Sunday, June 22, 2014

Arminianism’s Scriptural and Philosophical Problems - Part 2

In Search of a Coherent Narrative


Part 2: Arminianism’s Scriptural and Philosophical Problems
Part 7: A Systematic Understanding of Universalism 

Photo by Darren Tunnicliff

Previously I discussed what an Arminian narrative or paradigm generally looked like. Ultimately, it emphasizes the concept of Freewill and denies the hand of God in ultimately choosing whom to save. God’s choice is a response to man’s choice.

Even though I do consider Arminianism still workable and honourable in many aspects, I still find it uncompelling concerning its ability to explain the scriptural revelation given to us by God. It also struggles to explain Biblical concepts in a philosophically coherent manner. In this next section, I will firstly take scripture as an example, and then cover some of the philosophical difficulties that Arminianism has with dealing with these scriptures. Many aspects of scripture come against the Arminian idea of Freewill and suggest that God through our surroundings determines who we are and what choices we make. The Bible contains many, many scriptures pertaining to God predestining and determining people’s lives. Aspects of our lives being determined can be a frightening concept, but is an idea that will be further addressed throughout this series.

For the mean time, here are some examples in the Bible suggesting that at least some parts of our lives are determined:


  • Psalm 139:16 “Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them.”
  • Proverbs 16:4 “The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.” 
  • Proverbs 16:9 “The heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps.” 
  • Proverbs 16:33 “The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the LORD.” 
  • Proverbs 20:24 “A man’s steps are from the LORD; how then can man understand his way?” 
  • Proverbs 21:1-3 “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord, Like the rivers of water; He turns it wherever He wishes.” 
  • Proverbs 22:6 “Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” 
  • John 6:44 “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day.” 
  • Acts 4:28 “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” 
  • Acts 13:48 “And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.”
  • Romans 9:11 “Yet, before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad—in order that God’s purpose in election might stand: not by works but by him who calls” 
  • Romans 8: 29-30 “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.” 
  • Romans 9: 14 – 24 “What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. For Scripture says to Pharaoh: “I raised you up for this very purpose, that I might display my power in you and that my name might be proclaimed in all the earth.” Therefore God has mercy on whom he wants to have mercy, and he hardens whom he wants to harden. One of you will say to me: “Then why does God still blame us? For who is able to resist his will?” But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ ” Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use? What if God, although choosing to show his wrath and make his power known, bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction? What if he did this to make the riches of his glory known to the objects of his mercy, whom he prepared in advance for glory— even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles?” 
  • Romans 12:3 “For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.” 
  • Ephesians 1:4-5, 11 “For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will” 
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:13 “But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth.” 
  • Revelation 17:8 “The inhabitants of the earth whose names have not been written in the book of life from the creation of the world will be astonished when they see the beast, because it once was, now is not, and yet will come.” 

In Romans 8:29-30 and Ephesians 1:11 the Greek word for “predestine” is “proorizó”, which according to Strong’s concordance means “I foreordain, predetermine or mark out before-hand”. In verses like these, God gives a strong impression that He decides an outcome beforehand and makes it happen. Could it be that our destiny is decided before we have any say in the matter?

Not only does the Bible talk about predestination, but it also talks about God giving a measure of faith to people (Romans 12:3). However, strangely, in many other places God seems to attribute us the responsibility of generating faith, but as already mentioned, Romans suggests that our faith actually comes from God.

Proverbs is often clear about the outcomes of our plans actually being determined by God, even people’s hearts! Proverbs 22:6 says to “train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” It suggests that our surroundings (parents, in this instance) have a heavy influence on who we become. Conclusively, scripture expresses ideas that suggest that our wills are not as free as some would suppose.


Foreknowledge


Faced with these verses that threaten Freewill, Arminians sometimes try to get around the idea of predestination by attributing His choice of individuals to His foreknowledge, as found in the five points of Arminianism mentioned in the last section. Romans 8:29 is a key verse that provides us with a concept of foreknowledge along with predestination. If God merely knew beforehand (rather than predestined) who would choose to be saved and who would choose not to be, then this seems to enable our Freewill. That is, God supposedly predestines people’s salvation after His foreknowledge of their choice of outcome. However, there still seems to be several difficulties with placing foreknowledge before predestination in this manner, which will be my focus in the remainder of this section.

Arminian concept of God’s foreknowledge attempts to provide us with an ability to choose God before He chooses us. Yet, concerning this explanation, it falls apart when looked at more closely. Let me explain. I see that comprehensibly God can know the future by three possible ways:


  1. God foreknows the future because He is outside of time as we know it. God could view reality like a video and zip back and forward as He wills. Alternatively, He could see all time periods at once. Either way, from His perspective, the future is as if it has already happened.
  2. God set creation in motion like a wound up clock and can predict what will happen by observing everything according to a cause and effect (domino effect) scenario. Thus, God determines man’s “Freewill” through cause and effect.
  3. The future is predictable not because of cause and effect but because God creates and plans (in the present) every aspect, and does as He wishes. Thus, man’s will would be determined by God’s active involvement in the present moment.

The last two views violate Arminian Freewill because God would be the one who is micro managing processes and outcomes, even our wills. Arminians could go with the first explanation in order to keep man’s Freewill at the same time as God foreknowing who would be saved. The problem with this view is the emphasis on the future tense of “will be” or “would choose”. Arminianists say that God foreknows who would choose Him or who will choose Him, implying that the future has not happened yet. However, if God already knows the future, then surely it must have already happened, at least from His perspective. Otherwise, how could He know it? If that is true, then all of time must be knowledge to God – not foreknowledge.

In addition, if everything has already happened in the future, how then can God be involved within that future? If He did enter that timeline and intervened somehow, then the future must not yet have happened. However, if we accept that God can know the future without it already having happened, then we immediately enter one of the other two options mentioned earlier, where God creates or handles the very outcome of the future – ideas which go against the very grain of Arminianist thought.

Some people try to get around the idea of God being a deterministic sovereign Being, by saying that He does not know the future - the future is unpredictable. The future therefore is open to “possibilities”. This is called Open Theism. Arminianists could adopt this idea in order to “free up” Freewill as well as keeping God’s “choosing” abilities. However, I do not believe Open Theism is scriptural at all. The Bible is quite clear about God’s ability to know, predict or create the future. God’s predestining according to foreknowledge as expressed in Romans 8 would not be consistent in an Open Theist narrative, because He would have no knowledge of the future. The future is open to “possibilities” and cannot be foreknown.

Lastly, one could say that the people whom God chooses to be saved are not chosen on an individual basis but more on a hypothetical collective level. My question regarding this is where does God’s foreknowledge come into this perspective? If God had foreknowledge of the future people group who would choose Him, then surely He must have had foreknowledge of the individuals who would make up that people group that He predestined. Thus thinking of predestination as a hypothetical group of people does not answer how the people within that group actually become a part of that group, and in my opinion does not provide a leg for Freewill ideas to stand on (Romans 8:29).


Arminianism Freewill not only tries to 'free up' our choices, but ultimately tries to attribute the existence of evil to man. However, if God foreknows the future as well as allows man the freedom to choose good or evil, it still leaves God with the responsibility of allowing evil to happen. James 4:17 states that even the act of choosing not to do good and thus allowing evil to happen, is a form of sin. This implies that if God is able to change the future and does not do so, then He is ultimately responsible for everything that happens.



This then leads to questions that we can ask of God as to why He actively allowed evil to happen, especially when He had foreknowledge of it. If God knows who will be saved and who will not be, then why bother creating people in the first place who will suffer eternity without Him? Does their existence simply suggest that God values Freewill, by providing an example of evil that the rest are saved from? These questions lead to concepts that some Calvinists have, such as God directly creating people for heaven and for hell. However, Arminianist thought opposes these ideas, because it would mean that God chose to create a situation for evil to exist (even though they still say that He had foreknowledge that evil would definitely exist). Thus, foreknowledge does not truly get God “off the hook” when it comes to creating evil - God actively allows evil to happen, especially because He foresaw it.



In conclusion, the Arminian concept of Freewill does not have a monopoly on scriptural verses that point towards it. Many contradict it, in fact. In addition, the concept of God’s foreknowledge enabling man’s Freewill does not actually work. It fails on multiple levels, such as failing to attribute the author of sin to us, failing to provide a way for God to choose us after we chose Him and therefore failing to provide an answer as to how humankind chooses redemption or not.

NEXT...
    

140 comments:

  1. As we've discussed privately before Dan, I also like how the Hebrew concept of 'knowledge' impacts on our perception of 'foreknowledge'. Knowledge is more than mere 'ideas' or 'predictions', and includes a definite intimate acquaintance by experience. To me this definitely excludes an Open Theism concept of foreknowledge and a solely collective concept of foreknowledge. It makes predestination a lot more personal and relational. God fore-KNEW his people before the creation of the world...

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  2. Yes great point. The same word that was used for "knowing" good and evil in Genesis 3:22 is used when Adam "knew" Eve in Genesis 4:1. Clearly it means soooo much more than to just have knowledge about someone or something. Even the Greek word "ginóskó" (which is the root word of "foreknowledge" in Romans 8:29) means to experience in a personal way. Mary used it when she said to the angel that she had "known" no man before.

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  3. Concerning free will; what can the free will do?
    Can it make me a son of God?
    Can my free will give me eternal life?
    Can my free will give me health, wealth and happiness?

    I think that the will of a man is not totally free.
    Man's will is under the power of it's master.
    If Satan is the master over a man, he must carry out the will of his master.
    If sin is his master, he will sin.
    If the Lord Jesus is the master over a man, he will do the will of the Lord.

    Perhaps more personal; If I am the master over a man, he surely will do my will regardless whether he thinks he has a free will or not.

    I think that a man's will is hold captive in Satan's kingdom to do his will (2 Tim.2:26) till the Lord Jesus will set him free.

    Concerning the future; the Lord Jesus does not have a crystal bowl to look into the future, that is because the future has not yet happen.
    The Lord Jesus knows the future in advance because He is going to make it happen just as He has planed.

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  4. Arminians always say that God does not override our free will.
    What loving father would not override the will of his sons?
    If my little sons swim in shark invested waters, I surely will take them out of those waters regardless whether they think they have a free will or not.
    And what do you think that I will do if they say, 'we have a free will and we will swim in those waters and there is nothing you can do' ?
    How much more will the Lord do to those He loves?

    A man who thinks that he has a free will is guilty of his sins, and a man who knows that his will is not free throws himself upon the mercies of God.


    Ephesians 1:4-5, 11"For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will… In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will."

    This passage is a good explanation of predestination.
    Here we can see that the Lord Jesus has chosen and predestined us who were in Christ BEFORE He created the world, that started first with Adam and his line of children the elect.
    It was the Lord Jesus who created Adam, therefore Jesus was the Father of Adam and of ALL His children to this day and they are called the elect. It was Jesus who foreknew everyone of His children, and according to that FOREKNOWLEDGE He has predestined His children to conform.

    It is important do understand that foreknowledge of His elect has nothing to do with the foreknowledge of their DEEDS, it is the foreknowledge of His children , the Lord knows who are His, and only those are the children which He will bring to glory and none of Satan's children.

    The Calvinist could not see or understand that, therefore they invented the 'U' in the tulip doctrine, which is 'Unconditional Election'. They say that election has no condition attached to, it is a random election.
    But I say that the condition for the elect is that they were the children of God before He created the world. It's called 'Conditional Election'.

    Arminians say that God foreknew in time those who would choose Jesus by faith and on that condition He has elected and chosen them. But that is a man centred doctrine and is not true.

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  5. Jesus Christ is the Word of God and is the same yesterday, today and forever.
    To God there is no passing time
    only a way to be
    this the reason Jesus came
    to save both you and me

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  6. The scriptures are discerned spiritually through the enlightening of the Holy Spirit once we are part of the church (God's Israel) and God's wisdom makes man's wisdom foolishness. His thoughts and ways are not man's thoughts and ways so there is no way we could understand the scriptures fully with the carnal mind, only with the mind of Christ. We learn line upon line, precept upon precept as we grow in Him spiritually, and just as we would not say 'yes' and 'no' at the same time God does not speak all scripture to us at once. He gives us a word in season, as we need it according to what situation we are in. I believe The Bible is not a book, but a vocabulary.

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  7. Hi Brenda!

    You are so right about us being limited in our understanding of reality. Every day is a day of growth and new understandings. However, in order to learn, we need to enquire :)
    I like your reference to scripture as a "vocabulary". The more and more we read the Bible the more and more different concepts jump out at us. Our vocabulary grows as we read lol

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  8. Absolutely agree Daniel about the needing to enquire, only the Lord knows it all and I love His teaching through scripture and also interacting and sharing with others.

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  9. Hi Paul, thanks for your contribution.

    You said "Concerning the future; the Lord Jesus does not have a crystal bowl to look into the future, that is because the future has not yet happen.
    The Lord Jesus knows the future in advance because He is going to make it happen just as He has planed. "

    So from this I take it that you are more or less a determinist. Great, I am similarly minded. However, you were saying further that God does not know people's deeds in the future. So I take it that people's deeds are not determined by God. Is the big picture determined by God, but the small aspects are not?

    I like your analogy of the shark infested water. However, to add to your analogy of the pool of sharks; My view is that not only is God saving people from a pool of sharks, but the "sharks" within the pool are actually the people He is saving! :)

    We seem to be having a similar discussion in two different threads lol.
    In the comments here: http://thebenevolenthecklers.blogspot.co.nz/2014/06/in-search-of-coherent-narrative-part-1.html#comment-form

    So I will try to keep to one thread and reference the other.

    You were saying that you deny the Unconditional Election and seem to claim that election is on the basis of whether a person is a child of God or not. So Satan has his offspring from the beginning and God has His. Not only do you seem to be saying that there has been since the beginning, Satan's offspring and God's offspring, but also that it is God's offspring that will be saved and Satan's will not be. Thank you for clarifying that further for me!

    From the sounds of things, your view is quite similar to Calvinism in that there has always been those who are to be saved and those who are not. However my question I put to you is - HOW are people determined or decided to be a child of God or not, and WHO decides?

    Is it genetic? Surely it cannot be. If so, are all Cain's children, children of the devil?
    If not genetic, then is it spiritual? Do God and Satan take turns planting "spirits" in bodies of flesh?

    Can you see what I am getting at. I feel that your explanation (given in the other thread mentioned) does not really provide an alternative radically different to Calvinism. I still want to know who actually decides whether I am a follower of God or not.
    Is it God or the devil?

    Cheer brother.

    P.S. I edited this comment because I misunderstood something you said and have since changed it :)

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  10. Hey Daniel! I thought (I hope I'm not mistaken) that you might enjoy hearing an atheistic perspective on this. As you probably know, I've spent a lot of time in the last several years talking with Christians of many stripes. And I must say, there does seem to be a difference, at least statistically, between Arminians and Calvinists: on the whole, Arminians are nicer, or at least comport themselves more politely in the Internet. There are of course numerous exceptions, but the trend is clear. I don't know whether Calvism is symptomatic of, or causal towards, being snide, but it's something I've observed time and again.

    cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

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  11. Hey Zilch! Glad to have you over! Anyone's comments are welcome, unless they are completely off the wall :)
    I have grown up around more Arminianists than Calvinists, but have encountered both. They really are two large boxes that lots of different people fit into. However I think what you are addressing is whether one system of thought creates a more "snobbish" attitude than the other. From what I can see, Calvinists can potentially feel like they are "on the side" of God and represent Him more so. They don't tend to emphasize a loyalty to morals per se but more a loyalty to God, whatever character He might have. In my opinion Arminians are a little more sympathetic to moral arguments (and therefore adopt "Freewill" thought) and could possibly understand people who question God more so than Calvinists? This might be your experience?

    Hope you are keeping well!

    Dan

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  12. Hey Daniel! I'm doing pretty well, thanks. About about yourself?

    I wouldn't presume to know why Calvinists are less polite than Arminians, at least when dealing with atheists, heathens, and Catholics. Your proffered theory might well be part of it. Imho, another possible reason is that most Calvinists have little patience with free will arguments, believing that salvation is set in stone already, and thus it's a waste of time reaching out to, or even being civil to, atheists, Mormons, and Muslims. In any case, there are probably multiple factors at play here.

    But as you say, these are two large boxes that many people fit into. I'm not prejudiced: since they are both wrong, I can only judge on behavior, and I'm perfectly willing to be friends with anyone who is nice, even Calvinists.

    Fwiw- I doubt this division is going away as long as Christianity exists, because, as with many other things (works vs. grace, Old Testament vs. New) the Bible is simply not clear enough to be sure of exactly what the authors intended. It's not surprising that there are something like thirty thousand Christian sects, each of which has an at least somewhat different interpretation of Scripture.

    But that's just a godforsaken atheist's opinion- you can safely ignore it.

    Carry on, and go well. Cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

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  13. Daniel, I will start with your last question.
    "I still want to know who actually decides whether I am a follower of God or not.
    Is it God or the devil?"

    The answer to that is 'you'. You have a will and you decide whom you are going to follow. Some people choose to follow the devil and others God. But remember Satan is called the god of this world (2 Cor. 4:4), therefore you have to make sure whether the 'God' you follow is the TRUE God.

    Muslims follow God with great zeal, but do they follow my God? Absolutely NOT!
    The Scriptures makes it clear that the decision is yours, in 1 Kings 18:21 'If the Lord Jesus Christ is God, follow Him, if Baal is God follow him'.
    The only thing you cannot decide or choose is your 'DNA'. Every man is born with the DNA of his father and our free will, decisions, choice, faith, belief and whatever can not change that.
    God's physical creation is all genetic DNA, He has created everything after their DNA (Gen. 1:24) (kind or nature).

    There are two fathers, the Serpent who had the DNA of the beast of the field and Adam had the DNA of man the son of God (Luke 3:38) and the mingling of the two kind of DNA is called the 'fall of man', or the pollution of the perfect DNA of man which God had created.
    Mankind now has two DNA sources and that is the reason why sickness and disease and every form of demon possession now has legal access into the perfect DNA creation of God which is man who was created in the image of God.
    Perhaps a good example is Judas Iscariot; Remember that all of the 12 Apostles understood the doctrine of predestination, because the Lord Jesus taught them well.
    Now when Jesus said that "one of you is a devil" (John 6:70), everyone of the 12 knew what Jesus was talking about, so "they said to Him one by one, surely not I" (Mark 14:19).
    Here you can see that the Lord Jesus knows those who are His children and those who are the devils children.

    No one of us knows whether we are the sons of God till we are born again or born of God.
    Believing in Jesus or joining a church or understanding a doctrine does not mean that we are the children of God. For that reason the Scriptures say that we must make His calling and election sure or in plain English we ought to make sure that the Lord Jesus is our Father and not the Serpent the devil (1 Peter 1:10).
    After we are born of God "we know that we are of God and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come, and He has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life" (1 John 5:19-20).

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  14. Daniel, I believe that the Lord determines everything, the good and the evil after the council of His will. He has planned the evil to distinguish good and evil. How do you know what is good if only good exists? How do you know what is sweet without sour?
    You see, evil had to come so that we know what is good.

    This is how evil entered the world, the Lord Jesus created TWO different kind of 'good' the beast and man, and when they were amalgamated by the transgression of the commandment, the result was evil.

    Now the Lord did not carry out the act of evil, but it was His will and plan for Adam and us to have that knowledge of good and evil.
    For the Lord to bring forth evil without actually doing evil, He gave a commandment 'YOU SHALL NOT' and the commandment accomplished His will.
    The Scriptures said; (Isa. 14:24) Surely as I have planned, so it will be, (Job. 12:13-25) God does all things, (Rom. 9;33) I lay a stone that causes men to fall, (Isa. 63:17) Why O Lord, do you cause us to stray from Your ways and harden our heart from fearing You?
    (Rom. 9:17) 'For the Scripture says to Pharaoh. For this very purpose I have raised you up, to demonstrate My power in you, and that My Name might be proclaimed throughout the whole earth.'
    Here we can see that the Lord Jesus has raised up the serpent for the very purpose to cause the fall of Adam, (mankind).
    Interesting, even in the very beginning according to God's plan and will He made a deal with Adam and told him 'for in the day you eat from it you will surely die' and when you have the knowledge that you have died (spirit), I will suffer for your transgression and iniquity on the cross of Calvary and cause you to be born again of My Spirit.
    And after 960 years your body will die, but because I have risen from the dead, I will raise your mortal body at the last trumpet sound., so that where I am you also will be.

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  15. Zilch,
    Yeah, I am keeping well, and the family :) I am on semester break at the moment and then go on placement next semester. Have been thoroughly enjoying the Football World Cup lately.

    There are variants within Calvinism. The Calvinists that you mention in regards to apathy when reaching out to people are the more hyper Calvinists lol. Maybe it is a subtle mindset thing that generally distinguishes Calvinists from Arminianists. I assure you that not all Calvinists are "cold".

    You are probably right about divisions always being there, like the one between Calvinism and Arminianism. Well, that is, as long as God has not universally revealed everything to everyone in a way that everyone will understand at any given moment in time.
    Regarding interpretation, I see the Bible as more like a book about life that is able to meet people where they are at. It is about God's interactions with man rather than a thesis or a text book on do's and do not's or "this is exactly how it is", because everyone will read just about any text a different way, depending on our prior disposition. Yes the Bible gives a strong guideline of comprehension, but lets us put it together in ways that we can understand it, coming from different backgrounds, cultures and all.

    The free will debate is not merely Christian, but is also hot in the secular world too. For example - do we carry through with capital punishment on the assumption that people have free will to choose to do evil or not to? or do we believe that people are products of their environment and therefore need new environments by which they can change and develop a new character i.e. rehabilitation?
    So you see, life has many shades of grey and means different things to different people at different times. However, just because not all people have a coherent understanding of what they see life to be (as in coherent narratives or paradigms), it doesn't mean that there is no potential answer to inconsistencies of understanding :)

    Hey Paul, thanks again for you reply. I'll get to it once I have a spare moment :)

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  16. ZILCH: Welcome to the blog! Really keen to keep hearing your comments.

    I think your observations are insightful, and I appreciate an outsider's perspective on the difference between arminianisms and calvinism. My personal experience of Calvinists has been similar to yours, with the unexpected exception that the few men I consider MOST philosophically sound and yet gentle and empathic in their approach, happen to be Calvinist. So both extremes of the spectrum are held by Calvinists, while the middle is held by Arminianism.

    I think there's lots at play to create this difference, and agree with a couple o the theories put forward.
    Another thought of mine is that, in order to accept Calvinism, you must be driven by some factor that overwhelms our 'default' resistance to some of the harder truths Calvinism contains. This factor might be loyalty to Scripture, a passion for the beauty you HAVE seen in the aspects of God that Calvinism highlights, a pragmatic and logic-driven personality, personal experience with suffering, or even a different kind of pride (where you see yourself as a special person to God). I think drive that accepting Calvinism requires, explains the relatively extreme polarity I have seen within Calvinism.
    For the record - I grew up an Arminianist, then was persuaded of Calvinism for several of the reasons above. Although I still love all the aspects of God that Calvinism emphases, I now have additional beliefs which make my underlying worldview quite different to most Calvinists, and cause me to reject many of the 'unstated conclusions' of popular modern calvinism.

    I agree with Dan's explanation of the Bible. I'm working on a series of articles at the moment that address the place of 'doctrine' and 'cognitive understanding' in Christianity. I think Christianity is more about a transformation of what our heart loves, regardless of how this is cognitively realised / expressed. Although the cognitive realm is used by God to bring about this heart transformation, and used by us to express it and enjoy it and share it, it is not ultimate, and it will inevitably be imperfect (at least in this life). In many ways I enjoy the variety of doctrinal expression within Christianity IF I can still discern a common united heart behind it. A lack of heart unity in love for Christ is what disturbs me in Christendom, rather than lack of doctrinal unity in and of itself.

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  17. PAUL: Your view is certainly a unique one, and I'm still struggling to understand it fully. You've cleared a lot up with your last few comments, thanks! But I've still got some questions:

    1: You say that 'we' decide whether we follow God, but then say that our 'DNA' decides whether we are children of God (which then determines whether we will have spiritual life in eternity with God in heaven). Am I to conclude that you can follow the true God in absolute faith and sincerity of heart, and yet not have spiritual life (because your 'DNA' determined you were a child of the devil, and not of God)? Or do you believe that even our 'choice' to follow God (or not) is determined by our 'DNA'?

    2: What do you refer to when you talk of 'DNA'? Is this actually our genetic material, or something similar? If so, what happens when a child of God and a child of the Devil have children - are they Satans, or God's, or a mix, or is there something else that determines which they are? If there is something else, what is it? Does God's (or anyone else's) sovereign individual choice - irrespective of our parents or lineage - come into play here in any way? Does randomness come into play in any way?

    3: You talk of the 'unconditional election' of Calvinism as referring to a random decision by God. I think most Calvinists would claim that this election is NOT random, its just NOT based on any conditions of MERIT (i.e. our heart or soul or will or holiness or faith are all decided by God based on election, so cannot be used as conditions which merit the very election that produced them). But regardless - you say that your solution (election based on 'DNA') somehow gets rid of this randomness by introducing 'conditional' election. Could you explain how? What conditions are used to determine our DNA? If the condition is simply one of lineage, can you explain how this works (as I asked above)? I can't seem to find any way this works without introducing randomness or some sovereign choice on God's part (i.e. ultimate unconditional election).

    Thanks for being patient in your explanation :)

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  18. Hey Daniel! Yes, I agree that free will is a hot topic in the secular world as well. Fwiw, my personal take on free will is that we have it because we are not omniscient. That is, we cannot perfectly predict what we will decide, and this inability constitutes our freedom, even if our decisions are determined, by God or a deterministic Universe. Decision making is a process, it's something we do, not some quality we have or don't have.

    Joshua: thanks for the welcome! You are obviously one of those rare nice Calvinists, because you didn't start right out by telling me that if I didn't commit suicide, then I was intellectually dishonest.

    In any case, although I love arguing about the existence of God, my primary concern is making the world a better place to live in, especially for my children, and everyone else's. Whatever belief system helps people behave nicely is fine with me.

    cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

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  19. I always think that DNA stands for 'Do Not Assume', for as much as we think we know the mind of Christ we are usually proved wrong as we gradually learn the truth from the Holy Spirit. There is a vast difference between the carnal mind of the man of flesh and the spiritual mind of Christ which we are able to receive through belief in Jesus. That is when we become 'children of God'. God is Spirit and we must be born of the Spirit to become His children. 'But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.'

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  20. Joshua;
    1: In the beginning, think of it as two families or two male, Cain and Abel and both have the same mother but different fathers. Cain's father was the serpent (the beast) and Abel's father was Adam. Cain's DNA, that is the genetic code or the genetic information which would link him to his father the serpent just the same as Abel to his father Adam.
    DNA determines to which father they belong, it does not determine whether they follow God or not, remember they both have a free will, although I don't like the term 'FREE will', free will is not Scriptural and I think there is only one who has a free will and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, but for argument's sake it's OK to use it.
    Both, Cain, and Abel choose to follow God and brought offerings to the Lord, but the Lord had no regard for Cain and his offering. I think the Lord rejected Cain's offering because he was of the evil one and for that reason he murdered his brother Abel.
    Yes it is the genetic line from Adam who will be born again and have eternal life as a free gift.
    Because of the cross-breeding from before the flood, when the sons of God had children by the daughters of men the genetic line was mingled so that only the Lord Jesus truly knows who are His children.

    Perhaps you can see that in your church, some people are very kind, faithful, loving, hard working and whatever, but you know that there still is something missing.
    There was the same problem in the days of Jesus with the tares and the wheat, both look similar, but only one is genuine.

    2: In the beginning when God's children and Satan's children cross-bred, it produced giants (Nephilims) and diverse people and races just as you can see now in all the world.
    And because of six thousand years of cross-breeding, the seed of the serpent is now in all of us, but only the Lord Jesus knows who are His, we don't know till the sons of God are revealed, that is when we and they are born again and then we all are brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus our Father who is in heaven.
    God's sovereign choice is the knowledge of His children and according to that knowledge He has predestined us to conform.
    Also, you the elect were in Christ BEFORE the foundation of the world, that is your spirit and your soul, but NOT your body, your body came after the creation of the world and it is your body with the genetic information through Adams line.

    3:Joshua, If Unconditional Election is NOT random, then tell me, why were the others rejected?
    Faith, believe and trust is works or MERITORIOUS.
    If a person is elected on account of faith, then that faith determines the elect and is meritorious, that is Arminian thinking.
    Arminians mock the Calvinists' and rightly so they say that the God of the Calvinists pulled the names of the elect out of a hat, which is random and is called Unconditional Election.

    But I disagree with both and say that the elect were God's children in Christ before the foundation of the world and on that condition God elected them. That condition is NOT meritorious and is called 'Conditional Election'.
    The rejects (none elect) are those who were in Satan the beast AFTER the creation. ('Satan' is the spirit or angel, and the 'beast' is the flesh DNA).

    Perhaps you can see that I'm not a Calvinist or an Aminian.
    If you pray-fully read the Scriptures and keep that in mind, the Lord Jesus will open up the Scriptures to you in a new and wonderful way you never thought possible.
    To refrain from long comments I am addressing mainly the outline of another perspective to election.
    Well brother I should thank you for being patient.

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  21. Hi Brenda;
    Thank you kindly for your contribution.
    Your last sentence clearly explains that we can not become children to God by our will, the will of the flesh or the will of man.
    Just the same as we can not become children to the Queen of England on account of our will.

    It is our father (through genetic information) which determines whose children we are and not our own claim or belief.
    In the Scriptures we have two lines of genealogy who traces man back to two fathers.
    Jesus said that some belong to THEIR father the devil, but we belong to our Father Jesus Christ our Lord and God.

    Brenda, I find it difficult to believe that we receive the mind of Christ through believing in Jesus.
    If that were so, perhaps I would think of myself more highly than I ought to.

    I think that the mind of Christ is IN Jesus Christ alone and always will be in Him and after He has made His abode inside of us through the new birth, we now have God living inside of us (collectively) with the mind of Christ. There is a big difference in those two lines of thinking.

    Also, I have demonstrated that we do NOT become children of God when we are born again.
    We were children of God before the beginning of the creation and when we are born again, we are revealed to the world that we are the sons of God.

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  22. Paul- thanks for a very clear exposition of your "two seed" position. I can see its attraction, and the Bible (as in many things) could be used to support this, although it's never clearly stated. But one thing puzzles me. You said that only Jesus can know his own- that is, those genetically predestined for Heaven. But you also said (to Daniel):

    "Perhaps you can see that in your church, some people are very kind, faithful, loving, hard working and whatever, but you know that there still is something missing.
    There was the same problem in the days of Jesus with the tares and the wheat, both look similar, but only one is genuine."

    So, are you saying that Daniel (and by extension, yourself) might be able to separate the wheat from the tares too? This seems a bit dangerous to me, because it lends itself to all kinds of prejudice, starting from personal dislike, going to racism. And as you probably know, this "seed of Satan" stuff has been used by white supremacists and anti-Semites. I hope your personal perceptions of who has the right genes don't devolve this far.

    cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch

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  23. Hi Paul,
    I do not say that we have the mind of Christ, it is written in 1 Corinthians ch. 2 v.16. Neither do I say that a person who is given the right to BECOME children of God by being born of God. That is written too. Being born of God simply means being born of the Spirit because God is Spirit. All die in Adam, all are made alive in Christ and our minds are renewed in Him as we grow in Him and learn from Him. I have to have scripture for my plumb line, otherwise there would be many plumb lines if I was to take mans' doctrine as my plumb line.

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  24. Zilch: Nice description of 'free will'. No doubt many will disagree with it, but I like your wording for describing what I call Free Agency. Although I affirm complete determinism, I still believe that (as you say) we are necessarily involved in the process of decision-making, and that we have 'freedom' from conscious coercion or dictation, and because we can't predict ahead of time the decisions we will make in a deterministic way (we would have the freedom the change our minds from this determined state). The freedom I reject, is the freedom involved in random and disjointed idea of personhood. Our will is not free from our character - our decisions say something meaningful about us BECAUSE they are determined by our character and perceptions. And our character and perceptions are not free from God's creating and moulding sovereignty, often through intermediate means i.e. our environment, or through spiritual insight. Therefore I don't like referring to the will in an isolated sense (hence the term Free Agency).

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  25. Paul: Really good descriptions, thanks! I've still got a couple of questions for you:
    1 - You still tend to hold two ideas in tension - on the one hand we are 'free' to decide to follow God or not (I assume you are referring to a kind of genuine following that pleases God), but you still talk about complete determinism. I think you're saying something similar to what I describe as 'Free Agency' - is that right?
    2 - I'm confused how your idea works when it comes to the genetic mixup in the human race., where we all contain DNA from both God's and Satan's lineage. What is it that determines if we are God's or Satan's child, when there is a mix of DNA? Is it something determined entirely by the genes (for example, whoever makes up the largest portion of our DNA, or whoever controls certain important genes, or something similar) - I can' understand if you don't know the details, but is it something in this kind of category?
    3 - If this were the case, given the genetic shuffling that occurs during reproduction, who controls which genes from which parents are incorporated into the new child - is it random, or does God determine it? Do you see what I'm getting at? It seems to me that even if DNA is the determining factor for election, you're still left with either a random process outside God's control being ultimately in charge of it, OR God is making decisions about who are going to be his children BEFORE the DNA comes into the equation, and then He creates the required DNA from the parent's template (and you're left with the same problem as other Calvinists - on what basis does He decide?).
    I know what its like to have theories where we don't have all the answers yet, so if this is the case don't worry! Its good to know where any holes are, if they exist.
    Looking forward to your answers...

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  26. Hey Joshua! Yep, that was a nice précis of what I also believe about Free Will, or as you call it, Free Agency- that is, if you leave out the God stuff, of course. I suspect lots of philosophical and theological discussion on "Free Will" gets hung up right from the start by assuming that it's a quality we either possess or don't possess, like, say, the right to vote. I think it's worth stressing that free will is rather a process, something we do, just as singing and mathematics are things we do. There are of course lots of constraints on what we do, but they are largely fairly obvious ones, such as our personalities, as you mention. That doesn't render the weighing of alternatives and deciding on a course of action unfree: it just has constrained degrees of freedom.

    If you think of free will as being the process of making decisions, a lot of the mystery evaporates. As you also point out, determinism doesn't affect our freedom, from our point of view at least, because we don't have access to the future results of determinism- and this holds whether or not God exists. So if we feel we have freedom to make decisions, we do have freedom- in the only way that could be meaningful.

    Of course, if God does exist and is omniscient and omnipotent (the usual view), this begs the question of whether we can be free, and thus morally responsible, from God's point of view. But I'll leave debating that to you good theists.

    cheers from cloudy Vienna, zilch

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  27. Daniel: just a quick question. I know it's your blog, but do you really need moderation? It would be quicker to respond to people here without it.

    Just a suggestion. Cheers from rainy Vienna, zilch

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  28. Hi Paul,

    I really like what you said about the necessity of evil to demonstrate what is good. As to your other comments there is nothing much I can add to the questions that Josh raises. You have answered many questions, but I feel ultimately not in a way that answers them fully. For example, In one breath you say that God determines everything and in another breath you say that we choose God or not.
    Does God take turns with the devil putting spirits into people or something? - Because God knows who are His and made those who are His, it follows that if He did not make them, then someone else did.

    I hope these questions are helpful for you to explain your thoughts.

    Zilch,

    I highly doubt Paul had any racist (or similar) intentions regarding his comments about surface Christians. I am sure that not one of us could ever "decide" whether someone is a follower of Christ or not. That is up to God. We have guidelines which tell us whether a person is of God or not, such as what Jesus said - that our love for one another will demonstrate whether we are His disciples or not.
    A disciple is on a continuum as to how deep his/her walk with God is. Yes I believe we can constructively question people's genuine intent but it is not helpful or just to judge or condemn people that don't seem to be quite as "genuine" as we would expect. What we see as Christlike can be subjective too. There are many ways in which people can express the love of Christ.

    I too like your definition of determinism. It is about perspective. Quite frankly, I have given up on the use of "free will" in a determinist context. Most people I talk to think that Freewill is a quality and therefore when determinists us it, it really confuses the discussion. Free agency is the phrase to go for I think. We are agents with "distinct" characteristics but are free to express those characteristics, rather than free to "magically" choose what those characteristics will be. Free agency as you said, is a process by which we express ourselves, but it is important to obviously remember that our agency can also be impressed (as in influenced) by the expressions of our surroundings.

    Your last statement here interests me. An age old thought, but a good one. ---"Of course, if God does exist and is omniscient and omnipotent (the usual view), this begs the question of whether we can be free, and thus morally responsible, from God's point of view. But I'll leave debating that to you good theists."---

    I hope to address this particular statement in subsequent posts. To some people it is not really that important to have this explained or explored, but to me it is and obviously for many others also :D

    I agree, no moderation is easier, but I have it on for a good purpose. The reason why, is because we had at one stage a commenter who found it hard to read the verification code and thus couldn't comment at times. I can change it back in the near future to accommodate others if he has decided not to comment any more. Cheers!

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  29. Thanks for the reply and cheers to you too, Daniel!

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  30. Daniel- if someone has trouble commenting without moderation, then of course you must leave it on. It's not that big a deal. The other alternative, of course, would be for you to check your blog every hour or so, day and night.

    cheers, Scott (zilch)

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  31. Ha Ha Scott, I do have a life outside of blogging :D I usually check it about once or twice a day, if that helps.

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  32. Hi zilch, I also appreciate your input and to hear your view.

    On your blog-site you claim to be an Atheist and I'm amazed that a man who does not acknowledge that there is a God has so much knowledge concerning God and His creation.
    Surely there must be more to you than just a mere Atheist :-)

    Concerning the wheat and the tares, you have a very good point there.
    You know that every Christian cult has used the Bible to justify their opinions and their deeds, but it is by their deeds that we recognise them. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit and a dirty well cannot give clean water.

    Jesus said that the wheat are the sons of the kingdom and the tares are the sons of the evil one (Mat. 13:38) and we ought not to throw the tares out of the Church lest we uproot the wheat also, the judgement or sorting out is at the end.

    Well my friend, what can I do to persuade you to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ?

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  33. Brenda, perhaps we have a misunderstanding, I meant that we cannot receive the mind of Christ through believing.
    Yes I agree with you, that 'IN' Adam all have died and 'IN' Christ all have been made alive, but have you noticed that it says 'IN'.
    They all were IN Adam right through to Jesus Christ who have received that life.

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  34. Joshua, I think that God has given Adam a 'WILL' but not a free will or a choice.
    Adam had to carry out the will of God with no choice or possibility to oppose His will in order to have a perfect will.

    I'm uncomfortable to say that men have a 'Free Agency' or a free will, since the Lord causes us to do and to will for His own good pleasure, just as I have demonstrated previously.
    I can see that Adam has a WILL, but not free and Satan also has a WILL and also not free and through the sin of Eve both wills have now residence in fallen mankind, in all of us.
    Therefore within all of us is a battle going on of two wills, perhaps as Paul has said, 'For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practising what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate,...... But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin (Satan's nature) doing it which dwells in me', Rom.7:14 to 25) shows us the conflict of the two natures in us.

    2- The DNA mix; think of it as a bucket of paint and then you add another bucket of paint with a different colour and then mix it up.
    It is impossible for us to trace back the paint to it's original bucket, but that is not so with the Lord, He does know every drop of paint who belongs to His bucket. Even though all of His drops are tarnished and mixed with the stain of the other bucket, He then goes to the cross of Calvary and redeems all His drops and washes them as white as snow, so that everyone can see His drops perfect and without wrinkles.

    It is the Lord who determines of who's lineage we are, only God's children were in Christ before the foundation of the world and Satan's children were in the loins of the Serpent after God created the world.
    I cannot say that we were in the loins of God, since God is Spirit and does not have loins.

    That view would demand that you believe in the (L) Limited Atonement.

    3- No Joshua, there is nothing random, everything is planned and arranged by the Lord.
    If there would be a random processes outside of God, then God would not be sovereign.

    The DNA is the genetic information of matter and was created at the creation of the world, everything after their kind.
    So a child of Satan cannot become a child of God, and a child of God must be born of God to be His child and after it has died it must be born again just like Jesus said.

    Adam was born of God and has died, and in Adam all God's children were born dead (spiritually) and in Christ all of God's children will be made alive again, or born again not by the will of man or the will of the flesh but by the will of God.
    But that is not so with Satan's children, they were in the beast of the field and no beast has a living spirit in them and for that reason they can not be born again because the Spirit of God would not make His abode in the beast.
    I hope that this might clear up a few cloudy patches?

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  35. Daniel, you said, "Because God knows who are His and made those who are His, it follows that if He did not make them, then someone else did."

    No Daniel, it follows that He did make them, remember He 'made those who are His'.
    Example;
    You are the father of your children and they are yours because you made them. You know them by name and looks and even the DNA will testify that they are your children, and better, they know you and recognise your voice and follow you and they will not follow a stranger.
    That is the same with God and His children.

    And thank you for correcting the assumption of racist intentions on my behalf :-)

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  36. Ok thanks for clearing that up.

    If, as you said that all things stem from God even though some people are of Satan, ultimately those people are actually created and determined by God, because God created Satan their father.

    Still not sure how this is different from Calvinism. You seem to be saying that the difference between you and Calvinism is that you claim that God has always had His people and that Satan has always had his people, whereas Calvinism is where there are a whole lot of 'neutral' people that God picks and chooses from.

    As I said before, if God is the first cause of Satan and his people then all people stem from God just like in Calvinism and God chooses whom to save and whom not to. Satan's offspring are merely people that God has allowed to be created that He is either unable to save or doesn't want to.

    So ask the same question I would ask a Calvinist, what would the purpose of God creating Satan and his people be? Couldn't God have an existence of evil where every person experiences what it is like to be at enmity with God and then finally be reconciled to Him?

    Struggling to see the point of Satan and his offspring in your narrative or the significance of distinguishing between the heritage of Satan's children and God's children, because ultimately they all stem from God anyway.

    Cheers

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  37. That is right Paul,
    we are the body of Christ on earth, but He is the head. There is only one mind that a body should use - the one that it is attached to.

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  38. Sorry Paul, I have just re-read your last comment to me. It does not say that all 'have' been made alive in Christ, but that all 'shall' be made alive. We have to be baptized into the body of Christ first, it is not automatic. Otherwise there would be no need for repentance..

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  39. Hey Paul! Thanks for the kind reply. I must say, though, you didn't really answer my question- perhaps I didn't state it clearly enough. You seem to be saying two different things here. One, that we cannot tell who is of God's seed and who is of Satan's. But you also say that "by their deeds we can recognize them", and by their fruits ye shall know them. So which one is it?

    I'm relieved you don't use your interpretation of the two seeds as an excuse for racism. I didn't assume you did, but as you must know, some do. That of course doesn't affect its truth value, just as the Social Darwinists' interpretation of evolution to justify cutthroat capitalism or fascism doesn't affect the truth value of evolution. I'm glad that's straightened out.

    As far as knowing God goes, I don't know God, at least not as far as I know. I know the Bible pretty well, and I'm also fairly familiar with the various branches of Christian belief and theology, because I find it interesting and important, because Christian beliefs have such a strong effect on politics in many places, especially in my homeland, the USA. And also, a lot of my friends are Christians, so I'm interested in why.

    I don't think you can persuade me to believe in Jesus- that's His job. But I appreciate the offer of friendship. That's the most important thing to me, and the reason I also try to reach out to theists: we're all in this together, and unless we live together peaceably, things are not going to get better.

    Daniel: I would put most of the questions that you've posed Paul to Christians in general: how can God be good if He created evil, and we have no choice in what we do? My theory, which of course is coming from the outside, is that this is a pickle the authors of the Bible got into, because they didn't analyze their beliefs as critically and logically as we moderns sometimes do: they just kept piling superlatives on God and didn't worry that they didn't really all fit together neatly.

    I don't see, logically, how God can be omniscient and omnipotent and still get mad at us for anything we do. To God with His vis aeternitatis, our lives are four-dimensional space-time worms, static and unchanging, laid out finished in front of Him, created just as He wanted them. Where is our moral responsibility there?

    I'm curious to hear your responses.

    cheers from cloudy Vienna, zilch

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  40. Enjoying your comments Scott. Out of all the atheists I have met I would probably put you and ExpatMat as the most friendly and enjoyable people I have had the pleasure of conversing with :) Thanks for sharing!

    Obviously I am writing a series of posts on the very question you asked me. What is the purpose of evil? Very important and hard question. Interestingly, every person on this planet has to deal with this question, especially Christians, but atheists as well.

    What sums up how I see things is what is found in Genesis chapter 1 - verse 1 - A. It obviously states "In the beginning God"... thus everything in existence stems from Him and follows that we are made in His image. At times I have been tempted to creep towards pantheism, but obviously this is not really Biblical at all in my opinion. So I see reality as more of a reflection of Him. Everything in reality is the fullest expression of God with the cross being the pinnacle. I believe that God created good and evil as it says in Isaiah or wherever it is. God needed to demonstrate that He is anti-evil and pro good. With that being His "Character" or "Nature", it HAS to be expressed. The very nature of good will always be ultimately more powerful than evil in the end. Evil is necessary for the expression of love and love will conquer its enemies. As Christ said - how does it profit to only love those who love us? Christ showed us a higher way and that is to love our enemies. Christ's example on the cross demonstrated and showed this, ultimately showed us the way to salvation... die to self, and follow in His footsteps through His strength.

    I cannot see how God would create anyone in His image and leave them forever contrary to His nature (a ruling evil nature). Why? Because I believe in cause and effect. As mentioned before, if God is the cause of this world and the world is the effect, then it must ultimately reflect who He is. If cause and effect is not true and therefore the effect of a cause is not predictable, then how is there any reliable thinking or doing. We would be mere random creatures loosely firing our ever changing wills. Not only us, but God too. God is the same yesterday, today and forever, is He not? If He ever had unwanted or unknown effects emulating from Him then He wouldn't "be" a Sovereign and consistent God would He?

    So ultimately, I believe in the reconciliation of all things before God, and through this, having experienced the opposite of good, good can truly be valued. I am not saying that this view is "cushy" but allows for more hope. Obviously I am not God and I cannot see the exact reason for every event of evil, but I can trust that in the end He will work it out for good.

    In regards to sin, because we are who God made us to be in the plan to restore us, I see His anger as more like frustration. Like a good father. He can get frustrated with a child at the same time as knowing that the child is limited in their understanding. He will correct them and show them the right way. If they are ultimately rebellious, then He will always welcome them back when they return! The prodigal son!

    My two cents...

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  41. One of my favourite collection of verses is Colossians 1:16-20

    "For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. 18 And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence.
    19 For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, 20 and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."

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  42. Hey Daniel. Thanks for the thoughtful reply and the compliment. I too find you a very nice person- you're almost like an Arminian :lol:.

    Yeah, it's somewhere in Isaiah that Jehovah says He's the "master of calamities". I don't see how the Bible can be interpreted to let Him off the hook for evil: He created the one who throws things in our path, the meaning of dia-bolus. Btw- have you ever read Elaine Pagel's "The Origin of Satan"? She shows how the concept of the Devil evolves from the Old Testament to the New. Fascinating stuff.

    Anyway- while I agree that atheists as well as theists have to deal with evil, whatever we call it or however we conceive of it, I disagree that we have to look for a "purpose" for evil. While there are reasons that people do bad things, that doesn't mean that bad things have a "purpose" above and beyond the reasons people have for doing them- and at least in most cases, the reasons are pretty obvious and always have been: greed, anger, lust, fear, and so forth.

    In order to build societies, we need to strike a balance between the desires of individuals and the needs of groups. That means defining actions that are antisocial, and one of the ways we do that is by means of religion: we say that God wants us to do good (that is, social) things, and not do bad (antisocial) things. It often works pretty well, especially when it's coupled with carrots and sticks: the idea that God will reward us or punish us in the afterlife, depending on how we behave.

    But we also have secular ways of getting people to behave nicely, of course: mores, customs, laws, constitutions, police.... the obvious question is, do secular ways of getting people to behave work as well as religion? They certainly seem to: while there are other factors that complicate comparisons, it does seem as though more secular countries have less violent crime than more religious countries. For instance, here in Austria, which is nominally largely Catholic but in practice largely atheistic, the murder rate is about one seventh of what it is in the US, which has a far higher rate of churchgoing.

    Of course, as I said, there are other factors involved as well. I would not claim that atheists as a whole behave more nicely than theists. But I don't think we behave any worse.

    cheers from starry Vienna, Scott (zilch)

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  43. Daniel, the Calvinistic position of Unconditional Election is that the whole human race, that is one group of people who were in Christ before the foundation of the world. Out of this one group of people He foreknew those He would save, those He foreknew He predestined etc.
    Now, He foreknew them unconditionally and predestined them unconditionally out of one pool of people.
    And because it is NOT on the basis of a condition, therefore it must be random. And if random, then God would not be just, because the others were unconditionally rejected.
    But we know that God is just, therefore the doctrine is false.

    Arminians believe in a Conditional Election.
    They say that before the foundation of the world God chose out of one group of people those whom He foreknew, that would choose to believe in Jesus, or accept Jesus, or put their faith in Jesus etc. it is those He has predestined for salvation, the others were rejected.

    The problem with that theory is that God must look into the future via crystal ball and then save them according to their deeds (works).
    But a man is saved by GRACE alone and not by works lest any man should boast. Now, grace is the absence of works, if grace is mingled with works, grace is no longer grace, and therefore that doctrine is false.

    That has been debated for many hundreds of years and both sides have been unwilling to see the revelation from the Lord from a new perspective. They still eat the old manna so to speak.

    If there would be 'neutral' people, then the question still remains. On what basis did God elect and reject them?
    Also I have a problem with the term 'ALLOWING' which is so frequently used among Christians.
    I'm not trying to be difficult or contrary, but that term suggests that God allows wrong, or sin, or evil, He closes an eye to transgression, so to say.
    No my brother, he punishes every evil intent of our heart and it is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

    You said; "So ask the same question I would ask a Calvinist, what would be the purpose of God creating Satan and his people be? Couldn't God have an existence of evil where every person experiences what it is like to be at enmity with God and then finally be reconciled to Him?"

    Well Daniel, the Calvinist can not answer that, but I can and have done so in part. The perspective I have demonstrated is unlike Calvinism and Arminianism and it revolutionises all of your doctrines and opens up the Scriptures in a new light.
    As we both know that true understanding comes from the Lord and therefore it is important that you inquire of the Lord whether I have been proclaiming the oracle of the Lord.
    Remember that He who made the mouth, can He not speak, or He who made the ear can He not hear. Jesus said 'that anything you ask in my Name I will do, especially if you ask the Lord Jesus to give you insight into His Word.
    Also I like your quote of Colossians 1:16-20, that shows a clear sovereignty of the Lord.

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  44. Yes Brenda, it doesn't say 'have' but 'shall' and there is no difference. 'SHALL' is ongoing and pointing to the future, 'HAVE' is at the completion and pointing back. Remember that the Lord will lose not one of His children, but all will be saved, that is because the Lord Jesus Christ is an omnipotent saviour.

    That salvation is a FREE GIFT from the Lord and was NOT performed by men. It is the baptism into the body of Christ which is 'AUTOMATIC', that baptism is performed by the Holy Spirit and not by men.
    (1 Cor. 12:13) "For by one Spirit we were ALL baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slave or free, and we were ALL made to drink of one Spirit."

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  45. zilch, Yes I thought that you have a very good Bible understanding and that is a good start :-)
    My intention is not to rope you into a church, or a denomination, a creed or a club etc. but rather that you come to know the only true and living God Jesus Christ in a personal way.
    We both know that it is impossible to know God by reading the Bible, yes we can know every word of the Bible and still don't know God. It is the same as reading a book about the Queen of England, even when we have read everything about her we still don't know her, the same is with the King of kings the creator of heaven and earth Jesus Christ of Nazareth.

    The only way is to meet the Lord to and have fellowship with Him and then and only then you know the Lord.
    And that is very simple and easy! Yes there are some small requirements on your behalf, you must believe that He is, because nobody will go to God unless they believe that there is a God.
    And you need to trust my testimony or the testimony of all the other believers that this 'God' is the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, that is because there is no other Name given in heaven or on earth by which you must be saved.
    And then you need to call upon His Name (JESUS), because ALL who call upon His name will be saved and He will not turn anyone away.
    You see, it's that simple!
    Does that mean that you know Him? Absolutely not! All you have so far is a theory.
    For you to know Him you need to meet Him, you need to have an encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ personally in order to know Him.
    So my suggestion is that you go somewhere alone close the door behind you and then ask the Lord Jesus to make Himself known to you.
    Remember, Jesus rose on the third day and He is alive and He will do whatever you ask and believe.

    Zilch, once you meet the living God Jesus Christ you will never be the same.

    The answer to your question;
    That's right, when we look at ordinary people we can not know who God's people are, and for that reason we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ so that the elect might be revealed or so that God's people will be made known to all.
    As we preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Lord Jesus will draw His children to Himself, just as the Scriptures said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is,when the dead ( the spiritually dead) will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live" (John 5:25).

    Here we can see that those who hear the call of the Lord Jesus will be born from a spiritually dead state to be spiritually alive (born again) and then they will say 'Abba Father' to the Lord Jesus Christ.
    So only after they are born again we know that they are the children of God and that they were in Christ before the foundation of the world.

    Again, only after the new birth we can know for sure that they are the children of God and therefore they are our brothers in Christ Jesus our Lord and God.

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  46. I agree with that point Paul, but I believe that all shall become children of God through coming to Jesus, and that there is a time for each one to be saved. God is spirit and it is only by receiving His Spirit that we receive eternal life, which is to know God and Jesus Christ. God wants all to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. We are told that no man can come to Jesus except he is called by God, and that no man can come to God except through Jesus. Jesus is the 'door' to God. All men have a time to be spiritually reborn and it is in God's time and according to God's plan. The scriptures are discerned spiritually and I have found that since I have been baptized in the Holy Spirit I can open my Bible to a person being in a certain situation in the Old Testament and realize that I am in exactly the same situation, (or be in the same spirit ) as that person, and that I am being either encouraged or corrected to stand firm or change my ways. Just as John the Baptist was doing the will of God when he went 'in the spirit of Elijah', we can be either doing the will of God or not doing the will of God, and the Holy Spirit has the ability to renew our minds as individuals and teach us God's ways in every situation through scripture being enlightened to us once we have Jesus as our mediator.

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  47. Hey Paul- thanks again for a thoughtful reply. And yes, I know the Bible pretty well- I must have read the King James at least four times, and I've also read the Luther Bible (in German) and the Wycliffe Bible (in Middle English), and although I don't know Hebrew and only a little Greek, I've read quite a few concordances too. Great literature, and important for our cultural history.

    And yes, I would agree that knowing the Bible is a good start: for me, as for Isaac Asimov, it was the best way to confirm my atheism. As I said, there's lots of good advice in the Bible, but there's also lots of bad advice, especially in the Old Testament. You know what I mean: condoning slavery, sexism, intolerance, and genocide. Most of us, even Christians, have moved beyond these things, but only by borrowing from humanism. That's okay- you're welcome to whatever ideas you need to behave nicely. If you stick with "God is Love" and ignore the rest, you will probably be a pretty nice person.

    And as far as going to a quiet room and appealing to Jesus: I've tried. Nothing happened. I guess I'm just one of Satan's spawn. Actually, I've been told that by a Calvinist who was genuinely sorry for me, but said I was destined to burn in Hell from before the Beginning. I suppose there's nothing I can do but eat, drink, and be merry.

    cheers from sunny Vienna, Scott

    P.S. If you're ever out this way, or in the SF Bay Area most summers, lunch is on me.

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  48. Paul- having reread your comments, I must admit that I'm puzzled. On the one hand, you appeal to me to believe in Jesus: "Yes there are some small requirements on your behalf, you must believe that He is, because nobody will go to God unless they believe that there is a God." On the other hand, you say: "Remember that the Lord will lose not one of His children, but all will be saved, that is because the Lord Jesus Christ is an omnipotent saviour.

    That salvation is a FREE GIFT from the Lord and was NOT performed by men. It is the baptism into the body of Christ which is 'AUTOMATIC', that baptism is performed by the Holy Spirit and not by men."

    Again, these statements don't seem to fit together. Either I'm already one of Jesus' children and thus already saved, and thus evangelizing is unnecessary; or I'm one of Satan's children, and thus evangelizing is in vain. So what's the point of your evangelizing or my reading the Bible and praying? Everything is predestined anyway.

    As you may know, this is not just an issue with you. W.L. Craig was asked exactly this question, and replied, that while evangelizing doesn't change destinies, Christians should do it anyway because God demands it. But Craig also claims that God deliberately made sure that all the people who never heard the Gospel were souls who wouldn't have listened anyway: in other words, He gerrymandered Creation. Seems kind of contrived to me, but who am I to question God?

    cheers from sunny Vienna, zilch.

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  49. Hi Scott! many, many points you raise! lol.

    You said:
    ---"Elaine Pagel's "The Origin of Satan"? She shows how the concept of the Devil evolves from the Old Testament to the New. Fascinating stuff.
    Anyway- while I agree that atheists as well as theists have to deal with evil, whatever we call it or however we conceive of it, I disagree that we have to look for a "purpose" for evil."---

    No I haven't read Elaine Pagel before. Apologies for using 'purpose' of evil. I actually quite agree that all people atheists or not, have to deal with the problem of evil (Which I should have said). The difference between the Atheist and Christian paradigm (that is, a universalist/reconciliationist paradigm) is that having an underlying purpose behind every event establishes a sense of hope. Evil is therefore an overarching purpose other than merely a result of an evolutionary or chaos theory framework.

    Practically you are right. Atheism and Christianity can have practical value for a running society. However, Christianity has a creed or a thought process that establishes good and evil. Atheism by itself does not do this. It needs to adopt other systems of thought like humanism to attempt to establish what is good and evil. As you know, the problem with adopting add on systems of thought like humanism is that those systems of thought do not really have any objective value for individuals or universal hope. There is no objective good and evil, just subjective.
    I find that people have double standards when adopting humanism. It is all through social work. "Be person focused, respecting what they value"... but then behind that they realise that this applies only as long as the person ultimately values what the majority values or what is good for 'humanity'. Humanism appeals to a grand objective narrative that doesn't work coherently, because humanism is made up of individuals projecting their own values onto others. Humanism is what humans thinks works best for humanity, but 'humanity' is only relative to the conscience of individuals. To say that humans are basically good (like humanism does) must mean or at least implies that there is some quality of what 'good' means in order for it to apply to all humanity. If there is one human being that does not follow what humanity deems as 'good' (like Hitler) then one must question whether humans can be inherently 'good' in a humanist paradigm because what each person deems to be good varies from person to person. Thus as a society, minority groups get drowned out! Who knows, 'good' could mean something completely different in 500 years time and 'humanism' would have no complaints, because humans decide what is good and evil. I would say that it just so happens that a lot of what society values today is what Christians believe to be objectively good or evil, not that Christianity is made obsolete.

    So if Humanistic Atheism holds to Christian values as it still does to an extent (minus the God focus), then that is good for society practically speaking. However, I believe we have lost the ultimate 'meaning' for what we were created for and that is to have a true awareness of what is objectively good.

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  50. You also said to Paul

    ---"Again, these statements don't seem to fit together. Either I'm already one of Jesus' children and thus already saved, and thus evangelizing is unnecessary; or I'm one of Satan's children, and thus evangelizing is in vain. So what's the point of your evangelizing or my reading the Bible and praying? Everything is predestined anyway."---

    Lol. This is one of the arguments people use against Universalism. Why should we bother evangelising? If that is W. L. Craig's answer, then I think that is sadly a rather cold and simplistic answer.
    For what it is worth, here are my thoughts. Because we are all people in a process of developing to be what God determines us to become, this does not mean there is no value or love in helping in that process!
    I evangelise because playing a part that I enjoy no matter how big, such as hurrying along the salvation process, is what I value. I will be who I am. If I am a believer and follower of Christ then I will live his ways and share His values. I not only adopt who He is and His values but I will grow to love Him and His values no matter how hard it is to adopt. If you love something then you will naturally exhibit what you love, and desire that others could experience it too!

    You also said:
    ---"And as far as going to a quiet room and appealing to Jesus: I've tried. Nothing happened. I guess I'm just one of Satan's spawn. Actually, I've been told that by a Calvinist who was genuinely sorry for me, but said I was destined to burn in Hell from before the Beginning. I suppose there's nothing I can do but eat, drink, and be merry."---

    Sad story. That person is playing God. No one knows another's life or heart like God knows. I think that it is great that you have sought God in whatever way you have, but searching for truth is an ongoing process, one we start at birth. I cannot help but wonder the reasons for you coming over here. I mean, taking part in discussions with people who believe in the equivalent of the flying spaghetti monsters etc must take some nerve lol

    You have actually inspired me to write a post on whether belief in God is about a conviction/compulsion, or whether it is a 'choice' - as in a weighing up of options or both. Is there room for ‘doubt’ in the Christian faith?

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  51. Thanks for another very thoughtful reply, Daniel. You, too, raise many serious questions, and they are too many for me to deal with satisfactorily in just one comment here. I will at least try to hit the high points. And of course, some of these questions are ones I don't have a pat answer for: they are questions that all of us must constantly ask ourselves.

    You are quite right to say that atheism in itself has no moral values: atheists must "borrow" those from humanism, or from religion, which of course I would say also has at least some humanistic moral values. But as you may recall- I think we've been through this before in the last couple of years elsewhere- I don't believe that such a thing as "objective" moral values exist, even within Christianity or any other religion.

    Of course, you could claim that God knows, for every morally relevant act- presumably, choosing chocolate ice cream over vanilla is not morally relevant, but deciding whether or not to execute a murderer is- what the correct course of action is. I can't debate that, because it's unfalsifiable. But demonstrably, you don't have access to that knowledge (if it exists). Otherwise, all Christians would agree about every morally relevant act- and they obviously don't. So even if God exists, and thus "objective morality" exists, you don't have access to it.

    I thus don't see how Christians (or Muslims or whatever) have any advantage over atheists in this regard. And as I pointed out: atheists don't behave worse than theists. Look at murder rates in largely atheistic Sweden and Japan, and look at murder rates in largely Christian USA. What good do your vaunted "objective morals" do in the real world?

    And as far as what you said about the fact that humanism's morals can change with time: yes, that's true. But they often (not always) change for the better, as I pointed out. The Bible condones slavery: humanism has moved on, and most people in the world don't condone slavery. The humanism I adhere to- and most people nowadays, atheistic or not, also do- does not condone slavery, or genocide, or sexism, or killing "witches". The Bible is stuck in its time; we humanists are not. Even "subjectively", most people agree that we should feed the poor, not kill, not enslave, and not judge based on religion. That's good enough for me to work for, even if it's "subjective". The benefits to society are obvious enough that they are worthy, even if they are not written in stone.

    Anyway, I agree with you: the search for truth must be ongoing. Is it for you as well? My reasons for coming here are that I'm curious why people would be theists, and that I enjoy arguing about my worldview (someone once said, iron sharpens iron), but more importantly, because we're in this together. There are far more theists than atheists in the world, and it behoves all of us to try to live together in peace.

    As I believe I've said already, I don't really care what people believe, as long as they behave nicely. Contrary to popular fundamentalist opinion, I don't get paid by Satan to evangelize for him- I'm not trying to convert anyone. I just want the world to be a better place for my children and grandchildren.

    cheers from sunny Vienna, Scott

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  52. One final note: Tim Minchin sums up my philosophy as well as anyone. Take a gander at this, if you please and/or dare:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhGuXCuDb1U

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  53. Scott (in answer your question to Paul):

    Christ teaches that love for God THROUGH Him is what ultimately matters, and that this is something only God Himself can awaken. Both our deeds and our doctrine relate to this fundamental love in intricate ways, but they are by no means equivalent.

    For example, we are told that words, beliefs, and actions spring from the heart, but this does not mean this is the ONLY influence on them - they spring from the heart in response to and interaction with the current context and perceptions of the individual. The same heart may well flow out differently, if the context and/or perceptions differ. And the same deeds and beliefs can spring from different hearts. When Jesus tells us to 'know' people by their fruit, he is not advocating an isolated assessment of a few key features. He is asking for intimacy with the full outcome of their life (including deeds, beliefs, words, etc), because this is the closest we can get to really understanding the heart. Ultimately, however, only God knows.

    Any action we take in response to our judgement of a person's heart, must therefore be done with fear and trembling and humility and love and seeking God for ongoing insight and/or correction. This does not preclude judgement - we can't help but interact in some way with people. We can either consider what kind of interaction is most beneficial, or we can avoid it (and just go with the flow). I think that humble but continuous judging is the best and most ethical / moral way to go! We are behaving like doctors - constantly in a state of uncertainty, making best guesses and risk-balancing decisions, but realizing that avoiding the diagnosis is certainly the least helpful course of action!

    The relationship of our hearts to our deeds and beliefs can also be seen in a more personal light. These things give expression and meaning and fullness to what is in our hearts. For example, my love for my wife grows and brings me more delight when I express it in action and words, and when I think about her. I may even discover new aspects to my love that always existed, but weren't realized. My deeds and thoughts also feed back into my love, growing and molding it. This is why the Bible can affirm the importance of doctrine and holiness, while condemning self-righteousness and Gnosticism (and similar wrong focusses).

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  54. Scott (regarding your recent discussions on 'evil'):

    I really like your word-picture. God created our lives in every detail, and sees them in completion like intricate 4D space-time 'worms' which He designed.

    To answer the responsibility question requires clarification. For example, if you're asking why God tries to involve our 'will' (e.g. asking us to change our behaviour), this is one method by which He crafts those details we are referring to. If you are asking why He 'punishes' people (again there are multiple ways to ask this question), the answers range from the necessity of demonstrating his 'anti-evil' nature as well as his 'good' nature, the benefit of such 'punishment' on those observing it, and the benefit of growth through suffering (creating beauty in the individual that could not otherwise exist).

    I haven't read Elaine Pagel's "The Origin of Satan", but I have read through a summary of her arguments and all the points she raises. I can't be too critical since I haven't read the full thing, but what I did read was far from compelling. Many of the premises are highly controversial (e.g. her dating of the gospels), many of her points are highly strained at best (i.e. most of her descriptions of the 'Biblical teaching' on Satan), and she ignored many more highly relevant points (i.e. much of what the Bible actually says about Satan, as well as other religious and political influences). Where she was strongest was regarding the early church's use of Satan (after the NT was written) to demonise their 'enemies' and justify conflict. I do not think this is a Biblical idea (at least not as applied by the examples she mentions), but sadly it is very prevalent in the church even today.

    You mention that Christians don't have access to the objective moral standard of God. I get your point and I think this is really important to consider. But just because Christian's don't agree, doesn't mean all Christians have absolutely no access to this objective standard. That's like saying that because scientists don't agree, there is no access to objective truth. Yes we need to be humble and teachable (and, in the case of Christian knowledge, reliant on God's initiative to bring us into His truth), and we may never reach absolute certainty of anything. But it is still worthwhile pursuing and talking about objective truth or objective morality. The 'advantage' we have is not usefulness (that is a matter of trust based on available evidence - I do happen to believe that God's objective standard will be the most useful to us and to God). Rather we have reason and hope to pursue an objective morality, something no atheist can claim. Obviously if you have already decided this doesn't exist or isn't worth talking about, you will not see this as an advantage.

    You mention a few things such as the Bible 'condoning' slavery, etc, but I'm sure you're aware these aren't as straightforward as you suggest. There are certainly aspects to the Bible which seem (or may actually be) harsh, and its a discussion worth having, perhaps more fully in another post. But we need to avoid assuming there is no way to properly interpret them in a positive light. For example, I don't see that the Bible condones any of the negative aspects associated with the kind of slavery which humanity eventually abolished. I think the OT laws tended to specifically condemn these aspects, and protect slaves from them.

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  55. Paul: I feel you haven't understood my question fully.

    Consider a person with a mix of Adam's and Beast DNA:
    1 - Is there something in the genetic mix that determines that He is a child of God or a child of Satan? Or does God make an executive decision for every human once the DNA is mixed, disregarding the genetics?
    2 - IF God makes an executive decision at any point, this brings us back to normal Calvinism. So I assume this is not your view. You must believe that there is something in the DNA mix that determines who's child you are, even if only God can see it.
    3 - IF something in the DNA mix determines who's child you are, you still have a problem. Although this person's DNA comes from both parents (who also have mixed DNA), there is a lot of genetic shuffling that occurs. They only got some genes from their Dad, and only some from their Mum. You yourself have said that nothing is random, so this selection of genetic material from the available pool (i.e. the totality of the genes of both parents, containing a mix of Godly and Beastly DNA) must also be under God's control.
    4 - Even the reproductive choices of the parents are under God's control! God designed who they would reproduce with (and thus which genetic material would be available, for Him to then select his DNA design from).
    5 - Presumably, this would mean that God decided beforehand, whether this person would get a selection of genes that would make Him a child of God, or whether He would get a selection that make Him a child of the Devil. This means that God has made an executive decision, which makes your view the same as normal Calvinism (its just that God enforces and brings about his decision through the means of DNA).

    I just can't seem to escape a myriad of executive decisions by God, which occur WELL BEFORE the DNA comes into play. I can't escape God deciding who was going to be a child of God and a child of Satan, and THEN working to create the right DNA mix to bring it about. In other words, normal Calvinism.

    Am I wrong or missing something?

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  56. Joshua- thank you. I'd love to discuss these matters with you in person, and of course lunch would be on me. I think you are probably the kind of Christian I could be friends with, and disagree with without harming our friendship. My best friend here in Vienna is such a Christian, although he's Catholic (!).

    What you say about humbly judging the way things are is not so different from how I feel. I too love my wife more all the time, and I too am aware that there's more to heaven and earth that I can compass. I just don't see a need or any evidence for a God behind it: the whole wonderful barely imaginable Universe is enough for me: it leaves me awed and humble.

    About moral responsibility: I still don't see, if God created me in exactly such a way that I choose not to believe in Him, and must thus be consigned to Hell (at least according to most Christians), how I have any accountability at all. Why did God create me (and all the other atheists, Muslims, etc.) in such a way? I don't see how you can logically reconcile God being omniscient, omipotent, and omnibenevolent.

    About slavery: yes, I'm pretty sure that the Biblical strictures were an improvement for many slaves. Slaves are to be treated kindly, and not to be beaten to death (as long as they lived three days after the beating). But there is no getting around what Leviticus and Exodus say about non-Hebrew slaves: this is still chattel slavery, which I'm pretty sure you would not condone. Slaves may be inherited, slavery of non-Hebrews could be for life (not manumission as was the case for Hebrew slaves), children of slaves were slaves, and so forth: I'm sure you know the passages at least as well as I. Do you think this kind of slavery, even with compassionate masters, should be allowed today? If not, why not?

    cheers from sunny Vienna, Scott

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  57. Brenda, I appreciate your input, and agree with most things you said, perhaps that is why we have so much in common, but there are some very important points you need to work on.
    For instance, you can NOT become a child of God by coming to Jesus.
    You need to deal with that false concept, otherwise it will pollute the rest of the Scriptures in your understanding and your soul will never be satisfied.

    Only a father can have children and outsiders cannot become his children because they have another father.
    The same is with God and His children, they belong to God.

    There is no other way, only one way and I need you to agree with the sound wisdom of the Lord in that regard.
    If there are any cloudy patches, please ask and I will answer as good as I know how, because I think that it is very important to have a clear understanding in those matters so that we will have an unshakable security in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    You said, "All men have a time to be spiritually reborn and it is in God's time and according to God's plan."
    I have a problem with that statement.
    Do you mean all men without exception?
    For me to agree with you, I need to see the election in that statement, because I believe that any doctrine without election is not true. Romans 9:11 'that the purpose of God according to election might stand'.
    Perhaps you can see that the teaching of election must be contained in your statement, or else I'm not sure what you are trying to say.
    I would say that only God's children the elect 'have a time to be spiritually reborn …... .'
    Satan's children can not be born again, because they never were spiritually alive in the serpent.
    The statement 'born again' implies that they were originally alive and then have died, that's why Jesus said that we must be born again.

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  58. Thanks Scott for giving me a little bit more insight into your life experience, I hope you don't mind me calling you Scott.
    Yes, that might puzzle you, because the salvation which I preach is a two sided salvation unlike the Calvinists or the Arminians just as I have said previously. If they would understand that, they would not be in constant disagreement with one another.

    I thought that I can bring in another point of view into the debate of election and salvation.

    But as for you, I think that doesn't profit you much, even if you would understand all the doctrines of the Bible, it still would only be a theory to you.
    Please do not follow the mistake of all the religious people. They sit together, study and debating the Scriptures and having long Bible-studies and missing the call of the Lord Jesus Christ who says "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life."
    You see Scott, that call is for you!

    I'm sure you that you have enough knowledge of the Bible, but what you need to know is the author of the Bible personally, therefore I suggest that you try again and lock the door behind you and call upon the Name of the Lord Jesus no matter how long it takes till He manifests Himself to you.
    After He has manifested Himself to you, you will never be the same.

    I know that you don't know what I am really talking about at this moment but after you will see and know.
    Perhaps it's the same as trying to explain to a man born blind what the rainbow looks like. No matter what you say to him, he will never know or understand, that is because he needs eyes to see.
    The problem occurs when you try to tell that person, that there is only ONE doctor in the whole world who can and is willing to give you and that person eyes to see and that doctor is Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
    Scott, I don't have a hidden agenda or an ulterior motive but I do like to win you for Jesus Christ, perhaps the same as all your Christian friends and all of us on this blog.
    We as believers in Jesus Christ do not try to give you a set of new rules or a better morality, or help you to become a better person etc. Oh no! We all have tried that and failed and for that reason we needed the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer the consequences for our failing on the cross of Calvary and to give us a new life, to be born again.

    I'm sorry for the abuse of that Calvinist you have mentioned, but that's something you've got to wear.
    I have been called every name under the sun by Calvinist and Arminians alike, but if they have called the Lord of glory every evil name, what do you think they will call you if you bear His Name?

    By the way, I have been in Vienna a few months ago and bought myself a new pair of leather pants (leder hosen) :-) Vienna is a beautiful place and very Catholic as you have said.
    I was born not far from Vienna, just over the border in Zurich Switzerland.

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  59. No Joshua, God does not make an executive decision somewhere along the line.
    He has determined His children in Him before He made them and then He first made Adam, it wasn't a decision, it was His plan to produce is children through the line of Adam.

    Adam had the DNA of one kind, the God-kind and the beast had the DNA of another kind, the beast kind, and when those two kinds were mingled through the sin of Eve, the result was a third kind, the sinful fallen mankind, that is all of us.
    The DNA of God's kind is a fixed unalterable genetic code tracing back to Adam the first man, the genes came from Adam and are traced back to Adam.
    The DNA of the beast kind is also fixed and unalterable tracing back to the beast. So the two different kind of DNA is now mixed in the fallen mankind, in all of us and only the Lord can and will separate the two just like the sheep and the goats.
    Yes, the DNA mix comes from both parents but traces back to the first two fathers, either the Serpent or Adam.
    Remember, it is not according to their deeds, but according to election, 'in order that God's purpose according to election might stand'.
    A good example is Jacob and Esau; in the one womb were two different kind of men, one was a hairy man, perhaps more like the beast, the other was a smooth man, perhaps more like Adam, but the Lord rejected the hairy man. Well, I think it's not to difficult to determine the DNA of both, it is an election example that God has made to show His sovereign choice.

    If it would be by an executive decision, then on what basis was God's executive decision? On the basis of children?

    The Calvinist say that God elected them under NO condition, which is called Unconditional election and that does certainly exclude an executive decision.

    The bottom line of 'Unconditional' is random and I oppose that idea, because it makes out God to be unjust.
    But I believe that God elected His children from before the foundation of the world to be born again.

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  60. Thanks for another warm answer, Paul, and of course you may call me "Scott". Du kommst aus der Schweiz? Dein Englisch ist sehr gut! Zürich ist auch eine sehr schöne Stadt.

    I think you are right to say that theological debates will not bring me closer to God. I will try appealing to Him again- I do so every once in a while- and I'll let you know if anything happens. Meanwhile, theological debates are a good way for iron to sharpen iron.

    And don't worry about my being "abused" by that Calvinist. Since I don't believe that stuff, it didn't worry me or offend me at all. What I find harder to take is trying in good faith and politely to talk with people, only to get snide responses and smug assertions of superiority. So far this has pretty much only happened with Calvinists and conspiracy theorists.

    But as I said, I'm not prejudiced- I know that there are nice Calvinists (and maybe even nice conspiracy theorists), along with nice Catholics, Muslims, Jews, and even atheists. I appreciate that everyone here is nice and really listens.

    I'm off for a bit. Friends of ours got sick, and we "have to" take over their beach apartment in Slovenia for five days. Have a good time, everyone, and I'll be back next week, God and/or Darwin willing.

    cheers from sunny Vienna, Scott

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  61. There are many things that we do not understand in the scriptures Paul, as stated in 1 Corinthians ch. 13 v.12.' For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known ' Verse 10 of this chapter speaks of 'when that which is perfect is come'. Some think of the perfection spoken of here as being Christ on His return, others think of it as having the perfect mind of Christ through growing in Him once we are reborn. As far as who is a child of God or who can become a child of God is concerned, we are told that 'For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive' Being made alive in Christ is having a life which does not end, eternal life, because Christ does not die. If 'all' are made alive in Christ then that refers to all of creation if it is compared to the 'all' in Adam. Also, if those who are made 'alive' are in Christ, then they are in the 'Son of God' and so have spiritually become part of the Son of God,- making them also children of God. I believe that this is what is being spoken of in Genesis ch.1 v.26 when God says 'Let us make man in our image', spoken on the sixth day. 'Man' here is collective, as in 'mankind'. One day is as a thousand years with the Lord ( We are about six thousand years from the man Adam being formed, according to Biblical genealogy, and to make man in God's image is to make Him Spiritually like God. Spirit is not like flesh, it can become one. True righteousness can only be found in Jesus and we are told that in Him there is righteousness for everyone who believes ( Romans ch. 10 v.4 ). I know that when I experienced a 'near death experience' and I was taken to a beautiful place where I knew I had been before I was born, and my then twenty eight years of life was like a dream and that place was reality, that it was confirmed to me when I became born again that God had known me before I was formed in my mother's womb and that place was paradise, or the third heaven. All this was confirmed to me through the scriptures being enlightened to me, comforting me finally after seven years of grieving and feeling that I was in the wrong place. I had been told that it was not time yet when I was in that beautiful place, and that ' I must go back'. This is what I mean when I refer to the scriptures being a vocabulary once a person is born again. These scriptures would not have spoken to me if I had not been spiritually 'born again'. Where you say ' The statement 'born again' implies that they were originally alive and then have died, that's why Jesus said that we must be born again.' I agree that they were originally alive, but I believe that they were originally alive in the garden of Eden but once they had eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil they were denied eternal life by being denied access to the tree of life, and only allowed an earthly existence along with their descendants. It is obvious that having knowledge of good and evil without actually having knowledge of what is 'good' and what is 'evil' in God's eyes will only bring 'chaos' when we look at the state of the world and the lack of love in it. Then Jesus was sent to earth to become the sacrifice for all of mankind's sins, and to teach us what is actually 'good' and 'evil' , opening up the way back to God and eternal life. Men are referred to as 'trees' in the Bible by the blind man who is being given his sight by Jesus in Mark ch. 8 v.24 .Jesus is the true 'tree of life' that we can now have access to once we are born again of God's Holy Spirit..

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  62. Hi again Paul,
    just to add that I believe the statement 'to be born again' means to not just be 'born of water' as in the physical birth, but also to be born of the Spirit, as in being born of God's Holy Spirit. Jesus said that a man must be born of water and of the Spirit, and unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. This Spirit of God which we can be born of was not given until after Christ was crucified. 'By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified.' John ch.7 v. 39.

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  63. Thanks Scott, I think that your English is a lot better than mine, but remember that the Lord Jesus understands English and German alike. So next time you call on the Name of the Lord, you need to make sure that you call JESUS and not Darwin or Buddha or anyone else, they are dead and they can't do anything for you, but the Lord Jesus is alive, He rose on the third day and manifested Himself to numerous believers including to me.

    I'm sorry Scott, there is no other way! Therefore it is of great importance that you persist to enter through the narrow gate and that gate is the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Jesus said, that the gate is narrow and only few are those who find it.
    And remember that the Lord Jesus did NOT come to save nice guys but sinners just like you who believe in Atheism, Darwinism and in yourself.

    So my suggestion is that you don't look to the left or to the right, but let your gaze be fixed only on Jesus Christ and I will meet you on the other side.

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  64. Yes Brenda, there are many things we do not understand today, but tomorrow we will understand.
    Perhaps as Scott has said, 'that iron sharpens iron' and the Bible is God's Word written so that we can understand it.
    It is the Lords will that we study His Word and come to the knowledge of the truth, so that we can give to everyone who asks a reasonable answer for the hope that is in us.

    Thanks Brenda for sharing your Scripture reasoning with us, that is very interesting, although on many points I would have different view, perhaps that would make a good topic for a new post.
    But here on Daniels post I have tried to add another line to Arminian and Calvinistic thinking. Both groups do not think that there is a third line of Scriptural interpretation.
    I have been told by an Arminian brother, that there is not such a thing as a 'Calminian', :-) but I beg to differ.

    Concerning the new birth, the Lord Jesus said to Nicodemus, 'Are you a teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?' In verse 11 Jesus told them 'Truly, truly, I say to you, WE speak of what WE know and testify of what WE have seen, and you do not accept our testimony'.

    That was before Pentecost, and a teacher of the Scriptures like Nicodemus should have taught the new birth just like every other teacher through the Old Testament from Adam to this day.
    Remember that David received the Holy Spirit a long time before Pentecost (Ps.51:11) 'Do not cast me away me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me'.
    Adam also needed to be born again in his lifetime so that ALL the sons of God would have been revealed till this very day.

    Actually I meant that all God's children were spiritually alive only in Adam the first perfect man and after Adams sin, all his children were born spiritually dead, but not physically and at a latter time they all died physically.

    I think that Adam and his line of children would have to be born again by the Spirit of God in their lifetime and at the resurrection they will receive a new body, (a resurrection-body in a twinkle of an eye).

    (John 7:39) I think that Jesus was speaking of Pentecost, where they ought to receive the Holy Spirit in power, I don't think He was speaking of the new birth.

    Brenda, if Jesus became the sacrifice for all of mankind's sins, then all mankind's sins would be forgiven and nobody would owe anything to God.
    Even worse, God could not charge mankind for their sins, because they all are forgiven (double-jeopardy).

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  65. Hi Scott,

    I hope all is well!

    I quite like Josh''s reply to much of what you wrote. I agree that Christians don't really have full access to objective morality. However, as Josh said, I believe that we have some conscious reference to an objective morality, much like C.S. Lewis's take on morality. There is a consciousness of morality that I believe reflects an objective morality. This consciousness gets distorted for many reasons. One might be because of selfish ambition and the other because of subjective knowledge of situations.

    What I mean by subjective knowledge is that in many (if not, all) cases there is no one right way of taking a right moral action and there are many bad ways. If I view the actions of number of Christians from an outside perspective, while not knowing fully the context and attitudes behind the actions, it is highly probable that I would "judge" them wrongly. Only they know the situation they are in. I believe that there are definite guidelines embedded in our conscience and in God's Word, but to replicate the same action in every situation would result in bad actions in some circumstances. I think that this is why the Bible came in the form of life stories rather than rigid texts of do's and do not's. It is a guideline of how to live like Christ. In situations where it is unclear as to what direction to take, that is where relationship with, prayer and seeking God comes into play.

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  66. In relation to "responsibility"

    You said:
    ---"About moral responsibility: I still don't see, if God created me in exactly such a way that I choose not to believe in Him, and must thus be consigned to Hell (at least according to most Christians), how I have any accountability at all. Why did God create me (and all the other atheists, Muslims, etc.) in such a way? I don't see how you can logically reconcile God being omniscient, omipotent, and omnibenevolent."---

    I have a different view of hell as you may know, but putting that aside I'll have another poke at answering you here :)

    You say that we are not "responsible" for our actions because God gave us our predispositions. If you say that, then to keep it consistent, in an atheist paradigm every criminal in history should not be considered responsible, because their predisposition caused them to commit the crime. Following the chain of cause and effect back as far as we can, we should be blaming the Big Bang along with chaos theory before we even consider whether the criminal is "responsible" or not.

    This is where I think the problem with the concept of responsibility is. The concept of "responsibility" has been hijacked by Libertarian Freewill thought, or as you put it - a belief in the "quality" of Freewill. It follows that if a person commits a crime they are fully responsible for that crime as if that person had "Freely" chosen that crime.
    However, because both you and I are determinists, this definition is practically speaking completely void. No person "Freely" chooses any particular path but is subject to prior dispositions and therefore cannot be "blamed" in the libertarian sense.

    Rather, when an act of crime is committed, instead of using the libertarian concept of responsibility to blame the criminal or the Big Bang or God or what ever, we should be using responsibility as a word to identify where change needs to happen. What I mean by that is, by accepting what the person has done without "blaming" them we can look into the immediate context and find hope for change within that person or their circumstances. By asking who or what is responsible, we identify where in the link of cause and effect hope for change can be established. So in a deterministic frame of thought, "responsibility" is only given or used to construct, not to blame. To blame would be pointless, unless that blame was used to construct :)

    Therefore to say that God is wrong for sending to people hell is pointless in a deterministic framework. The more helpful and constructive question is more like, why would an omnibenevolent, omniscient, omnipotent God send people to "hell"?

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  67. Hi Paul,
    I have to say that I do not know much about Armenianism and Calvinism so I may not be able to comment on this issue really. I just came over because I enjoy discussions. I think that all these denominations are not organized by God anyway because we are told in 2 Timothy ch. 3 v.15 and 16 that the Holy Scriptures are able to make one wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus, and that all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.

    I have been to many denominations and found that they have conflicting doctrines, and that most of them do not operate in the way that the church operated when it was first formed, as in:- ' When ye come together, each one hath a psalm, hath a teaching, hath a revelation, hath a tongue, hath an interpretation. Let all things be done unto edifying.'( 1 Corinthians ch. 14 v.26 ). Soon after I became born again of God's Holy Spirit He instructed me to eat only 'unleavened bread' ( showing me that 'leaven' was doctrine, as in ' the doctrine of the Pharisees', and I find that when I am in a church gathering that operates according to this instruction then all things dove-tail together at the meetings.

    I don't believe that Adam and his line of children would have to be born again of God's Spirit in their lifetime Paul, I believe that is why we are told that Jesus went and preached to the spirits of the dead and that is why Paul speaks of being 'baptized for the dead'.( When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? (1 Cor. 15:28 and 29 )

    I believe that when we are born again we go into a different world and the old testament is no longer history and physical, but becomes present time and spiritual.

    I again say I do not fully understand all of God's ways and thoughts because His ways and thoughts are different to ours and just as Paul says that he had not finished the race towards the resurrection from the dead then neither have I.( Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus ). Philippians ch.3 vs. 12 - 14.

    All I know is that I have been instructed to 'go out into the highways and the byways' with my friend who had the same message, that we have been given poetry which we put in leaflets together with scripture and we see many people being drawn to Jesus through nothing of ourselves (even some of the poems have literally just dropped into my head).

    I believe learning and growing in Christ is a process and the most important thing is that I must do what I am called to do and glorify God in all that I do, and that by bringing in all the different doctrines of man which cause separation we miss the simplicity in Christ which brings about unity.

    As for when the Spirit was given, it is written in the Bible that it was not given until after Jesus was glorified, and as far as people having the Holy Spirit in the old testament is concerned:- If I become a spiritual Israelite once I become a part of God's church, and I believe the Spirit transports me out of mans' perspective of time ( Just like John the Baptist went in the spirit of Elijah ), then people having the Spirit in the old testament makes sense.

    I am not sure if I can add any more to what I have said Paul.

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  68. Scott - Thanks for the offer of lunch, if I ever have the money for a trip from New Zealand, I'll take you up on the offer! :)

    You raise a good question about responsibility. But how does ANY determinist think about accountability (including yourself)? Maybe we construe the whole thing wrongly in our minds. Maybe 'accountability' is not so much about our ability to freely choose otherwise, but more about the demonstration of our real nature (unable to choose otherwise), and thus also a demonstration of the necessary course of action (Hell). The question to ask is not about our 'accountability', but about God's reasons for Hell (I believe He has good reason).

    The Old Testament does not prescribe the abhorrence of slavery. But I accept that it allows it to exist in a controlled form. A few of my thoughts which I think are pertinent:
    - Permitting slavery ultimately says something about the state of Israel and God's purposes for the Law, rather than saying something about God's character.
    - The aim of the Law was not to provide a list of behaviours which would make one holy. It was intended to demonstrate our failure to have any innate righteousness. We can't conclude that you can be holy while promoting slavery, just because the Law allows for it.
    - One fundamental aim for the law constrains its attempts at other aims (like legislating God's character) - it must aim for the orderly running of society. Which automatically makes it less than utopian. It must choose the evils which that society has the energy to truly stamp out, and choose others to control.
    - Essentially, as Jesus Himself said, the Law permits controlled forms of some imperfections in society 'because of the hardness' of Israel's hearts, and the impracticality of truly eliminating certain practices (like slavery, divorce, polygamy).
    - Also we must interpret the 'controlled' forms of these 'evils' in the light of Israel's context at the time. Although slavery should not exist in an ideal world, it was intended to exist in a form which was a merciful, full, and secure way of life for many poor/indebted Israelites and prisoners of war, etc. It was a pragmatic solution to a problem that existed in their non-ideal world.
    - No doubt many abused this permission of slavery, but this was a violation of God's character if not the actual law. God is a character with complexities unable to ever be described (let alone legislated), but we can read between the lines (which is what I believe God wants us to do, ultimately).
    - God is presented as uncompromising in justice and fairness between people. The Israelites were to have God as their primary focus, and then the good of their neighbour (including slaves). Thus, in order to be true to God's character, a slave owner can only keep a slave if he truly believed it was in the slave's best interest OR if it was in God's best interest. And both these things could only ever be properly judged by someone who truly knew God, not any egocentric power-hungry judgemental person.

    What is it really about slavery that we (or you, specifically) find evil? Because I think that these aspects were all either condemned by the law, or by God's character (which the Law attempted to control rather than stamp out). This was undoubtedly abused by some in Israel, and blatantly abused worldwide where God and the Law held no sway. But I think that slavery as intended by God was an acceptable living for many poor israelites and prisoners of war, in the context they were living in.

    No I accept that an additional concern may underly your question about slavery, a concern with God's ethnic selectivity. This issue deserves a much fuller answer than can be given in a single comment :) Dan has written very well on this somewhere on the blog, but I can't find it at present...

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  69. I think you covered the issue of slavery quite well there Josh. It is not an easy topic for us to grasp as it is so foreign to us today. I'll stick my neck out here and say that I am not ENTIRELY sure that being a bond-servant to another person is such an evil thing in itself. I mean, today we are forced to be subservient more or less to our employers all our lives. The difference is that if we don't like one employer we can move to another, but either way we are slaves to work and therefore to our employers. I mean we are slaves to the law of the land aren't we? What I hate about slavery is more the mistreatment that can come with it as you have mentioned Josh.

    Do you mean the comment about universal and internal violence in the OT? If so it is in the comments here http://thebenevolenthecklers.blogspot.co.nz/2014/04/is-islam-religion-of-peace-debate.html.

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  70. Brenda, you are doing a great job to make us think.
    I'm trying hard to stay focused on the main theme of the the topic, although that isn't always possible because any debate opens up new interesting venues to explore.
    It is not really that important to understand Calvinism and Arminianism. They are two lines of interpreting salvation, Jacobus Arminius opposes John Calvin concerning the doctrine of election and the doctrine of grace.
    I'm not a expert on either 'ism', but I understand their reasoning and Scriptural positions.
    Both brothers were brilliant Bible scholars in their time, and therefore we now have two main persuasion of thinking.
    Most Christians fall into one or the other category of thinking without them actually knowing it, perhaps due to the teachers they had in their early conversion.
    However, I believe that the Lord Jesus has given us an expanded revelation in our time about those matters.

    Concerning the new birth of our Old Testament brothers.
    Do you really think that the OT Saints were spiritually dead and not born again?
    Please think again! Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego in the fire furnace, surely they were not spiritually dead, what about Jeremiah, Elijah, Elisha and Isaiah and all the rest of the mighty men of God, were they spiritually dead?

    No Brenda, the Lord Jesus rebuked Nicodemus for not preaching the new birth to Israel.
    You said, "As for when the Spirit was given, it is written in the Bible that it was not given until after Jesus was glorified,"
    I think that statement refers to Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was given in POWER, and that does not refer to the new birth.

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  71. Joshua, God's reason for hell is to punish transgression, and transgression came with the law (they shall not). Where there is no law, there is no transgression.
    Yes we do have a choice, the law demands that we should make the right choice. If we choose wrong, condemnation and punishment is unavoidable.

    Slavery came through Adam who sold all his children by the sin he committed into slavery to Satan, and the Lord Jesus Christ redeemed all his children at the cross of Calvary and set them free.
    'Him whom the Son sets free is free indeed', but that is the spirit and not the flesh.
    Within our flesh (the body) are two natures, the nature of Adam and the nature of the Serpent ( the beast).
    Both natures within us are in enmity with each other and the Serpents nature demands control and submission over Adams nature who now has been set free and therefore we have a choice.
    Now that struggle is in all of us. Perhaps we just have to look at ourselves; we don't mind to have a slave under us so that we can lord it over them, and when we have been enslaved by another, we retaliate.
    Slavery is only good if I am the master.

    The outward slavery is a reflection of the inward slavery.
    But the Lord Jesus said, 'do unto others as you would have them do unto you', therefore slavery is not accepted in the Lord.
    If we enslave another who is created in the image of God, what do we think that the Lord will do to us?

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  72. I understand what you are saying Paul, but a type of "slavery" seems to be "condoned" in the OT. So saying that it is completely wrong doesn't quite answer the whole story.

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  73. Well, I'm back, having barely survived five days on the Mediterranean. I guess I shouldn't have enjoyed it, because we only got to go because our friend got sick. But our friend is better, and it was fun.

    What a lot of friendly, well-thought-out commentary here! Thanks, everyone- this is an unusual level of quality. Gold Darwin stars to all! I probably won't be able to answer everyone in detail, but I'll do my best.

    Paul- your English is fine. And if Jesus is God, then you're probably right: I won't get to God by calling on Allah or Darwin (although CS Lewis thought you could- at least, in the last Narnia book he said that if you were good, it didn't matter if you called on Aslan or Tash). But how do you know it's Jesus and not someone else? And yeah, I've called specifically on Jesus, by name, and nothing has happened, so far. Maybe next time....


    Daniel: excellent questions. I'm sure I would be asking me the same questions if I were a Christian. You make a very good case for the God hypothesis, subclass Jesus, and I appreciate the effort.

    You say that Christians have a "conscious reference" and "definite guidelines" to objective morality, but you admit that this is "distorted" and also what I would call "context sensitive", that is, flexible depending on the situation. I don't think this is very far from my view of morals: I just don't have God or the Bible as the source, but rather my desires and love for the world, inborn and learned. And I admit they are not "objective", but they are also not arbitrary: else why would so many people, theist and atheist alike, share them, more or less?

    And as I've pointed out: what good do your vaunted "objective" morals do, if they don't work any better than humanistic morals, humbly admitted to be imperfect and subjective? As I've said: I don't really care where people claim to get their morals, as long as they behave nicely. And while we don't agree on all the particulars of nice behavior, there's still plenty of work to do on the basics that everyone outside of psychopaths agree on: peace, freedom from hunger, pain, and fear, and making the world a better place for our children. Can't we get those things straightened out before worrying about gay marriage?

    And Daniel- what you say about responsibility is also very much how I view it. Responsibility is something we must assume if we want to build societies, which most of us want to do. If people are not held responsible for their actions, then society is impossible. What "being held responsible" means is of course very complex, and I will not say that there is any perfect solution; but I think the necessity for responsibility (in many senses) is pretty obvious.

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  74. I'm an apathetic agnostic determinist: I think the world might well be deterministic in the sense that there is only one possible future at all times. But as I believe I've said: I don't think it matters, for deciding how to live, whether or not the world is deterministic. I think we agree that no one has access to that one possible future, so our choices are as real as they can possibly be to us, even if God, or the future state of the Universe, already embodies them somehow. I don't need there to be some sort of magic "will" for me to feel I'm making the choice, say, to make some tea or not: I consider the alternatives and make a decision.

    It's just something I do, just as a bacterium either follows that nutrient gradient upstream, or not. I've got a much bigger worldview than a bacterium, and there's lots more going on in my decision, but it's still just something that happens, a process, not a quality or right or godgiven responsibility.

    And that's the reason I don't hold the Big Bang (or God) responsible for my decisions: otherwise I would also be holding a rock responsible for falling on my head from the crumbly cliff above. Responsibility is, like making decisions, something that evolved, first in the biosphere and then in the ideosphere. It's not an inherent principle of the Universe: just a latent possibility that gets expressed in a few favored corners. And I'm glad it does.

    The fact that responsibility evolved gradually, and grows gradually in people as they grow up, makes it impossible to draw lines. Yes, it's difficult to know how to be just. Yes, age and mental capacity and mitigating circumstances need to be taken into account somehow. Exactly how is a problem, which you obviously see too: Christians (or any other theists) don't have any simple answers here either, do they?

    We can only judge by their fruits: what works better? Why does the most religious country in the First World imprison the largest percentage of its population of any First World country? Again, there are admittedly other factors besides religion at play here. But why do Americans do so poorly in international comparison, in crime, homelessness, poverty, healthcare? You'd think a "conscious reference" to objective morality would at least cut down on, say, teenage pregnancies more than atheism would, wouldn't you?

    Joshua: yes, you also answered as I probably would have about slavery in the Bible: it was better than before, and was God's best compromise with the realities of society. But that still doesn't answer my question: why shouldn't Christians endorse Biblical slavery today? I hadn't heard that God said anything more recently than the New Testament, where it's still condoned. And if God was just being realistic, why did he making looking at your neighbor's wife with lust a thought crime? You'd think this would be even more difficult to enforce than "thou shalt not hold slaves". But that's just my humble mortal opinion.

    As you might be aware, there actually are Christians who want Biblical slavery legal again. And if I were only to go by the Bible, I'd have to agree with them- why not? Why have any laws that go beyond what the Bible says? Or if so, how do you know they're right with God?

    cheers to all of you from cloudy Vienna, Scott

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  75. A few more random thoughts. First, I hope I don't offend anyone with my flippant remarks about God. If so, please let me know. I sometimes let trying to be funny get away with me.

    Second, some open questions. If God's morality as portrayed in the Bible is objective, does that mean His morals don't change? Because it's pretty obvious that the morals of the Old Testament were upgraded in the New. Is there an unfolding plan which includes different morals (or morally relevant actions) for different times? Is the New Testament the last Word?

    I ask this because many Christians seem to insist that God's morals do not and cannot change, but that the laws can and do change. This doesn't make sense to me: how can slavery be moral and then later immoral, if there's no change in morals?

    I don't have this problem with my moral view: I admit that it's subjective and that it changes. But that's what allows me to condemn slavery today: the Bible does not. Luckily, most Christians share my opinion on slavery. But it's not thanks to their religion, as far as I can see. That's okay with me.

    cheers from sunny Vienna, Scott

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  76. We are told that we are 'dead' in our sins even though we are actually alive in the flesh, so this must mean that we are 'spiritually' dead Paul. In Psalm 51 v. 5 king David wrote that he had been a 'sinner' from conception so this has to mean that he was spiritually dead.

    Romans ch.3 v.23 says:-
    'for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God'

    Romans ch. 5 v.12 says:-
    'Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned'

    So I have to agree with that which is written Paul.

    You say, regarding Jacobus Arminius and John Calvin concerning the doctrine of election and the doctrine of grace, 'Both brothers were brilliant Bible scholars in their time, and therefore we now have two main persuasion of thinking.', yet you also state that there was opposition within their doctrines, so this has to reflect that there is something wrong. The thing that I believe may be wrong is that one of them or both of them are trying to do the whole work of teaching, whereas the gift of teaching is given by the Holy Spirit, and is only one of the gifts. All gifts have to be in operation within the gathering of believers, including prophesy, and then the scripture 'No man shall say 'Know the Lord' for they shall all be taught by God comes into being

    As far as Nicodemus is concerned, Jesus was not rebuking him for not 'teaching' the new birth to Israel, he was showing him that in order to understand things of the Spirit and to be able to teach those things a person has to be born of that Spirit as well as being born of water, and that a person can only be part of the Kingdom of God once that person has been born of God's Spirit, as was revealed in Ephesians ch. 2 vs. 5-7.

    ' even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.…'

    I do believe that the Spirit being given in power refers to the new birth because John ch. 1 v.12 refers to this power as being the power given to become children of God once we receive Him by believing on His name:-

    'But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name'

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  77. Hey Scott,

    Nah, your comments here about God, generally speaking, are rather mild compared to most internet atheists I have come across lol, thank you. If you are wondering why we haven't replied sooner, it is simply because we are busy (I am studying and Josh is a doctor). These topics can take a block of time to sit down and formulate good ways of bringing thoughts and ideas across lol. No point in giving flippant replies :)

    Dan

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  78. Scott:

    Regarding slavery, the point I'm trying to make is that the 'slavery' condoned by the whole Bible is not the horrible slavery which we modern civilised people reject.
    It would be restricted to people for whom an alternative lifestyle was even more harsh (e.g. indebted people, prisoners of war, etc), and to those for whom ongoing slavery was the genuinely loving thing to do (and thus, presumably, mostly consensual). They would have been treated fairly and generously, and had a secure future for their whole family (which was kept together rather than separated).
    This is why I asked exactly what it was about 'slavery' that we find wrong. I was hoping to demonstrate that none of these aspects are actually present in the 'slavery' condoned by the Scriptures.

    The OT Laws permitted much 'controlled' evil - such as the improved (but still wrong) slavery, and the lust you mention. But the OT was never intended to prescribe what true 'holiness' would mean for us (instead it was intended to reveal the character of God and HIS holiness, and to reveal the rebelliousness of our hearts). Jesus came and demonstrated more clearly the folly of aiming for innate holiness via the Law, and the real way to please God (focussing on and loving HIS innate character, with resulting outflow into our actions).
    This is an extremely important difference, but can seem subtle in terms of our actions, until you talk about things like slavery. Suddenly the character of God seen THROUGH the Law and Jesus is much more important, rather than the 'prescription'. In this case, slavery should only be motivated by love for God's character and love for others. Which makes it a whole different entity.
    I'd be willing to bet that those who claim to want 'Biblical slavery' back are actually motivated by pure hatred, pride, or selfishness. There will be the rare loyal fanatic, but the 'God' they are loyal to is not the God I see through Scripture.

    Regarding the 'changing' revelation of God - these are some excellent questions! I'm writing a (long) article on this very topic.
    Essentially I think it is misleading to talk about God's 'morals'. 'Morals' are descriptions of right vs wrong behaviour (we are actually concerned with the morals God wants US to have, rather than His morals per se). But these are not the primary focus of God at all - instead He focusses on the state of our heart (rather than our behaviour per se). If our heart loves God, our actions (and morals) will accord with the character of God that we love.
    This focus on the heart will result in flexible and changing morals to a degree. Because actions that 'accord' to a specific character (God's) are very difficult to define in strict behavioural terms.
    Also, the revelation of God is deliberately progressive / incomplete - although the NT adds much clarity to the OT and introduces a new phase in God's plan, and so clearly will influence our 'morals'.
    What has NOT changed is God's character, which is why there are obvious strong and consistent threads throughout the Bible (despite the changing 'morals' due to progressive revelation and contextual sensitivity).

    In terms of the 'last word', God never expects us to go searching or guessing for the 'next revelation' of Himself. He gives hints as to what it will be, but it has always been fairly obvious, concordant (but progressive) with previous revelation, and resounding in the hearts of those who love God. That being said, the Bible suggests that the next phase will be upon the return of Christ. I await His timing and will leave it up to Him to make it obvious and beautiful and concordant with what I already know :)

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  79. Daniel: not to worry. I'm posting here largely to get my own thoughts in order, and you guys are a great critical sounding board. I hope you regard me as the same.

    Joshua: again, well answered. If I were a Christian I can imagine answering similarly. But again- you still haven't answered my point, and the question that goes with it: the Bible condones slavery. Why don't you?

    Yes, the picture you paint of nice masters saving war prisoners from certain death looks a lot better than blacks sweating away picking cotton. But two things: this is your picture, not necessarily what the Bible requires. According to the Bible, you may beat your slaves if you don't kill them outright, and you own their children. Why don't we enslave, say, the children of Iraq we made orphans and homeless? That's better than allowing them to starve, right?

    I guess you would say that you're not in favor of instituting Biblical slavery nowadays because of some feeling of love or responsibility to your fellow humans that God installed in you. That's fine: as long as you behave nicely, I don't care where you get the niceness. But you are going above and beyond what the Bible says.

    More power to you. Based on what you say, your morals are probably not that different from mine. I just don't see why I need a god or a book to live morally- and I don't see any evidence that I need either one, or that any gods or objective morals exist.

    cheers from cloudy Vienna, Scott

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  80. Yes Daniel, slavery seems to be condoned, and it was the will of the Lord so that we would be enslaved to Satan, otherwise there could not be a redemption.
    Modern day slavery is the same as the Old Testament slavery, except the whip has changed from sticks and ropes to an invisible psychological whip.

    The nation of Israel is a good example of that. They were considered to be God's people, but because of their stubborn, stiff-necked unbelief in the Lord, He banished them into slavery so that they might come to their senses and turn from their wicked ways to the Lord Jesus Christ and be saved and set free.
    So then slavery is a punishment from the Lord to all who do not believe in Him till this very day.

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  81. Hi Scott, I'm glad to have you back again.
    Yes, you are right, you can't call on Allah or Darwin and not even on Aslan or Tash, they all are false gods and they can't do anything for you.

    There is only ONE true God and eternal life and that is Christ Jesus my Lord (1 John 5:20).
    I'm sure that you can see that there is a big difference between Allah and the Lord Jesus Christ. Allah gets his children to tie a bomb around their body and then blow up their fellow brothers.
    But the true God Jesus Christ (1 John 5:20) gets His children to love their enemies and do good to them.

    If Allah's children would repent of their wicked ways and call upon the Name of Jesus Christ, they too would be saved, He receives ALL who come to Him and call upon His Name.

    Yes I surely know that it is Jesus and not somebody else, because I myself had to call on His Name to be saved.
    It is just as the Scriptures said that everyone who is born again is a brand new man, old things have passed away and behold all things are new.
    Scott, I'm aware that you do not fully understand what I am talking about, but after the Lord Jesus has made Himself known to you, you will understand, and for that reason I'm pushing you or perhaps encouraging you to press through the narrow gate no matter how long it takes.

    You said to Daniel, "I just don't have God or the Bible as the source, but rather my desires and love for the world."
    Again, once the Lord Jesus has made Himself known to you, you will know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Lord God Almighty, the creator of heaven and earth, the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end, and that the Bible is His written Word without fault so that the whole world is without excuse before the Lord.
    Jesus said "It is written"!

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  82. Yes Brenda, it means that David and all God's children were spiritually dead from birth, except two, perhaps I should have said one, since Jesus is only the Son of God in a metaphorical sense. The reality is that the Lord God was born into His own creation, and therefore He is 'CALLED' the Son of God (Luke 1:35, He is not actually the Son of another person called God as so many Christians believe.

    The first Adam was 'MADE' perfect and spiritually alive, then the Lord told him that on that day he will eat, that he would die, first spiritually and after 960 years he would die physically.
    So Adam had to become born again as a free gift in order to be spiritually alive again, remember, it is a free gift, it's by grace alone and not by works lest any man should boast.

    And the second Adam is Jesus Christ, He was 'BORN' spiritually alive and because he never sinned, therefore it was impossible for Him to die, that is spiritually and physically and therefore He was able to rescue all God's children and give them eternal life as a FREE GIFT.

    Again Brenda, you cannot become a child of God or a child to anyone else by your will or by your doing and you need to believe that.. Verse 13 of (John 1) explains and confirms what I have been saying.
    Verse 12 is a statement of those who are already born again, those who HAVE received Him.

    You have touched on some interesting topics, worthwhile to have a good debate about, but there is more than meets the eye.

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  83. Paul: thanks for your concern. Ich weiss das zu schätzen. I will certainly try calling on Jesus again, and I'll let you know if He answers my call.

    Meanwhile- yes, Muslims blow themselves up and kill innocent people. But Israelites were ordered to kill all the Amalekites: man, woman, child, chattel. Modern Christians pilot drones into residential districts, because they have the money to save their own skins. If these aren't "true" Christians, then the Muslim suicide bombers aren't "true" Muslims- which is of course the position of many if not most Muslims.

    Yes, most modern Christians don't advocate genocide. And some of the credit for that is due the Bible, which can be very nicely cherry-picked to advocate peace and brotherhood. It's harder (but still possible) to get that message from the Koran, especially since the Bible gets nicer from start to finish, and the Koran gets nastier. There are good historic reasons to explain this, but I'm sure you've investigated it yourself as far as you want.

    In any case, my theory (fwiw) is that the current relative preponderance of Muslim over Christian suicide bombings is due to the greater superstition of the Muslims: they didn't go through the Enlightenment (die Aufklärung), so they are more sure of Heaven, and less sure of facts, than most modern Christians. This is of course a coarse oversimplification, merely a statistical tendency: there are intelligent rationally thinking Muslims, and backwards dangerous Christians, not to mention completely bonkers atheists... but I digress....

    In any case: if forced to choose based on books, I'd take the Bible over the Koran. But I won't take either over the real world. And the real world shows me that both are false, or at least contain falsehoods. Science also contains falsehoods, but science, as opposed to religion, allows correction, to allow us to get ever closer to the truth. And I'm after the truth.

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  84. Hi Paul,
    I don't believe the first Adam was 'made perfect and spiritually alive' as you have stated, and I can not see anywhere in the Bible where God 'TELLS' the Adam formed from dust that he 'will die, FIRST SPIRITUALLY,and after 960 years he would die physically', as stated in your last comment to me ' then the Lord told him that on that day he will eat, that he would die, first spiritually and after 960 years he would die physically.'

    I believe the first Adam, who was formed from dust and who was a 'living soul' (no mention of Spirit), and all of his descendants were not God's children insomuch as they were not born of the Spirit - by being denied the right to eat from the tree of life 'lest they live forever'. God's children would be able to live forever, having eternal life like God Himself has.

    Eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ, ' And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.' ( John ch. 17 v. 3 ). This was only granted to mankind after Jesus became the sacrifice for mankind's sins which originated through the first Adam.

    In Genesis ch. 3 v.22 God states that Adam and Eve had become 'as one of us' by knowing good and evil, and I believe He is speaking to Jesus, the Word who was with Him in the beginning )

    Yes, Jesus is the second Adam and was not the son of another person because Mary 'was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit' (Matthew ch.1 v.18 ).

    I have not stated that a person can become a child of God 'by their will' or anything else other than by believing on Jesus Christ and being baptized once being called by God to Jesus. Only then can one become born again by being baptized in the Holy Spirit. That is the 'power' stated in the Bible that causes us to become 'children of God'. Becoming a child of God is not a physical birth but a Spiritual one.'But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: (John 1 v.12). ' Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God' (John 1 v.13).

    You are right in saying there is more than meets the eye here. I would add that just as there are different tribes in physical Israel, so too are there different 'tribes' in spiritual Israel, and that opens up a whole new world of discussion.

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  85. Hi Scott!

    I am glad you are finding these discussions useful  So am I. Sometimes you kind of know what you think, but it is always helpful to have someone make you put it into words in a coherent way!
    You address several topics that I would like to comment on.

    1. "although CS Lewis thought you could- at least, in the last Narnia book he said that if you were good, it didn't matter if you called on Aslan or Tash"
    2. Statistical fruit determines the value of a paradigm
    3. Atheism "works" just as well as Christianity
    4. There is no evidence for God

    Regarding the first comment about Lewis, I believe he thought that if someone earnestly sought God, that they would find Him. It is through Christ that people are saved, not necessarily through the knowledge of Christ. He has pleasure in those who seek after Him and not merely about how many good works you do. Isaiah states that our righteousness’s are as filthy rags (the Hebrew is actually a bit more colourful than that lol). It is about where the heart is aiming that really matters.

    You reference at times how the west being a religious culture has worse statistics than other cultures. For me personally, statistics are interesting and they encourage interesting ponderings, but they can lie and do. For example, in New Zealand there was a spike of reported domestic violence in 2007. At first glance it may look like New Zealand is getting more violent but in actual fact the statistic probably came about due to public campaigns to encourage awareness about domestic violence, and therefore resulted in more reports. Also, one cannot blame any statistic on a particular cause thought that “cause” may be partly responsible. We however can talk about correlations.

    As to there being “Christian” cultures with bad statistics, it is not surprising. In my opinion, Christianity was never meant to be a state governed kingdom but rather a collection of people who follow Christ. As you will well know, there are many people who profess to be Christian when it suits them, but really haven’t “owned” their faith. Jesus Himself said that this would be the case and so far His prediction tends to be correct.

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  86. You seem to focus quite on pragmatism a lot there Scott. You claim that atheism allows you to have similar morals to Christianity, which I totally agree with. Though the question is more like, “Does it promote those morals?”, and as we have already discussed, it needs ad-on’s to promote morals. It is easy for you to say that you are happy and comfortable with your morals, but what happens when you wish to apply them to others? What will you reference?
    Life is so much more than pragmatism. Jesus said that He came to give life in its abundance. This abundance isn’t just about living in a world with good morals, but about living life within narratives. For me and many others, having faith in God provides a narrative that covers our life experiences, and it is a hopeful and noble narrative. Even in the hardest times, Christians can look to God and put their trust in Him, that He has everything under control. Not only that, but we are actually able to have a relationship with the Ultimate Purpose by which we are here, and that is God. This provides a resilience to the hardships faced in life. You also mentioned that you seek truth, whereas for a Christian, we already have a fulfilment of having found that Truth.

    Even though atheism allows a type of framework by which to live, it doesn’t really do any these things. There is no overarching purpose by which to live. The narrative seems to be more prone to be about our subjective whims. When facing hard knocks, there is no one we can look to, (that is, who will always be there no matter what). For me, this has a major bearing on how useful or effective a paradigm is in a person’s life. Life is also about fullness and not just about practicality.

    You mention that there is no evidence for God. You well know my thoughts on this, but it is worth mentioning since you bring it up again lol. Take chaos theory or intelligent design as two possible explanations for our existence. I would say that there is evidence for both. There is evidence for validity of chaos theory, due to experiments being conducted. However, there is also evidence for intelligent design in experiments. Thus we know that complex systems can and are actually created.
    When looking at the universe and the makeup of everything, we are a too small a part to see the source of the universe. However, we can choose which paradigm or narrative to live by, and I reckon that the narrative we choose is usually the one we want. That is why God is more concerned about the heart of a person. If a person desires God, then there is enough evidence to believe in Him. If they do not, then there is enough evidence to convince themselves that He does not exist or is unlikely to exist.

    Evidence is not only considered to be evidence if it only points to one conclusion. Evidence is still evidence even if it points to multiple conclusions.
    Therefore, it is not wholly unreasonable to conclude that a likely cause of the universe is intelligent design, based on evidential data. If you disagree, then please start protesting the use of juries in court.

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  87. Daniel: you're right- discussing one's worldview with thoughtful critics is a great way to help make it clear to yourself. I hope you don't feel bad if you are helping me to confirm my atheism. Not that you (all of you here) are doing a bad job of representing Christianity. You seem to be on the rational and loving end of the Christian spectrum, which is where I want to be on the atheist spectrum. Thus, as I've said, we actually have a lot in common.

    And that is the more serious purpose I have in conversing with theists: to find common ground. I don't think theism or atheism is going to die out any time soon. Meanwhile, we have to share this planet. Even more to the point, our children have to share this planet. I'm more interested in peaceful coexistence than winning converts.

    Anyway- I just threw that in about CS Lewis because lots of Christians admire him (rightfully so, I think), and he was a lot more liberal than many Christians believe. Of course, the Narnia books were a fantasy, not a serious theological work, but I suspect they pretty well reflect his feelings about Christianity. And this stuff about Aslan and Tash was straightforward: you could worship Tash (the Devil, or Allah, thinly disguised) all your life, by name, and still get to Aslan, if you were good. This is not what most Christians would say. But of course you are not bound to what Lewis thought.

    About statistics: yes, of course they can be used to lie, or more often, they are simply used to support a very oversimplified agenda. My rant about violence in the US was probably not really necessary here: it's just that I often get told by Christians (sorry, but yes, mostly by Calvinists) that if I'm an atheist, there's no reason for me not to rob banks. They don't seem interested that there's no basis in fact for this. For whatever reason, most atheists don't rob banks.

    Which brings me to pragmatism. Yes, I'm pragmatic. What else can I be, if I don't believe in gods or objective morals? Not only does pragmatism seem to work in the real world; I would argue that you, too, are pragmatic, and that Christianity, and all other religions, to some extent at least, are collections of pragmatic rules and parables, dressed up with deities to make them more attractive and/or fearful. But that's just my humble opinion.

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  88. And yes, as we've already discussed: atheism is, despite popular opinion, not a religion, nor does it imply any sort of moral framework or preferred behavior. For that, your atheist need to adopt morals and behaviors from some philosophy such as humanism. Since I can't judge people by their hearts, or even by what they say they believe, but only by their actions (and only poorly), then I'm stuck with statistical fruits. But as I said, so are you, as far as I can see.

    Sure, religion can be a source of strength in hard times. But so can love, even without God: love for your family, for all of humankind, for the planet, for the Universe. And of course even if religious people deal with hard times better than atheists, that doesn't mean that God exists. If it helps you, though, more power to you.

    About evidence for God: no, I don't see any. I do see lots of reasons why people believe, but that's not the same thing. Intelligent design is, as you say, at least a conceivable answer to the design we see in Nature, be it in life, or just the laws of physics, or whatever. The problem I have with intelligent design is that it has no explanatory power: all it does is pass the buck to God. If you can't explain God's design, or His power to create design, you haven't explained anything, as far as I can see. And since God must be incomprehensibly if not infinitely complex and intelligent, then you've hypothesized the existence of a far (perhaps infinitely) more complex Universe than one without God- without evidence, and without any improvement in explaining things. Thus, until God speaks to me, I'll go along with Occam and stick to the simpler (perhaps infinitely so) solution.

    cheers from stormy Vienna, Scott

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  89. Scott:
    I answered your slavery question by contesting your premise :) I don't think the Bible condones slavery.
    - Both the OT and NT describe slavery. This is obviously quite different to 'condoning' it.
    - The purpose of the OT descriptions are various, but usually serve to control / limit slavery, making it a very different entity to anything experienced throughout most of history. If I were to ever consider accepting a form of 'legal' slavery it would be similar to this.
    - However, both the OT and NT ALSO describe multiple other principles which are indirectly relevant to slavery - e.g. love your nieghbour, have God as your main motivation, be just and fair, and ultimately imitate Christ in your character (who emptied himself for others).
    - Thus if someone truly followed what the Bible 'condones', slavery as we know it would not exist at all, and even the controlled form from the OT would only exist in a context of genuine loving relationships.
    - In today's cultural context, other options exist for the expression of these genuine loving relationships, and the word 'slavery' is so repugnant to most people (due to its association with the historically more prominent hate and greed-based systems). Hence I (and the Bible) do not support slavery in today's cultural context.

    BTW, just a few thoughts about the correlation of 'religious' paradigms to certain moral behaviors:
    - Humans universally work very hard to create a synthesised paradigm of the world that incorporates the evidence they perceive (again heavily biased and incomplete), but also that incorporates their desires. This leads to the obvious outcome of most people adopting a cognitive theory which is as similar as possible to the narrative we were raised to accept, but with changes to incorporate our unique perceptions (not usually that drasticly different) and desires (which can be drastically different).
    - The point is that Christianity, Islam, and atheism are all going to be commonly used (in various twisted / unbalanced forms) to excuse, explain, express, and give meaning to the underlying desires of the individual. It commonly does not actually reflect the intentions of the founders / authors / leaders of that philosophy. As such we should not use individual or popular opinions to define atheism, Christianity, Islam, etc. Instead we should aim to understand the intentions of its founders.
    - I realise this is extremely subjective (like all knowledge) and we are in an imperfect pursuit. Especially considering that we are all part of the 'mob', with our own individual desires and paradigms, etc. However, I have hope that God will both change desires and perceptions as required to fulfil His plan, and that His plan includes the revelation of His character in some way to humanity.
    - This should be our goal when describing and/or following a philosophy. IMO, only those with this goal can rightfully claim the title of 'Christian' etc, regardless of how much they agree (and I'm sure that some of them get it so wrong that they don't actually know God - but I accept their claim to the title). Those with a different aim should avoid confusing the picture and call themselves (or their subject) something else, or at least qualify the title (e.g. 'popular neo-Christianity').

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  90. Regarding pragmatism and explanatory power:
    - I agree with pragmatism to a degree. The thing about pragmatism is that it has claimed difficulty with the idea of 'true knowledge', and so we are just doing the best we can. Which means we must give credence to alternative (but similarly pragmatic) views or paradigms. I am a Christian because I don't think any other paradigm is as 'pragmatic' as Christianity in terms of explanatory power.
    - Your statements about Occam's razor are interesting but slightly wrong (I think). Occam's razor states that among paradigms with the same explanatory power, those with fewer 'assumptions' are most worth pursuing. It is a statement about ease of research rather than how likely a paradigm is to be correct (think Quantum physics or Evolution). Also, importantly, it is used to distinguish between paradigms of the same explanatory power.
    - First off, then, we both know that saying 'there is no evidence for God' is a grossly misleading statement. I think what you're trying to say is that 'Theism does not have higher explanatory power Atheism'. Fine, but I disagree with a passion!
    - Secondly, assuming you are right, Occam's razor does not apply so neatly in favour of Atheism as you suggest. Exactly what an 'assumption' is (according to the principle) is not clearly stated, but is generally thought to consist of the number of foundational unprovable axioms, rather than the sum total of every conceivable consequent intermediate belief. In the case of Theism or Deism, assuming God exists can be formulated as the sole 'foundational axiom', with inductions about his likely character taken from the Universe, humanity, and His proported 'revelations' throughout history.
    - I would argue that Christianity is not more 'complex' in its assumptions than atheistic views. Consider the 'multiverse'. This set of paradigms must include assumptions about the origin of the multiverse. A truly scientific person will be able to simultantouely entertain several versions of the theory with different foundational axioms, and will easily entertain any new paradigms that are suggested / inspired by the research. This would include the idea of 'God' creating the multiverse just as much as the idea of the multiverse being eternal (a different foundational axiom).
    - What I'm saying is that 'unnecessary complexity' applies to Theism just as much as atheism, except that theists tend to be more emotionally attached to a particular set of assumptions, whereas atheists tend to not care so much. But caring / not caring is not what we're discussing here!
    - Which leads us back to the explanatory power of 'God' vs an eternal universe. And I don't think this is so easily brushed aside.

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  91. Joshua- yet another great reply. I do hope you have time for the rest of your life outside the internet.

    About slavery: I think we've come to the probably inevitable impasse here. But I'll give it one last shot. You seem to have four points:

    1) The Bible doesn't condone slavery
    2) The slavery the Bible doesn't condone but describes/regulates is "nice" slavery
    3) Even nice slavery wouldn't have happened if we took loving our neighbor, etc, seriously
    4) The word "slavery" sounds really nasty to most people nowadays, and we don't need it anyway, so we shouldn't do it.

    Is that more or less correct? I'll try to answer point by point.

    1) We must have different definitions of "condone". How can specifically allowing something (say, in Leviticus 25) and saying how it should be done not count as "condoning" something? I really don't understand.

    2) Sure, as I said, if we give the Israelites the (considerable) benefit of the doubt and say they were all exemplary, loving slave masters, then that's "nicer" slavery that what many or most Africans experienced in the American South. That still doesn't make owing the children of your slaves "nice"- or does it? Face it- you and I have better moral principles than the Bible, at least in this repect.

    3) Yes, that's probably your best bet at getting Biblical support against slavery. But it's cherry picking Scripture against Scripture. You could also simply quote 1 John 4:8 and be have done with all the other unnecessary stuff about what to eat, whom to worship, when to work, whom not to kill, etc. That's a good example of why I think it impossible to say exactly what the authors of the Bible meant, because so much of it is either ambiguous or open to a great deal of interpretation.

    4) Yes, slavery has nicer descendants nowadays. But that's largely because of humanistic ideals, which are generally a lot less forgiving of slavery than the Bible is.

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  92. About pragmatism: if you can show me how Christianity (or theism) gets pragmatic answers where science and/or humanism fail, then I'd love to hear. About evidence for God: I stick by my formulation- I don't see any. Can you show me some?

    About Occam: just because the word "God" is simple, doesn't mean that the Being or the concept behind it is simple. Simply postulating the existence of the real world as we know it, along with its laws, is still infinitely simpler (at least as far as I can see) as postulating an omniscient, omnipotent Being who designed and built the whole thing. Thus, until I see evidence for the existence of this being, above and beyond the physical Universe and its laws, I will (tentatively) hold that such a being does not exist. If the existence of order, or of anything at all, is a mystery, it is not made less mysterious by positing a God whose existence is simply postulated and/or seemingly puffed into existence by logic.

    Of course, you could simply take the postion of Deus, sive Natura (God, that is, Nature) of Spinoza. No need for a being here, though. I wonder what ol' Baruch thought about this...

    cheers from overcast Vienna, Scott

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  93. Scott, That raises the question; what is a true Christian?
    Is the devil a true Christian when he calls himself 'Christian'?
    Is the wolf a sheep, when dressed up in sheep-clothing?

    Concerning the Amalekites, it is the Lord who destroyed the Amalekites, just as He has destroyed all mankind (woman and children alike) in the flood except eight, Noah and his family.
    (Deut. 8:20) It is the Lord who makes the Nations perish.
    (Deut. 32:39) It is the Lord who put them to death and brings them back to life, or wounds them, or heals them etc.
    (Job 12:13-25) God does all things!.
    And look what the Lord is saying to those who do not repent of their wicked ways, (Rev. 2:23) 'And I will kill her children with pestilence, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds.'

    Perhaps you can see that the Lord is talking to the so called Christian church.
    As for me, I do not call myself 'a Christian', for I am a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ and an Ambassador and there is a BIG difference.

    Christians today are similar to Muslims, I don't think that there is a big difference, except their church traditions and practices.
    They both believe in a God they do not know, the Muslims call him Allah (which means God) and the Christians call him God and tragically both of them don't know His Name, it's a disgrace to the so called Christian Church who holds His Name but don't believe in Him.

    I have two copies of the Koran in English and one of them I have read from cover to cover just so that I have an educated opinion what a Muslim believes.
    The Koran is an excellent work, perhaps because Mohamed would also have had access to the Old Testament and partly to the New Testament writings. But the written Word of God is the Bible and not the Koran.
    I'm glad that your preference is the Bible and not the Koran, I always thought that there is more to you than just a mere Atheist :-)
    The more you write, the louder I can hear the call of the Lord Jesus to you 'Scott follow Me!'

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  94. Brenda, by the word 'made', I meant that the Lord 'created 'Adam His first son just like Himself, spiritually alive.
    By spiritually alive I mean that God who is Spirit made His abode in Adam just the same as He has made His abode in me and in all of us who are born again.
    Because God is alive, therefore His son or children must also be alive. It would be wrong to think that God would create His first son Adam 'perfect, except spiritually dead', which is a contradiction in term.
    (Gen. 1:31)'God saw all that He made, and behold, it was very good.' (Perfect)
    (Gen.2:17) God said to Adam, 'For in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.'
    So then exactly on that 'DAY ' Adam ate, he died, but that is spiritually. The Spirit of God left Adam, or has departed (which ever you prefer to say), and that is called death (spiritual death, separation).
    After Adam has 'spiritually' died, the Lord was outside of Adam in the cool of the day (Gen. 3:8).
    Now with all of us who are born again, the Lord has made His abode inside of us and therefore we now walk with the Lord inside of us in the cool of the day and have now everlasting life.
    Can you see the parallel?

    As a teacher of Israel, Nicodemus should have known the Gospel of the new birth from the Book of Genesis just as I do.

    Remember that the first New Testament Saints did not have the New Testament Books, they preached the Gospel from the Old Testament Books, mainly the Torah and some of the Prophets.
    I find it alarming, that the so called Christians are unable to preach the Gospel from Old Testament.
    As for me, I can preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ from the Book of Genesis alone to every creature under the sun.

    I also made it clear that a person can not become a child of God by 'BELIEVING'.
    For anyone to believe he first must 'WILL', and for anyone to be baptized in water, he first must 'WILL' to do so, therefore you are saying that a person becomes a child of God by their will, if they do not 'will', they can not become children to God.
    Continued on next page.

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  95. Brenda, what does it mean to have a living soul?
    If Adams children were not God's children, then whose children are they?
    Who then fathered those children, (physically and spiritually)?
    Do you think that all the Old Testament people were spiritually dead and didn't have eternal life because they didn't know Jesus Christ?
    Are you saying that you were not God's child before you were born again?
    If not, then who's child were you?

    You said, "In Genesis ch. 3 v.22 God states that Adam and Eve had become 'as one of us' by knowing good and evil, and I believe He is speaking to Jesus, the Word who was with Him in the beginning )".

    Look Brenda, you still don't believe that the God of Genesis 1:1 is the Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth.
    Therefore it makes it very difficult for you to understand the Scriptures, well I think it is impossible.
    Previously I have said to you that the doctrine of God is the most important doctrine which is 'faaaar' above all other doctrines, and no one should err in that.

    OK, I state it again as good as I can; There is only ONE person who is the Lord God the Almighty and that is the Lord Jesus Christ, beside Him there is no other person, Spirit or identity who is also God.

    That is a simple and a fixed statement.
    Anyone who alters that statement, transgresses the first Commandment of the Lord and all the rest of the Scriptures.
    So then, If Jesus Christ is that 'God' in Genesis and the Bible, then there can not be any other Spirit, God-person, God-identity or a God who is speaking to the Lord Jesus Christ.
    Yes, I go as far as to say, not even in a metaphorical sense.

    Satan tried to question and test the deity of Jesus Christ in the wilderness, (Mat. 4.....) and look the divine response from the Lord, verse 7 ' it is written, You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.'
    I ask you, who did Satan test in the wilderness?
    And look there was no other God to minister to Jesus, only angels (verse 11).
    What about verse 4, they shall live out of every WORD that proceeds out of the mouth of God'.
    Isn't Jesus the Word of God?
    Or is there another?
    No Brenda, you first need to work on the doctrine of God.

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  96. Paul- thanks again for your concern. About my preference for the Bible over the Koran: I like to think it is because of long study and reflection, concluding that the Bible is nicer and/or truer than the Koran. But I'm afraid I don't really know the Koran as well as I should to dismiss it. My preference is probably just geographical: people tend to believe, when they believe, what's around them.

    And perhaps also in the Bible's favor is the direction of moral change through the books, as I mentioned before: the Bible gets more peaceable towards the end (with nice Jesus instead of grumpy Jahweh), and the Koran does the opposite. No doubt there are good historical reasons for this.

    As far as the Amalekites go: sorry, killing children is beyond the pale for me. A God who commands His people to kill an entire other people is not a God I will worship. My morals, and probably yours too, are better than that, just as our morals about slavery are better.

    Since I don't believe in the existence of "evil" as a malign force that is inherited, then I don't go along with the "necessity" to kill children. People who say they would kill children if their God commands it are dangerous people, if you ask me.

    cheers from sunny Vienna, Scott

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  97. Great write up Josh. Although I have to agree with Scott in that the Bible seems to 'condone' slavery. As in, it reluctantly tolerates it but I think you mean that it does not really commend it.

    Scott you said
    ---"Face it- you and I have better moral principles than the Bible, at least in this repect."---
    A little tongue and cheek but by what line do you judge a "better" moral principle? Back then the line would have been in a different place socially speaking from today. In that respect I suppose you could say that from our ‘humble’ perspective (social majority speaking) we currently do have better morals. Who knows, in a thousand years slavery could be seen as tolerable again. In a majority perspective they would view us as "backward". But of course that argument is old. Yet not to say that it is invalid :)

    You also said
    ---“You could also simply quote 1 John 4:8 and be have done with all the other unnecessary stuff about what to eat, whom to worship, when to work, whom not to kill, etc. That's a good example of why I think it impossible to say exactly what the authors of the Bible meant, because so much of it is either ambiguous or open to a great deal of interpretation."---

    Excellent post-modern observation. Any word can have different connotations to different people. Of course with the Bible it is hard to define exactly what the authors were intending. However, it is not pointless or entirely impossible to do so. In my opinion, it is quite united to a large part. I take it your definition of 'love', means let everyone do as they wish? Biblically, that is not the definition of love. Jesus said that if you love Him then obey Him. Sometimes if a person expresses or permits specific actions for others to do, it creates not only a sense of commitment, but also creates a new avenue in which to love that person. Say, if my wife likes flowers, I will relish giving her flowers :) If she was indifferent to any particular thing then my actions would seem less significant.

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  98. You said:
    ---"Simply postulating the existence of the real world as we know it, along with its laws, is still infinitely simpler (at least as far as I can see) as postulating an omniscient, omnipotent Being who designed and built the whole thing. "---

    Postulating a narrative that does not have intelligent design in the mix creates many avenues for assumptions. People use so many "scientific" theories to postulate how we got here today. They are somewhat ‘simple’ explanations at first glance but actually contain many, many assumptions in many areas. Too "simple" in my opinion, thus lacking explanatory power. Like evolution. Evolution has evidence for it, yes, yet it assumes A LOT when it comes to stretching it back millions of years and beyond. The intelligent design idea assumes a lot too, but at least it is more believable (even if it incorporates evolution). Thus, simple explanations sometimes are simply too simple to the point where they become extremely complex in its assumptions when examined further. Science is not only about deduction but about induction. The fact is, no scientific experiment creates any surety of explanation for anything (especially when experiments are so isolated and uniformity is assumed), but rather raises more questions, which are often not able to be found out.

    Science was never meant to 'find' God but explain how He did stuff. Seeing how the world was formulated scientifically makes it a lot more believable when intelligent design is somewhere at the helm. However, that does not mean stopping to see how He may have done it. See, the existence of God is not necessarily postulated by what we do not know, but what we do know! A little like how Lewis stated that he believed in Christianity as he believed in the sun, not just because he saw it, but because by it he sees everything else. Thus, the Christian narrative fits not necessarily because it answers the unknown, but because it reflects and matches the known. It pulls together and explains why the world is what it is.

    BTW, on your way to protest the court’s use of juries, you may want to edit the definition of “evidence” in wiki. See, if you are able to change the definition of evidence to that of ONLY supporting a conclusion directly, it may provide a bit of public support for your case. By doing this, we could maybe begin to establish a culture of only acknowledging evidence if it obviously applies in one way to any given case. This would nigh abolish testimonial, historical, and questionable scientific evidences because they would all carry the danger of being wrong. Great!

    Got to have a bit of fun ay :)

    Oh and do you mean "confirm" or clarify your atheism?

    Cheers!

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  99. Paul,
    I can only repeat what I have said before, as written in the Bible. 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.' This sentence can not make sense to the carnal mind.

    Because I believe that the Bible acts like a vocabulary, not a book, then I believe that the word spoken to each individual will form each individual according to what God wants that individual to be and do in His church.

    Genesis ch.2 v.7 says that the man that God had formed from dust became a 'living being' (some interpretations say a 'living soul'.)

    1 Thessalonians ch.5 v.23 mentions soul, spirit and body. ' Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you completely; and may your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.' Three parts are mentioned.

    What is the need for someone to 'become' children of God (as in John 1 v.12 ' But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name):if we already are children of God.? Also John ch. 3 v.16 states :- 'For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life'


    The sacrifice of Jesus, whom God made Lord and Christ ( 'Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.'. (Acts ch.2 v.36 ),) is what stops the curse of death on mankind It does not state anywhere regarding the first Adam that God formed from dust that he was a 'son of God' Up until Jesus birth all of Adam's descendants were born with the promise of death in them and were denied eternal life, as was the first Adam. God's children do not have the spiritual death in them because they have spiritual access to the 'tree of life' by being part of the body of Christ'.

    Because Jesus was born into this world of the Holy Spirit, and can never die, then all who believe in Him and are baptized in that Holy Spirit shall also have eternal life. To me, to 'believe' on Jesus is to trust absolutely the word Highlighted to me by the Holy Spirit, my teacher, as I work out my own salvation, not only hearing but acting on that word spoken to me.

    I agree with you Paul, as it says in Matthew ch.4 v.4 that I must 'live' by every WORD that proceeds out of the mouth of God. I also agree that Jesus is the Word of God. I also agree, as v. 4 states that that Word comes out of the MOUTH OF GOD, and this is where 'In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God' makes sense to those who are born again.

    I am now a new creation, the old 'man' is now dead and I have the mind of Christ. ' But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ' ( 1 Corinthians ch.2 vs. 15 , 16.) This was spoken of people who were born again of God's Spirit.

    to be continued.




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  100. You ask me in your comment 'Do you think that all the Old Testament people were spiritually dead and didn't have eternal life because they didn't know Jesus Christ?'

    I do think that they did not have eternal life because they did not know Jesus Christ. because we are told in the Bible that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ.' Jesus Himself says this in John ch. 17 v.3 'Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent'

    1 Peter ch.3 vs. 18 - 22 explains so much about salvation for fallen .mankind through Jesus.

    For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive in the Spirit. After being made alive He went and made proclamation to the imprisoned spirits— to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.[ It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God’s right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

    You also say to me in your comment :-

    'I also made it clear that a person can not become a child of God by 'BELIEVING'.
    For anyone to believe he first must 'WILL', and for anyone to be baptized in water, he first must 'WILL' to do so, therefore you are saying that a person becomes a child of God by their will, if they do not 'will', they can not become children to God.'

    I would answer that statement by saying that for anyone to believe he or she must first be called by God to Jesus for 'No man can come to Jesus except he is drawn by God.':- John ch. 6 v. 44.
    "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day'

    Throughout my life I have experienced things which have drawn me to Jesus. When I was thirty five I became born again of the Holy Spirit. Praise my lovely Lord Jesus.

    You say in your comment to me:-

    'I find it alarming, that the so called Christians are unable to preach the Gospel from Old Testament.'

    ' but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks (gentiles) foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks (gentiles), Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.' (1 Corinthians ch.1 vs.23 - 25).

    This mentions 'those who are called', as in 'drawn by God to Jesus', and tells them what they are to preach.

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  101. Brenda- no, I'm not going to comment on your religious beliefs- I'm not qualified. But I will say that you seem like a nice person, and that's the important thing to me. I hope you're having a good time here- I know I am.

    Daniel- you seem to be channeling humanistic ideals lol. At least, I agree with about eighty percent of what you say. Just leave out your God bits, or put God bits in me, and we're pretty much the same, as far as moral philosophy goes. But there are still some points I must discuss.

    About the change of morals with time: yes, all of what you say is true. We should be happy that we live in a time when genocide and slavery, although they still occur, are pretty much universally deplored, even by most Christians and Muslims. Did you know, by the way, that only one country banned slavery later than the US? Turkey.

    In any case, I'm optimistic that slavery might not ever become normal: there's too much knowledge all over the world about how inhumane it is. As Joshua said, it's got a terrible rep nowadays. Of course, if we continue to destroy the Earth as we're doing now, there will be a breakdown of society and many nasty things might happen again. Let's work so that doesn't happen, okay? Even if we're not "objectively" certain about it.

    About interpreting the intention of the authors of Scripture: yep, we agree. I would also agree with you, that even though we can't perfectly know the intentions of the authors- and I would argue that the authors themselves didn't always know what their intentions were either- that there are tendencies and tentative policies that can reasonably be imputed. Trouble is, for every "God is Love" there's a "God is the Author of Calamity".

    And no, the "New Covenant" doesn't, despite popular Christian belief, make it at all clear what rules are current and what not. It's all very ambiguous, what with jots and tittles. The Bible was obviously never really critically vetted for contradictions- they did a patchwork job at best at Nicea. I guess God has a hard time finding good help.

    And no- although I am an old hippie, that doesn't mean my definition of "love" is "do what you want"- it wasn't even back then. I don't really have a simple definition of "love" and I bet you don't either. Maybe it would start with putting the well-being of others equal to or higher than your well-being. The "others" here might be your neighbor (didn't someone say something about this sometime?), your children, your spouse, your people, all people, all living things.... Obviously, there are going to be lots of disagreements about what "love" means, but again, I think there are pretty clear trends, even if they're not "objective". And again, I suspect our ideas are not that far apart here.

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  102. And yes- evolutionary science has to make many speculations, especially as we go further and further back in time. But I don't see how answering "goddidit" is any better than saying "I don't know". It might give you a warm feeling that God is taking care of all the stuff you don't understand- and that's fine with me- but it doesn't have any explanatory power, as I already said. You are not going to be able to make better predictions about, say, when trilobites first evolved, by invoking God. You will not be able to make faster computers by invoking God. So as far as I see, there's no point, as far as science goes, to believe in God. I'll stick with the infinitely simpler and just as or more explanatory worldview, pending evidence.

    Of course, believing in God apparently makes some people happy and better behaved (although there are of course exceptions). I'm all for happiness and better behavior. That's why I'm not principally against religion: I'm not at all sure that atheists do a better job of being happy and being well behaved on the whole- it's a complex question. In any case, it's a question that we can put off until the world is in better shape.

    And yes: I mean that you guys are helping to clarify my atheism. I think I'll stick with trying to be a nice atheist, and if God exists and tosses me into Hell, then He wasn't deserving of worship anyway. Obviously, there's no purpose of making Hell if it doesn't have any inmates, so I'd be helping to fulfill God's purpose.

    In any case- cheers from rainy Vienna, Scott

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  103. Scott:

    LOL! I try to have a life outside the internet :) Working 60h a week is a start, then lots of extended-family activities, etc. Most of my comments / articles are written on the spot, probably not the best practice but its the most I can afford!

    You have my slavery argument right, I think.

    1) I think the crux of our disagreement is my mis-interpreting your use of the word 'condone'.
    - I assumed a more active interpretation of 'condone' since you were raising it as a point of conflict between modern Christianity and the God of the OT. If all you're saying is that God at times ignores or makes allowances for certain forms of slavery, then we have no disagreement.
    - Except maybe on the 'type' of slavery God condones. It was not only heavily qualified in terms of behavior, but also motivation and attitude and focus (by the rest of Scripture), and subsequently also qualified in terms of context (including the historical context). In other words, God 'condoned' loving slavery for historical Israel and Rome - hence, I too 'condone' loving slavery for historical Israel and Rome. I don't think God 'condones' slavery for today necessarily.

    2) I don't think we have 'better' morals than the Bible today.
    - We have different morals than what the Bible prescribed for ancient Israel. The Bible is about changing / dynamic 'morals' on the basis of consistent character, which works itself out in a change context (including the revelation context, historical-cultural context, and situational context). We can't easily define a single 'set' of morals as being 'the Bible's morals', except pointing to some consistent threads (which ultimately spring from the consistent elements of the revelation, historical-cultural, and situational contexts).
    - If you want to compare the morals of Scripture you need to consider what its intentions were (i.e. only the loving exemplary masters, not those who abused slavery as allowed by the Law). And then compare these to the idealistic 'intended' morals of modern 'civilised' society. Unfortunatley this is problematic because it is hard to define what our 'ideal' morals are. Pragmatically we have to compare the real morals of those people on the ground, which puts God and Scripture out of the critical light.
    - Regarding children as slaves - this could be considered a loving thing when you consider the temptation to separate families when it came to slaves (as pure property), and the difficulty these children would have learning a trade or subsequently earning a living.

    To look at these two points another way:
    - God is primarily concerned with our heart (not our actions or 'morals'), and wants us to desire the full revelation of Himself for the pleasure of everyone (something he is also working toward). Obviously this will impact our 'morals'.
    - But the difference in our perspective means we can often work against the very things God is temporarily allowing (in His wisdom, because it will ultimately serve to better satisfy us and glorify Him). None of this takes God by surprise to thwart His plans of course, and he is ultimately pleased with such efforts (regardless of whether he means for them to succeed or not).
    - Hence I don't see everything that God allows, as 'acceptable' things for me to desire. My focus is not on what God 'allows' at all, but on what He is working toward. So I can fight diseases and slavery even though God has temporally allowed both, and even though I trust Him (not myself) to use these to work toward the same alternative reality I'm working toward.

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  104. 3) I don't think its as hard as you make out to interpret Scripture.
    - I agree with the post-modern 'uncertainty principle' regarding interpretation and communication of 'knowledge'. But as Daniel said, that doesn't preclude really good attempts which will mostly be pretty similar.
    - Is it a bad thing to pit Scripture 'against' Scripture? Much of Hebrew, Greek, and modern scholarship is all about interpreting the whole picture through a multitude of seemingly different perspectives. In fact, this is one of the best ways to bring clarity to the interpretive difficulties I mention above.
    - This is certainly a problem if you 'cherry pick' a particular view as a 'better' perspective, without reason (one good reason might be a belief that Jesus' own words or character are a more direct revelation of God's character). We should aim to look beyond ALL the perspectives to see the underlying whole. This is where the multiple incomplete perspectives arise, and are revealed in a planned and stepwise fashion through Scripture and history as is most appropriate.

    Reagarding the 'pragmatism' of theism:
    - I think there are many ways in which humanism 'fails' to pragmatically answer/explain many questions in the universe and life as well as theism. But I guess I'm usually referring to less tangible / measurable aspects (e.g. beauty, thoughts and emotions, conscience, metaphysics, etc). When it does 'answer' it is often by adopting the assumptions and thought patterns actually belonging properly to theism (i.e. it is not actually humanism per se that is providing an answer, but rather an improperly implemented theism with some cognitive dissonance / subconscious elements involved). Even if you have a naturalistic explanation for this pervasive bias towards theism, it still clouds the 'answers' humanism tries to provide.
    - Even when it comes to tangible science, I think theism has greater explanatory power with fewer assumptions than the atheistic paradigms. The idea of God existing is simple, and much more clearly defined and integrated than many alternatives. His nature may be complex but this is not a set of more assumptions - rather it is inferred from the evidence (assuming the fundamental assumption of God's existence), and explained by the fundamental assumptions of the entire paradigm (which will mostly be similar to the atheistic paradigms). However, such a view need not include many of the assumptions required by the infinite array of possible atheistic paradigms.
    - I realise that it is possible to formulate 'Occams razor' to escape this complexity, and I'm not trying to prove that atheism is complex. I'm just trying to show that the argument is not straightforward, and a lot of it comes down to what you want to believe.
    - I wonder (in my arrogance) whether a big reason for rejecting Christianity, is that 'atheists' don't like to commit emotionally to a very specific set of assumptions out of the set of 'possible' assumptions (i.e. those that are similarly pragmatic and simple). Especially when they don't like some of the implications - most people need a lot of 'evidence' to persuade them against their preferences. I get that, and fair enough. I just hope the preferences change, or that God reveals Himself as desirable to you!

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  105. Hello Zilch,
    thank you for your kind comment about me ( I have many faults however that I have been, and still am, learning to combat through my belief). I have read all the comments left here on this blog and, although I don't understand much of what is discussed by all, I love discussions - especially when they are done in a very friendly way.
    Nice to meet you.

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  106. Hi peoples, I have removed comment moderation. It doesn't look like our friend from earlier has been commenting lately. Anyway he said earlier to take it off. Sorry for some of the late moderating :)

    Cheers

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  107. Another blockbuster answer, Joshua. You need to spend more time with your family! And I need to spend more time practising harp, or I'll never get these wacky rhythms down....

    About the interpretation of the Bible: are you sure you're a Calvinist? Most Calvinists I've chatted with are not so liberal about the "big picture" and about "progressive revelation" of morals: they're usually more jots and tittles men. And it usually is men, for some reason. I'm glad you (and Daniel) seem to take a more, well, evolutionary perspective of morals, even if you have God behind them.

    About slavery: I don't think we'll get any further with this. But I find it confusing that you say....

    I don't think God 'condones' slavery for today necessarily.

    ... but then go right on:

    I don't think we have 'better' morals than the Bible today.

    Doesn't not condoning slavery count as "better" morals? If so, then we have better morals (at least in this one case) then the Bible, don't we? But I think there's not much point in debating this.

    You say that humanism fails to answer some questions pragmatically as well as theism- for instance, questions about beauty, thoughts, etc. Could you give me a pragmatic example? I'm having a hard time seeing how theism could provide better answers.

    And yes, there's lots of stuff we don't understand and perhaps never will. All of us refer to concepts such as beauty, about which we feel strongly and are important to us, in fuzzy ways, because they are intractable. But again, I don't see how fuzzy God ways of describing, say, beauty, are any more accurate or better than fuzzy humanistic ways. And I don't see how being fuzzy, or loftily expressed, is more properly a "theistic" mode of expression that atheists must borrow. All of us do it, and we don't need gods or theologies to do it.

    And yes, the idea of God existing is simple. But God actually existing, as I've pointed out, is vastly, perhaps infinitely more complex than God not existing. Just because an idea is simply expressed doesn't mean that its real-world instantiation is simple. And my concern, in considering worldviews, is how they play out in the real (and/or supernatural) world, not how simple they are to express in words. Thus my appeal to the (infinitely) simpler solution still stands- for me, anyway, until I see some reason to change it.

    About your wonder: perhaps some atheists reject Christianity because they don't want to commit themselves. This is a common argument used by Christians, usually claiming that atheists don't want to give up random sex and robbing banks (or something like that....) This may be true for some atheists, but I don't think it is for me. My love for the world, and what it leads me to do, is also a rather specific set of assumptions, which, like religious belief, cannot be justified at the fundamental level with anything other than "I believe this to be right".

    I don't think most people, whatever they believe, atheist or theist, are that different: we all have feelings about what is right that cannot be logically defended, at least not in any absolute sense. What is right is not written on stone; it's written in our genes and our minds, in our biology and our culture and our rationality. As such, it's a moving target. But there's enough overlap for us to do great things.

    cheers from crickety Vienna, Scott

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  108. Brenda: thanks for your thoughtful reply. Best wishes to you and yours.

    Daniel: thanks for changing over: we can converse at the speed of the turning Earth now, not at your speed. Hehe, sorry, you have a life too, don't you? Nice space you've created here, thanks.

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  109. Yes Brenda, even the carnal mind understands that, if one identity speaks to another identity, then there are two identities and if both are a god, then there are two gods.
    Because a man has a carnal (natural) mind, that does not make him stupid.
    In fact the children of this world are wiser than the children of light (Luke 16:8), which is a shame to those of us who claim to have the mind of Christ. Or worse, the Name of God is blasphemed among the carnal minded because of us (Rom. 2:24).

    John 1:12 There is no 'need' for anyone to become sons of God, because the sons of God were in Christ before the foundation of the world.
    If there would be a need to become a son to God, then it would depend upon that person to do something in order to become a son to God.
    But please read verse 13, it negates the idea that someone can become a son to God by their will.
    So then, verse 12 is a statement telling us that those who became born again became the children of God, or were revealed to be the children of God.
    For this reason we preach the Gospel so that the sons of God might be revealed in this world.

    Yes Brenda, it does state that the first Adam is the son of God in Luke 1:38, and it was God's first son 'Adam' who was created out of dust in His image, that is in the image of Jesus Christ.
    You need to believe that it is the Lord Jesus Christ who created Adam in His own image, perfect and with His Spirit in Adam.
    Or do you believe that Adam was created by someone else?

    Later, it was the Lord Jesus, who was called the second Adam and He was born through a virgin into His own creation (the world) and for that reason the creator of heaven and earth is 'called the Son', not that He 'IS' a Son, He is only called the Son because of His incarnation.

    Here you can see that it is Jesus Christ who is the Father of Adam and therefore He is the Father of all those who believe in Him who are not born by their will, but by the will of God.

    It is most alarming that there are so many Christian believers who disown Jesus Christ as their Father and claim that they have another Father who is in heaven. I wonder who?

    I cannot see that Adams children had the promise of spiritual death, that is because in Adam all have died, they were already dead and for that reason they needed to be born again, yes, Adam and all the sons of God must be revealed and then the end will come when the Lord will deal with our bodies in the resurrection.
    They were barred to eat from the tree of life, so that the Lord Jesus can give to His children eternal life as a free gift, but you think that you can reach out by your own will and eat from the tree of life.
    No Brenda, they were barred from eating and so are you and I and all of us, only in Christ after the new birth we are able to eat from the tree of life which is in the middle of the garden. 'So that no man may boast before God, it is because of Jesus that you are in Christ and not because of what you do or did' (1 Cor. 1:29 +30).
    Genesis 3:24 is a perfect example for those who think that they can save themselves spiritually by their own will, or doing, or works.

    Continued on next comment.

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  110. You said, "I do think that they did not have eternal life because they did not know Jesus Christ. because we are told in the Bible that eternal life is to know God and Jesus Christ.' Jesus Himself says this in John ch. 17 v.3 'Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent."

    Yes, I thought that you would say and believe that, but I know that all the OT. Saints were born again and knew the Lord Jesus Christ just as I or we do.
    The only difference is that the OT. Saints did not know the Lord's Name, that is because it hasn't been given or revealed at that time.
    The Lord Jesus Himself said in John 5:46 that Moses wrote about Him.
    How can Moses and all the Prophets write about the Lord Jesus and and not knowing Him?
    This misunderstanding can only happen if you don't believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is the God of the Old Testament.
    Most Christians have this misconception that the Old Testament God is a different person to the New Testament God.

    You said, "I would answer that statement by saying that for anyone to believe he or she must first be called by God to Jesus for 'No man can come to Jesus except he is drawn by God.':- John ch. 6 v. 44.
    "No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws them, and I will raise them up at the last day"
    Even if they are called or drawn, they still cannot become children to God by their will, that is because the new birth is a free gift of God, and that gift is by grace, and grace is the absence of 'doing' or 'willing' or whatever.
    And yes I know that all Christians can preach the Gospel out of the New Testament, but only few can preach it from the Old Testament.

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  111. Scott, 'an old hippie', Hmm, always something new about you my friend.

    It is interesting that you think that the Bible has many authors.
    Once upon a time I used to think that myself till I met the only one author of the Bible and that is Jesus Christ.
    The Bible is called the 'WORD of GOD' and not the word of Paul, Peter, James etc. it was not their Word and neither did they write the Bible, but rather it was the Lord who dictated them to write by His Spirit.
    Out of 66 books, over 40 different writers were inspired by the Lord to put His Word on paper and therefore we consider the Lord to be the author of His Word.

    Why I hate religion of any kind; religion in my understanding are people who make up their own standards for living, they choose to believe whatever they want to believe, they think that by trying to be good, the world would become a better place, they build their own church and make up their own rules and set themselves in authority over their subjects and even use the Bible to support their wickedness etc. no wonder why the Lord and I hate religion.
    Perhaps the Lord Jesus said it best, 'with their lips they draw close to Me, but with their hearts they are faaaar from Me', (Mat.15:8 Isa.29:13) that is religion, and I am not a religious man but a believer in Jesus Christ my Lord.

    Oops! Nearly forgot, practicing playing the harp does not getting you into heaven, but calling on the Name of the Lord does, although I do like to hear good harp playing :-)

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  112. All I can say Paul is that much of what you refer to here I have already responded to in my previous comments. I believe that the Lord teaches me from the old testament, but I do not believe that I can teach those who are not born again from the old testament. That is done through the scriptures being discerned spiritually once God has called that person to Jesus.

    Romans ch.2 v.24 is speaking of those who preach to others but do not practice what they preach. John ch.1 v.13 speaks of being born of God, who is Spirit, and so speaks of being born of the Spirit.

    Luke ch. 16 v.8 is speaking about the children of this world dealing with their own kind, as being more shrewd or wise than the children of light dealing with their own kind.

    I think you may have quoted the wrong verse regarding Luke ch. 1 v 38 Paul.

    I shall finish my comments here by saying 'Barabbas' means 'son of the father'
    How wonderful that Jesus the Son of God( our Heavenly Father ) should have gone through the horrific act of being crucified, so that mankind, the son of Adam (our earthly father ) could be released from sin. That is a love beyond measure.

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  113. Paul- that's bad news about the harp. But I'll keep playing anyway. And I'll try calling on Jesus again too.

    I wonder- will we have to tune our harps in Heaven?

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  114. Regarding genocide, I have to say that I don't really have a nice, pretty answer as an explanation for it. There are bound to be many answers around on the net if you care to look, but I don’t see how any answer could possibly be rosy. However, for me personally, taking into account the revelation of the character of God and His Sovereignty in the Bible as a collective whole, it must have been a decision for the better, somehow. One example could be that the descendants in those cultures back then seemed to focus a lot on tribalism and revenge. Haman is an example of this. If Israel had listened to God and dealt with the wicked civilizations completely, then people like Haman would not have existed to create more calamity. What I am saying is, maybe the choice to wipe out people groups was not merely a judgement but a prevention of further evil being done in that society and societies around. For example, Numbers 33: 55 states that if Israel refuses to drive out the Canaanites, they would become thorns in their sides. Thus, without judgement and hence preventing the spread of evil, more calamity would have occurred (such as continued child sacrifices etc).

    It is actually rather sad reading about how children are treated in different cultures. I have been reading some write ups in our study about how children were treated in the days of antiquity and even today. It has been suggested that children have been and are the ‘poison containers’ of society, in that they are on the receiving end of the ‘crap’ created in the adult world. Terrible, absolutely terrible.

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  115. Regarding OT morals v New Testament morals, I think rather similarly to Josh in that the morality in the OT is not necessarily a reflection of God’s ideal morals for mankind in the end, but rather a condoning of actions practiced by cultures in those days for a particular purpose. I don’t pretend to know that purpose, but instead put my trust in His purposes. I can hypothesise reasons like the one I gave earlier, but in the end, I am not God. Interestingly, Jesus seemed to have a similar attitude towards some of the allowances conducted in the OT. Jesus in Matthew 19 gives a good example of how God’s morals and values were not necessarily fully revealed in the OT.

    ----“The Pharisees also came to Him, testing Him, and saying to Him, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for just any reason?” 4 And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made[a] them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’[b] 5 and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?[c] 6 So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” 7 They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” 8 He said to them, “Moses, because of the hardness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. “-----

    As you can see, Jesus was speaking as if Moses decision wasn’t really God’s best, but an allowance for a culture they could conceive of at the time, because of the harness of their hearts.

    As far as hearing the voice of God to commit such things as genocide, a person would have to hear rather clearly lol. In fact, I am pretty sure that most Christians would doubt to the point that they would not do such acts. Maybe that is because we are a product of our modern culture? Back then it may have been more like the norm, and thus easier to accept such thinking. Anyway, it is a hard topic and is not one to shy away from.

    Regarding me tending towards humanism, I like a lot of what humanism teaches. However, the point that I separate is that I believe that humans will reach their full potential when aligned with a relationship with God our Creator and with His purposes. Humanism denies this, and instead worships its own relativistic merit.

    Cheers

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  116. Perhaps you know this already, Daniel, but W. L. Craig argues that we should rather pity the poor Israelite soldiers than the Amalekite children they were forced to skewer. At least the torment was over for the children and they were whisked off straight to Heaven: the soldiers would have to live with their horrible acts until they died.

    I see a few problems with this rationalization. One- it's not Biblical. There's no indication whatsoever that the slaughtered Amalekite children went to Heaven. Sure, you can cherry pick to find something, but there's nothing convincing. Two- if this is the Christian answer to wrongful death, then what's the big deal about life on Earth at all? Why shouldn't everyone be killed as long as they're still innocent? They go to Heaven, and the amount of bliss is greater than if they had grown up and become evil.

    The idea that an "evil" civilization produces "evil" children who must be nipped in the bud is a great excuse for genocide. I don't think it's supported by biology, though: although there are probably pathological antisocial traits that are passed on, it doesn't seem likely that an entire society could ever be "infected", because then it couldn't have existed as a society. Psychopaths are not team players. Thus, it seems to me that genocide is never the best solution.

    Whatever historical facts are behind the Israel/Amalek conflict, it was certainly tribal, us against them. Probably the Amalekites called upon their gods to help them wipe out the Israelites. It's an old trick, to demonize the enemy, to make it easier to kill them. This is the Bible at its most tribal.

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  117. Like you, I don't really find Craig's answer, an answer really. I think that it is a good observation in that it may not have been easy for soldiers to commit genocide. However it doesn't address the issue of genocide.

    Before anyone jumps to conclusions about the evilness of genocide. Maybe we could entertain some open minded ideas around it?

    Well, as far as I know any person who submitted to the ways of God could avoid being judged (Like Rahab), so any adult with understanding had a choice of whether to enter conflict or not. For example, Israel warned the Kenites to leave from amongst the Amalekites, which suggests that they were closely linked to each other. What stopped the Amalekites from becoming Kenites at that point? One person suggested that they refused to give up their identity as a waring nation against Israel even though they had the opportunity to. At any rate, it is the death of children that bothers me more.

    Human development tells us about the importance of attachment theory and its lasting effects on people well into their lives. One person I spoke to about genocide thought that it would have potentially been kinder on the infants and children to have their lives taken, rather than to be alienated from their birth parents, and subjected to a culture that they would later grow up knowing had destroyed their fathers and mothers. This could have lasting effects of a lack of identity and possibly revenge (like Haman). Now, I would say that it is extremely immoral to torture children. I don't really know, but maybe the Israelites did it 'humanely'?

    Regarding children going to heaven, the Bible doesn't say a lot, so there is not much to cherry pick from actually, except on a reliance on the character on God. It depends on one's systematic theology as to what happens to infants who die. I am a 'universalist' more or less so you can imagine my stance on that subject :) I see life on earth more as one 'age' of many.

    Cheers

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  118. In other words, I suppose I am comparing this genocide with euthanasia. However, don't get me wrong, I don't know why Moses and Samuel would need to command genocide. To me it seems horrible and unnecessary, but we need to remember that from our little points of view we cannot completely understand the contexts of such events.

    Bis spöter :)

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  119. Yep, Daniel. As you say, there's lots of internet talk about the genocides of the OT. Most Christians seem to have funny feelings about this. There are, of course, the "tough oats" school Christians, who say that God is the Potter and we're the pots, and if we're bad pots, He's justified in just tossing us out à la Romans 9:21. Kinda hard on the children to my way of thinking, but what do I know?

    cheers from hot Vienna, Scott

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  120. Not only hard on children, but hard on anyone! Unless it is for the greater good of everyone involved.

    What do you think about the sovereignty of God and suffering in the world?
    Do you think there are possible situations where suffering can be justified for a greater good?

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  121. The trouble is, how exactly do you define "the greater good"? I'm not aware of any definition that is clear. And just saying that God defines what the greater good is still doesn't tell you how to know it when you see it: it just passes the buck to God (as many theistic arguments do) and doesn't supply any answers.

    Sure, there are possible situations where suffering can be justified for a greater good. We can come up with lots of them easily: I suffer going to the dentist, but it's for a greater good. My son suffers in school. The terrorist suffers when questioned about the ticking bomb. Trouble is, it's not at all easy- and this goes for theists and atheists as well, of course- to draw lines here. Should we ban logging to save the Screech Owl? Should we bus children to integrate schools? Should we target a terrorist house with a drone, when we know civilians will be injured or killed? Not east questions to answer.

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  122. About the "greater good" again: I just remembered a classic SF novel by John D. MacDonald, the Ballroom of the Skies. The premise is that the Earth is deliberately kept a miserable place to live, with war and crime, by a far superior intergalactic association, to harden the leaders necessary to repel alien invaders who would destroy us all. The training involves killing many innocents and keeping a whole planet from achieving peace, but it's for the "greater good".

    Again, we have a burden of proof here: how can we know for sure that we are serving the "greater good", if there is such a thing? I'm afraid I mistrust that Samuel really heard God telling him to kill all the children, and that this was just another example (if it happened at all) of God being invoked to serve political ends. God knows we've seen enough of that excuse to justify violence.

    Me, I'm against killing children as a matter of course. It's just beyond the pale for me. If God, or some intergalactic commander, tells me to kill children, I will decline. If I'm tortured or sent to Hell for refusing, so be it.

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  123. I hear you, it can be hard to define what is good. However, that doesn't necessarily mean a denial to have an opinion on what could be a greater good. I don't mind you giving your personal opinion, no matter how hard it is to define it.

    "Passing the buck" to God is and can be done, and I think can be done justifiably according to some narratives. However, as mentioned before it doesn't mean ceasing to attempt to give an answer.

    Maybe I could rephrase the questions to be a little more focused.

    What do you think about the possibilities of there being a justifiable "good outcome" from the atrocities here on earth? or even more directly -
    In your opinion, is it conceivable to imagine a positive outcome from the evil experienced on earth, especially if intended by a Sovereign "Benevolent" God?

    Cheers!

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  124. Ha, I just seen that you left a comment just after I posted mine :)

    You said "Me, I'm against killing children as a matter of course. It's just beyond the pale for me. If God, or some intergalactic commander, tells me to kill children, I will decline. If I'm tortured or sent to Hell for refusing, so be it."

    I don't blame you for feeling that way about murdering children. I am sure that if God told me to murder children I would doubt that it was from God in the first place. Some people suggest that Samuel was not acting on behalf of God, but I haven't really studied that view. Might look into it :) As mentioned earlier, Jesus seemed to suggest that some laws of Moses were not God's ideals (the allowance of divorce).

    Putting aside collateral damage type suffering where the evil conducted on children was for the good of others and never for them; could it be possible to conceive of a narrative where God made sure that even the children could benefit in the end?

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  125. Sure, Daniel, and such a narrative is what Craig proposes: the Amalekite children (and others, by extension) benefit in the end by being whisked off to Heaven.

    I have a couple of problems with that solution, as I've mentioned already. Basically the problem is this: even if we accept that God exists and has His reasons for offing all these children, that means that our Earthly existence is only a test of our obedience to God. That is, any feelings of empathy for the Amalekite children, for example, are meaningless: the only thing that matters is following God's orders.

    But that makes a joke of many other orders in the Bible: to love one's neighbor as oneself, for instance. The only thing that matters here, apparently, is getting that ticket to Heaven, not being kind or fair. All of our earthly existence is not really real.

    As an atheist, I don't have to believe this. But I would think that even Christians would ask themselves why God would demand such actions.

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  126. P.S. It turns out that John D. MacDonald wrote another SF novel, a companion piece to Ballroom of the Skies, called Wine of the Dreamers. Again, the theme is trying to explain evil. In this case, the evil is caused by our human ancestors on a distant planet, who have forgotten their original mission of monitoring and guiding us by means of telehypnosis, and now only regard us as dreams to play with as they please. They have become technological demons who can take control over us and indulge their violent or lustful fantasies.

    Very entertaining, but I must confess that I don't see a problem with explaining evil for atheists. Unlike ants and bees, we humans are genetically only imperfectly socialized: we still tend to look out for No. 1, and our societies offer many possiblilities for exploitation. In addition, there are many organic and cultural tendencies that can render us unfit for polite society.

    I don't have any simple answers here. But the question of evil is not a simple question.

    cheers from overcast Vienna, Scott

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  127. Hey Scott, thanks for your replies. I like your honesty and your comments are valuable :) I have a reply that I want to explore, but struggling for time to sit down and continue this interesting topic. Will get back to you

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  128. No stress, Daniel. I'm going hiking in the Alps (no internet) starting Monday- if you haven't thought of a reply by then, it can wait a week or so.

    cheerio, Scott

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  129. Hey Scott, finally get a little bit of time to sit down and throw together some thoughts :)

    Typically, most Christians put the genocide question to one side by saying that God can execute judgement on people groups if He wills, especially if the children go to heaven etc. I still think that is a valid point but you raised an excellent point that needs to be addressed further. Your point was not necessarily the problem that God destroyed whole civilizations as a judgement but that He commanded people to do so.

    I understand that many people "hear" from God in many different ways, but there would be few people in today's Christian culture that would accept a command to kill children and infants to be from God. Why? Because that is not the way of Christ. Christ taught to turn the other cheek and to love your enemy, not to execute judgement, especially in the way of genocide.

    So we must ask, did Moses really "hear" from God, God's specific ideals? and did those ideals involve killing children? These questions throw a doubting light on Moses' (and Samuel's) absolute authority and claim to have heard from God regarding genocide.

    Before I propose a potential explanation for the genocide in the Bible, I will first say that most (if not all) Christians believe in a gradual revelation of God. There is a saying going around that "Jesus was in the Old Testament concealed and in the New Testament revealed". The law is seen to be fulfilled, in that we no longer have to follow it and that Jesus showed us God's true high standards.

    What I am about to do is take this concept a little further than most Christians would like to.

    What if Moses and Samuel were acting out of their current understanding of God’s ideals and not necessarily acting out of God’s absolute ideals? In other words, Moses etc did not hear “directly” from God per se but instead acted out of their own perceptions of God. Romans states that it is sin to go against your own conscience, so maybe that is why they were considered to be righteous people, in that their intentions were for the best but ultimately wrong in the end.

    When I say that they were “wrong”, I am saying that from a determinist mind set what they did was intended by God. The intention was not to demonstrate the blessedness of genocide, but more its atrocity and example as a system that simply does not work. No doubt, God would have had more or less infinite reasons for intending it to happen.

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  130. The Bible provides a teleological message in that the message is gradually being revealed, and everything that happens is for a purpose in the long run. Here are some possible examples: Numbers 14:18 states that the punishment for the iniquity of the fathers shall continue onto their children (NIV), whereas Ezekiel countered this in Ezekiel chapter 18 and said that each person is responsible for their own iniquity. I realise that this may be stretched, because Numbers maybe just a way of explaining that the effects of sin last through generations. Ezekiel may have only just been addressing a more serious misuse of this concept to demonise a sinful man’s children. Putting it bluntly, Jesus also “changed” the law though He meant that He fulfilled it. By “fulfilling” the law, I think that He gave a fuller revelation of God’s ideals in response to the law and its effects on society - Matthew 5

    38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’[f] 39 But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. 40 If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. 41 And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two.42 Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor[g] and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,[h]45 that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?47 And if you greet your brethren[i] only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors[j] do so? 48 Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

    The change of actions throughout the Bible comes down to people’s perception in history regarding where we are at with grappling with God’s ideals. Seeing, the change of actions throughout the Bible, demonstrates to us the right AND wrong ways of doing things. I am learning more and more, we all are. Life and its contexts are fluid, not fixed. As outlined in Romans, our conscience (provided by God) is a heavy influence on what we determine to be of God. I don’t think people merely come to be followers of Christ through being convinced of the title “God’s Word” being written on the leather cover of the Bible, but rather, because its teleological message within resounds within us.

    Consider this comment to be an exploration for ideas, still pondering them myself :) I have rather enjoyed discussing these concepts with Josh lately.

    Cheers

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  131. Post comment reflections...

    Maybe Jesus didn't "change" eye for an eye" statement. He could have been meaning to correct the way that statement was being used. Is an eye for and eye to be used at a societal level but not at and individual level? As in, do we stand up for the well-being of others, but not necessarily for ourselves?

    In light of Ezekiel's denial of the sins of the father's to be on the children, it doesn't fit very well with genocide. So change happened there. Also, as mentioned earlier, Jesus denied divorce as God's ideal. Whereas Moses condoned it.

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  132. Hi Scott, Dan :)

    Great few comments Dan, thanks! As you say this is an ongoing discussion and I'm still sorting my thoughts out about it...

    This is a major part of an upcoming post of mine. Its taking a long time to write because it ventures close to what many would call 'denying inerrancy', which is seen as fundamental to 'real' Christianity.
    - I don't see a problem with this per se - inerrancy is merely one man-made philosophical position which attempts to unify the ACTUAL Biblical doctrines of God's truthfulness, trustworthiness, initiative, incarnation, and revelation through inspired Scripture in a way which is clear and universally useful as explained in the epistle to Timothy (e.g. to equip us for every good work).
    - I personally agree with inerrancy, but because I see it as a tool to describe what the Bible really says about itself, I'm free to tweak it in order to be more faithful to the Bible itself (rather than to a man-made philosophical position).
    - So I believe there are no errors in Scripture (as in, nothing which ultimately obscures God's full revelation of Himself, or was not intended by God to fulfil the purposes described above). But I also believe there are deliberately (temporarily) incomplete revelations of God in history and Scripture, which necessarily resulted in unbalanced actions by those who followed these deliberately incomplete views of God - and this was all planned by God.

    So I would word things like this:
    - Moses was not 'wrong' exactly - he understood God exactly as God intended to be understood, and did 'hear directly' from God.
    - But God was not revealing Himself fully, and so Moses heard a lopsided view of God, and (appropriately) lopsided prescribed actions.
    - This is not to say that God Himself changed, or that these things ultimately did not serve the TRUE character of God - I actually believe these would only ever be allowed by God precisely BECAUSE they serve as part of the best full revelation of Himself, in time. As Dan suggested, probably by demonstrating the failure of merely 'reforming' the prevailing world views at the time by just 'adding God' (e.g. Tribal warrior deities, or Kingdoms, Social reforms, Laws, etc).

    God also timed his revelation perfectly so that they were different enough from the surrounding views to make a point, but also kept the power of comparison and demonstration as mentioned above, and did not differ so much that either a) the people would never consent to living that way OR b) the people would sin by going against their conscience.
    In other words, because of the cultural climate, it was possible for soldiers to kill children without violating their conscience because WORSE than this was common (?pragmatically necessary) practice, and God had not yet revealed his fullness to make his real ideals plain. These people could still be considered holy because it was common sense and common practice driving them, whereas today it would have to be a complete twisted pleasure in something they know is evil.

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  133. A few more disjointed thoughts about genocide:

    - There are a multitude of Scriptures which suggest a wholesale genocide of the Canaanites simply DID NOT happen. As a determinist, I believe this was God's plan all along.
    - Other Scriptures specifically suggest that this 'lack of genocide' was not necessarily a 'fault' of Israel's. God mentions His plan to drive them out by disease and simple displacement. He also mentions leaving them in Israel to strengthen / train / test Israel's faithfulness. And there are several examples of assimilation.

    - The archeological evidence also points to a lack of 'wholesale conflict' in the region, but suggests (again) that simple gradual displacement occurred. However, there were a few major battles (mentioned in Scripture, e.g. Jericho).
    - It is surrounding these major battles that God seems to command a 'wholesale genocide'.
    - Remember that history is selective - we simply do not know every single conversation that occurred between God and Israel and Moses. And the media is great at showcasing the ease of misinterpreting statements interpreted out of context.

    - I suggest that God actually commanded such 'genocide' only in a few selected key battles, and that he made provision for those who willingly left or assimilated.
    - I also suggest that such a display of superiority in battle was potentially pragmatically necessary to minimise further bloodshed, and to encourage displacement and separation of the tribal groups.

    This doesn't solve the problem of God ordering things we see as 'immoral' today. But it does show that 'incomplete revelation' was probably not SO deviant from his true full nature, as we can sometimes conclude from our (heavily biased) reading of Scripture.

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  134. Daniel, Joshua: thanks for your replies. I'm afraid I can't answer them right now- I have to get up early tomorrow to go to the Alps. I'll get back to them when I return in a week or so.

    cheers, Scott

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  135. I'm back. God hasn't left any messages. Or maybe Evolution is God.

    cheers from cloudy Vienna, Scott

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  136. I hope you're all still alive.

    cheers from radix malorum, zilch

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  137. Hey Scott! Nope, we are alive and well :D We were wondering if you had been to see the Maker, as it had been a while since we had heard from you lol.
    We have actually been over here lately http://www.evangelicaluniversalist.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=15&t=5828.

    How are you doing? How was the Alps?! That sounds like an awesome experience.

    Evolution is by no means God lol. It isn't even comparable. Only comparable as an explanation for how life got to be today, possibly lol.

    Keep seeking God with an open mind!
    As food for thought, Lewis said this "Miracles are a retelling in small letters of the very same story which is written across the whole world in letters too large for some of us to see."

    Not meaning that you cannot "see" God necessarily, but that you may be expecting a message different to the one that God has already written.

    CHeers!

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  138. Hey Daniel! Been very busy lately, hope to spend more time showing you guys what's right and wrong in the future.

    God has already spoken to me. He said "don't believe in me, because I don't exist". God is funny.

    cheers from autumny Vienna, zilch

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  139. Hey Scott! What's been keeping you so busy?
    Were you a bit of oxygen deprived up there in the Alps? Ha Ha

    Good to have you around!

    Should be some more posts coming soon! :D

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  140. Loads of work, mostly. And rehearsals. And practice.

    I'll check around soon again if I know you're up to something.

    cheers from Indian Summery Vienna, Scott

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