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Posts Tagged ‘certainty’

By Mike Edwards

We cannot definitively say what an invisible, inaudible God is like or even prove that God exist. But, millions if not billions are not insane for knowing or at least hoping there is a Creator who can provide worth, perspective, meaning, and hope of life after death. We should not have hidden agendas in relationships. If people want to pursue a relationship with God, they should see in our life something worth asking about. One can argue what if it turns out there isn’t a God. What do we loss striving to be unselfish and trying to be the person we deep down desire to be with the help of our Creator? Many rightly tune out God because of claims made about God. What is God like?

Why does it matter what we think or say God is like? 

Understandings about God shape attitudes toward God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our views of God. The more we respect our earthly or heavenly parent, the closer we are to them. Some are atheists, not because they believe God can’t exist, but because what they imagine a loving God should be like isn’t what God-followers claim. Don’t believe everything you hear! 

We can begin to understand God through our moral intuitions.

If God does exist and desires a relationship, the Bible likely isn’t the only way to know God. Over half the people born into this world never had a Bible or heard of Jesus. Also, we can’t prove if the Israelites wrote more about what they thought God to be like or what God was really like. The possibility for a universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated is a Creator communicating through our moral intuitions. We all intuitively know how we “ought” to treat others.

God is claimed to be a mystery sometimes because one’s interpretation of Scriptures suggest God is evil from a human perspective. Don’t we have an inborn intuition that God and human perfect love are the same? Even the Bible assumes we can know what perfect love is, because the Bible tells us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). God’s love surely is the same as perfect human love.

We cannot definitely say what God is like according to the Bible.

It doesn’t matter if you believe the biblical writers/editors didn’t always understood God perfectly, or whether you believe God inspired every word of the Bible. Literature requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and application to personal circumstances. This is why there is disagreement whether one should divorce or not according to the Bible. It depends on their situation. Biblical certainty is an illusion. Laypeople, much less biblical scholars who respect Scriptures as authoritative, disagree what the Bible says about same-sex relationships or gender roles to name only a few critical issues. Something isn’t immoral just because we think the Bible says so.

Can’t we at least say God is like what the New Testament and Jesus says?  

The New Testament still requires interpretation and we don’t always agree, even what Jesus would do. Many theologians rightly question if Old Testament writers always had a complete understanding of God. In OT times it was sacrilegious to not speak of God as being all-powerful and controlling even through violence. This may explain violent warfare actions in God’s name. It is suggested Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, had a more complete understanding of what God is like. We still though have the challenge of interpreting Jesus’ words. Turning the other check is used to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but a possible literal translation of Mt. 5:39 is “do not resist by evil means.” Would Jesus say violence is never desired but may be necessary sometimes? We must be careful declaring the Bible said or Jesus said, especially if such beliefs hinder others from pursuing God on their own. God can explain themselves to individuals.

A God who is a moral hypocrite isn’t worth believing in!  

Believers and unbelievers at least agree an evil god is not worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical unless we can distinguish evil from good. As mentioned even those who claim God is sometimes a mystery do so because their interpretation requires an explanation of God from a human, moral perspective. If your view of God seems immoral to another, be gracious enough to let God reveal themselves to others unless others believe like a terrorist. Terrorists can only defend their beliefs because of a supposed inspired Book, which of course their interpretations are correct. Who can argue with a Book supposedly directly from God! We can’t know perfectly what God would do in everything situation but human perfection is our best starting point.

What are some beliefs about God that are common stumbling blocks?

God can’t be a hellish, sadistic torturer. Why would a loving God torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies! Such a place may be only imagined because of a Book. It turns out the Bible doesn’t say anything about the traditional understanding of the word Hell. Jesus used the Greek word Gehenna that was translated into the word Hell in some of our Bibles. Gehenna was the name of a real valley near Jerusalem that was filled with garbage and even dead bodies. Fires were set to get rid of the garbage and smell. We don’t translate names of valleys with different name. Gehenna should be translated as Gehenna. Jesus used the word Gehenna symbolically to illustrate spiritual death is as horrific as physical death, not what happens to people in the afterlife.

God can’t be a homophobe. It makes no sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can. Just ask heterosexuals or homosexuals. It can rightly be argued that not even the Bible condemns same-sex relationships. I have written here to please reconsider that the Bible doesn’t condemn gays. Some only condemn gays because they are convinced the Bible does. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. Shouldn’t we be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices? 

Lack of certainty about God does not mean anything goes? How do we decide?  

We don’t have to make laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. It is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill someone out of revenge or for selfish reasons. It is universally accepted that it is morally wrong to behead people for their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. Believing the Bible can’t be use to definitively tell us what God is like protects from those claiming their interpretation is definitive while demonizing views to the contrary. 

Unfortunately, Christians often claims certain morals are universal because of their personal beliefs based on a Book. To divorce or not is not a universal law to impose upon others. A partner may respond with gratitude for a second change or another chance may simply enable bad behaviors to continue. Consensual relationships, straight or gay, are not violating anyone’s personal rights. It doesn’t matter if you think gay or straight relationships aren’t natural. You either aren’t gay or straight.

Some relationships, such as pedophilic relationships, are obviously not consensual. There are always exceptions to general guidelines. The Bible isn’t a rule Book or question and answer Book. We may have to kill to protect another life. Let’s have a respectful discussion rather than shut down discussion by claiming we speak for God because of our understanding of a Book. Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. Uncertainty allows different opinions to stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Differences don’t have to lead to chaos but to new understandings and creative solutions.

How we ought to treat others is how a good God treats others. 

Common moral, loving sense is not the enemy. Don’t let your interpretation of a Book override the golden rule with others of different gender, color, or sexuality. Terrorists or extremists justify immoral treatment of other by hiding behind a supposedly infallible Book. A Book questioned if entirely inspired by God seems to lead to more open discussions. You can hardly every going wrong treated others like you wish to be treated were you in their shoes. Actions of love are always more important than any beliefs you may have.

Don’t let your understanding of God turns people away from God?

Terrorists’ view of God can’t be right. It is almost a universal belief that God respects freedom if such freedom does not endanger the lives of others. Forced love is an oxymoron. Others are convinced God condemns gay love, women leading men, etc. only because of their interpretation of a Book. Well, not all who respect the Bible agree with that interpretation. Do not speak for God when your interpretation is debatable. Let people decide on their own what God is like. God can handle their own business. 

What do you imagine God is really like?

You may be right! Listen to your moral inner voice. We just seem to know what is moral or immoral in most situations. Be guided by love in treating others like you want to be. We can imagine what God is like by discussing what human perfection is. Those who argue humans are created in the image of God usually accept that God created us to know and hate evil. If God sometimes is evil according to one’s interpretation of the Bible, should we hate God sometimes? A God who seeks a relationship is surely more understandable than mysterious.

Don’t we get closer to understanding what Godly love is by accepting that loving others like we want to be loved is the same as how God loves us and others?

 

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By Mike Edwards

I admit choosing a provocative title. I could have said God is like the perfect human being. What is my point? I am not suggesting any human being is God or that an invisible, inaudible God is human. I am simply trying to find a way to write and encourage discussion of what God is like. We can’t claim to know exactly what God is like, but what ideas may be closer to the truth? 

It matters what we think God is like.

Our understandings about God shape our attitudes toward God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our views of God. The more you respect your earthly parents, the closer you are to them. Some are atheists, not because they believe God can’t exist, but because what they imagine a loving God should be like isn’t what God-followers claim.

We can’t be positive what God is really like of course.  

I can’t even prove God really exist. I just think that millions if not billions are not insane for knowing or at least hoping there is a Creator who can provide worth, perspective, meaning, and hope of life after death.  We need a way to talk about what God is really like. It is often claimed we know what God is like – just read the Bible!

The Bible cannot be the definitive way of knowing what God is like.

The Bible is ancient literature that requires interpretation. Laypeople, much less biblical scholars who respect Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree what the same passages mean. Some claim the Bible condemns homosexuality; other deny such claims. How do we decide which interpretation may be the best interpretation of God’s true nature? The majority born never had a Bible so a Creator may have thought of others ways to communicate what they are really like. 

Doesn’t God communicate through our moral intuitions?

A universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated could suggest how a Creator communicates what is good. When we read ancient literature such as the Bible and two plausible interpretations exist, we can’t avoid using our moral brains.  We are trying to determine what a perfect, loving God is like. An immoral God isn’t worth believing in. Even the Bible assumes we can know what perfect love is, because the Bible tells us to be perfect like God (Mt. 5:48). God’s love surely is what we imagine perfect human love is like.

Even those who play the mystery card assume perfect godly and human morality are the same.

Many claim God is a mystery sometimes because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters are using their moral intuitions and assuming God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but the mystery card short circuits discussions about God’s true character.

Doesn’t the Newer Testament through the eyes of Jesus give us the correct view of God?

Many theologians rightly question if Old Testament writers always had a complete understanding of God. In OT times it was sacrilegious to not speak of God as being all-powerful and controlling even through violence. This may explain violent warfare actions in God’s name. It is suggested Jesus, who claimed to be God in the flesh, had a more complete understanding of what God is like. We still though have the challenge of literature requiring interpretation. Turning the other check is interpreted to claim Jesus never advocated violence, but a 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? We can never claim certainty “because the Bible or Jesus says so.”

Lack of certainty about God does not mean anything goes?  

We don’t have to make laws against murder. Criminals don’t deny their actions are wrong; they deny they committed such a crime. It is almost universally accepted that it is morally wrong to kill someone out of revenge or for selfish reasons. It is universally accepted that it is morally wrong to behead people for their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. Claiming the Bible can’t be use to definitively tell us what God is like protects from those claiming their interpretation is definitive while demonizing views to the contrary.

God is like the perfect human being!

We can’t know what God is exactly like but we can imagine what God is like by discussing what human perfection is. Those who argue humans are created in the image of God usually accept that God created us to know and hate evil. If God sometimes is evil according to one’s interpretation of the Bible, should we hate God sometimes? We must question not rationalize such interpretations. A God who seeks a relationship is surely more understandable than mysterious. Don’t we get closer to understanding what Godly love is by accepting that loving others like we want to be loved is the same as how God loves us and others.

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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

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

I still don’t know exactly how to describe God’s role with the Bible after I started rethinking why the Bible can’t be infallible or entirely inspired. It just seems so unlike God to control thoughts written down, rather than allowing us to grow in our understanding of God when ready. Scholars who respect Scriptures are admitting the Bible isn’t infallible. These same theologians are slow to suggest God didn’t inspire all of the Bible, which suggests God approves of everything written, but see concerns below. Many have been provoked to not even consider a relationship with God when sexist, homophobic, and genocidal behaviors attributed to God in the Bible are rationalized.

Why the Bible can’t be proven to be infallible.  

The OT records thousands of times “God said…” Writers weren’t claiming God spoke audibly; they were simply writing about their “impressions” from God. We can’t prove such impressions were always right. It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired because biblical writers make such a claim. Many who accept the Bible being infallible would not accept the Quran being infallible because it claims to be. God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on OT writers’ impressions of what they thought God was telling them.

But, even if God dictated all of the Bible words are still subject to interpretation. Forget the Older Testament. Scholars don’t agree what Jesus meant when talking about Hell. The fact that we disagree about the meaning of the same passages makes the discussion of the Bible’s infallibility a moot point because interpretations aren’t infallible. The formation of the Old Testament was a long, slow development over centuries. The Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. We can’t know the books of the Bible we have were the ones God intended to convey truth or that other books haven’t been excluded to convey truth about God. 

Why it is doubtful God inspired all of the Bible.   

To describe the Bible as inspired or authoritative suggest to many that God approves of everything recording in the Bible. It is hard for most to believe God inspired hundreds of OT passages like I Samuel 15:3 when God told Israel: “Now go, attack the Amalekites… put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.” Why would God inspire views that suggest God would endorse genocide? How could God inspire approving of a wife having her hand cut off when grabbing another’s man genitals protecting her husband (Deut. 25:11-12)?

There are good reasons to lean toward the Bible not being inspired because of certain morals attributed to God. An infallible or inspired view of Scriptures has led down the slippery slope of assuming interpretations are inspired. Not questioning if writers always understood God perfectly has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, and other atrocities in the supposed name of God. Different opinions must stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. God gave us a moral brain! 

What is the Bible if not inspired by God?

The Bible is recorded experiences of beginnings with God and Israel culminating with the life of Jesus that we don’t possess in any other documents. Writings about God can keep us talking and reflecting what God is really like. God didn’t necessarily have in mind that recordings would not be questioned. The Bible claims to be God-breathe which can literally mean God-spirited (2 Tim. 3:16). Only the Old Testament existed when these words penned. This passage could simply mean God uses writings about God to touch our spirit.

Certainty in God isn’t the Holy Grail!

An inspired Bible leads to interpretations magically becoming infallible. Believing such a Book exists has led to condemning gays in God’s name, though those who accept Scriptures as authoritative don’t agree the Bible disapproves of homosexuality. A fallible Book can’t hide behind infallible interpretations. Uncertainty doesn’t have to led to chaos as moral laws that violate the rights of others are obvious. The majority of people born in this world never read a Bible but seem to have an inborn knowledge of right and wrong, hinting a Creator not a Book communicates to all what is good.

How can we read the Bible?

Read the Bible reflectively than for solutions to specific problems. Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love.  Jesus didn’t always answer questions directly because circumstances vary and 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? Don’t check your moral conscience at the door as you consider what a loving God is really like. As long as we read the Bible with a questioning spirit rather than blind obedience, it seems the Bible can continue to influence millions to live a more selfless life.

For related questions about the Bible go to:   

http://what-god-may-really-be-like.com/rethinking-the-bible/

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