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By Mike Edwards

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You may believe God inspired and approved every word written down in the Bible. We still must discern the writer’s meaning and application to our circumstances. Personal interpretations are not infallible. Opposing sides often demonize one another by declaring their view of God according to the Bible is right. It is said since Jesus was God in flesh, Jesus is the final authority in understanding God. We still though have to interpret Jesus’ words. Scholars hardly agree what Jesus advised on divorce. Which interpretation is best when two reasonable interpretations exist?

Did you know scholars disagree about women and gays according to the Bible?

Bigotry or a Book, where every word is thought to be inspired by God, are main reasons different treatment of women from men are justified. Two plausible interpretations exist on most major issues when speaking of God’s character. Many defend that the Bible teaches God proclaims women cannot be in authority over men in roles such as a priest or pastor. Scholars also proclaim the Bible teaches roles are based on gifts not gender. See here. Scholars disagree if the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. See here. These views have impacted billions of lives!

How would a Creator convey what like since any Book is subject to interpretation?

Is it possible a universal, inborn desire to treat others like we want to be treated is one way a Creator would communicate what is good versus evil? After all, half the people born in this world didn’t possess a Bible. I don’t know any God or non-God person that doesn’t advocate the golden rule being a valuable guide in relationships. How would we want to be treated if in that person’s shoes? Which view is most loving from a human perspective?

Even those who claim God is a mystery imply God speaks through our moral intuitions.  

Many claim God is a mystery because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters, who would agree humans were created in God’s image, are using their moral intuitions to imply God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but this doesn’t mean anything goes. Only terrorists, because they don’t question a Book, believe a good God encourages beheading for unbelief.

Choose understandings of God with fewer negative human consequences.

Many recognize as bigotry if we chose business leaders based on gender than gifts. Putting men in leadership positions over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part, which can be conducive for abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men. It is hard for men to twist mutual submission to suggest husbands make the final decisions in a stalemate. It doesn’t make moral sense why God would condemn gays when they can no more chose who they love than straight can. Ask them! Why would anyone choose to be gay based on the condemnation and bigotry faced? Which interpretation? Err on the side that doesn’t contradict your intuitive sense of a loving God. Discuss with others. You are free to choose the most loving way.

 

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By Mike Edwards

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Total certainty is an illusion because even if God is Truth, we still have to discern what is Truth. For example, there is genuine disagreement if God of the Bible desires preachers or priests be women or gay. I am convinced so many people are leaving the institutional church, but not God, because of lack of open dialogue. It’s hard to be relational when you are so damn certain!

Certainty is not found in a Book even if infallible.

It is implied that we can only know God through the Bible. Newsflash – literature always requires interpretation. You are interpreting my meaning as you read this blog. Am I saying God disapproves all certainty or that uncertainty isn’t all bad? A fallible, not infallible Book, more encourages questioning than demonizing views to the contrary. God-followers seem unaware, as I was, how they come off morally superior based on their assumptions about the Bible.

How can we know God if certainly not through the Bible? 

Only a perfect or good God is worth believing in! Who doesn’t know a good God hates beheading people for unbelief unless a supposed infallible Book speaks for God? God doesn’t get enough credit for communicating through our moral intuitions. Criminals often don’t defend their actions; instead, they deny committing such crimes. A Book couldn’t be a Creator’s only type of communication, because the majority of people born into this world didn’t possess a Bible or know of Jesus. Problems often begin when we stray from common moral sense and insist on our understanding from an inspired Book. How can we decide what God is really like? See HERE

Where has certainty in God’s name gotten us?

It is logical to suggest we can’t be certain what an invisible, inaudibly God thinks, but supposed certainty has led to justifying slavery and revered theologians such as St. Augustine and John Calvin not firmly opposing the execution of those not agreeing with their theology. Certainty has led to condemning gays, though scholars who accept Scriptures as authoritative, don’t agree the Bible disapproves of same-gender loving, monogamous, consensual relationships. Women, though gifted, are denied entrance into the priesthood or pastorate in God’s name. 

Uncertainty doesn’t have to lead to chaos or lawlessness.

As mentioned, the Bible can’t be the definitive guide what God would do because scholars even biblical scholars disagree what God says about divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, hell, the afterlife, etc. Uncertainty unless talking about beheading infidels, not certainly about God, protects against imposing beliefs on others which is not God’s nature. Different opinions, expressed without physical or verbal aggression, can stand side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. 

Uncertainty must exist in a free world.  

Freedom is absolutely necessary for authentic relationships. God’s constant interference and presence could prevent true intimacy from emerging. Freedom leads to a great deal of unpredictability. The only way for a God to protect us completely against emotional or physical harm is to create robots. God can’t promise you a certain outcome in relationships or jobs and still be a respecter of freedom. God deals as much with uncertainty as we do, as not even an all-powerful God can know a free, undetermined future.

Uncertainty about God may be out of love.

God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parents push their agendas, even if in their child’s best interest, they may resent or rebel against coercion and never turn back. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow for heartfelt choices. The road traveled of learning, reflecting, and non-coerced choices may best lead to lasting convictions. Moral knowledge isn’t hidden. Amoral decisions are open. Maybe God speaks to us in non-dramatic ways out of love!

Uncertainty can lead to acting more loving.

Being unable to declare the certainty or morality of our opinions forces us to listen and express ideas openly. Forcing beliefs doesn’t lead to long-lasting change. Starting a conversation with “I may be wrong” more likely leads to new understandings and creative solutions. Try it in relationships! Uncertainty doesn’t result in lawlessness. Who doesn’t know God hates murder, sexual abuse, stealing, adultery, even not treating others like you want to be treated? Continually evaluate the most loving approach is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. A loving God only wishes to influence us to make choices with the interest of others in mind.

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By Mike Edwards

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Why isn’t the Bible clearer about divorce, gays, women’s roles, heaven and hell, etc.? If God hates evil so much, why doesn’t God intervene more in our world? Why isn’t God clearer about origins since so many people lose their faith because of their scientific understandings and what the Bible supposedly says? Decide if the below are just rationalizations.

Can we stop claiming the Bible says whoever doubts God is in denial!

The Book of Romans is most commonly used to claim the Bible teaches all who don’t believe in a Creator are simply suppressing what they know to be true deep down. Romans actually says: “many knew God…they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God” (Rm. 1:21, 29). The writer’s audience simply sought to justify evil ways. Those who believe aren’t needing a crutch and those that don’t believe aren’t wicked and don’t know their feelings. I would struggle to believe in God if I thought Hell was real. There are valid reasons for believing or not believing.

God may not be as hidden as it seems.

A universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated may be a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions. We seem to know we ought to abide by the golden rule. We all have an innate knowledge of right and wrong. What rational person doesn’t believe murder, lying, stealing, or adultery is wrong? Most criminals don’t defend but deny their actions.

Maybe God doesn’t have to speak to influence. 

A parent’s example, not commands, often speaks louder to a child. Doesn’t God mostly speak through influencing? The Bible refers to the Holy Spirit guiding us in truth (Jn. 14:16-17; 16:13). We know the Spirit’s influence when we have thoughts to be the perfect partner, parent, or friend we desire to be deep down. Is the Spirit influencing when we quickly confess and make amends if wronged someone? That’s just not always natural. Maybe we just have to be open to God’s Spirit.

At least God isn’t hiding an unknown future. 

It is natural to think an all-knowing, power God has special insights into future outcomes to help us avoid problems. To say God knows the future suggests a predetermined future making 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. Freedom must be important to God as controlling love is an oxymoron. God joins us in an open future. We surely have God’s blessing choosing the wisest path at the time based on past experiences, current circumstances, and future aspirations. 

How was it when God spoke more or showed up in person?  

Direct communication isn’t always magical. God supposedly spoke audibly when giving Moses the Ten Commandments. Some misunderstood God by not helping an injured soul on the Sabbath. Jesus was said to be God in person, but His miracles didn’t obtain results suggested if God would just stop hiding. Jesus had a 24-7 relationship with twelve men, and they struggled to believe everything that came out of Jesus’ mouth. Jesus’ example than words seems to change the world.

Maybe God speaks to us in non-dramatic ways out of love! 

God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. When parents push their agendas, even if in their children best interests, they may resent or rebel against coercion and never turn back. If God communicates in less demonstrative ways, this may allow for heartfelt choices. The road traveled of learning and reflecting may best lead to lasting convictions. Loving parents want their children to freely reciprocate their love, not feel manipulated.

My grown kids don’t always seek my advice to avoid problems. We are close. I am a counselor by profession so geez – I have a few relational skills. Heck, I announced when teenagers my role was changing to being more of a mentor than authority figure. What teenager doesn’t dig that? Well, my grown kids – old enough to get over any resentments – aren’t runny to catch honey from my lips. Then again, I am not knocking down doors for advice from others. We may all need to travel the journey toward wisdom at our own pace without any pressure.

God can still love us despite being hidden.  

Freedom is absolutely necessary for authentic relationships. God’s constant interference and presence could prevent a superior world from emerging. Moral knowledge isn’t hidden. Non-moral decisions are open. A Creator may not reveal themselves for humane reasons we haven’t thought of. The Bible was more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite subject to interpretation. Uncertainty, not certainly about God, protects against imposing beliefs on others which is not God’s nature. Different opinions communicated respectively can stand together as we continually evaluate the most loving approach.

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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 Jim Gordon

As we start a new year, do we really need to say anything more than to love one another?

The message you heard from the very beginning is this: we must love one another. (1 John 3:11)

Do not take revenge on others or continue to hate them, but love your neighbors as you love yourself. I am the Lord. (Leviticus 19:18)

Above everything, love one another earnestly, because love covers over many sins. (1 Peter 4:8)

Be under obligation to no one—the only obligation you have is to love one another. Whoever does this has obeyed the Law. (Romans 13:8)

My children, our love should not be just words and talk; it must be true love, which shows itself in action. (1 John 3:18)

No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in union with us, and his love is made perfect in us. We are sure that we live in union with God and that he lives in union with us, because he has given us his Spirit. (1 John 4:12-13)

Do all your work in love. (1 Corinthians 16:14)

Be always humble, gentle, and patient. Show your love by being tolerant with one another. Do your best to preserve the unity which the Spirit gives by means of the peace that binds you together. (Ephesians 4:2-3)

To conclude: you must all have the same attitude and the same feelings; love one another, and be kind and humble with one another. Do not pay back evil with evil or cursing with cursing; instead, pay back with a blessing, because a blessing is what God promised to give you when he called you. (1 Peter 3:8-9)

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13:34-35)

“Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” (Matthew 5:44-45)

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12-13)

“Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 12:8)

As we start into the year 2020, let us remember to put down our prejudices, ignore the labels placed upon people and let the love of God and love of all people be what we are known for. Happy New Year and thanks to all who followed our articles during the past year.

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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 Jordan Hathcock

 “We are part of something more than we are observing something. How does that feel to you? From the perspective of participation, we can recognize that most of religious and church history has been largely preoccupied with religious ideas about which we could be wrong or right. When it is all about ideas, we do not have to be part of “it”; we just need to talk correctly about “it.” We can avoid actually living out our beliefs and walking our talk.”– Richard Rohr

When it comes to the history of Christendom, it was mostly about obedience then participation. We see this through the various traditions. This concept of obedience ends up being more of “having the correct” beliefs rather than living out a loving way of life. When we get to caught up in the ideas of faith, we wind up being consumers rather than doers.

When we come to experiential trust, we can recognize that it’s really about connecting with others through relationships. It’s making oneself encounter the whole of being rather than worrying about if you have the doctrine of the atonement right (which it all boils down to a theory rather than an experience). See, when we get to caught up in “who has it right” we create an us vs. them paradigm which only causes division.

We have to come to the table of reconciliation and be always for coming together unified despite our differences. Yes, there is a way to participate that involves some type of decision to “obey”-which a better term would be taking action. Unfortunately, from many people’s stories and experiences with obedience, it was more of a blind allegiance rather than a divine connection. It is a dangerous thing when one loses himself to the higher powers of authority. This will lead to unhealthy abuse as one study showed regarding blind authoritative control:

“Decent people participate in horrific acts not because they become passive, mindless functionaries who do not know what they are doing, but rather because they come to believe — typically under the influence of those in authority — that what they are doing is right.”-Science Daily

When we come to a place of authoritative obedience, we become oblivious to the harmful effects to ourselves and others. This is not what having faith is all about! Faith is having the courage to step into the unknown and experience the process of bringing about love that heals and liberates. God is not interested in obedience as much as entering in a relational space that endows growth and connection. Yes, we make the decision to trust and follow God, but if we do not believe that the center of all being is already connected to us, we will never fully allow this relationship to God and Her creation blossom and take hold of our reality. If its just obedience to an idea and not to a reality, we will not see the transformation bloom in ourselves and our surroundings.

Coming to a place of desiring the divine connection is a difficult journey. Its not all skittles and rainbows, that is for damn sure! It does take a great amount of patience and letting go of egotistical habits. Jesus wasn’t lying when he said, “to find life you must lose your life”. It is action that really drives a reaction. If we just sit on the sidelines of statements of beliefs, we will never truly experience the divine transformation that breaks us free. If we don’t take seriously the Orthopraxy of this whole Jesus movement, we are not going to survive. Its time we become participants of the God who is love and let go of the idea of blind obedience if we ever want to see dynamic change…

“New and stirring things are belittled because if they are not belittled the humiliating question arises ‘Why then are you not taking part in them?” ― H.G. Wells

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