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By Mike Edwards

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We can’t prove God inspired every word of the Bible unless taking a writer’s word for it. Besides, biblical writers claiming inspiration could mean God uses writings to interact with us without declaring such writings are infallible views of God. Since the writer didn’t claim God spoke audibly, we can question if the writer’s impression was correct when recording God commanded the destruction of innocent women and children in war: “Now go, attack the Amalekites…put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys”(I Sam. 15:3).

An inspired Bible leads to justifying violence and other immoralities in God’s name.

The idea of an infallible or inspired Book has led to assuming God’s views on morality only come from a Book such as the Bible. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly 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 had to admit that God possibly didn’t endorse words they interpret to deny freedom of beliefs!

Terrorists aren’t the only ones who don’t question if God inspired the writer’s thought or if their interpretation is correct. The Bible is used to prove many contrary views such as mutual or hierarchical roles. We must question if a loving God would put men in leadership position over women which has encouraged historical dominance on the man’s part. People condemn gays, despite their moral sense, because God supposedly rejects same gender loving relationships according to a Book. A fallible Book may actually lead to knowing God better.

What can you trust about God if not the Bible?  

Only a perfect or good God is worth believing in! Who doesn’t know a good God hates beheading people because they don’t share your beliefs unless a supposed infallible Book supposedly speaks for God? God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses. An infallible book has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. Questioning encourages honest, open dialogue as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from a Book.

We are free to question how best to love others.

The viewpoint that God didn’t inspire the Bible, or at least admitting one’s interpretation isn’t inspired, could lead to less violence in God’s name and forcing other immoral opinions on others in the name of God. The Bible can be viewed as recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in other documents, so we can reflect on what God is really like and how to best love others.

 

 

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by Jim Gordon

In the bible we read that God is love. That sounds so nice, especially when the meaning according to the dictionary is strong affection for another; affection and tenderness; affection based on admiration; profoundly tender.

Yet we read in the old testament about a God that sounds so different from this description. We read of a God of destruction, vengeance, punishment and hatred. One that kills people whether it be men, women or children. A God that kills animals and destroys property. What kind of love is that?

The new testament tells us more about a God of love. Jesus came to this earth to show us what God may really be like.  The examples Jesus showed were love, forgiveness, acceptance, affection, tenderness and compassion.

My personal opinion is that God is like the God Jesus portrayed. I think the old testament was more about the views of human beings, what they thought, how they perceived God and how they used God to promote their desires and hatred of their enemies. Again, this is just my view but it makes more sense to me knowing that the bible states that God is love.

People will argue that God’s ways are higher than ours and we cannot always know and understand what the purpose of God is in different situations. They will also argue that the bible is perfect and inerrant and we cannot question what is written therein. Yet I do not believe the perfect godly trinity is Father, Son and Holy Bible. I believe the bible was inspired yet written by men. Men also translated and interpreted it. I feel that over the years of man having a hand in doing these things that many things got changed, misinterpreted and mistranslated. I think God got a bad rap due to the involvement of man in the process.

Even the bible itself does not say it is inerrant. The bible makes clear who the perfect, living Word of God actually is, and it is not a book. We read in John 1:1, John 1:14 and John 5:39 that the Word of God is Jesus.

I say all this not to try and disprove the bible. I say this to show that God is love. God is not out to punish and destroy his creation just because of things they do. He sometimes will correct us, just as a parent does their children. This is also done in a loving manner. As a loving parent, we want the best for our kids and sometimes it involves a disciplinary action for their own good. But disciplining in love is completely different from beating, injuring, being hateful and killing to make a point.

It frustrates me when I read articles about various christian leaders making comments about how God is punishing someone or some area with earthquakes, fires, sickness and death because of something they consider to be sinful. To me, that is the god of the old testament. One that men use to validate their own thoughts and desires.

The best way to find out what God is like is to read the gospels written about the life of Jesus. He represented what God is really like. He loved people. He did not force his views on others. He accepted people, healed people, fed people and offered them a better way of living. A way of love. It did not depend on who the person was, what they looked like, what their color or nationality was, who they loved or what political party they followed. Jesus loved them all and treated them with respect and kindness. How much better our world would be if we, who claim to be children of God (1), treated all people with the same love, kindness and respect. Rather than demanding judgment, exclusion and killing; or demanding our views and opinions be forced on others or our political views be enforced on all. I say look out for the best interests of others, and do so in a loving and kind way. Live your life as you feel the Spirit is leading you, but do not force others to see things the same way. Remember Jesus told us to love God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. There should be no mistake here, God is love and we are to show that love to everyone.

(1) Link to article by Damon Brewster

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By Mike Edwards

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There is so much violence throughout the world. Evil is alive and well even in churches, synagogues, and mosques. Must God-followers always lay down their arms according to Jesus’ words and example? Would non-violent reactions end wars and evil, or does evil end when all individuals and nations decide to stop victimizing others.

More and more God-followers are rightly advocating for a loving than wrathful God. Many suggest since Jesus is God Himself, we should follow His words if we think they contradict an Old Testament prophet’s understanding of God. Progressives, for lack of a better word, would likely agree the Bible was not written so we can simply turn to a page to get an answer for our problem. I might give my kids different advice though dealing with similar circumstances. Should you confront, divorce, etc.? It depends! Seek God and the wisdom of others who are slow to be certain.

Quoting Jesus doesn’t settle it!

Progressives accept that the Bible, since literature, requires interpretation. Love isn’t dogmatically claiming my interpretation is right and yours is wrong. One interpretation of Jesus according to the Bible is that His example and the Cross mandate we must not respond violently. But, should we always respond as Jesus did on the way to the Cross? The Apostle Paul didn’t. When in danger, Paul threaten God on others and appealed for government protection (Acts 23).

Some biblical scholars, who respect the authority of Scriptures, suggest Jesus advising to “turn the other cheek” (Mt 5:39) was illustrating how we might respond to insults, not that we can never respond to violence against us or others. Does this and other passages rule out individuals or nations defending and killing if necessary when being attacked or even under the threat of attack? Depends! Jesus didn’t condemn a Roman soldier’s faith for serving his nation (Lk.7:1-9). 

Can we at least agree …….

Research is sited to suggest non-violent responses can deter further violence. We should always strive to not respond to violence with violence if there is another way. We don’t seem to agree that when violence seems unavoidable, that we can be grateful for those who protect us when people cannot be “talked or exampled” from violence. When we dogmatically claim God never advocates violence, we imply people are not being Christ-like when they must kill when serving their military, police force, or family. We don’t know what God would always do!

What would God do in your situation?

Can you have a security plan as a church or family that would use violence? That is a personal decision between you and God. You have to decide for yourself if to attend a certain church or go elsewhere. Personally, I hope I am God-loving enough to not respond to a situation with violence when other options exist. Jesus’ example encourages non-violence but sometimes self or government protection is necessary because evil is still very real. I am convinced we can love our enemies and love the innocent by protecting them from harm. The Bible doesn’t settle whether God would never advocate responding to evil with violence!

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by Mike Edwards

The political divide in our nation is obvious, but shouldn’t people who claim to follow Jesus’ teachings get along? Yes, plenty of people are leaving the institutional church but they aren’t leaving God. It is hard to make a big impact in the world alone. A movement though can! Why isn’t a Following who claims the importance of loving others as themselves having more of an impact on our culture?

It is human nature to not always get along.

The wife and I got along pretty well when dating, but that didn’t exactly prepare me for the first years of marriage. Love doesn’t make go away having to share bathrooms, finances, closets, in-laws, etc. I didn’t learn soon enough that love requires learning to disagree well so to live happily incompatible. You got to learn some skills as differences arise. But Christian divisions run deeper than nature.

One’s belief if the Bible is inspired by God may be the greatest divider among Christians.

Some believe God inspired all of the Bible thus is God’s final word on guidance; others believe the Spirit may guide us toward even a higher view of God than the writers always had. One can still be a God-follower though their view of the Bible is different than yours. Besides, literature requires interpretation whether you believe God inspired all of the Bible or not. More churches are forming than uniting because of differences in interpretations and no one is admitting they may be wrong. Christian opinions can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving way.

Can we get along despite a helluva lot of differences?

It has been suggested despite the challenges of translation and interpretation the central message of the Bible is clear to all. I respectfully disagree. One’s belief about Hell supposedly impacts everyone born into this world. Views on women’s roles impacts half the population. Gay differences impact millions and millions of people. Can I get along with one who is convinced God condemns gays for attractions they can’t control? I may never know because we are quick to demonize one another when we don’t share the same convictions.

What first steps can we take to show true love?

We each have to decide what is the first big step we can take in our relationships. As my beliefs were forming and changing over the decades, I wasn’t always respectful in sharing my passions. If I had it all to do over, I would have sought to understand first before being understood. This is the best way for relationships to not end up demonizing one another. Standing side by side may in time allow one to be persuaded for the right reasons. Christians acting loving toward one another could change the world!

 

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By Mike Edwards

I guess depends if he gets impeached! Religious leaders say the darnest things. God gets a bad rap when Christians make certain claims about God and events in the world. Even “it was meant to be” implies God is responsible for suffering in the world. God ordaining who wins elections means you weren’t really free to vote anyway other than what God had determined. This makes a mockery of the freedom God has given us. An uncontrolling God may be a more satisfying alternative.

It matters if we claim God controls or knows 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 and the children suffer too. If God supposedly knows the future, why didn’t God warn the young woman? A human parent would if they knew ahead of time. A controlling God can lead to asking “why or what is God punishing me for” or “God, do you really love me?” There really isn’t freedom if the future is already known thus determined.

But the Bible says…

It is commonly thought that an all-powerful Supreme Being must know the future much less control the future. Yet, the Bible speaks about God regretting decisions (i.e. Gen. 6:6). If God knows the outcome of decisions, why does God make regrettable decisions? Many biblical passages refer to God changing their mind depending on what choices humans freely make.

Did Jesus simply peer into the future when predicting Peter would deny Christ three times before it actually happened? Could Peter really resist? Why would Jesus pray Peter’s faith would succeed if failure was inevitable (Luke 22:32)? Jesus’ prediction could have been a warning to Peter to prepare for upcoming faith challenges. A professor may observe a student and warn they will fail their class but hoping the student avoids such failure. Biblical prophecies aren’t peering into a determined future but can serve as warnings. They only come to past if not heeded.

There are freedoms in God not knowing the future.

God guidance isn’t some mystery. God isn’t hiding a “known” future for important decisions. We don’t have to live in fear of making “right decisions.” 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. The future is open. There isn’t one correct decision. Joy and good can be achieved by taking any number of paths and avoiding immoral paths. 

God is not controlling. 

God can’t control the future without making a mockery of freedom. God wants us to feel free without strings attached, unlike what we may feel from human parents when making decisions. If God can’t control the future, can God make any promises? A God who creates can surely guarantee eternal life after life here on earth for those who desire to be with their Creator. Meanwhile, God seeks to partner with us to make for a better world. God doesn’t control lives or elections!

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By Mike Edwards

More prayers are unanswered than answered. The amount of evil in the world suggests God doesn’t intervene most of the time. Many prayers that are claimed answered could simply be humans taking action. God didn’t make your partner stop drinking; they finally hit bottom and got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Supposed miracle workers don’t go into hospitals. I bet those folks got the same faith as those healed at their rallies. Many are rightly disheartened about God when claims about prayers don’t match up with reality.

Love can’t be controlling or arbitrary.

I experienced as a child and learned as a parent controlling love is not love at all. Controlling love is an oxymoron. It isn’t that God has the power to do something and doesn’t. God can’t change people or circumstances without them freely cooperating. Miracles don’t happen because some people are less sinful or beg better at the feet of an arbitrary God. Miracles happen when God’s uncontrolling love aligns with countless factors known and not known. It’s above my pay grade!

But the Bible says….

The truth is for almost every passage on prayer, there are opposing interpretations. Mathew 7:7 is used to support the false prosperity gospel: “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” Isn’t this passage in context simply saying that if we parents give good gifts despite our imperfections, will not God as our perfect Parent always want to give good gifts. First-century readers didn’t assume this was a blank check for requests. The Apostle Paul expected persecution for beliefs (2 Tim. 3:12), thus God obviously is not a genie!

What is prayer?  

Maybe prayer isn’t about manipulating God for gain, but letting God run the universe who has the best interest of all in mind. Prayer can be talking and sharing with God, rather than asking for things and for God to override freedom. Maybe prayer is meant to help us not feel alone in a chaotic world. We can never overburden God like we feel toward our friends sometimes. We tell our children associating with the right people leads to making wiser choices. Maybe prayer is for self-examination to change our way of thinking so we can be more loving like God toward others. 

Does God answer prayer? 

Depends on what you are asking for! God is always listening and ready to support. God is surely doing all they can to influence for good and seeks our help to change the world for good, but God cannot both control and love perfectly. God is answering prayer when we hear: I love you; I forgive you; I won’t abandon you; let’s do this together!

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by Jim Gordon

I grew up in the traditional church environment and followed the religious teachings and doctrines over the years. I have seen a lot of things that I now question and wonder why things were done that way.

Over the years many of us have come to see God as a big super human person sitting up in heaven just waiting to punish us for our mistakes. We see him as being impersonal, judgmental and many times as someone to fear.

Yet when we think about the life of Christ and know he was sent from God to show us what God is really like we come to see God in a different way. When we read about how Jesus lived and treated people we see him as loving, compassionate, kind and accepting. Jesus came to show us that God is the same way.

After Jesus left this life on earth God sent the Holy Spirit to live within us. Think about it, God in Spirit form lives within us and among us right now. He is not a super human person way up there somewhere but He is Spirit and is right here within us.

God is not out to get us and punish us every time we mess up. I think God gets a bad reputation from some of the writings in the bible. I believe men, although they were inspired by God threw in some of their personal views. Obviously if you were inspired by someone to write a book you would still write it from your perspective. Anything man has a hand in is going to be flawed. The bible is inspired by God and when combined with the leading of the Holy Spirit it is purposeful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, and in guiding us to the living Word of God who is Jesus.

Rather than running around being afraid of God and waiting for the judgment of God to fall, look to Jesus and see that God is love. Whenever punishment is needed it is only for our good and it is done in love. Just as a loving parent sometimes punishes their child it is done in love and for correction that is for the child’s own good. We are not waiting to be destroyed by a God who loves judgment and condemnation. We are living with a God who is love, who created us and who wants the best for us during our time on earth.

Stop being afraid of God and seek fellowship. If you hear a pastor telling you that God is out to get you and that you had better shape up or else, get away from there and find brothers and sisters in Christ who will be encouragers and who will help build you up rather than condemn and scare you. Fear of judgment will not lead you into a loving relationship with God. Only true, godly love will be what draws us into fellowship with God.

God is love. For those of us who are followers of Jesus we should also be known for our love. As Jesus said in Matthew 22:37-39, And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Live a godly life by loving people. Rather than being known for judgment, condemnation, hatred and what you are against, show the love of God. Be kind to all people and be known for your love of your fellow human beings.

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