What I choose to accept from Christianity

Recently, I was asked what I believe regarding Christianity. This question was a direct result of my previous post, “Did Jesus say love your enemies?” She also added: “I still serve God, but I get off track, but I try to stay on the straight and narrow. I know we have to lay down the flesh, but that’s hard. So if we have these things still in the flesh, which we can’t overcome, are we not going to heaven?”

This was my response:

Nothing, not even you, can keep you from your inheritance; you might delay it for some time, but it is always yours, and nothing or anyone can steal it from you. It’s what’s called an unalienable right, granted from your Creator. But even then, Einstein said time isn’t real; it’s a man-made concept, relevant only to this planet. There is no linear time in eternity that’s why Jesus said, “You’ll be with me today in paradise.” How can that be when He was in hell for three days and hanging out with the disciples for 40 days? So the idea of someone dying first and waiting for someone else to show up in Heaven is absurd. You’re already there.

A few months ago I posted a link to “Hope beyond hell” if you haven’t read that free download, please take the time. It’s loaded with scriptures convincing the reader that God is not just waiting for you to screw up so he can beat you over the head. I promise, you will feel that burden of condemnation lift off your shoulders, and you can love God and keep trying your best without feeling all the guilt, shame, and condemnation, which the church has implemented as a means of control.

It’s difficult to believe, but that garbage has been programmed into us for thousands of years as a means of coercing us into behaving as they see fit. Think about how programmed it is into our brains as you convince your children to do the right thing. Do we use rational reasoning with them or do we use simple manipulations? Listen to the words of this song as you consider it: “He’s making a list, checking it twice; he’s going to find out who’s naughty or nice. He sees you when your sleeping, he knows when you’re awake, he knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” It’s conditional love. If you act accordingly you’ll get presents.

I am fully convinced Europeans came here to escape the stranglehold of the church – not just Catholicism but the Reformers as well. Don’t let them fool you; they were just as murderous as the Catholics. Google “Calvin burned Servetus” sometime and read how this “great man of God,” who started the Calvinist movement, slow roasted Servetus alive. Both men were dissenters against the “only true church of God” but didn’t agree on everything, so naturally, one had to kill the other – the equivalent of a Baptist murdering a non-denominational believer, or vise-versa. Religious people willing to kill others for the simple crime of having differing beliefs about the founder of their religions, yet never willing to truly live by those beliefs is simply ludicrous to me.

So what do I believe? I believe much more than I can convey in this initial discourse, but here goes: If you read the first three Gospels with a discerning eye, you’ll find they are very similar. You’ll also discover they extensively contradict John’s gospel, as well as the Christianity Paul molded to fit his Jewish beliefs.

In those first three gospels, Jesus never answers the question “what must I do to be saved” with the typical “believe in me” answer found in John. We are to be striving for perfection as our Father in heaven is perfect (Matt 5:48), but we are not supposed to beat ourselves up over our failures either. We are primarily called to love and forgive people. I love how Jesus summed it all up by saying, “You can throw the entire Bible in the trash if you just love God and love people” (Matt 22:37, Mark 12:30, Luke 10:27, I’m paraphrasing of course) – ending his point with “there is no commandment greater than these.” (Note: this concept can NOT be found in the gospel of John)

So one can argue that we’re called to preach the gospel, but which is a greater testament to the teachings of Jesus: yelling condemnations through a bullhorn of how God hates fags, and they’re going to hell, or by forgiving and loving them?

Therefore, I believe a person ‘living in sin’ yet maintaining love and forgiveness towards their fellow humans is closer to Jesus than some self-righteous, God fearing, church going Christian, who never even cusses, yet harbors hate and un-forgivingness in his heart.

OK, this is why it is crucial for us to practice forgiveness, and why Jesus blatantly said God won’t forgive you, unless you forgive others – even going as far as implying in Matt 18 that we’ll pay for our sins, unless we forgive our brothers from our hearts. Wait, I thought the blood of Jesus was for that?

Read the prodigal son again, (Luke 15:11-32) as taught by Jesus himself, and ask yourself: “If this is an example of God and His feelings towards His wayward people, where’s the angry, jealous, murdering God, we are taught to incessantly fear, Who can’t even look at us until we pass through the blood of Jesus?” There’s none of it in this story. Let’s analyze it, with some paraphrasing:

Jesus continued: “There was a man who had two sons. The younger one said to his father, ‘Father, give me my share of the estate.’ So he divided his property between them.

“He set off for a distant country and squandered his wealth in wild living. After he had spent everything, there was a severe famine in that whole country, and he began to be in need. So he went and hired himself out to a citizen of that country, who sent him to his fields to feed pigs. He longed to fill his stomach with the pods that the pigs were eating, but no one gave him anything.

“When he came to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired men have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will set out and go back to my father and say to him: Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son; make me like one of your hired men.’ So he got up and went to his father.

(We make ourselves feel unworthy. It’s not the devil and certainly not an unconditionally loving God that manipulates our feelings. However, there is nothing we can do to stop us from being what we’ve always been – a child of God, as we shall soon discover in the rest of Jesus’ lesson.)

“But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

(The Father is filled with compassion for us, not rage or jealousy. And notice there was no need of a mediator to intercede between the son and the father.)

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’ So they began to celebrate.

(No groveling and no period of proving our worthiness, we are immediately brought back into our rightful position.)

“Meanwhile, as the older son came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’

“The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’

(There will always be that self-righteous hypocrite who thinks he is holier than tho. How does he know what his brother squandered his inheritance on? Sounds like projection to me. He’s projecting exactly what he knows he would do if he ever had the nerve to leave.)

“‘My son,’ the father said, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’”

How does the father handle it? Does he say, “Well, I love him, but I’ll sit here with my back to him, and I won’t forgive him until he bathes in the blood and begs for my forgiveness?” He actually rushes out to meet him, no rituals, no kneeling, no groveling; the Father immediately restores him to his original place of prestige. Would the church do that for you if you came back six months later?

Would you like to know how the church handled it in the first few centuries of the Christian era? You stayed outside the church, begging your Christian siblings to pray for God to forgive you – some stood outside the door uninvited for years. When you had finally paid your penance you could come in; however, you were not yet completely restored to grace. You, and all the other sinners, had a special place to sit for another undisclosed period of time. That way when the preacher mentioned your particular sin, we all knew right where to cast our condescending glances. What a great time to be a Christian.

Jesus states in Matthew 18:21-35:

Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?”

Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

“Therefore, the kingdom of heaven is like a king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. As he began the settlement, a man who owed him ten thousand talentswas brought to him. Since he was not able to pay, the master ordered that he and his wife and his children and all that he had be sold to repay the debt.

“The servant fell on his knees before him. ‘Be patient with me,’ he begged, ‘and I will pay back everything.’ The servant’s master took pity on him, canceled the debt and let him go.

“But when that servant went out, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii. He grabbed him and began to choke him. ‘Pay back what you owe me!’ he demanded.

“His fellow servant fell to his knees and begged him, ‘Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.’

“But he refused. Instead, he went off and had the man thrown into prison until he could pay the debt. When the other servants saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed and went and told their master everything that had happened.

“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed.

“This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”

(Note: It doesn’t say this is how the Father will treat you unless you are washed in the blood.)

So why are love and forgiveness so important in our spiritual practice? In psychology, it’s called projection. Jesus said, “Give and it will be given to you” – “judge others, and you will be judged with the same harshness” – “withhold forgiveness and it shall be withheld from you” – “forgive others and God will forgive you.” Now, it’s important for you to understand God is unconditional love, which means, “I love you, no matter what you do” and I assure you, Jesus never said, “if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments” or “God will love you if you love me” as interpolated six times at the end of the Gospel of John. Because this completely contradicts the theory of unconditional love that Jesus was teaching.

God is not like a little kid saying, “I won’t forgive you, until you forgive my spoiled brat child, so and so, your brother.” It’s our skewed perception that makes us think God acts this way – because we have projected all our humanness back on God. For example: God does not have jealousy issues.

It’s that we believe we are unworthy to accept God’s love and forgiveness – and that’s true, if we withhold it from our brothers and sisters. However, it’s always right there just waiting for us to accept it; and when we do offer forgiveness to our brothers we’ll find, curiously enough, that we do feel a little more worthy of receiving it.

The most beautiful release I ever experienced was when I put everyone I know on a stage with cords connecting them to me in my mind. Then, one by one, I spoke to each person, forgave them, and I cut the cord releasing them back to the Holy Spirit.
A refreshing experience I highly recommend. I hold no grievances, hate, or un-forgiveness towards anyone, and now I absolutely love all my fellow humans. I make mistakes all the time. That’s precisely why I’m constantly on the lookout for someone to love and forgive, that way when I mess up, I can actually feel God’s forgiveness flowing through my life like “pay it forward.” I don’t have to beg and plead; God forgives me as I forgive those who sin against me as Jesus taught us. It’s very, very simple.

One more note on projection: I can determine the kind of a God a person serves based on how they treat others. I also know exactly how they treat themselves as well. If they are always down on people, judging them and condemning them, I know they are very hard on themselves, and in constant fear of a time when their God is going to sneak up and catch them doing their secret sin. For no man knoweth the hour.

Think about how often you hear of a preacher adamantly attacking homosexuals, only to be caught in the very act he supposedly despised. People think what a hypocrite, or he was deflecting everyone’s attention from his sinful life, but the truth is its projection. They were fighting their own sins; they were just doing it on the wrong battlefield. If they had loved and forgave those homosexuals, they could’ve loved themselves through it as well. And then maybe they could’ve felt as though they served a more compassionate, understanding God. If that were the case, perhaps they might’ve felt comfortable enough to talk with God about their “sins” and asked Him for the strength to overcome them. But rather, they insisted the answer lied in attacking and abolishing the temptation.

My final thought:

We either pursue the teachings of Jesus or the teachings of Christianity.

Michael Blakeslee

Did Jesus really say love your enemies?

Did He mean it, or was it just another cliché religious people spew out? He also said why do you call me lord, but do not the things I have commanded you? (Luke 6:46) I believe it’s indicative of His intent for us to practice what He preached.

If Jesus really said, “Love your enemies,” why do I find posts by people who call him Lord, Lord to the effect of “All Muslims must die!”? Or the loving signs the Westboro Baptists hold up in their pickets, depicting God as a hater of His creation.

Aside from the fact that we are offering ‘evil for evil’ and disobeying Jesus’ direct orders, we are also incorporating several innocent people into our hate, people whose only crime was being born into a particular belief structure which differs from our own. They know nothing beyond the narrow, bigoted beliefs programmed into their brains by parents, priests, and politicians.

I’d like to ask that you consider: What was Jesus referring to when he said, “Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do what I say?” It’s pretty simple; it’s the finale to ‘The Beatitudes’ – arguably one of the greatest discourses ever delivered. Although I quoted it from Luke, for our exploration of ‘The Beatitudes,’ I’d like to direct your attention to the more comprehensive version found in the gospel of Mathew.

So what did Jesus say before capping it off with, ‘Don’t bother calling me Lord unless you’re willing to do as I say’? Did He say, “You must believe I am the son of God?” Did He say, “You must be washed in my blood?” What He said, prior to this proclamation, can be studied in Matthew’s chapters 5-7; and I implore you to do so. I’m only going to hit a few important topics, which need careful consideration:

5:3) Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (The absence of ego, pride, and arrogance – attitudes not found in heaven)

5:5) Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. (I know as Christians, we’re not interested in inheriting the earth, but it is our inheritance if we are meek. Do you suppose being meek means hating and killing people who are different from us?)

5:7) Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy. (Would you like to obtain mercy for your mistakes? It’s simple: Be merciful to others. Many times you see Jesus using this ‘give and it shall be given to you’ concept.)

5:8) Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (How shall we be entitled to see God – by the work of Calvary’s cross? Jesus says if your heart is pure, you will see God.)

5:9) Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. (Several people asked Jesus ‘what must I do to be saved?’ and His response was never ‘simple faith’ but to do something. What must we do to be called the children of God? Be a peacemaker. Are we promoting peace and acting like children of God, or are we perpetuating hate and violence?)

5:38-42) You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. (There is no provision made for killing our enemies.) Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. (‘Give to the one who asks’ makes no provision for “well, I know he’s only going to blow it on booze!”)

5:43-48) You have heard that it was said, (I love when Jesus says this. He may not have come to abolish the law, but He sure did a lot of upgrading.) ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven. (How can you become a Son of the Heavenly Father? By loving your enemies and praying for those who abuse you, that’s how. Again, neither a word about faith nor the blood atoning sacrifice.) If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your brothers, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (Our righteousness must exceed the pagans as well as the Pharisees.)

In 7:9-14 Jesus teaches us how to pray, and I would like to focus on the last part of this prayer:

Forgive our sins, as we forgive those who have sinned against us… For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (So, how do we obtain God’s forgiveness, by being washed in the blood? By forgiving others! And why will God withhold His forgiveness, because we have rejected His Son? Because we have not forgiven others! Jesus goes into great detail regarding this concept in Matt 18:21-35; ending it with, “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.”)

7:1) Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. (Again this concept of what goes around comes around, or better yet; what you put out there you will receive back – ‘Give, and it shall be given to you’ works for the negative as well as the positive.)

5:21-23) Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (And He just spelled out the ‘will of God’ for us in ‘The Beatitudes.’)

Paul said, “We are saved by grace, and not by works,” yet it appears as though Jesus may be contradicting Paul. Everything in ‘The Beatitudes’ seems to indicate a need for our participation.

Yes, I know how difficult it is to love someone who hates you; however, it is commanded of us; and you cannot circumvent a flood by pouring more water on it. We cannot overcome the hate in this world by offering it more hate. We must strive to find ways of acting like the peacemakers Jesus expected the children of God to be.

So we can offer all the opposing views we like, but the bottom line is this: We must ask ourselves two fundamental questions. Do we, or do we not, believe Jesus said these things, and if we do, then how can we work these virtues into our lives? I recommend we pray God give us the strength to be truly Christ like.

If we are supposed to love our enemies, why have we killed so many Muslims, ‘heretics,’ atheists, various ‘dissenting believers,’ scientists, and ‘witches’?

I feel I must end with an attempt to describe the beauty and joy that come from forgiveness. As Jesus said, “As you give you will receive. Forgive and be forgiven.” Isn’t that all we really want? You may say all we want is love; however, without forgiveness, we are incapable of experiencing love. First, we must experience the forgiveness for the things which hold our mind in bondage to guilt. It is this guilt, which repels love as we cry out, “I’m not worthy!”

And all that is required to experience this forgiveness is to offer it. It’s as simple as that. As you learn to hold yourself in a state of constant forgiveness, you’ll discover a new world awaits you. One of the first things you’ll find is an easiness of mind; a lessening of the burden of anger, hate, and stress, which our souls pay a heavy tax to shoulder. You’ll also discover people respond in like manner. No, not always, but you’ll find more people willing to hold the door for you – agreeable people yielding out of politeness to you – and most importantly, a general willingness to forgive you.

As a professional driver, I can attest that as I forgive motorist for cutting me off and whatnot, I find when I make a mistake and cut someone else off, by misjudging their distance or speed, they simply go around me; I hear no honking of horns, nor do I see any fingers out the window. The world truly is as we create it.

It is not my intention to neither trample the Cross nor profane the blood of Jesus. By all means continue in your belief and worship of these things. However, I do intend to stress my conviction that we may engulf ourselves in as much of His blood as we desire, but we may find it to no avail, if we do not practice the art of forgiveness as Jesus taught in the first three Gospels. And we stand the chance of hearing “Depart from Me; I never knew you” if we stubbornly refuse.

I will end with a quote from ‘A Course in Miracles,’ lesson 122 Forgiveness offers everything I want:

“What could you want forgiveness cannot give? Do you want peace? Forgiveness offers it. Do you want happiness, a quiet mind, a certainty of purpose, and a sense of worth and beauty that transcends the world? Do you want care and safety, and the warmth of sure protection always? Do you want a quietness that cannot be disturbed, a gentleness that never can be hurt, a deep, abiding comfort, and a rest so perfect it can never be upset? All this forgiveness offers you, and more.”

Michael Blakeslee

 

Heated Debate Between a Christian and Pantheist 3 of 3

Round three

Christian writes:

Hi Mike,

Wow, didn’t expect a book! I have responded to a few of your arguments below and have added a concluding statement at the end.

Here we go (your words are italicized) …

…like the description of the creation of the Universe; whoever wrote that description (and can we agree whoever it was, wasn’t there when the Earth was created?) truly believed that God created the sun and the stars on the 1st day and yet; we know many of the stars we see today have taken somewhere around 60,000 years for their light to reach us, and as I have pointed out elsewhere; it takes 200,000 years for particles to transfer from the center of the sun to the outer crust before they can start their 8 minute journey to Earth. Why, because God wants it that way, obviously. As I’m sure we both agree, God created all that there is and ordained the way in which they operate; as well as the universal laws with which they operate within – like gravity. These laws never alter just like our God; so, no I do not believe Joshua made the sun stand still as the sun is always standing still, and the Earth spins at 1000 MPH. Had the Earth come to a dead stand still; everyone would have been flung off.

David: This is all assumption on your part. You have no proof! And why can’t God who created all this not work the miracle regarding Joshua and the “sun standing still.” You don’t trust that this is accurate history but at the same time, you cannot disprove it either.

If this information was as important as modern Christianity tries to make it out to be when science makes these remarkable discoveries; then why didn’t Adam pass it along? He lived 900 years and yet we only have a few early years of his life accounted for. He walked with God, he was the smartest man on the planet, probably for thousands of years after his death and yet he left no, NO words of wisdom for his protégée. I believe he was alive during Noah’s grandfather’s days. One would think granddad would have some interesting stories to tell around the campfire. They didn’t have TV; “So, let me tell you a story” was a very famous line back then. Never is there any account of someone having an issue or needing advice of them ever seeking the council of Adam. I would’ve been like, “Dude you should go talk to Adam; he walked with God and is like the Einstein of our day.”

David: Did they even have any methods of writing in Adam’s days? Maybe provide some information about the history of the “written word” before making this argument. It is commonly understood that Moses wrote the first five books of the Old Testament. If God was so precise as to law out all the law, the order of sacrifices, the building of the tabernacle and the like, could he not have spoken to Moses about the history of man up to that date? You again only assume it was all recorded by “passing around tales” but where is your proof?

This is why God always made references to the Earth’s flatness and making statements like “the four corners of the Earth” to these uneducated peoples.

David: This is not necessarily a reference that the world is flat. Why is this such an issue to you anyways? What has the belief that the world was flat, round or even a triangle got anything to do with God’s eternal plan for mankind?

Having said all this: Has God fulfilled his promise and multiplied those chosen people as the stars of heaven? Sure if you only count the ones we can see from a flat Earth mentality in a remote corner of the world; but God said “as the stars of heaven”. Obviously the author of this statement was unaware how many stars there truly are. And there is that lovely concept of enemies in there as well.

David: You are really grasping at straws here and making arguments that are completely irrelevant. I take the references to the “stars” and “sand” simply to mean that from Abraham’s loins would come a people so numerous, they could not be counted. It is a figure of speech and not the gospel.

This is why I love Buddhism so much; it is one of the few which truly addresses the issues of the ego, and points out that it is misplaced desire that is at the root of all suffering.

David: I haven’t read the Book of Buddha (or whatever it is called) but I remember discovering the book in one of our hotel rooms on a Gig/David roller coaster trip. I chucked it down the hall but Gig retrieved it and said he was going to read it. His summary was that it was a essentially a book of how to live right with moral standards and all of that but with no real eternal purpose. While the Bible also teaches moral standards and how we should conduct our relationship with God as well as eachother, it is evidenced all throughout the Bible that we are unable to do this on our own. However, after Christ’s resurrection, we can experience a changed heart and life through the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:28-29] This is a great scripture and I absolutely agree with it; I love how it indicates our oneness with Jesus – that’s great. However, there is absolutely no need for the author to add in this clinging desperation to be associated to Jewish promises. Jesus fulfilled the law; we have oneness in Christ, that gives us all power in Heaven and on Earth; and that’s all that is required – attaching to an outdated lower promise is like adding a candle to the power of the sun.

David: The “man” Jesus came from the lineage of Abraham. So if we are born again in Christ, we are also “spiritually” Abraham’s offspring. What is your argument here?

And as far as (I never meant to incur that the Jews were special or extraordinary but rather that they were the vessel if you will, by which the Messiah would come, not too mention by which the oracles of God would be recorded and preserved as well.) didn’t Jesus in John 3:8 (the gospel which most scholars discredit) say; “all who came before Me were thieves and robbers.”? Who is he talking about? Is he referring to the previous prophets of Israel?

David: I don’t know. Who is he speaking about? You tell me.

(2 King 22:8 & 2 Chronicles 34:14-24) is where you can find my allegation against the high priest Hilkiah of just simply writing whatever he wanted and claiming “Oh, look what I found just lying around the temple”; as well as the story of taking it to the ‘prophetess’ Huldah for confirmation from God of its authenticity.

David: Maybe you’re reading a different version of the Bible, but I see where it says “he found,” not “he wrote.” What are you talking about?

I remembered all of it including Ezra and the whole deal with him having the assistance of 40 scribes and the completion of it in 40 days. So, when I could find scriptures relating to all but Ezra; I became quite boggled. What has been allowed into our Bible of today only says the Babylonians destroyed the temple and all the artifacts within; so according to this it can only be speculation; as it doesn’t flat out say the book was destroyed. I did some searching (actually a lot of searching) and I found that there are other books attributed to Ezra but they were voted out of the cannon at some point; one in particular called 2 Esdra. This book has all the details about the burning of the book and Ezra believing he was inspired by God to rewrite it; as well as the 40 scribes helping in 40 days. The part that really amazes me is: I still feel as though I had read about Ezra rewriting the book back when I was an ardent studier of scripture; and I know I never heard of these other books by Ezra until last night. I wonder if I had read them in a previous life.

David: As you say yourself, “it can only be speculation” which is where most of your arguments are based on – pure speculation and assumption.

In regards to your reference to the book by Mr. McDowell; I took the liberty of looking at some of the reviews on Amazon. You might be surprised at what I found:

David: Why don’t you just read it for yourself instead of relying on a few opinions, of which I might point out that you know nothing about the persons writing them nor their background or ultimate motives.

Atonement means at one with God. The church is the bride of Christ; correct? We know what happens when two people get married; the two shall become as one. Try this: put 2 candles together; can you distinguish one flame from the other? That’s what it’s like with God; we came from Him – we are one with Him – and we will return to our Oneness. He is the Alpha and the Omega. What does that mean? To me, it means a circle; and in a circle you cannot distinguish where it begins or where it ends. Almost kind of cryptic; one might think our God talks a bit Eastern, like what you would find in the Book of the Tao. To me it means; you came from God and you will end up right back where you started. What part of the circle represents eternal separation from He who is called the Beginning & the End?

David: Oh I see… you’re making up your own religion. Just like so many others have in the past…

Yes, Jesus was an actual historical person. I put my faith in Him; I thank Him for many things throughout my day. Yes, he probably was crucified. Rising from the dead is not an old Jewish fable; it belongs to the Christians, silly. I believe He rose from the dead just as much as I believe all the other countless deities did as well.

David: Where is the historical proof of all the other “countless deities” rising from the dead? There were over 500 witnesses to Jesus resurrection.

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In summary, I’m glad to hear that you have a faith in Jesus, at least I think you do. You believe a lot of other strange things however, but then again, I have some strange beliefs that are not necessarily Biblically based but more assumptions just as you do. For example, I believe in aliens (from outer space). You and I have discussed this. I believe there might have been inhabitants on the Earth prior to man being created or placed here in Genesis. I do not believe God is retained by time but can step into anyone’s life at any given time. For example, he could step into your life from birth to death and then step into Napoleon Bonaparte’s life even though Napoleon preceded you.

That being said, I do believe that I am a sinner and that nothing I do in and of myself can save me or bring me into fellowship with God the Father. I do believe God sent His Son, Jesus, who was essentially God in flesh, to live a sinless life and become the ultimate and final spotless sacrifice for our sins and that this is a free gif from God. However, as with any gift, one has to accept it and put it to use. I do not believe a person can have a true relationship with God by any other means than through Jesus Christ, whether that be a religion, works or simply being a good person.

You said: “I believe the primary goals Jesus was attempting to get across were,” and then quoted Matt 5:48, Luke 10:27 and Matt 6:14 which are all great scriptures but are based on works, don’t you think?

For me, the essence of salvation can be summed up in what is commonly referred to as the “Roman Road.”

God Is The Creator Of Life

Romans 1:20-21: “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. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”
Why We Need Salvation – The Fact Of Our Sin

Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”
Man’s Inability

Romans 3:10: “As it is written: There is no one righteous, not even one.”

The Penalty Of Sin

Romans 6:23a: “For the wages of sin is death.”

God’s Plan Of Salvation

Romans 5:8: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

God’s Promise Of Eternal Life

Romans 6:23: “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Man’s Responsibility

Romans 10:9-10: “That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your hear that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved.”

Romans 10:13: “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Results Of Salvation

Romans 8:1: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”

Romans 5:1: “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Of course, I am using the Bible to demonstrate what I believe we need to be in right standing or fellowship with God, a book you seem to want to discredit, so not sure you buy into this theology anymore.

You said yourself that at some point that “maybe you read to much,” which is not a bad thing in and of itself. But what are you reading? What we take into our minds will certainly shape us, for good or bad, in the same way that the food we eat will help determine our health (or lack thereof). For example, if all we ever eat is fast food, we’ll be of very poor health as fast food provides little nutrition. It tastes good and satisfies our appetite at the time but studies have shown that it is not good for us.

I leave you with one simple scripture:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? – Jeremiah 17:9

Some of the things you believe and your iconoclast mindset as of late leads me to wonder if you are really guarding your heart from deceit as you seem to have a lot of assumptions about things that have long been established. Maybe it would be good for you to join some “apologetic” types of forums and debate there. In the end, those studied in apologetics are much more qualified than I to debate you.

A final note: we should possibly leave these types of debates for face-to-face discussions, which I’d love to have, rather than these lengthy email discourses as I struggle to find the time to respond to them, as I know you do as well, we both being busy people. 😉

David

 

Pantheist reply:

The beauty of all religious debates is that neither side can prove their rightness. Yes, I agree; God can do as he pleases, but I just don’t believe God intervenes in those outrageous ways; especially when you consider the circumstances of why God did it. Did God hold the sun in place so more people could get saved – did He do it so the doctor could heal more sick people? No, it was to help Joshua and his righteous men have more daylight in order to kill more people. I refuse to entertain this outlandish thought. My God wouldn’t assist the Jews at being more effectual killers anymore than He would assist Christians or Muslims attempt religious genocide.

Outlandish, God stops the spinning of the Earth as well as the orbit of the moon just so more people could get slaughtered. Wow! Listen Dave, like all inspired writings, there are many wonderful and enlightening passages in the Bible; however, like all other inspired writing which contain lies on God, there are things which should be omitted. My God would never assist anyone in genocide – ever. I am sorry that you and the Jews serve this kind of God; but I will stand here and proclaim; any place in any inspired writing where God justifies the murder of another human being is an outright lie – someone’s ego misrepresenting God.

No, they didn’t have writing; in fact most historians claim they didn’t have writing when Moses wrote his books either. I was implying, one would think there would be more than one story passed down about Adam.

If you only knew what a major deal it was a few hundred years ago to call the Earth round you would understand my indignation. I’m sure you have heard about it, but you have no idea how many great men were imprisoned and murdered to keep this truth from escaping to the populace. Why, because it would’ve cast doubt upon the infallibility of the Bible. Back then your simple belief in aliens would have cost you your life; as it contradicted the Bible’s proclamation of the Earth being the center of the Universe, and as David said in Psalms, the sun and all the stars travel from one end of the Earth to the other. You really should read some of the history books I have in my footnotes when you get to the chapter on ‘our church history’; it will blow your mind. And I might also add that most of these history books are written by Christian historians not atheists looking to slam the church. When you discover the enormous amount of atrocities committed by the very men we trust to put the Bible together; you will also doubt their credibility in keeping it pure and intact. (I am quite pleased that you believe in aliens, as it means you are open minded enough to consider some concepts which are laid out in my book.)

They were extremists then, as they are today; they were constantly proclaiming, all we ever needed to know, God has put in His book; so if something like this were to get out, the clergy would loose their power. And as a friend of mine once said, “You either believe the entire Bible or none of it.” Unfortunately, when I bring such things as I do to light, most people assume that I intend to discredit the entire Bible; but that is not my intention. I want people to at least consider that some of it may be askew. All these scriptures that condone murder in the name of God, for example, have caused the incessant murdering of millions upon millions from most of the world’s major religions. We must not allow these kinds of incredulous beliefs to continue any longer; we have the power to destroy the Earth now.

This is how I view all inspired writing: Whatever is true, noble, and in complete alignment with the God I serve is what I apply to my life. Whatever is in direct contradiction to the God I serve, I disregard. I don’t ignore scriptures that say my favorite sin is wrong just so I can continue a life of lasciviousness; I ignore scriptures like the ones that make killing in God’s name justifiable. I also, like you – who read a book about the devil’s philosophy from Hawaii and found some value in it and then applied it to your life; or like the new age book about your subconscious that made a huge impact in your life – I study other philosophies and apply the same exact principle to their writings as well.

God is absolute truth, and if I find something in Buddhism, for example, which cannot be seen in any other light than as absolute truth; I apply it to my life. If I find something in there which contradicts absolute truth I disregard it.

My goal is not to dissuade you are anyone else from their religion of choice. You found beneficial substance in two things outside your contemporary beliefs and you applied them to your life in a way that has enhanced your walk with God; and amazingly, you have not been led astray by the devil. My point is this: All people of all faiths should learn to be more open-minded; they can find a plethora of value in other religions while maintaining whatever faith they so desire to have. Then my next goal would be: In finding out how beautiful other religions are in their own rite; perhaps people will stop feeling the incessant need to prove their religion is better than another and hence we can put away the primitive need to kill for our religions.

Voltaire said: “As long as people believe in absurdities they will continue to commit atrocities.”

“All murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

Between religion and philosophy; I choose philosophy. Between a hunger for knowledge and a blind faith satisfied with vicarious salvation; I choose hunger… Enigmatic Tzu

It should be apparent, I am quite familiar with Christian doctrine, especially in regards to the mortal danger I place my soul in by making such heretical assumptions. You know how Christians get to the end of a debate like this with an atheist and they cap it off with the statement “If you’re right, then I’ll go into oblivion, but what if I’m right; you’ll go to hell.” I have a far better understanding of this concept than any atheist; so wouldn’t it be much smarter for me to just shut up and conform? In light of the dangers I place my mortal soul in; what would consume me to continue to swim against the current? What could possibly be a reasonable explanation to such a precarious dilemma?

A) The devil has infiltrated my mind to an unimaginable degree

B) God has given me over to a reprobate mind

C) I’m the anti-Christ or

D) I know too much to turn back now, and of rational mind, I have discovered a religion, so to speak, above all Earthly forms of religion.

It’s like the innocent victims of the Spanish Inquisition for the crime of seeking a closer walk with Jesus. They so strongly believed they were doing the right thing; they firmly stood their ground through torture and even faced death bravely. They withstood the threat and commencement of one death; I stand defiantly in the face of an eternal death. Why?

Because my God must be of a higher moral character than me – He must be more unconditionally loving to His children than I am to my own children – He must possess more mercy, kindness, and acceptance of the most wayward sinner than I possess – otherwise He’s not a God worthy of my devotion; that’s why. If I could never give up on my children and cast them from my presence then My God could never ever do such a thing for all eternity. Look at the description of Heaven in Revelation; the saints all praising God while they can see the smoke rise up past of the eternally damned. Could you enjoy eternity if you were able to see your children in a place of everlasting damnation? It sounds preposterous.

I understand, many people would run uncontrollably wild without the fear of an impending future judgment and possible punishment, so I know why this mentality was established; but it’s sure a primitive way of controlling people, and obviously, it hasn’t fulfilled its purpose.

We treat others the way we treat ourselves, and we treat ourselves as we think our God treats us. So if you think your God is overly critical and judgmental of you; then you will be overly critical and judgmental of others. This is why I jump at any opportunity to forgive; because I am among the lowest order of sinners, and I want my God to be quick to forgive me. Give and it shall be given to you. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God. This is my goal, and I’ll be damned if Jesus wasn’t right; in the words of Mother Theresa, I see God in all His various and distressing disguises. And what of the opposite, those who are always seeing an enemy in others, they do not see God in all His creation otherwise they would recognize their brothers in all other forms of religion.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your religion, or any other for that matter; as I was telling a kid yesterday; if going to church helps you get closer to God, then by all means go, there’s nothing evil in that – but, I added, the moment you start thinking I’m better than that sinner out there, or brother so and so because he only comes to church once a week; get out immediately, you’ve lost your propose. And no concept has been more detrimental to human welfare, or left more carnage in its wake then the religious concept of being separate and different from others.

I don’t know if you know what a Pantheist is; but it’s a person who believes God is in the entire Universe. You don’t know this yet, but I’m fairly certain you are a Pantheist; allow me to ask you a few questions to deduce this theory – I will take the liberty of assuming your answers. If my assumptions are incorrect, please correct me.

Do you believe God is infinite? Yes

Do agree the definition of infinite is: without boundaries and without limitations or subject to no limitation or external determination? Yes

Do you believe: if a person claims God is not in a rock, he has just placed boundaries and limitations on God; making Him finite? Yes

Therefore it is limiting to assume God is not in every portion of His creation. Which is why Jesus said shut my disciples up and these rocks will burst into cheers. Jesus knew what Pantheist freely admit, which is what you have always believed, but didn’t realize until this very moment; that God resides in all His creation. Hence, if this be the case then God is not sitting on some lonely thrown in some far away fairytale kingdom; He is here in all of us – even those who are not considered God’s chosen people. By the way, I should have mentioned this sooner, but I do believe the Jews are God’s chosen people; but so are the Navajos – Americans – Chinese – Hindus – sun worshipers – Aztecs – Vikings – Satan worshipers – Nazis – and anyone else who happens to be created by God – including aliens.

I hope this has been as enjoyable for you as it has for me.

Michael

Heated Debate Between a Christian and Pantheist 2 of 3

Round two

Christian writes:

Mike,

With regards to your statement: “someone has to be better than someone else in order to be saved or what have you.”

that is not what I’m referring to when I point out that Israel is God’s chosen nation/people. What I actually mean or believe this implies goes back to God’s promise to Abraham which is as follows:

“Now the Lord had said to Abram: Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” [Gen. 12:1-3]

“I will surely bless you, and I will surely multiply your offspring as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore. And your offspring shall possess the gate of hisenemies, and in your offspring shall all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice.”  [Genesis 22:17-18]

God chose Abraham, who is the father of Israel, to bring about the Messiah and eventually make salvation available to all peoples (both Jews and Gentiles).

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 28-29]

I never meant to incur that the Jews were special or extraordinary but rather that they were the vessel if you will, by which the Messiah would come, not too mention by which the oracles of God would be recorded and preserved as well.

The same is true of Mary, mother of Jesus, who is worshipped by Catholics worldwide but was merely a chosen vessel. Nothing special there – except for the fact that she was used by God in His sovereign plan. It doesn’t make her any better than anyone else, as is the case with the Jews. But she was selected for a purpose just as the nation of Israel was.

Regarding your statement in reference to the first five books of the Old Testament:

Let us examine where this scripture comes from; the same place that we find that the Universe was created in 6 days, right – the book of the law – the book of Moses – the Pentateuch – the Torah? Isn’t this the same book, which once it was finished it was placed in the holiest of holiest places, behind a veil and in an ark – an ark where God continually sat, and only one man once a year was allowed in there?

was it not the Ten Commandments that was placed there? In fact the Ark of the Covenant contained Aaron’s Rod (almond wood that had budded ),the stone tables with the 10 Commandments (Deuteronomy 31:26), and a golden pot that contained manna bread. I cannot recall anywhere in scripture where it says the book of the law – the book of Moses – the Pentateuch – the Torah was place in there. So your argument that the law was “hidden’ and only accessible to one man – the High Priest is unfounded. In fact, all through the first five books, there are instances where Moses is reading the law or teaching the people God’s laws, instructing them to follow the law and to serve the Lord God.

You seem to assume that the Books of the Old Testament, at least the first five of which you made reference to, were somehow lost and then recreated from memory or maybe even made up. Am I mis-understanding you here? But in all reality, how many people, over the history of the printed Bible that we know today, tried to completely destroy it? No one has been able to accomplish that task, have they? Do you not think that God is sovereign enough to have his Word, whether its the law, the prophecies, the poetry, the history or even what makes up the New Testament, preserved and protected to this day? Even when Elijah thought he was the only one left that served the Lord, God said to him, “… still have 7,000 people in Israel whose knees have not knelt to worship Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” [I Kings 19:18]. God has always had a remnant and I believe his Word has always been preserved.

It is a huge book but you should read “Evidence That Demands a Verdict” by Josh McDowell as it explores the authenticity of scripture as God’s word as well as Jesus as a historic person and one who did rise from the dead. In fact, I’m shocked in all the studying that we did in the early days of our salvation, you have never read this book (at least that is what you said at out last lunch).

With regards to this statement:

Now, I know you are very familiar with the captivity of Babylon and I’m fairly certain you are aware of what those people, who believed they were acting on behalf of their benevolent God, did to the Holy word. They burned it. I am also certain that you are well aware that Ezra affirms we are to have no fear as he and 40 scribes rewrote it in 40 days. (I love those mystical numbers)

do you have a scriptural reference to this claim? Or did you just read this in an Eastern philosophy book? Sorry, being a bit sarcastic there. 😉 In all seriousness, it has been a while since I’ve read the sections that cover the Babylonian captivity but I’m pretty sure there was a “remnant” left behind. Not all went to Babylon, did they? Correct me if I’m wrong. So you “assume” that whatever scriptures that the Jews had in their possession at that point were completely destroyed but where’s the proof of that?

I could go on and on but really I want to understand a few things about where my good friend, whom came to faith in Jesus about the same time I did, in whom I went through struggles and experienced growth with (leaving Maryvale, adapting to new church, etc.), currently stands in his belief system.

So, if you don’t mind, please indulge me in the following questions.

1. You said, “No, my dear friend, I do not trust it,” in reference to our modern Bible. This leads me to ask you if you still believe that Jesus Christ was an actual historical person, who was born of a virgin, crucified on a cross in the Roman’s custom of putting the condemned to death, and then rose from the dead. Or is that merely an old Jewish fable?

2. If you do believe the above about Jesus Christ, do you believe that He is the only way to the Father God? If not, is He one of many ways or is the way to the Father God obtained in some other fashion.

David

Pantheist reply:

Dave, first of all allow me to make the argument that “history is written by those who won.” It is interesting that you are using Jewish history as a basis for promoting their selective view points. As I stated earlier; everyone makes the same claims, including the Muslims. However, we chose not to believe the Muslims, but the Jews. What if I was to say; I can prove the Germans are God’s chosen people by simply quoting a few excerpts from Hitler’s auto-biography?

See here again, in your opening lines, we have someone’s interpretation of what they think God said. I’m sure God said something, but like the description of the creation of the Universe; whoever wrote that description (and can we agree whoever it was, wasn’t there when the Earth was created?) truly believed that God created the sun and the stars on the 1st day and yet; we know many of the stars we see today have taken somewhere around 60,000 years for their light to reach us, and as I have pointed out elsewhere; it takes 200,000 years for particles to transfer from the center of the sun to the outer crust before they can start their 8 minute journey to Earth. Why, because God wants it that way, obviously. As I’m sure we both agree, God created all that there is and ordained the way in which they operate; as well as the universal laws with which they operate within – like gravity. These laws never alter just like our God; so, no I do not believe Joshua made the sun stand still as the sun is always standing still, and the Earth spins at 1000 MPH. Had the Earth come to a dead stand still; everyone would have been flung off. That’s probably how the Native Americans got here.

If this information was as important as modern Christianity tries to make it out to be when science makes these remarkable discoveries; then why didn’t Adam pass it along? He lived 900 years and yet we only have a few early years of his life accounted for. He walked with God, he was the smartest man on the planet, probably for thousands of years after his death and yet he left no, NO words of wisdom for his protégée. I believe he was alive during Noah’s grandfather’s days. One would think granddad would have some interesting stories to tell around the campfire. They didn’t have TV; “So, let me tell you a story” was a very famous line back then. Never is there any account of someone having an issue or needing advice of them ever seeking the council of Adam. I would’ve been like, “Dude you should go talk to Adam; he walked with God and is like the Einstein of our day.”

These primitive, limited conscious beings gave us an account of what they believed God was trying to tell them, but like Bob, (you remember the revelations God was giving him before he took his life) sometimes our ego gets in the way; not to mention our limited understanding of the world around us. This limited understanding is still the case today; science has to always be ready to make adjustments to their theories as new information continues to be revealed to us. This is why God always made references to the Earth’s flatness and making statements like “the four corners of the Earth” to these uneducated peoples.

Why, because the Earth certainly looked flat to them and if God had said anything to the contrary of their senses – which was a primary mode of living in those days as the School of Alexandria hadn’t yet manifested – they would’ve accused Him of being the devil. Either God lied to them, they misunderstood Him or (and this is my belief on many of these misunderstandings) God had to drop down to their level of understanding. I believe God is constantly trying to meet us on a higher level of understanding, but unfortunately, many of His people are still clinging to an outdated, primitive understanding and are unwilling to be open-minded to reevaluating their beliefs based upon new discoveries. The primary people, these days, who are open to hear these new revelations are Quantum Physicists.

Having said all this: Has God fulfilled his promise and multiplied those chosen people as the stars of heaven? Sure if you only count the ones we can see from a flat Earth mentality in a remote corner of the world; but God said “as the stars of heaven”. Obviously the author of this statement was unaware how many stars there truly are. And there is that lovely concept of enemies in there as well. Why has it always been about wars, enemies, and those others? Here again is the ego.

Did you know the ego ceases to exist when it no longer perceives an enemy out there? Today we have evolved a bit and instead of an enemy per se; we see people we must compete with, as in economics. Someone else might get the stuff my ego is longing for; and this creates strife and contention. This is why I love Buddhism so much; it is one of the few which truly addresses the issues of the ego, and points out that it is misplaced desire that is at the root of all suffering.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise. [Galatians 3:28-29] This is a great scripture and I absolutely agree with it; I love how it indicates our oneness with Jesus – that’s great. However, there is absolutely no need for the author to add in this clinging desperation to be associated to Jewish promises. Jesus fulfilled the law; we have oneness in Christ, that gives us all power in Heaven and on Earth; and that’s all that is required – attaching to an outdated lower promise is like adding a candle to the power of the sun.

And unfortunately, for every great scripture like this, which is all inclusive there are probably at least twice those amounts which encourage exclusiveness. Like this scripture, I believe God is all inclusive; and any, ANY religion that preaches exclusiveness and separation of peoples from one another, especially as viewed as enemies, is not a faith validated by God. You know as well as I do; people can always find a scripture to justify any behavior.

And as far as (I never meant to incur that the Jews were special or extraordinary but rather that they were the vessel if you will, by which the Messiah would come, not too mention by which the oracles of God would be recorded and preserved as well.) didn’t Jesus in John 3:8 (the gospel which most scholars discredit) say; “all who came before Me were thieves and robbers.”? Who is he talking about? Is he referring to the previous prophets of Israel?

Dave, please re-verify the ancient scriptures: This is what Deut 31:26 King James says “Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee.” I always love these lovingly statements too; “a witness against you.” Man, the God of olden times was so pissed! Why couldn’t it be said “as a reminder to do right” or “just in case you forget, you can always reread the highlights”? No, it’s going to be a witness against you; as in a witness in a court of law judging you as a bad person.

( 2 Kings 22:8 & Chronicles 34:14-24) is where you can find ‘my allegation’ against the high priest Hilkiah of just simply writing whatever he wanted and claiming “Oh, look what I found just lying around the temple”; as well as the story of taking it to the ‘prophetess’ Huldah for confirmation from God of its authenticity.

Now, I have submitted scriptures to all my claims but the one in regards to Ezra. The interesting thing is that as I was reading the (non-Eastern ha-ha) book about these issues; every single point rang clear in my head, and I remembered reading them in scripture years ago. (I’m sure you are aware, I had read the entire Bible several times back in our glory days) The only thing was, back then I wasn’t reading it with a critical eye, but what we like to call ‘blind faith’; but I remember bells and whistles going off in the back of my head when they took the book to a ‘woman’ for authenticity affirmation.

I remembered all of it including Ezra and the whole deal with him having the assistance of 40 scribes and the completion of it in 40 days. So, when I could find scriptures relating to all but Ezra; I became quite boggled. What has been allowed into our Bible of today only says the Babylonians destroyed the temple and all the artifacts within; so according to this it can only be speculation; as it doesn’t flat out say the book was destroyed. I did some searching (actually a lot of searching) and I found that there are other books attributed to Ezra but they were voted out of the cannon at some point; one in particular called 2 Esdra. This book has all the details about the burning of the book and Ezra believing he was inspired by God to rewrite it; as well as the 40 scribes helping in 40 days. The part that really amazes me is: I still feel as though I had read about Ezra rewriting the book back when I was an ardent studier of scripture; and I know I never heard of these other books by Ezra until last night. I wonder if I had read them in a previous life.

In regards to your reference to the book by Mr. McDowell; I took the liberty of looking at some of the reviews on Amazon. You might be surprised at what I found:

1) McDowell’s book changed my life. Upon reading it 17 years ago, I lost my faith in Christianity. Up until then, I had a strong confidence in Christianity, for I believed that Christianity had strong evidence in favor of it. I purchased McDowell’s book in the hope that it would help me to become better educated and more articulate in my presentation of this evidence.

But when I read the book carefully I was shocked. For the first time I became aware of how weak and illogical the arguments in favor of Christian faith really were. What I had always been told were iron-clad arguments turned out to be, on close inspection, empty sophistry. Especially revealing were all the Old Testament prophecies that McDowell claimed were fulfilled by Jesus. If I recall correctly, McDowell listed about 70 or 80 of these. But when I saw how unpersuasive the vast majority of these really were, I saw the foundation of my faith crumble.

I realized that if this was the best evidence Christianity had to offer, my faith in Christianity was merely arbitrary, with little to offer to compel one intellectually to believe in it.

Christians often claim that they have powerful evidence on their side. If you are interested in seeing just how empty this claim really is, read McDowell’s book…

 

2) As a skeptic looking for valid reasons to reconsider Christianity, I was really looking for some good information. I’ve already educated myself with works on Biblical scholarship and archeology. Needless to say I was disappointed with what is offered in this book. McDowell states that Moses wrote the first five books of the Bible as if it were accepted fact–which it is not–and doesn’t offer any evidence to the contrary. All the archeological evidence is pre-1970 and there have been significant discoveries in the last 30 years!

There is nothing in here that made me reconsider my position on the reliability of the contradicting Gospels, or that Jesus was a man and not a god.

Needless to say, this book turned me even farther away from considering Christianity as a religion…

 

3) Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict is probably the most influential book of Christian apologetics to be published in the past half century. And it is irredeemably flawed in every respect from beginning to end. Let’s just list some of its major flaws.

Irrelevancies: McDowell repeatedly refers to the New Testament documents as eyewitness accounts. By contrast, the scholarly consensus among most historians and non-evangelical Christians is that of the 27 books of the New Testament, we know the authorship of exactly 7, all by Paul.

Other non-sequiturs and logical errors: McDowell argues that miracles are more probable because quantum physics and relativity have upset Newtonian physics. Rubbish. He tries to suggest that the burden of proof lies on those who deny miracles or doubt the inerrancy on the bible when, of course, it lies on him. His discussion of C. S. Lewis’ Trilemma shows the same flaw Lewis’ did: it is not clear that Jesus claimed he was God, the Gospels do. Since they were written decades after his death they cannot be taken to be eyewitness accounts. Moreover, outside of John, the last Gospel, the claims are ambiguous and McDowell misinterprets the evidence he does have (see problem 3). McDowell does not discuss the fact that Paul’s epistles, our earliest writings, do not mention the Virgin Birth, a Physical Resurrection, an Early Tomb, or a prophecy of destroyed Jerusalem. One could go on, but I only have a thousand words.

 

Dave in order for you to even remotely grasp this concept, you must loosen the iron grip which the Bible holds upon your mind just a little. I believe it was ex-pastor Mangasarian who said “If Christians would scrutinize their own faith with the same critical eye as they do other religions; they would be able to see where their own is lacking”. I promise you, you will not get brainwashed and the devil will not move into your open mind. But unless you lay aside your hard fast stance or your armor of defense for a moment; it will be very difficult to see the discussion from another perspective. After you have taken a look at the other side of the debate, you can always pick back up your armor and resume your hard fast stance; but I would hope that you take back with you a little open-minded opinion of other aspects of life.

And please don’t call this new age propaganda; first of all this line of thinking goes back at least to the 1800’s, secondly, Averroism, which is the idea that everyone is one with each other and one with God can be traced back to the 12th century when it first infiltrated Europe. The Franciscan monks even adopted it, but the Dominican monks (soon to become the Inquisition) squashed it along with all other forms of independent thinking. What you and I were both never made aware of: is these kinds of questions have been asked throughout the 2000 year reign of Christianity; however, it’s only been in the last 5% of that time in which people have had the freedom to ask questions without the church burning their works along with the author himself. That’s why, to say the least, the evidence of their ‘heretical questions’ is scarce and hard to find.

Atonement means at one with God. The church is the bride of Christ; correct? We know what happens when two people get married; the two shall become as one. Try this: put 2 candles together; can you distinguish one flame from the other? That’s what it’s like with God; we came from Him – we are one with Him – and we will return to our Oneness. He is the Alpha and the Omega. What does that mean? To me, it means a circle; and in a circle you cannot distinguish where it begins or where it ends. Almost kind of cryptic; one might think our God talks a bit Eastern, like what you would find in the Book of the Tao. To me it means; you came from God and you will end up right back where you started. What part of the circle represents eternal separation from He who is called the Beginning & the End?

OK, now let’s get a little more controversial: Please find for me the scripture in Mark which validates the virgin birth. Oh you’re kidding me; the first gospel ever committed to parchment fails to mention one of the major cornerstones which indisputably proves its religion is the only true religion. Curious, wouldn’t you agree? And please don’t tell me, he forgot; it’s one of the key questions you just asked me. Your questions didn’t focus on the debate if Jesus was from Galilee, Bethlehem, or Nazarene; which is an excellent question in itself. This gospel was written before the church fathers realized how difficult it is to proselyte pagans who already served a deity who had been born of a virgin on Dec 25th and who had risen from the dead as a way of ushering in rebirth during Spring. So to answer your question; yes, I believe Jesus was born of a virgin. I also believe the following deities were also born of a virgin; why, because they all possess the same proof. I provide the following documentation of virgin born deities from a book written by a Christian pastor named Michael Dowd:

Alcmene, virgin mother of Heracles

Amphictione, virgin mother of Plato

Anahita, virgin mother of Mithra (born on Dec 25th)

Antiope, virgin mother of Amphion and Zethus

Athena, virgin mother of Erichthnonius

Atia, virgin mother of Augustus

Ceres, virgin mother of Proserpina

Chimalman, virgin mother of Kukulcan

Danae, virgin mother of Perseus

Devaki, virgin mother of Krishna (born on Dec 25th)

Ishtar, virgin mother of Tammuz (born on Dec 25th)

Isis, virgin mother of Horus (born on Dec 25th)

Juno, virgin mother of Mars

Maia, virgin mother of Hermes

Maya, virgin mother of Buddha

Mut-em-ua, virgin mother of Pharaoh Amenophis III

Myrrha, virgin mother of Adonis

Nama (Nana), virgin mother of Attis

Net (Neit, Neith), virgin mother of Ra

Olympias, virgin mother of Alexander the Great

Persephone, virgin mother of Dionysus (born on Dec 25th)

Rhea Silvia, virgin mother of Romulus and Remus

Semele, virgin mother of Bacchus

Shin-Moo, virgin mother of Somonocodom

Xochiquetzal, virgin mother of Quetzalcoatl

Please refrain yourself from using the argument that the devil, knowing the future purpose of Jesus, established these other false deities in order that he might confuse us. I will accept your quoting Jewish history in order to prove their rightness, because you cannot prove it else wise; but I cannot stomach the regurgitations of propagandists the likes of Justin Martyr. There is nothing in scripture which can directly facilitate this argument, so please dig a bit deeper. Besides, we give the devil entirely too much credit. If there were such a creature, who after spending an eternity in the presence of the Almighty, says to himself, it would be profitable for me to rebel against the Almighty; this creature, my friend, would be amongst the most ignorant and foolish creatures of all. Even cockroaches have the presence of mind to scatter when a human turns on the lights.

See, back in the days when the early church fathers invented and added this folly to the wisdom of God, they didn’t possess the foresight nor the reasoning power of mind to see any further down the path than the need to instill fear into the hearts of the ignorant and superstitious – and why did the leaders need this fear – because this was the only way their primitive minds could fathom keeping law and order over so many lawless and perverse peoples. It was a dark, dark time in our history. These early church fathers would’ve made horrible chess players though. However, it’s only been in relatively recent times in which we have exposed the insubstantial nature of their fables; so I guess one could say they were pretty good magicians or better puts – excellent charlatans for their times.

I know this is difficult, Dave, but trust me; it’s not nearly as terrifying as it seems. There are so many compelling arguments, it’s hard to overlook; and albeit, it is the same path which has led many to atheism, that’s not the ultimate purpose. I know it also sounds fearfully like a license for lasciviousness, but dare to question the flip side of the coin if you will. You and I have talked with several people who preach “saved by grace” as an excuse to continue a life of sin. I believe it’s this misunderstanding of atonement which is at the root of perdition. As Philippians 2:12 says “work out your own salvation”; I believe we are called to work at becoming better and better, like evolution. But then you might say “we’re not saved by works” well then make up God’s mind please.

Yes, Jesus was an actual historical person. I put my faith in Him; I thank Him for many things throughout my day. Yes, he probably was crucified. Rising from the dead is not an old Jewish fable; it belongs to the Christians, silly. I believe He rose from the dead just as much as I believe all the other countless deities did as well.

Now when we say Jesus said “I am the way to the Father” we have to remember that was only mentioned in the one gospel, which is so different from the other three. If it was such an important part of salvation; why wasn’t it mentioned in the other three? Also, what of the men who asked Jesus “what must I do to be saved?” He gave them a completely different path: to one He said “Go sell all that you have and give it to the poor.” We know according to scripture that he probably didn’t do it; but who’s to say he didn’t later change his mind and do as Jesus commanded him. Then when someone may have come to him saying Jesus is the only way to God; he would argue with them according to the very words Jesus had spoken to him.

To another He says, “Pick up your cross and follow Me.” and this is exactly what I believe is meant by “I am the way”; follow my example. It’s not about vicarious salvation – that has only led more people to think I don’t have to do anything to be saved. And by God, I believe all these lukewarm believers are a direct result of this preposterous adulteration of what Jesus was trying to accomplish. I believe the primary goals Jesus was attempting to get across were:

  • Matt 5:48 “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect”; which incidentally cannot be found in the odd gospel of John. “Well, I can glance over that scripture because I am saved by grace!”
  • Luke 10:27 “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” again; found in the three gospels but missing from the one that makes the claim that you cannot come to God but through Jesus.
  • Matt 6:14 “If you forgive the failures of others, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” again, not found in John’s Gospel

God bless, Dave, if all people everywhere could apply these principles to their lives – whether they believe in Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or the Lone Ranger – what a wonderful world this could be! But as long as ignorant, selfish, stupid, biased, and wicked men keep telling their loyal subjects that “God told me we need to kill others because their beliefs differ from ours”; then I’m afraid we will never see the return of Christ. Watch the movie “The Land of Blood and Honey” and ask yourself; “Two millenniums since Jesus said ‘Verily I say unto you, there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.’ Matt 16:28 and wonder; wouldn’t this religious genocide have been a great time for Him to come back and put an end to all this incessant murdering?” (Probably not, since it was His people committing these heinous and unimaginable crimes.) And also ask yourself, “Who are those people He was saying are still alive today?”

Michael