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Archive for October, 2018

By Mike Edwards

The Bible may be one major reason people are done with religion or spirituality. I am not convinced most people are opposed to believing in the possibility of a God out of rebellion; instead understandings about God shape attitudes toward God. Don’t believe everything you hear about the Bible! Biblical authors were possibly encouraged by God to write about their experiences, but I have my doubts that God always controlled their thoughts/words of the Bible.

It is perfectly normal to question the Bible and God.  

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. Is there any rational reason that a good God would endorse genocide? Reading the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind acceptance may lead to a more accurate understanding of God. God, like any parent, rather be challenged than ignored.

We really can’t know if the Bible is infallible or our interpretations are correct.  

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

Besides, literature require interpretation and we can’t be sure of a writer’s meaning. Forget the Older Testament! Scholars disagree what God thinks about divorce, homosexuality, hell, etc. in the NT. The reality of disagreement makes infallibility an impossibility. Many don’t openly admit their interpretations may be wrong but give the impression their interpretations are infallible. 

Why might people insist on a perfect Bible.  

Pastors and professors may lose their job questioning the Bible being the definitively guide on what God is like. I didn’t always speak openly about my mental health profession for fear of losing my job. See my journey with the Bible here.  It is objected that if the Bible isn’t inspired, “then you can’t know God for certain.” This assumes of course interpretations are infallible. Many leaders aren’t comfortable claiming uncertainty. It is easier giving advice due to supposed certainty rather than listening and helping one make their own decisions.

It is said we can’t know God if not through the Bible. 

Did billions born into this world who never had a Bible or heard of Jesus know nothing about their Creator? Even the Bible claims we best know God through God’s spirit than the written word. Universal moral outrage toward murder, abuse, etc., hints of a common, human Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. Why do most oppose murder, abuse, thievery, etc. whether believing in God or not? We just know we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. The reason some condemn women in the priesthood is because supposedly a Book disapproves in God’s name. 

It is said uncertainty about God leads to chaos or lawlessness.

Certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. Failing to read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love and putting oneself in another’s shoes has led to condemning gays in God’s name. Uncertainty can force us to accept one another’s differences. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but can be resolved by remaining open-minded to new understandings and creative solutions. 

It is said the Bible is of no value if it misrepresents God. 

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 about God or reading the Bible reflectively in striving to be more the person we desire to be. But remember, the majority born never had a Bible so God may speak to us by other means. 

Don’t read the Bible if it discourages you from loving others like you want to loved. We may be better off without the Bible if a Book replaces our relationship with God and common moral sense. Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems as circumstances vary. The issue is our heart in solving problems. Reading the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life. 

It is said God is inhumane for not being more visible or clear. 

Direct communication isn’t always magical. God supposedly spoke audibly to Moses (Ex. 20) to keep the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments,  but some assumed that meant not helping an injured soul on the Sabbath. God’s overpowering presence in our lives may only lead to consuming guilt or fearful obligations to obey. There may be plausible justification for God not revealing themselves more openly. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time may be the best journey. Beliefs are seldom life-changing if not through a relationship rather than being told what to do.   

It is said mortals should not question God but there are dangers assuming Bible infallible.   

Many reject God because of what an infallible Bible supposedly says about God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired thus justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the name of God. We must use common moral sense. Even Jesus when leaving this earth said His Spirit, not some Book, would guide us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem worried that Truth always requires discernment.  

What might a world look like if Bible folks didn’t argue because the Bible says so? 

  • Imagine a world if women and gays were treated equally and not condemned according to God
  • Imagine a world where all followed the clear teachings of the Bible by looking out for the interests of others 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 if religious leaders encourage a journey seeking self- understanding of God

For further elaboration see:  http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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by Jim Gordon

Have you noticed how people like to look up toward the sky when they think of God? I recently watched several football players giving God praise by looking up and pointing toward the sky. Many of us who are Christians seem to think of God as being up in the sky somewhere looking down on us. We are taught in our churches that God is up there and someday we will go to meet him and be with him.

 

We tend to forget that the Kingdom of God is within us. We are told that we are the temple of the Holy Spirit and God makes his home within us. The fact is that we really do not act like we believe this truth.

 

If we could only get it in our head and down in our spirit that God is not somewhere up there, far away in heaven. He lives within us by his Spirit. We have the Spirit within us to teach and guide us. The bible says we have the mind of Christ. That is because his Spirit lives within us.

TempleofGodfor WordPress

 

We are living in the Kingdom right now. Yes, we are constrained by our human body but our spirit is one with his Spirit and we are spiritually living with him in his Kingdom.

 

It would be nice to begin hearing more about the presence of God within us right now rather than a God who is far away and who may show up from time to time to bless us in some special way if we attend the right meeting at the right place.

 

God is here now, living within us. He goes with us each and every day through whatever we go through in our daily life. He loves us and is concerned about us and is there for our good. It can be a hard thing to get the old teachings of the church out of our heads and accept the fact that God lives within us now. It reminds me of the old saying ‘you can take the boy out of the country but you can’t take the country out of the boy’. You can take the boy out of religion but you can’t take religion out of the boy, or it is really hard to do so.

 

Religion is man’s way of making his way to God. Yet we find out that man cannot come to God by his efforts and good works. Grace is the only way man comes to God, and it is all by the good works of the Father through Jesus.

 

Once Jesus left this earth he sent us a comforter, his Spirit who now dwells within his Church. His Church is not a religious organization and is not a building. It is his followers no matter what church they attend or if they do not attend a religious organization at all.

 

God lives within us. He makes his home within us and is with us spiritually just as much now as he will be when this earthly body passes away and we live in our glorified, spiritual bodies.

 

Start making the effort to see things as God says they are, not as we have been taught within religion. God is not up in the sky, he lives within us. We are his temple and each of us collectively form his kingdom body now.

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By Mike Edwards

Citizens have vastly different opinions but why can’t we disagree as a nation without all the current chaos by recognizing that certain behaviors are just plain wrong in marriage, friendships, and among citizens. Imagine if all felt safe to express themselves no matter their opinions!

Physical violence is wrong.

It is obvious physical violence is off the table in personal relationships unless protecting yourself from danger. Can you imagine the uproar if people stood by while partners were physically abusing one another? We can peacefully protest but violent protestors must be called out by their own leadership. Those privileged whose rights aren’t being violated must not remain silent when those of a different gender or color are not treated equally.

Emotional violence is obviously wrong.

Is it ever okay for one to verbally abuse their partner? Those who have President Trump’s attention – call him out every time he belittles or name-calls. One can still agree with some of President Trump’s policies but oppose emotionally abusive, provocative behaviors. There are better ways to defend policies that you believe will advance a nation without violating one emotionally.

But, a nation has moral issues that marriages don’t!

Partners fall out of love when each start acting if their way is right. An issue is obviously moral when there is practically universal agreement and one in physical danger. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law. Until we stop claiming morality according to a Book or our own intuitions, we will never be able to solve our differences. It is a dictatorship not a democracy when we impose our will on non-moral issues such as health care or taxes, where there are legitimate pros and cons.

We can’t change our partner or a nation but we can try to be a part of the solution.

  • Renounce all acts of physical or verbal violence
  • Stop claiming your views are morally superior to those you disagree with
  • Defend your reasoning, accept the freedom of opinions, and respect the voting process
  • Happily married couples and citizen begin conversations by looking for areas to agree while treating others the way they wish to be treated but it takes two to tango

 

 

 

 

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by Rocky Glenn

Being born with an evangelist for a father and a mother who not only taught more of my Sunday school and vacation Bible school classes than I can remember, but also traveled with dad as part of a southern gospel group, it’s no surprise most memories of early childhood involve some sort of church activity or function.  From carrying cardboard sheep clothed in a robe in the annual Christmas play to sitting front row during the Saturday night singings, from helping to print the church bulletins at home in our basement to laying out the stencils on the plywood as dad painted the revival sign, from singing in the kid’s choir to eating flower shortbread cookies with holes in the center while drinking from little plastic jugs filled with grape flavored drink, childhood for me was church.  Of all those memories, one of my favorite memories is the excitement of dad receiving a new set of gospel tracts in the mail and knowing I got to help sort and stamp them.

If you’re unfamiliar, a gospel tract is simply a pamphlet or brochure containing a scripture or religious message.  Most tracts are typically small, pocket-sized and can easily be distributed by hand, left on a gas pump, under a car’s windshield wiper, on the restaurant table, or behind the faucet in a public restroom.  Not only do I remember the joy of sorting and stamping them with dad, I was thrilled when dad would slide one out of his shirt pocket and let me be the one to leave it behind.  Dad had various rubber stamps we would use with his red ink pad to stamp either our home address and phone number or the church’s name, address, and phone number on the chance someone might find the printed invitation to Christ and need to contact someone to pray or ask questions.  In my early twenties, I carried the practice of distributing tracts with me on my second of three business trips to Las Vegas after learning on the previous trip of the advertising materials distributed on the street which, to put it mildly and nicely, were certainly not about spreading the gospel of Jesus.

As a boy, when dad’s new shipments of tracts would arrive, I would hound him night after night until he finally said it was time to sort out the bad and stamp the good.  It was dad’s job to sort them and my job to stamp them.  At times there were more good than bad and other times more bad than good.  As I got older, dad started explaining to me the determining factor on the good and bad tracts and I got to assist with the sorting prior to stamping . . . but only once or twice . . . and then we stopped sorting altogether and simply started stamping all of them.  When it came to sorting the tracts, it wasn’t about color, it wasn’t about size, it wasn’t about print, and there was no scientific method involved.  Sorting the tracts came to down three little letters . . . K – J – V.  The good tracts were those with scripture references from the authorized 1611 King James Version of the Bible.  The bad tracts were those which referenced any version other than KJV.  As dad started to teach me how to sort the tracts and was faced with my questions of why we couldn’t use the “bad” tracts, he found himself questioning if there was anything really bad about them at all.  If they pointed someone to Christ, could they really be considered bad?  As the revelation began to set in, we stopped sorting the tracts and simply stamped them all to prepare for distribution.

Jesus faced a similar situation with his disciples in the town of Capernaum.  John approached Jesus explaining they had encountered a man that did not belong to their group or follow them casting out devils in the name of Jesus.  What’s not certain in either narrative listed in the gospel of Mark or Luke is John’s intentions in making such a report. Was he complaining or was he boasting?  We cannot be certain, but I would suspect it was hint of both.  He was upset with the idea of others using Jesus’s name yet commending himself to the master for taking efforts to stop the man.  Whatever his intention, Christ’s response is certainly not what he expected, “Don’t stop him. He that is not against me is for me.”  The beauty of such a statement is reinforced just immediately before John had even approached Jesus.  In the moments prior, he took a child in his arms and said to them, “Anyone who welcomes a little child like this welcomes me.”  There is no mention of Jesus correcting the child for the manner in which he approached him.  It simply says he took him in his arms.  While Jesus was seeking to make all welcome, John was seeking to sort out the bad.

The life of a churchboy is a life of sorting out the bad.  It’s a life of living as if your way to Jesus is the only way.  It’s a life not realizing anything – whether it may be something we prefer, like, or even agree with –  which points to Christ and not away from him is a good thing.  It’s a life of choosing to be right over choosing to be welcoming.  It’s a life lived seeing things through a glass dimly.

Just as Christ extended his arms to welcome the child, it’s time we extend our arms to make all welcome.  It’s time we stop seeking to sort out the bad.

Rocky

 

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