The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

Back to Eden

February 20, 2009 | 97 Comments

Today I have colonized The Dawn Patrol. Go there for my daily post.

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Speaking of the Patrol, I’ve realized that many of the posts that I contributed to that blog over the years as The Raving Atheist were not cross-posted here. Accordingly, for those of you who have read through the entire archives of this blog and might be hungry for more, below is the list. Note that many of them were posted under the pseudonym “Henrietta G. Tavish” (an anagram of “The Raving Atheist”).

Planned Parenthood Announces Day of Prayer Against Parental Notification Laws (Satire)

Planned Parenthood to sponsor monthly “Call for Death” (Satire)

Abortion Blog Finds Abortion Display ‘Disturbing’ (Satire)

Planned Parenthood Offers Free Abortions to Miners’ Widows (Satire)

Planned Parenthood Seeks End to “Abortion” Discrimination (Satire)

Giuliani: I Hate Giving to Planned Parenthood (Satire)

Edwards: I’m Personally Opposed to Poverty (Satire)

Democratic Candidates Unite Behind Partial Birthday Abortion Act (Satire)

Typo Mars Planned Parenthood Press Release (Satire)

New Legislation Targets Elder Fraud  (Satire)

Planned Parenthood clarifies clinic position: “One-third of Aurora’s population is Latino” (Satire)

Atheist Turns Catholic Blog into a Soapbox for Blasphemy (Satire)

Secularist Organization Cracks Down on “Cafeteria Atheists” (Satire)

License to Kill (Pro-Life license plates)

Out of Gas (Pro-Life License Plates)

Womenvchoice (Pro-choice difficulties with pro-life women)

Fake Story about Fake Clinic? (Planned Parenthood Hoax about Crisis Pregnancy Clinic)

Truthiness and Consequences (Planned Parenthood Hoax about Crisis Pregnancy Clinic – Update)

Planned Parenthood promotes debunked Palin rape-kit smear (Self-explanatory)

No Comment (Blog Censorship)

The Right to Lie (Undercover Investigation of Planned Parenthood)

Don’t Ask, Don’t Care (Critique of Volunteersfor Late-Term Abortion Clinic)

One Hand Slapping (Defining the “need” for abortion)

NARAL: Pro-Choice, Anti-Speech (Self-explanatory)

Aurora Roaring (Protests Against Illinois Abortion Clinic)

Killing Delayed is Killing Denied (Illinois Abortion Clinic Ligitation)

Let Freedom Ring (Verizon Censors NARAL’s Text Messages)

Second Opinion (Critiquing Physician’s Letter to New York Times on Partial Birth Abortion Decision)

Who Cares? (NARAL’s Abortion Report Card)

Choice 9/11 (Planned Parenthood’s Reaction to 9/11)

Thou Shalt Not Kill (Planned Parenthood’s Clergy Task Force)

No Argument (The Pro-Choice refusal to debate)

No Respect (Embryonic Stem Cell research)

Choosing Life, Consistently (Abortion and the death penalty)

Food for Thought (Chesterton vs John Stuart Mill)

Comments

97 Responses to “Back to Eden”

  1. Jeney
    February 20th, 2009 @ 4:22 pm

    How long did it take you to figure out a new name using all the same letters as the original?

  2. Jeney
    February 20th, 2009 @ 4:24 pm

    You know – an anagram. Good grief.

  3. Carla
    February 20th, 2009 @ 9:51 pm

    Light reading for the weekend!! Awesome!

  4. Richard Norris
    February 21st, 2009 @ 10:10 pm

    Just out of curiosity, when you became a Christian (and possibly a Catholic?) were you immediately filled with hate for the idea of gay sex, or is it percolating into your mind more slowly?

  5. frustrated(mk)
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 7:20 am

    Richard,

    When you begin to understand “sex”, the body, and how it all fits into a “bigger plan”, you start to understand that homosexual sex is a twisted version of how it was meant to be….

    “In the beginning it wasn’t so…”

    It’s not a matter of “hating” anything. It’s a matter of understanding.

    It’s not really about “Don’t do” and much as it is about “Do do it as it was meant to be done”…

    If you don’t believe in God, Objective Moral Truth, the body as a reflection of God and the Trinity, then you’ll never be able to grasp why homosexual sex is wrong. It just won’t be possible. You’ll be pulling the idea of homosexual sex out of context, and like anything taken out of context, it just won’t make sense.

  6. Richard Norris
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 4:10 pm

    The idea that a religion that was founded two thousand years ago is a perfect guide for morality of any sort, including sexual morality, is ridiculous any way you look at it. If you believe in creationism, the Earth was created six thousand years ago. If you believe in evolution, mankind as he is recognized now is 50,000 years old at least. That is four to 46,000 years of existing without being givin the proper understandig of morality and the proper way to get to heaven. The idea that a faith that acted recently in a historical sense to impose this view on man and give us Objective Moral Truth is absolutely unsupportable in the light of this fact. A loving God would have told all of this from the begining, but no, that’s not how it happened, is it? Your God waited a while and allowed how many people to go to Hell for not having access to this truth just because it wasn’t time yet. You’re “understanding” about the body, sex and objective moral truth came too late for the majority of the worlds former population, who as we speak are supposedly writhing in torment for being born in the wrong time frame. Objective Moral Truth is something that always exists, if it exists, not something handed down to the world a measly two thousand years ago.

  7. Lily
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 5:01 pm

    Richard: Because you have built your argument on a faulty premise, the rest of it goes astray. Let me see if I can shed a little light.

    I don’t think anyone here is a young earther. The many years of evolution from some common primate answer present very little challenge. We believe that man was created in the image and likeness of God. That means we have some share of what he is–intelligent, creative, and we are perfectly able to recognize the moral law. It is built into creation.

    Paul says that nature itself reveals God: “for since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” (Romans 1:20)

    What we see in the Old Testament is a rather primitive, rag tag people being molded over the centuries into the people of God. When the time was right, God, himself, intervened in human history and revealed himself fully.
    Could he have done things differently? Sure. But he didn’t.

    It didn’t take 46000 years for mankind to understand morality. At least from the time there is recorded history, we see the same precepts in every culture– do not murder, do not steal, do not commit adultery, etc. etc. etc. Most of us don’t believe that those who have never heard of Christ are in hell. We believe that they will be judged rightly, according to the light (of understanding) they had.

  8. Lily
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 5:02 pm

    ancestor! not answer! Arrgghh!

  9. Richard Norris
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 5:22 pm

    Then by your argument, Lily, you see no need for the incarnation of Christ. If mankind came to understand morality through his own devices, and will be judged according to his understaning of moral law, then the sacrifice of God’s son was pointless. We would all have a chance then to be saved.

  10. Richard Norris
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 6:38 pm

    As far as the argument about God being present in nature, that too is ridiculous. Nature is a process that involves evolution, a gradual adjustment to ones environment to facilitate survival. Nature did not evolve us as a perfect machine, but as a species that was just good enough to survive in the niche we found. The process of evolution shows that man was a random event, not the end of a process started by God. The idea that man was created by God through evolution is diluted creationism, or creationism lite, if you will. You cling to the belief that somewhere along the line God took a soul and shoved it into you somewhere long the line of human development without being shown clearly by your myths when this act was done. The interesting thing about your description of your beliefs is that the Old Testament is largely written off as primitive, and that the New Testament, as dictated to man by the same Eternal God, is much more preferrable a guide to life and not nearly as offensive to human reason. This is the sort of theological adjustment that science has caused, that the first part of the Bible must be turned into a mythological allegory while the more recent part of that book, the New Testament, becomes ever more important despite the same amount of ignorance and superstition evident in its pages. The life and downfall of the first mythical humans was a theological fact to the man you call Savior. It is their sin, even though evolution shows they never really existed in a Biblical sense, that condemns us before the throne of God, and inherited stain in the fabric of the human soul. If there was no Garden of Eden, if there was no Tree of crafty serpent, then there is no fault and no need for your Christ. And that is what the theory of evolution proves, despite the modern attempt to twist it to fit Christian faith.

  11. Richard Norris
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 7:01 pm

    Sorry for the misspellings in my comments. I was holding my adorable but fussy daughter.

  12. Lily
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 7:40 pm

    St Augustine (mid 4th century) wrote that the days of creation in Genesis were “God divided” not “sun divided” days. St. Jerome (late 4th century) wrote that the stories in Genesis were told “after the manner of a poet”, i.e. were not to be taken literally. They, like all other educated men of their time knew that the earth was very old. They also had no trouble seeing the progressive nature of God’s work in the history of the Jewish people.

    The Old Testament is not “written off”. It is vital in many ways. But as the Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “it is partial and imperfect”. We don’t have a problem with that. It is funny that atheists and fundamentalists do. The fall of man is a theological fact. Exactly what happened and when? Who knows? It doesn’t seem likely that there was a literal Adam and a literal Eve but it sure wouldn’t bother me if there were such a couple.

    It is not “their sin” that condemns us before the throne of God! What they lost in the Fall was the life of grace that God had given them and they introduced concupiscence into the mix. That is why they became aware that they were naked and were ashamed. What had once been complete innocence wasn’t any longer.

    Well, I am not up for a full blown apologia. I hope I have written enough here to indicate that I think that you don’t have a full understanding yet of what you are criticizing.

  13. Lily
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 7:44 pm

    Oops. I see you added a couple things while I was writing. You said:

    Then by your argument, Lily, you see no need for the incarnation of Christ. If mankind came to understand morality through his own devices, and will be judged according to his understaning of moral law, then the sacrifice of God’s son was pointless. We would all have a chance then to be saved.

    No, this is not my argument. We all understand morality– at least we understand it well enough to see how far short we fall. We just can’t live up to what we know God demands. Nor can we, on our own, make up for the harm we have done. Jesus came to pay the price on our behalf and give us the power to become what we were intended to be- the children of God.

  14. Richard Norris
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 10:27 pm

    Lily, the reason that fundamentalists and atheists have a problem with Genesis is that without being able to present clear evidence that God created Man, the argument for his authority over our lives becomes empty. If there is no point at which God told us how he exactly made us and no way of verifying it, evolution becomes the default answer. We would be just another animal with a more developed conscious mind than other animals. That’s all. It’s just our awareness of ourselves and the awareness of the passing of time superimposed over all of the animal instincts every creature on Earth is born with. There is no Fall, it’s just that we are more aware of our world and ourselves than our animal cousins are. The evolutionary development of cooperation and empathy make it much more likely that we will survive as an organism, and gives rise to morality. It is these tools, provided to us by the proverbial “Blind Watchmaker” that enable us to better ourselves. These qualities are currently being seen to exist in the lower orders of animals, and are being studied in monkeys. It’s not something that is dependent upon the soul, that esoteric and invisible eternal energy existing only in the imagination. It is given to us by the grace of evolution, not by some Deity.

  15. Melissa
    February 22nd, 2009 @ 11:42 pm

    Oh my gosh RT!! I was rather surprised that you divulged your alter ego!! :) Well,….so much for Henrietta!! ;) I certainly didn’t expect you to do that quite yet! Way to go though! Can’t wait to see what other things you will soon make known! Way to go!! Praying that God will keep strengthening and emboldening you in your faith! :)

  16. Nile the Jolly
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 3:16 am

    Just felt like I had to intervene:

    1. Jesus is not what you think he is; he himself says so: ‘Marcus 10:18/Why are you saying that I’m good? Nobody else, but God is good’

    2. None of the writers of the New Testament were any of the original 12 disciples of Jesus. The books were written some 40-60 years after Jesus’ death.

    These are new (last 100-150 years) discoveries of Biblical criticism. And this information is not through Islamic sources, but by John Hick who suggests religious pluralism in his book “The Rainbow of Faiths” (1995)and criticizes that Jesus was metaphorically Son of God, not metaphysically.

    3. Hick also asks the question: Who did our Saviour pay the tribute (his life)to? If he is of the same substance with God, then he paid the tribute to himself.

    Hick says, the church made a mistake of changing a metaphorical understanding of payment of tribute, to literal meaning.

    4. And how fair is it, from the God’s point of view, that an innocent being dies for the sins of others? Isn’t each and every person responsible for himself?

    Please do read Hicks’ book. He is a world-famous philosopher and theologian and a main academician in philosophy of religion.

  17. Lily
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 8:13 am

    Richard: Your post raises many interesting issues. I cam’t do justice to them now as I am getting ready for work (or, more accurately, I am bemoaning the fact that I wasn’t born wealthy and so must work:).

    My word, you are very specific in your requirements for God! Genesis doesn’t need to tell us anything but what it does tell us. Those first 22 chapters are clearly mythological. They tell us something important but are simply not a scientific account of anything. You want it to be what it just is not. As an atheist seeking to understand it, the tools you need to bring to it are those that are required for the literary analysis of any ancient literature; an understanding of the culture it was produced in, the language and the way it was used (metaphors, symbols, etc), the genres being employed, some understanding of the historical milieu in which the book was written, etc. These are just a beginning for Christians. But we have more.

    Christianity rests on Christ and the historical truth of the resurrection. I have actually had atheists tell me that he should have revealed (how? Through dictation?) something that ancient men could not have known like how a television works. I am still shaking my head over that one. We read the Old Testament in the light of Christ.

    Nile: Mark did not write: “Why are you saying that I’m good? Nobody else, but God is good” Rather, he said: “”Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone”. The else is not there.

    More to the point, Mark writes in the next chapter that when Jesus forgave a paralytic his sins, the teachers of the law were outraged. To them Jesus asked:

    “Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat and walk’? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . .” He said to the paralytic,”I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.” (Mark 2:9-11)

    I don’t know why you think that it is so significant that the Gospels were written later. Four documents written in different places at different times by different authors telling the same story, already in themselves make the story credible. Then we have the testimony of Paul who met with Peter and James in Jerusalem within three to five years of the resurrection. We have more and better evidence of the historicity of the Gospels than for just about any other ancient event.

    I don’t need to read Hicks book. His ideas are old news and out of date. The disciples did not suffer beatings, imprisonment, torture and death for a metaphorical Jesus. Nor is Hicks the first to ask how the atonement “works”. It has been asked by umpteen hundreds of philophers and theologians. We don’t know exactly how the atonement works. We simply know that it did.

  18. Nile the Jolly
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 10:16 am

    Lily: I read the Rainbow of Faiths from the Turkish edition. So, what I wrote was a re-translation into English in my own words.

    You say: Nile: Mark did not write: “Why are you saying that I’m good? Nobody else, but God is good” Rather, he said: “”Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone”. The else is not there.

    That doesn’t make any difference though. It still shows us that Jesus did not think of himself to be of the same substance as God.

    When you say: ” We don’t know exactly how the atonement works. We simply know that it did” Then, this is pure faith. There is no judgement behind it and it’s all in vain that some people here try to argue on basis of reason.

    John Hicks is someone still studied at Harvard University.

  19. Lily
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 10:44 am

    Nile: I knew I should have provided further explanation. The statement, ““No one is good—except God alone” is rather subtle. It is a challenge to recognize who he is. Jesus is good. God alone is good. Ergo, Jesus is God. There are, of course, many other places where Mark and the others state clearly that Jesus and God are one.

    This is also mistaken:

    When you say: ” We don’t know exactly how the atonement works. We simply know that it did” Then, this is pure faith. There is no judgement behind it and it’s all in vain that some people here try to argue on basis of reason.

    Try to understand. Jesus made a claim about himself. He told us that he came to seek the lost and reconcile man and God. He proved his claim by rising from the dead. Ergo, even if we don’t have absolute understanding of how the atonement pays the price we owe God, we have it on his authority that it does. Believing this is not blind faith at all. It comes straight from Jesus who has given convincing proof that he is who he says he is.

    Please note. I did not say “absolute” proof. I don’t even know if such a thing is possible. The faith that is required is the faith that weighs the evidence and makes a decision: “Yes, I find this convincing”.

  20. Richard Norris
    February 23rd, 2009 @ 8:55 pm

    Understanding God as the historical creator of the human race is a very specific need. And it is specifically required by any sort of claim of authority for any deity telling us how to lead our lives. What you don’t seem to understand is that a God who is able to heal the sick, cast out demons and resurrect himself from the dead would be able to actually create the Earth is six days. But instead as we have come to a new understanding using science, the historical claim of creation has become superceeded by that of modern cosmology and evolution. A closed system such as evolution, needing no divine cause, precludes the existence of any creating deity. As to appeals to the veracity of scripture, the stories of the New Testament have so many discrepancies in their stories and so many different interpretaions of Christ’s life and actions on Earth that to claim them as a valid testimony is beyond the pale. Ask any lawyer or policemen about the veracity of testimony and their recourse will be to tell you they would rather rely on hard evidence. Add to the fact that the Gospel was written decades after the events they describe and in a staggered order, it gives any writer of the Gospels the chance to get their story at least semi-straight and an opportunity to copy the words of the other Gospel writers that they agree with. Any appeal to a document constructed in such a way is doomed to fail except when it’s an appeal to a fellow believer. However, too often the circular nature of an appeal to the Gospels seems lost on the faithful.

  21. Lily
    February 24th, 2009 @ 2:22 am

    You have packed so many questionable assumptions and statments into this post that I don’t know how to tease it all apart. Well, like Julie Andrews, let’s start at the very beginning– a very good place to start…

    You said: Understanding God as the historical creator of the human race is a very specific need. And it is specifically required by any sort of claim of authority for any deity telling us how to lead our lives

    Ok. So what? We have such a God. All evolution tells us is how– it does not tell us why. Nobody has said God could not have created the world in 6 days. After all he created the universe ex nihilo rather quickly in the Big Bang. How long did that take? If anything, modern cosmology strengthens our claim. Christianity used to be written off by scientists pointing to an eternally existing universe. That is why some resisted Big Bang, initially. They saw the implications of it rather immediately and didn’t like what they saw.

    By the way, how does evolution explain the origin of life? It doesn’t of course. The problem you are faced with, is that everything that begins to exist, must have a cause. You aren’t going to get around that easily.

    As far as the historicity of the Gospels is concerned, You won’t easily find ten real historians who dismiss the Gospels, as casually as you are trying to here. History is a scholarly discipline with rules and everything! It is just made up stuff. We have a long history of biblical scholarship that tells us a great deal about the sources and origins of those documents.

    Moreover, you don’t seem to realize that they were written for different reasons and that there are no significant discrepancies among them. There are differences of viewpoint, of course, and differences of emphasis but they all tell the same story to the communities they address.

    The letters of Paul are the earliest writings and provide evidence that from the earliest post-resurrection days, the Christian community knew the full story. Paul, himself, met with Peter and James within 3-5 years of the resurrection to make sure, as he tells us, that he was preaching the Gospel accurately. Luke begins by telling us that there were a large number of reports and stories in existence and that he had carried out an investigation of them so that he could write an “orderly” account from beginning to end.

    Well, for a more scholarly view of the New Testament, you need to consult F. F. Bruce’s the New Testament Documents: Are they reliable? I just looked and the text is available online (http://www.worldinvisible.com/library/ffbruce/ntdocrli/ntdocont.htm) You can read up on his credentials in Wikipedia where you can also find links to a number of his articles.

    For a very reader friendly account, you can also consult Mark D Roberts, a Harvard-trained theologian who really knows how to write in a very readable fashion– (http://www.markdroberts.com/htmfiles/resources/gospelsreliable.htm) If you go there, scroll down past the hypertext links to other series of studies that he has written to get to the book itself

    One or the other of these will give you a much better informed view of the nature of the documentary evidence.

  22. Nile the Jolly
    February 24th, 2009 @ 4:11 am

    It is amazing that muslim and christian believers use exactly the same defence mechanisms in their apologies, yet they declare each other as nonsense.

    Don’t you ever realize that with at least five important religions (Judaism/Christianity/Islam/Buddhism/Hinduism) living today – let alone all those that arose and disappeared in history – God must be a monster to choose one of them as the ultimate reality and condemn all the rest.

    How could a little girl born in the Middle East could have known about your Christianity? And why does the Almighty love creating such chaos on earth making people believe in contradicting realities? He must be a cruel entity who likes torturing his creations!

  23. frustrated(mk)
    February 24th, 2009 @ 7:11 am

    Nile,

    Buddhism, as far as I know doesn’t speak about God. It is a philosophy. The Buddah himself was not considered a deity.

    Hinduism, predates Christianity, so they would have no way of knowing that their faith was contradictory. It is a pagan religion, prevalent BC. It is the type of religion that God spent years trying to tear the Israelites away from. He chose one group of people to concentrate on and taught them all they needed to know, then came down Himself as one final testimony. From there it is up to us to spread the “word”…

    He doesn’t hold people of different faiths accountable for their ignorance. One isn’t condemned if one doesn’t know.

    As for the remaining three faiths, they are all based on the same God. There is no difference between the God of Judaism, the God of Islam and the God of Christians. They are the same God. I don’t call, (and I don’t think most Christians would either) Judaism or Islam nonsense.

    Up to a certain point, the three faiths are identical. The number one commandment is there shall be no other God but Me. None of those three religions breaks that commandment.

    As for creating Chaos…God does not create chaos. We do.

    God is the very antithesis of Chaos. Chaos meaning disorder/void. God meaning order/filled.

    If anything, atheism embraces chaos. They are the ones that adhere to a huge “emptiness/nothingness”.

  24. Nile the Jolly
    February 24th, 2009 @ 7:51 am

    The Gods of Buddhism and Hinduism are considered under the title non-personal (Real an sich)whereas the other three have personal (God a se) gods; but this is not important for the point I wanted to make.

    For pagan religion you say (though Hinduism is not this): “It is the type of religion that God spent years trying to tear the Israelites away from..” Why didn’t God appear for the millions of years before Yahweh? How should all those people know if He had not sent any message? Then why did Yahweh punish them all for their ignorance? Really, when you start asking questions, everything seems so conflicting!

    Do you believe that Allah, Yahweh and Jesus are all the same God? Allah says, God does not have a Son. Jesus is not God’s Son. Yahweh says, Israelis are the chosen tribe. Why does the same God speak differently to His creations? Why have the adherents of these three religions been enemies for each other all through history?

    Atheism does not ‘embrace’ chaos. Chaos is ‘what it is’ not ‘what it must be’. This is what I see when I watch National Geographic channel with all the animals tearing each other into pieces. Then I think, surely a great intelligence could have done better!

    About whether people are accountable for their ignorance, here is a conclusion statement from 1960 Chicago World Mission Congress: (From John Hick’s Book “Rainbow of Faiths”) “Since the second World War, about one million people have died. More than half of them were punished with hell because they had not heard Jesus’ message or knew who he was.”

  25. Matthew in Fairfax
    February 24th, 2009 @ 8:30 am

    Let me assist a little and provide the context of Nile the Jolly’s quote of Hick’s here:
    http://tinyurl.com/bojnlq

    Other views on the same subject:
    here
    and here.

  26. Lily
    February 24th, 2009 @ 8:37 am

    I would say things a bit differently than mk. First off, let’s leave Hick out of it. He is a nominal Christian, as he himself says. While he is, by all accounts, a fine scholar, he does not articulate the truths of Christianity, he articulates his version of pluralism. While he has much of interest to say, he is not speaking from a position of authority. We speak here of Christianity from the viewpoint of believing, practicing Christians– and most of us are Catholic. That is the viewpoint we articulate and defend, as best we can.

    Having said that, there are Christian bodies (Protestants, especially, like Hick) who believe that all the unsaved will go to Hell. We Catholics do not tend to believe that. First, we think it is presumptuous for any human to speak for God, who alone decides our individual fates. Second, we find it inconsistent with his mercy and justice to condemn those who have never heard of Jesus. However, we don’t know, what his plans are. We do know that we have been called to make disciples of all the earth which is why Christianity is decidedly a missionary religion, still today.

    There is only one God. Everyone who calls upon God (even if he calls him, Allah or something else) is calling on the one true God. We do not believe that all other religions are wrong; we believe that where they differ from Christianity they are wrong. But the precepts we have in common– commandments to do good, show mercy, to not lie, murder, etc. are all God-given. So we have a fairly large area of agreement and understanding with other religions.

    We believe further that God has spoken to everyone through creation and in ways only he knows; we do not. He didn’t speak to people prior to Jesus through a savior. That he reserved for a specific place and time.

    I am not seeing anything conflicting here. What I am seeing is an assumption that most of us make that God must act the way we think he should or else he doesn’t exist. Well, I think that is a dead end. He has never asked us how we think he should act and I rather think that he never will. God reveals himself. He doesn’t invite us to discuss with him how he ought to run the universe.

  27. Nile the Jolly
    February 24th, 2009 @ 9:12 am

    Lily: The point is, commandments to do good, show mercy, to not lie, murder, etc. are not all God-given. All the earlier cultures before Judaism have these same human values.

    Hick does not say all the unsaved will go to Hell. He criticizes this idea.

    You say: “He(God) doesn’t invite us to discuss with him how he ought to run the universe.”

    No he doesn’t. But from the literal inconsistencies of His sacred texts, the non-stop evil in this world and the conflicts with science, we feel an urge to question His goodness and the order He claims to have brought to this world.

  28. Lily
    February 24th, 2009 @ 9:46 am

    Yes– I just said (as I do everytime the subject comes up) that God has revealed himself to everyone. Therefore we see his attributes, even when watered down or deformed, in every culture.

    I didn’t say that Hick believes that the unsaved will go to hell– I said that his background is in evangelical protestantism where that belief is prevalent.

    There are no conflicts between Christianity and science. Only with men’s misunderstanding of science. Or misunderstanding of God. Moreover, there is only one text that reveals God. It is irrelevant if it conflicts with others’ sacred texts.

    Really, the only thing that you have brought up that is problematic is the question of evil. But that must be considered separately, since it is an enormous topic in itself.

  29. Nile the Jolly
    February 24th, 2009 @ 10:33 am

    Well, if you keep giving new meaning to 2000 old texts, and let the texts evolve with science, then, yes, there is no conflict. But the literal meaning has long been refuted and we must not forget that when these texts were written, they were not symbolic at all. What they said was what they meant because the sacred texts also include ethics and law. If you consider them not literal but symbolic, then heaven and hell have no meaning with reference to ethical behaviour. Needless to say, in such a case, you cannot claim that God is the source of ethics.

    Actually Judaism and Christianity conflict with science more than Islam for two reasons:

    1. They are older texts.
    2. Koran is vague. The scripture on cosmology is just references here and there and very open to a flexible interpretation, whereas Judaism has declared 6000 years for the history of the universe; it gives us a more detailed and precise info of how Adam and Eve sinned and so forth.

    I agree that evil is an enormous topic and I must add, quite the headache of religions.

  30. Lily
    February 24th, 2009 @ 1:10 pm

    Well, if you keep giving new meaning to 2000 old texts, and let the texts evolve with science, then, yes, there is no conflict. But the literal meaning has long been refuted and we must not forget that when these texts were written, they were not symbolic at all.

    What new meaning are we giving to 2000 year old texts? The Bible does not need to evolve with science. The Bible is not a science text book and it is wrong to treat it as such. The fact that it reflects the scientific understanding of its writers is natural and unproblematic.

    What is problematic of course, is the attempt to use the Bible as a science text in the way that some fundamentalists do. There is simply no justification for claiming that the earth was created 6000 years ago. That is not a claim the Bible makes.

    You are speaking so broadly it is hard to understand what you are getting at. When you say that “when these texts were written, they were not symbolic at all”, what does that mean? Of course the ancients understood symbols. The poetry and stories are full of symbols. We are the ones who are less likely to recognize the symbols and metaphors of a language so far removed from us in time. But beyond that, I am not certain what you mean. What literal meaning has been refuted? If you mean the resurrection of Christ, I am afraid you are mistaken. While there are certainly people who have rejected it, there are also a large number of us who have not. Refute? No, it hasn’t happened. Many have tried but the fact that millions of us happily believe demonstrates that they have not succeeded.

  31. frustrated(mk)
    February 24th, 2009 @ 2:08 pm

    Do you believe that Allah, Yahweh and Jesus are all the same God? Allah says, God does not have a Son. Jesus is not God’s Son. Yahweh says, Israelis are the chosen tribe. Why does the same God speak differently to His creations? Why have the adherents of these three religions been enemies for each other all through history? </i.

    Yes. They are all the God of Abraham. Jesus is the son of God yes, but He is not a separate God. He is the same person. Yahweh says the Israelis are the chosen tribe. But what does this mean? That He liked them better? That He thought they were stronger? Smarter? Better Looking?

    No. They were chosen simply as a vehicle. He needed one line of people, so it would be clear to all that He was the one in control and that it wasn’t random circumstances. He chose Moses, and all the people that were willing to listen to him. He chose Abraham and SARAH, his wife. A couple that had entered marriage together, a committment/covenant, that is parallel to the relationship God has with us. To establish a linear line of “people”, the “child” had to come from Abraham AND Sarah, not just Abraham. Thus Ishmael was not the one. God protected that line for generations. At one point there was only one male left, and yet the line was still preserved and continued. All the way down to Jesus.

    It was and has always been a marital relationship. God and Us (His Bride). Worshiping any other God is akin to adultery. When Ishmael split and started a new nation, also promised to him by God, it was still the same God that he worshiped.

    Why does the same God speak differently to His creations?

    He has not spoken differently. He has said what He said. We might “hear” it differently. Islam came about long after Jesus. It came to a man of questionable mental health, and under no authority. One man. Visited by an “entity”…

    The Jews heard the same words from the same God and chose to interpret them differently. But they were the same words. The same God.

    Why have the adherents of these three religions been enemies for each other all through history?

    First, except for radical versions of all three faiths, I don’t see that we are enemies. There have been times in history when one group or another has overstepped it bounds, but that was not what the faith itself taught. That was men perverting the “Truth” to further their own agendas.

    Certainly, The Catholic Church does not view followers of Islam or Judaism as “enemies”. And more importantly, the number one tenet of Christianity is to love our enemies.

    As for Hinduism, I do view it as a pagan religion. It adheres to many gods and demi gods and to me that is the very definition of paganism. Not wiccan, but pagan.

  32. frustrated(mk)
    February 24th, 2009 @ 2:14 pm

    “Since the second World War, about one million people have died. More than half of them were punished with hell because they had not heard Jesus’ message or knew who he was.”

    How could he possibly know this???? It is more likely that anyone that “went to hell” HAD heard Jesus’ message and knew who He was, but rejected Him.

  33. Nile the Jolly
    February 24th, 2009 @ 2:41 pm

    mk You misunderstood the message. Hick was criticizing this conclusive statement of 1960 Chicago World Mission Congress.. See post 25 by Matthew.

    And, what if it were the Christians and not the Jews or Muslims who misinterpreted the message? Isn’t that possible? May be, Israelis were the God’s most beloved!?
    You see, you just started saying ‘a man of questionable mental health’ for the leader of Islam. This is your prejudice as a Christian. The muslims almost worship his sincerety, trustworthiness, intelligence and leadership.

    It is obvious that you say all three Abrahamic religions share the same God for the sake of conversation, but not from your heart! You God is Jesus, not Allah, not even Yahweh.

    That the church does not view and has never viewed Muslims and Jews as enemies is a big delusion. You wouldn’t expect the clergy to come up and declare so to the world, would you?

  34. Lily
    February 24th, 2009 @ 3:28 pm

    Well, you were addressing mk, Nile, but I do want to chime in on this one:

    You see, you just started saying ‘a man of questionable mental health’ for the leader of Islam. This is your prejudice as a Christian. The muslims almost worship his sincerety, trustworthiness, intelligence and leadership.

    It is obvious that you say all three Abrahamic religions share the same God for the sake of conversation, but not from your heart! You God is Jesus, not Allah, not even Yahweh.

    We do say from the heart that there is only one God. This one God revealed himself most fully to man in the person of Jesus Christ. Everyone who truly worships God, worships the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, whether that person knows it or not.

    As far as Mohammad is concerned, his revelations were his alone. They were made to him privately. Whether he was mentally ill or not, his revelations are completely unverifiable. The ministry, death burial and resurrection of Jesus were public were witnessed by thousands and can be verified, using the ordinary tools of historical scholarship. You may say that the evidence isn’t strong enough or compelling enough and that is certainly your right. But Muslims can offer no evidence for Mohammad’s revelations, so of course, we reject Islam.

    It isn’t a matter of prejudice. It is a matter of the evidence, though plenty of people dislike Islam which they only know in the form that we see on TV every day. Since the God of the Jews and the God of the Christians are one and the same, I don’t know where you are going with this one.

  35. frustrated(mk)
    February 24th, 2009 @ 3:39 pm

    May be, Israelis were the God’s most beloved!?.

    We’ve already established that they are. But follow the story past the point of Jesus and you see that Christians are the “new Jews”…

    It is obvious that you say all three Abrahamic religions share the same God for the sake of conversation, but not from your heart! You God is Jesus, not Allah, not even Yahweh.

    That is like saying that in my heart I do not believe that Nile and Jolly Atheist are the same person.

    Jesus IS Allah who IS Yahweh. You are differentiating them, not me.

    Jews don’t call God Yahweh, anyway. We do. By saying that Muhammed was a man of questionable authority, does not speak to the God that Islam believes in. It only speaks to Muhammed. Allah is the God of Abraham. Muhammed had a “vision” much later…again, one man. Similar to the Mormons. Much different than many, many men over many, many years all saying the same thing.

  36. Nile the Jolly
    February 25th, 2009 @ 2:15 am

    I see that you do not remember my post about hundreds of people (in the 17th century) having prophecies on the streets about a pseudo-messiah whom they thought was real. The resurrection of Jesus is no evidence at all. History of religions is full of bunches of believers thinking they have seen miracles.

    mk you say: “Jesus IS Allah who IS Yahweh. You are differentiating them, not me.”

    I am not differentiating them, the muslims and some of the Christian theologians take Jesus as a prophet only, not God.

    And Lily, you say: “Since the God of the Jews and the God of the Christians are one and the same, I don’t know where you are going with this one.”

    I am saying that you are wrong. Jews do not take your Jesus as God. It is what Christians think.

    If you think that Muhammed was obviously fake – to me, all of them are fake – how do you explain the fact that Islam is growing more and more?

    It is really amazing that you cannot have a wider perspective of religions. Isn’t it obviously nonsensical that with all this diversity on earth, only one religion is the absolute truth? Many enlightened minds question the absurdity of this situation. With so much inflation of religions, Mormons deserve as much respect as Christianity and Islam.

  37. frustrated(mk)
    February 25th, 2009 @ 6:31 am

    It is more absurd that all religions on earth are true.

    For Jesus to be God, it doesn’t have to be recognized. If it is Truth, it just is what it is.

    My point is that I believe, which is what you asked, if I believe, that Jesus, Allah and Yahweh are one and the same.

    IF Jews and Muslims were to concede that Jesus is indeed God, they would be conceding that He is the SAME God as the one that they believe in…

    All faiths (well almost all) deserve respect, or at least their members do, but that does not mean that all faiths are true.

    That the church does not view and has never viewed Muslims and Jews as enemies is a big delusion. You wouldn’t expect the clergy to come up and declare so to the world, would you?

    Of course I would. It was the Muslims, working with John Paul II that brought down Hillary Clinton and her ilk at the Cairo Conference…working together to end abortion.

    And the Jews and Catholics respect each other greatly. They have a fine relationship. On theological issues they don’t agree, no, but sans that, there is GREAT respect from both sides…

  38. Nile the Jolly
    February 25th, 2009 @ 8:03 am

    mk You say: “It is more absurd that all religions on earth are true.”

    Certainly. None is true.

    Re, religions respecting each other, it is not a respect of embracing each other; it’s just ‘tolerance’.

    And when you say Jews and Catholics have GREAT respect, just don’t forget that it was Christians who committed genocide against Jews and not once in history! And BTW, who killed Jesus?

    When Christian and Muslim religious institutions work together, just watch closely and you will see that they have some mutual benefit. It is not of pure respect for each other.

    However, don’t misunderstand me.

    1. I’m not saying that there is any kind of antagonism among people. I have some very dear Jewish and Protestant relatives. I am talking about the double- faced religious institutions which think and act in one way, but speak differently to the world

    2. I hope I am making it clear that I’m talking about ‘what it is’ and not ‘what it should be’. I think your explanation is rather ‘what you wish it should be like’ and in this case, I agree with you.

  39. Lily
    February 25th, 2009 @ 8:13 am

    The resurrection of Jesus is no evidence at all. History of religions is full of bunches of believers thinking they have seen miracles.

    There were plenty of fakes performing “miracles” in the time of Jesus, as well as after, too. There have been plenty of true miracles performed, since the time of Jesus in his name. Of those who did perform miracles (or merely preached) and also claimed to be God, have any of them risen from the dead to prove those claims? So, yes, the Resurrection is evidence. It can be looked at through the primary documentation (the letters and Gospels) and from the perspective of outsiders at the time. Like I said, some people won’t find the evidence compelling. Others will and do.

    It is quite clear that the Jews do not believe that Christ is God. If they did, they would be Christians. I still don’t see how that comes into the question at all. We were speaking of what we believe and we believe that God is the God of all.

    It is really amazing that you cannot have a wider perspective of religions. Isn’t it obviously nonsensical that with all this diversity on earth, only one religion is the absolute truth?

    No.

    Many enlightened minds question the absurdity of this situation

    Ah! There is the problem! I do not have an enlightened mind.

    Except, of course, that I think I do. However the light I see by is Christ.

  40. Lily
    February 25th, 2009 @ 8:23 am

    Re, religions respecting each other, it is not a respect of embracing each other; it’s just ‘tolerance’. Just tolerance?!!? Tolerance is the only thing that makes it possible for people with widely differing views to live and work together in peace. Of course, that is mutually beneficial. Why on earth should that make a difference or somehow make such cooperation less than a positive good?

    Of course we don’t “embrace” each others beliefs! They are not interchangeable. There are wide areas of disagreement that make such a thing impossible.

  41. Nile the Jolly
    February 25th, 2009 @ 8:28 am

    Lily: “However the light I see by is Christ.”

    If you keep believing despite contradictory evidence of and in fact by ignoring and distorting the facts of archealogy, history of religions and science in general, I would call that pure faith.

    It is a surprise to me that Americans could be so radically religious. I thought that was characteristic of the muslim world.

  42. Lily
    February 25th, 2009 @ 9:05 am

    Show me the contradictory *evidence*. Don’t just tell me that it exists, Nile.

    Radically religious? Have any American Lutherans flown planes full of people into buildings? Have American Presbyterians beheaded anyone in the last 200 years? Have American Catholics bombed any nightclubs here or abroad in that last 500 years? How about those Methodists. Talk about radicals! They are the worst of the lot!

    Somehow, I think there is a difference between taking one’s religion seriously and *radicalism*.

  43. Nile the Jolly
    February 25th, 2009 @ 9:56 am

    Lily: No, Christians don’t do that kind of radicalism. They are lucky to be members of much more developed countries and they take their measures to do the killing through legal means. That’s what they did in Bosnia, and Iraq.

    Contradictory Evidence:

    -History of the world as 6000 years.
    -Humankind created in his own image as Adam and Eve.
    -Sinning by eating of the fruit being a very common recurring theme in many mythologies.
    -Jesus being the Son of God only metaphorically. (We went through this before, and I know you don’t agree, but history of religions reveal this depending on many sources-both Islamic and Christian)
    -The ‘virgin’ of Virgin Mary being a translation mistake.
    -Abraham’s as a historical figure being highly controversial. There are lots of claims that he is a mythical figure. The Mesopotamian culture has a mythical figure with a very similar name. (can’t remember now, something like barabr..)You know that Jews were in exile there, so many themes, commandments are taken from Sumerian culture. They have nothing to do with being divine.
    -Moses’ escape from and his relations in Egypt not confirmed by Egyptian sources.
    -The birthdate of historical Jesus being fake; it’s taken from astrology.
    -The gospels being re-organized according to prevailing theological structure much later than Jesus.

    I know you will have your answers for all these; but what I have listed above are discoveries of archeology, history of religions and studies on Biblical criticism.

  44. frustrated(mk)
    February 25th, 2009 @ 11:32 am

    Niles,

    -History of the world as 6000 years.

    We don’t believe this.

    -Humankind created in his own image as Adam and Eve.

    We don’t believe they were really named Adam or Eve or that this is a scientific OR historical account.

    -Sinning by eating of the fruit being a very common recurring theme in many mythologies.

    We don’t believe they actually “ate fruit”. Wouldn’t it make sense that the persons that wrote Genesis would use imagery that was understood at the time?

    -Jesus being the Son of God only metaphorically. (We went through this before, and I know you don’t agree, but history of religions reveal this depending on many sources-both Islamic and Christian)

    You’re right. We don’t agree. It doesn’t matter what any other group of people believes. In order to be a Christian BY DEFINITION you must believe that Jesus was God, that He died and rose.

    -The ‘virgin’ of Virgin Mary being a translation mistake.

    What mistake?

    -Abraham’s as a historical figure being highly controversial. There are lots of claims that he is a mythical figure. The Mesopotamian culture has a mythical figure with a very similar name. (can’t remember now, something like barabr..)You know that Jews were in exile there, so many themes, commandments are taken from Sumerian culture. They have nothing to do with being divine.

    I don’t quite understand what you are saying here…maybe Lily can help.

    -Moses’ escape from and his relations in Egypt not confirmed by Egyptian sources.

    And this proves….?

    -The birthdate of historical Jesus being fake; it’s taken from astrology.

    Again, what does this prove? That we don’t know the exact date He was born? There would be no reason to take note of it until AFTER He was noticed.

    -The gospels being re-organized according to prevailing theological structure much later than Jesus.

    I’m failing to see what any of this has to do with anything. I’m not trying to be snarky, but these books were put together for a reason…to teach…and I would imagine that the authors and people that arranged them could do so in any order that they pleased…

  45. Matthew in Fairfax
    February 25th, 2009 @ 12:12 pm

    re: The ‘virgin’ of Virgin Mary being a translation mistake.

    mk,

    Nile may be referring to the claim that a specific Hebrew word in Isaiah was mistranslated in the Greek Septuagint and carried forward into the Gospels. Here is one discussion on the topic (not necessarily the one Nile is referring to) :
    atheism.about.com …

    ~~~~

    Also, this important question from Nile @38 has not been addressed:

    And BTW, who killed Jesus?

  46. frustrated(mk)
    February 25th, 2009 @ 3:18 pm

    In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth,
    27
    to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.
    28
    And coming to her, he said, “Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you.”
    29
    But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.
    30
    Then the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.
    31
    Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.
    32
    He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, 11 and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father,
    33
    and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
    34
    But Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?” 12

    Again, I don’t mean to be a pain, but we believe she is a virgin because she says “I have not “known” a man”…what difference does it make if she is described as a virgin or a young girl? She herself says that she has not had sex with a man…

    Plus, what do the Jews have to do with translating the New Testament? I could see if they were correcting something from the Old Testament, but the new?

  47. frustrated(mk)
    February 25th, 2009 @ 3:25 pm

    As for who killed Jesus…there were a lot of people responsible…the Jewish leaders, the Romans, Pilate, Our sins…but mostly, no one killed Him. He chose to die.

  48. Lily
    February 25th, 2009 @ 3:33 pm

    I don’t have time to do too much with Nile’s post here. Thank goodness mk handled most of it.

    Re: Christians don’t do that kind of radicalism. They are lucky to be members of much more developed countries and they take their measures to do the killing through legal means. That’s what they did in Bosnia, and Iraq.

    This is called “moral equivalence” and it is not a good thing. Moreover, my recollection is that we tried to save the Muslims from genocide in Bosnia. We freed the Iraqis from a terrible dictator but I agree that we should have let him and his sons go on raping and murdering. It was no business of ours.

    None of the things you have listed as contradictory evidence is contradictory. They are analogies and borrowings from the cultures around the ancient Hebrews. Since they were the small nation situated between big ones, this is no surprise.

    This is a copy of something I posted elsewhere but it answers virtually everything that you either have or will bring up:
    ———
    Preliterate humans told their stories orally for who knows how long? And these stories were preserved and eventually written down. The Epic of Gilgamesh was *the* literary classic of the ancient Near East which consisted of the Nile valley, Mesopotamia (contained in the Tigris and Euphrates valley and which had a very diverse population,) and Canaan.

    All of these were literate cultures, which we know because we have literary and other records (mostly economic and legal) from them. The fact that the creation story in Genesis and the flood story etc. obviously were heavily influenced by other stories of other tribes/nations demonstrates that Israel was not isolated but was part of the cultural world of the ancient near East.

    We can see what this means for ancient Israel from the first chapter of Genesis. The author takes great pains to differentiate God from the gods of the polytheistic nations around Israel. This is clear from the very vocabulary used in describing creation. For instance, the author uses the plural yamin “seas”, instead of the singular yam, because yam was also the name of the Canaanite sea god.

    In other words, there is a conscious shaping of the material going on with very distinct purposes and intentions and all of it aims at showing how Israel’s relationship with God is close and immediate, which is wholly different than the way nations around them worshipping their distant nature gods understood the relationship of gods and man. (For much more on this and related topics, you could consult any of the articles that my absolutely favorite OT scholar, Gary Rendsburg, has put on his website: (http://jewishstudies.rutgers.edu/fac…ty/grendsburg/ )

    The point of this lengthy lecture is to say no, the Bible is not describing different Gods. It is describing Israel’s developing understanding of who God is and what he demands of His people. After centuries of wrestling with their problems, questions, the events of their lives (migrations, marriages, children), wars, etc. they actually learn! Their understanding of God grows increasingly sophisticated.

    By the time we get to the New Testament era, we have a sophisticated society in place with well developed theology, religious and ceremonial laws and traditions and practices. Most important of all, this society is expecting the Messiah. Then Jesus comes along … and the rest is history.

  49. Nile the Jolly
    February 25th, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

    Matthew: Yes, I was referring to Greek Septuagint.

    mk you say: “We don’t believe they were really named Adam or Eve or that this is a scientific OR historical account”

    Do you mean to say Genesis is not included in Christian faith? That God created the world in six days and had a rest on the seventh? That He created men in his image and Eve from Adam’s rib..etc.? Am I mistaken in thinking that Torah was part of Christian faith? Which parts of the OT do you accept?

  50. Lily
    February 25th, 2009 @ 3:38 pm

    Oops. The URL for Dr. Rendsburg has changed. The correct url is (http://jewishstudies.rutgers.edu/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=131&Itemid=5)

    Should have checked before posting. Not after.Sigh.

  51. Nile the Jolly
    February 25th, 2009 @ 4:04 pm

    Lily: ‘We’ means Americans; the genocide in Bosnia was done by European Christians.

    I never mentioned ‘Bible describes other gods’

    With your long post of Mesopotamian and other cultures, you have confirmed my claim that what the Torah includes is cultural, not divine. Monotheism first appeared in Egypt. Jews were familiar with the monotheistic god Aton.
    Actually everything said in the Torah is a combination of Mesopotamian/Egyptian/desert cultures. There is nothing original and divine.

    And there you said it: “this society is expecting the Messiah. Then Jesus comes along … and the rest is history.”

    Well, that’s pure faith. Jews did not expect Jesus. Just as they did not expect Mohammed. Both were a big blow and Jews kept waiting. As I mentioned earlier, they waited so hopefully that in the 17th century, thousands of Jews thought a pseudo-messiah was real.

    Jesus and Mohammed were just lucky. They appeared at the right place, at the right time!

    Let’s agree to disagree again and leave it here; because I argue on reason, and you, on faith and RT may rightfully post another warning!

  52. Lily
    February 25th, 2009 @ 6:02 pm

    Well, ok, Nile. But it is more than a little off-putting for you to decide that I am arguing, or that anyone else is arguing, merely on “faith” which you clearly believe is the opposite of reason. I would urge you to examine that belief. I don’t think it holds.

  53. frustrated(mk)
    February 25th, 2009 @ 6:19 pm

    Nile,

    Catholics do not interpret the creation of the world in a literal sense. Neither do any but the most conservative of Jews.

    As far as I know, only evangelical protestants hold that it was really created in 6 days, and that Adam and Eve were historical figures.

    We DO believe that God breathed His spirit into man and that He DID created the world and everything in it. But we don’t take the creation story as an historical account.

  54. frustrated(mk)
    February 25th, 2009 @ 6:23 pm

    Nile,

    Jesus and Mohammed were just lucky. They appeared at the right place, at the right time!

    Well, I almost agree with that statement. Eliminate Mohammed. And I wouldn’t call it “luck”, but Jesus was definitely in the right place at the right time…lol

  55. Nile the Jolly
    February 26th, 2009 @ 4:45 am

    mk you say: “Catholics do not interpret the creation of the world in a literal sense. Neither do any but the most conservative of Jews.”

    I know and that’s the point I’m criticizing any way.

    The contents of sacred texts are fully in accordance with the social and scientific understanding of their period. They are not intially written as symbolic texts. When Moses says 6 days, he means it. When he says Eve was created from Adam’s rib, he means it. You must take into consideration that these texts also include law. Do you see? The text is their system of law. There is nothing symbolic in it.

    It is only later, when these texts are no longer valid that people begin to interpret them symbolically. Koran belongs to the 7th century and therefore it is a much newer text. But as it is, muslims have also started to interpret it symbolically lately. Because, it too has grown out of date.

    I don’t say you cannot do this; I just wonder why we should regard the text as still divine when we know that it is obsolete and therefore needs to be interpreted acording to age.

    Give me any article and I will create you a divine story symbolically stated within that article.

  56. frustrated(mk)
    February 26th, 2009 @ 6:40 am

    Niles,

    The book of laws was written for a completely different reason.

    That would be like, 2000 years from now, reading Stephen King and the Constitution of the United States back to back and coming to the conclusion that both are factual because one is.

    Genesis was written to help us understand that there is a God, He has a relationship with us and He created us and everything in the world.

    Leviticus was written as a law book.

    Two different books altogether.

    I assume you are familiar with the Lord of the Rings. This is a work of fiction, that is meant to give us insight into good and evil. There is MUCH truth in the work, but it is not meant to be taken as historical fact.

    There are those today that would disagree. I think they actually believe in the Shire and that Hobbits exist. But of course we know they don’t. What we DO know is that evil exists, and good exists. That evil is perpetuated by mans choices. Do I really believe that Gandalf walked the earth? That Orcs lurk around every corner? NO! But I do believe in demons and I recognize that orcs are a representation of the same kind of evil that demons represent.

    Genesis is like the Lord of the Rings.
    Leviticus is like the Constitution of the United States.

  57. Richard Norris
    February 26th, 2009 @ 7:27 am

    Ok, maybe we can do this in a more simple yet direct way. Lily, MK, do you believe that God created life?

  58. Lily
    February 26th, 2009 @ 7:57 am

    yes

  59. frustrated(mk)
    February 26th, 2009 @ 9:26 am

    yes.

  60. Nile the Jolly
    February 26th, 2009 @ 11:20 am

    mk you say: “Genesis is like the Lord of the Rings. This is a work of fiction”

    Are you joking? That’s what atheists are saying! I’m sure for once, Lily will agree with me on this point. Genesis is God’s revelation to Moses. And any revelation has the implication that what is revealed is universal, (multiversal) and timeless – be it an explanation of the world or law of the society. To repeat, if the claim is that God said it, then it has to be universal and timeless. If it is not universal and timeless, then God did not say it.

    Since none of the sacred texts around seem to be universal and timeless, then either God is present but did not say anything or God does not exist at all.

  61. frustrated(mk)
    February 26th, 2009 @ 12:27 pm

    Or maybe, we are incapable of understanding even the first thing about God, so He told the story to us in a way that we could understand?

  62. Lily
    February 26th, 2009 @ 1:23 pm

    Nile, I do not agree that Genesis is God’s revelation to Moses. We aren’t told who the author is, although there is a tradition of ascribing early books to Moses which is no longer held by most Christians, as far as I know.

    What I am trying to tell you is that we understand that the Old Testament is first, and foremost, the Jews’ national epic. It is their history, their stories, their laws, their recollections, their record of how they understood themselves and their history, accurately retold or not. If there had been no Jesus (a hard thing to imagine, to be sure!), we would still enjoy it (or not) as a work of ancient literature, but those of us who are not Jews would, presumably, consider it a work much like the Epic of Gilgamesh, or the Illiad.

    Jesus guarantees that the Old Testament teaches us truthfully about God, that God’s laws are universal and that he cares for his creation. Beyond that, mk has spoken truly. We can no more understand the mind of God than a worm can understand us. However, God can and does communicate with us in ways we can understand. Ancient writers understood the message in ways appropriate to them.

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church says this about properly reading scripture and understanding the Old Testament:

    109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.

    110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.”
    ..

    121 The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked.

    122 Indeed, “the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men.” “Even though they contain matters imperfect and provisional,” the books of the Old Testament bear witness to the whole divine pedagogy of God’s saving love: these writings “are a storehouse of sublime teaching on God and of sound wisdom on human life, as well as a wonderful treasury of prayers; in them, too, the mystery of our salvation is present in a hidden way.”

    123 Christians venerate the Old Testament as true Word of God. The Church has always vigorously opposed the idea of rejecting the Old Testament under the pretext that the New has rendered it void (Marcionism) ..

    (footnotes left out to make reading easier)
    You can read more if you like at: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a3.htm )

  63. Nile the Jolly
    February 26th, 2009 @ 3:26 pm

    mk: “Or maybe, we are incapable of understanding even the first thing about God, so He told the story to us in a way that we could understand?”

    OK, then this means, we need a new revelation now, because what He said 4000 years ago seems nonsensical in the 21st century. He must convince 21st century minds.

  64. frustrated(mk)
    February 26th, 2009 @ 3:35 pm

    Nile,

    It only sounds nonsensical if you take it out of context…try to read just Genesis and understand the whole ball of wax.

    There is much truth in Genesis, to be sure. We get our understanding of what it is to be a man and a woman, what God’s plan is for the world, that He loves us, that He desires that we love Him back…that He has promised, through His covenant, never to abandon us.

    But you must also read the rest of the story, as Paul Harvey wold say. He DID update this version. It’s called the New Testament. And the teaching authority of the church.

    There really is nothing new in heaven or earth, and the basics really are enough. We’re still committing adultery, still lying, still sacrificing our children, still whorin’ around, still lying, cheating, stealing…there are no new sins, so there need be no new remedy.

    For us the story is linear. But for God it is timeless. His love and committment are the same today as they were 6,000 or 6 million years ago.

    If you mean He needs to make an appearance, well, I hold that He does. Fatima, Medjugorge, Faustina, Akita…these are all places where either He or His mother have made appearances in the last century. You want evidence, I know, but so did the Israelites with Moses, and the Romans and Jews in the time of Jesus.

    Can’t help you there. It is what it is. I forget who said it, but it is soooo true. For those who believe no evidence is needed, for those who don’t, no evidence is sufficient.

  65. Nile the Jolly
    February 26th, 2009 @ 3:50 pm

    Lily, first you say: “Nile, I do not agree that Genesis is God’s revelation to Moses. We aren’t told who the author is, although there is a tradition of ascribing early books to Moses which is no longer held by most Christians, as far as I know.”

    But this means I am misinformed about Christianity. I thought you worship both OT (Torah) and NT.

    But then you say: “Jesus guarantees that the Old Testament teaches us truthfully about God, that God’s laws are universal and that he cares for his creation”.

    If Jesus (God)guarantees this, then, as a believer, can you question the validity of OT? Can you say it’s fiction? Your statement is contradictory.

    Re 110, I know about language of religion. It does not have any effect on the content though. What has been said is there, poetic or not.

    And 122: “the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men.”

    This is pure lie. What the Jews prophecied was a redeemer who would stay loyal to OT. There was no reference to Jesus particularly; therefore Mohammed could also claim that the prophecy declared his coming. (If I’m not mistaken, this is implicated, not very openly stated in Koran.)

  66. Nile the Jolly
    February 26th, 2009 @ 3:53 pm

    mk “For those who believe no evidence is needed, for those who don’t, no evidence is sufficient.”

    Then don’t claim that your argumant is based on reason because belief without evidence is pure faith.

  67. Lily
    February 26th, 2009 @ 4:16 pm

    Well, yes Nile. I do think you are misinformed about Christianity. This is not a sin! But it is the reason we have been talking past each other for so long.

    You wrote: I thought you worship both OT (Torah) and NT.

    !!! We do not worship either the OT or the NT! That is bibliolatry. (Protestants come a bit close but they do not worship it either) The Church began, so to speak, the day Christ ascended into heaven. So it predates the codifying of the New Testament by 100 or more years. It is the Church that authorizes and interprets scripture with the help, as we believe, of the Holy Spirit, and by being faithful to the traditions that have been handed down from the beginning.

    But then you say: “Jesus guarantees that the Old Testament teaches us truthfully about God, that God’s laws are universal and that he cares for his creation”.

    If Jesus (God)guarantees this, then, as a believer, can you question the validity of OT? Can you say it’s fiction? Your statement is contradictory.

    The Old Testament is made up of poetry, stories, laws, court chronicles, history, and much more. It uses metaphors, symbols, similes and every other device of language. No one is expected to take every word literally. When Jesus said that the disciples were to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents, he did not expect them to grow wings or slither on their bellies. In fact story telling is a favorite rabbinic device and we see Jesus make use of it freely. He knows even better than we that stories *teach*. It is perfectly irrelevant that they are “fictional”. That is far more of a problem for some of us moderns, who equate “fictional” with “untrue” than it was for Jesus or his contemporaries.

    And 122: “the economy of the Old Testament was deliberately so oriented that it should prepare for and declare in prophecy the coming of Christ, redeemer of all men.”

    This is pure lie. What the Jews prophecied was a redeemer who would stay loyal to OT. There was no reference to Jesus particularly; therefore Mohammed could also claim that the prophecy declared his coming. (If I’m not mistaken, this is implicated, not very openly stated in Koran.)

    Well, that is it folks. Nile has spoken! We better sell all churches, disband and go home. :)

    The Jews were expecting a Messiah. They had expectations that were grounded in their hopes but not in what scripture told them explicitly. Of course, they thought he would be coming just to them. God had different ideas, although there were hints all over the OT that God would eventually gather all, Gentiles and Jews alike. But Jesus showed the disciples that the O.T. scriptures pointed to him and he proved his claims by his ministry, miracles, death and resurrection.

  68. frustrated(mk)
    February 26th, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

    Nile,

    That’s not necessarily so. We accept the theory of evolution based on reasoning, but ultimately, it comes down to accepting what evidence is available. We can’t really travel back in time and “talk” to a neanderthal, or watch a dinosaur. We can reason, through the evidence that IS available and draw reasonable conclusions. But for those that simply will not accept evolution, no evidence will suffice. For those that believe it, pretty much nothing will change their mind.

    It is a leap of faith, yes, but it was achieved through reasoning, no?

    I think you confuse reason with absolute proof.

  69. frustrated(mk)
    February 26th, 2009 @ 4:39 pm

    This is pure lie. What the Jews prophecied was a redeemer who would stay loyal to OT. There was no reference to Jesus particularly; therefore Mohammed could also claim that the prophecy declared his coming. (If I’m not mistaken, this is implicated, not very openly stated in Koran.)

    If this were true then there would be no Christians. It was Jews that recognized the Old Testament prophecies. It was Jews that accepted that Jesus was the promised Christ.

    Others did not, because it did not fit their preconceived version of the prophecies. The prophecies say the Christ will be a King. Many Jews assumed what was meant was a King like David. But His Kingdom was not of this world. Is He any less a King?

    Some recognized the Truth, some clung to old misconceptions. But it WAS Jews that believed. Christians were only Jews, that accepted that Jesus was the Messiah.

    Here is a link to the MANY prophecies that were fulfilled by Jesus…

  70. Nile the Jolly
    February 27th, 2009 @ 2:07 am

    mk: “God had different ideas”

    If you can read God’s ideas, I have no more to add.

  71. Nile the Jolly
    February 27th, 2009 @ 2:41 am

    mk Sorry about post 70. That was addressed to Lily.

    Lily: I used the word ‘worship’ mistakenly; I meant you take them as divine revelation and adhere to it. I surely did not think of a paganistic way of worshipping a book.

    I know that revelation continues through the Holy Spirit and Church and that’s even worse because:

    1. What the Church claimed authority as having access to divine knowledge turned out to be false. The church received wrong information all through the middle ages.
    2. If you declare that OT and NT are just tradition and need to be interpreted with knew ‘divine’knowledge, then this means the books are historical and not divine. So there is no meaning in taking them seriously, apart from being a part of the history of our culture.

    Then you say: “No one is expected to take every word literally. When Jesus said that the disciples were to be gentle as doves and wise as serpents, he did not expect them to grow wings or slither on their bellies.”

    But you are mistaken. This is not what I’m saying. In saying ‘the disciples are to be gentle as doves’ the ‘as’ shows us that this is a simili. But when OT explains Genesis, it is no simili or metaphor. It is a scientific explanation of the creation – like theoritical science of our day; like Big Bang; it is knowledge of the period, and yet it is called divine.

    And your statement: “God had different ideas, although there were hints all over the OT that God would eventually gather all, Gentiles and Jews alike. But Jesus showed the disciples that the O.T. scriptures pointed to him and he proved his claims by his ministry, miracles, death and resurrection.”

    I know that you said ‘God had different ideas’in the course of the conversation and I distorted that above.

    When you say ‘there were hints in the OT scriptures that God would eventually gather all Gentiles and Jews alike, this is again pure imagination which has not come true. Because God has still not been able to gather people under any divine revelation of His.

    And your statement: “Well, that is it folks. Nile has spoken! We better sell all churches, disband and go home.”

    Not only Nile!

  72. Lily
    February 27th, 2009 @ 8:47 am

    Nile: Perhaps, we can’ convey enough accurate information in a comment box to really counter the assumptions you have started out with. Perhaps, it would help if you could read at your leisure, some scholar or another, who understands the Bible as we do but can lay it out logically and fully, so that you can understand us better. Your assumptions demand a lot of explanation and it is hard to do that in a comments box. It is also strange that after all that has been said, you still say things to me like “I think I can read God’s ideas.” Well, no. I don’t have to be able to “read God’s ideas”. I can read what the Old Testament, taken as a whole, says. Beyond that, here are some questions responses to various comments:

    1. What wrong information did the Church receive all throughout the Middle Ages?

    2. The books of the Bible are historical, i.e. rooted in history at a particular place and time. Who do you think is in charge of history? They are divinely inspired and teach us truthfully about God.

    3. But when OT explains Genesis, it is no simili or metaphor. It is a scientific explanation of the creation – like theoritical science of our day; like Big Bang; it is knowledge of the period, and yet it is called divine.

    Nile– I think you are reflecting a Muslim understanding of the Koran. We do not think the Bible is divine in the way Muslims (so far as I understand the matter) think that the Koran is divine.

    Genesis is not a scientific account! Think about this a little. When did “science” as we understand it today, get its start? Did Iron Age peoples have the tools to “do” science? Did they have telescopes? Advanced mathematics with which to calculate the age of the earth? The distance between the earth, moon and stars?

    It makes no sense to call the account in Genesis “scientific”. It is an anachronism that misunderstands what is going on. Yes, I think that the author(s) of Genesis may have thought he was giving an “accurate” account but what does that mean? I don’t even think that much is certain. There is too much deliberate poetic shaping of the material going on. There are 4 words that occur in verse 2 of the first story that describe the earth: “unformed”, “void”, “darkness”, “deep” all words that are symbols of chaos and evil. So what does God do? He brings order out of it! His first act is to create light (which is always symbolically associated with good) and he separates it from darkness (always associated with evil).

    I could go through the whole story pointing out the poetic devices– the parallel structure of the two accounts or the refrains, e.g. “And God saw that it was good”; “and it was evening and it was morning”. This is not some naive retelling of ancient stories; it is quite deliberately shaped by an author who wants to convey something important. But whatever else it is, it is not science.

  73. Nile the Jolly
    February 27th, 2009 @ 11:11 am

    Lily:

    You ask: “What wrong information did the church receive?”

    That earth was the center of the universe.

    Then you say: “The books of the Bible are historical, i.e. rooted in history at a particular place and time. Who do you think is in charge of history? They are divinely inspired and teach us truthfully about God.”

    To know that they teach truthfully is pure faith.

    Re science, don’t you understand or do you wish to distort what I’m saying? Of course I know there was no science in the modern sense then. I am saying, Genesis is an explanation of the universe and you confirm that it is something important. When I say ‘like the modern theoritical sciences of today’, of course I don’t mean that they got their information through spaceships and computerized data. I am using the word science to mean ‘knowledge of the period’. What I meant would be obvious for anybody, but I don’t why you couldn’t get it.

    The explanation in Genesis is what was known to be true that very day – knowledge that slowly accumulated since Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. Knowledge went on accumulating, different sciences developed and parted from the general name philosophy and thus, through what has been discovered, today Genesis is simply WRONG.

    Then you say: “This is not some naive retelling of ancient stories”

    Here again, you contradict yourself. In post 62, you had said OT was Jew’s national ‘epic’.

  74. frustrated(mk)
    February 27th, 2009 @ 11:51 am

    Nile,

    You ask: “What wrong information did the church receive?”

    That earth was the center of the universe.

    The church never “recieved” this information. First it was accepted belief that the sun revolved around the earth. Then Galileo and some others began to think differently. Galileo was a Catholic, and remained one til his death. It was thanks to Catholic scientists that we now know that the earth is NOT the center of the universe.

    But regardless, this was a scientific discovery and not some revelation given by the Holy Spirit to the church…

  75. Lily
    February 27th, 2009 @ 12:13 pm

    Nile, you simply have to stop claiming that I am contradicting myself. Your failure to understand does not mean I am contradicting myself.

    Since I agree that Genesis is not a scientific account and that the Catholic Church does not think so either, I am baffled by your insistence that it is WRONG!!! So what? Have I not said that we do not believe that the Old Testament is an accurate scientific or historic account of the ancient world? Why do you keep insisting on the same irrelevant point over and over again, except that you believe that it somehow undermines the claims of Christianity?

    How on earth does my statement ““This is not some naive retelling of ancient stories.” contradict my claim that the OT is the Jews national “epic”. The two things support each other! There *was* nothing inadvertent or ignorant about the author’s use of the old stories. He is telling how the world came to be in order to get to the main point of how the Jews became a nation.

    I simply do not understand why it is so difficult for you to understand that an author who sits down to compose such an account chooses his words and the structure of his narrative carefully. The ancients were sophisticated story-tellers.

    Perhaps the Catechism can explain it better:

    106 God inspired the human authors of the sacred books. “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.” …

    III. THE HOLY SPIRIT, INTERPRETER OF SCRIPTURE

    109 In Sacred Scripture, God speaks to man in a human way. To interpret Scripture correctly, the reader must be attentive to what the human authors truly wanted to affirm, and to what God wanted to reveal to us by their words.

    110 In order to discover the sacred authors’ intention, the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking and narrating then current. “For the fact is that truth is differently presented and expressed in the various types of historical writing, in prophetical and poetical texts, and in other forms of literary expression.” (www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p1s1c2a3.htm#II )

  76. frustrated(mk)
    February 27th, 2009 @ 12:26 pm

    Nile,

    By “naive retelling” Lily means that the stories weren’t mindlessly be spit out…they were thoughtful. Just as the Lord of the Rings is not just a story. Each character, each piece of the plot, each symbol…was carefully chosen to convey an “underneath” story. To someone that is not Catholic, the elfin bread was just cool bread, but to a Catholic we know that it was the Eucharist. To a non-catholic, much of the LOT is just a great story, but to those “in the know” there is much more to it than appears.

    In the same way, whoever wrote Genesis, CHOSE, very carefully, what things went into the “story” so that people of the time would “get” the hidden meanings. It can be read by us now, but without an understanding of the time period, much would be lost. The serpent, the fig leaf, the “fruit”…each of these means something. They weren’t randomly chosen and they weren’t meant to be taken literally.

    The tree of life and the tree of knowledge are good examples. These are “ideas” that were understood at the time as the Kabbala and many ancient religions incorporated the tree of life into their faiths.

    It would be understood. Maybe not now. But back then.
    Even the number of days it took…numbers meant something to the Jewish people. Numerology was a way of life. To us, it’s a party game, but back then it would have been VERY significant…do you see?

    This is what I think Lily means by “historical”…that these stories were chosen due to the historical time period in which they were written.

    Today, we might rewrite Genesis using symbols of the 21st century. Maybe the snake would be a black cat, and the the “fruit” would be some other symbol that we would relate to in this day and age.

    Whoever wrote that book, wrote it for the people of that time, probably never thinking that 6,000 years later, people would still be reading it but not understand it’s symbols. Actually, all things considered, it’s a pretty universal story. I mean, we still think of light and dark as good and evil. Snakes still give a lot of us the creeps. Flaming swords still evoke a sense of power…

    When we speak of inspired, perhaps God knew that these images for the most part would withstand the test of time and that’s why he “put the ideas” into the authors head…

    The point tho, is that we don’t believe that Eve ate an actual piece of fruit, or that a snake approached her. Or that there is an actual tree somewhere surrounded by flaming swords…it’s all imagery. Meant to convey a deeper meaning for those that care to discern it…

  77. Nile the Jolly
    February 27th, 2009 @ 4:30 pm

    But you do contradict yourself Lily.

    1. Somewhere up, you said that Jesus says OT is true. Right? And Jesus is God. Then you say, we catholics think OT is fiction. Isn’t this contradiction?
    2. Epic is, in a way, a naive retelling of ancient stories. (poem with a legendary hero)They have similar meaning. In post 62, you say OT is epic, that is, it is a naive story; then you claim that ‘it is something deliberately shaped to convey something important.’ Isn’t this contradiction?

    mk “. It was thanks to Catholic scientists that we now know that the earth is NOT the center of the universe.”

    This is pure delusion.

    ” “To compose the sacred books, God chose certain men who, all the while he employed them in this task, made full use of their own faculties and powers so that, though he acted in them and by them, it was as true authors that they consigned to writing whatever he wanted written, and no more.” ”

    If you cannot comprehend the absurdity of this statement, I am helpless. Only a loony can claim to possess such knowledge about God. Through your comments, I just found out that Vatican has fooled people more than I thought was possible. No wonder they sold keys to the heaven in the middle ages. Nothing has changed so far.

    mk I know about layers of meaning. I wrote a master’s thesis on Kabbalah. They are all emotional outpour of the tortured minds of the mystics. Of course, they thought they had direct communication with the Holy Spirit, declared as Prophet Elijah not to irritate the institutional religious body. I mean, at least some of them sincerely thought they were having this communication. But actually, it was their emotion. Do you see? Religious experience is pure emotion. Because with all their grasp of reality, not one has brought any knowledge that science or philosophy has not discovered before. After the religious experience, these emotions, combined with the philosophy of the age, were put into writing and there comes the great interpretations of the scripture for the likes of you to believe and embrace as absolute reality. Check any interpretation, and you will see that whatever philosophy it implicates, belongs to the age it was written. If these interpretations had come from the Holy Spirit, then they would PRECEDE science and philosophy, not follow it.

    As it is, science leads the way, and The Holy Spirit follows it.

  78. Lily
    February 27th, 2009 @ 5:27 pm

    I don’t contradict myself, Nile. Despite the fact that we have demonstrated that you are misinformed about Christianity, you are still trying to make what we say fit your preconceived ideas. That’s ok. It just means that we won’t settle matters today.

    1. Somewhere up, you said that Jesus says OT is true. Right?

    No. I said that what Jesus says about the Law, the prophets foretelling his coming, what he says about the nature of God etc. is true. The Old Testament is full of wisdom and truth about God.

    Then you say, we catholics think OT is fiction. Isn’t this contradiction?

    No. We do not say that the Old Testament is fiction. We recognize that it *contains* fiction. It also contains poems, laws, ritual instructions, prophetic books, and a number of other genres that must be understood on their own terms. We recognize that the authors expected readers to recognize a story when they encountered one. David felt no need to announce “This is a song” each time he wrote one!

    2. Epic is, in a way, a naive retelling of ancient stories. (poem with a legendary hero)They have similar meaning. No. They don’t. I know of no epic that is naive. All the epics I know are quite sophisticated in their construction and quite deliberately shaped. Genesis is an amazing example of a book with a complex narrative structure that aims at telling the Jews about their origins and their early history.

    At the same time, my calling the Old Testament an “epic” is, from a literary standpoint, very wrong. Clearly, it can’t be one because it is not one narrative but a mix of books on different subjects with very different purposes. But I was trying to find a way to say that the Old Testament is the collection of books that make up the ancient Jews national heritage in a way that might make sense to you.

  79. frustrated(mk)
    February 27th, 2009 @ 7:28 pm

    Nile,

    mk “. It was thanks to Catholic scientists that we now know that the earth is NOT the center of the universe.”

    This is pure delusion.

    No, it’s not. Galileo, Cassini, and Copernicus were all Catholics…

  80. frustrated(mk)
    February 27th, 2009 @ 7:49 pm

    Nile,

    I’m confused. Why would the Holy Spirit speak through a mystic to tell us about gravity or seismology? It seems that mystics would be privy to info on spiritual matters.

    Also, I didn’t mean to imply that I adhere to Kabbalah, just that there were some “symbols” used in Genesis that would be recognized by Jewish mystics as containing things they understood…

    I don’t think true mystics were being led by emotion. I think some people are, but not true mystics. Not Padre Pio, John of the Cross…so many…God is not interested in whether or not we can pasteurize milk…He is interested in getting our butts into heaven, so it would seem silly for Him to speak through mystics on scientific matters. Wouldn’t it?

  81. Nile the Jolly
    February 28th, 2009 @ 5:17 am

    I am talking about theoretical science; ‘pasteurized milk’ is practical science and has nothing to do with our subject. Theoretical science explains the world and so do religions (genesis, for ex.) In that sense, they take up the same subject: explaining the universe.

    Now, these explanations are all considered to be true at their time. When a scientific explanation is refuted, it is considered obsolete and is replaced with the new one. This is within the nature of science. When the explanation of the religion is refuted, because the believers think it is divine and cannot accept the fact that it is refuted, they start giving symbolic meaning to the explanations – be him a mystic, a philosopher, a theologian, a religious institution or just plain believer.

    That’s all there is to it.

  82. Lily
    February 28th, 2009 @ 8:51 am

    Nile, This is just nonsense. Complete nonsense. You have not, nor has anyone else, refuted Christianity! You haven’t even begun to make a case and it cannot be done on the grounds that you are trying to use. I have already indicated to you the only grounds on which it can be done. You must demonstrate that there is no God– that he is logically inconceivable. Then you must demonstrate that the events of the New Testament are not true. Good luck with that. Many have tried, all have failed, except in their own minds.

  83. Nile the Jolly
    February 28th, 2009 @ 10:59 am

    Lily: ..And many have tried to prove that the events of the New Testament are true, but failed.

    The explanations I gave above were not for NT particulary; for NT, the situation is even worse: Your 4 books were chosen from some 24 (names are known) plus 67 bibles (names not known). The rest were put away, hid or destroyed as apocryphal. The lists are present in 19th century sources. They are being discovered lately.
    The conflicts and controversial character of these bibles are subjects of biblical criticism.

    It is your preference to believe without questioning, or accept that your reasoning is sufficient. However it seems obvious that you reject any biblical criticism as nonsense from the beginning. I know I cannot refute Christianity. I know I cannot refute any religion. Even John Hick has not been able to change any opinion of yours.

    Believers live with their truths, but the rest of the world believes otherwise. In a way you are atheists too. You accept one religion and reject all the rest like I do. As Dawkins said, and as was once mentioned here, I reject just one more religion.

  84. Lily
    February 28th, 2009 @ 2:43 pm

    Again, Nile, you refuse to see the obvious. Your line of reasoning isn’t nearly strong enough to be persuasive.

    I converted from atheism to Christianity in grad school. I have long known the counter arguments. When I examined those arguments in the light of my growing understanding of Christianity, I realized that I had been far too hasty in my simple dismissal of it.

    My area of expertise is the late classical and medieval period. I know the history of the transmission of the Bible, the scholarship around questions of provenance and authorship of the Gospels. I know what the other books are– most of them are easily found and can be read on the Internet. It isn’t impossible, but it is highly unlikely you can name a single book that I have not heard of. As for 67 bibles that you know existed but don’t know the names of, how on earth do you *know* them then?

    It is your preference to believe without questioning, or accept that your reasoning is sufficient.

    I am going to be blunt here. This is the height of arrogance. You haven’t listened to a word we have said because you are not open to the use of reason, yourself. You merely think that you are. We have shown you that a) you are misinformed about Christianity, b)you do not understand literature and are unfamiliar with or unable to understand that intelligent reading requires the reader to know what sort of literature he is dealing with. Genre *matters*, c. you don’t understand that to disagree with Hick is neither a sin against reason nor a sin against the Holy Spirit, d. educated people can and do disagree with you and that makes them neither stupid nor “unreasonable”.

    For you to accuse us of “blind faith” when we have repeatedly demonstrated that we have thought it all through shows me that you are not open to learning. That is fine, if that is what you want, but it does make further conversation impossible.

  85. Nile the Jolly
    February 28th, 2009 @ 3:47 pm

    Lily: I took the info on bibles from a reference mentioning Hacı Abdullah Petrici’s book “Risaletu’s-samsamiyye”. He is a 19th century Ottoman/Muslim critic of Christianity.

    Sorry, I checked and I saw I was mistaken. Here’s what “Risaletu’s – samsamiyye” is supposed to include: Names of 24 apocryphal bibles translated to English. These were taken from an English book written in 1820. For the other 67 apocryphal bibles, the names are listed, but they can’t find the books.(So, this was my mistake) The bibles are attributed to the early Christians and disciples; there are also letters, book of jobs and visions. Petrici states that (what my reference says) there is no certain knowledge about these bibles as to who wrote them and in which language they were written. From here, he makes a projection (I don’t know, may be in his book this projection is detailed) and says that the present bibles were chosen from these. He says that Christians are in conflict with each other on this subject.

    It is highly possible that this Ottoman critic had access to info on early Christians through East Anatolian sources. You, see some people there had actually kept these old bible versions.

    Petrici’s 5 books have been found lately as single copies. I think one is in Egypt; another one in the library of Istanbul University, among precious material.

    If I can find the names of the bibles on his list, I will post here.(My reference book does not include them)

    I gave this info, so that you know I’m not just creating stories. Sometimes I don’t remember the precise details of everything I have gone over; I just remember main ideas and converse on those.

    I had said, “even Hick could not make you change your opinion” meaning he is a christian theologian and surely more knowledgeable than myself beyond comparison. So if he can’t convince you, then nobody can.

    I understand that you’re another RT. Actually, it is more common that a theist turns an atheist; most atheists are born into theist families; but I see that sometimes it is possible the other way around – though deep in my heart, I believe that you (and RT also) were never atheists in the real sense, may be you were just non-religious; but you must have believed in a God from childhood.

    This way or that way, I liked conversing with you. Should I come up with new info on the bibles, I’ll post it here.

  86. Lily
    February 28th, 2009 @ 4:14 pm

    Nile, the thing that has me so frustrated is that you think that we don’t *know* what Hick argues (or others like him). You think that we don’t know that there are lots of early writings out there purporting to be gospels of Peter or Thomas or whomever. We do. We know it better than most do. We really do. Those of us who are academics or simply interested readers of biblical scholarship *know* these things. You aren’t telling us anything new (for the most part).

    “bible” means book. Bible is what we call the canon of scripture. If you tell me that there were 67 versions of the canon of scripture, I can tell you that you are wrong. There were no competing councils coming up with different lists of books to consider authoritative. If by bible you mean individual books written about Jesus that are not known in the west, I am very interested and I might well not know those texts.

    If you want to argue that they disprove what the Church has believed and taught for 2000 years, I say that you must produce this book (or) these books. However, I am really skeptical that the Orientalists and the experts in Near Eastern languages and literatures don’t know them. It takes a while, but scholarship does, eventually, trickle down.

    Wait! I just had an idea. Please look here and tell me if these are the books you have in mind: http://earlychristianwritings.com/

  87. Nile the Jolly
    March 1st, 2009 @ 1:43 am

    Here are the names of the 67 books: (I’m translating from Turkish)
    1. Andrea’s Jobs
    2. Books attributed to Andreas
    3. Bible of Andreas
    4. Bible attributed to Ayaliyin
    5. Bible of 12 Disciples
    6. Bible of Barnaba
    7. Letters of Bartolomeos
    8. Bible of Bartolomeos
    9. Bible of Korintos
    10. Discovery of Korintos
    11. Letter of Messiah to Petrus and Paulus
    12. Other Letters of Messiah
    13. A Letter of Messiah
    14. The poem that the Messiah taught to Disciples
    15. The Bible of Egyptians
    16. Jobs of Resuller (I couldn’t remember the English of this word; may mean prophets)
    17. The Bible of Ebiniyots
    18. The Bible of Enratitistin
    19. Bible of Havva
    20. Bible of Hebrews
    21. Hiltasitari’s Sifr (Again I can’t translate this)
    22. Ya’kub’ Sifr
    23. Yakub’s Esfar
    24. Yuhanna’s Jobs
    25. Yuhanna’s Sifr
    26. Bible of Yahuda (This is discoveed now)
    27. Bible of Yahuda Iskaryot
    28. Jobs of Resuller
    29. Jobs of Resuller
    30. Lentulus’ Esfar
    31. Jobs of Resuller
    32. Jobs of Resuller
    33. Bibles made famous by Lucianus
    34. Jobs of Resuller
    35. Matta’s Esfar
    36. Bible of Marcion
    37. Bible of Matiyas
    38. Dreams of Matiyas
    39. Matiys’ Sifr
    40. Bible of Nazarians
    41. Paulus and Thecle’s Jobs
    42. Jobs of Paulus
    43. Paulus and Petrus’ Speeches
    44. Paulus’ Sifr
    45. Paulus’ Discovery
    46. Bible of Perfection
    47. Jobs of Petrus
    48. Teachings of Petrus
    49. Bible of Petrus
    50. Good news of Petrus (I couldn’t remember the English word for good news)
    51. Commandments of Petrus
    52. Discovery of Petrus
    53. Petrus’ Efsar
    54. Jobs of Philip
    55. Bible of Philip
    56. Bible of Seccenius
    57. Jos of prophets that Seliyohos made famous
    58. Discovery of Estefanus
    59. Bible of Titus
    60. Bible of Sadius
    61. Simson’s Letter
    62. Thoma’s Jobs
    63. Bible of Thomas
    64. Discovery of Thomas
    65. Thoma’s Efsar
    66. Bible of Truth
    67. Bible of velnatyus.

    Under the list, there is a footnote: Most of these are mentioned in various sources. However there are more apocryphal bibles not mentioned here. The books that Petrici mentions might have taken place under different names in other sources.

  88. Louise
    March 1st, 2009 @ 7:39 am

    Just out of curiosity, when you became a Christian (and possibly a Catholic?) were you immediately filled with hate for the idea of gay sex, or is it percolating into your mind more slowly?

    I think it’s infused at baptism.

  89. Lily
    March 1st, 2009 @ 10:04 am

    Thanks for the information, Nile. I wish I knew what title has been given to them in English (it might not be the same one assigned by your writer, so that even though your translations sound accurate, they wouldn’t match the English title).

    Did you look at Early Christian Writings? (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/) If so, did any of them sound familiar? Also you might look at the related page http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/fathers/index.html which contains a bunch of Syriac manuscripts. I wonder if any of them sound familiar?

  90. Matthew in Fairfax
    March 1st, 2009 @ 10:42 am

    Nile, hope you don’t mind. I re-worked your list a little to reflect what I believe are the titles more commonly found in English.

    Most of these can be found in the link to Early Christian Writings that Lily provided above, or at gnosis.org/library.html, or Wikipedia’s ‘New Testament apocrypha’, otherwise Google will find them.

    The ones that I do not list I have not yet found.

    1. Acts of Andrew
    3. Gospel of Andrew
    6. Gospel of Barnabas
    7. Epistle of Bartholomew
    8. Gospel of Batholomew
    15. Gospel of the Egyptians
    16. possibly Acts of the Apostles (rasul can mean ‘prophet’ or ‘messenger’)
    17. Gospel of Ebionites
    20. Gospel of the Hebrews
    22. Epistle of James (if sifr is a cognate of sefer)
    23. Secret (esfar) Book of James
    24. Acts of John
    25. Epistles of John (such as 1 John, 2 John or 3 John)
    27. Gospel of Judas Iscariot
    33. possibly from the List of Works by Lucian
    36. Gospel of Mark
    37. Gospel of Matthew
    40. Gospel of Nazoreans
    41. Acts of Paul and Thecla
    42. Acts of Paul
    45. Apocalypse of Paul (Greek: apokalupsis, revelation)
    46. Gospel of Perfection
    48. Preaching of Peter
    49. Gospel of Peter
    50. possibly Kerygmata Petrou (‘good news’ could be ‘evangelism‘, but I cannot fine anything referred to as the Evangelicum of Peter)
    52. Apocalypse of Peter
    53. Epistles of Peter
    55. Gospel of Philip
    58. Revelation or Apocalypse of Stephen
    62. Acts of Thomas
    63. Gospel of Thomas (or possibly Book of Thomas the Contender)
    64. Apocalypse of Thomas
    66. Gospel of Truth
    67. Velantinus

  91. Nile the Jolly
    March 1st, 2009 @ 10:56 am

    Lily: I did look at them, but my knowledge is rather a phenomenological understanding of a wide variety of religions rather than the specific theological details of a certain religion, including Islam. (My knowledge of Islam is not as deep as your knowledge of Christianity)We had to go deeper into Christianity with you in the course of the conversation.

    However this year, I’m going back to school to take a few courses I have special interest in and one of them is Islam/Christian polemics. If anything new and interesting comes up, I’ll let you know.

  92. Nile the Jolly
    March 1st, 2009 @ 11:04 am

    Matthew: Thank you very much. My reference had also mentioned that most of these titles were found in other sources.

    Lily: But then, I have to ask: “Isn’t the presence of all these gospels enough to question how/why, by which means only four of them had been taken as true?”

  93. Lily
    March 1st, 2009 @ 5:05 pm

    No. I know how the Canon was formed. Many of the books you have cited are far too late in time to have been even considered. There were 4 tests applied to the books that were considered for inclusion:

    1. They had to have been associated with an apostle or someone in the community close to him.

    2. They had to teach true doctrine (remember that the Church came first and taught and passed on what Jesus and his Apostles preached.)

    3. The books had to have been used liturgically (read aloud in worship services)

    4.They had to be popular, e.g. they had to be widely known.

    There was 5th consideration but I am too lazy to look it up right now.

    Most of the books you have cited were written far too late to be considered authentic. They also do not teach true doctrine (most of them). They are not mentioned in the letters of the first and second generation of bishops who do refer constantly to the teachings of the apostles.

    The Didache was wildly popular, it taught true doctrine and was well known. I can’t remember, if it was ever used in the liturgy. But it was not selected because it was not associated in any way with an apostle.

    The Canon was agreed on at three different councils; a synod in Rome in 382; Hippo in 393, Carthage in 397. From the 5th century on, the books that have come down to us today are the books that were accepted then. Even so, the Canon was not declared officially to be the Canon until the Council of Trent (1546) and that was in response to the Reformers who had wanted to throw some of the books out (2nd Peter was one– I forget the others).

  94. PC
    March 3rd, 2009 @ 3:24 am

    Huh. Lily I think its kind of interesting how you are like “blah blah blah, I know this and that, I went to college, I am an academic so I’m not stupid and blah blah blah there’s no way you can trump me in bible knowledge” and then you call Nile arrogant. Huh. Does someone have something to prove? Afraid that atheists think christians are just a bunch of slack jawed cretans? Yeah, I remembered you said that cause you hit the hammer right on the nail. Tell me something, if christianity is so legitimate cause of its history then why aren’t all historians christians? You guys love to point out when scientists are christians but forget when anyone that knows the bible or knows its origins is non christian.

  95. frustrated (mk)
    March 5th, 2009 @ 9:56 am

    PC

    to point out when scientists are christians but forget when anyone that knows the bible or knows its origins is non christian.

    Huh? What does that even mean? Do you just skim the comments, find some totally irrelevant phrase, pull it out of context and go on a rampage???

    Have you actually been reading ANY of the discourse between Nile and Lily? Notice I said discourse? As in two people both speaking AND listening????

  96. Louise Russell
    April 15th, 2010 @ 8:37 am

    Unfortunately – all of you are thinking a bit too much. Just stop thinking. Stop analysing. Stop worrying. Stop the Fearing. What is the next thing you think about? Just do it. Try thinking about the next thing you are going to think about – worry about. You’ll find that it is very difficult to think about what you might think about in the next moment. Just enjoy the moment and the answers will come to you. The truths will come to you. None of you have found the TRUTH yet. None of you are doing what you should be doing and just living in the NOW

  97. Krystalle Hewitt
    October 11th, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

    I would like to comment on the blog of abortions. I feel like abortions is against what our father, the Almighty, God wants us to do in life and also I feel like it is highly against his ways of what he created for us. Abortions is a sin and to sin against God means that you are living your life for the undermine which would be the devil. Humans are a part of the Earth and also the physical spirit of God, so therefore I feel like if one is to have an abortion then that is sinning against God. In the book, An Introduction to Chrisitian Theology… it states that we basically sin because of the lack of content in life, so we seek more. I feel like for many people they start off sinning by having sex before wedlock which is also a sin and then surprisingly, the woman gets pregnant and does not know or want to deal with the baby. Abortion is an easy way out. In Genesis one and two, God wanted us to be fruitful and he also created this world to have sin and tough times. In the Bible, Abraham had to test himself in many ways that were difficult, but the Lord Saviour was always by his side. I feel like abortions goes against everything that God had intended. It is known that God may test us, but he would never give us anything that we could not handle. God is a good man, and he would always have our best interest. So, abortions is forsakingly the wrong thing to do in my eyes. If God did not want us to be fruitful in his creation then he would have created the Earth so that people would intended to have abortions and have stated differently that he, himself wanted abortions. God gives and takeths away life, but the breath of life that he breathed into man from dirt was a gift, so therefore breath and life is a gift from God, so why would one want to destroy the gift of life God has given to you???

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