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By Mike Edwards

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. The greatest sin among Bible people may be the sin of biblical certainty.  Scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures don’t agree on major concerns. Some believe the Bible teaches God elects certain people to go to heaven while damning others; others believe the Bible teaches God eventually saves all to enter Heaven and the traditional understanding of Hell isn’t biblical.

Does the Bible really declare some are in danger of going to a fiery pit such as Hell after death?

If such a place exists why did Paul, who wrote the majority of the New Testament, never once warn this dire fate? Why didn’t Noah who had to warn of tragic consequences for evil inform people at least once of the danger of Hell? It is questioned by scholars whether there is any Hebrew or Greek word translated as Hell that pictures what our word Hell suggests.

Does the Bible really teach that God proclaims leadership roles are based on gender than gifts?

When the Bible says: “Women should remain silent in the churches” (I Cor. 14:34), maybe the writer would encourage men to be silent in certain situations for the sake of peace. Why did the Apostle Paul say practically in the same breath that women could prophesy just like men during worship (I Cor. 11:5)? Is prophecy not speaking?

Does the Bible really teach God condemns monogamous gay relationships?

It is not natural to think a loving God condemns gays who can no more choose who they have feelings for then straights can. Scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures don’t agree God condemns same-sex relationships which don’t violate anyone’s rights. It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t feel natural to you. You aren’t gay! How we think we ought to treat gays is how God thinks about gays. Take the more loving road? Don’t push people away from God when you could be wrong.

Does the Bible really say that God is coming again to destroy the word in the future?

Why did Jesus tell his audience that supposed predictions about the world ending would happen in their lifetime: “Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass way until all these things have happened” (Mt. 24:34)?” If Jesus is coming again down from the sky why did the disciples ask Jesus: “what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age” (Mt. 24:3)? Only non-visible, spiritual comings are missed.

Does the Bible really teach God only lets certain people get into Heaven?

Why does the Bible say: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ all will be made alive” (I Cor. 15:22)? That would only exclude those who have never died, but last chance I checked all have or will die. The Bible clearly teaches forgiveness is unlimited (i.e. Mt. 18:21-22), but is that not true of God? Might there be second chances after death where one wishes to spend eternity?

I can’t claim because the Bible says so but personally, I am convinced Hell doesn’t exist; God wants women to pursue any role their gifts allow; God doesn’t condemn gays; God isn’t going to destroy the world; and we don’t know if there may be second chances after death when one meets their Creator and all misconceptions are done away with.

When our views of God are stumbling blocks for others, let’s admit we could be wrong. Let God work in the hearts of individuals to reveal what God is really like!

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By Mike Edwards

It isn’t always easy to believe in an invisible God; it isn’t always easy to know how an inaudible God is speaking or guiding us. If God was more visible or audible, wouldn’t our spiritual journey be easier? Jesus established a 24-7 relationship with twelve men and they struggled to believe everything that came out of Jesus’ mouth. Today, God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. I am convinced the road traveled of learning and reflecting better leads to lasting convictions. Maybe God speaks to us in non-dramatic ways out of love!

We are right to look for God’s direction through God’s spirit.

It is reasonable to imagine that since God is invisible that God’s Spirit resides in us and somehow guides us. There is rightly an emphasis in Christian circles that God guides up by their Spirit as opposed to the Bible (i.e. Holy Spirit). When Jesus was leaving this earth, He said the Spirit not some Book such as the Bible guides us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). How do we discern such guidance?

We have more freedom than we realize if God truly created genuine freedom.

We often seek God’s voice in important decisions such as career or marriage. It is natural to think an all-knowing, powerful God has special insights into future outcomes to avoid problems, but creating freedom requires an undetermined future. To say God knows the future suggests a predetermined future which makes freedom nonsensical. God can’t tell you if the person you want to marry won’t end up betraying you or the job you take won’t end up being phased out. God is in life with us. We are free to make our own decisions while being open to the Spirit’s influence to act in the best interest of not just ourselves but others.

Doesn’t God mainly guide through influence?

The example a parent sets, than direct commands, is often how best to guide children to make wise decisions. Doesn’t the Spirit mostly speak through influencing? We know the Spirit’s influence when we have thoughts to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down despite our constant failures. We know the Spirit’s influence when we recognize violence begets violence and respond non-violently. We know the Spirit’s influence when we have wronged someone, we quickly confess and make amends. That just isn’t always natural. All we have to do is being open to the Spirit’s influence.

Isn’t the Spirit’s voice only human impressions or thoughts so we can never be certain?

I mentioned Jesus left this earth saying we would be guided by God’s Spirit in discerning Truth (Jn. 16:13). Jesus didn’t seem overly concern that Truth requires discernment. Jesus didn’t spell out what those specific Truths are. Which decision to make depends on individual circumstances. What may be best for one person about their marriage may not be best for another person. Relax, there is practically universal agreement on most moral matters. Criminals don’t defend their murderous actions; they deny they committed such actions. Certainty when it comes to politics or God has only led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Keep an open mind to what God is like!

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By Mike Edwards

Biblical interpreters will often play the mystery card when their interpretations suggest God’s morals are not the same as human morals. They understand some explanation is required when their views of God are incompatible with most people’s idea of a loving God. Since they believe God gives us our mind and conscience, some rationalization is needed. It is possible our interpretation is wrong, or we can’t know if biblical authors always understood God perfectly.

Even the Bible doesn’t declare God a mystery.

The only place we might get the notion that a relational Creator is mysterious is from a Book. We can’t have the intelligence and knowledge of a God who can be in all places at all time. We may not be able to comprehend all plausible moral reasons why suffering and a good God can co-exist. That doesn’t make God a mystery. Isaiah 55:8-9 is the most common passage to justify that God sometimes is a mystery: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways…” This passage isn’t suggesting we cannot understand God. God exhorts us to forsake our wicked ways and thoughts (v.7) and turn to God’s higher, righteous ways and thoughts (vs. 8-9).

If God is mysterious, why does the Bible ask us to be like God?  

Jesus, who represented God here on earth, assumed we could easily understand God: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). We may not always know what perfect love entails, but knowing the difference from evil and good isn’t rocket science. Even if you don’t read the Bible, one would assume a good God would exhort us to hate evil. If God is evil sometimes humanly speaking, are we supposed to hate God?

Why would a relational God claim to be mysterious?  

By declaring God ways are mysterious at times, how can we have a relationship with a God we can’t understand with the brain God supposedly gave us? When a human or spiritual parent declares “don’t try to understand me fully,” this implies we can’t have a genuine relationship. Claiming God is a mystery doesn’t invite investigation by those who may be seeking God for the first time. We aren’t really doing God a favor by declaring God a mystery because we can’t explain our theology.

God’s will for our life isn’t even a mystery.

God respects freedom too much to predetermine our future. We are free to dream and pursue the desires of our heart. Choose the wisest path based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. A loving parent doesn’t control their child’s future profession. Loving parents want their children to pursue their passions with the gifts they possess. God’s moral ways are clearly not mysterious or hidden. What is God’s moral will? Do all the good we can, in all the places we can, to all the people we can, as long as we can.

 

 

 

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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

     It is more difficult to discuss why God doesn’t intervene more with natural disasters since nature doesn’t have a human soul. Why doesn’t God like any good parent intervene more in such evils, since human freedom isn’t involved? We can at least suggest human evil that accounts for a great deal of human suffering is because of bad choice made by cruel and lawless people.  Evil resulting from nature is much more complicated. It is important to at least begin the discussion.

     Freedom is necessary for authentic relationships. “Controlling love” is an oxymoron and not love at all. God, like parents, had a choice – to not create or to create knowing suffering was a possibility in the pursuit of intimacy. It is impossible for God to lovingly create and control. What God’s love can do is influence in all the appropriate ways, but divine love limits divine power. Yet, natural disasters don’t involve living beings where freedom is necessary for authentic love.

     I do not wish to suggest physical evils such as disasters of nature, diseases, or accidents can always be traced directly to a human’s freedom to inflict pain upon themselves or others. It does seem human accumulated mismanagement of the earth over thousands of years has brought some destruction through hurricanes, tornadoes, floods, droughts, and earthquakes. I read that the earth is constructed of tectonic plates and when they collide, what is atop them can be destroyed.  I doubt the shifting of these plates underground is related to the changing mood of God! When tectonic plates under the earth collide, atop them may be a particularly densely populated, poorly constructed city where authorities only sought to make money out of greed. Could money have been spent otherwise to put a better warning system in place?

     Human mismanagement hardly explains all the causes of natural disasters. Claiming natural disasters are always God’s judgment is nonsense. Furthermore, if God can but doesn’t intervene sometimes doesn’t that suggests God’s love is arbitrary and lead to guessing which disasters are God’s judgment. It is possible that it was necessary for God to set up freedom when creating humans and nature. Love requires freedom. The “butterfly effect” suggests that the flap of a butterfly wing in one part of the world can influence weather in another part of the world at some time in the future. Can God no more control butterfly wings than humans to be loving? Freedom may be necessary for a creation act to be loving. If God cannot take away your freedom, maybe it is not a stretch to say God can’t control cells, organisms, etc. (Please see: God Can’t: How to Believe in God and Love after Tragedy, Abuse, and Other Evils by Thomas Jay Oord)

     What we do know is that God never wants us to suffer undeservingly, but God has constraints because of freedom. When God doesn’t perform a miracle or when God’s doesn’t answer our prayers, we can’t know all the factors involved why God acts the way God does.  What I am convinced of is that God feels our pain and hurts as much as humans when they suffer. God is committed to bringing as much good as possible out of evil. Our demands for an all-powerful, invulnerable God comes at the expense of trusting God know best how to create a free universe and influence as many lives as possible through their own volition.

See HERE my Book God, Evil, And Suffering – Does God Really Care for further discussion.

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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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