Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Tough Week for Christians

Wowee, I go on a cruise for a week, and a few atomic bombs are dropped on Christianity. Coincidence?

First, the largest intercessory prayer study ever conducted, to the tune of 2.4 million dollars, is completed and shows that God’s mind isn’t changed by prayer. What a surprise.


Of course, this won’t faze your average Christian fundie. The biblical god’s not about to respond to prayers made during a scientific experiment! Why, that would prove he exists, and then the average person couldn’t make a decision to believe by faith alone. Just think how empty Hell would be. Can’t have that! How can a Christian enjoy Heaven if there aren't billions suffering in Hell at the same time?

Next up, many creationists claim that evolution is disproved because no fossil has been discovered that is a major transition, such as from a sea to a land animal. Evolutionists know that they do exist, and have found many, but that sea-to-land one has been a bit elusive. Not any more:


Of course, the creationist will simply respond that this creature is not transitional, is unique, and where there was once one gap, there is now two! The evolution model from primordial soup to man can’t be true – it is filled with thousands of gaps!

I think it’s ironic that creationsist won’t buy into evolution unless every single fossil is found and photographed such that if they were played one after another in animation, a movie going smoothly from an amoeba to a man would be stepless. Yet they blindly accept Jesus as their savior when not a shred of his physical existence exists. And not a shred of evidence of any paranormal activity whatsoever has ever been proven, let alone intercessory prayer. Ever.

If you are a Christian, whatever you do, do NOT study science. The case for evolution could hardly be any more sound. Unless, of course, you remain totally ignorant about science. Keep your face in that bible and throw science away. Yeah, that’s it.

By the way, just for the record, I have no problem with the concept that God has created us using evolution as a tool.

Third, and finally for now, there’s this:

From the site:

“An ancient manuscript dating from the third or fourth century, containing the only known surviving copy of the Gospel of Judas, has been conserved, authenticated and translated after being lost for nearly 1,700 years, scientists say… The document gives an unusual view of the relationship between Jesus and Judas, offering new insights into the disciple who according to the Bible betrayed Jesus. Unlike the New Testament Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, which portray Judas as a traitor, the document portrays Judas as acting at Jesus’ request when he hands Jesus over to the authorities… Jesus selects Judas from among the other disciples for a special task: “... you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man that clothes me.” Jesus would thus have been asking Judas to help him get rid of his physical flesh, to free the spiritual being within.”

As if the bible isn’t a contradicting mess anyway, now comes this. Maybe Mel Gibson will make a new version of his snuff film where Judas is heralded as a hero.

I can’t wait for my next cruise!


Uncle Fatso said...

I just read an interesting article about the new gospel...regarding not so much it's authentisity, but more it's validity as a "gospel." It was written as a rebutle to the DaVinci Code and questions regarding that. It's pretty interesting, and I think the part about the gospels (somewhere in the middle of the text) is a valid point. Check it out....


Dave said...

Ben, thanks for posting!

A few things pop in to my head here, the primary one being “What does The Da Vinci Code have to do with anything?”. I’ve only read a small part of it, have given it little credibility, and have not used it to base my beliefs in any way or form. Given its subject and popularity, I certainly want to read it and see the movie, but I consider it fiction. Dan Brown, a self-proclaimed Christian, repeatedly describes it as fiction as well.

Anyway, the article you post is interesting, but spends considerable time effectively rejecting Dan Brown’s apparent assertion that Christ’s divinity was invented by the Nicaean council. I don’t think Dan Brown actually said that, but to be honest, I don’t really care. As far as what I have learned, the council’s purpose was to establish the nature of Jesus’ divinity, not the divinity itself.

The section of the article that you say is most interesting, about the gospels, is indeed interesting, but contains some baffling logic. For example, he dismisses the gospels of Phillip and Mary because they were “late comers” and because they “contradicted the records written by those who were eyewitness to Jesus’ life”. Well, the gospel that is most quoted regarding Jesus and God being one and the same is John. This is a very controversial book, and many biblical scholars and virtually all secular neutral sources describe it as being written decades, perhaps centuries, after Jesus life by an unknown author and is likely guilty of “redaction”, which means it was shaped by theological agenda. Maybe you can give me proof that any of the gospels were written by anyone that personally knew Jesus. Most scholars agree that they were written down after decades of stories of Jesus’ life passed by word of mouth. Ever played the game of whispering a simple story person to person around the campfire?

And his reasoning that “there are no lost books of the Bible” is, well, circular and nonsensical to me, but maybe I’m missing the point and you can clarify. He says the word “Bible” can mean two things, either “the word of God”, or the expression of belief. If you believe the former, then since it’s the word of god, nothing can be missing, and if it’s the latter, then it can’t be missing anything either because it’s books were chosen to reflect the church’s beliefs. Huh? Can’t you say the same thing about the Quran, The Book of Mormon, or The Chronicles of Narnia too? In any case, I guess it somehow gives you a free pass to ignore the Gospel of Judas, or anything else, for that matter, that disagrees with the Bible.

As much as I value and honor your input on here, Ben, I often find it frustrating. You are perhaps the most knowledgeable Christian in this family, but you often dodge the subject at hand. What do you think of the newfound fossil? What do you think of the study on intercessory prayer? What do you think of the Gospel of Judas? I’d much rather hear your opinion than read an article by Gregory Koukl, who’s very livelihood depends on the position he is trying to defend, or a novel by Dan Brown, who’s very livelihood depends on the number of novels he sells.

That was a compliment by the way.

Uncle Fatso said...

Thanks for the thoughts! I agree that it was a bit off-topic, (and I love the controversy brewed from the DVC--it *is* just fiction...quit crying Christian Talk Radio.) even though I thought he made some valid points.

The one thing I guess I was pointing at in the article as a rebuttle was the whole thing he said regarding these "new gospels" that are being discovered in his "No Lost Books" section. I like that he said that the bible can be one of two things: the definative Word of God, His authorship and miraculous preservation; or it is a statement of human beliefs adopted as creed by early Christian leaders.

I like that he said that because if you don't believe that the Bible is God's Word, really then these books were rejected from the Bible simply because it wasn't in line with what the early Christians believed. I think this point he makes can be circular like you say, but it can also be simple, plain, and truthful.

I won't lead this discution to whether or not the Council or Nicea was godly/political/religiously motivated. That isn't really the point I'm aiming toward.


(scene 2: ...and now for something completely different)

I changed the scenery for a second because I just wanted to talk about the last part of your post, regarding what I think.

Honestly I have been going through a bit of metamorphosis spiritually these last six months...wait...maybe a year or so. It's been a hard thing, but good for me to challenge the status quo. Two significant points have been pricking me since we moved to Hawaii and have encouraged my search. (1) YWAM (2) working for a church (I don't know if you knew this, but I was a youth pastor for a church here for the last coupla years.) I'll address both to shed light on where I'm coming from and where I'm going.

(1) YWAM--so YWAM here has been possibly one of the hardest two years we've experienced. It is completely different from the almost 3 years I spent in Mexico. It's hard to summarize, but I'll try. I did construction on this YWAM campus, which is fine because I love building; it was not fine however to never have been accepted as a peer on this campus because I wasn't involved in any "spiritual" side of the campus (i.e. teaching schools or attending schools.) Can you imagine feeling like a martyr for my faith ON A CHRISTIAN CAMPUS?!

(2) So I worked for this church, basically I was a youth pastor--you know, bible studies, bowling night, 6-foot long ice cream sundaes. I don't like to brag, but the 6'foot sundaes kick ass. We love the kids we hung out with. Love. The church however was a different story. I can't explain all the wierdness, but it's hard to tell the kids on Tuesday night that Jesus loves everyone when we hear on Sunday that gay is bad. It's hard to teach highschoolers to be unified and love each other when the church has (seriously) a lawsuit filed by disgruntled members.

So-o-o I've challenged myself, "Do I believe this, or say that, or think this because I really believe it, or because that's what I've seen so many people say, or that's what I've heard?" Why do we use certain words when we pray? What do I really believe, and what does that really mean? Now, I hope I can say that I have always been thoughtful in my beliefs, that I haven't just followed blindly, but right now I'm really looking at this stuff again.

Here's what I do know and believe:

I believe in an ultimate good and evil.
I believe in God.
I believe if we want to be good we need God.
I believe God gave us a chance to be good in the Jesus story.
Those are the big ones, after that it's all minutia.

P.S. When I read your post I thought, dang, that'll require a big reply if I do relpy. I hoped my little link would've worked, but dammit, I made a big ol' reply. Thanks a lot. Just kidding.

Uncle Fatso said...

...also, one point that has been reinforced is the importance of recognizing the difference between belief and the followers of said belief.

I am not at all disillutioned about my beliefs in God after all that stuff I just wrote about. If anything, I believe stronger in the things I do, wishing only to see these truths put in to practice by gonad humans.

Dave said...

Well, whadya know Ben, we agree on all points! I am excited about your fresh look at your relationship with God. And thanks for sharing!

I think you may be at a similar point I was about 4 or 5 years ago, when I challenged my beliefs because I was aghast at what I was reading from a children’s bible book to my daughters. I was already skeptical I suppose, but that particular event and the viewing of the film “The Prince of Egypt” triggered a chain of events that has led me away from Christianity and closer to God. I’m sure we will not take similar paths, but yours will certainly lead you closer to Him.

Your statement “after all that it’s minutia” is right on, but it is not minutia to most Christians, and is what perhaps most separates me from Christianity. For example, I have no problem with your statement that “God gave us a chance to be good in the Jesus story”, but because I believe that Jesus is not the only way to be with God, a True Christian believes that I will not only not be with Him, but will roast for eternity in Hell. And correct me if I am wrong, but you have held that same position. Do you still?

Also, please note that your 4 core beliefs do not require you to believe that the bible is the word of God. In fact, you just demonstrated that there is even a conflict. Your frustrations in teaching children that Jesus loves them on Tuesday, then having them learn on Sunday that gays are bad (the Bible tells us so!), is a clear indication that the bible does not represent what you believe God represents. How could that conflict be any more clear? Well, I guess the bible would be even clearer, for example, if it came right out and gave examples of God murdering his own creations. Oh wait, it does! Over and over! But I digress.

Anyway, thanks again for sharing, and I would love to continue “diabloging” on here. Give your wife a hug from me, and instruct her to give one to you from me as well.

Uncle Fatso said...

OK. The problem with blogger is that your comment is so long and skinny and way the go the heck down at the bottom of the page, so by the time I scroll back up to the comment box I practically forget what we were diabloging.

It's interesting to talk about the bible. I've heard "experts" preach and expound on both sides of the fence regarding it's authenticity. Some people I've heard talk about the near flawless translation of the OT in comparison to the Dead Sea Scrolls, I've heard the exact opposite. I suppose it is one of the things you just have to choose what to believe. I think the bible is God's word. (I'll make that number five.)

I have read often astonishment or horror expressed about a God who would kill his own creation, or condemn people to hell. I don't know if I agree with that interpretation of bible stories. I think I'll leave that point to be explained at a later time so I can do it justice.

As far as what that means in regards to who goes where and what's good or bad, I say kill 'em all and let God sort it out. Just kidding. That'd be too easy....

No, seriously. I saw Billy Graham I think on Larry King, asked where he stood regarding who goes to heaven or not. He said something pretty cool, which I'll try to paraphrase. He basically said that for years he'd tried to determine who would and wouldn't go to heaven...what the cut-off was. In recent years, he went on to say, he began to really understand what it means to love people, that's all, and recognized that he didn't have the knowledge or ability to determine who gets to go to heaven.

I suppose I just want to love people, without labels or destinations attached. I don't feel up to saying if I think gay is wrong or not. Who am I anyway?

Well, I think I'm just about done for the evening. I'm sure I've forgotten somethings, but I'm too tired to scroll back down and check. Maybe you should just vacation in Hawaii sometime and skip all this typing stuff....

Dave said...

Thanks Ben!

Sorry about the long time for me to respond... it's been a bit crazy here lately!

I like your idea of vacationing in Hawaii... but alas, that may be a while for us. I want to get Robin there someday. She would love it.

Anyway, back to the subject at hand. Your post leaves me with a very strong feeling, but one that’s hard to express. I had this same feeling with one of your cousin-in-laws, I suspect you’ll know which one. I will undoubtedly fail to convey my feelings, but I’ll give it a shot:

You have a lifetime of being told that the bible is God’s word. It was told to you as a child (“Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so...”, a child’s incredibly powerful induction into the bible’s authority). It was told to you every time you went to church. It was told to you by your parents. It was told to you by your friends. And it was being told to yourself, every night as you prayed. This brainwashing, for lack of a better term, is apparent in your last post. You make many very reasonable statements that are completely contradicted by the bible. Yet you still hang on to the bible’s inerrant authority.

For example, you say “I have read often astonishment or horror expressed about a God who would kill his own creation, or condemn people to hell. I don't know if I agree with that interpretation of bible stories”. Sorry, Ben, but there is no other interpretation. God does kill his own creations in the bible. God does condemn people to Hell in the bible. Many times over. There is no getting around it. There is no way to interpret it any other way.

Another example: You say of Billy Graham, “In recent years, he went on to say, he began to really understand what it means to love people, that's all, and recognized that he didn't have the knowledge or ability to determine who gets to go to heaven.”. Doesn’t have the knowledge??? The bible is absolutely clear about who goes to heaven, and this knowledge is right in front of his face. The bible could not be clearer about who goes to heaven.. Accept Jesus as your savior, go to Heaven. All others go directly to Hell, do not pass Go, do not collect $200, to be tortured forever. It could not be more explicit, yet even the mighty Billy Graham can’t come to terms with it!

Yet another example: You say “I suppose I just want to love people, without labels or destinations attached. I don't feel up to saying if I think gay is wrong or not. Who am I anyway?”. Yet, again, the bible places labels on everyone and is very clear about whether being gay is wrong or not. And for you to say “who am I anyway?”, is a classic symptom of a religion that humiliates you into thinking you shouldn’t think on your own. For God’s sake, Ben, God gave you the intelligence and moral judgment to determine whether what you do, and what those do around you, is right or wrong. What upsets me is that when your God-given morality and judgment obviously conflicts with the bible, you are so brainwashed into thinking the bible is inerrant that you throw away yourself! What a terrible waste!

Think about this: In your original statement of your fundamental beliefs, your 4 testimonies were basic, fundamental, expressions of love for God and your fellow human beings. Awesome stuff. I suspect that only after this heathen uncle agreed with all four did you realize you forgot the one thing that keeps you a True Christian and separates you from the likes of me. Your beloved bible. An urgent backpedaling to include the bible as God’s Word as a core belief was necessary to bring you back onto “the path”, and prevent an epic internal battle in your own mind and amongst those that immediately surround you.

I’m sure you know which cousin-in-law of yours I was referring to before. She was also on the verge of religious freedom when she was almost literally tackled by well-meaning Christians that restored her direction and returned her to her former path. She now spews Christian nonsense as well as any of them. And before you judge me too harshly here, keep in mind that I think all of that activity was well-intentioned and done with love. I do not think a single member of our family even knew that they were employing classic mind control techniques. But mark my words. Although back on “the path”, it is not suited to her, um, “orientation”, and the denial of her own self will lead to a huge melt-down. I hope she survives okay.

In summary, I still think you are on the verge of religious freedom. Eventually, you will not fit inside the “bible box” any longer, and your true relationship with God will emerge.

Uncle Fatso said...

Thanks for your feedback...it's really some good stimulating thoughts you're throwing out and I like it.

I think I might clarify a few things that you were responding to, things I read and thought, "Man, that's not quiet what I was trying to say." Unfortunately when just typing thoughts my mind moves faster than my fingers and I end up not quiet finishing thoughts here. I wish we could do this Matrix-style and just plug into the commie here and load up all my thoughts.

(By the way, I'd just like to brag for a second that I made the condo here all wireless so I'm presently reclining on our couch and typing on my laptop. Completely not relevant, but I am still at the stage where I say, "Dang, I'm typing in the living room! This rules!")

First, I'd like to clarify my relationship with the Bible. I don't feel like I grew up with it thrown down my throat. When I was 14 I was determined to find myself without the Christian God. I was sick of seeing Christian "stuff" or "Christians" treating me like crap, and generally behaving like jackasses. So I figured that this Christianity thing was stupid. I know alot of people who say they are on a religious journey, but many people who say that I think are making excuses for not having to justify what they are doing in life. It's easy to say "I believe in God, just not the bible and stuff." because you're not accountable for your behavior to anything or anyone. I look back on this journey I've been on and think that I seriously did search and try to find myself spiritually. I honestly looked into myself and tried to figure out what I believed. I studied many "religions" trying to find some sort of truth. I think my favorite time was when I thought I was zen-agnostic...mostly just because that allowed me to do whatever I wanted, as long as I was basically good I was alright.

But after I graduated highschool and started to realize that marijuana isn't a real religion I realized that I have always believed in a Higher Power. No matter what spiritual styling I've been a part of I have always been awestruck by sunsets, I have always been amazed holding a baby...So I realized this about myself: I believe in God. When I realized this about half-way through my first year at community college my quest changed from " what god or power do I believe in?" to "What do I do with this God?" And so when I came to the Bible, with this Jesus story, I finally found what I needed: Some way to be made right with this God fellow.

I say all that to let you know that I don't believe I came to Christianity through social choice or was born into it; I found my faith through my own search and decisions.

Kristin is calling now for dinner and I want to try and fill in some spaces I have left out correctly, so I will post again with some more thoughts.... Once again I wish I could just post parts of my brain straight online without the trouble of typing...

Dave said...

Thanks Ben!

Thanks for posting! I hope you realize that even though I may disagree, I love your posts! You are a very intelligent and thoughtful person.

Two things pop into my head after reading your post:

One, I’m sorry I assumed you were raised in a Christian environment. The fact that you chose Christianity “from scratch” as it were is a testimony to your faith. I am troubled, however, as to one of the primary reasons you chose Christianity: “Some way to be made right with this God fellow.” That raises a question: Why were you not right with this God fellow before you chose Christianity? I ask that because I feel more right with God than I ever have, yet I have rejected Christianity. As a Christian, I simply could not find myself right with any god that is as described in the bible.

Two: It may be true for you, but I could not disagree more with your statement “It's easy to say ‘I believe in God, just not the bible and stuff.’ because you're not accountable for your behavior to anything or anyone.” What? I am still accountable for my behavior with God! I am still accountable for my behavior with myself! I am still accountable for my behavior with my family! Why does the bible make you any more accountable? In fact, the bible makes you less accountable, because all you have to do is accept Jesus as your savior, and you can do anything you want! The grace thing you know.

If Christianity had a positive influence on accountability, then you’d think Christians would behave better! There is no evidence of this, and in fact I could quote many sources that Christianity has been a much great negative influence, both on individuals and society in general. For example, just for fun go to Google and do a search on “Christian depression”. Seventeen million hits! Not a valid argument, I know, but fascinating nonetheless. And don’t forget the killing of millions of people by Christians. Those murderers, as wrong as they were, had sincerely accepted Jesus. They are now in Heaven! That’s accountability?

And you say rejected the bible is easy? For me, choosing God and NOT the bible has been anything but. Rewarding, yes, but easy, no. I still feel like a black sheep in the family, and with good reason. The bible you hold so dear instructs you to not welcome me into your home, nor to wish good things for me:

“If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed.” - 2 John 1:10

In fact, Ben, my own flesh and blood is instructed by the bible to kill me:

"If thy brother, the son of thy mother, or thy son, or thy daughter, or the wife of thy bosom, or thy friend, which is as thine own soul, entice thee secretly, saying, Let us go and serve other gods, which thou hast not known, thou, nor thy fathers; Namely, of the gods of the people which are round about you ... Thou shalt not consent unto him, nor hearken unto him; neither shall thine eye pity him, neither shalt thou spare, neither shalt thou conceal him: But thou shalt surely kill him; thine hand shall be first upon him to put him to death, and afterwards the hand of all the people. And thou shalt stone him with stones, that he die." - Dt.13:6-10

I would reject the bible on this verse alone, yet there are hundreds, no thousands, of verses that are equally distasteful, to put it mildly.

I’m still not sure what’s “on the other side”, but coming to terms with my likely mortality makes me want to be the best person, husband, and father I can be. Think about it Ben, if I am right about this, this life on earth may be everything for you, not just some miserable game you play before you get to spend eternity with your pal Jesus as I roast in Hell. As a result, my life has become much more significant, intense, and meaningful. Even if there is more to life after death, I am convinced the best way to live it is to assume there is not. My God is right with that, and I am right with Him.

So what if I am wrong and the bible is right? Like I’ve said before, I’ll proudly march into Hell before I’ll worship any god that would create it.

Uncle Fatso said...

Hey Uncy Dave!

So here's two new questions you pose, and two new answers:

You quoted: “Some way to be made right with this God fellow.” I wrote that and you wonder why I would need to "be made right."

When I began to find truth to an Ultimate Being I was deeply involved in sex, drugs, and rock and roll to name three... and I was involved in these things knowingly--I knew what I was doing wasn't good, I knew I hurt my family and self and friends. I knew these things were wrong not because pot is illegal and I was breaking the law, but I knew morally, cosmicly I was doing wrong.

So here I was being completely not-good and I was recognizing my belief in a real God. Now to me I think if God is good he is good. I being the antithesis of good, couldn't just "be down with God" by assosiation. That's why I say “Some way to be made right with this God fellow.”

The other thing you noted was about people saying they believe in God but not the bible. I don't make this comment refering to people who have honestly thought and searched and come to the same conclusion you have. I was refering to people I know who have used this statement as a means to justify (or ignore justification all together) how they live their life. It seems to me people make statements like this because it's easier to say you believe in God without the bible so they don't have to make decisions or actions to back that up. For example, I work with someone who says this same thing, and I look at it and see that it's easier to say he believes in (g)God but not the bible--this way he doesn't have to choose whether it's right or wrong to use chicks for sex or lie to his boss about his hours or work.

Does that make sense? I have all the respect in the world for someone who chooses what he/she believes and backs that up accordingly with how he lives. I might disagree on these beliefs, but that's not the point. I don't apreciate choosing a theological philosophy by defalt. That's a weak statement and lame excuse to me.

Dave said...

That makes perfect sense. Thank you!