English, Theologie

Inerrant God and the Spirit of the Bible

I am still dealing in my head with Agent X’s article „Prophets of Consumerist Doom“. We entered a serious debate over at his blog and I have also added an article on my blog to the discussion.

As I want to keep things more approachable also for other readers, I write another blog article rather than another comment on the Fat Beggar’s School of Prophet’s blog. After all, the Web 2.0 was about building up networks, right. Maybe some of my readers wants to jump in to the discussion and write an article on his/her blog…

But before I get deeper into the discussion, I think it is necessary for the sake of clearing premisses, that I write a bit about how I see the bible. Because honestly, I feel like the different approaches towards the bible without clearing them for oneself and for others, brings most of today’s misunderstandings about. And in the end, it is all about calling others names like heathens and infidels and what not. I think we need to understand first, as understanding makes love easier and love hinders condemnation.

So let’s talk a bit about what the bible is – in my opinion – and how to use the bible and what to get from it, using it that way.

What is the bible?

Stupid questions get stupid answers, and so one could be tempted to say: „A book.“ Right as the answer is on the one hand, it appears to bring us no further in our quest – or does it?

Because, being a book, one could presume several things, for example, that there need to be one or several author(s). Also, books do have one or several purpose(s). Both is true for the bible, and both is, as I think, a matter of intense debate.

So who is the author of the bible? Some might feel tempted to say „God“, but I hesitate, because not even the bible says so. God is nowhere in the bible said to have put up a pen and written down any one book of the bible, or even the bible as a whole. He didn’t. There’s no such claim. So I won’t make this claim up. I stick with what we know of authorships (to some extent by the bible itself), that there were several human beings (most of all men from the middle east) who wrote down parts of the bible each.

And I do stick to what I learned at university, that there has been a long process of writing, rewriting, redaction, „corrections“ and what not on the bible text, before what we have today in our modern language bibles, be it KJV, NIV, German Luther translation or Volxbibel. Whoever had a look into textual criticism knows, this is also true for ancient language bibles, we have nothing that we could call the original, though deviations of the different original language texts from one another is in most cases not very big.

So the bible is a book, composed by mostly men of middle eastern descent, from cultures that are different to our own cultures, that even differ within themselves: Whoever composed the Miriam-Song lived in a completely different reality than whoever composed the Apocalypse of John.

Apocalypse of John? Didn’t John write it? Some folks seem to be obsessed with such questions, they seem to think that if John did not write the Apocalypse of John, all other things written down might be lies, too, and if that’d be so, what use would it to be to even look at the bible?

You see we also touch the next question, how to use the bible, but we have not yet been talking about the purpose. So what would be the purpose of the bible being written?

Some folks might say: To give directions to true believers to know whatever they are to do in any situation, or to reveal the will of God Almighty or something along these lines.

I think of it a bit differently. I think there were men who had an experience with God and wanted to write it down, one way or another. And other people read that, because it gave them something. And they retold the story, and it was changed to fit other circumstances, but sometimes it was also kept, the different story parts might have gone through quite some change as they turned into the composition of the bible we have today. It is a lengthy process.

Now one thing is important to me. No, make that two: One thing is that the people involved did not (for the most part – we are all sinners, aren’t we?) do it for some evil plans to be fulfilled, they wanted to tell of God, how they experienced Him. Whether they used the form of fiction (similar to C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkin), historical setting (Ken Follet?) or whatever form of literature – they wanted to tell of what they experienced with God.They were sincere.

And they were read by the community that passed on their writings. So the community approved of what they found. We would not pass on literature that we consider bad, or morally questionable. There might be others in our times who would, but they wouldn’t consider the literature bad or questionable as we do, they’d like it for some reason or another.

So I come to the conclusion, that the bible is a book, composed by many people who expressed their experiences with God, and that book is approved by believers throughout times. Just as we read the Old Testament texts, Jesus read them. And just like we read Paul’s letter to the Galatians, the Galatians themselves read it. Maybe there were some differences in their actual copies, but most was at least very similar.

We share through the bible community with other readers throughout the times, other sisters and brothers in faith, who read the same texts and were lifted up by the witness of the texts, the experiences of other sisters and brothers (mostly brothers though) brought into the form of literature.

Looking at it as this is, the question whether John wrote the Apocalypse is at most boring. Which John anyway? I don’t care about the name, I care about what experience he had with our (his and my) God. I care about how this was considered relevant to fellow Christians from the first reader all down the line to me and my fellow sisters and brothers in these times.

The purpose for the bible to be written was to tell of God. And when I read the bible, I hear of God.

How to use the bible?

„So all I have to do to hear of God is to open the bible and read?“

„Yes.“

„So what I read there is the word of God? So God is the author still?“

„No, the bible is not the Word of God, it contains the Word of God. You yourself cannot do anything to get the Word of God out of it. It’s God’s to open the bible up to you trough His Holy Ghost (or is it Holy Spirit? I am never sure which is the right English term.).

Of course we can read in the bible. And we might get some interesting insights into biblical history, poetry and what not. You can analyse it like any book, but that will lead you nowhere.

Well, not exactly nowhere, but where reading and analysing Shakespeare or any other worldly writer would bring you too: greater knowledge in a certain field of literature. As God didn’t write it, we cannot get His will directly from it.

You can read the bible all your life and be an atheist. And you can read one verse and start to believe. God makes the difference, and we cannot do anything about it really.

The difference God makes, I suppose, is that between a distanced look at literature and an existential look at the literature of my community. I can be entertained by Shakespeare, but the team songs of my favourite football team touch deeper. They have to do with me.

And as I am Christian, the bible has to do with me. I am a sinner and might be making mistakes, but I seek to get something from the experiences other believers had with God. Some understanding, relieve maybe. And as God didn’t write it, I won’t get anything about Him by quoting single verses. This will get me to the actual author. But the author tells a longer story, and the story is about life with God. And the God is the same God in all stories, so I expect there to be a general picture of this God to shine through.

Yes, there are all kind of contradictions and cruelties that lead people to say this God must be mad or a monster, but actually, I think this is not God you see in there, but the sinners that wrote the text. I think you can look beyond this, but you might have to need the Spirit to do so. Luckily, as Christians we have the Spirit not in our pockets, but sent to us by our Lord and saviour to comfort us. And He does, opening up the bible to us.

And in all this we need to remain humble. You can never be too sure whether the Spirit guides you or your own desires. The bible is only one voice to listen to. We also have the Spirit talking directly to our hearts (whereas we still cannot be too sure which Spirit is talking at any given time), we have our fellow Christians with whom we share community and hopefully the one or the other talk about how God is making Himself heard in our lives, maybe there are testimonies as well… and last but not least we have our brains to make sense of all that.
With none of these we can be too sure, nothing gives us a clear direction, we cannot step back, out of responsibility. We will be responsible for what we consider right and wrong, so I consider it a bad thing to point to a bible verse prohibiting others certain things, like premarital sex or homosexuality or Rock’n Roll music. We are responsible for ourselves and others for themselves. We need to talk, because we are brothers and sisters, we need to understand, else there will be division in the body of Christ, which shall not be.

What to get from the bible?

So what do I get from the bible, from reading the bible? Nothing much, if I look for a 1-2-3 plan for my life or for other’s lives or anything like that. It’s not a short cut to circumvent own thinking, own responsibility for thought and claims.

But what we do get is an idea of God, an idea of community and an object around which community can form, as we talk about it, as we gather to hear from it. All directed towards the triune God, not the text, but with the text as some kind of catalyst if you like. Plus, you get quite some good literature. After all, the bible is an all time best-seller, and certainly not only because of the tradition of having a bible copy as a Christian. Some folks do really read it and enjoy it.

Post Scriptum

You might have realised that I did not argue biblically. I do not intend to give biblical proof for what I wrote here, because that would be a circle, wouldn’t it. I mean you wouldn’t even consider it to be true if you found a paper with two sentences on it:

The world is flat. What is written on this paper is true.

The bible declaring itself to be true is no better argument than a person claiming to be no liar. The bible itself, the person itself is hardly proof. You need proof from other sources: The Spirit, fellow Christians, your brains. I chose the route via the brains here, though I have the impression that the Spirit doesn’t tell me a very different story, so I ask you, my Christian brothers and sister for your comments as a further corrective. We need this talking, this forms community – especially here on the internet where we cannot share bread and wine.

English, Theologie

Is God for capitalism?

In an article by Jim Finn he argues that God was for capitalism and against socialism. Socialism, according to Jim, is redistribution:

He plainly told Joe the plumber he was for redistribution of wealth, which is socialism at its very core.

I mention this to avoid misunderstandings. Europeans tend to have a different understanding of what socialism means. I don’t know of a special term for redistribution, maybe because there’s redistribution all around. I produce something and sell it for money, to the money is redistributed to me and the product is redistributed to the buyer. The state needs more police and rises the taxes to pay them, so my money is redistributed to the new police officers and their time is redistributed to my security (in the best case). I earn more than I need right now and give it to social security so whenever I might earn less than I need to live, social security will support me. There’s redistribution everywhere, you give and you take, some are strong and give more because they can, and some are weak and take more, because they need.

I wrote some comments there, trying to make the opposite strong: That God was not for the stronger to press the weaker (which is the effect of capitalism) but for people to help one another (which means redistribution which is according to Jim „socialism“). The problem there was that Jim wanted bible proof, and I really had a hard time, because actually the society and the government systems in biblical times were a lot different from today and you rather need to read and understand the whole bible to get the point, rather than using it as a quarry to break out those verses that support your point. So I decided to write this article, not to prove my point, because from a very close to bible perspective it is hard to speak out for anything in our modern world. One could even claim without a big problem that God was against democracy, because it is never mentioned in the bible, while kings or judges as rulers can be found everywhere… This is why I am not going to prove my point here, but disprove Jim’s position, which I shall try to do from a close to the bible text perspective, so Jim and I can actually talk with one another. We couldn’t if I’d stick to more liberal ways.

So if you were looking for an argument for „socialism“ from a position of faith, but also comprehendable for the liberal reader, you might just want to look here.

Jim starts by stating the following:

The Bible is always up to date. It has always been ahead of the times. There is no way to ever catch God off guard. God has something to say concerning most everything and that includes systems of governing and economics.

I would agree that the bible is always up to date. We need no new one (though some seem to think we do). And certainly we never catch God off guard (though I hope we can agree God is not the bible, but no, let’s not discuss this here). What I want to point out is that while God certainly has something to say on everything, we have no reason to think it would all be in the bible. There are plenty things the bible says nothing about. We can get an idea of things, reading the bible and using our reasoning to find out what it would mean today, but that’s it. Even the bible doesn’t say that the bible would give us recipes for every problem, right?

The first thing before delving into the subject is to recognize there is no fool-proof system as to fairness.  No system has all the answers. Jesus Christ is the answer for mankind, not socialism, not capitalism and not a system in between.

Or beyond. Right. No problem with that.

The Bible commands us to give to the poor. God even expects poor people to give.

He bases this on Mk 12, 41-44. I wouldn’t say God expects poor people to give, but He praises poor people who give. Jesus didn’t say it was the woman’s obligation to give what she had. It’s about the faith of the woman rather than about the giving, though the giving proves the faith.

Then he makes a point that God wants a cheerful giver, which is right, and he quotes 2. Corinthians 9, 7-8:

Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work

From this Jim draws the conclusion:

When you force someone to give what is theirs, you violate Scripture.

I don’t know where he finds this. 2. Cor speaks about Paul collecting for the Christians in Jerusalem. In this situation Paul says no one shall give of necessity or grundgingly. I don’t know how this could mean that generally „forced giving“ would violate scripture. It’s not charity, right. I wouldn’t even call it giving, but this does not say that any forced giving does violate scripture. Taxes are forced, still Jesus says that taxes should be paid (Mt 22, 21). You could maybe argue that forced giving does not count like giving to the poor out of free decision, I’d agree here, so if you try to fill your account of good deeds, you cannot count paying taxes to it, for example. Or any other time where you have the obligation to give. But the existence of obligations to give itself does not violate scripture.

Jim goes on:

There is no Scripture that contradicts 2nd Corinthians 9:7-8 If you can find it to be so please show me.

No, why should there? Paul certainly didn’t want to push Christians to give for Jerusalem, how would he have even been able to do so? But I could ask as well: Am I allowed to give money to charities that help landmine victims? In Jim’s logic, we can only do what the bible allows. Free giving is allowed, but there is no verse about „forced giving“, so it’s not allowed. Giving to the poor is allowed, you’d find verses about that I’m sure. But where in the bible are landmine victims mentioned?

Still we would consider it ridiculous, if someone claimed, we were not allowed by God to give to landmine victims, right? Nonetheless I can say there is no scripture saying that giving to landmine victims was allowed.

I’d say we better see what the bible prohibits, and take a close look to not get the wrong impression (otherwise it’s farewell to pork meat and lobster).

Then Jim quotes Ps 37,25:

I have been young, and now am old; yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed begging bread.

and Phil 4, 19-20:

But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus.
Now unto God and our Father be glory for ever and
ever and ever. Amen.

Now Jim claims God dictated the bible (which I don’t believe and even the bible doesn’t claim) and says these prove that God would not let down anybody. He says it’s not King David in Ps 37 but God Himself who’d say that. I’d say of you want to stick to the text of the bible, we have to agree that David did not see the righteous forsaken (he never met Job). What David sees has nothing to do with what is happening. Besides? Who is righteous?

Romans 3, 10 claims:

There is none righteous, no, not one

and is quoting Ps 14 with this. So if there is no righteous person, no righteous person will be forsaken, right? And remeber: As long as you believe the bible is dictated by God, this also applies to Romans and Ps 14!

What about Philippians? Well, it might be my bad English, but I learned that „shall“ does not equal „is“. What we have in Philippians is a prayer, and I wish that it comes true for many. And: Paul is writing there to the Philippians, not all mankind. But anyway, it is not supporting, what Jim claims:

God always takes care of His children no matter what. Gods children has never one time suffered for basic needs. I did not says wants, I said needs.

By the way, being a child of God does not mean, that child had to be righteous.

If you say no child of God has ever suffered for basic needs and you see children starving, this would either mean: Yes, well, they are not children of God, so why even bother, which would be more than hardhearted. Or you’d say: Yes, they starve, but still they cannot fall deeper than into God’s hands, even if they die. That’s not better.

Maybe it becomes clearer when we think of all the aborted children. Are they not children of God? Have they gotten all their needs? So why even bother about abortion?

Many and much more Scripture could I add.

Yes, Jim, I think you’d need to bring in more, because what you brought up to now is by no means convincing. This has nothing to do with me not believing in God or the bible. I just looked at the bible and saw what is written there. And it is, as for what you have brought forth, much less than you claim. So it seems you are adding to scripture here (I said seems, you can prove me wrong by bringing more convincing scripture).

Of course as Christians we are told by God that we are supposed to be a generous people but if you think for one minute that God lacks power because of our disobedience, you better be careful in you accusation.

The point is not at all that God would lack power. In fact I fear that power a lot. Because when the poor are not being taken care of, we will feel His power in the results of their poverty: Crime, insecurity and finally the collaps. It’s gotten worse and worse since we have not properly taken care of the weak and poor. Our wealth is nothing granted, we don’t have it for our hard work, because you can work hard and still have nothing. God has the power to turn down corrupt systems that feed the rich and starve the poor. Without redistribution, this is what happens.

Socialism rewards according to need as opposed to work down so says the Webster dictionary.

Wasn’t it God who would give according to need? Just a few lines up? Now it’s socialism!

Then, Jim uses Mt 25, 14-30 as a proof for profit being good. And concludes:

 Profit is increase and according to Jesus profit is good not bad.

Actually, I do not see Jesus saying here that profit was good, He rather describes the kingdom of heaven like a man who gains without doing, which is quite the opposite of rewarding a man’s hard work with profits…

Nonetheless I would agree that profit itself is nothing bad. It’s good to have profits and to enjoy the fruits of your work.

Notice, not one time does Jesus mention the profit should be distributed to those whom did not earn the profit.

Right, because it isn’t about economy but a description of the kingdom of heaven. A parable. Just look at the first verse!

As a Christian we are supposed to work for our needs.

Agree. What if there are no jobs?

We have no right to consider our needs to be a right or something that others owe us.

Depends. If I work hard and the employer is giving me less than is fair and takes all the profits for himself, I have a right to say it is wrong. After all, he owes me for working hard so he can make profits. But basically, if I do nothing and am not part of a bigger context, nobody owes me. Right.

God says if a man is able but refuses to work, that man should not eat and we should have no company with such a person.

The problem is that many are not able to work because there is no work, and others are able to work and do work and still do not eat.

Ah, the part with nothing to do with them disturbs me a bit. Jim gets this from 2. Cor 3,14. There Paul writes about people who would not work and live on the expense of the congregation. What it is basically saying is: Don’t feed him, let him work.

But this is not about shunning the unemployed.

That’s basically all he writes. He didn’t even properly address „socialism“. It’s all about having to work (which nobody questions) and giving freely (which is something God wants us to do). He somehow tries to connect this all in a way so that it looks God would disapprove of social security systems. And this doesn’t work, because the bible is not anti social security. And there is nothing wrong with social security. You pay in when you have and you take out when you need. In some cases you are forced into such a system, which is also not wrong but in most cases for the good of most. God does not tell governments how to do their jobs, He just wants them to support justice, which includes the downtrodden. If a government decides to meet this end with a social security system, there is nothing wrong about it, as long as it’s a fair system where justice is served. And it’s just to care for the weak, and it’s just to have the strong bear more. Tomorrow the strong might be weak and the weak strong, whatever God gives.

God is neither for capitalism nor for socialism. He’s for justice. There are just elements in capitalism and in socialism. The trick is to use them both, and get rid of the injust parts.

God bless

English, Theologie

Sin, Hell and Gospel

There is one sentence in the article of Jim Finn, which I wrote about yesterday, that I wanted to add some thoughts to separately. But first the sentence:

Remove sin from the Bible, remove Hell from the Bible and there can be no Gospel.

Jim is right here. Somehow, because the gospel means liberation, and without anybody being captive or anything keeping someone captive, there’s no sense in liberation. If you are free (or consider yourself free) you won’t see the point in someone offering you freedom.

But still, there’s a problem to this. Because the gospel isn’t about sin, it’s about how sin is overcome and defeated. Not that you wouldn’t sin anymore. We are all sinners and we will have to bear with that, but sin won’t have power over us any more.

The basic message of the gospel, if you’d want me to put it in one sentence, is:

God loves you.

Plain simple, and maybe too simple for many. Because the whole background is being left out. All that talk about sin, about how Adam and Eve ate from the fruit and all that.

A simple „God loves you“ won’t help a thing, if you don’t understand it. If you consider yourself a nice person, this message about God loving you maybe wouldn’t surprise you too much. Of course He does. Everybody does, right? But if that is your mindset, you wouldn’t very likely listen to how sinful you are. You’d rather think: Yeah, this person speaking about hell and all really has big issues with self esteem or something. As long as you consider yourself great, all of this will hardly touch you.

But consider to opposite: What if you run into problems? What if you see that you are not such a nice person? If you are aware of your flaws, the pain you caused. Maybe it’s gone so far that you’d hate yourself. What then? Would the talk of hell and sin help you out? No. Would it change anything? No, because you already hate yourself, sin and hell would only be the proof for the hate you have for yourself. But what about „God loves you“? This might come like a surprise. Maybe you’d think someone is making fun of you. How can God love a person like me? And maybe then you would realize that it isn’t about what you did, but who you are. That love based on deeds isn’t love at all, and that God loves you and always have, because you are His child, but that He hates your deeds like you do.

Here the message „God loves you“ can really be the point, where change comes in. Even without talking of sin and hell.

After all we don’t understand and wouldn’t even listen to talks about the severity of sin and how people go to hell and all. We even would either consider it normal that God loves us, or we’d consider it the most natural thing in the world, without coming to faith.

But this is something, we cannot decide on our own, this is given by God, out of grace.

So as a practical note, I’d say don’t use the fire and hell part of Christianity too offensively. Give witness when asked, but when you talk to people, especially to weak or painful people, start with the love of God without declaring everything they do good. It’s possible. And true.

God bless you all

English, Theologie

Fire and Brimstone

I have just come across a blog article on God, fire and brimstone by Jim Finn. It’s a reply to an article by the biblewarroiress, whose blog I follow.

The question that is… no, let me start differently: In her article which is headlined with „Terrorizing People to Jesus“ the Warrioress makes a valid point:

Asking someone to submit to Jesus Christ out of fear isn’t love offered freely. Threatening them and making them afraid isn’t how God wants us to come to Him.

The gospel is, and these are my words, but I guess there are people who would agree, a message of liberation. I don’t want to go too deep into how to understand the cross, because this will only lead to more debate about another issue which I don’t want to discuss here. But I believe that all of us, liberals, conservatives and even people like myself could agree on the liberating effect of the gospel. Once you accept it, you are set free, more than anything else could set you free, like all other freedoms are not really free.

Now I agree with the Warrioress: You can’t push people to freedom, and you can’t fear them into freedom either.

I’d say: If the people don’t grab freedom themselves, even pushing won’t bring them there. But maybe they’d try to be conform on the outward to avoid pushing…

Jim Finn on the other hand makes a very clear and valid point on love, telling the truth and before all the severity of sin.

If people think God would approve of their little sins because they aren’t so severe, just a little lying and cussing, you know, everybody does this… that’s just plain wrong. Those people are fooling themselves. This has nothing to do with forgiveness either. Whether or not God will forgive is not the question as long as there isn’t even a thing that people would want Him to forgive!

So Jim’s point is, as I understand him, that you shouldn’t lie to people: They do wrong, they do not repent and turn to Christ, they’re lost.

I think this is a bit different than what the Warrioress means. She was speaking of terrorizing people to Jesus. I think it’s one thing to speak of what you bbelieve and another one how you structure your evangelizing.

Jim mentions the rich man who was told to sell everything and follow after Jesus. There is another story of a rich man and a poor Lazarus in the bible (Lk 16:19-32).  I presume we all know it: The rich man lives in wealth on earth and does not care about the poor man. Then they die and the poor man gets to the bosom of Abraham while the rich man goes to hell, where he first begs for some relief and then for at least sending someone from the dead to warn his brethren before hell. And Abraham tells him:

If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.

The point I want to make is: You won’t push them, you won’t convince them either, no matter how hard you try. Even if you try to make them fear by speaking of hell. Nonbelievers won’t start believing when they hear this.

But there are believers who are weak in their faith who will hear. And threatening with hell can really harm their relation to God. Because if you focus too much on the whole hell and brimstone thing, it can all too easily twist the message of the gospel. Where it is supposed to be liberating, it can be abused for captivizing: If you don’t do, what the bible says (maybe even according to a certain preacher’s exegesis) you will burn forever in hell. This harms people. And this harms the gospel. And I think this is the Warrioress’s point.

Jim’s point is another one: You cannot just say God likes everyone and everyone’s deeds. That would just be complete nonsense. And what would you need God for anyway? If it makes no difference?

I think a major problem between rather liberal and rather conservative Christians lies in these two points, and that they consider it one. Liberals hear about hell and brimstone and all they understand is that people should be captivated with fear. I presume most conservatives wouldn’t mean that (though some might). On the other hand, when Conservatives hear Liberals speaking about how hell would terrorize people, they understand the Liberals would deny the severity of sin, which isn’t the case (at least with most Liberals I know).

Hell and brimstone have their places, certainly, but they are ineffective for real evangelisation. Fear for oneself doesn’t lead to fearing God, it keeps you focused on yourself. Only once you can let go of yourself, are set free, liberated by the gospel, you are also free to fear God, because you are no more busy fearing for yourself.

I’d say that this cannot be made by men, but is a God given grace: To accept Jesus, to be set free. No one is our liberator but God. Some might disagree, but this convinces me the most and it’s what I experienced myself.God bless you all!

English, Theologie

On Leaving Church

I just ran across a blogpost by Dan Wilkinson on why people are leaving the church. There he responds to a quote by some guy named Ken Ham who claimed people would leave church because of the teachings of evolution and because this would tell them the bible could not be trusted.

Then Dan writes why young people are really leaving church, well in his opinion. Read it, I think he has a point. But one sentence made me stop and think:

No, Mr. Ham, no one’s leaving the church because evolution shows that “the Bible could not be trusted.”

What if Ham is right? I mean, maybe Ham does believe so himself, maybe he considers it a valid reason to leave church: If the bible is proved to not be trusted, one had to abandon church and faith and all that?

What is a valid reason for leaving church, or any faith group? For abandoning faith? I’d say, if you are no longer (or not at all) convinced of your god, whatever god your faith group might be worshipping.

For myself, not trusting a book would not draft me from my god, because I worship Him, not the book. So the book can be full of flaws, mistakes and what not. So what? What’s God gotta do with it?

Of course things change if the book is your god, and this is the impression I have from several conservative Christians. I am not sure if Ham falls into this category, but chances are high I guess. Those Christians reduce God to a book, a book they learn to or at least try to master. What kind of god can be mastered anyway?

How can you be surprised by joy, like C.S. Lewis was, when the God that is supposed to bring you that joy is a book you know by heart? What surprise can come fro a thing you know?

I mean, even if the bible was God? It is even reduced to one way of reading it, all is fix, all „truth“ is told and written down. Live by it. Period.

What joy, what surprise, what new life can come from this? Whatever is controlled by man will not surprise anymore, will not bring joyful news or a change in life.

If you control the sun and the rain, you will no more be happy for good weather, or rain after a drought. Because there will be no more droughts if you don’t want to, and you have sunshine whenever you like. Nothing wild and unpredictable about that any more. All routine… all civilized.

If you make the bible your God, if you want to put your faith in that bible and reduce God to that bible, and then you try to control that bible by knowing it exactly, you are civilizing God, you are depriving that god of his powers.

Not the real God of course, because the real God would not let you do that. But that image of a god, that civilized, predictable image is in the end deprived of all power, and people will not follow a powerless god, because what they need is the real God. And they will feel that the powerless god isn’t real, so they leave the church worshipping him. There’s nothing wrong about it. They are looking for the real God, wild and uncivilized, uncontrollable yet controlling everything, and a helper in hardship.

Dan writes:

They’re leaving the church because your version of Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with right practice, and everything to do with “right” belief.

I don’t agree. I think they are looking for the real right believe to know what is right practise. By the way, I think there is a lot of stress put on right practise in conservative circles. Wrong practise would be premaritial sex, voting for Obama… you name it.

I got to Dan’s article through an article by Lynn Swayze Wilson. She writes about herself and why she is leaving Chriatianity (she’s converting to Judaism). The end of her article is great, so I’ll quote it here:

If Christianity, or any religion, can balance tolerance and love with meaningful spirituality, then I think the young people will stay. It’s really that simple

For me, what she writes there, is Christianity, so I am Christian. I understand this doesn’t work for many people who grew up with other kinds of Christianity, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Because if the religion is incapable of showing God’s love to people, if that religion is incapable of enabling the people to answer God in a meaningful way, it’s nothing but idolatry. One would have to find out, what the real idols are. I mentioned the bible being put in that place sometimes. Sometimes it’s other things that are identified with God and then civilized to have them controlled. That’s how you can loose God, trying to pin Him down. Don’t do it. All praise be to Him.

Commenting Media, English

Honda Prius

I ran across a video by darkmatter2525 again, and this time neither God nor this little angel whose name I forgot have an appearance. But just look yourself.

So shortly said, the video is about a woman who wants to buy a car. But the seller never shows her the car. All he does is present „evidence“ in the form of manual and other paper work, and the fact that he the seller himself is in the office although he lives 7 miles away. He claims he could not be present if he hadn’t come there by this car.

He also claims to have a personal relationship to the car, as do his collegues, but they cannot agree on the type and colour of the car. The woman who liked to buy the car then also finds out that the manual seems to be put together by excerpts of manuals of different cars.

Nonetheless, the seller demands $15,000 from the woman to sell her the car, without showing it to her. He speaks of a chance that the car might reveal itself to her.

In the end of the video, darkmatter put the folowing lines:

Theists:if you can understand why I wouldn’t buy a car from these people, you can also understand why I won’t buy God from you.

Well, I am a theist and I understand very well. In fact, I wouldn’t buy God from these people either. While I understand all the points he is trying to make with this video, he’s getting close to fighting strawmen. I say „close to“, because there are indeed Christians who would behave just like the car sellers there. (If you, dear reader, are one of those Christians: Please, stop doing it.) But it is naive to think and misleading to claim that all Christians were like this.

My first point against the whole plot of the story is: You can’t sell God. God is not a thing you posess in any way or can sell to other people at certain prices. He’s not  thing at all. This is a really hard nut or us to crack, because for us humans, most if not everything around us can or will be seen and treated as things that can be controlled. Sadly we tend to think so even of fellow humans.

While we can treat humans that way – we can make them slaves and use them, if we have the means (i.e. power) to do so, this doesn’t work with God. He won’t follow any of our attempts to control Him – ever! So we won’t sell Him. Sometimes people „sell“ certain moral codes or codes of behaving or whatever you will call it, and connect the whole thing to God. This is a whole different thing (and would also need some further discussion, because there’s enough to critisise there, but this is not the issue we deal with here).

My second point would be very close to the first point: You cannot use God. Ever! He is not a tool (so why buy Him in the first place?). The analogy with the car just doesn’t work. Because a car is a thing we can own and which we can use. It’s the whole purpose of a car to be used, if it was useless, there wouldn’t be any cars. Try to say the same about people, and you might understand the problem here: You cannot (or rather should not) speak thus abut people. People are not to be classified by their possible uses, this would be inhumane (and I think atheists would agree on that). The same applies to God. He is not our slave, is no tool is not just a thing.

So if you tried to sell me a tool that was useless or even nonexistant, I wouldnt buy it. And rightly so. Keep your invisible cars to yourself, whatever the colour.

But, as said, with God it is a whole different thing. He is not a thing, He is a counterpart. I don’t try to sell Him anyone. But I do tell people about my relationship to Him, because yes, as He is a counterpart as any human, I can also have a relationship with Him as with any human. The relationship part appears in that video, too, and just appears to be ridiculous. How can you have a relationship to a thing such as a car? (and how would a thing such as a car reveal itself, anyway?)

Relationships make only sense if we speak of counterparts. There is no way I can prove God to any of you. And this is not my job to do so. It is also not my job to tell you you’d go to hel if you did not believe in God. How can you believe in someone you don’t believe in? So yes, I have my fair share of critizism for those fellow Christians who do so (or try to). Don’t get me wrong here, I will still tell of the joy I have from my faith, but it’s not my job to make you have this faith too. It’s God’s job to reveal Himself to you.

While I critisise Christians for trying to sell God, I also critisise people who misrepresent Christianity or even theism as a whole, by claiming that we’d all be like one certin group. We are not, and if you are really open to reason and scientific thinking, you already know that.

Commenting Media, English

Do you believe in Yahwe?

This is a bit unhandy, as embedding was disabled, but you can look at the video I want to speak about here.

The story is told relatively quick, supposingly more quickly than watching the video:

Person A asks person B about his or her belief in a variety of godhead names: Vishnu, Baal, Shemosh, Thor, you name it. person B keeps saying „no“, to all the questions.

Person A does not react to these answers in any way, just keeps on throwing names of godheads at person B. This goes on for a while until person B answers the same „no“ to the belief in Yahwe.

All of a sudden person A starts cussing and yelling at person B all kind of things, basically saying that person B was very very evil not believing in Yahwe.

The video has a point. In some way. That is insofar as it critizises condemnation of people who do not believe in God (or any other godhead). As for christianity, I wish my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ would rather approach people of different or no faith with love then with condemnation, cussing and the like. It should not play a role, what a person believes for how we treat her or him. Christ commanded us to love. Period.

But on the other side, the video also speaks of someone having gotten into a trap. The trap of mixing up god and God. This is why I write „godhead“ above.

The wrong presumption is that there was no real difference between Yahwe, Vishnu or Thor and disbelief in the one was the same as disbelief in the other or any of them or all together. It is not.

And I am not going to tell you that the difference was that Yahwe exists and Baal does not. While I do believe this myself, of course, being a christian, this is not what I am talking about here.

What I am talking about is the difference between a polytheistic godhead and the monotheistic God, like Yahwe, or even Allah, if you like. Even the Flying Spaghetti Monster should qualify, f anybody really believed in it, which I do question.

Anyway, what is the difference between God and the godheads. The first way to recognise this would be to see that people did (and do) believe in Thor and Odin at the same time, or Zeus and Poseidon, or Vishnu and Ganesha, but hardly in Yahwe and Mars, or Allah and Baal.

Historical sidenote: Historically seen, there was most supposingly a time when people did indeed believe in Yahwe and Astarte or other godheads. I know this, you don’t need to point this out to me. And while the same name Yahwe is used, the concept behind it is different. The Yahwe besides Astarte, El or Shemesh is not more than a godhead, while the other Yahwe, God Yahwe, is a monotheistic God. Many scholars believe that there was an evolution from polytheism over henotheism to monotheism. What I am referring here to is monotheism, none of its supposed prior forms, whether or not they have existed before (I just don’t want to go into that discussion here).

So what is the difference between monotheism and polytheism? The difference is that polytheistic godheads are weak enough that there can be other godheads beside them, while a monotheistic God does not and will not make it even possible to have other godheads besides Him (or Her if you like).

Understood correctly, this would render the first commandment superfluous, because there would just not b the possibility to have other godheads beside a truly monotheistic God. And from that point of view it would not make a big difference whether you call Him (or Her) Yahwe, Allah or Hank. (the problem is that people do not always keep a strict monotheism, that’s why the first commandment still makes sense).

Monotheism means that there is one God who created everything (I’d like to hear about monotheistic Gods who are not also thought of as creators) and is beyond everything else, not only above. There is a qualitative difference between a monotheistic God and all that belongs to creation. On the other hand are the polytheistic godheads, each one having their own affairs to deal with, none of them is really superior to all the others, fights are possible and we have stories about that. Basically they are closer to modern superheros like Spiderman or Superman, than to a monotheistic God. They are powerful, but not unable to be overcome, be it by some other godhead or some (human) trickster.

So person A would be more sensible asking person B whether he (or she) believed in any system of godheads (pantheon) or whether she (or he) believed in a monotheistic God. Of which there are also many, besides Yahwe also Allah or the FSM and others. So it’s not that all monotheisms would be the same. They have very different ideas of their God.

And one final note: I am not too deep into modern Hindu theology, but I think I heard about all Hindu godheads being only appearances of the same one God. Yes, God, capital letter, because I guess this would then be a monotheism as well.

Commenting Media, English

What is there to do in heaven

What is there to do in heaven

The author adds the following text:

I got the idea for this comic while reading Revelation 7. Serving and worshiping God all the time doesn’t exactly sound like paradise to me.

I’d like to add a few thoughts: There are actually peole who think heaven and hell are the same place, only differently percieved by different people. So if praising God is boring as hell for atheists, it needn’t be for Christians. Actually it is what they are doing (or claim to be doing) all their life long. And Christians are happy with it, aren’t they? So why shouln’t they be happy with it n heaven? As for all those atheists who hope to get into heaven for some fun time. Sorry, no hope for you guys, only weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Theologie, Uncategorized

Who created God?

youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ODetOE6cbbc&feature=player_embedded

Darkmatter’s video on God’s God starts with a common stereotype about Christian faith: An Atheist dies, gets to meet his creator an is about to be sent to hell for not believing in the right God. The question of how he should have known which God to believe in comes up later, when God himself meets his creator, that looks a lot like Steve Jobs.

A lot could be said and debated about how one should know which God is actualy the right one, but the main question is about the creator of the Creator, so I shall stick with this.

The main argument is, that the God figure in the movie claims the Atheist had to know that there has to be a reason for his existence and intelligence.

The Angel figure, I think his name is Geoffrey, reminds the God figure, let’s call him Hank for short, of his own existence and intelligence. As Hank claims he was not created, why should the Atheist not have done likewise in his own life.

To „prove“ the point, darkmatter has Geoffrey and Hank kill each other in the video and face Hank’s (an Geoffrey’s?) creator. Then there is a similar discussion, plus the question of how to know about this creator etc etc. Basically Hank brings up a lot of the arguments atheists tend to bring up againt the existence of God. Basically a ot of lapstick and recursion.

The question I find interesting to address here is the question about the creator of the Creator. Thus I didn’t cal the article „God’s God“ like arkmatter called his video, but „Who created God“. To give the short answer: No one because God is not created. He is not a creature, unlike everything else.

Geoffrey brings intelligence and existence into discussion. I’d like to drop the intelligence part. There are things created that are not in the slightest way intelligent. Think of stones. Or bread (Germans should understand this one ;)). But still they are created, and they exist.

I’d like to start with God’s existence, and what I do in the first place is: Deny it. You read right: I consider myself Christian and deny the existence of God. Now if you are a Christian yourself reading this and about to call me heretic or whatnot, let me first explain. And judge then. And if you are an Atheist reading this, don’t rejoice too fast, things are not as they appear.

We talk about existence. And we talk about creation. I’d say, it’s both the same: If you have anything that is created, it exists. And I think it’s also the other way round: Everything that exists, is created.

Atheists should not agree here, because I guess they’d deny the idea of creation in the first place, so there wold be no created thing, no creature, in the first place. But this thought is more for the Christians among you, I’ll get back to the Atheists later.

If we say that everything that is created, exists, then we cannot say that God would exist, because undoubtedly: God is not created (this is true at least for monotheistic gods).

So if God is not created and does thus not exists, he must be something else than existant, if I believe in Him.

God is above creation. God is above existence. God gave existence to everything being. Existence is timely and within the created world as a concept. This is not true for God (any monotheistic God, but not any politheistic gods). He does not exist, He is not within the created world (though He can influence it and appear there). And He’s not just a concept, but maybe we could say that He was also a concept, besides many other things.

So if God was created, he’d be within the world, he’d be timely. And he’d have a creator. If he had created anything himsef he’d just be a subcontractor of the real God who created him. People as create things. Darkmatter created the video, and I am about creating this article. Still we both are creatures, because we exist. We are timely and within this world, and cannot escape it.

This all is not true for (the monotheistic) God, though it can be true for (polytheistic) gods, which don’t difer much here from Superman, Spiderman and other figures with (restricted) superpowers. So, the only real God in the video would be the last in the row, if he was and would not be thought to be just another super-super-superhero within time and world. If he was not thought to be existing.

The fact that all those god-figures in the video have bodies and act towards one anoter even in their respective „heavens“ makes me presume that darkmatter didn’t think of them as nonexistant God, that still is there.

It is really a problem to not have a word for the nonexistant kind of existence of God. Because He is there, he is the source of everything, the source of existence, though He doesn’t exist the way we exist. Because we have not word for his existence, I guess, it is that we end up not understanding one another.