

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com If you wish to discuss anything I have written, you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com  

Do We Understand God Through The Bible Or Common Moral Sense

We can’t prove God exists much less prove our understanding of God is the correct one. If God does exist, what may be the most likely way to understand an invisible Creator? It seems doubtful a Creator would communicate to their creations only through a Book, since the majority of people born into this world didn’t possess a copy of the Bible. How God’s creations think they ought to love others (aka how we wish to be treated) may be how a loving, inaudible God communicates.

Where has an infallible or inspired Bible led us? 

God may have motivated/influenced/inspired writers to record the story of God, but that doesn’t mean necessarily that God controlled or approved all that is written about God. I Samuel 15:3 claims God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” We cannot really prove God inspired these words or hundreds of passages in the Old Testament that advocate violence in God’s name. God’s supposed warlike attitudes in the OT have been used to justify wars throughout history. Imagine if terrorists admitted God possibly didn’t inspire every word in a Book, and we had to use common moral sense to understand what a truly loving God is like.

A possible fallible Bible avoids the slippery slope toward inspired interpretations. 

It is common to hear one argue “The Bible says” without adding “according to my understanding.” It is often said we best know God according to “biblical truths.” The truth is contrary biblical interpretations exist for many moral issues. See here. Supposed certainty has led to condemning gays, though scholars who accept Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree the Bible disapproves of same-gender loving relationships. Interpretation rules don’t guarantee understanding a writer’s meaning, much less confirm the biblical writers always understood God perfectly. We cannot avoid using common moral sense when understanding a loving God and Scriptures.   

Which interpretation more likely reveals who God really is?

It seems obvious a Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others. The Bible even suggests perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). We don’t always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly or am I loving others like our Creator loves. Clearly, Bible or no Bible, not everything goes! Choose the view of God that doesn’t contradict your moral sense of a loving God. See  here.

What does God think about women, gays, etc.?

The Bible is God’s story beginning with Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents. Reading the Bible encourages questioning and contemplating what a loving God is really like. Many recognize as bigotry if we chose business leaders based on gender than gifts. Similarly, should women though gifted be denied entrance in to the priesthood or pastorate? It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Mental health problems don’t originate because one is gay but because one is force to hide their true identify and experience condemnation. It is better to question rather than claim certainty and be wrong!

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com If you wish to discuss anything I have written, you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com  

Should Christians Push Others To Accept God And Their Beliefs?

It is often implied Jesus’ mission was to get others to confess certain beliefs to avoid hell and enter heaven. But Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but a life worth living here on earth. See here.  When Jesus interacted with a woman caught in adultery, He first stopped the crowd’s stoning attempts. Then, Jesus simply told the woman “go now, and leave your life of sin” (John 8). Good advice! Jesus didn’t advise her what to believe in case He never saw her again.    

Jesus stressed loving God and neighbors the most important commandments (Mt 22:37-40).

My children love me best by loving others to the fullest. A perfect, loving God surely desires the same of their creations. Loving God is loving others to the fullest. How do we love others? Who doesn’t respect the golden rule in relationships – treat others as you wish to be treated? Turns out God only desires for us what we deep down desire from ourselves. A loving parent or God openly discusses beliefs to seek what leads to an individual’s own good and the world’s good.

Does God eventually require allegiance?

I don’t see how a God who creates freedom requires obedience. Evil in the world clearly reveals God doesn’t force compliance, or there wouldn’t be so much horrific evil in this world. God obviously understands what we humans know – freedom is necessary for authenticity. Not even God can force true love. Is there a day of reckoning for rejecting God here on earth? It is suspect God stops forgiving before or after death. One’s faith often depends what land or family born into. It is suspect God is a God of chance. Careful! Character developed here on earth may carry over.

Did the main writer of the NT demand certain beliefs?

The Apostle Paul certainly sought to convince others about Jesus. I would too if I had a vision of Jesus after he died (Acts 9), and knew eyewitnesses that had seen Jesus alive after dying on the Cross. Two thousand years later, we may have different discussions. Paul debated his beliefs with others who seemed open, though he didn’t force traditions that may have been important to him (Rm 14). In marriage Paul didn’t advise a believer to impose their beliefs on an unbeliever but let them go (I Cor. 7:15). Believers shouldn’t insist non-believers share their beliefs.     

How do we share with others about God and our relationship?

Those who feel loved, encouraged, and inspired in their relationship with God naturally want others to experience such a relationship. I enjoy discussing what a loving God may truly be like as much as one may want to discuss a great book they read. I am not suggesting such conversations be forced or that conversations have any hidden agenda to convert one to your beliefs. If you believe God desires to influence all for good, you will trust God to make such discussions natural.

One doesn’t have to be perfect to talk about God, but it is reasonable to expect those who talk about God to act godly.  I admit God conversations seldom happen in my life. Often others rightly smell hidden agendas to proselytize because of their past experiences. Such conversations are seldom successful if forced. It is up to God rather than us to inspire others to seek ways to be a more loving, caring person. One has to hope the life we live is enough for others to consider discussions about God when they have such an interest or need.  

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.comIf you wish to discuss anything I have written, you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com  

Was Paul, A Main Writer Of The New Testament, A Bigot Against Women?

I am not suggesting to read the Bible as a question-and-answer book. We can’t know if the biblical writers always understood God perfectly, unless God somehow magically controlled the writers’ thoughts and words recorded. The writer’s advice may not always be God’s advice. The Bible records experiences of beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings wouldn’t be questioned but to contemplate what a loving God may be really like.

The Bible must not be used to further the abuse of women at the hands of men. All relationship circumstances aren’t the same. Use common, moral loving sense. Women, if in danger by all means run! Take care of yourself. Even if you believe God inspired every word written down, you still must interpret the writer’s meaning. Opposite interpretations exist on many major issues such as women roles, hell, gays, etc. Our interpretations are certainly not inspired, but I doubt Paul was a misogynist even according to the Bible.

I Corinthians 14:34 says: “women should remain silent in church. ….be in submission.” 

Paul’s advice must surely be due to the circumstances at hand – the gospel was liberating women but Paul wanted: “everything to be done in a fitting and orderly way (14:40).” That seems the best way to make sense that Paul practically in the same breath didn’t condemn women praying and prophesying (I Cor. 11:4-5). Pretty hard to prophesize silently! Paul mentions also that roles are according to one’s gifts and doesn’t mention gender (I Cor. 12:4-11). Romans 16 is only one of many chapters in the Bible that speaks of women in leadership roles (i.e. Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26). Women or men shouldn’t teach if leads to disruption not peace.   

I Tim 2:11-12 says: “A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.”

Paul surely had in mind not spreading false teachings. Paul in verse 14 used Adam and Eve to illustrate what to avoid – Eve prevailing upon Adam to go against God’s ways. Keep in mind Paul says elsewhere Adam was responsible for what happened in the Garden. (Rom 5:12). Those who suggest this passage teaches women can’t teach men ever often allow women to teach women and children as if they are less important than men! Paul advises women to avoid certain hairstyles or jewelry (I Tim: 2:9), but churches don’t make the same prohibitions as women teaching. 

Eph 5:22 says: “Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do the Lord.” 

Paul also says in verse 25: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her.” Maybe husbands should hold off telling their wives to submit to their authority until he has successfully and perfectly loved her as Christ loves her. God doesn’t even demand we submit to God by creating freedom. One may say eventually we must submit to God as a reckoning after death. Men, then wait until you are dead to tell your wives to submit!

Submission is often interpreted in marriage to imply when there is an impasse, someone must make the final decision. Jesus said the first shall be last, but most men don’t interpret this to mean their wife is the final decision-maker. I have never had a marriage issue in 38 years that can’t be solved creatively together. Men in 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. Give me an inch and I am tempted to take a mile! Women need men with the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).

How do we decide how God really feels about women and men relationships?

It is plausible a universal instinct to treat others like we want to be treated is a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions. I am not sure why any fair-minded person would think women can’t fulfill the same roles as men unless believing a Book about God teaches otherwise. Most agree not allowing equal roles because of skin color is immoral. Choosing who should lead the company based on gender is obviously bigotry. The most qualified or gifted should surely lead the company. Why not in church? It seems Galatians 3:28 may be God’s ideal if the truth can be handled: “There is neither Jew or Gentile, neither slave or free, neither male nor female, for you all are one in Christ Jesus (Gal. 3:28).”

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com If you wish to discuss anything I have written, you can email me at medwar2@gmail.com  

Who Believes This About A Loving God Except Because Of A Book?

We can’t claim the Bible is a one-stop information source about God. We can’t prove God inspired all of the Bible thus approved everything written about God. Maybe God didn’t inspire every word due to God’s uncontrolling nature. Maybe God wants us to read the Bible to contemplate what a loving God may be really like. Maybe God speaks to us through our moral intuitions which is what the Bible describes as guidance by the Holy Spirit – unless you are hearing an audible voice.  

I will list only a few beliefs that make no moral sense to me. For a full railing see here.

  • God can’t be a hellish sadist. Such pain serves no lasting purpose anyway. Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies. The only reason to believe Hell really exist is because of some book, but I doubt the traditional understanding of Hell exist in the Bible. See here.
  • God can’t be a religion excluder. A loving God wouldn’t only let Christians into heaven when the majority of people born into this world died without knowledge of Jesus the Christ. One’s religion, or rebellion against a certain religion, is often based on the family born into whether it is Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, etc. Is God a God of chance?
  • God can’t be a homophobe. A loving God couldn’t possibly condemn gays when they can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? If you are a straight man, don’t you naturally have to fight not looking at naked women than men? Ask gays their battle! Who chooses to be gay when one has to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility?
  • God can’t be a sexist. God wouldn’t put men in leadership position over women which has enabled dominance on the man’s part leading to atrocities women face at the hands of men. Like many views about God, the Bible can also be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. Men and women have God in trying to out serve one another. Shouldn’t the most qualified or gifted, whether male or female, be appointed CEO, preacher, or priest?
  • God can’t be a moral hypocrite humanly-speaking. If God exists, God surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others. I don’t know any reasonable God or non-God person that doesn’t respect the golden rule in relationships. God also!
  • God can’t be a “hidden agenda” friend. It has to be wrong to engage in friendships for the purpose of manipulating them to your beliefs. Friends aren’t evangelistic projects. Jesus’ agenda was to simply love people in the moment. Jesus wanted others to know God loves them and seeks to help them be who they want to be deep down if desiring such help.
  • God can’t be an angry egomaniac. God doesn’t want to be feared as if that leads to a genuine relationship. If God was so worried about their ego, God would not have given us freedom to contradict their wishes. God surely only wants what we deep down desire – loving others like we want to be loved.

I’m done!

 

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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 or like my page on  FACEBOOK and leave a comment. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

 

Isn’t It Best To Consider Not All Of The Bible Is Inspired By God?

Despite contradictions and moral challenges in the Bible, many hold on to an inspired Bible for fear the Bible will be discarded for “whatever goes” in understanding God.  But it seems obvious, even without a Bible, a Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others (aka common moral sense). I don’t know any reasonable human being who doesn’t respect the universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated. The Bible can be viewed as God’s love story beginning with Israel and culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other document. God didn’t necessarily inspire or approve of everything written about God. Reading the Bible encourages questioning and contemplating what a loving God is really like.

The Bible’s infallibility is a non-starter.

  • II Sam 24: 1 says God incited David to sin; I Chr 21:1 blames it on Satan
  • II Sam 24:24 has David paying fifty pieces of silver for Orman’s threshing floor; I Chr 21:25 says six hundred was paid
  • 2 Kgs 24:6 says Jehoiakim had a son; Jer 36:30 says Jehoiakim had no son to reign after him
  • Matthew 27:9-10 says Jeremiah mention thirty pieces of silver; it was Zechariah (Zech 11: 12)
  • Jesus said the rooster would crow once after Peter’s three denials (Mt 26.34, Lk 22:34, John 13:38), Mark says the rooster crowed twice (Mk 14:30)

The list of contradictions may be trivial but are sizable (Gregory Boyd, Inspired Imperfection, Chapter 1). It seems obvious God didn’t at least control the writers from being wrong in their factual information. Moral challenges are not so trivial. Did God really inspire acts or language of genocide? I Samuel 15:3 claims God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Hundreds of passages in the Old Testament advocate violence in God’s name. Did God really approve of laws that burned alive sexual offenders (Lev 20:14 21:9)?

One can only guess not prove every word in the Bible is inspired.    

Biblical writers rarely claimed audible God-speak. “God said” recorded hundreds of times in the Bible may be a figure of speech expressing inner impressions about God – right or wrong. Writers/editors of the Bible didn’t lie but were honest in their understandings of God. Exodus 20: 1-17 starts by saying “all these words” when the 10 commandments were given to Moses from God. The 10 commandments are repeated again in Deuteronomy 5:6-18 but with some slight word variation. Shouldn’t both passages be the same verbatim? Anyway, the Bible is suggested to be inspired or God-breathe because the biblical writers claim so. Such logic is circular.

 An inspired view of the Bible can be dangerous.

It would seem if God inspired an action attributed to God, that God approves such actions. Not questioning if writers always portrayed God accurately has led to justifying killing infidels in the name of God. God’s supposed warlike attitudes in the Old Testament have been used to justify wars throughout history. Imagine if terrorists admitted that God possibly didn’t approve of actions they interpret as denying freedom of beliefs! An inspired Bible has led to assuming God put men in leadership positions over women which has encouraged historical dominance on the man’s part. People condemn gays, despite their moral intuitions, because God supposedly rejects same gender loving relationships according to a Book. A fallible Book may actually lead to knowing God better.

An inspired Bible leads down the slippery slope of inspired interpretations.

It is common to hear one argue “The Bible says” without one adding “according to my understanding.” The Bible can be used to defend opposite views regarding gays, women’s roles, the traditional understanding of Hell, etc. Literature requires interpretation! Some scholars hold on to inspiration views by claiming God accommodates less than perfect views written about God because humans can’t handle the truth. So, we still have to interpret which passages reveal the real God. We can avoid the slippery slope toward supposed inspired interpretations by acknowledging the Bible may be fallible.    

Questioning what is inspired by God can explain animal sacrifice.

Many ancient near eastern groups or nations before Israel had a sacrificial system like the Israelites. An uncontrolling God isn’t coercive but influential. It is doubtful God ever approved or desired to accommodate animal cruelty. This may explain why later OT writers wrote that God preferred contrite hearts over animal sacrifices (Ps 51:16-17, Jer 7:22, Micah 6:6). This understanding also leads to different interpretations of the Cross and views of God for many – did Jesus die to appease God’s wrath and need for sacrifice or did Jesus better convey God’s radical love and ways by submitting to wrongdoing? Using power to overcome often doesn’t accomplished the greater good.

What about the Bible claiming to be God-breathe though?

2 Tim 3:16-17 is the only time Scriptures used the Greek word “theopneustos” which literally means God-breathe: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.”

  • Keep in mind this could only refer to OT writings for the final NT canon didn’t exist and in fact many NT books had not even been written
  • God-breathe can also be interpreted literally as God-spirited. This could mean God uses writings (the Greek word for Scripture is “graphis” or writings) to touch our hearts without necessarily declaring such writings are infallible or perfect views of God. It is possible biblical writers perceived God wrongly but God still used that for correcting in righteousness.
  • God could even teach you something in this writing (post) 😊

Didn’t Jesus claim or imply the Old Testament was inspired by God?

Does John 5:45-46 claim that Jesus said believing in Jesus is believing what Moses wrote? No doubt Jesus revered and referred frequently to OT writings. This doesn’t confirm that Moses or any OT writer always wrote perfectly about God. Moses said to take an oath (Deut 6:13); Jesus said to take no oaths (Mt. 5:37). Jesus seemed to correct OT laws that didn’t fully or correctly convey God’s ways (Mt 5). Some scholars suggest Jesus was simply expanding or interpreting correctly OT laws. Regardless, we must use common moral sense because ancient literature requires interpretation. Finally, Jesus’ words can’t be the end all. Some interpret Jesus to justify violence in certain circumstances while others suggest Jesus argued for no violence.

Which understanding of God should we lean toward?  

Choose the interpretation about God that doesn’t contradict your intuitive sense of a loving God. Many recognize as bigotry if we chose business leaders based on gender than gifts. Putting men in spiritual leadership positions over women can be conducive for abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men. It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Ask them! Which interpretation? We don’t always know what perfect love is, but it is better to question than be wrong.

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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 . I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

Won’t We Screw Up Freedom In Heaven Too?

Freedom by God is necessary for perhaps the highest good in relationships – authenticity. Not even God can force true love. Freedom has possible consequences such as suffering, but if God didn’t create freedom we could accuse God of not creating the “most loving” world. So, freedom must exist here or earth and freedom surely exist in heaven.

Freedom requires that God can’t know the future.

The future must be open if we are truly free and God is truly loving. There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined. The good news about God not knowing the future is that we can feel God truly want us to feel free without strings attached. Is that what we desire to feel from our human parents when making decisions?

Why it matters that God doesn’t know the future.

A young woman may ask God for wisdom in marrying their partner. It seems a match made in heaven, but their partner becomes abusive. If God supposedly knows the future, why didn’t God warn the young woman? A human parent would warn their child if they knew ahead of time. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. A controlling God can lead to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?”

We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions” or missing out on God’s will. We already know the mind of God when it comes to moral decisions; otherwise, God supports us in making best decisions at the time that make our lives and the lives of others better. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good is achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths.

Even the Bible suggest an all-powerful God can’t know the future.

Hundreds of biblical passages could be cited to defend either God does or doesn’t know the future. For example, in the beginning the writers suggested that an all-powerful Being doesn’t know much less control the future. Genesis 6:5-6 speaks of God regretting decisions: “God saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on earth…God regretted that he had made human beings on the earth and his heart was deeply troubled.” If God knew the outcome of decisions, why did God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

What About Freedom In Heaven Then?

It would not be loving for God to force others to accept God’s ways even in heaven. Perhaps character developed on earth may eventually lead to seeing no good reasons for doing bad in heaven, which surely is the highest form of freedom. If one wishes to entertain the possibility of sin in heaven because of the presence of freedom, we can at least hope God’s presence will have a greater impact than earthly, human authority to dissuade selfishness. We thrive more under certain types of parental love and leadership because of their qualities such as integrity and understanding. Also, we can hope heaven will not have certain negative temptations.

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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 or like my page on  FACEBOOK and leave a comment. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

It Matters If Your God Is Nurturing Or Authoritative!

I’m convinced belief in a benevolent God makes you kinder. We often treat others the way we think God treats us. How has God’s threats of punishment helped you break away from bad habits or behaviors you long to change? Grace or authoritativeness doesn’t guarantee change, but I believe we best change because of God’s or friends’ love and acceptance. Below is John Sander’s article on the topic in a book recently published Open and Relational Leadership: Leading with Love.  I also included a link below of my article in the book.

The Leadership of a Nurturant God

By John Sanders

Christian leaders should imitate the leadership style of the God who nurtures.

The pastor plopped his Bible down on the table, pointed to it, and said, “I want to know why you put a question mark where God put a period?”

He was upset about my book that surveyed a range of views that Christians hold on the topic of the destiny of those who never heard of Christ. He believed that biblical teaching on the topic was clear, simple, and singular. He did not like it that I rejected his position and, instead, endorsed a range of different views that in one way or another gave hope for the salvation of those who have never heard of Jesus.

The values underlying the different approaches taken by the pastor and me arise from what social scientists call Nurturant and Authoritative values. Nurturants believe it is best to empower people by affirming and loving them. Nurturants prize values such as listening to others, perspective taking, and humility. Authoritatives believe that followers must first obey the leaders before the leaders show acceptance to them. Authoritative leaders need not listen to others because they are the ones in charge and questioning the leader means challenging their authority. They think that perspective taking and humility are signs of weakness. Leaders should simply say, “Because I said so.”

Open theism is a variety of Nurturant morality while much of evangelicalism and conservative Catholicism are versions of Authoritative morality. The Apostle Paul implored Christians to “be imitators of God” (Eph. 5:1). Richard Kearney says, “Tyrannical Gods breed tyrannical humans.” We imitate the deity we believe in and there are those who believe in an Authoritative God and those who affirm a Nurturant God. Both Gods seek to create humans in their image. I claim that the overall biblical portrait is that of a nurturing God and that Christian leaders should emulate these characteristics. Some examples will show how this works.

Many biblical texts show that God is both responsive to our input and open to our prayers. For example, when God announced his intended judgment on Sodom, Abraham questioned and negotiated with God (Gen. 18). An Authoritative God would have told Abraham: “I am God so shut your mouth.” Instead, God patiently listened and considered Abraham’s concerns. In another story God and Jacob have an encounter and God wants to leave but Jacob (whose name means “grabber”) grabs onto God and wrestles all night long with God. In response, God blesses Jacob and gives him a new name—Israel, which means, “wrestles with God.” God approved of what Jacob did. In Exodus, God asked Moses to return to Egypt and liberate the Jewish people. However, Moses does not do what God says. Instead, he raises five problems with God’s plan. An Authoritative God would have said, “Go now, because I said so. Do not question my plan or authority!” But the Nurturant God was open to Moses’s questions and to each of them God reiterates that “I will be with you.” Even when Moses tells God to go “find somebody else,” God adjusted the divine plan by allowing Aaron to do the public speaking. Thus, God was flexible and adaptive in working with people.

The way God relates in these stories fits with Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, and not arrogant. It does not insist on its own way. Rather, love puts up with us, has faith in us, and places hope in us. God does not say, “It’s my way or the highway” nor does God display a “take it or leave it” attitude. Rather, God engages us with a give-and-take in which both parties contribute and God practices innovation and employs flexible plans. God works with us like a jazz band which requires improvisation from all the players. At various times, each player takes the lead and the other players have to respond to what the other is doing. Love, says Paul, is not boastful so God does not say, “My music is the only music that matters.” Rather, God delights in sharing the stage and seeing what music others produce. Of course, this involves some risk on God’s part because we may do things that harm others. Love trusts others but we can, at times, disappoint the beloved.

The Nurturant God listens to our input and is flexible in adjusting plans. God empowers us to participate in the vocation of redemption and delegates responsibility to us for many things. Sometimes we bring God success but we can also let God down. This is how a strong leader operates. Inflexible people who demand their own way are weak leaders. If God is a nurturing leader, then leaders who imitate God will treat others the way God treats us. They will love others by empowering them. They will put faith in others to accomplish a mission. They will hope for a better future.

Philosophers like to speak about God’s “great-making” properties by which they mean power and knowledge. God certainly has these but if Jesus is our best example of what God is like, then God’s great-making properties include love, empathy, humility, and perspective taking. As God incarnate, Jesus “walked a mile in our shoes.” God experienced what it is like to be human.

Genuine leaders are those who learn what other people in the organization are experiencing. In church and in business, leaders should find ways to understand the perspective of others and practice humility by being willing to learn from others. God does not micromanage the church. Rather, God puts divine trust in us. How is that for confidence? It is what church leaders should do as well. One thing that often prevents leaders from doing this is the fear that lack of control may result in others doing things that bring embarrassment on the congregation or organization. But God takes risks with us and we should do the same.

Another implication of the way God works with us is that churches should reject autocratic rulers. If God listens to us and considers our concerns, then leaders should foster democratic structures in order to hear the voices of others. In much of church history, leaders have been authoritarian, and pastors have been little potentates ruling over their piece of the kingdom. They are in charge and seek to control what others believe and do. Making sure that everyone has a voice and providing for some diversity should be a high priority for Nurturant leaders. In the Bible, the metaphor of God as a king is common. But God is quite an unusual king. A king who values what others have to say, exercises flexible strategies, and comes to us humbly in Jesus. This is true kingship and leadership.

One last area of leadership that I want to mention returns us to the story of the pastor criticizing my work for presenting different Christian views on a topic. If God trusts in us and is open to going in directions we want to pursue (as with Moses), then leaders should expect some diversity of viewpoints and practices. We should make room for a “constrained pluralism” of views and practices. We should be able to agree on some general Christian beliefs and practices. Yet, because we do not know everything and do not possess a foolproof understanding of what God wants, we should have humility in our claims to truth.

Throughout history, many church leaders affirmed the Authoritative God and sought to impose monopoly religion on everyone. They established all the correct beliefs and practices, such as those surrounding the Lord’s Supper, and anyone who thought differently was exiled, tortured, or burned at the stake. The Nurturant approach affirms a few general Christian truths and allows for a range of views. This is not an “anything goes” approach. Rather, it acknowledges that Christians, from the first century on, have always had some diversity. One can favor a particular understanding of say, baptism, while recognizing that other Christians think differently. In short, one can affirm a specific doctrine or practice as the best and tolerate other Christian views. A Nurturant approach expects some diversity while Authoritative religion fosters monopolies, uniformity, and punishes those who do not conform.

Christian leaders should imitate the Nurturant God. God is love and love is patient, kind, and does not insist on its own way. God values our input and invites us to join the divine band and create some music. God does not micromanage and control us. Instead, God empowers us and takes the risk that we may mess up along the way. In addition, God allows for a range of beliefs and practices—a constrained pluralism. Leaders should emulate these important values.

John Sanders is Professor of Religious Studies at Hendrix College. He is the co-author of The Openness of God, and author of The God Who Risks and Embracing Prodigals. He enjoys basketball and kayaking.

Does Godly Leadership Require Certainty About God? By Mike Edwards

 

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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 or like my page on  FACEBOOK and leave a comment. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

 

Why Has God Become Bad News?


It isn’t always easy to believe all of the Bible, but the story of Jesus does seem to be an amazing love story. Jesus is claimed to represent or be God here on earth but doesn’t use His power to avoid crucifixion? What is up with that! Understanding what our Creator is really like can be very good news.

It doesn’t help that christian hypocrisy taints the message!

The truth is that we all are hypocrites. What human being lives up to the standards they know in their heart are honorable? But it is reasonable to expect those who talk about God to act godly. It doesn’t help that Christians don’t get along, as evidenced by the tens of thousands of denominations, all claiming their beliefs are the right ones. It doesn’t help that God-folks often don’t say sorry right away when they screw up. Beliefs don’t matter as much as your actions.

It doesn’t help God is claimed to be a hellish, sexist, homophobe! 

The three biggest lies about God may be that God is a hellish sadist, that God is a sexist who believe men should be in leadership positions over women which has encouraged dominance on the man’s part leading to atrocities women face at the hands of men, and God condemns gays though they can no more chose who they are attracted to then straights. I doubt a loving God is capable of creating hell, denying women role they are gifted for, and condemning gays. See here.

It doesn’t help when claiming an almighty God is a controlling God.   

The truth is God can’t so some things. A good God can’t lie. God can’t act unloving. I would argue God can’t be controlling because such behaviors are unloving. Ask any adult child! It is plausible so much evil in the world exist because God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. Divine love limits divine power. Maybe God can only stop evil with the help of others freely helping. Prayer mustn’t be represented as if God is a genie in a bottle. 

The prosperity gospel is miserably false. A person who believes that all their troubles will be swept away through a relationship with God is left with the logical explanation that God has failed them. Why don’t these false teachers take their message to those in extreme poverty or go to hospitals and heal the sick? The Bible is clear that lack of faith is not the reason for physical ailments or economic hardships. What God promises is a relationship with your Creator will can make you a better person than you were. I am which might not be saying much but I am trying! 

It doesn’t help when Christians claim to be so damn certain. 

Message alert. Christians can’t prove God exist. Neither can it be proven God doesn’t exist. Either believe requires faith. Christians need to let God handle their own business. It God wishes to convince anyone God is real, that is on God! It is logical to suggest we can’t be certain what an invisible, inaudibly God thinks, but supposed certainty has led to justifying slavery and other atrocities. Certainty has led to condemning gays, though scholars who accept Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree the Bible disapproves of same-gender loving, monogamous, consensual relationships. Women, though gifted, are denied entrance into the priesthood or pastorate in God’s name. Uncertainty not certainty about God, unless talking about beheading infidels, protects against imposing beliefs on others in God’s name. We need honest, open dialogue as we continually evaluate what a loving God would truly be like.

God is good news because the bad news isn’t true! 

So many claims about God aren’t true. The Bible implies we can understand God’s love because perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). Do you wish to believe in a God that you understand is truly loving? Also, do you wish to be shown mercy, be given second chances, to be forgiven for your regrets no matter how many times you fail, to be encouraged to be the person you deep down desire to be? Don’t you think you should show the same behaviors to others? Good news – God is a better lover than we are!

Click on FOLLOW at bottom right of this page to enter email address to be notified of future Posts. 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 or like my page on  FACEBOOK and leave a comment. I also blog at http://donewithreligion.com

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: