Out From Under the Umbrella

playing in the rain

The Wrath of God

60 Comments

But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
He will render to each one according to his works: to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. Romans 2:5-8

 Full context here

The great day of the Lord is near, 
near and hastening fast;
the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter;
the mighty man cries aloud there.
A day of wrath is that day,
a day of distress and anguish,
a day of ruin and devastation,
a day of darkness and gloom,
a day of clouds and thick darkness,
a day of trumpet blast and battle cry
against the fortified cities
and against the lofty battlements.

I will bring distress on mankind,
so that they shall walk like the blind,
because they have sinned against the Lord;
their blood shall be poured out like dust,
and their flesh like dung.
Neither their silver nor their gold
shall be able to deliver them
on the day of the wrath of the Lord.
In the fire of his jealousy,
all the earth shall be consumed;
for a full and sudden end
he will make of all the inhabitants of the earth. Zephaniah 1:14-18

Full Context  here

The LORD is a jealous and avenging God; the LORD is avenging and wrathful   Nahum 1:2

I did a quick word search at bible.cc  on the word wrath.  The ones I reference here are just a few examples of what that search turns up.  These are not supplied with their full context, but the full text has been linked so you may read it if you wish.

I’m not trying to do an exegesis on the meanings of these passages.  My simple point is this:  We want to look to God and Jesus and get a warm fuzzy feeling that He is in fact a God of love.  He loves all mankind and wants us all to come to repentance and knowledge of Him.  We want to turn a blind eye to the fact that we are indeed objects of His wrath until such time as we come to believe just the right thing and more than that behave just the right way.  We say that this is because God wants us to choose Him, and because He won’t interfere with our free will.  How much choice or free will is there when the results of not choosing the right way will send you to an eternal Hell of torment, burning sulfur, weeping and gnashing of teeth, loneliness, isolation, and pain.  Doesn’t seem like much of a choice.

Many a Sunday School lesson I’ve partaken in has been on the subject of God’s unconditional love, agape love.  The question remains in my mind, however, how unconditional is this love if we have to meet certain conditions in order to obtain it?  It is clear from many Bible passages that not only is God a God of grace and mercy, but He is also a God of judgment and wrath.

It has been suggested that these verses pertaining to all of this wrath are fallible man’s attempt to understand God, but have in the process completely misunderstood His nature.  I’m not sure I can buy into that view.  Either these were prophets of God, or they weren’t.  Many of these verses in their full context reveal that this was God’s pronouncement Himself, “this is what the LORD your God says”.

These are difficult passages to reconcile in my mind.  It seems to suggest that there are certain people that God made to be objects of His wrath.  There are passages that say that God Himself has blinded people to the truth, that He has hardened their hearts to Him.  It is a frightening prospect to me.  What if I’m one of them?  It simply seems to me that maybe Hell is there purely for God’s entertainment value, as if it’s all a big game and we are just pawns in it.

When I step back and look at these passages with no presuppositions, not trying to find ways to rationalize them so that I can hold on to my faith, they simply make no sense to me.  I can’t continue to find ways to soften and dismiss them.  I find it difficult to take a liberal approach to scripture.  It is too difficult for me to know which passages I should take with a big ol’ boulder of salt and which ones to take seriously. Am I missing something here?  I’m getting to the point that I question whether I can continue to believe. 



Advertisements

60 thoughts on “The Wrath of God

  1. I think that where you are in difficulty, is that you are still looking for some parts to be inerrant, and thus, since there are obvious contradictions, you can't see how you can pick and choose. But of course fundamentalists have always verse mined the scriptures for what they like and ignored what they did not. It's not a matter of whether a writer was a real prophet or not. To demand that he be is to demand the scripture be "the word of God". You admit as much when you said, "but it says, "the Lord says." The bible is a collection of books, not a one of them written in any connection to the others. Most were not reduced to writing until hundreds of years after they were "uttered". They have been part of a verbal folklore, passed down. Ever play a game of telephone?When ultimately written down, the writer had a purpose, a motive. He was trying to accomplish something. Usually in the OT it was helping to form a distinct people apart from those groups that lived among or around them. So threats and fear played a part in urging people to be "different" and apart from their neighbors. It is a tool to accomplish an end, which the writer believed to be true–that Israel was God's chosen and that people needed to give up the other god worship they engaged it, needed to to stop intermarrying, needed to stop living as their neightbors. Paul's remarks in Romans needs be understood in a much bigger context. REad thru chap. 3. Paul is speaking to Jews, and telling them, that all are equal now, they have no favored place. God is impartial. They can't rely on the Law, but must come to Christ. He uses the threat too, because it is effective, and he knows it will resound to Jews who are aware of plenty of scriptural scaring. If a person speaks truth in terms of ultimate right and wrong, then who is to say they are not a prophet? Was MLK a prophet? Was Gandhi? Some would say yes. Is the message true? Is that the standard?When you see passages like this, remember what the writer is trying to accomplish. To suggest that God has chosen some and not others is to make God a very bad creator. And that would seem wrong wouldn't you say? All scripture is valuable for learning. But before you can gain the best learning, you must understand the history of the various parts. A good history of Israel, and a good book on the NT, with the dates of writing and so forth might help. I certainly hope you continue to work toward a faith resolution. It would be sad to lose another fundamentalist to atheism. Blessings

    Like

  2. Sorry, might I recommend you get a good study bible. Either the NRSV or the NJB are both excellent translations and they have plenty of commentary and notes. This could help you a good deal.

    Like

  3. Sherry Peyton says:To demand that he be is to demand the scripture be "the word of God". You admit as much when you said, "but it says, "the Lord says." I'm making no demands. The writer is declaring that he heard this word directly from God. So yes I admit that my teaching is that these are prophets and that scripture is the "word of God", that is where I come from.Paul is speaking to Jews, and telling them, that all are equal now, they have no favored place. God is impartial. They can't rely on the Law, but must come to Christ. He uses the threat too, because it is effective, and he knows it will resound to Jews who are aware of plenty of scriptural scaring.They must come to Christ or what? If the threat of Hell is only a scare tactic, what is the consequence of not coming to Christ?I certainly hope you continue to work toward a faith resolution.Faith in what? If the scriptures are not the "word of God" then why should I have faith in their subject? How would we know that God is not just a creation of some very imaginative leaders to scare people into submission? What is it you have faith in?

    Like

  4. @Sherry Peyton,Please do not think that my response is in any way challenging you or your beliefs. I find it difficult to wrap my mind around some of the concepts you present.

    Like

  5. Sherry Peyton,I would say the fundamentalist are no less or no more guilty of “verse-mining” than another other denominational creed. (I’m not picking on you–just using your descriptive terminology as a jumping off point.)The difference tends to be in methodology. A fundamentalist will use ALL the verses, but decide which ones “trump” the other in terms of interpretation. For example, they will claim we must love our enemies, yet Jesus loved his enemies, and called them names. So Jesus’ name-calling “trumps” the “love your enemies” and becomes perfectly acceptable behavior.A fundamentalist will emphasize a God of love, but if they desire a particular nasty rationalization for revenge on heathens, will point out how God is “just” and “angry” and “wrathful” which trumps the love bits, and off the sinner goes to his/her life of eternal damnation while the fundamentalist does his “I-told-you-so” dance.The liberals equally “verse-mine” by never committing to a specific methodology as to what is/is not from God, thereby never committing to any particular set of verses. This way they can constantly emphasize the bits they like (typically social charity and love) without ever having to deal with the other parts depicting a not-so-human-friendly God.I find both systems wanting. I agree the Bible is a collection of various author’s thoughts regarding God. Even Paul is not consistent in his theology through the course of his own writing, let alone in comparison to Peterine or Johannine books. Or the pseudo-pauline books. There is little surprise conflicts arise. The question still remains—what method does one use to determine what parts are accurate and what parts are not?From what I have seen, people tend to use a standard exterior to the Bible (perhaps, “what I feel” or “what non-Christian historians indicate”) demonstrating the Bible, as a determinative, is subservient to other sources. In other words, we apply a standard other than the Bible to determine the truth of the Bible, making the other standard more credible than the Bible.Which, at that point, makes one wonder why use the Bible at all?

    Like

  6. No offense taken D'ma. But the point is, it's not necessarily the "writer" as you say. Many of the prophets didn't write down anything. It was later followers or even beyond who took up the oral history of their teaching and wrote them down. There isn't a lot of reliability to that. The actual writer has a point to get across, and uses those portions and selections to make his point. Thus there is no assurance that God actually spoke those words. As to what is the end of not coming to Christ? Well plenty would argue that nothing changes. God doesn't create junk as someone said. You are invited to live the kingdom now, or later. You can ignore it all, and when your time as human is over, you will (many believe) return to the Godhead. Otherwise we condemn all Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and a plethora of natural religions to eternal hell only for worshiping honestly but wrongly. If the book is not right then faith doesn't exist is a fundamentalist claim. That makes the book the subject of idolatry. It makes the bible God. It seems hard to believe that a fairly small group of people got together 2000+ years ago and decided to make everything up, or that the Jews were simiilarly guilty for better than 2000 more. People went to their deaths rather than deny what they believed they had seen and felt. It strains credulity to me at least that it is all a big hoax. Science will never give an ultimate answer, most scientists agree. Are we to believe that we are here by what means? What causes universes? I guess most of us believe in an ultimate first cause–God. HOpe this helps a bit. Blessings

    Like

  7. Dagood, you point is well taken, but frankly the liberal/progressive Christian doesn't verse mine much at all. I seldom quote verses for that reason, the bible supplies anyone with about anything they want. My point is that inerrantists claim that the entire bible, every word is true. Yert they don't use their own hermeneutic when it doesn't give the right result. Some fundie biblical experts have even given up on reconciling some verses by saying "God hasn't yet seen fit to explain them to us, but when he does, surely it will not be in conflict with this other place." Contrarily, the liberal Christian does indeed wrestle with the Genocidal, killing of innocents, the trickster god aspects,slave condoning,etc and condemns them as such, and tries to see how they can be used today to inform our morality. We do not ignore them in favor of the passages we like. Mostly we take the time and effort to read broadly and deeply to understand when whence they came. I'm spouting nothing way out there, rather this is the understanding of mainstream biblical experts and theologians. The pauline corpus must be defined as what is surely Pauline about 7 books, where there is a fair dispute, 2 and the rest are surely not Pauline. As to the 7, Paul grows in his understanding over time if you put them in chronological order. As to methodology…there are probably close to a dozen critical methods used to examine scripure, from linguistics, literary, historical, redactionary, and a host of others.

    Like

  8. Sherry Peyton says:t seems hard to believe that a fairly small group of people got together 2000+ years ago and decided to make everything up, or that the Jews were simiilarly guilty for better than 2000 more. People went to their deaths rather than deny what they believed they had seen and felt. It strains credulity to me at least that it is all a big hoax. Now I'm getting really confused. If the OT is largely myth (who knows which parts are and which parts aren't), wouldn't that indicate some sort of fabrication, be that intentional or unintentional? Maybe the "folklore", your word – not mine, was a sincerely held belief of the writer, but that doesn't make it true. People sincerely hold beliefs in many things that are false.Science will never give an ultimate answer, most scientists agree. Are we to believe that we are here by what means? What causes universes? I guess most of us believe in an ultimate first cause–God. That is definitely the presupposition of many, I don't disagree. But why the God of the Bible? There are religions that predate both Christianity and Judaism. Why not one of those? How do you know that the Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews or plethora of other natural religions are worshiping wrongly? This is the reason I'm leaning toward agnosticism at the moment. I honestly don't know which one is right or if any of them are right. I don't feel like playing a game of "pin the tail on the most right God" and hoping that I've pinned it to the right one.

    Like

  9. Sherry Peyton says:frankly the liberal/progressive Christian doesn't verse mine much at all….Contrarily, the liberal Christian does indeed wrestle with the Genocidal, killing of innocents, the trickster god aspects,slave condoning,etc and condemns them as such, and tries to see how they can be used today to inform our morality.No, I suppose liberal/progressive Christians don't ignore these passages. It seems instead that they find ways to rationalize them by saying that the Bible isn't the "word of God". Then it can be conveniently said: No God doesn't condone slavery, but the writer lives in a world where slavery is everywhere accepted, so he assumes God allows it. Never mind that the writer says at the beginning of the passage that the LORD gave these laws directly to Moses, thus it is the law of God. Instead this uncomfortable thought is attributed to fallible man instead of to God who we would never believe condoned such heinous behavior as slavery. It is perceived as a regulation of abhorrent behavior that already exists. However, using that line of thought, His way of regulating homosexuality and adultery are death. So it seems to me if He wasn't condoning slavery, He could have clearly stated that it was no longer to be practiced.

    Like

  10. Sherry PeytonBut why would we use the mythical stories to inform our morality of today? Why not use the Iliad or the Odyssey or Tales of King Arthur?Better yet, why not write them off as tales of a barbaric age, and move on?The liberal Christian is still attempting to grant higher esteem to the Bible, and thus remains locked in a battle to wrestle some morality out of ugly situations…just like the fundamentalist (although with differing methods and results, to be sure.)I was not trying to imply liberal Christians ignore these tough passages…rather they seem caught in a dance of trying to reject them for the reasons I do, yet still consider them of higher value than other tales.

    Like

  11. I was a liberal Christian for years, but finally gave it up as unworkable. In my experience, it was always the "canon" of progressive societal and political mores that determined which Scriptural texts should be heeded and which ignored … or which ought to be subjected to tortured reinterpretations (e.g., Paul's condemnation of homosexuality). An example: Being judgmental toward rich, materialistic fatcats harmonizes with the secular liberal model, so libs can celebrate texts in which Jesus denounces the rich. But immoral activity (particularly in the area of sex) is not a progressive taboo, so anti-fornication verses tend to melt into the background in favor of tolerance and understanding. It all seemed so intellectually dishonest that I couldn't put up with it anymore. I can understand being a longterm liberal Christian if you're wired as a mystic, a peacenik or an advocate of so-called "social justice." But theologically, philosophically minded individuals may find it hard to hang in there with it. (Maybe you can, though — and I wish you the best.)

    Like

  12. D.MA, It's not all myth of course. There is plenty of history. The stories that were written down hundreds of years later, were vivid oral tradition, known among the scribes and priests, and taught. They are fashioned at times to make specific points, and those points still have great meaning to us today, otherwise we should ignore them. But I do understand your confusion. Unless you have read a good deal in the area, I guess it seems either all true, or who cares. That is the rub of fundamentalism. Other Christians don't struggle like this since we understand from the beginning that the stories represent how people in earlier times made sense of their world and God within it. The cave dweller looked out and saw lightening and believed God was angry. Are we suggesting his believf in God was wrong, or that only his belief that lightening signified an angry God?But you are most right that there is no reason why the God of the bible as opposed to some other faith system.If you believe that God created all things, and all was good, then you can conclude that God is happy that we seek him in any means that helps us "see" him, as long as we harm no one. The Buddhist, the Jew, the Hindu, find God in their way, and I know of no reason to say it is wrong. I have spent some time looking at other systems. Christianity works for me. All I'm saying is that finding out that inerrancy is wrong is not a "good" reason for abandoning Christianty. Fully 60 or so percent of Christians aren't fundamentalists, so they find sometnhing of value in the system that makes them feel closer to God.

    Like

  13. DaGood? Because they are "our" stories. They are our history. To suggest that we don't inform our morals by the Odyssey and other great writings is falacious I believe anyway. Certainly a good deal of Christian theology is informed by Aristotle. Read The Summa, or Augustine for that matter. Knowing our history is essential. Tracing the growth of our understanding of God helps us to understand where we are, and where we might head. It isn't barbarism so much as enlightening to realize that we declared quite early on that child sacrifice and genocide were wrong. These are things to celebrate.I don't think we are locked in some dance of trying to make them relevant. As a writer recently said, when we read the child sacrifice passages and are repelled, does that inform what we might think of sending our sons and daughters to sacrifice their lives in endless wars that never end war? Are we in fact any further along, like we think we are? These are sobering and valuable questions. They keep scripture relevant, at least to me.

    Like

  14. Steve, your present orientation is pretty obvious fromwhat you wrote. There is nothing tortured in the interpreation of Paul. Homosexuality was a word unknown to Paul. It's an 18th century or later creation. It is clear that Paul was refering to ritualized prostitution. I've written extensively on the issue and so have others. Many books exist. REferences in Timothy are not Pauline but someone unknown. Many writers wrote in the "name" of someone whom they were emulating in terms of theology. Jesus' message is unfailing in its claims that wealth is a detriment to attaining the kingdom. I don't know why you think that progressives not believe in sexual morality, but I can tell you that statistics show that there is more teen pregnancy in the South and more divorce there as well, the traditional bible belt. One can talk morality it seems and not practice it well. So-called social justice is what Jesus seemed to preach. I know it's not fashionable with Conservatives who don't want to pay taxes for programs for the poor, but frankly, that is what Matthew 25 is all about. I too hope you are happy being whatever you have become.

    Like

  15. Sherry Peyton,Thanks for the pleasant conversation.How are they “our” stories? I am not Jewish. My wife is Native American—certainly we wouldn’t say they are her stories!My children are raised in a world where Disney movies are “our” stories. (Which can provide morality as well.) Why not use Hollywood as a determinative?I understand how you can derive morality from the stories, like being repelled by children dying, yet we can do the same from Hallmark cards and newspapers. What makes the Bible any different?You are free to find the Bible relevant…what I can never understand is why a liberal Christian would think anyone else should.

    Like

  16. This post has been removed by the author.

    Like

  17. Sherry, I'm not saying that libs are actually more sexually immoral than fundamentalists in practice — I didn't mean to convey that. But let's be honest: When you read guys like Spong and other left-of-center religious authors, the call for sexual purity hardly leaps off the page. If anything, these people criticize fundies for being so uptight about sex. I'm afraid your interpretation of Paul's views on sexual orientation are wishful thinking in the extreme (I tried to buy into the liberal view, believe me). You're well aware of the Romans texts in which Paul speaks disparagingly about men and women burning in lust for one another, leaving the "natural use." How this can be twisted into a mere ban on ritual prostitution … well, if you really think that was Paul's point, I don't get it.About Jesus and social justice: Plenty of studies show conclusively that self-described conservatives give a lot more of their money to charity — much, much more of it — than self-described liberals. That's probably because the left believes in helping the poor with other people's money, through involuntary income transfers. If you think that's what Jesus wanted from his flock, I'd suggest giving it a little more critical thought.

    Like

  18. It appears to me that liberals and fundies alike have created a God in their own image. The fundies have created one that hates what they hate, but so have the libs. A fundie hates homosexuality and divorce and in extreme cases homosexuals and divorcees(or pick any other sin)because they believe that's what the Bible says. And the libs have created one that is likewise offended by their own sense of morality, (i.e. judging homosexuality or divorce or pick any other sin) and in extreme cases a lib even hates the fundie.

    Like

  19. Well said, D'ma. I think you're right.

    Like

  20. Sherry Peyton says:I have spent some time looking at other systems. Christianity works for me. All I'm saying is that finding out that inerrancy is wrong is not a "good" reason for abandoning Christianty.In what way does Christianity "work" for you? It is clear from some of your comments you don't view Christianity as the "only" way to God. Didn't Jesus say "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father except through me"(John 14:6)? And Acts 4:12 says, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved". In another of your comments you said: Try seeing Jesus not so much as the one to undo the "sin" of Adam. Please explain to me the purpose of His sacrifice. The whole premise of His death, burial and resurrection was exactly that. John the Baptist acknowledged Him as such. "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29. I am not "verse mining" here. I simply don't know how else to interpret these scriptures and many others. So even if I could look at some of the other passages we've spoken about as partially myth, partially historic in value I'm no longer certain of the virgin birth, or the resurrection. Are you suggesting that Christianity is merely a social agenda of sorts? I really am trying to understand your point of view. It's just that I've taken my faith much more seriously than that.

    Like

  21. In what way does Christianity "work" for you? It is clear from some of your comments you don't view Christianity as the "only" way to God. Didn't Jesus say "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father except through me"(John 14:6)?". This is an excellent example of what I was talking about earlier. In progressive culture (religious and secular alike), tolerance, inclusion and diversity are so important that they trump anything that contradicts them — even very plain words from Jesus himself. The big question is this: What determines whether a given saying of Jesus is true or not? Again, my experience as a lib Christian is that progressives tastes and prejudices are the main, overriding criteria for making such judgment calls.

    Like

  22. SteveJ,That is my point exactly. If the scriptures aren't inerrant I no longer have any barometer to determine the validity of any scriptures. I have no idea now what determines whether a given saying of Jesus is true or not.

    Like

  23. D’Ma,You hit the nail on the head—the malleability of Christianity allows one to create a God in whatever image they desire. From a malevolent wrathful Calvinist to a beatnik flower-child.

    Like

  24. D'ma, I don't know about the necessity of a religion having an inerrant document, but it does seem that a Christian should have some scholarly justification for disregarding a particular saying of Jesus — not just its failure to fit an ideological template. People on both sides do that almost reflexively, and I've never understood how they can let themselves get away with it.

    Like

  25. SteveJ,In essence I think our views are pretty much the same though we are stating them differently. You are correct that a Christian should have some scholarly justification for disregarding any particular passage in the Bible. It's not enough that a certain characteristic displayed doesn't "fit" our idea of what God/Jesus should or shouldn't be. There must be some scholarly evidence to deduce whether a scripture is relevant or not. That is precisely what I'm wrestling with. I'm not a Bible scholar, and neither are the majority of those within Christendom. Being a Christian shouldn't be so difficult that it takes a scholar to know which parts to follow and which parts are "bunk".

    Like

  26. But wait…do you have the special decoder ring? *grin*

    Like

  27. Why … yes. Just send four proof-of-purchase seals, along with 30 pieces of silver to: The Divine Decoder, Box 666, Lala Land, OH 12345. Allow 70 weeks for delivery.

    Like

  28. Well, given that I've "created a God in my own image" which is the antithesis of progressive Christian thinking, I can see that I am a poor spokesperson indeed. It appears we all want to hold on to our own theories and thus further discussion is indeed pointless. This is the end result of fundamentalism. Nothing is believable. I would correct that I don't hate fundies. I wish they would stop trying to institute a theocracy in this country. Beyond that, I leave it to their own journey of faith.

    Like

  29. Sherry Peyton,My remarks were not about you in particular. They were observations about fundamentalists and liberals alike. While I regret that you took them personally, I think there is some truth in that about all of us. I implicated myself as much as anyone else. Some scriptures are indeed poignant. "Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?" Matt. 7:3I've been taking a very long, hard look at myself and have discovered traits I don't particularly like. When I look into the mirror I see two tremendous logs – one hanging out of each eye. Just when I think I have them removed two more sprout in their place. I can't see around them well enough to remove the sawdust from yours.

    Like

  30. P.S. I really did ask you some very pertinent questions regarding your comments. I'm sorry that I hit a sore spot.

    Like

  31. Sherry, I hear this "they're trying to establish a theocracy" line all the time. OK, so they do want things that I (as a libertarian) don't agree with, either: prayer in schools, more recognition of God in the public sphere, etc. But to say these concessions amount to a call for a "theocracy" is a wild exaggeration. It just illustrates how unfair and unnuanced people are when assessing their ideological opponents.

    Like

  32. Being a Christian shouldn't be so difficult that it takes a scholar to know which parts to follow and which parts are "bunk". Amen to that. I have friends who encourage me to consider these highly complex, unintuitive theological ideas set forth by N.T. Wright in his 800-page works. For example, Wright believes that the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in the first century, but that some of Paul's references to the second coming await a future realization. But is the truth so inaccessible? Would a God who wished to communicate with us do so in such a manner?

    Like

  33. These are questions I wrangle with quite a bit. God supposedly desires a relationship with us, for us to know Him and to worship Him. Why then is He shrouded in so much mystery and why is He hidden? Why is a God who wants such complete and utter devotion, a God who wants us to "leave all and follow Him" not more accessible to the average man? If the Bible is a revelation of God to man we shouldn't need all these outside sources to shed light on the scriptures themselves. I'm not saying I'm not willing to do the hard work of getting to know God, I'm saying an omnipotent, omniscient, merciful God could surely leave a better trail to Himself than that.

    Like

  34. D'ma, I'm not aware of what I didn't answer. Liberal Christians have benefited from scholarly work in the area of the "homosexual" passages. Once understood, they are not troubling since they have no relationship to anything we would think of as homosexuality today. In fact most all gays would be as against the things innumerated by Paul and Liviticus as anyone else. But as I said, I don't think that I can be of any use to you, since you seem to have accepted that the bible cannot be of help to you unless inerrant. That much of fundamentalism seems to have stuck.I wrote a piece at http://witshadows.wordpress.com that sums up my failures to "help." Blessings, to you, I shall continue to read what you have to say, but refrain from butting in. Your other commenters are supporting your agnosticism and I believe that is where you are right now. That is fine.

    Like

  35. Sherry Peyton says:I have spent some time looking at other systems. Christianity works for me. All I'm saying is that finding out that inerrancy is wrong is not a "good" reason for abandoning Christianty.In what way does Christianity "work" for you? It is clear from some of your comments you don't view Christianity as the "only" way to God. Didn't Jesus say "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father except through me"(John 14:6)? And Acts 4:12 says, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved".In another of your comments you said: Try seeing Jesus not so much as the one to undo the "sin" of Adam. Please explain to me the purpose of His sacrifice. The whole premise of His death, burial and resurrection was exactly that. John the Baptist acknowledged Him as such. "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29. I am not "verse mining" here. I simply don't know how else to interpret these scriptures and many others. So even if I could look at some of the other passages we've spoken about as partially myth, partially historic in value I'm no longer certain of the virgin birth, or the resurrection. Are you suggesting that Christianity is merely a social agenda of sorts? I really am trying to understand your point of view.This obviously escalated into something I never intended. Maybe you're right when you say: you seem to have accepted that the bible cannot be of help to you unless inerrant. That much of fundamentalism seems to have stuck.I have accepted the premise that if I don't accept the Bible as inerrant how do I know any of it is true as regards Jesus role in salvation. In fundamentalism that's called Cafeteria Christianity. I've only been at this for a few months. I believe it might take me quite some time to shed all the layers of fundamentalism. You don't go 20-25 years believing something and change it on a dime. I'm even hesitant to call what I am agnostic though I sense I'm leaning in that direction. It's part of my journey, but I feel I have to shed the fundamentalism because I seem to filter everything through my "what does the Bible say about this" lens. One thing I would like to say here is that I think you did take some things out of context of how they were meant and I never once thought that you hated anyone and don't think anyone else here thought that either. My statement was that in the extreme that seemed to be the case and your name was not attached anywhere to the statement. You may comment here whenever you wish. However you need to be aware that when you do so you are opening yourself up to questions and scrutiny about your ideas, just as I am with my posts. Because of my literal, inerrant view, at the moment, some of the ideas you posit seem so foreign to me. It might take some time, if I ever can, to be able to view scripture the way you suggest. That's not to say I won't come to some of the same conclusions you bring up. Who knows where I'll be a few months or a year down the line? Believe it or not I'm trying to keep an open mind about the things you've said, it will take me some time to absorb it and decide what I think about those ideas.

    Like

  36. How do you think Christians were able to be Christians before the New Testament was written? After all, there was no inerrant document to consult.

    Like

  37. You are correct about that SteveJ. I have given that some thought. I think where I'm really having trouble is that to me being a Christian means accepting the virgin birth, the resurrection, the deity of Christ. Those things are now in question for me. I don't know what is reliable in the New Testament or the Old for that matter. It means accepting Christ as an atonement for my sins. He said "if you love me you'll follow my commands". I now question what were His commands. Do you see now? The problem isn't so much having an inerrant document, it's in knowing which parts I can trust. Having done some research into these areas it's difficult to push the doubts out of my mind.

    Like

  38. Lots of comments. I'm half asleep, but i just wanted to say that i resonate with this quote from dma: "being a Christian shouldn't be so difficult that it takes a scholar to know which parts to follow and which parts are "bunk"This is at the core of my questioning and skepticism lately. I wrote briefly some similar sentiments in a post called big books, where i was actually contemplating reading nt wrights 800 page book. But not anymore. It is crazy to waste away doing that, particularly if you arent a scholar anyways. I have vowed to take a break from scholarly activities;) in a future post in the works. Off to read fiction….

    Like

  39. D'Ma,I know what you mean about wanting the word of God to be clear and accessible without needing to rely on scholars. I was always taught that it truly was clear and self evident. No fancy degrees needed. However, my studies lately show me how very untrue that is. What would we know of the NT's historical context of 1st century Mediterranean culture without scholars telling us? Most of us see the value of that type of knowledge. For that matter, what would we do without scholars translating the Bible from Hebrew and Greek into English for us? And even further, what about the fact that most everyone until modern times living in industrialized areas has been illiterate, depending on scholars to read, interpret, and orally disseminate the word? For years I've been hung up on this point. Was a compilation of documents written in Greek in the first century really the best way to communicate the word of God to the world? I'm also trying to make sense of what to make of Christianity without an inerrant Bible. I know a great number of Christians aren't saddled with that problem, but is a real thorn in the side for those of us who are.

    Like

  40. Like A ChildYou posted while i was composing my comment above. I just saw it and wanted to say I've given up on NT Wright's massive book on the resurrection. I'll use it as a reference instead. I borrowed a thinner book on a debate between Wright and Crossan. I am starting to wonder if the "truth" to be found about anything metaphysical can only be found in the glimpses that myth and metaphor provide, that cut across culture and education and depend not on historical events from the distant past. There is a time when I would have been aghast at such a notion. I am uncomfortable even writing it, not wanting to be dismissed as a dreamy eyed mystic. Enjoy your fiction btw. Sadly, I'm off to prepare for lectures I'm giving tomorrow.

    Like

  41. D'Ma, I wrote off the innate deity of Jesus about 20 years ago after reading the works of 19th century Unitarian Christians. They pretty much demolished the whole concept, and that's from a conservative biblical perspective (the old Unitarians had a high view of Scripture). The fact that orthodox Christians must continually resort to the same four or five texts over and over again to prove a point when one would expect abundant, overwhelming attestation … well, that sunk it for me. There's so much material in the NT that completely contradicts the notion of Jesus being God, including his own words in the gospels.

    Like

  42. SteveJ,Then that brings about another point for me. If Jesus is not God should we be worshiping Him as one? Southern Baptists add all sorts of things to the doctrine of salvation such as the virgin birth, the resurrection and the deity of Christ. These are core tents one must believe to "be saved". If Jesus isn't God and the God of the OT is a jealous God, aren't we then guilty of idolatry?

    Like

  43. Yeah, Southern Baptists would say that it's terrible to make Jesus someone less than God. But if he really isn't God, wouldn't it be much worse to exalt him to that rank?

    Like

  44. I'm thinking so. Which is why the Jews refuse to worship him as such. I've spoken with a Rabbi and looked some things up online regarding their rejection of Jesus as Messiah. They have some very interesting points. I've read a bit about gentiles who practice Noahchide Laws.

    Like

  45. How do you think Christians were able to be Christians before the New Testament was written? After all, there was no inerrant document to consult.

    Like

  46. Steve, your present orientation is pretty obvious fromwhat you wrote. There is nothing tortured in the interpreation of Paul. Homosexuality was a word unknown to Paul. It's an 18th century or later creation. It is clear that Paul was refering to ritualized prostitution. I've written extensively on the issue and so have others. Many books exist. REferences in Timothy are not Pauline but someone unknown. Many writers wrote in the "name" of someone whom they were emulating in terms of theology. Jesus' message is unfailing in its claims that wealth is a detriment to attaining the kingdom. I don't know why you think that progressives not believe in sexual morality, but I can tell you that statistics show that there is more teen pregnancy in the South and more divorce there as well, the traditional bible belt. One can talk morality it seems and not practice it well. So-called social justice is what Jesus seemed to preach. I know it's not fashionable with Conservatives who don't want to pay taxes for programs for the poor, but frankly, that is what Matthew 25 is all about. I too hope you are happy being whatever you have become.

    Like

  47. Sherry Peyton says:I have spent some time looking at other systems. Christianity works for me. All I'm saying is that finding out that inerrancy is wrong is not a "good" reason for abandoning Christianty.In what way does Christianity "work" for you? It is clear from some of your comments you don't view Christianity as the "only" way to God. Didn't Jesus say "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father except through me"(John 14:6)? And Acts 4:12 says, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved".In another of your comments you said: Try seeing Jesus not so much as the one to undo the "sin" of Adam. Please explain to me the purpose of His sacrifice. The whole premise of His death, burial and resurrection was exactly that. John the Baptist acknowledged Him as such. "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29. I am not "verse mining" here. I simply don't know how else to interpret these scriptures and many others. So even if I could look at some of the other passages we've spoken about as partially myth, partially historic in value I'm no longer certain of the virgin birth, or the resurrection. Are you suggesting that Christianity is merely a social agenda of sorts? I really am trying to understand your point of view.This obviously escalated into something I never intended. Maybe you're right when you say: you seem to have accepted that the bible cannot be of help to you unless inerrant. That much of fundamentalism seems to have stuck.I have accepted the premise that if I don't accept the Bible as inerrant how do I know any of it is true as regards Jesus role in salvation. In fundamentalism that's called Cafeteria Christianity. I've only been at this for a few months. I believe it might take me quite some time to shed all the layers of fundamentalism. You don't go 20-25 years believing something and change it on a dime. I'm even hesitant to call what I am agnostic though I sense I'm leaning in that direction. It's part of my journey, but I feel I have to shed the fundamentalism because I seem to filter everything through my "what does the Bible say about this" lens. One thing I would like to say here is that I think you did take some things out of context of how they were meant and I never once thought that you hated anyone and don't think anyone else here thought that either. My statement was that in the extreme that seemed to be the case and your name was not attached anywhere to the statement. You may comment here whenever you wish. However you need to be aware that when you do so you are opening yourself up to questions and scrutiny about your ideas, just as I am with my posts. Because of my literal, inerrant view, at the moment, some of the ideas you posit seem so foreign to me. It might take some time, if I ever can, to be able to view scripture the way you suggest. That's not to say I won't come to some of the same conclusions you bring up. Who knows where I'll be a few months or a year down the line? Believe it or not I'm trying to keep an open mind about the things you've said, it will take me some time to absorb it and decide what I think about those ideas.

    Like

  48. Sherry Peyton says:frankly the liberal/progressive Christian doesn't verse mine much at all….Contrarily, the liberal Christian does indeed wrestle with the Genocidal, killing of innocents, the trickster god aspects,slave condoning,etc and condemns them as such, and tries to see how they can be used today to inform our morality.No, I suppose liberal/progressive Christians don't ignore these passages. It seems instead that they find ways to rationalize them by saying that the Bible isn't the "word of God". Then it can be conveniently said: No God doesn't condone slavery, but the writer lives in a world where slavery is everywhere accepted, so he assumes God allows it. Never mind that the writer says at the beginning of the passage that the LORD gave these laws directly to Moses, thus it is the law of God. Instead this uncomfortable thought is attributed to fallible man instead of to God who we would never believe condoned such heinous behavior as slavery. It is perceived as a regulation of abhorrent behavior that already exists. However, using that line of thought, His way of regulating homosexuality and adultery are death. So it seems to me if He wasn't condoning slavery, He could have clearly stated that it was no longer to be practiced.

    Like

  49. Dagood, you point is well taken, but frankly the liberal/progressive Christian doesn't verse mine much at all. I seldom quote verses for that reason, the bible supplies anyone with about anything they want. My point is that inerrantists claim that the entire bible, every word is true. Yert they don't use their own hermeneutic when it doesn't give the right result. Some fundie biblical experts have even given up on reconciling some verses by saying "God hasn't yet seen fit to explain them to us, but when he does, surely it will not be in conflict with this other place." Contrarily, the liberal Christian does indeed wrestle with the Genocidal, killing of innocents, the trickster god aspects,slave condoning,etc and condemns them as such, and tries to see how they can be used today to inform our morality. We do not ignore them in favor of the passages we like. Mostly we take the time and effort to read broadly and deeply to understand when whence they came. I'm spouting nothing way out there, rather this is the understanding of mainstream biblical experts and theologians. The pauline corpus must be defined as what is surely Pauline about 7 books, where there is a fair dispute, 2 and the rest are surely not Pauline. As to the 7, Paul grows in his understanding over time if you put them in chronological order. As to methodology…there are probably close to a dozen critical methods used to examine scripure, from linguistics, literary, historical, redactionary, and a host of others.

    Like

  50. Sherry Peyton says:I have spent some time looking at other systems. Christianity works for me. All I'm saying is that finding out that inerrancy is wrong is not a "good" reason for abandoning Christianty.In what way does Christianity "work" for you? It is clear from some of your comments you don't view Christianity as the "only" way to God. Didn't Jesus say "I am the way, the truth, and the life and no man comes to the father except through me"(John 14:6)? And Acts 4:12 says, "And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved". In another of your comments you said: Try seeing Jesus not so much as the one to undo the "sin" of Adam. Please explain to me the purpose of His sacrifice. The whole premise of His death, burial and resurrection was exactly that. John the Baptist acknowledged Him as such. "The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" John 1:29. I am not "verse mining" here. I simply don't know how else to interpret these scriptures and many others. So even if I could look at some of the other passages we've spoken about as partially myth, partially historic in value I'm no longer certain of the virgin birth, or the resurrection. Are you suggesting that Christianity is merely a social agenda of sorts? I really am trying to understand your point of view. It's just that I've taken my faith much more seriously than that.

    Like

  51. I think that where you are in difficulty, is that you are still looking for some parts to be inerrant, and thus, since there are obvious contradictions, you can't see how you can pick and choose. But of course fundamentalists have always verse mined the scriptures for what they like and ignored what they did not. It's not a matter of whether a writer was a real prophet or not. To demand that he be is to demand the scripture be "the word of God". You admit as much when you said, "but it says, "the Lord says." The bible is a collection of books, not a one of them written in any connection to the others. Most were not reduced to writing until hundreds of years after they were "uttered". They have been part of a verbal folklore, passed down. Ever play a game of telephone?When ultimately written down, the writer had a purpose, a motive. He was trying to accomplish something. Usually in the OT it was helping to form a distinct people apart from those groups that lived among or around them. So threats and fear played a part in urging people to be "different" and apart from their neighbors. It is a tool to accomplish an end, which the writer believed to be true–that Israel was God's chosen and that people needed to give up the other god worship they engaged it, needed to to stop intermarrying, needed to stop living as their neightbors. Paul's remarks in Romans needs be understood in a much bigger context. REad thru chap. 3. Paul is speaking to Jews, and telling them, that all are equal now, they have no favored place. God is impartial. They can't rely on the Law, but must come to Christ. He uses the threat too, because it is effective, and he knows it will resound to Jews who are aware of plenty of scriptural scaring. If a person speaks truth in terms of ultimate right and wrong, then who is to say they are not a prophet? Was MLK a prophet? Was Gandhi? Some would say yes. Is the message true? Is that the standard?When you see passages like this, remember what the writer is trying to accomplish. To suggest that God has chosen some and not others is to make God a very bad creator. And that would seem wrong wouldn't you say? All scripture is valuable for learning. But before you can gain the best learning, you must understand the history of the various parts. A good history of Israel, and a good book on the NT, with the dates of writing and so forth might help. I certainly hope you continue to work toward a faith resolution. It would be sad to lose another fundamentalist to atheism. Blessings

    Like

  52. "The question remains in my mind, however, how unconditional is this love if we have to meet certain conditions in order to obtain it?"You'll be happy to know I've decided to do some more polluting on your blog by posting again. It strikes me your post is full of more insights than you probably have the legal rights to.I myself think there's no escaping from the fact that the notion of unconditional love is at odds with the notion of rejecting those who do not love us. Of course, that doesn't mean a good theologian couldn't confuse the issue sufficiently to make it look like there's an escape from the fact. But a good theologian can make it appear that a woman who has just delivered her seventh child is most likely a virgin.At the risk of patting myself on the back, and thus dislocating my shoulder, I once blogged about someone who noticed the same contradiction you have. He dealt with it in what I think was an interesting way. The post is here, but please don't feel obligated to read it. I'm tossing it out as an option, not as a fool's demand.

    Like

  53. Reblogged this on Out From Under the Umbrella and commented:

    This is one of the first posts I wrote when I first began to doubt my beliefs. I’m reblogging a couple of these as a reminder to myself of where I came from and how far I have come.

    Like

  54. Either these were prophets of God, or they weren’t.

    Thank you! I was trying to say this very thing in the comments section of one of my posts. I may have to put it back up and link to this here soon.

    Like

  55. Thanks for re-posting, Ruth! It was only a year ago when I was struggling to believe, so this is very fresh for me. I appreciate your openness and honesty.

    “It seems to suggest that there are certain people that God made to be objects of His wrath. There are passages that say that God Himself has blinded people to the truth, that He has hardened their hearts to Him.” This is so sad to think about and to think that I believed this.

    To take it further, just this morning I listened to The Thinking Atheist podcast (from last week). Seth Andrews addressed God’s protection – or lack thereof – over Christians. So, not only does God make some for wrath and harden hearts, He also doesn’t truly protect those who are His children. Great.

    Like

    • ” This is so sad to think about and to think that I believed this….So, not only does God make some for wrath and harden hearts, He also doesn’t truly protect those who are His children. Great.”

      Why did we not think, ‘Geez, this God guy is an ass’? Even if he does exist is this kind of god worthy of our worship? Why? Just because he is both great and terrible? Ugh!

      Like

      • Exactly!

        I heard some one refer to God as an “unfit parent” this morning on the podcast. If He was put on trial, surely He would be deemed as such and have all his children taken away from Him. 😉

        Like

      • Don’t forget Isaiah 45:7 , “I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.”

        Kinda tells it all ! 🙂

        Like

        • Yes, yes, it does.

          If there’s peace, it the LORD; if there’s war, it’s the LORD; it there’s plenty, it’s the LORD; if there’s famine, it’s the LORD. Goddidit. Goddiditall! 🙂

          Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s