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By Mike Edwards

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I swear this is the last time I will write on this subject until next time. There is repetition in my writing because I am always trying to answer the question better.  I named my blog What God May Really Be Like  in search of answers to this question. I am convinced many don’t pursue a relationship with God because of mistaken beliefs claimed about God.   

The truth is we can’t prove that God exist or doesn’t exist. Either belief takes faith. If a Creator does exist, most agree only a perfectly good or loving God is worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical if we are clueless about perfect love. A Creator surely loves in ways God’s creations sense they ought to love others.

God and perfect human love must be the same.

The Bible even suggests perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). “Follow God’s example…” (Eph. 5:1). We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly or am I loving others like our Creator loves. God is often claimed a mystery because one’s interpretation of Scriptures makes God seem evil. Such interpreters sense intuitively God and human love are the same.

Moral intuitions are a guide in what true love is.

It is plausible a universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated is how a Creator communicates how to treat others if in that person’s shoes. I don’t know any reasonable God or non-God believer that doesn’t respect the golden rule in relationships. Rational people don’t always agree what is our moral obligation concerning immigration, climate change, abortion, health care, taxes, or responding to evil dictators that murder their own people, but civil dialogue allows evaluating the challenges we encounter and finding what different views have in common.

But, what about the Bible?

We can’t prove if biblical writers were made to understand God perfectly as opposed to being on the same spiritual journey all are on – discovering what God is really like? Even if God inspired every word of the Bible, we can’t always know what the writers meant. Scholars disagree on the meaning of the same biblical passages concerning significant matters such as hell, women, gays, etc. Sick and weak minds carry out immoral acts contrary to common moral sense according to their interpretation. We must use our moral brains when reading ancient literature.

What About Jesus? 

It is argued, because of the challenges understanding God and violence in the Old Testament, that Jesus is the final word in understanding God. Jesus claimed to be God and His moral legacy seems undeniable. But God-followers don’t always agree what Jesus taught because of transmission, translation, and interpretation. People who love Jesus with all their heart don’t agree if Jesus’ teachings allow or rule out war when evil is rampant and victims can be saved. It is an illusion to claim we can know for certain what God would do because the Bible or Jesus says so.

What does God really think about women, gays, and non-Christians? 

Most intuitively question if a loving God really favors men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. Most intuitively question if a loving God really condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who attracted to than straights can.  Most intuitively question if God would torture infidels forever for beliefs while on earth only for a short time. Humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies. Such beliefs may only be held because of one’s interpretation of a supposed inspired Book.

Uncertainty may be better than certainty.

Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. It is universally accepted that it is evil to kill or behead someone because of their beliefs, unless you are a terrorist, but it is not a universal belief that God condemns gays. God may not communicate more directly, because God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. The Bible was more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite subject to interpretation. The road traveled of learning and reflecting may best lead to lasting convictions. Different opinions communicated respectively can stand together as we continually evaluate the most loving.

It matters what we think God is like!

Our mental images of God shape our relationship with God and how followers might treat others. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion. We can’t know what God is exactly like, but continually evaluating the most loving approach openly with others is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. Imagine what God is like. You may be right!

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By Mike Edwards

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This is a longer Post. Feel free to read sections below that interest more. I will make each section as brief as possible. You can go Here for more Posts on the Bible. I sat down to write a book on the Bible and decided instead to summarize my main thoughts in hopes it may lead to civil, fruitful discussions with others and ultimately to less judgmental actions.   

Some believe God inspired all of the Bible thus is God’s final word on guidance; others believe the Spirit may guide us toward even a higher view of God than the biblical writers always had. One can still be a devoted God-follower though they don’t believe God inspired every word in the Bible. God may have intended the Bible simply to be viewed as recorded experiences of a nation’s beginnings with God culminating with the life of Jesus. God didn’t necessarily intend for the Bible to not be questioned. Not reading the Bible with an open mind has led to sick minds carrying out immoral acts in God’s name contrary to common moral sense.

Does God ever control human cognitions that would guarantee an inspired Book?

The presence of so much evil in this world, contrary to God’s wishes, suggests that God seeks to influence than dictate beliefs. An uncontrolling God cannot guarantee a perfect Book, but God can enter our world with the communications means available to help reflect on what God is really like. God’s freedom-giving nature doesn’t support God performing a lobotomy on biblical writers or editors and controlling the canon process. The Catholic Bible has seven additional books in the Old Testament than the Protestant Bible. We can’t be certain our books of the Bible are the ones God intended to convey truth. There may be other books excluded that convey truth about God.

It is circular logic to suggest the Bible is infallible or inspired by God because biblical writers make such a claim. No one can prove that the biblical writers always understood God perfectly. They may have grown in their understanding over time. It is perfectly normal to think that when the Bible records “God said,” it was the writer’s impressions of God. Writers didn’t claim they were always hearing an audible voice. When the words infallible or inspired are used about a Book, many assume the words penned by the writers either came from God or have God’s approval. I doubt many things said about God in the Bible are true. See here.

Even if the Bible was inspired by God, we can never say “The Bible says…”

One may believe the biblical writers/editors always understood God perfectly, but the Bible as literature requires interpretation of a writer’s meaning and the writer isn’t around to ask what they meant. No Book can be proven to be supernaturally controlled, much less be perfectly interpreted. Biblical scholars who respect the authority of Scriptures interpret differently what God thinks about critical matters such as divorce, gender roles, homosexuality, and the afterlife.

Do you doubt a loving God would favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face? See here. Isn’t it shocking one country only recently loosen restrictions on women’s ability to travel without male guardian permission? Do you doubt God condemn gays when gays can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can, and they have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility? See  here.  Do you doubt a loving God tortures anyone forever, when humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies? See here.  Many biblical scholars that have a deep respect for Scriptures have the same doubts.

Assuming the Bible is inspired leads down dangerous, slippery slopes. 

People often abandon common moral decency because of a supposed inspired Book. Inspired Books, as opposed to possibly fallible Books, has led down the slippery slope of justifying one’s interpretation as the Word of God. Many fail to acknowledge literature requires interpretation, and their interpretation may be wrong. Was God really the kind of Warrior described in the Old Testament? Since we are to emulate God, war is often justified in the name of God and justice. War may be necessary at times, but don’t hide behind the Bible as your only justification.

Only terrorists, because they don’t question a Book, believe a good God encourages beheading for unbelief. Common moral sense is demonized! Terrorists or extremists seldom admit all believers don’t interpret the Koran or the Bible the same. Terrorists aren’t the only ones who don’t question if God inspired the writer’s thought or if their interpretations are correct. It is seldom admitted that biblical scholars, who believe in the authority of Scriptures, do not agree on God’s views toward non-Christians which impacts billions of lives. How could a loving God approve only Christians go to heaven, when the majority of people born into this world rebel or adhere to the religion where born. Is God a God of chance? We must be guided by love, not just a Book!

So, how can we know what God is like?

If God exists and wants us to know Her, God may have provided other ways. After all, the majority of people born into this world from the beginning of time never had a Bible or had heard of Jesus. Even the Bible claims we best know God through the influence of God’s Spirit than the written word. Universal moral outrage toward murder, stealing, lying, etc. hints of a Creator’s influence through our moral intuitions. It is universally known how to love others – like we want to be loved! Moral intuitions are fallible but at least they should join the party of fallible interpretations for civil discussions. 

The main way to understand God’s love is to compare to human love. This is why many claim God is a mystery because their interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. It is often said the central message taught by the Bible is clear and the rest is nit-picking. Not true! We don’t agree what God thinks according to the Bible about women, gays, divorce, hell, etc. We may not always know what perfect love is, but surely God’s love and perfect human love are one and the same.

Does uncertainty make God a hidden, unloving God?

Let’s dispel the myth that anything goes when we can’t claim certainty. Who doesn’t know physical or sexual abuse is evil? 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. Good thing there is no magic book to definitively tell us what God is like. We would just use it as a club to beat people into believing.

Certainty about God has led to justifying slavery, killing infidels, denying women, condemning gays, and other atrocities in the name of God. Open-minded uncertainty rather than “supposed” certainty could go a long way to healing national and personal relationships! Imagine if all marriages adopted this attitude. God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. 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!

Read the Bible in a creative and fun away! 

Have fun discerning the moral of the story regarding the Tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Garden since so many interpretations exist. Was God warning us to keep out of God’s business since we can’t understand God? Was God trying to protect us by encouraging trusting God’s way than our own ways sometimes? Those not growing up in church don’t understand all the fuss. Who thinks literature subject to interpretation should be read so dogmatically? Read the Bible with an open-mind motivated by love rather than with blind obedience.  Discern a takeaway how to be more the person you deep down desire to be. That may be God’s Spirit talking to you.

It matters what you think God is like!

God is accused of being many things because of the Bible: sexist, homophobe, controlling lover, hellish sadist, hothead, egomaniac, etc. Most are convinced an unselfish than selfish life lived is a better legacy. What I believe is morally true about God intuitively is a far better version of God than what many claim according to the Bible. Most of us are decent people to begin with. Personally though, I am a better partner, father, and friend than I would be because of the insights, encouragement, and forgiveness that I sense from my Creator when reading the Bible. A right view of God may be the help our world needs in loving others like we want to be loved.

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by Jim Gordon

We talked about discrimination in the form of racism in my last article. This article talks about another form of discrimination, the unfair treatment of women. It is hard to believe that only a few years ago women could not vote or hold certain jobs.

As we look back over history, we see women have always struggled. They were looked upon as property back in biblical days and had no say in anything. Even today in some middle eastern countries women are treated as property rather than a human being.

Speaking of biblical times, it seems to me at least Jesus treated women on an equal basis with men. We often read that he spoke with women, respected and cared for women and had many friends that were women. That was unheard of in those times. We read of many women who supported Jesus and were part of his ministry. Yet today it is still common for women to be rejected for ministry such as being pastors or church leaders.

So often, especially in religious circles, women are treated as second class citizens and as unequal’s with men. They are supposed to wear certain kinds of clothes, they are supposed to stay in the home or only work certain kind of jobs. Fortunately, things have been changing but there is a long way to go yet.

I remember growing up and getting my first job. I was amazed when I learned that I got paid a certain amount for my job yet later on found out that a woman doing the same job got less pay. I could not figure out why that was the case.

As I mentioned in my previous article, working as a firefighter I saw more fairness and equal treatment than I did in my first job. The position of firefighter received a certain pay and it was the same if the position was filled by a man, a woman, someone who was black or white, gay or straight. And as firefighters we gave the same equal service to all human beings no matter who they were.

I hear complaints about women’s lib, equal rights and feminism from time to time and it makes me mad. Why do so many of us men think women are not as equal as us? I believe women are just as smart, strong, capable and able to do anything that anyone else can. I believe what a person does in life depends on their qualities, training, capabilities and desires and not on whether they are male or female.

I believe all human beings have the same ability to accomplish the desires God put within them. Men and women have differences in that it takes both to create a new life, yet other than that we are all basically the same and are deserving of equal treatment.

In Galatians 3:28 it is mentioned in part that there is neither male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. This is not to take away the importance of men or women but to say we are all human beings, equally important and loved by God.

I pray that we come to fully accept and appreciate women as equal human beings just as I pray we come to fully accept brown and black human beings as equals. It is time discrimination and unfair treatment of others comes to an end. It is time we are all accepted as human beings who are loved and accepted by God and by one another.

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By Mike Edwards

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It’s a fair question. The majority of people born into this world didn’t possess a copy of the Bible or even heard of Jesus. I doubt a Creator would only communicate through such means. Besides, it can’t be proven God controlled the words and thoughts of the writers to always portray God accurately. It is plausible a universal instinct to treat others like we want to be treated is a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions. Such intuitions aren’t of the devil!

Many people of faith only believe in gender bias roles because they think the Bible does.  

Many growing up in church suggest hierarchical relationships between the sexes out of devotion to the God of the Bible. Many are unaware biblical scholars who respect the Bible believe Scriptures endorse equalitarian roles between the sexes. See here. The truth is literature, even if proven every word written, edited, or translated is inspired by God, requires interpretation. We mustn’t say interpretations are infallible when being wrong has huge consequences.

How can we know what God thinks?

Ancient Books are subject to mistranslating and misinterpreting. We cannot avoid using moral sense in ethical matters. We seem to always know we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly. Good thing there is no magic book to tell us what God is like! We would just use it as a club to beat people into believing. I am not sure why any fair-minded person would think women can’t fulfill the same roles as men unless believing a Book about God teaches otherwise. Most agree not allowing equal roles because of skin color is immoral. We can civilly discuss how to best love others using common moral sense than insisting on a supposed correct interpretation.

Intuitively, would God encourage role differences at work but not at home or worship? 

Few justify openly only allowing men in leadership roles in business. We call them misogynists or bigots! Is God really prejudice who the preacher or priest is? Not allowing women the same leadership roles as men implies God doesn’t trust women to handle the Truth! 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 favoritism based on the race or gender you are born. The most qualified or gifted should surely lead the company. Why not the church?

What are the consequences of women unequally submissive in marriage?

Best friends, in marriage or other dyad relationships, don’t require a leader. Men often assume loving leadership means making final decisions in impasses. I have never had a marriage issue in 38 years that cannot be solve creatively without one partner making all such decisions. Men in authority over women can encourage dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part, which can be conducive for domestic abuse and the other atrocities women face at the hands of men. Men, including myself, given an inch are tempted to take a mile!

What does the biggest clobber passage in the Bible say?

The apostle Paul could have in a different culture encouraged men, then women, to not teach for the sake of peace (I Tim. 2:12-15). Paul in the same breath advises women to avoid certain hairstyles or jewelry (I Tim: 2:9), but churches don’t make the same prohibitions as women teaching. Paul likely 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. Keep in mind Paul says elsewhere Adam was responsible for what happened in the garden (Rom. 5: 12).

Hierarchical relationships between the genders are a haven for abuse by men.

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. WHAT! One person wrote to the editor of a newspaper in the US: “…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? In any religion justification of the different treatment of women from men is usually because of a Holy Book that speaks for God. Let’s use common moral sense to stop emotional and physical abuse of women!

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By Mike Edwards

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Most agree One claiming to be God must be loving and perfect. Such a claim is nonsensical if we are clueless what perfect love is. The only way to understand God’s love is to compare to human love. God surely loves us the way we know we ought to love family, friends, and others. Question when suggested otherwise. You may be right!

What may be the only reason God’s love and human love are different?

We may only think God’s love is different than human love because of our understanding of a Book. When one’s interpretation of God according to the Bible doesn’t seem to mirror perfect human love, the mystery card is played. Isn’t this because we all have an inborn sense that God and human perfect love must be the same? We must question interpretations or whether a biblical writer truly understood God when God’s love doesn’t seem the same as perfect human love.

We may only condemn women, gays, and other religions because of a Book.  

Question if a loving God really favors men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face! Question if a loving God really condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who attracted to than straights can. Question if a loving God really approve only Christians going to heaven, when the majority of people born rebel or adhere to the religion born into. Our hearts know how we ought to treat women, gays, and non-Christians.

But isn’t the Bible God’s Word and not our hearts!

You may believe the biblical writers always understood God perfectly. Still, the Bible requires interpreting what the writer would advise in our circumstances. We don’t always know what the writer didn’t say. I once wrote telling my kids to never lie, but if lying saves a life lie through your teeth. Biblical scholars, who respect Scriptures, don’t agree the Bible teaches different roles for women and men. Scholars disagree if the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. Not questioning and using common moral sense has led to sick and weak minds justifying evil.

Even the Bible tells us we are to love others like God.  

The Bible encourages us to be perfect like God or follow God’s example by walking in the way of love (Mt. 5:48, Eph. 5:1). The Bible doesn’t spell out what such love is but assumes we can understand such love through the lens of human love. We don’t always know what perfect love is, but I doubt God is the parent that says “do as I say not what I do.” What would a relational Creator love differently than the way we are created to love?

It matters what we think God is like!

Our mental images of God shape our relationship with God and how God-followers might treat others. We can’t know what God is exactly like, but continually evaluating the most loving approach openly with others is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. We all seem to have an inborn feeling that we ought to treat others like we want to be treated. Even extremists want to be treated with loving kindness. Imagine what God is like. You may be right!

 

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By Mike Edwards

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What we believe about a person impacts our relationship. What we believe about God influences our relationship with God. I couldn’t have any kind of real relationship with my parents when I didn’t respect them or they didn’t seem to really care through their actions. What can we believe about God and why does it matter? 

We can’t know what God is always like through the eyes of the biblical writers?

Let’s be honest. We can’t prove God exists or doesn’t exist. Either belief takes faith. We can’t prove God controlled the cognitions thus writings of the biblical writers or they simply expressed their own understanding of God at that time. Regardless, scholars don’t agree if the writers believed God condemned monogamous relationships of the same gender, if God believes only men can serve as priests or pastors, etc. A Book can’t be the only guide in understanding God. 

What do you imagine God is like?

Atheists and believers agree. The only God worth believing in and following is a perfect God. We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we seem to know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly? It is only natural to think a Creator would love us and others how we were seemingly created to love others. We can’t claim with certainty what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion. Our imaginations about God may be more correct than claimed interpretations of a Book.

It matters what you claim about God!

If the Bible supposedly condemns gays, you may condemn gays out of devotion to God. Did God really appoint men in authority over women which has been conducive for abuse and other atrocities women have face at the hands of men? If God can do Hell, we may think we should emulate God in our attempts to judge and punish. The traditional meaning of Hell is nowhere to be found in the Bible and few would imagine a loving God would create such a place.

How can faith in a loving God make a difference?

Most of us want to be a better version of ourselves. Most are convinced an unselfish life than selfish live lived is a better legacy. What I believe is morally true about God intuitively is a far better version of God than what many claim according to the Bible. Most of us are decent people to begin with. Personally though, I am a better partner, father, and friend than I would be because of the insights, encouragement, and forgiveness that I sense from my Creator. A right view of God may be the help our world and individuals need in striving to be who we deep down desire to be.

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By Mike Edwards

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I don’t fully understand why I enjoy reading, discussing, and writing about God. I witnessed hypocrisy growing up but stayed with God. It isn’t because I’m more moral. Many seek to live a honorable life but God’s help isn’t sought in their journey. Depending on God or not depending on God doesn’t prove one has a character flaw. Why might some inclined toward more of a connection with God not bother? I am bias such a relationship can help us be more the kind of person we deep down desire to be.

The Bible may be a major reason many aren’t into God.

Many don’t accept the God of the Bible for good reason. In fact, many God-followers wouldn’t claim certain views toward gays or women if they didn’t believe the Bible requires such beliefs. Does it? See here. The Bible should be read literately rather than literally. Genesis is often claimed to be a scientific understanding of beginnings though not the writers’ intentions. People don’t need to lose their faith because they believe in evolution or that Adam was a representative rather than literally the first human. 

Evil and God just don’t mix despite the freedom argument.

God’s inactiveness with so much evil in the world may be the main reason many are atheists. Why doesn’t a supposedly all-powerful God intervene more? How is God allowing evil any different than a parent who stands by and watches this child being sexually abused? Maybe God can’t control or violate freedom and love perfectly. Divine love limits divine power. Maybe God can only stop evil with the help of others freely helping. See God Can’t by Thomas Oord.

Gays and Women! 

Many only hold their views toward gays or women because a Book inspired by God supposedly condemns gays or restricts roles based on gender than gifts. Why would a gay person believe in a God who supposedly condemn them for sexual choices they no more choose than straights? How could a loving God favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face? Why believe in a God who restricts women though obviously gifted?

Hell is another good reason to reject God!

No one would believe God created a place such as Hell unless a Book on God supposedly claims so. Why would God 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. Turns out the Bible doesn’t teach such a place exist. See Here.

Friends with a hidden agenda is a turn-off.    

It is wrong to engage in friendships for the purpose of converting them to your beliefs without advising upfront this is your agenda. We should engage in relationships both to love and be loved. Discussions about God best come up naturally. The sinner’s prayer to avoid Hell isn’t in the Bible. When Jesus interacted with a woman caught in adultery, He first stopped the crowd’s stoning attempts. Then, Jesus simply told the woman “go now, and leave your life of sin” (John 8). Pretty good advice. Didn’t Jesus have a better evangelical spiel in case He never saw the woman again? 

Hypocrisy can be a stumbling block.

The truth is that we all are hypocrites. What human being lives up to the standards they know in their heart are honorable? But it is reasonable to expect those who talk about God to act godly. Baptists, Methodists, Protestants, Catholics, etc. fight over their different creeds, yet all supposedly believe in the same message of loving your neighbor as yourself. Some believe Paul called out gays (I Cor. 6:9-10), but they ignore Paul confronting greed in the same breath. Try living a day without greed before judging. Why would one consider God if god-folks don’t walk the talk?

Do you wish to be more focused on being spiritual?  

Focusing on being a better person physically or spiritually does take initiative rather than being passive. But we all are human. I will be more judgmental when I am where I want to be with my physical health goals. Focusing on being more spiritual with God’s help may though be a lot easier if God-followers didn’t put unnecessary barriers in the path of those seeking.

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By Mike Edwards

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The truth is we can’t prove that God exist or doesn’t exist. Either belief takes faith. If a Creator does exist, most agree only a perfectly good or loving God is worth believing in. Such a statement is nonsensical if we don’t have some notions of what perfect love is. The only way to understand God’s love is to compare to human love. God surely loves us the way we know how we ought to love others.

God and perfect human love must be the same.

The Bible even suggests perfect human love and God’s love are the same: “Be perfect, therefore as your heavenly Parent is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). We may not always know what perfect love entails but at least we always know the question we ought to ask ourselves – am I loving others perfectly or am I loving others like our Creator loves. God is often claimed a mystery because one’s interpretation of Scriptures suggest God appears evil from a human perspective. Such interpreters sense intuitively God and human love are the same.

Moral intuitions are a guide in what true love is.

It is plausible a universal compulsion to treat others like we want to be treated is how a Creator communicates how to treat others if in that person’s shoes. I don’t know any God or non-God person that doesn’t value the golden rule in relationships. Rational people don’t always agree what is our moral obligation concerning immigration, climate change, abortion, health care, taxes, or responding to evil dictators that murder their own people, but calm dialogue allows evaluating the challenges we encounter and finding what different views have in common.

What does God really think about women, gays, and non-Christians? 

Most intuitively question if a loving God really favors men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face. Most intuitively question if a loving God really condemn gays, who have to hide their sexuality because of bigotry and hostility, when gays can no more choose who attracted to than straights can. Most intuitively question if God would torture infidels forever for beliefs while on earth only for a short time. Humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies.

We can’t know what God’s perfect love is only according to the Bible.

Many don’t question the above views because of the Bible. Did the biblical writers always understand God perfectly as opposed to being on the same spiritual journey we all are on – discovering what God is really like? How would God control every cognition and word written down? Besides, the Bible requires interpretation and biblical scholars, who respect Scriptures, don’t all agree the Bible teaches different roles for women and men or that the Bible condemns monogamous same-sex relationships. Not questioning a Book has led to sick and weak minds carrying out immoral acts contrary to common moral sense.

Uncertainty, rather than certainty, can be a good thing.

Certainty has led to forcing “supposed” truths onto others. It is hard to be relational when so damn certain! It is universally accepted that it is evil to kill or behead someone because of their beliefs unless you are a terrorist. Problems begin when insisting on our interpretation of a supposed inspired Book. God may not communicate more clearly, because God’s awing or overpowering presence may only lead to fearful obligations to obey. The road traveled of learning and reflecting may best lead to lasting convictions. The Bible was more direct communication, but it has been used to force beliefs on others despite subject to interpretation. Different opinions communicated respectively can stand together as we continually evaluate the most loving approach.

Can we judge what is truly evil?  

Terrorists believe that murdering or beheading others for their beliefs isn’t evil. One main clue about extreme behaviors is if our actions demonstrate loving others how we wish to be loved. Would terrorists accept their wives and children being murdered or beheaded for different beliefs from another group claiming God-speak? Even extremists want to be treated with loving kindness. I would ask extremists how we can be certain their Book is really God’s words or that they have interpreted correctly. I assume the conversation would go downhill until one accepts Books can’t be proven inspired or uninspired.

It matters what we think God is like!

Our mental images of God shape our relationship with God and how followers might treat others. The more you respect your earthly parents or God, the closer you are to them. We can’t claim with certainty, which may not be a bad thing, what God would do in every situation but human perfection is our best starting point for discussion. We can’t know what God is exactly like, but continually evaluating the most loving approach openly with others is better than claiming certainty and being wrong. Imagine what God is like. You may be right!

 

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By Mike Edwards

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There are many advantages to being a part of a group of people who seek to encourage one another about God. Many of us had to leave the building but we haven’t left God. I will cite a well-researched book that interviews “dones” (Church Refugees by Packard and Hope). I will ask you at the end what your experience has been.

Why I left the church building

I will be brief. I was being taught beliefs about God that didn’t make moral sense of a loving God. They still don’t four decades later. My journey led me to question if Hell is real, if God only lets Christians into heaven, if God determines spiritual roles based on gender than gifts, and if God condemns gays. There are sixteen main misbeliefs about God I write about mostly. See here.  Eventually my journey led to starting and naming my blog What God May Really Be Like

I eventually stop going to the building because I couldn’t stop believing what I was learning. Whatever the leaders of the church teach is want most of the members believe. There was rarely open dialogue or in my opinion intellectual honesty, so I left. I have no desire to be divisive or undermine people’s faith.

Church Refugees seems to suggest the following reasons people left the church building:  

  • Lack of real community. Leaders were quick to judge rather than listen and then listen some more. It is important to earn the relational right to judge.
  • Lack of responsible stewardship. 60% of the budget went toward the 90-minute show without serving better those outside the building. The lights have to stay on but isn’t there better uses of the money?
  • Lack of meaningful dialogue. Being preached at doesn’t allow open discussions. Being so damn certain all the time is hardly relational, especially when even scholars disagree what the Bible says about issues impacting the lives of so many people.
  • Lack of grace. People weren’t looking to excuse their moral failures, but why can’t we focus less on sexual behaviors and more on the poor, homeless, etc. Who is perfect!

I am sure there are many, many reasons people leave the church. Abuse by leadership is real and why many may not only leave the church but God as well. I left because there were no outlets to talk about beliefs claimed about God that I was concerned was leading others away from God.

Why do you think others left or why did you leave the building?

 

 

 

 

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by Mike Edwards

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Moses challenged God about destroying the Israelites when they went back to worshipping idols when Moses was up the mountain receiving the Ten Commandments (Ex. 32:1-14). Moses won the argument (32:14). Abraham challenged God about destroying Sodom and Gomorrah and won (Gen. 18). Job challenged that God supposedly always blesses obedience and disobedience is always cursed (Deut. 28). God ended up agreeing with Job against his friends about the real world of justice. The God of the Bible doesn’t mind being doubted or challenged.

In Genesis 22 Abraham faces the challenge if to sacrifice his son Isaac on the altar. Was God testing if Abraham would question and ultimately tell God NO? (See Matthew Korpman, Saying No To God). Let’s look at some textual clues:

  • If this is a story of God really wanting Abraham to kill Isaac in obedience to God, we must believe God actually would ever approve child sacrifice. God condemned child sacrifice (i.e. Lev. 18:21). Abraham should doubt if God would participate in a practice God abhorred!
  • Abraham tell his servants “we” (Abraham and Isaac) will be back (Gen. 22:5). The concept of a resurrection, after Abraham followed orders, simply didn’t exist during these times. Abraham must have thought God was providing a lamb (v.8), or Abraham was going to say No to God!
  • Abraham takes out a knife as if preparing to sacrifice Isaac (v. 10). Since Abraham doubted God approved, Abraham could have been challenging God to stop all the charades.
  • It seems God intended to stop Abraham if he didn’t take a stand against God (vs. 11-12).

Was God wrong to test Abraham, by challenging him to consider doing something immoral, to see if he truly understood God? In God’s defense, sometimes you can tell people till blue in the face what is right and it goes in one ear and out the other. Different communications may get through better such as a parable or a test. God gave Abraham a moral brain and expected him to us it!

Women, Gays, and Hell

Do you doubt a loving God would favor men over women in leadership roles which has encouraged centuries of domestic abuse and other atrocities women face? Do you doubt God condemn gays when gays can no more choose who they are attracted to than straights can? Do you doubt a loving God tortures anyone forever, when humans wouldn’t even create a place such as Hell for their worst enemies? Different biblical interpretations are plausible. I am challenging any interpretation that makes no moral sense according to the brain God gave me!

Which view of God should we lean toward?  

It seems 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? Choose the claim or interpretation about God that doesn’t contradict your intuitive sense of a loving God. Discuss with others. You are free to choose the most loving way. We don’t always know what perfect love is, but it is better to challenge God than not question God and be wrong. Imagine what God may be like. You may be right!

 

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