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By Mike Edwards

Confession. I write about the same topic often by asking some version of the question: What Is God Really Like? Open discussions as to what a perfect Creator is like are important; an imperfect Creator is not worth believing in. People may stop believing or never start believing in God if they accept everything they hear about God!

People when describing God often quote the Bible. Isn’t that where we discover what God is like? It may be if you have a Bible unlike the majority of people born into this world. So, there must be other ways to know God. The problem is scholars who respect Scriptures don’t agree on the meaning of the same passages. Interpretations aren’t infallible. We have every right to question interpretations that suggest a Creator doesn’t love how we were seemingly created to love others.

Who wants to follow a God who is antiscience, antiwoman, antigay, etc.? Many only believe or claim the following because of what they think a Book declares about God:

  • How could a God who teaches forgiveness seventy times seven possibly create Hell to torture anyone forever since such pain serves no lasting purpose? Humans wouldn’t even create such a place for their worst enemies. I am convinced even if you believe every word of the Bible is inspired by God, the traditional understanding of Hell doesn’t exist in the Bible. See Here
  • How could a loving God demand only Christians go to heaven so all other Religions can go to Hell? The majority of people born into this world died without knowledge of the Bible or who Jesus was. Also, most rebel or adhere to the religion where born. If born into a Buddhist family, one is likely to become a nominal or devoted Buddhist, etc. Is God a God of chance?
  • How could a loving God condemn gays when they can no more choose who they love than straights can? If you think there is a 1% possibility that science proves that sexual orientation isn’t a choice, then let’s error on the non-judgmental side. Who chooses homosexuality when one has to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility? See Here
  • How could a loving God favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. The Bible can also be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. Women don’t need male leadership in marriage; women need men who have the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).
  • Why would God insist on a literal interpretation of Genesis which seemingly denies the possibility of evolution? Scientists, who believe in the authority of Scriptures, have provided overwhelming genetic evidence that the human race couldn’t have originated from a single couple but through a population of some thousands of individuals. People don’t need to lose their faith because they believe in evolution. See https://biologos.org/
  • Why would God create or even allow evil? When we say God allows evil, it gives the impression God stands by when God could stop evil. A God who can prevent evil but doesn’t is no different than a parent who stands by and watches their child being physically or sexually abused. Maybe God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. God can only stop evil with the help of others or not create freedom!
  • I have just begun.

What is God really like? Extremists insist on their interpretation of a Book. Anyway, we can’t prove every word of the Bible was inspired by God unless you argue a biblical writer making such a claim is definitive evidence. Writers may have needed to grow in their understanding of God. Listen to your moral inner voice what God is like. You may be right! God surely created us with intuitions how we ought to love others perfectly like God. Challenge God to help you find answers to your questions.

 

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By Mike Edwards

One would think God-followers wouldn’t be judgmental. After all, we are guided by the principle of loving others as we want to be loved. Jesus certainly didn’t seem judgmental. He hung out with all kinds of people who probably didn’t share His beliefs. Jesus did get His ire up with religious folks because they were misrepresenting God. We must stand up or judge when children are abused, women are violated, etc., but not unload on others when their beliefs aren’t ours.

Some Christians may be judgmental as a defense mechanism.

It isn’t easy for those of us who have forsaken religion but not God to have discussions about our new beliefs with those still a part of the institutional church. Remember, you may be causing one to question or defend beliefs they have held on for a long time. Don’t be too judgmental. Can you remember at one time arguing about what you use to believe passionately? We mustn’t force conversations but have civil discussion with those who desire them.

Some Christians may be judgmental because of Leadership.

Church leaders seem to believe uncertainty is a sign of weakness. Catholics, Methodists, Etc. establish the certainty of creeds that one must believe in. Try challenging the doctrines and see where that gets you! If God was so concerned about beliefs such as the Trinity, Angels, the Bible, the Virgin Mary, wouldn’t there be more agreement. Maybe Christians would be more united and less judgmental if religions only had the Creed of Love. Jesus didn’t follow the business/institutional church manual. Jesus encouraged “Whoever is least among you is the greatest” (Lk. 9:48).

The biggest reason Christians may be judgmental is because convinced following the Bible.

Many Christians condemn same-sex relationships, women are denied equal or authoritative roles as men, and it is said only Christians can go to heaven so all other religions can go to Hell. Good people, though it doesn’t feel natural, often only condemn same-sex relationships out of supposed allegiance to God because of the Bible. But literature, including the Bible, requires interpretation.

Even if the entire Bible is inspired by God, interpretations aren’t inspired. Admitting you could be wrong would encourage different views standing side by side as we continually evaluate the most loving approach. Many spiritual minded people assume they need to convert their friends to supposed certain beliefs (theirs) to be accepted by God. Stop! You may be wrong! Now, if you believe in beheading and killing people because they don’t share your personal beliefs about God, you are wrong! God gave you a brain not a Book to discern evil actions.

Christians may fear uncertainty.  

There is almost universal agreement on most moral matters. Criminals don’t defend their murderous actions; they deny they committed such actions. To violate one’s physical or emotional rights is clearly wrong, but total certainty is an illusion. Christians who proclaim “because the Bible says so,” force supposed truth onto others. As mentioned, the Bible requires interpretation.

Uncertainty, rather than certainty, leads to more loving actions. Starting a conversation with “I may be wrong” can lead to new understandings and creative solutions. Try it in marriage! Conversations change when humbleness is part of the tone. Certainty when it comes to politics has led to justifying verbal or physical violence in the name of God or morality. Different opinions expressed without physical or verbal aggression can be resolved by respecting the freedom of others, as God does, while remaining open-minded to new understandings.

Would you naturally assume if not for your understanding of a Book that:

  • God condemns gays though gays no more choose to be gay than straights choose to be straight
  • God prohibits women serving as pastors or priests though my wife and daughters are a lot smarter and better leaders than a whole lot of men
  • God encourages wives being more submissive to husbands which is conducive to abuse
  • God judges based on religion when the religion the majority adhere to depends where born

Every view above is debated among biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures. Let’s have open discussions without hiding behind an infallible Book like terrorists. Even if an infallible Book does exist, infallible interpretations are a myth. I am convinced questioning the Bible would lead to Christians being less judgmental and more loving.

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By Mike Edwards

Beliefs claimed about God lead to many tuning out God. Our relationship with God cannot exceed our understanding of God. I have written HERE how we can decide what God is really like. One’s interpretation of a Book may be the only reason to think human and godly perfection are different. Why would a Creator not love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others?

Common moral sense would never put men in authority over women.

Most would agree equalitarian rather than hierarchical relationships are less likely to lead to the mistreatment of women. Many husbands assume leadership means making final decisions in an impasse. Best friends, in marriage or other dyad relationships, don’t require a leader. I have never had an issue in 37 years of marriage that cannot be solve creatively without one partner making all such decisions.  Jesus said the first shall be last, but most men don’t interpret this to mean their wife is the final decision-maker. Women need men with the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).

Isn’t it obvious the most qualified or gifted should be appointed CEO? Few would dare justify only allowing men in leadership roles in business; I doubt God feels any different who the preacher or priest is. Does God really not trust women to handle the Truth! Let’s stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations.

Doesn’t the Bible though argue for loving authority?

It is said that the Apostle Paul, who wrote a lot of the New Testament, teaches men have spiritual authorities women don’t. Some may be unaware the Bible can be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. See here. Paul affirmed and didn’t condemn women praying and prophesying (I Cor. 11:4-5). Paul mentions in practically the same breath that roles are according to one’s gifts and doesn’t mention gender (I Cor. 12:4-11). Romans 16 is only one of many chapters in the Bible that speaks of women in leadership roles, similar to both Priscilla and Aquila teaching Apollos (Acts 18:26). Passages like this presuppose that women can teach men.

Did Paul really use the example of Adam and Eve to suggest a universal model for leadership to avoid women leading men astray (I Tim. 2:12-15)? It is just as likely Paul used the first couple as an example of what to avoid – Eve prevailing upon Adam to go against God’s ways. But, if such a sin keeps women from preaching for eternity, maybe men shouldn’t preach either. Besides, Paul says Adam was responsible for what happened in the garden (Rom. 5:12). Paul in this same Timothy passage advises women to avoid certain hairstyles or jewelry (I Tim: 2:9), but seldom do churches make the same prohibitions as they do women teaching.

God can’t be bias toward gender or skin color.

I am not sure why any fair-minded person would think women can’t fulfill the same leadership roles as men in the spiritual or work realm unless believing a Book teaches this is God’s will for humankind. Most would agree not allowing equal roles because of the color of your skin born with is immoral. I would suggest denying women equal roles, because of the gender born, is emotional abuse if they are gifted to lead. A good God surely doesn’t advocate racism or favoritism. I am going to stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations. 

Even in the Old Testament female leadership isn’t condemned.  

OT times, where patriarchal and female concubines were rampant, would likely be an era to speak against female leaders. The role of a prophet was clearly a mouthpiece for the very words and council of God. Miriam, the sister of Aaron, was a prophet (Ex 15:20) who help lead Israel (Mic. 6:4). Huldad also was a prophet (2 Kings 22:14; 2 Chron. 34:22). Queen Esther had great influence and clear authority (Esther 7-10). Deborah was a prophet (Judg. 4:4) who also served as a Judge of Israel, which was the highest leader position in Israel at this time. Such an authoritative role by a woman may not have been common in a patriarchal world but the text offers no condemnation. The OT recognizes a place for women in roles of civil authority and as spokespersons for God. Saying “a woman’s place is only in the home” is not a biblical one.

What about God’s gender and Jesus’?

But Jesus was a male and God is our heavenly Father! If people already didn’t listen to Jesus in the first century do you think they would listen to a female Jesus? Jesus encouraged equality between the sexes against culture norms. The gods of the nations in biblical times were described as either male or female. By contrast, the Jews did not speculate about the “masculinity” of God, and God is never ever referred to as male. We must be careful to not assume God is more male simply because our English translations use male pronouns when referring to God. God was also described both like a woman in childbirth (Isaiah 42:14), a mother who does not forget the child she nurses (Isaiah 49:14-15). Both male and female best describe God’s image (Genesis 1:26). A reason for more male references by the biblical writers is likely because of the patriarchal cultures the writers lived in. 

There are so many reasons to not encourage men having authority over women.  

One person wrote to the editor of a newspaper “…it’s been bothering me since 9/11. What’s the difference between the strain of Islam that proscribes gender roles and its counterpart in Christianity that does the same thing, albeit with a different set of prohibitions? Religious extremists would rather be dead than advise husbands to love their wives as their own bodies as the Apostle Paul did (Eph. 5:28). In any religion justification of the different treatment of women from men is usually because of a Holy Book that speaks for God. Common moral sense is assumed to be the enemy.  I haven’t only argued my view according to the Bible. Literature always requires interpretation, so we must use common moral sense as well. Appointing men in authority over women can be conducive for domestic abuse and other atrocities women face at the hands of men.

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By Mike Edwards

Only terrorists believe a good God encourages beheadings for unbelief. Millions of rational people don’t believe God condemns gays even according to the Bible. Claiming the Bible is not inerrant disturbs many, but the problem is that often personal interpretations are implied to be the Truth. Biblical scholars who believe the Bible is authoritative disagree on meanings of passages, and we can’t ask writers for clarification. Opposing sides often demonize one another by declaring their view of God according to the Bible is right. This matter is critical because understandings of God shape attitudes toward God and impact lives.

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

Many only condemn gays or restrict women’s spiritual roles because of the Bible, but two plausible interpretations exist on most major issues when speaking of God’s character. Many defend that the Bible teaches that God proclaims women cannot be in authority over men in roles such as a priest or pastor. Scholars who respect Scriptures also proclaim the Bible teaches roles are based on gifts not gender. See here Our view impacts half the human population. Biblical scholars disagree if the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. Millions of lives are impacted.

How might a Creator convey what like since any Book about God 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?

Many claim God is a mystery sometimes 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 and implying God and human love are the same. It is certain that we don’t always know what perfect love is, but the mystery card hinders discussions about God’s true character.

Shouldn’t we choose views of God with fewer negative costs?

We may not benefit from the most gifted leading if women are prohibited from leadership roles. As important, women can feel disrespected and confused why a supposedly loving God would choose according to gender than gifts. Many recognize as bigotry if we used such criteria in business or other roles. Finally, putting men in leadership position 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 can be argued that the Bible suggest women don’t need male leadership; women need men with the heart of a servant (Eph. 5:28-29).

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! Scientific knowledge available suggests sexual orientation isn’t a choice. Why would anyone choose to be gay based on the condemnation and bigotry they face? Parents often only condemn their gay children because of their supposed correct interpretation of a Book. We know the psychological harm done when one must hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility. We must be guided by love – how should I treat others if I had the same non-choices?

For Bible folks when two debatable interpretations in Scriptures exist… 

Err on the side that portrays God as the most loving to the human mind. I am only aware of two reasons to think God condemns gays. One, you believe the Bible teaches God condemns gays. That is disputable. Secondly, you don’t think gayness is natural. You aren’t gay so how do you know. Let gay people speak for themselves. Love gays like you would want to be love if gay. Please don’t compare gay love to pedophile love which is not consensual. Love others like they want to be loved because you could be wrong.

 

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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 am not sure why any fair-minded person would think women can’t fulfill the same leadership roles as men in the spiritual or work realm unless believing God according to a Book requires this. Most would agree not allowing equal roles because of the color of your skin is immoral. I would suggest denying women equal roles is emotional abuse if they are gifted to lead. Does God really believe roles are best determined according to gender than gifts?

Can we determine God’s views according to some Book?

Men who believe roles should be determined according to gender than gifts aren’t all pigs. I used to believe this but my gut could never make sense why a good God would think this way. Many of us were taught to believe because the Bible says so. In many countries a Book is used to suggest God condones women not having the same rights as men to vote, drive, or dress how they want.

I don’t wish to argue though what the Bible says. Some may be unaware the Bible can be interpreted to endorse roles according to gifts not gender. See here.  I don’t wish to argue if the biblical writers came to a better understanding of God over time. I only wish to point out that the Bible or any literature requires interpretation, thus why so many disagree over the meaning of the same passages. No one can claim certainty because the Bible says so. 

How can we know what God thinks about women and roles?  

Saying “I love you” is nonsensical if we don’t have some ideas what “to love” means. Most believe One who claims to be God must be morally perfect. The best way we have to think what a perfect God is like is to discuss what human perfection is. Godly and human perfection surely are one and the same. If we know how we ought to love and treat women, we intuitively know how God ought to love and treat women.

The test for human or godly morality is if treating others like we want to be treated. Terrorists proclaim morality according to a Book but something is amiss – they would object to being beheaded, raped, or denied their freedom of beliefs. Men, we must treat women how we wish to be treated when opportunities arise to lead a church, business, etc. At least let’s not defend our position only because the Bible says so. We do not have to check our moral conscience at the door.

What if moral intuitions clash?

There is universal agreement on most moral matters such as murdering or stealing. We may not agree what a perfect parent or God would do in each situation, but we could agree on many attributes. Keep in mind even if believing the Bible in infallible, interpretations are not infallible. Read the Bible with a questioning spirit while putting ourselves in another’s shoes. Uncertainty, rather than supposed certainty, forces us to be more open-minded. 

The most qualified or gifted should surely be the CEO or preach!

I am going to stand on the side that is potentially less abusive to half of God’s creations concerning roles. Similarly, in marriage equalitarian rather than hierarchical relationships are less likely to lead to the mistreatment of women. Do we really want to imply that God doesn’t trust women to handle the Truth? Different opinions, expressed without hostility, surely help lead us to the most loving stance.

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