Why I changed my mind

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #462

What do you think of Dr Michael W Jones?

(Susan Linkletter) #463

I have a different take on the creation story. It appears to me that the snake was telling the truth all along. Everything the snake said will happen after eating of the Tree of Knowledge did take place. And the only reason people die, according to the Bible text, is they were evicted from the Garden of Eden before they could eat of the Tree of Life.

The snake was telling a half truth. The snake told Eve that she would not die from eating from the tree of knowledge, she did not die immediately so to her, the snake appeared to be telling the truth. In fact following the snakes instructions instead of Gods instructions led to both a physical death and a spiritual death - eventually. The garden of Eden represents Gods intention for humanity, how we were supposed to live on this planet, in a paradise where everything was in perfect harmony with God and nature. That is what we were evicted from when we chose to follow our own will instead of Gods will. The tree of life represents God and eternal life. We have lost free physical access to the tree of life, but we can still have eternal life through faith and forgiveness - we still have spiritual access. In the Garden of Eden there was no separation of physical and spiritual life, they were perfectly blended and there was a full awareness of both realms. I think we still live in a world of two dimensions, a physical dimension and a spiritual dimension. The physical dimension is the one we can feel, see and touch. The spiritual dimension requires another level of awareness, it gives life purpose and meaning, but we are all free to live without it if we choose to. We have lost awareness of the spiritual dimension, the closeness we once had with God, to the point that it is easily dismissed and ignored. We are more focused on the physical world around us and have overlooked the spiritual dimension of life. We once lived in a world in perfect spiritual and physical harmony with free access to the tree of life. We now live in a world of conflict with free access to the tree of knowledge because we are more attuned to our physical needs than our spiritual ones.

I don’t take the creation story literally, but I do believe that the creation story is full of insight and spiritual truths that God wants us to understand and apply to life. The creation story to me, is more about how our relationship with God has changed from what He intended it to be and why that has happened. The debate over creation vs evolution is just a distraction that prevents us from focusing on whats really important.

(Susan Linkletter) #464

I am not sure eternal life is that pleasant. I think it just a cover for the fear of death that we all experience. I have known Christians who had panic attacks at the thought of eternal life.

My picture of eternal life is what we had in the Garden of Eden before the fall of man, except that we will not have bodies of flesh.

Consider also, that this God character has no reason to hide from people. If what he is selling is so good, why not make it known. Every scammer makes a promise that they want you to accept on faith only, without any evidence. There is no evidence for God, much less for any afterlife, like heaven or hell.

God is not hiding from people. He sent His son with the gospel message of reconciliation between God and man. You are right in saying there is no evidence for God, neither is there proof there is no God. You are free to choose to believe or not to believe. We still have free will.

And, lastly, consider that this God did not mention Hell until the New Testament. Nothing about Hell in the Law of Moses or pretty much the whole of the Old Testament. Maybe there is something about Hell in the book of Daniel, but that’s about it, but the idea is different from Christian Hell.

I think we have misinterpreted the Biblical references to hell. Jesus’ references to hell were basically warnings against throwing away our spiritual selves, treating it like something that has no value - like throwing it in the trash.

God, allegedly, is the smartest, most loving and most psychologically stable being that could exist. Why does he need to resort to some petty reaction to human doubts?

God still gives us the choice to eat from the tree of life or the tree of knowledge. One offers an eternal spiritual life and the other offers a physical life with no spiritual dimension. We get to choose, there is no petty childlike reaction to our choice by God. We who have taken the time to read the Bible know what the terms are.

(John Dalton) #465

Thanks Roger, I appreciate that. I’m familiar with that passage and it is very clearly stated. I don’t have any similar objection to it, naturally. I think it’s a very fine instruction.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #466

This exposure is the first I’ve heard of him, and the audio quality is garbled enough that I had trouble understanding some of the conversation, but I think I caught enough of it to get the gist.

I could share brief impressions just from this one snippet that you share, but first, I’m curious what you think of him [Dr. Jones]? Are you referring him here approvingly?

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #467

Dr Jones agrees with an Atheist interpretation of the Bible. He is very much against evangelicals and fundamentalists teachings. I would think that he would entirely agree with your post to which I replied yesterday. But something tells me you won’t agree with him. This is one problem of orthodoxy once you start “interpreting”

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #468

But God said they would die in the day they eat of it. Snake was correct. Eating of the tree of knowledge had nothing to do with dying. People die because they lost access to the tree of life. But every thing else (their eyes were opened and they became like Gods knowing good and evil) is exactly what snake said would happen. God said they would die in the day they eat of it and they didn’t die on the day.

As the Bible says, Adam lived hundreds of years after that event. So if snake is half right so was God half right.

I’m aware of Christians interpretation that a day is 1000 years but that is nonsensical. For one thousand years is approx 365000 days times 1000. What a clever way to get false prophecy covered up.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #469

He allegedly sent Jesus but Jesus made some false claims, rendering him unbelievable. For instance, Jesus promises to answer prayers. He said if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, nothing will be impossible to you, ask and you shall receive, etc. these promises are all false you can test them. I can make the same promises verbatim, and they will work in the same manner.

Eternal life is elusive. There are plenty of Christians doubting their salvation and fearing hell fires. The gift of eternal life is hard to receive. Some Christians claim you must repent of your sins to enter heaven but nobody knows how many sins one must repent of.

And yet other Christians have their own interpretations, such as Universalism.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #470

I’ll go out on a limb here, knowing and researching nothing about Dr. Jones apart from the clip you shared –most of which was audible enough to make out. I’ll go out on a limb and say I do agree with him. I heard him saying (perhaps in more disparaging terms than I would use about the old testament generally) that we have no excuse for justifying any of the cruelties that are justified in some of the old testament writings.

Now, if he goes on to say therefore, that the old testament is worthless and needs to be discarded, then I would disagree.

The reason I’m intrigued with your (at least partial) approval of Dr. Jones is that he unabashedly self-identifies as a Christian. You realized that, right? I.e. he (or so it seemed to me in this small exposure) is using his knowledge of Christ’s teachings to turn his back on the former “eye-for-an-eye” teachings. And I, as an Anabaptist Christian heartily say to that: “may his tribe increase!” In today’s weaponry-worshiping west, we haven’t even risen to the level of mere “eye-for-eye” limitation yet, much less taking on board Jesus’ teachings that go so far beyond that. So in some way, those “despicable ancients” were ahead of us, though they too had trouble following even those rudimentary commandments.

So I find myself pleasantly surprised that you find affinity with Dr. Jones. Perhaps some of his caricature of old testament scriptures would bother me more if I knew more details, but on the surface of it, I don’t mind saying I agree with so many atheists on this one! In fact, when so many “Christians” and “atheists” are getting sucked into worshiping and even doing child sacrifice to false gods these days (like when I sacrifice your children’s lives to the god of my right to own military grade weaponry) then indeed I think that the world could use a few more real atheists. Not only do you believe in gods, you even engage in human sacrifice. We should probably look at the old testament story with fresh eyes, not deluding ourselves into thinking we sit in self-righteous judgment above it, but more using it as a mirror, and asking ourselves why we think we’re so much better. Then beyond that perhaps we will rise up to actually be better. I hope to God that will be the case, and invest myself in that hope that Jesus gives us.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #471

Yes I realize that he calls himself a Christian and yet, he considers the Bible text utterly unreliable. I would venture to guess that he would consider me a Christian also! I’m just amazed at the range of “interpretations”.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #472

Well, it’s one thing to consider a modern fundamentalist’s approach unreliable, and quite another to then think this reflects on the Bible more than it reflects on the modern fundamentalist. If I treated science in a similar way, I would be getting all my science information from a few vociferous climate-deniers down at the local cafe, and then could come to the conclusion that science must be unreliable. I like to listen to and consider Christian scholars who haven’t decided in advance that the Bible can only be understood through one modernist lens. But that’s just me. If I got all my information about science only from the local yokels, then of course I will “find it” to be unreliable. Such an understanding of the Bible is also unreliable in the extreme. You have my full agreement on that. I hope you can begin to see why such approaches don’t carry much weight around here.

(Roger A. Sawtelle) #473

@Mervin_Bitikofer, thank you for your explanation.

The Bible is a divine book, but it is also a human one, which was written over thousands of years by many people in many places It is very strange that many “humanists” demand that the “human” be taken out of the Bible, but of course many “theists” encourage them in this view.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #474

As I’ve listened to more of Hamilton’s sermons on world religions, this particular one on Islam struck me as particularly apropos to your questions / challenges, @SuperBigV. If you have 40 minutes to spare, I’d be curious what you think about it. It is a Christian message, but you could fast forward past the first five minutes of scripture readings & such to shave some time off. He does discuss violence in the Bible in ways that I think you would approve. He also interviewed a local Imam. He seems to research his messages quite thoroughly.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #475

I listened to about 10 mins and the speaker does seem well versed on the Islamic understanding of Islam. But what is the point?

The statement of faith for the church says:

United Methodists share a common heritage with other Christians, holding to the historic essentials of the Christian faith. We have a passionate faith with strong convictions, but we also recognize that the world is not always black and white. We are willing to ask questions, to wrestle with difficult issues, and to do so with grace and compassion. We are “people of the Book,” whose faith is firmly rooted in and built upon the scriptures. We hold the Bible to be divinely inspired and are committed to live by its words and we recognize the Bible was written by people who heard God in the light of their own cultural and historical circumstances.

The part I put in italics sounds like the church is admitting they are not rooting their faith as firmly in the Scriptures as they say, but are willing to ‘interpret’ the inconvenient passages away. I wonder what they believe about homosexuals?

(Mervin Bitikofer) #476

You probably didn’t get the whole benefit of his explanations in only the first ten minutes. But be that as it may be … I understand your reluctance to spend a lot of time listening to homilies. (Almost like I’m trying to get you to go to church or something, you’re probably thinking!) All I’m trying to do here is help you understand some other points of view.

In case this is more than a rhetorical musing, you don’t have to wonder. Here is a link to a 2009 sermon video of his about homosexuality. And in case you find it tedious to listen to 40 minutes … you could listen to it as an mp3, which on most players allows you to speed it up. I use VLC media player which allows for fine adjustment on speed; a wonderful way to speed through the parts that could go faster and slow back down for parts of interest. And here too, he speaks of interpretive principles in understanding the Bible – the very things you have criticized here as being a way to just make scriptures say whatever we want. That is a concern of which he is well aware and so addresses.

(Vlad K. I'm an Agnostic Atheist) #477

His point summed up, is that nobody is following the Bible literally, so there is no reason to take it literally when it talks about homosexuality or anything else. It’s amazing this guy is still a Christian.

(George Brooks) #478

And so… @SuperBigV,

Will you be stoning adulterers?

Will you excommunicate all your relatives who dare to get a divorce?

Will you be executing those who dare to work on the Sabbath (whether it is Saturday or Friday, I leave for your discretion)?

Will you be following the instruction of Jesus to give all that you have to the Ebonim? It’s really not as stark as it sounds… he is simply saying that we all should join monastic associations, living with all our property in common…

(Mervin Bitikofer) #479

Actually, did you notice what (or rather who) it is in whom he grounds his views? He grounds them in the life, teachings, and example of Christ as taught … in the Bible. He isn’t doing anything other than what Jesus himself was doing when others were seeking to make the scriptures into something they weren’t meant to be: a bludgeon of oppression. So what you should really consider more amazing is that those today who do not follow Christ’s example in this are still known as Christians! [later added edit: we are, after all, supposed to be known as Christians, not Biblicists.]

I don’t think he’s going that far, George, … but he was acknowledging how far we all have to go to fully take on all of Jesus’ teachings!

(George Brooks) #480


By “He” I didn’t mean Paul. I meant Jesus telling the Young Prince how to be “perfect”. @SuperBigV challenges Christians who he thinks are “Cherry-Picking” the Biblical rules (in particular, the one about homosexuality). And yet I have quoted Jesus’ most powerful instruction on money and “the Poor” (Ebonim) which virtually nobody takes seriously, including the YECs.

(Mervin Bitikofer) #481

Ah. My misunderstanding. From not reading carefully I at first thought you were referring to the preacher whose sermons I was discussing. Yes, Jesus challenges us all in ways that we have not consistently followed.