Two questions about how central the question of origins is to your core beliefs

(Richard Mohr) #41

It is important to consider at least two types of contexts when wondering about contradictions. The first is the context or contexts in which Scripture was composed. The second is the context in which issues such as those you bring up became important, the contexts of people that identify themselves as Christians.

The first context or contexts are unclear to us. We don’t know as much as we would like to about the texts of the books of the Bible, when they written, what they drew from and so on. When the second chapter of Genesis was composed or placed after the first chapter, did anyone at the time think that it seemed to give a different account of creation - or were people content to leave it the way it was? The Greeks had contradictions about their divinities and seemed to be able to live with those. I imagine that this was common among other peoples. As far as adding and subtracting text, this seems to have been the case with the pericope of the woman caught in adultery as found today in the seventh chapter of John. It does not seem to have been there originally. If memory serves, there is a manuscript where it is found in Luke. Meanwhile, we have the Western Text of Acts which is about ten percent longer than in other versions. These two examples show that people much closer to the events written about had no problem with altering the text. The apparatus of my Greek New Testament and the textual commentary that goes with it give ample evidence of this. We can read St. Peter’s sermon on Pentecost and note what he said people had to do: repent and be baptized. He quoted Scripture but he didn’t say anything about inerrancy or how we should compare it with other knowledge.

The second context I referred to has to do with what is happening among Christians now or some other now, such as textual criticism and the reactions to that. Some argue that the whole business with creation science and intelligent design really has to do with bolstering the concept of inerrancy of Scripture. In this regard, people tend to keep company with those that talk like they do, in their particular echo chambers.

There are many details that we will not know, this side of the eschaton. We just won’t know. I figure that, if the Church was able to go on for many centuries, despite things that aren’t clear, I can as well. I did not become a Christian because I believed that it was scientific. I realized I had to turn my life over to God after running away for a long time. As an Eastern Orthodox Christian, I have confidence that the Holy Spirit has influenced the Church in the way it should go since the beginning. The older I get, the less concerned I am with things that I don’t understand. They might be interesting but they are not faith-threatening.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #42

I ask myself as basically a historian and my faith as historical. Christianity has a beginning which is the Creation and the Creator, a Middle high point, which is the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and an End, which is the Kingdom of God. All three are very important and necessary to how God works and how we are to live.

(Mark D.) #43

You’ll have to give me your secret. :wink:

(Mark D.) #44

Thank you for the answer Shawn but I don’t understand what the “creation story of the founders of science and philosophy” refers to. Likewise I don’t know which Christians identify as enlightened nor what it is they believe about creation. I would appreciate it if you could break those down for me, if you don’t mind.

(Richard Mohr) #45

None of us are free of presuppositions. I am confident that those people that the Historical Church regards as reliable witnesses and commentators have given us what we need to believe and practice.

This kind of confidence is not limited to Christians. It is found among any group of people that have something in common, whether it is biologists, the various kinds of socialists, libertarians, Baha’i believers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Trinitarian and non-Trinitarian Pentecostals, rock and roll fans and so on.

I was an agnostic for years. I went through a period of several months when my heart and mind were slowly being prepared for the morning when I could not avoid the Gospel any longer. When I committed myself, I did not know very much beyond what I remembered from Sunday School. Eventually I earned a Fuller Seminary M.Div. Now I am Eastern Orthodox. Almost all the adults at my church are converts to Orthodoxy.

There is no secret, but I have my story just like all Christians have theirs. There is an aspect that seems to be a “secret” because God’s essence is unknowable. He has made himself known to us through his “energies” in the created world, through His Son, the living Word of God, and in the Church but each of us has an experience with Him that defies full description to others.

We read at 2 Kings 13.21 how a corpse was thrown into the Prophet Elilsha’s tomb and became alive after it touched the prophet’s bones. The relics of the Saints have remarkable power. Can this be explained by science? Not really. Scientists and most Protestants are skeptical that this happens now - hence their aversion to relics - but it is accepted by people whose faith allows God to do this.

Next time you have an opportunity to see a myrrh- streaming icon at an Orthodox church, please go. There is no scientific explanation for what you will see. It is an example of God’s grace that we Orthodox are used to but nevertheless grateful for.

(Shawn T Murphy) #46

History is the only valid judge for determining which groups were barbarians and which were truly enlightened, one cannot self nominate. History has shown that the period from Homer to Socrates was the most enlightened society to have existed - theories, poems, fables and ethical standards are still household names 2,500 years later. Euclidian geometry, the Pythagorean theorem, Aesop’s fables, democracy, the Hippocratic Oath and Plato’s dialogs all come from this enlightened society. The descendants of this society were the first Greek Christians who were waiting for the Logos.

(Mark D.) #47

I don’t think a God would have to have created the physical universe in order to have had a roll in creating us. In the pagan religion of the greeks, the gods spring from the titans which were the children of still more primordial beings. Each level of higher being seems to trace back to an earlier one leading back to the Void.

So in that belief system, intentional beings emerge from earlier intentional beings. Some of them are imagined as having domain over aspects of the physical world.

So it seems entirely possible that a God who did not have anything to do with physical creation or the emergence of life could still be present to be experienced as important in the life of a human being.

[Sorry, I’ve had the start of his reply up for days and have rewritten it multiple times. Now I feel unconnected to it. So I’m slapping what is here up in case any of it strikes a chord and leads to a conversation that would get me back on course. If not, time for me to move on to other ideas anyhow.]

(Mark D.) #48

Without a doubt. I’m not sure what prompts you to say so. Maybe I didn’t make it clear enough that when I wrote

You’ll have to give me your secret.

in response to your having written

I figure that, if the Church was able to go on for many centuries, despite things that aren’t clear, I can as well.

that I was only punning about your intention to “go on for many centuries”.

But yes we all have them. Sometimes we know where they come from, but sometimes not. Sometimes we can examine them and endorse them or not. We all have to start with some basic premises from which to build.

(Richard Mohr) #49

Mark D: I’ll type something here before I go out and buy a fishing pole for one of the boys at St. Innocent Orphanage, an Orthodox-run orphanage near Tijuana. It’s a ways away from the tear gas.

I can’t think of anything else to write at the moment. Clearly there are many reasons not to believe in the God that Orthodox Christians believe in, just as there are many reasons to believe what others have come up with that may seem more reasonable. If God does exist, He must be wholly “other” to be God. He must be beyond what humans can conceive. Therefore, our imaginations are hopelessly inadequate. I reminds me of the arguments about parallel universes. People can write books about the possibility of them but I doubt that we will ever find one.

Go to an Orthodox church some Sunday morning and see what we do. There is an enormous amount of Scripture in the service and most of what we do is very, very old. You can see the Bible references for what we say and hear at

If you don’t regard the Bible as anything authoritative or even special, then those websites won’t be convincing - perhaps. If you believe that God exists, then you have to decide how He relates to his creation and what His purposes are. Forget the contradictions. Life is full of them - but we go on with life.

(Richard Mohr) #50

Thank you for writing this.

(Dominik Kowalski) #51

I suppose so, but this would make God dependend on the laws of physic allowing him to do so. I would accept that being the case in a chaotic multiverse, if we suppose it exists, but if the multiverse would be of the Level-1-type, like Steven Barr proposed, where the laws would be the same across all universes, God could get unemployed if the laws didn´t allow the rise of intelligent creatures.

Yes and this is pretty much what you find in many schools of Hinduism still nowadays, though it doesn´t trace back to the “Void” but to an unpersonal God which pure nature is existence. It´s similar tou ours, although we see God as personal. And I stated it already in another thread, I don´t rule out the existence of other spirits a priori, so I see the argument as valid for now.

This is where I draw the line though, because why would we call him “God” after all? Continuing from above, I´m okay with dropping several attributes which some apply to God (I try to avoid it, since it could be an attempt to humanize him), like “omnipotence”, I still see God as powerfull, but I don´t think he can break every rule, like acting in the universe without causing something, or “omniscience” since I believe in free will and it doesn´t solely require the cognitive capacity/consciousness, but also an observer who doesn´t know my actions from the beginning to the end, I´m not a Calvinist. And I´m very tolerant towards views of creation, since I think that science is a gift that enables us to learn about creation and understand how God did it. If I assume he didn´t would the heavens still declare his glory and the skies proclaim his handiwork? Obviously not.

(Mark D.) #52

This is what makes me think there is more being assumed about the ‘something more’ than can be justified. It starts to feel like the old joke about the guy looking for his watch where the light is good regardless of the likelihood of finding it there. From the outside, it seems equally arbitrary to impose conditions on what shall count as being godlike enough, when God or gods are far from known and actually quite mysterious.

I think the culture of Christianity has resulted in an agreed notion of God which is self justifying. If we stick to what people actually experience which leads to God belief, rather than the assumptions they bring to interpreting those experiences, I think neither the omni-extant of His powers nor the extent of His influence over creation would be so certain.

But Christianity is a pretty popular culture and a church is first and foremost an institution of men concerned with maintaining a common estimation of a ‘something more’ called God. This is why I’ll always be spiritually feral. :wink:

(Dominik Kowalski) #53

It can be justified for sure, but would this something more be able to perform miracles or raise Jesus from the dead? I think when looking at this assumptions, we already have a very powerfull being even if we completely ignore creation at this point. I think the term “god-like” is for me best summarized for a being outside of the natural realm with influence on the material world without own physical causes.

I understand what you mean, but I think it´s way to simple looking at it that way. Even if we assume that he raised Jesus from the dead, the God revealed in scripture would be a liar if he hadn´t anything to do with creation, the theological consequences would be massive. And remember the notion of the creator of the universe was around long before the birth of Christianity, and I don´t see it as having changed since then until today. And the question of our existence, or of anything at all, will demand an answer until the end of time. I see the monotheistic religions as praising the great creator of all, but like I said, in my opinion that doesn´t exclude the possible existence of lower spirits, angels, or whatever we want to call the “something more”.

Surely not, but like I said above, the experiences are not only inside our head as a spiritual experience, but also include miracolous medical healings, which would point to a being with influence on the material reality, while being outside out it. That exceeds the “something more” aspect by far, in my opinion.
In summary, if we put everything together what we would describe as the “something more”, which of course excludes creation or any real influence into our physical world, this sounds rather like a ghost/soul.

Added: At the end of the day the way I see it, the world, the universe, our life and the way how we experience everything demands something far greater than we can imagine. For me, taking a material universe or the laws of physics for granted would be intellectually lazy and incrediblely unsatisfying, and even somewhat illogical. Since I believe this, the resurrection of Jesus and the fact that people until this day still experience him in one way or another, I have trust and faith in this being revealed in the bible to be loving and powerful and to be the creator of everything including us. And this being deserves the term God for sure. I can see why the notion, that at least there is “something more”, whatever this should be, is intriguing, but I don´t think it goes far enough.

(Mark D.) #54

Naturally I make no such assumptions and I think of the bible as having been written by men convinced of the miraculous occurrences but not necessarily transcribing God’s dictation. I’m not sure what all denominations believe about the bible. But for someone on the outside, it is definitely not helpful.

(Dominik Kowalski) #55

Lets just formulate it that way quick (because I´m almost sleepwalking):
Keep in mind, if one watches a speaker on the Veritas Forum, Faraday Institute or whereever, the task is almost always about creation one way or another. Most people, including me, believe that the universe is created by a God, arguments from the perspective of natural theology are there and rational. If we at the same time believe that Jesus has been raised from the dead, and I do because of the historical account and reliability, then we know that he is who he said he is, which means he is also God, the creator in human form.
Of course this won´t convince you or any other and I also didn´t intend to do so, rather I wanted to make my own position clear and understandable.

(Mark D.) #56

I hope you get the sleep you need soon.

I’m not sure if most people think the universe was created by a God but that idea has no appeal to me. Furthermore I don’t think it is satisfying as an explanation. Most explanations work by showing how the new thing fits in consistently with everything else we know. But attributing the universe’s origins to a supernatural entity whose interaction with everything else we know can never be confirmed (by definition) except at the whim of the alleged entity … doesn’t get it done.

But I likewise am not trying to talk you out of your faith. If you’re content with way it all fits by putting an all powerful God at the center of everything, that is your call. And as you point out there are plenty of people who agree with you for what added comfort that may convey. It just doesn’t work for me.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #57

What is the meaning of the fact that God created the univr4se and how does it fir into the rest of our experience? You and I create things every day. We create these messages for the internet among other things. Creation is not foreign to our experience as humans, but part of who we are. The understanding that God created the universe means that the universe was created in much the same way as I created this sentence, it was made through a unique combinati9on of mind, body, and spirit.

You are saying that God works by whim. The facts indicate that God works by rationality, because the universe is rational. It appears to me that you are somehow projecting your humanity to God, instead of looking to the facts. The fact is no one knows for sure what you or I are thinking unless we tell them what we are thinking.

God tells us what God is thinking, Who God is, and what God wants. Is there some reason that that we should not believe God? God has no reason or need to lie, especially when the Creation clearly fits into the scientific experience of the Big Bang beginning of the universe.


Im not sure i fit on the scales?

Origins is very important to the level of Sovereignty I prescribe to God.
Ive come to accept John 1 as the updated creation story, which takes it back further…
1 In the beginning, the Word existed. The Word was with God, and the Word was God.

2 He existed in the beginning with God.

3 Through him all things were made, and apart from him nothing was made that has been made.

4 In him was life, and that life brought light to humanity.

Evolution, and science is ONLY the study of what can be observed/seen. It also, to my mind, ‘assumes’ that what we observe is the ‘natural’ order of things - that life could have sparked and developed by itself - given enough time and ingredients etc (not that we can replicate anything like this).

The more scripture I read, the more Im seeing God/Jesus as bigger. That He put everything (100%) He has into creating earth, the Universe, and especially Us, so that we can be family and friends with Him. Humanity and Earth is Gods entire focus, there is no extraterstial life or ‘other’ interest. If there were, would God have sent His one and Only Son to resurrect us to Himself?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #59

I share in your awe of the creation narrative of John 1.

Those two sentiments above appear to be in tension with each other.

What is man that you are mindful of him? --is also a biblical sentiment.

Still it is interesting to speculate on if there is other life out there. Science certainly has not been able to help us cross that threshold yet; our imaginations notwithstanding.

(Mark D.) #60

No, I’m saying if, when and to whom God reveals Himself is entirely up to him, “at his whim”.