Did God allow Elisha to send bears to kill children?

Hm. I’m not sure -can you give the reference? There must be some confusion. Thanks. NT Wright specifically believed he was a Christian, and he was a “closet atheist” at one point, as he went through a crisis in college, but returned with inability, as he said (and note the Rauser link above) to believe in the resurrection. However, while he was a liberal, he certainly considered himself a canon in his church. Thanks.

I wish I knew Hebrew–to say "angry because the Lord’s wrath had broken out against Uzzah…was afraid of God that day and asked, “How can I ever bring the ark of God to me?” sounds like he’s frustrated and afraid that any man can ever transport the Ark. It does help to have that background; I may be able to look that up in a commentary sometime. Thanks

As Randy hints I think, you can probably take “atheist” with a grain of salt (and by that I’m not denying that claim for himself - he may well have been). A question to ask is: which “god” is it he refuses to be identified with? There are some notions of God around in our culture (I think we’ve been discussing some of those in this very thread!) regarding which any spiritually-sensitive person may be better off being an atheist. I.e. It’s quite possible that many ostensible atheists are closer to the Kingdom of God than are Christians who actually believe in a devil (to put it most provocatively - and yet quite seriously!)

[Note I’m neither endorsing nor even defending Borg here as that’s not my part. I resigned from ‘border patrol’ long ago and so have little interest in lingering there. Happily none of that is up to us!]

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yes, and there may be some who are following their honest intellectual inquiry and (who knows when it will change down the road, before or after Heaven) and conclude atheism or agnosticism is the correct answer. Only God knows their hearts. He would judge according to repentance.

I was a bit careless, I meant to emphasize he was an atheist given any traditional understanding or definition of God. I grant he continued to use theistic language, and said he “believed in God”… so long as we don’t define God as a “being” or “person,” but rather as the reality in which we live. But the way I use words, this is “atheism.” But I should have granted that he would not have used those terms himself.

Personally, I find such language extremely unhelpful and disingenuous. Another example of which I found just today in Franke’s article in the inerrancy book:

“Do you really believe in inerrancy?” My answer was always the same: “Yes, as long as I get to define it.”

I am sometimes seriously tempted to start referring to myself as a Pacifist Muslim Atheist. And that would be a completely true and accurate description of my beliefs. So long as I get to define the terms.

I do not disagree in the least. But either case, Borg’s definition of “god” is so far outside of common usage to make his position indistinguishable from atheism to me. And i don’t mean even by “Christian” standards. It perhaps may be called new age or mystic, but not “theistic” by any stretch I can conceive of.

I know plenty of Buddhists that I would classify as “atheist.” And I don’t use this in a pejorative manner, or as a critique or insult. Simply as an accurate description of their beliefs. They would use those terms themselves. They may have mystical and supernatural beliefs of various kind, but within their understanding of supernatural reality, a supernatural “being” is simply not part of their system. Hence I would describe them, as they would describe them selves, as being “atheist.”

which “god” is it he refuses to be identified with?

Apparently, any and all beings that normal language would describe with the word “god.” Yahweh, Allah, Zeus, Thor, Pan, Krishna… hence, why I find “a - theism” the appropriate term.

I mean, I would classify polytheistic Hindus, ancient Greeks who believed in the pantheon of olympian Gods, and the ancient Celts leaving sacrifices for the dryads all as “theists” by the standard definition of “theism.” They believe in some beings that would be described as “god/s.”

But once one says that there is no such thing as a “supernatural being…” what do I call that except “a - theism”? Do I call Borg a non-theistic theist?


He was certainly afraid of the Lord, but I personally love the entire narrative. He was so terrified of the Lord that he gave up on his plan to bring the ark into the city. However the Lord apparently lavished blessing on the person outside the city who was taking care of the ark (presumably in a respectful manner), which seemed to remind David that while God is to be respected and is terrifying, he is also good and lavish with his kindness. Thus David proceeded With his plan to bring the ark into Jerusalem… But I cannot help but notice that they were carrying the ark the second time around!

The whole episode reminds me a bit of that famous observation About Aslan. “He is a lion. Of course he is not safe. But he’s good.”

As long as you aren’t one of those heathen who lets the toilet paper roll under instead of over. “Unholy rollers” I call them. Every morning I pray for God to have mercy on their souls.

Pacificist Muslim Atheist, Ehh? Those could be interesting meetings. As long as they weren’t militant pacifists.

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If ever people try to argue that there is no such thing as objective or absolute morality, I point immediately to that very observation. Having the paper roll over clearly reflects the eternal and unchabgeable moral law of God for anyone who has eyes to see.


As a bachelor in college, I was just happy if my roommates actually hung a new roll at all!
I had no idea how important the toilet paper roll could be.

The main reasons given by people to explain why they hang their toilet paper a given way are ease of grabbing and habit.[11] Some particular advantages cited for each orientation include:
Over reduces the risk of accidentally brushing the wall or cabinet with one’s knuckles, potentially transferring grime and germs.[12]
Over makes it easier to visually locate and to grasp the loose end.[13]
Over gives hotels, cruise ships, office buildings, public places and homeowners with guest bathrooms the option to fold over the last sheet to show that the room has been cleaned.[14]
Over is generally the intended direction of viewing for the manufacturer’s branding, so patterned toilet paper looks better this way.[15]
Under provides a tidier appearance, in that the loose end can be more hidden from view.[16][17]
Under reduces the risk that a toddler or a house pet such as a cat will unroll the toilet paper when batting at the roll.[18]
Under in a recreational vehicle may reduce unrolling during driving.[19]

And there are other aspects to etiquette–one hunting catalogue I used to read assured us that camouflage toilet paper was safer, because some hunters have been mistaken for white tailed deer!

Thanks for all the footnoted references and citations, there, Randy! It leaves me wondering if I should split off the toilet paper debacle into its own thread!


Hm. Wow. Thanks for that video. I am quite taken aback by it. Having said he thinks of God’s relationship to us as of water’s relationship to a fish, he goes on to say that he prays to God, and asks him for safety, etc; that his belief is based on some mystical experiences that lasted from a very brief time to 45 minutes.

So, is he supremely skeptical in his mind, but practices Christianity in his heart? I’m certainly sometimes quite schizophrenic–I pray all the time, but do I (or even we) really believe that such prayer changes things (more than it changes myself)? I certainly hope and believe that God is like Jesus, who He sent; and that’s in the vein of “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.” Is he in that vein, or less so? And how can I judge him, given his own experiences, which are so much unlike mine?

I don’t know. And I’m glad it’s not I who has to decide on that. God now has him under His care, and knows his heart.

Regarding how we choose inerrancy’s terms, it’s certainly impossible to make too concrete a definition --we can argue ourselves into illogicality if we are too conservative. However, faith communities usually require that we ascribe to a given set of terms of belief to belong. It can be very difficult to struggle over where that boundary is. It’s an interesting commentary on this age that we argue over terms and labels so carefully.

I would disagree with Franke in some significant ways, as well.


Biblical authors, up to and including the apostles, were quite adept at subverting the lingo and categories of the rebellious world. I have “God Against the Gods” by Godwola to thank for this insight.

Hi Daniel,

One of the problems we face is that Godel convincingly demonstrated that every system of logic can be subverted by an inconsistency. In my opinion, the imperfection of empirical science is that it cannot deal with many important topics such as the resurrection or the eternal fate of the soul. This does not mean that empirical science is not good or important–only that it is not complete.

The ultimate conclusion I derive from Godel is that I must cast myself upon the mercy and compassion of God, who revealed Himself in Christ.


Quite true, Psalm 29 comes to my mind, and Paul in Athens, and ANE covenant structure of Deuteronomy, etc… but in these cases, they were typically clear what they were doing, or it was done to illuminate, not to obscure.

When Polycarp was asked to “denounce” his faith using the words, “away with the atheists,” he said those words but subverted the language… but in a way that made it aundently clear what he meant. That I would take no issue with.

If Polycarp had said, “away with the atheists,” in order to escape his trial, and allowed the Roman authorities to believe that by “away with the atheists,” he meant the same thing they did, this rather would have been dishonest and disingenuous.

So I have seen people claim they sincerely believe in the “resurrection” of Christ even though they sincerely believe his body to have remained in the grave and have long-since decayed… this I find simply dishonest, not trying to subvert language with a theological purpose… especially when it is done covertly or without full transparency, done in a way to make the hearer believe they believe in a physical bodily resurrection. I find it simply dishonest.

Lewis again…

I insist that wherever ever you draw the lines, bounding lines must exist, beyond which your doctrine will cease either to be Anglican or to be Christian: and I suggest also that the lines come a great deal sooner than many modern priests think. I think it is your duty to fix the lines clearly in your own minds: and if you wish to go beyond them you must change your profession. This is your duty not specially as Christians or as priests but as honest men. There is a danger here of the clergy developing a special professional conscience which obscures the very plain moral issue. Men who have passed beyond these boundary lines in either direction are apt to protest that they have come by their unorthodox opinions honestly. In defence of those opinions they are prepared to suffer obloquy and to forfeit professional advancement. They thus come to feel like martyrs. But this simply misses the point which so gravely scandalizes the layman. We never doubted that the unorthodox opinions were honestly held: what we complain of is your continuing your ministry after you have come to hold them. We always knew that a man who makes his living as a paid agent of the Conservative Party may honestly change his views and honestly become a Communist. What we deny is that he can honestly continue to be a Conservative agent and to receive money from one party while he supports the policy of another.

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Yes, but what if The Conservative Party’s views had slowly morphed over time and somebody remembers what they used to be and now are drifting away from? Can such a person honestly continue to support the party’s continued policies if they are no longer true to the party’s original purpose?

Here is one of the places I take issue with Lewis. I suggest that he is understandably, but still regrettably, beholden to a “set-bounded mentality” where we fixate on who is in and who is out, and how to carefully draw up the boundaries between the two. There may be all sorts of legal reasons why any organization has to be clear about who is a part of it - no argument there. Why “the Kingdom of God” should be considered just such an organization is far from clear and strikes me as contrary to the One who lived among us and taught us most about it.

I’ve been persuaded that the “set-bounding” approach should give way to something more like a person-orientation approach. I.e. Are you known by - indeed facing Christ? If so, then it matters not if you’ve followed him your entire life or if you are a thief on a cross just ending your miserable and guilty life by finally turning to Him. He sweeps across all our pretentious set boundaries to save both. But that also means you can fancy that you’ve followed him your whole life, placing yourself inside all the “correct sets”, and yet not be oriented like you imagined you were … and then hear the words “away from me …”.

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I would disagree here, I don’t find him so much interested in who is in and who is out, so much as in what is true and what is false… That is, who is teaching sound doctrine and who is not. And for what it is worth, I think you have proven the point quite well yourself…

Here you give illustration of a person that wrongly believed that they were following the true Christ, When all the time it was a Christ of their own invention or imagination. They imagined that Christ was pleased with their having the right doctrine, when something different was necessary. Are you suggesting there is a difference between truth and false beliefs in this topic? Being fixated, dare I say, in what is true, and what is false?

Or, dare I accuse you of being fixated on who is “in” and who is “out,” simply using “proper orientation” as your dividing line or standard?? :open_mouth:

Doesn’t repentance mean more than getting a creed or work right? It seems that Jesus was saying “by their fruits you shall know them.” Seems that creed can be just as much of an idolatry as works (not that the Jews were actually that work oriented; they thought that mercy was the foundation of it all anyway, and the offerings were not for intentional sins, correct?)

Seems that this allegory that Mervin is referencing is a parallel to the sinner in the Temple, praying at the same time as the Pharisee; so I don’t think @Mervin_Bitikofer is doing that. But we can see what he says. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Toilet paper roll analogy: it doesn’t matter whether one puts them over or under; it matters if they are put on, or that someone tried to put them on :wink:

Maybe I’m on the wrong track.

More? Absolutely! Satan presumably gets certain creeds right according to James.

Does it mean Less…? Depends on exactly what we mean by a “creed”…

“Repent and believe the gospel.”

So, repentance I would of course grant includes more than “believing the gospel.” But not less.

No, I don’t think Mervin was doing that, my “acccusation” was meant to be totally tongue in cheek… simply trying to show there really isn’t as much difference between what he is doing and what Lewis was doing than I think he thinks there is.

But the Pharisee and tax collector in the temple is a perfect example…

the beliefs “there is a God to whom I am praying” and “I am a sinner”, at least, are contents of a “creed” that this tax collector needed to believe and embrace… or he would not have been repenting either, no?

Hence, I’m not trying to be fixated on who is in or who is out… but if the content of someone’s beliefs, whether spoken or unspoken, is, “my only hope is in God’s mercy, because I am a sinner…” then I would say those are necessary “beliefs” to being “in.” More than just those proper beliefs are necessary, yes… but not less.

Similarly, if the content of a persons beliefs, their “creed”, if you will, is that “God has blessed me because I’m better than those bad sinners…”. Then I think the content of those beliefs puts them “outside” of the Christian faith and outside of salvation.

Call me judgmental if you wish… but in this case at least, I think I have at least a decent precedent for my arrogant, boundary-fixated claim, that embracing the one set of beliefs is contrary to the Christian faith, the other essential… the one will keep a person “out”… cause them to go home “unjustified”, as it were, while embracing (and living) the other set of beliefs will bring a person “in”, and allow them to go home “justified”, as it were…!

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Sorry–I meant that the Mervin’s allegor of the saints and sinners was similar to that of the Pharisee and the tax collector. I agree that you didn’t mean he was in that allegory! :thinking: I’d better fix that. sorry

I would say that the creed is an effort, but as Donald Cole of Moody Radio said, “We all have enough heresy to sink a battleship,” --but most of us can repent and follow what we do know to be right.

I think I fixed the note–let me know if still clear as mud. Thanks.

Okay … I freely go there too since I see no separation between Christ and Truth. I can’t imagine any believers around here disagreeing on this anyway. We all agree there is truth to be had which means we can miss that truth.

I suppose where I would still press (though I imagine you would still agree with this) is that we (each of us individually) are variously oriented - sometimes truthfully (when I am being obedient and faithful), and at other times falsely (when I am not). But even here, I’m still not seeing it as a “where am I going when I die” issue, but more of a “present state of my relationship” issue. I’m never wholly without sin even for a moment, so it isn’t that I can ever celebrate an entirely clear conscience before God until I am brought to make it right. But just as a child in a loving family never worries about his status as a child (even while he’s rightly being punished for something) so I think it begins to bear on all of God’s family. Some children would seem to be more-or-less permanently rebellious run-aways (and those may not always be who we think they are!). So there is that, but they are to be reached out to as still-wandering prodigals, not members of some wrong set.

So yes, I guess I could stand guilty as you charge of thinking in terms of an “in” set and an “out” set with regard to what is true and what is false. I just balk at the prospect of thinking of people as being permanent parts of those sets, rather than as temporarily disoriented (or rebelliously disoriented) until the Spirit brings them around to point toward the one who is Truth.

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