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Mike Edwards

I have written ad nauseum lately on Rethinking the Bible. I recently wrote on objections if the Bible is fallible, but writers are always after a perfect document on a subject considered critical. Statements about God according to the Bible may be one main reason spiritually-open people don’t pursue God further. If the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t true according to the Bible, that is a big deal! When argued the writers in the Bible didn’t always understand thus portray God perfectly, questions are raised such as how can we know God if not through the Bible.

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 in the Old Testament advocating violence in God’s name. Would a good God really approve of a wife having her hand cut off when grabbing another’s man genitals protecting her husband (Deut. 25:11-12)? It is only rational to ask if a good God would inspire such thoughts.

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. Biblical writers weren’t saying they always heard an audible voice when penning “God said.” God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t suggest God performed a lobotomy on biblical writers’ impressions of God. Keep in mind literature always requires interpretation and scholars and laypeople disagree on meaning of the same passages. The reality of disagreement makes certainty an impossibility whether you consider all of the Bible inspired or not.

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 hints of a Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. 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. We can know God if truly loving!

It is said God would not allow so much uncertainty because of the Bible?  

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. Supposed certainty in God’s name, though different interpretations exist, has been the main reason some condemn gays or oppose women entering the priesthood. Certainty has led to slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in God’s name. Open-minded uncertainty doesn’t have to lead to chaos but new understandings and loving solutions.

God supposedly spoke directly to Moses (Ex. 20) to keep the Sabbath as one of the Ten Commandments, but such communication was taken to mean 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 humane justifications for God not revealing themselves more openly. Learning, reflecting, and freely choosing convictions over time, as opposed to being told what to do, may more lead to life-changing choices.

It is said we are worse off with a fallible than infallible Book.

Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuse. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation should be read so dogmatically? When one fails to acknowledge their interpretation could be wrong, this can lead to forcing personal convictions on others in God’s name. A fallible Book can lead to listening to different opinions as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral senses how we ought to treat others.

It is said we have no right to question an almighty God.

Many reject God because of what a supposed infallible Bible says about God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired. The “mystery card” is often played because common moral sense can’t understand how a good God would be a part of atrocities in the Bible. God didn’t reprimand Job for questioning God. Why seek to understand God if God is declared to be unintelligible or a mystery? God  in the Book of Job seems to simply defend that God is not unjust or uncaring just because God doesn’t constantly control undeserved evil or suffering in a free world. It’s complicated!

It is said why read the Bible if the writers misunderstood God.

The Bible records beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. 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 with an open-mind motivated by love. God has drawn billions to do good and shun evil when talking about God.

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

Read the Bible with an open-mind inspired 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, condemning gays, and other atrocities in the name of God. God didn’t necessarily intend the Bible to be read with blind obedience. 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?

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

 

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By Mike Edwards

“The unquestioned assumption that the Bible is, and has to be inerrant, or else it cannot be the word of God, is the number one assumption/expectation that appears in deconversion narratives.”

John Marriott – A Recipe for Disaster: Four Ways Churches and Parents Prepare Individuals to Lose Their Faith and How They Can Instill a Faith That Endures

Most people I know don’t tune out God or leave from faith in God as an excuse to lead a hell-bent life. I am not sure why some are more or less inclined to believe and seek a relationship with a Creator. Either belief requires faith. Many may desire God be more a part of their life but are turned away because what they imagine God should be like isn’t what others claim.

Most get their understanding about God from the Bible.  

Church-goers gain most of their understanding of God from the Bible. Many non-going church people are impacted by what others claim about God according to the Bible. I wrote here that the main passages used to condemn gays in God’s name are highly debatable. Try telling people with a straight face a perfect moral God tortures forever after death for beliefs held while a short time here on earth. What many assume of a good God doesn’t match what the Bible says!

The problem is how the Bible is viewed.

The Bible has been used to misled many about God, but we must admit the Bible has inspired many. Jesus, who represented God, set a powerful example by how He treated others. Yet, a close reading of the Bible notices hundreds of passages advocating violence in God’s name. It is normal to question an interpretation that makes God appear immoral from a human perspective. It is normal to question if the writers always fully understood God. It is not God’s nature to controlled anyone’s thoughts. Writers could be influenced by culture norms where sacrilegious to not speak of God as all-controlling than relational.

When insisting all of the Bible is inspired or approved by God, it forces one to reject the Bible if wrong on any issue. Many insist the Bible can’t support evolution. These same people also insist the Bible is without error. If one believes evolution is a possibility, this forces them to reject the Bible and often God goes with that. Maybe Genesis isn’t meant to be a historical or scientific rendering of creation but written to convey there was a Creator.

It is suggested we should look to Jesus as the final authority when confused.

There are still interpretation issues even if we insist Jesus be the final voice in what God is truly like. Those who respect Scriptures don’t always agree what Jesus thought. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus agree violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? The NT is no different than reading the OT since we could be wrong what Jesus would do.

How can we read and represent the Bible?

The Bible can be viewed as a recording of experiences with God for reflection by the readers. God didn’t necessarily perform a lobotomy to control the thoughts and words of the writers. The Bible or any literature written thousands of years ago isn’t meant to be used as a rules or answers book. Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and the issue is our heart in solving problems. Imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves during difficult times. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Use common moral sense as you consider what a loving God is really like.

A part of the solution is to stop the sin of certainty!

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? Religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God, often according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. I am convinced the Bible or any literature wasn’t meant to be used as a question and answer book. The Bible read reflectively allows God’s spirit to speak to individuals in making unselfish decisions for a better world. Don’t push people away from God because of the Bible.

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By Mike Edwards

I hope this brief review encourages you to read Karen Keen’s valuable insights for how we must treat same-sex relationships regardless if you a Bible person or not. I am convinced you will not find a more distinct, readable, non-judgmental, insightful book on same-sex relationships and the Bible. Keen doesn’t simply offer her interpretation of debatable biblical passages; her insights take the discussion to another level. Scholars who respect Scriptures don’t agree so interpretations only of difficult passages don’t move us forward.

Science isn’t conclusive why we have desires for the same or opposite sex. Sexual choices aren’t always the result of some trauma or rebellion in our lives. Keen points us to resources for such considerations in Chapter 7. Why would a loving God condemn gays if they can no more choose who they love than straights can? Please read this book and consider if the biblical writers had in mind loving monogamous same-sex relationships. If you believe same-sex relationships are condemned in the Bible, such relationships seem clearly motivated by lust not love. If this is even a remote interpretative possibility, we mustn’t dogmatically say the Bible and thus God condemns loving, same-sex relationships.

No one can accuse Keen of not having a high view of the Bible. Many God-folks only condemn same-sex relationships because of the Bible. Intuitively, that may not be their moral inclination but they do so out of supposed devotion to God and the Bible. If Keen’s below insights are a possibility after reading her book, we must seriously consider that the Bible doesn’t condemn faithful, same-sex relationships:

Chapter 3 challenges us to seriously consider if biblical passages typically used to clobber same-sex relationships condemn same-sex relationships because of unrestrained lust rather than faithful love. We must consider if biblical writers had in mind certain procreation expectations and gender norms that no longer exist today. Many passages are assumed to condemn same-sex relationship because of the creation account and the differentiation of the sexes, but it is also possible the context of many passages emphasize the importance of faithfulness not gender.

Chapter 4 and 5 offer convincing arguments that “God’s law is made for humankind, not humankind for God’s law (Mk. 2:27)” [p.65]. Laws are not written just as rules to keep blindly but to guide us in loving others. Keen provides examples where even Old Testament writers updated previous laws given by God to make relevant to their circumstances.  In Chapter 5 we see where Jesus puts love in action over law. Jesus didn’t necessarily dismiss the Sabbath (Lk. 4:16), but Jesus did teach more important than keeping the Sabbath is helping someone in need. If our actions don’t convey loving gays, we aren’t keeping God’s law.

Chapter 6 challenges readers it is not enough to consider if the Bible doesn’t condemn same-sex faithful relationships, but whether it doesn’t condemn same-sex marriages as well. Who are we to deny the hope and joys of marriage if God doesn’t? The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the New Testament doesn’t encourage celibate life as some holy grail. It is hard to deny most of us wish to enjoy the pleasure of marital sex and have a hard time being faithful otherwise. If celibacy and singlehood isn’t a command for opposite-sex relationships, why do we think God condemns same-sex marriages if the Bible doesn’t condemn or consider same-sex, faithful relationships?

I will end with Karen Keen’s hope and mine: “I firmly believe it is possible to imagine a new response to the gay community – and do so with faithfulness to God’s Word.” (114)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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By Mike Edwards

A God whose focus is saving people from the threat of burning forever after death is about fear not a relationship. Fear often leads to hiding stuff; a loving relationship leads to life changes. Adult children don’t respect and devout themselves to their parents’ guidance because they fear them. It may surprise many that the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t in the Bible. The Bible also doesn’t talk a lot either about Heaven as an escape from earth. What is God’s good news?

The Bible says nothing about the traditional understanding of the word Hell.

Humans wouldn’t even create a place to torture their enemies after death. The only place we would get such an irrational idea of a supposedly loving God is from a Book. Gehenna, the Greek word translated as Hell in the New Testament, was the name of a real valley nearby Jerusalem with a history of terrible slaughter.  Gehenna is best translated Gehenna. There is no word in Hebrew or Greek for “hell.” Jesus used Gehenna to illustrate that spiritual death is as tragic as physical death. The Apostle Paul who wrote most of the NT never refers to Hell. Noah, or any prophet in the OT, never warned of Hell as a consequence for behaviors here on earth.

If there is no Hell, was Jesus main message to get the hell away from earth to enter Heaven?

The word “heaven” appears the most in the Gospel of Matthew. The Kingdom of Heaven isn’t talking about going to a place after death. Jesus speaks of bringing heavenly love to earth – “on earth as in heaven.” Jesus said nothing about dropping to your knees to avoid Hell to go to Heaven after death. But, didn’t the Apostle Paul say “the wages of sin is death” (Rm. 6:23)? Paul is speaking of spiritual death because Paul is still alive though sin has put him to death (Rm. 7:11). Romans is Paul’s longest and most theological letter and when Paul mentions Heaven twice, he says nothing about Jesus dying so we can go to Heaven (Rm. 1:18, 10:6).

What does the Bible say God is saving us from?

When Jesus was asked by a religious expert how to have eternal life, He simply said to love God and your neighbor (Lk.10:25-37). Jesus’ focus wasn’t on quantity of life after death but about a life worth living here on earth. Jeremy Myers says it best that the Bible isn’t about escaping Hell but being delivered from consequences of sin: “When Scripture teaches about being saved from sin, it is not referring to escaping hell and going to heaven when we die, but to the deliverance from the devastating and destructive consequences of sin in this life.”

https://redeeminggod.com/confess-jesus-romans-10-9-10/

God has a dream! 

God hurts because we are hurting ourselves and those around us. On this day as we celebrate Martin Luther King’s life and message, God too seeks to convince us of the evil of bigotry. Jesus came to earth to convey God seeks to empower us to constantly shun evil and do good. Seek and experience God’s help in being more the person you know deep down is in your and others’ interest. Consider misbeliefs about God that hinder that pursuit. Share with others such a God when they inquire.

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By Mike Edwards

There is so much civil unrest because both sides demonize one another by insisting they are right and the other side is wrong. Can you imagine if couples acted this way when disagreeing? God-followers and religious leaders seem hell-bent in telling people what must be believed about God according to their understanding and interpretation of the Bible. Open-minded uncertainty rather than supposed certainty could go a long way to healing our nation and personal relationships!

Certainty about God because of the Bible

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired by God because biblical writers make such a claim.  Writers could have clearly misunderstood God. God’s nature is not to control thoughts and words of writers. Besides, the Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. Which books are supposedly infallible? The Bible isn’t a question and answer book. Jesus didn’t always answer directly because the issue is our heart in solving problems. Can you imagine a world where all looked out for the interests of others and not just themselves when facing difficulties?

Certainty about our interpretation of the Bible

It is not often admitted one’s interpretations may be wrong but instead emphatically stated “the Bible says…” Literature always requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to our personal circumstances. Scholars and laypeople, who even respect the authority of Scriptures, frequently disagree on the meaning of the same passage. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but the possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Is violence never desired but necessary sometimes?

Certainty about what is best for individuals about their relationships

Bible folks and non-Bible folks frequently talk as if knowing what is best in one’s circumstances, whether about personal or work relationships. It is easier giving advice than listening and helping one make their own decisions. Bible-folks claim one shouldn’t divorce because the Bible supposedly says so. It’s complicated. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue.

The Bible is quoted that we must always forgive, but God is often said to not forgive the rebellious (i.e. Josh. 24:19). It’s complicated. Easy forgiveness can allow a husband’s abusive behavior to continue. When a sexual abuser doesn’t acknowledge their actions, secret behaviors continue. Victims can feel more victimized, and feel God must not understand their pain, when told to forgive despite their abuser denying any wrongdoing. Isn’t the whole point to do whatever helps control bitterness to stop the victimizing?

Certainty about what is best for a nation

God-followers must stop implying or claiming moral superiority because of the Bible for reasons stated. Thankfully, we live in a democratic society. We don’t have to vote if murder should be a law because one’s physical rights are clearly violated. Physical violence when disagreeing is obviously wrong and must be condemned, but it isn’t obvious if building a wall is right or wrong. Discussions best start with what parties agree on. 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 when we impose our will on non-moral issues such as health care or taxes.

Uncertainty, not certainty, can lead to creative solutions not 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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By Mike Edwards

It is difficult for many to be drawn to a God that has anything in common with the God of terrorists. I am not saying Christians believe in resorting to beheading unbelievers. It is sensible though for all God-followers to consider any of their portrayals of God that look anything similar to terroristic views. A good God couldn’t possibly have anything in common with such views.

We must avoid all appearances that a good God is solely determined by a Book.

The idea of an infallible Book seems to shut down questioning and common moral sense. An infallible Book would not be so dangerous if extremists acknowledged literature is subject to interpretation, thus their interpretation cannot be proclaimed as “certainty” in God’s name. We must always openly admit our interpretation could be wrong, thus allowing personal views to be challenged.

Let’s avoid suggesting a loving God would deny freedom of beliefs.

One would think a God who is powerful enough to create, unless a respecter of freedom of beliefs, would annihilate immediately those who choose evil and oppose God. God’s love in the Bible is most frequently compared to that of a human parent. No human or spiritual parent brings children into the world desiring their children not freely reciprocate their love as opposed to being forced. Forced love is an oxymoron. A good God couldn’t possibly want to control beliefs through fear.

Let’s avoid suggesting a loving God tortures unbelievers before or after death. 

Delayed torture is still torture in the eyes of many. We mustn’t claim Hell is real according to the Bible because biblical scholars don’t agree Hell exists in the Bible. Most humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! The word hell is a substitution not translation for certain Hebrew and Greek words and seems invented over the centuries to scare people into obedience. It is important to defend God respects the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, and God does not torture people after death for such decisions. 

Let’s avoid claiming a loving God’s view of women hints of inequality.  

I am not suggesting some Christians are saying Paradise is a lustful adventure for men at the expense of women, but it is important to not be dogmatic that the Bible teaches women are under the authority of men in the God of the Bible eyes. This can encourage dominance on the man’s part. Women and men surely need unselfish partners who have the heart of a servant. Some religious extremists would rather be dead than advocate for that. We must avoid proscribing gender roles which more frequently are used to oppress women than men.

What can Christians be certain of about God?

All religions must differentiate themselves from terrorist or extremist views to avoid misunderstandings about a God worthy of trust. Jesus simply wanted us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent desiring a friendship to encourage a journey of shunning evil and doing good. Our views must encourage loving others like we want to be love. Accepting the freedom of beliefs, if not physically harmful to others, is foundational. A good God surely respect freedom of beliefs in this life and life to come and encourages roles according to one’s gifts not gender or race.

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By Mike Edwards

I recently wrote here why a fair-minded person may think God approves of women being restricted from roles men are offered. Many opposed such equity because of bigotry but bigots don’t read spiritual blogs. It is so important how God-followers represent God.  The good news is what is often said about God may not be true. There may be similarities as to why fair-minded people think God favors roles according to one’s gender and why God condemn gays.

Many people of faith only condemn gays because they think the Bible does?  

Many of us were taught to believe God condemns gays because the Bible says so.  Some may be unaware biblical scholars who respect the Bible believe Scriptures do not condemn gay monogamous relationships. See  here. The bigger argument though is that no one can claim God condemns gays because the Bible says so. Literature require interpretations and we disagree. One main reason fair-minded people condemn gays is because of a misunderstanding of the Bible, thus misguided devotion to God.   

Some may also argue God condemns gays because homosexuality just isn’t natural.

You don’t have to be gay to understand one can no more control their feelings toward those of the same sex than you can control having feelings toward the opposite sex. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t feel natural to you. You aren’t gay. Let’s don’t cause others to keep secrets at the expense of their mental health. God-followers must always use their hearts and minds when loving others by being non-judgmental and putting themselves in another’s skin.

It is argued the world could not have populated in the beginning! We are no longer in that situation and the world will continue to populate because not all couples are gay. We have unwanted children who need loving couples. Is adoption by a same sex or different sex couple not a better situation than groups homes or orphanages? Many gay couples are far better parents than many opposite sex parents. Don’t worry! Loving couples don’t try to scare a child straight or gay.

How can we know what God thinks about gays?   

If God exists even atheists agree God must be morally perfect. The best way to understand God’s moral perfection is through our thoughts of human perfection. How we think we ought to treat gays is how to know what God thinks of gays. The test for human or godly morality is if treating others like we want to be treated. Let’s not defend our position only because the Bible supposedly says so. We do not have to check our moral conscience at the door. Be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices. I hope one doesn’t think I approve of pedophiles for such love is not between two consenting adults. 

How must we treat gays or anyone?

Psychological harm is done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Monogamous relationships, as opposed to mindless, selfish, uncommitted relationships, are in our best interests, though I am not suggesting we all should impose our views of consensual, sexual behaviors on others. One’s sexual orientation is personal and between them and their Creator. Personal relationship decisions are not violating anyone’s personal rights as do immoral behaviors as stealing, murdering, etc.  I hope more may stop judging others about their personal relationships because God supposedly condemns them through Scriptures.

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