Are Northfield area churches waking up to the cognitive revolution?

NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote a column earlier this month titled: The Neural Buddhists: The cognitive revolution is not going to undermine faith in God — it’s going to challenge faith in the Bible. (He references a 1996 article by Tom Wolfe, titled Sorry, But Your Soul Just Died.)

In their arguments with Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins, the faithful have been defending the existence of God. That was the easy debate. The real challenge is going to come from people who feel the existence of the sacred, but who think that particular religions are just cultural artifacts built on top of universal human traits. It’s going to come from scientists whose beliefs overlap a bit with Buddhism.

In unexpected ways, science and mysticism are joining hands and reinforcing each other. That’s bound to lead to new movements that emphasize self-transcendence but put little stock in divine law or revelation. Orthodox believers are going to have to defend particular doctrines and particular biblical teachings. They’re going to have to defend the idea of a personal God, and explain why specific theologies are true guides for behavior day to day.

Brooks sees these four ‘beliefs’ (bullets are mine) emerging from the scientists who are writing books on this subject:

  • First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships.
  • Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions.
  • Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love.
  • Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.

Related to all this is the story of brain scientist Jill Bolte Taylor and her stroke. The video of her presentation at TED in February (transcript there, too. YouTube version of her video here) is an internet sensation. Over the weekend, the New York Times ran this article: A Superhighway to Bliss: Jill Bolte Taylor’s message, that people can choose to live a more peaceful, spiritual life by sidestepping their left brain, has resonated widely.

She ends her speech with this (see the complete transcript):

So who are we? We are the life force power of the universe, with manual dexterity and two cognitive minds. And we have the power to choose, moment by moment, who and how we want to be in the world. Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are — I am — the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is. Or I can choose to step into the consciousness of my left hemisphere. where I become a single individual, a solid, separate from the flow, separate from you. I am Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor, intellectual, neuroanatomist. These are the “we” inside of me.

Which would you choose? Which do you choose? And when? I believe that the more time we spend choosing to run the deep inner peace circuitry of our right hemispheres, the more peace we will project into the world and the more peaceful our planet will be. And I thought that was an idea worth spreading.

I’m not one to embrace her New-Agey conclusion of world peace. And she completely misses one entire element of her stroke experience that I think is more significant as it’s easily available to the average person: self-awareness. Georgianne Giese, one of the commenters on that TED page, wrote:

Dr. Taylor’s “self awareness” module was able to monitor, record, and remember everything that was happening to her throughout her stroke experience. Just where is THAT located? And how was it able to describe and record both the functions and non-functioning of both sides of the brain during this episode? This “self awareness” module goes beyond the analysis and feeling processes Dr. Taylor described, as it was able to observe and reason about both.

Since I don’t go to church, I’m curious about which Northfield churches, which ministers, are talking to their congregations about any of this stuff.

At the most basic level, do any ministers even discuss the problematic aspects of believing in a personal God and the Bible as his word?


  1. Jane Moline said:

    It seems we are a bunch of religious chickens with no comments.

    I think most people of a Christian persuasion do not question why they believe and think that the basic question of faith is more whether to follow the old testament or the new testament–not whether there is a god or we are it.

    I think organized religion is a result of basic human need to bring order and reason to our life, and it is fraught with the failings of human kind. Think Jones town, Branch Davidians and the current fun with Fundamentalist LDSers. (And go back to the Crusades or the Inquisition and past and present corruption in Roman Catholic church popes and cardinals.)

    The truths found by Dr. Taylor are beyond comprehension to most religious–they dismiss it as so much voodoo rather than attempt intelligent discourse on the merits of god within. Intersting enough, most organized religions share some of the same lessons that Dr. Taylor discusses–including that we are one and our beliefs affect all the world around us.

    May 30, 2008
  2. john george said:

    Alright, I’ll wade into this one. Griff- in answer to your question about what churches “get into this stuff,” I can only respond to us a NCC. No, we don’t get into this “stuff”, although we do study it enough to understand what the writers are talking about. I think I can best describe our response to it as this: it is futile reasoning of the unregenerate (old) nature. Our approach to God is only through Jesus Christ, His death and resurrection. We don’t consider ourselves as being able to approach God in our own right or on our own terms. We believe that God wants to approach us, not because we deserve it, but because He loves us. This being the case, we define our facet of Christianity as being a relationship with God the Father, not a religion (us being able to “work” our way to God). Since we believe the Bible to be God’s revealed word to man, we judge everything else relative to how it aligns with this word.

    We believe that change comes from the divine intervention of God in our lives through the Holy Spirit. None of us has experienced change by rote that has been forced upon us from the outside. The changes we have experienced in our lives have come from the inside out. This is the common denominator that holds us together as a group. We define this as God working in our lives in a personal way. Because we believe the Bible to be true, we look for the pattern of relationship defined in this word to be evident in our own lives also. We do not deliniate the scripture into little boxes with some boxes applicable to the present and some applicable to the past. What we look for is the character and revelation of God all through the scriptures, and we esteem it as all applicable to the present. I wouldn’t define us as “literal interpreters” of the scripture, in that we “do” all the things written in it, but we do look to it for inspiration and wisdom in understanding what God is speaking to us.

    Now, I know that that last statement is going to put some of the participants in this blog over the edge, but we do look for and experience the personal interaction of God in each of our lives. We do look for Him to speak to us, both in audible words and impressions in our spirits and hearts. For us, the Bible is the standard that we align these “directions” to to determine if they are correct or not. I suppose a person can use whatever writings he wants to justify his beliefs. We are, after all, individuals with the right to come to independent conclusions. Where I would have a problem is with someone who wants to call his beliefs “Christian” when he does not even esteem the Bible as true and uses other wisdoms of man to support his beliefs and practices. The term “Christian” implies that you at least recognize Jesus as God the Son, and this revelation is spelled out in the Bible, not the Koran or any of the other writings attributed to world “religions.”

    Now in regards to knowing something about world religions and the philosophies of man, we do believe it is important. Since we daily rub shoulders with people who imbrace these other things, we need to know how to defend ourselves and our basis of faith in a discussion, and to do it in a respectful and learned manner. When we study these things, we approach them not as something to consider and “adopt” into our belief system, but we try to understand them relative to our understanding of the Word of God.

    May 30, 2008
  3. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane and George, thanks for boldly weighing in. I may not get around to a detailed reply till Monday as my weekend is full. Hope others chime in, too. I’d like to devote an upcoming podcast to this topic.

    May 31, 2008
  4. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I went to church on Sunday. The readings and the homily (sermon) were primarily directed at the “problematic aspects” of not believing in a personal God and not having faith in God’s word.

    What do you see as the problematic aspects of believing in a personal God and the Bible? Are these problems just left-brain problems?

    What Dr. Taylor and Jane describe as the “god within” is what Christians generally refer to as the Holy Spirit. Dr. Taylors’s research maybe news to the unchurched, but not the churched.

    – David –

    P.S. Anyone interested in knowing what ministers are saying are welcome to join me – Griff included.

    June 2, 2008
  5. Nora Felton said:

    Thank you John George for saying what needed to be said in the best possible way…God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost richly bless you!!!

    June 5, 2008
  6. John George said:

    Nora- Thank you. I receive that, and He does.

    June 5, 2008
  7. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I listened to Dr. Taylor’s experience of “nirvana”. It is remarkably similar to Pope Benedict’s description of heaven – a state of unity of being so complete and encompassing that time and space lose meaning.

    Judeo-Christian-Muslim traditions for the last 3000 years have been trying to tell humanity that heaven/nirvana is achievable. Those traditions have been using the Toran, the Bible, and Koran.

    For obvious reasons, heeding scripture seems like a better way to achieve heaven than having a stroke.

    June 6, 2008
  8. William Siemers said:

    Ms Taylor says:

    “Right here right now, I can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere where we are — I am — the life force power of the universe, and the life force power of the 50 trillion beautiful molecular geniuses that make up my form. At one with all that is.”

    I felt that way a couple of times in 1967.

    June 7, 2008
  9. john george said:

    William- What were you on?

    June 7, 2008
  10. Paul Fried said:

    I went to church last Sunday (same church as David L.), and the sermon was about the metaphors of building a house on rock or sand, with rock being the preferred metaphor.

    I see where David gets his account of the sermon, though, also accurate in his own way.

    This business of rock is in stark contrast to other parts of scripture which describe the Holy Spirit going where it will, moving as the wind. So the rock of Jesus is one with the wind, which is the Holy Spirit (yes, notice the mixed metaphor), and the foundation of rock is also the wind, which has very different qualities. Build your house on the wind, which is the sure thing, as sure as rock.

    On the one hand, theologians of many denominational stripes talk about such stuff as you describe above, and pastors may read it, but they don’t preach about it. It’s a bit too much like shop-talk jargon. When they re-do my brakes, I’m glad they don’t use asbestos in the brake pads anymore, and I’m fine with ceramic pads, but I don’t need all of that explained to me. If the mechanic reminds me not to wait so long to change the oil next time, and to check my tire pressure more often, that’s probably what I need to hear. If I’m a too-agressive driver and wear out my brake pads too often, I might benefit from hearing that. But perhaps not the techinical stuff.

    On the other hand, I agree with the part about questions regarding how literally to take the bible. It was written in a time when expectation of literal or figurative truth were very different from the expectations we have of the daily newscast or newspaper.

    When scripture says Jesus took bread and shared it, saying it was his body, and then after dying, appeared to the disciples in a closed room, does it mean Jesus was already inside of them, and that was the point of the bread/eucharist ritual– that Jesus knew he had changed their lives and was in them, and would continue to be–or does it mean Jesus was like Casper the Friendly Ghost, or Beam Me Down Scotty, and could materialize in closed rooms with locked windows and doors?

    If we were to tell the story today, or if the woman with the stroke were to tell it, how would we tell it, and what terminology might we use to describe it?

    This is what all ancient and organized religions must deal with: To what extent is the truth ancient and eternal, and to what extent must it be uttered anew by every generation, or pehaps be lost in dead metaphorical language? Sometimes clining too tightly to the original, literal wording means the truths become lost in dead metaphors. Sometimes too much re-invention in contemporary terms risks losing much of the originally intended meaning.

    Too often, people think that religion only sounds transcendent and true when it sounds old and cryptic. If we can’t understand it, then it must be a divine mystery; and if it’s in Latin, Greek, or some other foreign language we don’t know, all the better. Must be that holy stuff. But sometimes, in reality, what we might be experiencing is the effect of simply being adrift and alienated by dead metaphors that once actually meant something to somebody.

    Where I go to church, we usually don’t talk about how literally to take the scriptures because the Roman Catholic church still projects the image of taking much of it quite literally (contrary to certain papal and other pronouncements). Especially about Jesus being the only begotten son, about the virgin birth, the miracles, the eucharist, the resurrection, etc. If you think any one of the essential elements is metaphor and not literal truth, then some will be quick to brand you a non-believer.

    Hans Kung has said that faith is more an orientation of one’s life and a fundamental choice in response to the gift of life, than it is agreement with a list of literal truths. Many Catholics and Christians tend to believe the opposite: that it’s a checklist, a litmus text of literal truths to believe.

    For those who remain in the second group, cognitive revolution has not yet come.

    Is it necessary?

    In some situations, it may help, especially for folks who want to talk about such stuff, or when Christians have to ponder folks of other religions and whether they are evil to the core because of their Koran, or not.

    But some of the kindest, most generous people are those who have not yet known, or may never know, the cognitive revolution you describe. Staying close to the safe metaphors and language of the scriptures may be all they ever want or need, and may be the stuff they keep returning to as they strive to make order of chaos and live good lives.

    June 8, 2008
  11. William Siemers said:

    John G.


    Are you ‘casting stones’? Don’t I deserve the benefit of the doubt? It could have been transendental meditation, rolfing, chanting…even yoga. Almost anything in those days. Might even have been low blood sugar…although runs to the 7-11for m &ms and chocolate milk usually cured that before anything too momentous happened.

    June 8, 2008
  12. john george said:

    William- Hope I didn’t offend you in my question. I certainly didn’t mean to. I couldn’t tell for sure from your response. That time was in the middle of my college years, and it was the humorous question that arose quite frequently when someone refered to any paranormal experience.

    June 8, 2008
  13. William Siemers said:

    John G.
    No problem…just an attempt at a little levity

    June 9, 2008
  14. BruceWMorlan said:

    Well, I basically ignored this issue for the longest time, then read “The Universe in an Atom”, boned up on my quantum physics and put together my own “flying spaghetti-monster cosmology, which I turned into three writings:

    Quantum Soul where I argue that in an discrete finite (but big) automatn universe we (as self-aware and therefore recursive beings) are fractal representations of a universal probability wave function (something alert readers would have picked up from “The Golden Compass” series).

    Soul of Chaos where I argue that the Bayesian concept of “prior” provides an interesting (mathematically at least) place for a dualist soul to be found.

    where I point out the difference and similarity between faith and the scientific method (which is an alternative means of arriving at Truth.

    Then, In Automaton I ask if we are all that much better off when we question our existence. The Garden of Eden is not about a loss of innocence about simple things like sex, it is (IMNSHO) about the loss of innocence we experience when we realize we are mortal.

    Like all such cosmologies, it should be tested for validity before applying it to your own purposes.

    June 9, 2008
  15. john george said:

    William- Thanks. I thought that was your intent, as was mine in #9. I just like to keep short accounts.

    Bruce- In staying with the spirit of levity, I’m not sure your thesis adds up.

    June 9, 2008
  16. BruceWMorlan said:

    john george, you card! (perhaps the 7 of clubs 😉 ). It may not add up, but it is integral to a basic topology of belief that forms a ring around the axioms of choice we all have to deal with. And in the calculus of life, it becomes pretty chaotic if you try to solve those equations using Euler integration!

    June 9, 2008
  17. john george said:

    Bruce- Now I remember the reason I transfered out of engineering and into art. Between calculus and those blasted sliderules, I was done in! And now I have found a better realm in which to function.

    There is some Biblical connection between the creation and higher math, though. It is said that when Noah left the ark, all the animals began to multiply and replenish the earth except for the adder snakes. Noah sought wisdom from God, then sent his sons into the woods to clear an area and build a table there out of the logs they had cut down. He then had them take the two snakes out and put them on the table. Several months later, they checked the place and it was just crawling with adder snakes. Noah’s sons asked him how this had helped. He told them that even an adder snake can multiply on a log table.

    June 9, 2008
  18. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: Assuming that you are right, and that humans are fractal representations of a universal probability wave function, what’s the conclusion? Does that mean that human life has no meaning?

    According to Immanuel Kant, truth is achieved when our thoughts correspond to our senses. A reduction of truth to empirically verifiable thoughts is an impoverished thought system, and an impossible and intolerant social system.

    Marxism has shown that just social systems that exclude the divine, are doomed to failure. A materialistic concept of man excludes the very thing that humans will always need, and that science cannot provide – meaningfulness.

    June 10, 2008
  19. BruceWMorlan said:

    David L.! I am shocked, shocked I tell you, to have you call Marxism a just or fair economic model. It is so far from fair or just that it requires totalitarian regimes to even have a chance to exist, just as you need an airplane (or similar) if you want to overcome the law of gravity and the natural tendency of a human body at 30,000 feet to end up in a hole in the ground.

    Immanuel Kant was a victim of the parochialism of his time. We now know so much more about the nature of the senses, and their serious shortcomings, and to tie Truth to them is to hitch your wagon to a hobby horse … you will only go where you can drag yourself.

    So, in a more serious note, the question “what is the meaning of existence?” is much more subtle than the question “what is the nature of existence?”. Science and test-based reasoning answer the latter but the former seems to be the realm of philosophy and faith-based reasoning. My “claim” that we are mere fractal components of a larger function only applies to the former “what is the nature …” question and only indirectly to the question “what is the meaning …”.

    Might be time for another 8AM visit to the coffee group?

    June 10, 2008
  20. David Ludescher said:

    Bruce: Isn’t the meaning of existence more important than the nature of existence? Why should churches care about the cognitive revolution if its focus is entirely on the nature of existence?

    June 10, 2008
  21. john george said:

    Bruce & David- Here is a concept for you both to chew on. After I came into a relationship with the Lord, the design principles I use daily finally made sense to me. They are just observations of how the elements are put together. No man created them, they just observed and named them. Same with your mathmatics, Bruce. It is just a numerical way to define or explain the observable creation around you. Just as art did not create the world around us, math did not create it, either. Both these are our human ways of trying to understand what our senses tell us. They are amoral, neither right nor wrong. The real key is what a person defines as the prime source for all this. Did everything just come out of nothing? I say yes. And the source I attribute it to is the creative Word of God.

    One of the things in David Brooks column that he brings our attention to is the embracing of the paranormal by the scientific community. It used to be that science was science and religion was religion, and ne’er the twain shall meet. Scientists are now realizing there is something else beyound the physical world. That is why they will even give credence to Dr. Taylor’s experience. Now, we as Christians are being challenged to defend the Bible as the correct standard for these things. If we only base our faith on what we experience, we end up being weak, because any person has the potential to tap into the psirit world. The danger of doing this without a clear embracing of God and His Word is the possibility of deception. There are two kingdoms in the spirit world, one of God and one of Satan. There is a third realm of the spirit, and this is each man’s own spirit. This is what gives us the connection. It is our choice whom we choose to rule over us.

    June 10, 2008
  22. john george said:

    Another thought on Marxism- I don’t think it is an economic model. Communism is an economic system. Marxism is a political theory, a different approach to a dictator. I think it is interesting that the Church in Acts is described as the people having all things in common. Hmmmm. Does this sound like Communism? Is that what you were aluding to, David, in your comment about “just social systems that exclude the divine?” Just wondering.

    I do believe the Kingdom of God has a different economic system than either Communism or Capitalism. It runs on the principle of giving and receiving. There is mention in the apostle Paul’s writings about the virtues of working and receiving a wage. I think this gives merit to having a profession or job that produces a good or service that is of value to society.

    June 10, 2008
  23. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: We are still anxiously awaiting your detailed reply (#3). Give us something heavy!

    June 11, 2008
  24. John George — just a little note of thanks to say that although I don’t remotely share either your faith in general or your specific religious convictions (nor any others, nor any sense of “god within,” nor any sense of emptiness or loss in doing without any of the above, but rather a sense of the opportunity to live as kindly and generously and fully and mindfully as we can in the here and now), I do appreciate the thoughtful and generous (and sometimes humorous) spirit with which you articulate them. Seriously. Thank you.

    June 11, 2008
  25. Lisa Guidry said:


    Thanks for being the voice of reason. I love the scripture that says ” Unless you become like a child you cannot enter heaven”. A child trust their daddy, and knows that he won’t hurt them, nor deceive them (a normal, healthy father). I am grateful for my child-like faith. Reading all the comments that have been posted, just makes me sad that many try to reason in their intellect the truth about God. My prayer is that everyone will experience God in a real, personal way, and that it won’t take a crisis for that to happen.

    June 11, 2008
  26. John George said:

    Penny- Thanks so much for your kind comments. I don’t agree with many opinions posted on this blog, but I always appreciate anyone who is brave enough and articulate enough to comment here. Part of being able to live in harmony is simply understanding one another. I’ve mentioned this before that understanding someone’s position doesn’t mean you have to agree with them. But understanding and acceptance goes a long way in producing harmony.

    Lisa- Thanks for your encouragement. May Father God richly bless you and expand your understanding of and relationship with Him.

    June 11, 2008
  27. Griff Wigley said:

    Thanks for the nudge, David L. Yes, I’ll unload a heavy treatise here any day now, but I’ve seemed to have started a few other fires that need tending first. So philosophize away in the meantime!

    June 12, 2008
  28. Heidi Habben said:

    Not sure I should wade in, but my sister passed this along to me.

    First, I do believe in the Revealed WORD of God as given in the Bible and thus, in the existence of absolute truth.

    I believe all religions try to answer some basic questions such as ‘Why are we here?’ (creation), ‘What has gone wrong?’ (we all seem to agree something has) and ‘What is the solution?’ I, of course, believe in creation thru intelligent design and also believe that science is proving this out. Afterall, our universe is expanding.

    Next, I believe the answer to ‘What’s went wrong?’ is sin. This puts the Revealed WORD at odds with all other ‘religions’ as the Bible tells us all have sinned whereas everyone else says we are basically good. To this – I just look at my life experience – and yes, other items like Marxism/Communism mentioned above. Afterall, they told people that what we needed was change – any change that got rid of the current ruling class. Because Marxism believes man is essentially good, it never asked for any ‘checks and balances’ and, well the saying ‘power corrupts absolutely’ always seems to be proved true. Today, America seems to be asking for a change – any change, but never looking into what that change may be… I believe this is quite dangerous. One last thought on this – Marxism doesn’t seem to be dead… it is just wearing new clothes such as Global Warming, Political Correctness, etc. Something to think about or consider at least…

    A quick note on science – I don’t believe that the Revealed WORD (using that as opposed to Christianity) has ever been opposed to or in competition with science. I believe they go together. It was Christians that made most of the major scientific discoveries thru the ages, it was Christians that started the Universities, etc. God wants us to look for and find the Truth. I believe that science bears out God’s word just as archeology bears it out.

    It is amazing how the Dead Sea scrolls show the WORD that has been passed down for over 2,500 years that is still perfectly translated.

    Finally, my answer to ‘How to fix it?’ is Jesus Christ. I do not believe that I am god, I do not believe I have to do some kind of good work, but rather that I accept Jesus as my Savior in simple faith – yet, it is not a blind faith as I mentioned above I believe my life experience, science, archeology, etc. testifies to this truth. In addition, though people always protest again taking worldviews to their ultimate conclusions saying, ‘that will never happen’, I believe one must. Taking other religions to there ultimate conclusions whether it be Buddhism, Islam, Marxism (yes, I call that a religion), mysticm, etc., leaves one in a very uncaring world, usually where those in power get to rule over the weak and make the rules (seeing as they have done away with absolute truth and consider all to be relative).

    O.K. I am probably too long winded. If anyone read all of this, thank you for considering it.


    June 17, 2008
  29. john george said:

    Heidi- Great exigesis. Thanks for wading in.

    June 17, 2008
  30. Griff Wigley said:

    Jane, you seem to have broken several of our discussion guidelines multiple times in a single comment, so I’ve removed it.

    It’s probably best for you to avoid commenting on the viewpoints of others whose views are radically different than yours. Instead, just engage with those with whom you want to ‘go deeper’  with a spirit of inquiry.  

    June 18, 2008
  31. kiffi summa said:

    Heidi, and Griff: Since Jane’s comment was pulled, I will try for a more direct one, but in the spirit of “inquiry”.

    Heidi: You speak of the existence of “absolute truth”. I would have to say that I can prove the existence of no such thing, unless we fail to “inquire”.
    Various ideas that have existed as absolute truths, throughout written history, have proven to be either not “absolute”, or false in their entirety, as civilizations gain factual knowledge. Is this not so?

    In our observable history, persons who have claimed to be the recipients of “absolute truth” have often used that claim to be the oppressors of others, and I use “others” in the sense of those who are perceived to be unenlightened, or otherwise lesser in some aspect.

    Griff: I do not know how it is possible to have a serious conversation on a subject like this without entering into some sort of intellectual challenge…Did you intend your original post as “fluff”? I think not.

    June 18, 2008
  32. Rob Hardy said:

    If I may (without Griff biting my head off), I would like to question Heidi’s assertion that Global Warming is somehow “Marxism…wearing new clothes.” I simply don’t understand this assertion. Evangelical Christians are increasingly accepting the fact that global warming is a very real problem, and that Christians are called upon to address the damage that erring humans have done to God’s creation. In my view, environmental damage, including global warming, is a sin—a neglect and a misuse of God’s gift of creation. Take a look at the Evangelical Climate Initiative or at polls that show that 70% of evangelicals view climate change as a significant, human-generated global crisis. The challenge of global warming presents an opportunity for people of all theological and ideological stripes to work together to care for the world that is our common home. “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8). We fail in our humility, kindness, and justice when we trod heavily, with a destructive carbon footprint, on God’s good earth.

    June 18, 2008
  33. Heidi Habben said:

    Jane and Rob,
    Yes, if you would not mind I would like to try to explain my views better. I will try and attempt to direct you to where I have gotten some of my information. But, if you would give me about a day or so, as right now it is very busy at work i.e. much overtime happening. Time is the major reason that I don’t ever wade into these discussions. But, I thank you for letting me try to organize my views and explain them. So please know, I am not trying to ignore any questions asked of me. I will try my best to explain them soon.


    June 18, 2008
  34. john george said:

    Kiffi- I’m not going to try to defend Heidi’s remarks here, I think she can do that herself, but I just want to touch on a couple things you stated in your post. I will preface my question with this scripture,”NAS:2 Peter
    {3:9} The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance. (Another version translates “repentance” as “the knowledge of the truth.”)
    2002 (C) Bible.” It would appear from this scripture that truth is something we can obtain. You said, “Various ideas that have existed as absolute truths, throughout written history, have proven to be either not “absolute”, or false in their entirety, as civilizations gain factual knowledge. Is this not so?” I am assuming you are refering to a literal interpretation of scriptures, here, as opposed to a historical/critical approach? I have not seen, nor has anyone shown me, any “factual knowledge” to disprove Biblical principles as a whole. In fact, the evidence that I have seen in scientific journals and social studies of human behavior seem to verify Biblical positions rather than discount them. Perhaps I have missed something.

    You also said, “In our observable history, persons who have claimed to be the recipients of “absolute truth” have often used that claim to be the oppressors of others, and I use “others” in the sense of those who are perceived to be unenlightened, or otherwise lesser in some aspect.” I am assuming you are making a statement against those who would hold up Biblical principles as being superior to humanistic principles. How is this attutude different than the position of many higher education establishments in their disdain for any “scientist” who would step out and question the holy grail of scientific study- namely evolution? When it comes to embracing something as absolutely true, there must be an element of faith involved, since observable evidence has not been found to disprove God nor prove evolution. I know you and I differ on what we believe, and that is our perogative, and I defend your freedom to express what you believe. When you appear to state those beliefs as facts, though, then I would question them, just as you question mine.

    Rob- You seem to have an interesting theology going here. I in no way want to disparage good stewardship of our resources, but I would ask you this question about your definition of sin, as Peter wrote in his 2nd letter: “NAS:2 Peter
    A New Heaven and Earth
    {3:10} But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.
    {3:11} Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness,
    {3:12} looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be destroyed by burning, and the elements will melt with intense heat!
    2002 (C) Bible” It appears from this reference, as I surmise from the scriptures as a whole, that God is most interested in our hearts and not necessarily our environment. If we believers are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, how much effort are we really supposed to exert in preserving the old one?

    I do find this admonition a few verses previous, “NAS:2 Peter
    {1:5} Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge,
    {1:6} and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness,
    {1:7} and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love.
    {1:8} For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.
    2002 (C) Bible” Now fulfilling these admonitions is a lifelong endeavor, and one I cannot attain to in my own strength, but I don’t see here, or in any other scriptural reference, any revelation about our carbon footprint. I do find this reference in Romans, “NAS:Romans
    {1:25} For they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.
    2002 (C) Bible.” Seems pretty clear here where our focus should be.

    June 19, 2008
  35. Rob Hardy said:

    Climate change is initially and primarily having its worst effect on Africa. Africa produces less than 4% of global greenhouse gases, but the continent suffers disproportionately from desertification and diminishing resources due to global warming. Is it following the commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves when we persist in behaviors that create such harm elsewhere? Is it kind, or just, or humble? No, I believe it is a sin.

    June 19, 2008
  36. It appears from this reference, as I surmise from the scriptures as a whole, that God is most interested in our hearts and not necessarily our environment. If we believers are looking for a new heaven and a new earth, how much effort are we really supposed to exert in preserving the old one?

    [from post #34]

    John, as I’ve said, I appreciate your willingness to gently share your perspectives, but I must say I find this one rather appalling, and contrary to every sense of decency and human feeling — of obligation to our fellow creatures (human and otherwise) and to our own descendants. It is a good illustration of Sam Harris’s observation in Letter to a Christian Nation that one of the most pernicious effects of religion is that it tends to divorce morality from the reality of human and animal suffering. He says, “Religion allows people to imagine that their concerns are moral when they have nothing to do with suffering or its alleviation or when pressing those concerns inflicts unnecessary and appalling suffering on innocent human beings,” or other life forms, I would add. A devotion to peering at life through a theological lens that distorts and devalues the real conditions that face us, contravenes common sense, and affects how we care for one another and the moral stance we take towards one another is very troubling to me.

    Why should the condition of our hearts present any conflict to caring for the condition of the planet? Are you really willing to be careless about the health of Earth and its environment, which are the sustenance for every form of life we know, just because you believe there is a better place for (only) “saved” human beings in the long run? I respectfully suggest that that point of view seems arrogant and myopic at best and profoundly dangerous at worst. It may arguably be a theologically defensible position, though one that is clearly rejected by an increasing number of theologians and other thoughtful people of faith, but I do not believe it is a morally defensible position.

    June 19, 2008
  37. john george said:

    Holly- In answer to your question, “Why should the condition of our hearts present any conflict to caring for the condition of the planet?”, I would answer with this quote out of Mark. This is directly attributed to Jesus.NAS:Mark
    {7:20} And He was saying, “That which proceeds out of the man, that is what defiles the man.
    {7:21} “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries,
    {7:22} deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness.
    {7:23} “All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man.”
    2002 (C) Bible. All the problems we encounter on the earth, poverty, socially spread diseases, et. al., are symptoms of a greater problem- the inherent fallen nature of mans’ heart. Jesus knew this, so that is why He was always after the Pharisee’s motives for what they did, not necessarily the things they did. As we allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts and lives to restore us to a right relationship with God, one effect is that we are restored to a right relationship with our environment, His creation. That is why I stated that God is not NECESSARILY interested in our environment. If we get our hearts right, we will become good stewards as we learn the ways of God as revealed by His Holy Spirit.

    This is the inherant difference between Christianity and every other world religion. The world religions that recognize man’s sin can only deal with it from the outside in, since they do not embrace the revealed word of God, nor His intiment involvement with each individual through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit. They do this via various lists of do’s and don’ts. We as Christians recognized that we cannot change ourselves, so we rely upon the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to change us. Does that make sense, now?

    Rob- in your post #32, you said, “In my view, environmental damage, including global warming, is a sin—a neglect and a misuse of God’s gift of creation.” It is written in James, NAS:James
    {4:17} Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.
    2002 (C) Bible. I agree with this, that the sin is the neglect and misuse of God’s creation, and I believe many who call themselves Christians have used a false spirituality to sidestep their responsibility as stewards of the creation. I do believe, though, that many of the same people who are up in arms about environmental damage have still embraced the sin of “choice”, and justify the killing of over 50 million unborn babies in the last 30 odd years. Some of them condemn a person for driving an auto instead of riding a bicycle or walking, but encourage adolescents to commit fornication and justify ending the inconvent result with murder. In this case, I question who has the mote and who has the log. This is one of the reasons some Christians, I for one, have a hard time embracing the environmental movement.

    You also stated, “…polls that show that 70% of evangelicals view climate change as a significant, human-generated global crisis.” If you check youir results closely, the whole 70% do not attribute the climactic change to human activity. I think we give ourselves too much credit for what is occuring in the world environmentally. Paul writes this in Romans: NAS:Romans
    {8:22} For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.
    2002 (C) Bible. There is a residual effect of the original sin that has affected creation since the fall of man. We are just seeing the greater evidence of that affect as we near the last days and the establishment of the Kingdom of God on this earth. Climates have been cyclical since the fall. There is evidence that the middle agers were warmer than or current time. This leads into a whole discussion on the age of the Earth, evolution, and the validity of certain “scientific” studies, none of which I want to get into in this thread. But, the conclusion I come to is that there is a providential will of God that is going to occur. We have the free will to choose whether we want to be involved and aligned with that will.

    June 19, 2008
  38. Thank you, John George, for reminding me with your last couple of comments why I’m no longer a Christian. Selecting passages from the Bible here and there makes it possible to justify just about anything one wishes to justify.

    I see far too many Christians use the Bible as a “Choose-Your-Excuse-Machine” when explaining away their own behavior or ideas, and a “Choose-Your-Blame-Machine” when condemning the behavior or ideas of others.

    The irony, of course, is that many Christians also love to rail against the relativism of modern secular thinking by pointing to the “absolutes” of the Bible, but then turn around and use the Bible to prop up any argument they want to make, often making very relativistic and selective and contradictory claims.

    June 20, 2008
  39. So what I think I’m hearing, and I’m trying mightily to stay calm here, is that people who care about preventing poverty and disease and war and environmental degradation out of a sense of caring and decency and obligation towards our fellow beings, or because their religions or philosophies teach them to serve others, share their blessings, and be good stewards — all these people have misguided priorities and are acting out of turn because they should only do these things out of the motivations that arise from a personal relationship with Jesus, and that otherwise (especially if they are not also fighting to make abortion unobtainable) the work they do is of no value and, in fact, tainted?


    Don’t you want to live in a world where people who don’t share all your beliefs (which, by the way, is the vast majority of the world’s population) try to do good for others?

    Penny (not Holly)

    June 20, 2008
  40. Holly Cairns said:

    Yes, re: #37, not Holly, but good question 🙂

    June 20, 2008
  41. kiffi summa said:

    Brendon: here’s a serious question: Are you no longer a “Christian” because the Christian right have taken that designation for themselves only … or because you do not wish to be part of that specific world view(as expressed here)… or because you no longer wish to be part of any religion… ???

    I think this is a very serious question which must be answered, and every time I try to discuss it at a serious level, Griff moderates my comment.

    I cannot see how it is Right, morally or philosophically right, for one group to strip a set of values from another, because the first group has moved to a different world view.

    Please reply, Brendon.

    June 20, 2008
  42. Kiffi,

    I am no longer a Christian for many reasons. Partly out of disillusionment with what some have tried to do with Christianity, but probably more because I believe religion itself is a superficial layer between people and spirituality. I see it as a largely-hierarchical power structure concerned more with its own self-preservation or expansion and influence than with the genuine spiritual development of humanity.

    I see religion not only as unnecessary in that respect, but also as sometimes obstructing, or in the worst cases, subverting the connection between people and spirituality. Ritual, while comforting, tends to be one of those factors which disconnects people from becoming more spiritual by substituting real exploration with rote responses and tasks. Rituals exist to be passed from generation to generation, but is that about perpetuating spirituality or perpetuating a particular church’s fortunes? Rituals don’t ask; they tell.

    By no means does this mean I don’t see the value religion has for many people or, in some ways, for society. I also do not reject many of the tenets of Christianity. Many of those same tenets, of course, are held by most world religions. Many of those same tenets are also held by atheists. I just don’t find religion necessary for me to live an enjoyable, interesting, creative, ethical, moral or, in my own way, spiritual life.

    I like to think of it this way: When I was about five and probably just starting to understand what death was, I remember distinctly thinking that killing someone else must certainly be wrong. Turns out, I was right. It is wrong, but I didn’t need to read it in the Bible. I figured it out myself. I’m willing to bet most people do.

    That’s a simple and reductive example, but I believe people are innately good, or, at least, act in ways that lessen their chances of being killed or hurt by others. I believe my spirituality can be summed in two ways: prescriptively and proscriptively. Prescription: Be nice. Proscription: Don’t be a jerk.

    Do I always live up to those spiritual goals? Nope. I try. I make many, many mistakes, but I usually recognize them. I honestly don’t need to look up in a Bible or any other book whether or not my thoughts and actions are right or wrong, good or bad, sanctioned or forbidden. Nor do I need a church or particular religion to make those judgments for me. I already judge myself often and harshly enough.

    I hope that explains my position well enough for you, Kiffi. It’s more complex and nuanced than this, but this makes for a decent, condensed introduction.

    June 20, 2008
  43. kiffi summa said:

    Thanks, Brendon, that was a very well fleshed out explanation without becoming tedious.
    Here’s mine: I am no longer a “Christian”, although it is a tradition I was initially steeped in, because I see too much hypocrisy. However, if forced to check a box on a survey or face imprisonment, I would check christian because of the cultural reference.
    However, I would have to put an notation on that survey, that under no circumstances was I to be identified with those who now take that name for only themselves, and say that it is their’s only , and according to their discrete definition.
    I have long thought that religion, once “man” got over needing a safety net, was more of a Political Construct than anything else, i.e. a way to bind a certain number of people together for reasons of power or influence, rather than spirituality. And power and influence in a way that is difficult for those not included to criticize, or even question, since it is supposedly based on an internal belief system.
    I don’t believe belief systems which seek to harm others, can be truly spiritual.

    June 20, 2008
  44. Although I am no card carrying Christian, Jew, Hindu or Buddhist, Muslim or Jane, I do understand the great need and the great benefits of religious ceremony. There is a great layer of unifying energy, for lack of a better description, whenever people come together to pray, to honor, to thank, to
    love and to enjoy their gods and each others godliness as well as their own.
    There is a great power in handing down tradition from hand to hand throughout the centuries. There is no replacement for this energy, this
    sharing of power, this transformational and elemental thrust that carries each one of us into the future.

    When they do it right, there is nothing better, or more right, when they do it wrong, well, only Son Seals can describe that.

    June 20, 2008
  45. john george said:

    Penny/Holly- Good grief! I can’t believe I got your names mixed up! Please forgive me. Well, actually, maybe I can attribute it to age, but there are a lot of people a lot older than I, and they are a lot sharper than I. Anyway, to your question, this is exactly the premise set forth in the comentary Griff sited- how can we as Christians support our belief in the Bible as a foundation for our convictions, as opposed to, say, Confusionism or Buddhism or Islam? I can only respond out of my own experiences. I am a linear thinker, and therefore must have concrete evidence that something works the way it says it will. In the 36 years I have walked with God, I have yet to see any Biblical principle disproven. I have heard of many people who have not experienced everything written, and I cannot account for them, but my experiences with the word have lined up with what it says. As far as people doing things out of an inate goodness, my wife is the best example I have seen of that. But she recognizes her own need of God and follows Him better than I do. You said earlier that you do not sense any lack of or need of some spiritual experience. That is fine, because that is where you are right now. I believe that any hunger for God must be developed in the person’s heart by the Holy Spirit. You will have that time. It boils down to whether you think you have enough of your own righteousness to satisfy God when you stand before Him to answer for your deeds. I am happy to leave that decision up to you. I esteem you as a person of no guile (false pretenses).

    Brendon- Forgive me if I seem to be discecting the word for my own benefit. I do not have that intention. I like to consider the whole council of God in matters, but for sake of brevity on this blog, I will not lay it all out here. People have written whole books to Biblically support support of just one idea. As far as using the Bible to explain away ones’ own behavior, this only separates a person from God. 1st. John says that he who says he has no sin decieves himself, and the truth is not in him. He who confesses and forsakes his sin shall be forgiven and cleansed. This is not a one time experience but, rather, a lifestyle. Truth is recognizing how you align with what God says and then agreeing with Him. You are not telling Him anything He doesn’t already know. He justs wants to know that you recognize yourself.

    Kiffi- I think you have some good points there, and I hope the discussion can continue. I think this is where the rubber meets the road. I’m not sure I understand what you are saying in your 3rd. paragraph of post 41, so maybe you can clarify it for me and we can discuss this further.

    June 20, 2008
  46. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: While we wait for your treatise, here is mine:

    I find it amazing that scientists forge ahead with faith that the world is orderly and intelligible, yet claim that faith has no part in scientific discovery. If the world were not intelligible, and hence, have no intelligent design, all of the scientific theories would be unintelligible.

    For example, the intelligent design of evolution was “revealed” to Darwin, and is still being revealed to us today. Intelligent design is the theory; evolution (or some form of it) is the proof.

    Reason needs faith to proceed forward, and to direct it to its ultimate purpose – to lend meaning to the act of being. A reason that lends itself to only exploring and explaining the empirically verifiable is an impoverished, and ultimately, useless reason.

    However, faith needs reason to lend order to beliefs, and to expose faith’s weakness when it becomes too arrogant, or contradictory. A faith which contradicts reason is a disbelief system.

    I am a Christian because science can offer me no satisfactory explanation for why there is evil, why life should have meaning, or, more simply, why my mother loves me unconditionally. The Catholic Church tries to offer an explanation in all of her teachings. But, even her extensive teachings are insufficient to satisfy my right hemisphere’s search for answers.

    At those times when reason fails me, I remember my faith and the story of Jesus of Nazareth, who preached that we should love another as we love ourselves, and preached that unconditional love is possible if we remember that God loves us. Then, I gaze upon the cross and see a man who died the life of a criminal because he preached this. I remember that he did not shirk from this death, but embraced it.

    I think that this dude was either crazy, or he understood something about life and death that I want to know. I’m putting my money on the latter. Reason tells me that even if the God of which he spoke does not exist, that Jesus’s way is the right way, the truth, and the life. What person, atheists included, would not hold Jesus up as a model for his or her life? What greater example is there than a man who gave up his life so that even his enemies would know the truth of human existence?

    June 20, 2008
  47. Holly Cairns said:

    Oh, not the Intelligent Design idea, again. Did you go that direction, David L?

    Something for the non-evolutionist and the evolutionist to ponder: Read Genesis again. First man is created and then animals, and then a little later in Genesis (the very next page, infact), the Bible says animals were first and then man. So evolution can’t be counted out, and we might worry about reading the Bible literally.

    And man isn’t able to make life from ‘no life’. Or…. I’m right about that, aren’t I… what’s the latest?

    Intelligent Design is just a fancy way to say “God must have done it?” Yes?


    Let’s bring in the Gnostic gospels for fun, eh? Who’s read Judas? Or Mary?

    June 20, 2008
  48. David Ludescher said:

    Holly: Intelligible design, not intelligent design.

    June 20, 2008
  49. Anthony Pierre said:

    I have faith you all will be touched with his noodly appendage.

    June 20, 2008
  50. Holly Cairns said:

    oh, Intelligible design. That’s like “mesoblic carpet.”

    Tony, laughing once more about the Noodly appendage. But, on a serious note, If ONLY I could get you to believe in what I believed…

    June 20, 2008
  51. Anthony Pierre said:

    Why do you need me to believe what you believe. These are the pastafarians:

    The Eight “I’d Really Rather You Didn’ts”

    1. I’d really rather you didn’t act like a sanctimonious holier-than-thou ass when describing my noodly goodness. If some people don’t believe in me, that’s okay. Really, I’m not that vain. Besides, this isn’t about them so don’t change the subject.
    2. I’d really rather you didn’t use my existence as a means to oppress, subjugate, punish, eviscerate, and/or, you know, be mean to others. I don’t require sacrifices, and purity is for drinking water, not people.
    3. I’d really rather you didn’t judge people for the way they look, or how they dress, or the way they talk, or, well, just play nice, okay? Oh, and get this into your thick heads: woman = person. man = person. Samey = Samey. One is not better than the other, unless we’re talking about fashion and I’m sorry, but I gave that to women and some guys who know the difference between teal and fuchsia.
    4. I’d really rather you didn’t indulge in conduct that offends yourself, or your willing, consenting partner of legal age AND mental maturity. As for anyone who might object, I think the expression is “go f yourself,” unless they find that offensive in which case they can turn off the TV for once and go for a walk for a change.
    5. I’d really rather you didn’t challenge the bigoted, misogynistic, hateful ideas of others on an empty stomach. Eat, then go after the bitches.
    6. I’d really rather you didn’t build multi million-dollar synagogues / churches / temples / mosques / shrines to my noodly goodness when the money could be better spent (take your pick):
    1. Ending poverty
    2. Curing diseases
    3. Living in peace, loving with passion, and lowering the cost of cable
    I might be a complex-carbohydrate omniscient being, but I enjoy the simple things in life. I ought to know. I AM the creator.
    7. I’d really rather you didn’t go around telling people I talk to you. You’re not that interesting. Get over yourself. And I told you to love your fellow man, can’t you take a hint?
    8. I’d really rather you didn’t do unto others as you would have them do unto you if you are into, um, stuff that uses a lot of leather/lubricant/vaseline. If the other person is into it, however (pursuant to #4), then have at it, take pictures, and for the love of Mike, wear a CONDOM! Honestly, it’s a piece of rubber. If I didn’t want it to feel good when you did it I would have added spikes, or something.

    June 20, 2008
  52. john george said:

    Brendon- You do a very good job of differentiating between a religion and what I experience as a Christian. I define my particular experience in Christianity as a relationship, not a religion. I agree with your assesment that religions are a superficial layer between the real person and reality. I only differ with you on this one statement, “…I believe people are innately good…” Having raised 5 children through their two’s, I can attest to what the Bible states, that man’s only intent is evil. I have heard it put this way, that children are born little savages, and they need to be domesticated. The last half of your statement, “… or, at least, act in ways that lessen their chances of being killed or hurt by others…” reminds me of a passage in Proverbs 19, NAS:Proverbs
    {19:25} Strike a scoffer and the naive may become shrewd,
    But reprove one who has understanding and he will gain knowledge.
    2002 (C) Bible. I don’t believe that just because a person learns self preservation it automatically makes him good or righteous or is any kind of indication that he is.

    I was once at the same place you are, convinced that religion was a waste of time and effort. It was not until I was confronted with and recognized my own need and inability to fulfill that need that I found reality in the Holy Spirit. I attribute this to a work of God, not anything I or anyone else conjured up. The only thing I “did” in the process was to agree with God and respond. That is where my free will enters in. Nothing was forced off onto me, nor can I force anything I have off onto another. But the invitation is open for anyone who wants to come along.

    Anthony- Your treatise on pastafarians is amusing. It reminds me of a passage in Jeremiah: NAS:Jeremiah
    {10:2} Thus says the LORD,
    “Do not learn the way of the nations,
    And do not be terrified by the signs of the heavens
    Although the nations are terrified by them;
    {10:3} For the customs of the peoples are delusion;
    Because it is wood cut from the forest,
    The work of the hands of a craftsman with a cutting tool.
    {10:4} “They decorate it with silver and with gold;
    They fasten it with nails and with hammers
    So that it will not totter.
    {10:5} “Like a scarecrow in a cucumber field are they,
    And they cannot speak;
    They must be carried,
    Because they cannot walk!
    Do not fear them,
    For they can do no harm,
    Nor can they do any good.”
    2002 (C) Bible
    I don’t mean to offend your “diety”, but I think the discription above is accurate. Perhaps (s)he has been hitting the wrong sauce. And I suppose the next thing you will tell me is to cheese it.

    June 20, 2008
  53. John, pardon me if I am wrong, but if you do hit the sauce, don’t you get cheese automatically eventually? I’m just a city kid, so I really don’t know if this is true or not. 🙂

    June 20, 2008
  54. john george said:

    Bright- So, you’re a night owl, too, huh? I thought it was cirrhosis, not cheese.

    June 20, 2008
  55. John — don’t worry about the name mix-up; I understand how that happens! I’m struck by your comment about evil. Perhaps you were making a joke, but on the face of your comments your definition of evil must differ from mine, which includes deliberately causing harm while possessing a full understanding that others have a right not to be harmed and that they feel pain, fear or sorrow equivalent to one’s own. All children need to learn to think of others — it is probably the most important lesson there is, and through traumatic upbringings or other factors some people never do learn it (the lack of that understanding is the very definition of sociopathy, which I’ll agree can be equated with evil, but not in a very young child, and is by definition a pathology, not a normal condition). But a two-year-old’s volatility, self-centeredness, limit-testing, and lack of self-control surely should not be considered evil. I have on the whole been very impressed by how readily my children learned to show compassion and be reasonable human beings (my son made noises that very clearly indicated something like “thank you” before he could talk and we certainly weren’t teaching it to him at that point other than by the natural example of our own behavior). Sure, they reserve for their siblings some of their worst behavior, and sometimes they really do mean to cause pain, and parents have to be parents and teach acceptable behavior and make sure there are age-appropriate consequences for violating those standards, but to call a normal two-year-old’s behavior evil rather than naughty or willful or uncivilized seems overblown, doesn’t it?

    Or maybe I just had exceptionally good kids! 🙂

    June 21, 2008
  56. On rereading my comments I’ll take out the the part of my definition of evil that includes an understanding that others have the right not to be harmed. I was thinking of a child’s coming to have that understanding, but forgetting that some cases of evil in someone past childhood can be defined precisely by a refusal to accept that others have such a right.

    I recall from my law school days that the English common law considered seven to be the age of reason. Before that age, children were not considered capable of moral responsibility for their actions. That reflects a decent understanding of cognitive development, I’d say. The Wikipedia entry for this term notes:

    Children under the age of reason and the mentally handicapped are sometimes called “innocents” because of their inability to commit sins: even if their actions are objectively sinful, they sometimes lack capacity for subjective guilt.

    June 21, 2008
  57. Anthony Pierre said:

    This whole deal with quoting the bible got me thinking, which evil things can I prove through quoting the bible. A simple google search found this.


    However, you may purchase male or female slaves from among the foreigners who live among you. You may also purchase the children of such resident foreigners, including those who have been born in your land. You may treat them as your property, passing them on to your children as a permanent inheritance. You may treat your slaves like this, but the people of Israel, your relatives, must never be treated this way. (Leviticus 25:44-46 NLT)

    sacking towns cause they don’t believe.

    Suppose you hear in one of the towns the LORD your God is giving you that some worthless rabble among you have led their fellow citizens astray by encouraging them to worship foreign gods. In such cases, you must examine the facts carefully. If you find it is true and can prove that such a detestable act has occurred among you, you must attack that town and completely destroy all its inhabitants, as well as all the livestock. Then you must pile all the plunder in the middle of the street and burn it. Put the entire town to the torch as a burnt offering to the LORD your God. That town must remain a ruin forever; it may never be rebuilt. Keep none of the plunder that has been set apart for destruction. Then the LORD will turn from his fierce anger and be merciful to you. He will have compassion on you and make you a great nation, just as he solemnly promised your ancestors. “The LORD your God will be merciful only if you obey him and keep all the commands I am giving you today, doing what is pleasing to him.” (Deuteronomy 13:13-19 NLT)

    June 21, 2008
  58. Griff Wigley said:

    David L, I agree, Jesus is a darn good model for one’s life. Jesus and Buddha both, actually.

    Most mainstream churches and synagogues already ignore much about the God of the Old Testament (especially, as Tony indicated above, God as presented by Deuteronomy and Leviticus) since he’s a psychotic bully much of the time. (Yes, I’ve read Dawkins.)

    So I think the cognitive revolution that David Brooks talked about behooves mainstream Christian religions to likewise quit with the low probability stuff of the New Testament (virgin birth, resurrection, heaven, hell, etc) and focus on what’s helpful about Jesus’ message.

    I’m fine with the theism that you say helps give your life meaning, but I don’t think it’s necessary to live a happy, constructive life. I try to live by the laws of the universe that Jesus and Buddha have pretty much nailed. The more I do so, the better my life is, and the more content I am that my ‘afterlife’ is the impact I’ve had while I was alive and that will live on after me for a bit.

    I understand why the ‘personal God/Jesus loves me’ belief can be helpful to people but it’s just as often harmful as it leads to intercessionary (false) prayers, eg “Please God, don’t let my child die of cancer” which ultimately prove themselves false and drive people away from the possibility of helpful, true prayer.

    Plus, the cognitive revolution is telling us that the feeling of being loved by God or Jesus is just a right-brain experience… as Brooks said, “people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love.”

    I can quiet the noisy, ego-infested chatter of my left brain with a meditative mantra, praying the Rosary, or going for a mindfulness walk in the Arb.

    When I do that and ask for inspiration, it comes. Every time. Reliable as gravity. This higher/deeper level of consciousness is there for the asking.

    I think the Buddha was better at preaching the benefits of this “self-awareness” module than Jesus. Or maybe it’s just that the writers of the New Testament missed it or misinterpreted it.

    June 21, 2008
  59. Anthony Pierre said:

    ya griff, I used the old testament on purpose. That’s what Mr. George posted in response to the “I really wish you didn’t”. I am gonna use IRWYD from now on. Too much typing.

    I agree with a lot of Griff said. Jennie goes to church on sundays, I go for a run. It pretty much serves the same purpose. It cleanses us spiritually.

    June 21, 2008
  60. Barb Kuhlman said:

    Those of you who have difficulty with the “traditional” view of the Bible might enjoy the work of Marcus Borg, a Jesus and Bible scholar who presents a different way of understanding the Bible, i.e., the Old Testament as the Hebrews’ story of their relationship with God and the New Testament as the early Christians’ story of their relationship with Jesus, while not disparaging traditional views if those views work for the people who have them. That’s a very simplistic, one-sentence summary (which I hope is not inaccurate) of a large body of work encompassing decades of scholarly research.

    June 21, 2008
  61. Holly Cairns said:

    Barb, thanks for the reading suggestion.

    I’d like to add a few to the list–
    Crossan, Who Killed Jesus (hmm, maybe it wasn’t the crowd)
    Pagels and King, Reading Judas (weird?)
    This Hebrew Lord, Spong

    Oh, and I wish John George would have gone on in his quotation. Jeremiah 29:11–For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

    Maybe God’s plan (for at least one of us?) is to make a difference here:
    1. Ending poverty
    2. Curing diseases
    3. Living in peace, loving with passion, and lowering the cost of cable

    June 21, 2008
  62. Anthony Pierre said:

    also, one of my favorite shows on tv is morgan sperlock’s 30 days. he will take 1 person of one way of thinking and put them into a situation where he or she is surrounded by people will polar opposite opinions.

    one that everyone should watch is this one:–S02E03–Atheist.avi

    I reccommend watching it with the VLC player. thats the only player that this worked with.

    June 21, 2008
  63. Holly Cairns said:

    I’ll have to watch. Thanks

    June 21, 2008
  64. john george said:

    Griff- In your post #58, you said,”Most mainstream churches and synagogues already ignore much about the God of the Old Testament (especially, as Tony indicated above, God as presented by Deuteronomy and Leviticus) since he’s a psychotic bully much of the time. (Yes, I’ve read Dawkins.)” This is why I said I like to take the whole council of God. The characteristics of lovingkindess (176 references) and mercy(42 references) attributed to God in the OT don’t seem to line up with Dawkins’ evaluation of God as a “psychotic bully.” God has never changed. Our perception of Him changes as our revelation of Him does. And Jesus did not come to relace the law of the OT but to fulfill it, which is something IO cannot do in my own strength.

    It seems much of the discussion of religions here has centered around what we must “do” and not around what we must “be”. I see a difference. I find 35 references in the scriptures exhorting believers to “be holy”. I find no references to “do holy things.” See the difference? That is why we refer to Christianity as a relationship with God that changes us from the inside out. All other religions rely on our own strength to “do the right thing”, as if we actually had some inate power within us to always do good.

    Penny, I know you have a problem with this concept that men are not inately good, but I have observed this reference, NAS:Ecclesiastes
    {7:20} Indeed, there is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins, to be true. That being the case, what do we do with our sin? Christianity is the only “religion”, if you will, that provides a provision for sin. According to this refernce, NAS:Revelation
    {12:10} Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying,
    “Now the salvation, and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who accuses them before our God day and night.
    {12:11} “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.
    2002 (C) Bible, we have an accuser. I would prefer Jesus to be my defense attorney in this trial. I included v. 11 because there is a cost to following Him. We Christians have had it pretty easy in this country, but in most other countries of the world, especially Islamic countries, a person is taking their life in their own hands to take a public stand as I have here. And, my concern is that we are moving toward that actually happening her in the good old USA, as Christian principles begin to butt heads with certain social shifts, such as gay marriage.


    June 22, 2008
  65. My problem is not with the notion that people are not innately good, it is with the notion that they are innately evil, denying that they have any innate tendency toward good. Reason based on everything I’ve learned in almost 50 years tells me that people have the capacity for both, and that the teaching and examples they receive from their parents and the culture around them have a great deal to do with how they turn out. As David L. noted, reason has to be part of the equation, or you lose me at the get-go.

    June 22, 2008
  66. Hitler killed more than twice that and he was an atheist, in the company of Stalin, Mao, and other non believers.

    June 23, 2008
  67. Anthony Pierre said:

    right, but that was a counterpoint to Mr. George’s 176 points of hope.

    If you are gonna quote the bible, I really think you have to take into account the whole thing, not just the parts you like.

    June 23, 2008
  68. Anthony Pierre said:

    and also, I checked hitler. from wikipedia, I will check the other ones.

    Hitler was raised by Roman Catholic parents, but after he left home, he never attended Mass or received the sacraments,[88] Hitler often praised Christian heritage, German Christian culture, and professed a belief in Jesus Christ.[89] In his speeches and publications Hitler even spoke of Christianity as a central motivation for his antisemitism, stating that “As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice”.[90][91] His private statements, as reported by his intimates, are more mixed, showing Hitler as a religious man but critical of traditional Christianity.[92] However, in contrast to early Nazi ideologues, Hitler did not adhere to esoteric ideas, occultism, or Ariosophy,[92] and ridiculed such beliefs in Mein Kampf.[93] Rather, Hitler advocated a “Positive Christianity”,[94] a belief system purged from what he objected to in traditional Christianity, and which reinvented Jesus as a fighter against the Jews.

    June 23, 2008
  69. Anthony Pierre said:

    Stalin and Mao from here

    there’s no quotations attributable to them either way (at least that I can find, if you know of a reliable source for some, feel free to tell me). But most people seem to assume that because they abolished religion, they must be atheists. In fact, they abolished religion so that they could establish cults of personality, and become gods themselves.

    2/3 isnt bad, but just because they abolished religion doesn’t mean they were athiests.

    June 23, 2008
  70. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: I am responding to post #58.

    It may disappoint you to know that I consider your response “Christian”. If you think that Jesus “nailed” the universal laws of nature and mankind, only a narrow reading of “Christian” would exclude you. Judging by Brendon’s and Anthony’s comments, I would same that the same holds true for them.

    June 23, 2008
  71. Griff Wigley said:

    Penny, I’m not sure it’s helpful to think of humans as innately good or evil. I’ve found it to be more helpful to just think of us as innately wired to want/desire more wealth, status and love because those are what drive reproductive success. I like the idea (not mine, a favorite author) that ‘insatiable desire’ is the equivalent of what the Bible refers to as Original Sin.

    So sometimes we ‘innately’ do good things like collaborate/cooperate when we think that will help us gain more wealth, status or love. Other times, we ‘innately’ pillage and plunder.

    Of course, we have other desires besides those that are instinctive. In this culture where, for most of us, daily survival is not an issue, spiritual longing is a significant desire.

    Hence, this discussion!

    June 23, 2008
  72. In response to AP #70. I don’t believe that just because you (the general you, not you you) say you are a Christian, or were raised a Christian, or went to Catholic schools, or even wrote a book on or about Christianity, or became a monk, a priest or a pope or nun or none or all of the above, it don’t make you a Christian.

    Furthermore, Hitler, big or little h, killed more than Jews and was nothing more that a completely mentally unbalanced control freak, imho, who in the end had to control even his own demise.

    June 23, 2008
  73. Anthony Pierre said:

    I am curious, why would you call him an athiest?

    Ms. Spencer says in comment #73 just because they say they are christians, doesn’t mean they are one.

    Does it mean even if they say they aren’t christians, they are, if they meet a certain criteria?

    if you go one way you have to go the other way.

    June 23, 2008
  74. Okay. Let me put it two ways. First of all, in order for a person to be considered a member of the Roman Catholic Church, (I’ll use the Christian sector with which I am most familiar) you have to be baptized, and then to remain a Roman Catholic, you must attend mass once per year. You also have to believe certain tenets like Jesus is the Son of God, and you have to believe that the Holy Trinity exists.

    Then you have to keep your soul as free of mortal sin as possible, you have to be sorry when you commit a mortal sin, and you have to be truly sorry, to where you make a real effort to stop sinning that way and all others, to the point where your heart aches at the thought of offending God whenever you do that thing that you shouldn’t be doing. That makes you a member of the church. If you don’t do those things in those ways, you may be a member of the church up to a point, but then, even the church doesn’t want you around, if they know what you have been doing. You are excommunicated if you keep up your sinful ways. You may be reinstated, as it were, but only if you are completely and totally convinced that your conscience is clear and you are ready to live the kind of life that Jesus portrayed by his own journey here on earth.

    Being a Christian is something that happens in your heart. You love Jesus and the ways of Christ as clearly as you can appreciate Him and then you are a Christian.

    It’s like if I say to you, Anthony, garldangit, I am a Mason of the Third Order, or I am a Black Belt Karate Master, or I am a Lady Bug. Saying it, doesn’t make it so. So, no, you cannot be a Christian unless you are making a conscious effort in that direction.

    I cannot just suddenly be recognized at a Mason, unless I go thru the steps, of memorizing a book, I cannot be suddenly described as a Karate master
    unless I learn the moves and practise them day and night for years and year. I cannot be a Lady Bug, unless I have a really good seamstress for a mom. Abd even if I do memorize and practise and get dressed up, I still won’t be any of those things until all criteria is met and I agree with it all
    in actions and words.

    June 23, 2008
  75. Bright, I agree. Though I’m reminded of the story of my old college roommate’s second husband’s experience when joining the Quakers — he couldn’t quite affirm a real belief in God, but was asked if he was still searching, or words to that effect, and upon agreeing to that he was welcomed in. 🙂 So different organizations, or branches of those organizations, at different times and places, may have higher or lower standards for membership.

    Sam Harris points out in Letter to a Christian Nation (and I am quoting from my synopsis of his book, which I prepared for a salon some months back, and which incorporates Harris’s own wording in most instances ):

    Jesus did of course say profound things about love and charity and forgiveness. The Golden Rule is a wonderful moral precept, but numerous teachers offered the same instruction centuries before Jesus (Zoroaster, Buddha, Confucius, Epictetus), and many other scriptures discuss the importance of self-transcending love more articulately than
    the Bible does.

    (The synopsis is still available on, if anyone is interested.)

    If thinking that Jesus nailed the universal laws of nature and mankind, without also believing what Griff calls the low-probability stuff makes a person a Christian, that seems to define Christianity as a philosophy, not so much as a religion. I think many self-described Christians do really follow it more as a philosophy and culture than a religion, but the ones we hear from most loudly in recent decades would I think strongly disagree that you can be a Christian without believing or trying wholeheartedly to believe the more miraculous tenets of the faith. (Here is an interesting discussion of the distinctions between religion and philosophy.)

    Griff, good point. Good and evil are not usually terms in which I think much (well, good far more than evil I suppose), but I was trying to use the vocabulary of the conversation.

    June 23, 2008
  76. David Ludescher said:

    Penny: Your comments are more accurate and precise than mine. My point was that “Christian” can be an inclusive, as opposed to exclusive, term when is used to describe a way of thinking, being, and acting.

    One of the problems with modern Western thought regarding Christianity stems from the tendency to equate only facts as being that which is capable of being true. This is the polar opposite of previous Western thought which used to equate “Christian” truths with facts.

    Griff: Your title could just as well have been titled, “Are atheists waking up to the evidence of the brain’s ability to experience the transcendent?”. Why wouldn’t Dr. Taylor’s findings lead a theist to believe that theism is a real, right brain experience? Her findings appear to be a confirmation of the spiritual as a fact, and not a figment of the left-brain having gone haywire.

    June 23, 2008
  77. Griff Wigley said:

    David, good point re: atheists. If I knew more atheists here in Northfield, I’d be inclined to challenge them on that point and maybe some others. But the town is crawling with Christians so my title makes more sense, blogolistically speaking. 😉

    But as for theism (belief in a personal God who can and does intervene in our lives/the universe) I don’t see how Dr. Taylor’s experience lends any credence to it. One can develop the mental skills to create the right-brain experience that others contend is the presence of/oneness with a Personal God.

    June 23, 2008
  78. john george said:

    Tony- I’m out of state at my son’s home this week enjoying a new grandson and helping him with some things around the house. I looked up your reference, and the title is a kill count by an unbeliever? And you want this to affect me how? There are a few responses I have to this. One, the couple million registerd in the thousand or more years in OT is about 5% of the number of babies alone that have been aborted in the last 30 or so years. This doesn’t even consider the Halocaust, Japanese death march of WW II, and the other million or so in each of the world wars in the last century alone. I sometimes I think it is too bad that He is not in the smiting business anymore, but then, I realize, I would probably be the one getting smote. I still prefer His mercy, especially to my enemies.

    Secondly, as I have stated before, I like to take the whole council of God into consideration, but when answering a specific challenge about a specific characteristic of God, I will do so with specific references. This in no way negates the other references in the Bible.

    Thirdly, if God got this upset about these specific violations of His commandments, aren’t you just a little glad that we are in a dispensation of mercy at this time? It would appear that there is a little respect (fear, in Biblical terms) that is due Him.

    If you don’t care to believe any of this, that is your free choice. One of the characteristics of God is that He is sovereign. This being the case, He does not answer to you or me, but we do answer to Him. The times I have felt that God was not”fair” in His direction of my life are those times when it was I that did not understand the situation. And, working those things through, I found a greater revelation of His character than I had before.

    June 24, 2008
  79. David Ludescher said:

    Griff: Michael Gerson, in an editorial in the Strib, argued that theism, and more specifically, the Catholic Church fulfills two critically important sociological roles in modern society.

    First, the Catholic Church is the sole international institution affirming that there is an absolute moral truth. Such a sociological thought (moral absolutism) is necessary to prevent what Nietzsche called the will to power. If there is no absolute truth, but just the truth according to David, Griff, or even the Church, all human actions become an exercise of the will rather than a search for the truth and meaning of human existence.

    Second, he argues that the Church is needed to constantly remind us that human dignity is not a man-given right, but a package of inalienable rights bestowed on us by the Creator. Reason tells us that whatever “rights” man bestows upon other men can be taken away as easily as they are given. For example, if man has the “right’ to destroy pre-born human life, what other human life can be destroyed, especially in times of crises?

    To condemn religions of today because men once perceived of God as a psychotic bully is as foolish as to condemn science because men once thought the world was flat. There have been many false ideas in theology as well as science. That is no cause to dismiss either. For man to advance, he needs to admit that faith and reason will be handcuffed together forever.

    Dr. Taylor’s research doesn’t prove that a personal God exists; however, it lends empiricial evidence to the claim that there is a human spirit co-existing with the body. I don’t know how else to explain her testimony (which I believe) that she “existed” outside of her body. I have to admit that her testimony is the kind of low-probability stuff that can’t be tested and proven true (so, why are all of these scientists and atheists gushing over story?); but, I am willing to accept on faith that it actually happened.

    Faith tells me that Jill Taylor experienced a sensation of her brain. But, ironically, reason tells me something much more profound – Jill Taylor didn’t create her own brain; it was created for her. If it wasn’t created by THE Almighty Creator, it was created by AN almighty creator. Call it/him/her whatever name suits you. But, to deny its/his/her existence seems to be the most irrational of thoughts.

    June 24, 2008
  80. Anthony Pierre said:

    Mr. George, you can prefer his mercy, but you can’t deny the 2 million or so deaths. hitler and the japanese emperor aren’t being quoted here.

    Also, correct me if I am wrong, one of the commandments is.

    “Do not murder”

    Or is it do not murder unless you have a really good reason?

    I hope you are having a fun time with the new grandson, safe travels.

    June 24, 2008
  81. Anthony Pierre said:

    Mr. Ludescher,

    Occam’s Razor tells us that the most likely scenario/answer is most likely the correct one.

    The easiest answer: We were seeded (created) by a meteor or asteroid with organic material.

    June 24, 2008
  82. Good Evening, Pierre. I have occassion to be up again late this night, reason being a trip into St. Paul to the Cathedral of the same name, wherein I saw and heard the St. Paul Cathedral Choir of London, England, perform a most wondrous presentation. Simply Heavenly. Talk about lineage… nine hundred years of it.

    But, getting back to your answer, the easiest one, well then, you have to keep asking, like many a two year old child, where does that come from ?, and then again, where does that come from ?, until you have no more answers and no more questions…that is where God awaits us.

    June 24, 2008
  83. Heidi Habben said:

    You all inspire me, but I sure can not keep up with all the postings. Sorry. This is going to seem a little out of sequence as I still feel I need to answer some questions put toward me over a week ago now.

    Jane. I know your posting was taken down but I got a copy on my email and you said I claimed that my life experience explains scientific theory. That is not exactly what I said. I did state that my life experience, science, archeology and other items taken together lead me to my conclusions. I also tried to state that I believe all truth – including science has to be proven in the real world i.e. we should see signs of the validity of it. I guess here I could touch on evolution. Science has a few theories that I do believe most all agree on, such as, the General Relativity theory which as I understand it says the universe is expanding thus they have deduced that there was a definite beginning to it and it will eventually end. There is also the 2nd law of thermo dynamics (law of decay) and the Anthropic principle which states that the physical structure of the universe is exactly what it must be to support life. You are right. I am no scientist, but taking these and other principles and discoveries (DNA along with ‘information content’ i.e. crystals have low information content) along with archeology and my life experience leads me to believe that the earth was created by intelligent designer.

    There now I feel kind of relevant as that is what Anthony Pierre and Bright Spencer were chatting about this a.m. From that I must state that I find it hard to understand why Anthony will not consider that the earth was created by God (the intelligent designer) and consider that as a ‘most likely scenario’. I would suggest that his worldview, beginning point, leads him to his conclusion (seeded by a meteor) as my leads me to my conclusion. But, this blog is all about being open minded so if I start with us being seeded by a meteor then we still need evolution. Here I have to ask where the evidence of macro evolution is. I believe Darwin stated that evolution happens over a long, long period of time; thus, we should find evidence of fish with lungs or the like. Then, I start to thinking they all drowned. That is what I mean by life experience… I can not make it mesh in my mind.

    I look at a beautiful painting or hear an wonderful tune and know that there was an intelligent designer behind it. Yet, I have been told that I’m illogical to look at the world around me and see the hand print of God. I read once that if a person came upon a piano on a beach they would know someone placed it there and it was designed by man – they would never deduce it came from an evolutionary process. Therefore, I end up back at my original worldview.

    I know I still have a lot more explaining to do on other points I mentioned, but I have to scoot again. Thanks for allowing me to interject some of my thoughts again.


    June 25, 2008
  84. Barb Kuhlman said:

    Re: Mr. Pierre’s reference to how many people God killed–
    I don’t believe God kills people any more than I believe that God gives malignant brain tumors to otherwise healthy young people or leukemia to 2-year olds. I haven’t spent much time looking at the website, so I am not sure what the purpose of it is, or what your intent is in posting that reference. You seem to be arguing against either the existence of or the goodness of God. It seems to me that you’d have to believe in a literal interpretation of the Bible to believe that God intentionally killed these thousands of people. If you don’t believe in God or a literal interpretation of the Bible, what is the point in referencing this?

    June 25, 2008
  85. Anthony Pierre said:

    Ms. Spencer,

    I believe I read, or saw some story where the purpose of religion is to answer questions we not yet understand. We may someday understand how gravity works, and the mysticism will be lost.

    Ms Habben.

    I have considered the earth and life on it were created by some supreme being, supernatural or extra terrestrial. I just think that if that happened billions of years ago, the creator would come say ‘whats up?’ once in a while. Maybe he/she/they/it have, but I haven’t seen evidence of this yet. I really hope he/she/it/they make an appearance, then we would have all of our questions answered.

    On the topic of evolution: There is a fish named the lungfish, it evolved because it takes less energy to process oxygen through lungs than with gills.

    In Stephen Hawking’s book, A brief history of time, he goes through the creation of the universe, quantum theory, gravity theory and the like. I would reccommend this book, it is a good read.

    Ms. Kuhlman:

    Mr. George and I were discussing the old testament, since he quoted some passage in response to my post about pastafarianism. (this starts on #53). If you scroll up, he said there are 176 mentions of hope in there. I was just providing a counterpoint to his point.

    I am not arguing anything (the existence or goodness of god), but if one are using the bible to try to prove a point, then one must be prepared for someone to use the bible to rebut, whether you agree with the passage or not.

    I also think it is possible to be spiritual and a deist/theist (I don’t know if my terminology is correct, let me know if it isn’t) without subscribing to any organized religion.

    I really think this thread is very interesting and I thank all involved for keeping this civil and respectful. I know I am probably hitting a lot of nerves with my posts.

    also, Godwin’s law applies to this thread

    it only took 67 posts.

    June 25, 2008
  86. Anthony Pierre. You make interesting statements. To me, science is the organization that answers questions we have about our world. Religion does not answer questions like that as far as I can see. When we discover how the elements work, evolve, and move through space and time, we only see more miraculous facts come to our tiny brains. Where does gravity come from? forces acting upon forces.. where do these forces originate? they come from movement and weight…where does movement come from ? where does weight come from? Oh, the big bang or the big fizzle, but where does the fizzle come from, where did it start, how did it start. It came from nothing? perhaps, but isn’t that just as miraculous as it coming from a creator who has no beginning and has no end and that the only reason we don’t get that is because we have limited ability to understand that concept on a grokking level?

    Religion tells us how to act in relationship to what we perceive our world to be and to the god or gods who sort of oversee the whole business. If they are answering questions like where did gravity come from by saying God made it, which may be true, but not that informative really, so that we can learn to harness that force and be godlike in our ability to do greater and bigger things with our space ships and stations, our medicine and understanding of the functions of the human and animals bodies, our agriculture and all the other stuff that scientists are researching in low or no gravity atmosphere. Aw, but I digress, and it’s really fun!

    June 25, 2008
  87. Anthony Pierre said:

    Ms. Spencer

    I really think it seems miraculous cause we don’t understand it, once we do, it will probably seem pretty mundane.

    you say:

    “Religion tells us how to act in relationship to what we perceive our world to be and to the god or gods who sort of oversee the whole business”

    Do you mean acting Ecologically, impersonally and/or morally?

    June 25, 2008
  88. Anthony Pierre said:

    whoops, I meant inter personally, not impersonally

    June 25, 2008
  89. Oh, Bright, how wonderful to have attended that concert. I would have loved to be there.

    June 25, 2008
  90. Rob Hardy said:

    I’ve fallen out of this discussion for a few days. I would like briefly to address Mr. George’s remarks in comment #37:

    I do believe, though, that many of the same people who are up in arms about environmental damage have still embraced the sin of “choice”, and justify the killing of over 50 million unborn babies in the last 30 odd years. Some of them condemn a person for driving an auto instead of riding a bicycle or walking, but encourage adolescents to commit fornication and justify ending the inconvent result with murder. In this case, I question who has the mote and who has the log. This is one of the reasons some Christians, I for one, have a hard time embracing the environmental movement.

    Although I am not a Catholic, I have to admire the consistency of the Catholic church on certain issues. Pope John Paul II, in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae (1995), spoke about the “culture of life,” a phrase which President Bush has used to talk about his “pro-life” position. But the Pope included in that phrase a much more generous idea of reverence for life, including opposition to the death penalty and care for the natural environment which supports life on this planet. American evangelicals and “pro-life” political conservatives take a much more narrow view, and focus on the single hot-button issue of abortion. But even in the womb, children are exposed to increasing levels of toxins that put their health and development at risk. They are born into a world in which the diversity of life is rapidly diminishing and global climate change is endangering the long-term prospects for all life on the planet. It seems short-sighted and hypocritical to condemn abortion, while doing little or nothing to insure that the children who are born have a healthy environment in which to live.

    June 25, 2008
  91. Anthony Pierre, in religion, it’s all about people to people relationships and people to God and God to people. I agree with Ron Hardy totally, and when he talks about care for the natural environment in that it affects our dealing with one another’s health and well-being he is talking truth.

    But that brings us to another set of difficulties that we are not yet prepared to solve completely, having been brought up in a certain gas guzzling, dependent on others for our food, expecting to live forever sort of culture.

    I have tried living off the land, walking to work all the time, and eating completely vegetarian, and it’s a big trade off to live as I do now, but it’s a
    lot more secure and safer for me. Dodging criminals while walking in Chicago, getting all nervous from not having the proper set of B vitamins while I was trying out total vegetarianism, and having the grasshoppers eat most of my crop overnight was very disappointing, to say the least.

    Knowing more now that I did then, I might try it again, except I am not
    dependent on electricity for my life and am too old or too lazy or too afraid of wearing out my knees to bike my own up on a regular ongoing basis.

    Anyway, I know I gave it a good try, and worked as an water quality environmentalist for 10 years, with low low pay and long long hours,
    and I am leaving it up to the next three generations to get it right for
    themselves. I am still waiting for the people who labeled me a nutcase
    to apologize to me when I was promoting wind mills back in the early 70s.
    NASA had a nice little one that used the moebus strip shape for a the turny part, very low cost and doable for homes.

    June 25, 2008
  92. David Ludescher said:

    Anthony: You and I were not created by a meteor or asteroid. Tell me what power created you because that is a force/being in which I want to place my faith.

    Rob: It is never short-sighted nor hypocritical to condemn abortion. What is there to like about abortion? If I am immoral on environmental issues, does abortion become more appealing?

    June 25, 2008
  93. Rob Hardy said:

    David L. You misunderstand me. There is nothing to like about abortion. Mr. George, in his comment #37 (which I quoted above), seemed to link the environmental movement with sexual promiscuity and abortion. That’s unfair.
    I think it’s short-sighted to focus only on ending abortion without also focusing on creating a better and more sustainable future for the children who are born. Those who call themselves “pro-life” need to think, as Pope John Paul II did, about the wider implications of a respect for life.

    June 25, 2008
  94. Barb Kuhlman said:


    Arghh!! I spent about an hour crafting a careful, well-worded response to some of the comments in this thread, then I think I lost it when I tried to send and the internet had disconnected. Or did you receive? Obviously this is not a comment meant for general consumption. I’ve got to stop doing this…spending way too much time.

    June 25, 2008
  95. john george said:

    Rob- I am not Catholic, either, but I can think of no other main line denomination that has unwaveringly stood against abortion as they have. I admire their steadfastness in this matter.

    As far as the association between prochoice and environmentalism, my word was “many”, not all. My experience with so many door to door advocates has been a packet of literature decrying the assault on the environment and the assault on womens’ right to choose. I’m sure there must be prolifers that are concerned about the environment, but, unfortunately, I just don’t hear much about them. I raise my hand as one, but I have a hard time embracing many of the environmental programs that have been presented to me. I feel that I am to put all my hope for the future in them rather than in God. I’m just not going to do that, but stewardship is definitely a principle advocated in the scriptures.

    Anthony- I’m certainly enjoying the new grandson and a chance to spend some time with my son and his family. I’m also glad you are enjoying the discussion here. I appreciate your thoroughness to research your opinions. You seem like a man of no guile. I think we are all prewired with a desire to know the truth. I define this as our human spirit that has been separated from God, and I don’t think this can be fully satisfied until we are restored in our relationship with Him. Some people seem to be more aware of this need than others, and that is one of the things that makes us individuals.

    Here are a couple of things to shake your theology. In the story about King Saul in 1st. Samuel (sorry, I do not have my Bible program on this computer to give you the reference), it says that an evil spirit went out from God to torment him because of his disobedience. Also, in Job, he asks his wife if we should only receive good from God’s hand and not evil? I think there is a false set of expectations about God and Christianity that if you chose to follow Him, everthing always works out right in your life. If you take the whole counsel of the Bible on this, it does not prove true. This has been a stumbling block for people who have tried to follow Him and found out that life on this earth just isn’t that way.

    The one consistent thing I have found in the 36+ years I have followed Him is that there is always redemption available in every circumstance. It often does not appear right away, and this is what has caused some to turn away. I know of a person who had a very difficult experience in their life, but they did not turn away from God. I do not feel the liberty to share it here. I would prefer that person would share it directly. I believe that our faith is strengthened in the bad experiences in life when we see How he meets us there, rather than in the good times when everything is just peachy.

    June 25, 2008
  96. Anne Bretts said:

    OK, I haven’t jumped into this discussion because I think debating religion is like debating whether raspberries are better than strawberries. But, what the heck.
    I have been in the Catholic, Episcopal and Methodist churches and have visited and written about many others, with long gaps spent watching Meet the Press on Sunday mornings. The religious experience in each was much more tied to the individual congregation and the ministers involved than it was to the denominational name on the sign outside the door.
    I believe there’s a god, but I don’t believe he’s micromanaging things enough to want to get me a good parking spot at the mall or fix high school football games. I think a god that wants all the credit when things go well and none of the blame when they tank should be in Congress with his friends.
    My favorite explanation of the role of religion came from an Ojibwe elder who said that the Great Spirit created many religions as ladders around the edge of heaven, giving everyone a chance to climb up, no matter where they are.
    And finally, for the real reason I popped in. For a thoughtful and hilarious look at the contradictions and complicated teachings of the Bible, check out the archived series on Slate, called “Blogging the Bible.” It’s quite interesting, no matter which ladder your climbing.

    June 26, 2008
  97. Barb Kuhlman said:

    I thought you actually read this stuff before letting it go through to the thread! That comment was NOT intended for everyone!

    When I have more time I do want to re-write the one I lost.

    June 26, 2008
  98. David Ludescher said:

    Anne: If you don’t believe in the Great Spirit, can you still climb the ladder to heaven?

    June 26, 2008
  99. Anne Bretts said:

    David, good question. We never got that far in the conversation. My guess is that some will climb out of curiosity and be pleasantly surprised, others will be guided by the spirits who have gone before them and still others will not climb and their souls will continue to walk the earth. I’ll see what I can find out for sure. (Those who believe in reincarnation may be going up and down a few times, I suppose.)
    Of course I believe there are lots of good people in heaven who never heard about it, much less expected to be there. (Raised Catholic and memorized the Baltimore Catechism, but I never did buy the ‘have to be baptized’ passages — among a lot of other things. I guess you could say I’ve tried a few ladders but have a bit of theological ADD).

    June 26, 2008
  100. john george said:

    Anne- You touched on the very claim that Jesus made to His followers. He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.” That is a pretty bold statement, and mutually exclusive of every other claim by every other religion. It is this very claim that gets us Christians into so much trouble when we quote it, and brings with it accusations of intolerance and narrowness. He also said that narrow is the gate and straight is the way that leads to eternal life, and few there are that find it. He also said that wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to distruction, and many go that direction. Christianity is not a universalist religion. It is narrow and intolerant of other philosophies and religions, because God describes Himself as a jealous God, but it does open wide the way to heaven.

    June 26, 2008
  101. David Ludescher said:

    John: I read and have been taught something different about Christianity. It is a universalist religion.

    The Roman Catholic catechism teaches that all those who sincerely seek God can attain heaven. Those who, through no fault of their own, have not heard the Gospel, can still achieve heaven.

    Pope John Paul II referred to Jews as “our elder brothers in the faith”. That sounds quite univeralist.

    June 27, 2008
  102. Anne Bretts said:

    John, I love you but this is where we part ways. This truly is the core of faith, and it’s a faith you have and I don’t. To me the very word intolerance seems in conflict with the concept of a loving god. I am very happy that it works for you, but even as a little child I couldn’t believe the idea that god would lock the gates of heaven on Ghandi and the Dalai Lama and the Ojibwe and all the newborns who die before they can be baptized or grow up to choose baptism. God knows I tried, for more than 20 years, aided by nuns and priests and daily Mass and the Bible and rosaries and the “Lives of the Saints” (a collection of horror stories about rape and torture that would make John Carpenter green with envy).
    I’m not going to trash the Catholic Church, nor yours, John. I just think we’re on different ladders.

    June 27, 2008
  103. john george said:

    David & Anne- We are probably splitting soem hairs here. Christianity can be considered universalist in that all are invited to come. Where I draw a line is the idea of mixing other tenets of other world religions into Christianity and saying anything you believe is ok. As far as all the infants who have died, it is written in Ps. 139 that all our days are written in His (God’s) book when there was not even one of them. So, it appears that God has knowledge of them. There are warnings in the New Testament about introducing heresies into the faith, and once we know the way, to turn from it is foolishness. We will all answer to God eventually, even the atheists. And, I do not pretend to know everything about the operation of the Kingdom of God. I can only tell of those things I have seen and heard. As far as people like Ghandi and the Dalai Lama, they will have to answer for themselves, just as each of us have to answer for ourselves. You have heard the truth presented, so it is up to you how you respond. God is a just God.

    June 27, 2008
  104. John George, in comment #105, wrote:

    You have heard the truth presented, so it is up to you how you respond.

    We have heard your belief presented, John. If it were the truth, you wouldn’t need to have faith. It would just be true.

    Furthermore, if it were the truth, you would be able to demonstrate it objectively. Again and again. Other people would also be able to objectively demonstrate it. You would be able to prove it.

    You can’t. No one really can. That’s the issue.

    I “respond” by saying the burden of proof is on you.

    (Text from any version of the Bible doesn’t count as objective proof, by the way, unless you’re willing to give the same weight to text from books by atheists.)

    June 27, 2008
  105. The likelihood of any one religion’s being exclusively true seems to me to be enormously diminished by the fact that people tend to fervently believe in the particular traditions they have (usually) been raised in or (occasionally) have chosen, and feel they have very good reasons to so believe but tend to discount the reasons others have for equally fervently believing something incompatible. John, just as you quote chapter and verse, I expect a devout Muslim can quote passages from the Koran (which as I understand it is believed to be a more or less direct transcription of revelation directly from God to Mohammed) that are incompatible with quite a few of the specifics you believe in and (dating from a later time than the writings that make up the Bible) may even expressly “overrule” them. That man has few doubts. You have few doubts. Don’t you think it exceedingly likely that if you had grown up in Iraq or Saudi Arabia you would believe just as he does, and that if he had grown up in the American South or Midwest that it is exceedingly likely he would be a Christian? Similarly, the ancient Greeks or the Aztecs who believed according to the teachings of their times had few doubts. Why should I accept the truth of any of these teachings just because each has a source that says it is the truth and that the others are not, and knowing that people tend to believe the sources relied upon by those with whom they share a physical or cultural geography?

    If the person I am today, not bound to any faith tradition, were inclined to seek a spiritual path, I would feel intellectually and morally obligated to expose myself to a broad array of teachings, and in the end, if I chose any, I would have to consult all my instincts and reason and life experience and adopt the path that felt the most true or of greatest value, or that brought me the greatest peace, or that I felt was most likely to help me develop into the best human being I could be. The dogmatism with which a particular source announced itself to be the only way to truth or salvation would, I believe, have very little to do with it. You may regard that as spiritual shopping, but what else is a thinking person to do when faced with incompatible claims?

    Still, I find religion a fascinating topic (clearly!). It perplexes me and its pushier and more fervent adherents often anger or even frighten me, but I acknowledge occasionally feeling a little wistful not to be able to experience, for example, the sense of belonging and tradition and empowerment that Bright described in post #44.

    June 27, 2008
  106. Rob Hardy said:

    I must retire from this discussion to go commune with Nature for a few weeks, but I will leave with this quotation from the great Irish-Catholic novelist, Kate O’Brien:

    …A soul should not take upon itself the impertinence of being frightened for another soul; … God is alone with each creature.

    June 27, 2008
  107. Griff Wigley said:

    John, you wrote:

    The one consistent thing I have found in the 36+ years I have followed Him is that there is always redemption available in every circumstance.

    John, there’s a universal principle at work there. Friedrich Nietzsche captured it best: “What does not kill me, makes me stronger.”

    You quoted John 14:6:

    “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

    That’s a phrase that’s open to an enormous variety of interpretations. It’s not insignificant either that the Gospel of John is the only place it occurs… and that it was written many decades after Jesus died.

    I had the same reaction as Brendon to your sentence “You have heard the truth presented, so it is up to you how you respond.”

    It sounds very intolerant, that your interpretation/definition of Christianity is the only way.

    And Barb, sorry you lost your text. Only the first comment someone makes is moderated. After that, comments get posted immediately.

    June 28, 2008
  108. john george said:

    Brendon & Griff- This is the very basis of the original article by David Brooks. We Christians are being challenged in our belief that the Bible is the basis of access to God, and not other philosophies or spiritual writings. And, Brendon, you are exactly correct in that I have presented what I believe to be true. As far as proof, I could list thousands and thousands of people who have experienced God in the same basic way I have. These experiences have been duplicated again and again, and the experience of having your sins forgiven is not just some mind game. I believe the best example of a Christian life is the outward changes that are demonstrated by those who believe. If I had not experienced these myself, then I would have left this movement long ago. But the changes are the same demonstrated in the lives of my fellow believers. Jesus himself was doubted, even though He demonstated His power time and again when He was on earth. I have seen this same power demonstrated through many friends and myself. But this is not for show. The pharisies were constantly after Jesus to give them a sign, but they would not believe what was happening in front of their own eyes.

    Griff- As far as John 14:6 having meny interpretations, I suppose anyone can twist anything around to fit his particular bent, but when I read something attributed to Jesus, I pretty much take it at face value. As far as the chronology of the books written, the Bible was assimilated over a long period of time. I think it is interesting that Peter, in his writings, refers to Paul’s writings as being sometimes hard to understand, and refers to people maligning them as they do the other scriptures. The version we now use is considered the cannonized version, and since it has proven true in my and my family’s and my friend’s lives, I feel I have demonstrable proof to believe it. You are free to interpret it as you want, but I don’t think it needs interpreting. As far as being “intolerant”, that depends on how you define tolerance. It used to mean that a person would put up with something even if they didn’t agree with it. Now, it seems that “toletance” means that if a person doesn’t give everything equal credence, then they are labled “intolerant”. I still am of the old school of thinking. Perhaps my choice of words to define a belief system should have been that they are mutually exclusive of other beliefs. But when I say that I tolerate other belief systems, that in no way means that I embrace them as being of equal value to the Biblical truths I have experienced.

    Penny- I agree with your perspective that the predominant religion of a country will most likely be what people embrace who grow up in that country. It seems interesting to me that in our country, there is freedom to renounce Christianity and follow nothing else if you so desire. There is also that same freedom demonstrated in every church that I know of. In Islamic countries, people who convert to Christianity do so under threat of death. That is why it is so important that we keep our freedom of speech and freedom of religion that we have.

    June 28, 2008
  109. Three points I didn’t quite get around to making.

    For the been there done that generation, I feel sorry when you think that because you know how something works, it’s no longer interesting or worth a second look. When I discover or am told about the way the world works,
    I feel my faith even more completely as facts are uncovered to reveal marvelous complex creations. Faith is something you cannot put in a bottle and measure it over time, and it’s a heck of lot better thing to go by than that pseudo uppity boredom thing some think is so cool.

    I agree with John G about abortion. It is simply bad news for everyone involved for many years after. Education, proper timing and learning how
    to pick a suitable partner, are so much better choices to make.

    The Catholic Church of today, thru the leadership of the Pope who is said to be infallible as he does the work of God, is to be relied upon for questions of faith and how to conduct one’s life if someone is looking for a human leader, and thank God the church doesn’t cave into popular opinion, the philosopy du jour, or force or sway. The Pope may take many months or years to decide certain questions, and only after much time alone in prayer and to the point of complete certainty that the decision will rightly affect all of humanity in the long run…in the long run. Amen.

    June 28, 2008
  110. kiffi summa said:

    Anne’s comment above about the Ojibwe elder’s description of “religions as many ladders around the edge of Heaven” is a perfect example of wisdom and tolerance.

    Would that it could prevail.

    June 29, 2008
  111. While I don’t think abortion is right, the law should stand. Just because guns are legal, doesn’t mean you should go right out and shoot someone, right?

    June 29, 2008
  112. john george said:

    Kiffi- I would point out to you that your evaluation of the Ojibwe elder’s interpretation of religions as being “wisdom and tolerance” is the same thing Brendon pointed out to me about my Biblical stand- it is what I believe. It is written that the fear (respect) of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. As far as tolerance, this seems to be the big buzzword in our society right now. I’m sure you read my definition of tolerance in my last post. I do not equate this type of tolerance as even approaching Godliness. If you want to believe this, that is your choice. You are the one who will have to answer for your own convictions. You don’t have to answer for mine, nor do I have to answer for yours. But in as much as you will have to answer to God about how you lined up with your knowlege of His word, then it would appear to be wisdom to be prepared. I do not find anywhere in the scripture about us being judged by how we “tolerated” other religions. I do find that the whole law and the prophets hang on these two commandments: you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and body, and you neighbor as yourself. To do these two things is, I believe, wisdom, and I don’t know of any laws against them.

    June 29, 2008
  113. Paul Fried said:

    This is a great topic, but it seems that instead of talking about a “cognitive revolution” that might challenge literal interpretations of the bible, it seems the thread has become a discussion of religion in general.

    Here are three authors on the move away from biblical literalism:

    Marcus J. Borg (Lutheran): “Reading the Bible Again For the First Time: Taking the Bible Seriously But Not Literally”

    John Dominic Crossan (Roman Catholic): “Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography”

    Bishop John Shelby Spong (Episcopal): “Why Christianity Must Change or Die”

    June 30, 2008
  114. Paul Fried said:

    Regarding two very different interpretations of John 14:6:
    “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”

    1. To biblical literalists, this means that salvation comes only through Jesus and Christianity.

    2. Another interpretation, at another extreme: Jesus knew that folks had some crusty, outdated, false assumptions about the meaning of who “God” is, and what religion was meant to do, or how it could meet some of its best potential; he was a religious revolutionary who challenged those assumptions and offered some fresh alternatives.

    Instead, what much of Christianity has done has been perhaps to take many of the crusty old assumptions about God and religion, and wallpaper over Jesus with them so that Jesus seems like a human incarnation of the old vision of God; the very image Jesus intended to correct and replace.

    How can we find the Father through the Son, if we’ve redefined the Son beyond recognition, and in doing so, perhaps undone Jesus’ own intentions?

    John G: You say that when Jesus says something, you take it at face value. But the gospels were all written decades after Jesus’ death, and none by Jesus. They were efforts by the Christian community to tell stories for the purpose of catechism, not history or journalism.

    If you stick too much to face value, you find many contradictions:

    – In John’s gospel, Jesus appears to the disciples after his death and says “Peace be with you, my peace I give you.” But in Matt 10:34, he says, “Do not suppose that I came to bring peace to the earth: I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” Hard to take that at face value. You’ve got to interpret to understand, and to interpret well, you need to figure out what point each evangelist may have been trying to get across.

    – The gospels disagree on the details of the resurrection: how many angels at the tomb? To whom did Jesus appear first? Etc. Face value doesn’t work.

    – The gospels disagree on some details of Jesus origins and geneology: Mark doesn’t mention the nativity at all. In Luke we get part of the traditional navity, in Matthew, some of the rest. John takes a whole different approach in which Jesus is one with the Father from the beginning of time. At points in Paul’s letters, Paul implies that Jesus becomes the Son of God only because he obeyed the Father on the cross through death, and not that Jesus was anything but human before that. Many who claim to accept these things at face value are already applying an interpretation to clean up the messy details, an interpretation that assumes there is no conflict or contradiction, when in fact there may certainly be.

    – In the Old/Hebrew Testament, there are multiple versions of the creation story, and of the David story, for example.

    – In the same OT, there is one thread in which the people are concerned because men are marrying foreign wives who bring worship of “idols” into the Judaic culture, so marriage to foreign wives is forbidden, and some of these are actually cast out. In another thread (the book of Ruth), a foreigner (a “Muggle” or “Mud-blood” in Harry Potter terminology) turns out to be more faithful than many “full-blooded” Jews, putting the reforms and reformers to shame.

    The bible is not a “face value” thing, but a dialectical unfolding over many generations.

    Taking things too literally, “merely” at face value, and claiming in the process that interpretation is not involved, leads to many distortions and misuses of scripture. Or at least that’s the way I see it and have come to understand it.

    June 30, 2008
  115. David Ludescher said:

    Paul: It seems to me those who are most likely to interpret the Bible literally fall into two categories, the “religious right” and the “liberal left”.

    I hold out hope that the religious right can gradually come to understand the possibility of wider interpretation. Without an institutional structure of teaching, most pronounced in the Catholic Church, it seems inevitable that those who believe in Scripture without the benefit of history and teachers, would come to a more simple interpretation.

    However, it appears that the liberal left, while rejecting simple interpretations, are unwilling to engage in the complex interpretations, (i.e. same kinds of cognitive revolutions in human thought) in which they are so ready and willing to engage in nearly every other aspect of their lives.

    So, Griff, Brendon, Anne, or anyone else who rejects John George’s “truths”, what would you substitute in its place? Are you accepting of Paul’s interpretation of the Bible as a truth that needs to be evaluated, viewed in context and history, but ultimately be accepted as being true? Griff said that Jesus nailed “it” on the head. So, Griff or others, is there merit to Paul’s understanding of the Bible as a complex truth? Are atheists in need of a cognitive revolution to understand the Bible?

    June 30, 2008
  116. Jane Moline said:

    Brendon Etter said it best in #107. The truth, to you, is what you believe. It is faith because it cannot be proved.

    So, if you cannot tolerate other religions because you “believe” that the only way to God is up your particular ladder, are you not judging those that believe something else? And how do your judgements affect your interactions in life? Do you not patronize a business owned by an atheist? Do you not let your children play with the little Buddhist children?

    My issue is often, as Penny put it, that I am frightened– by an insistence by some radical religious that their beliefs should be the law. I equate it to the Taliban, and I am not exaggerating. When I see the radical religious attempting to change the federal or state constitution, or to preach their politics from the pulpit, I am very afraid. Their claim to know the “truth” is truly frightening–because they are dogmatic.

    The religious may persuade. When they attempt to legislate, we are rolling back the reason the United States of America was established.

    June 30, 2008
  117. Anne Bretts said:

    David L., I worry about my own relationship with my own God and don’t worry at all about what others believe or don’t believe. I feel it’s the height of arrogance to believe I know what God intended for everyone on earth. I was raised Catholic and I know many very good people who are Catholic. I find the religion itself to be quite disturbing for a number of reasons, but I am not here to bash it. There are plenty of people who do that very well.
    John G. will have to keep praying for my salvation, and I appreciate his prayers very much, but the literal interpretation of the Bible isn’t a ladder I can climb either. He may be right, and I respect the strength of his faith.
    Left without the reassurance of a single denomination, but with the certainty that God exists, my life is a constant search that keeps the issue of faith in my thoughts and my heart. Many people who are born into a denomination take it for granted, thinking no more about why they are Catholic or Methodist than they think about why they are blonde or left-handed.
    I, on the other hand, am left always looking for clues, hoping for answers and exploring the possibilities. When I get a premonition or make a decision, am I listening to my conscience, my guardian angels, my spirit guides, my intuition or maybe my dead father making up for the years he didn’t speak to me while he was alive?
    Is homosexuality a sin? Why should it be my place to judge? On the other hand, why do I feel OK with homosexuality and uncomfortable with the idea of two women sharing a husband? I don’t have answers, but the questions are just fascinating.
    Bottom line is that I am comfortable glimpsing God in my life and trying to figure to what he wants me to do while I’m here. Clearly, I have enough trouble with that job that I couldn’t begin telling others what God wants for them. I think if he needs someone for that job, there are many more qualified folks than me to do the job.

    July 1, 2008
  118. Paul Fried said:

    David, I’m not sure what you mean by literalism being practiced mostly by the religious right and liberals. The part I don’t quite understand (and which you didn’t spell out) is the part about liberals. Do you mean that liberals take it literally when Jesus says, “If you have two cloaks, give one to the poor man,” or “Do not judge, lest you be judged, for the measure by which you jude others will be used to judge you”?

    Anne makes a good point about mystery: If a religion is about a transcendent deity, then when religions take parts of their scripture too literally and out of context to use as a weapon to judge others, it would seem folks are missing the point and acting in self-idolatry, as if they know as well as God, instead of acting in humility in the face of the mysterious and transcendent.

    Anne, parts of your comments in #119 make me think that many of the complaints used against religion sound pretty familiar, as if they were learned from religion in the first place: Judge not, etc. This is based on a quote from Jesus in the Gospels. “My ways are as far above your ways as the heavens above the earth” (From Isaiah), so if the religion is about a transcendent God, why do some in the religion act so much like little know-it-alls? These and other popular ideas about religion are more in tune with the religion than those who sometimes claim to speak for it.

    David, you ask, “Are atheists in need of a cognitive revolution to understand the Bible?” It seems to me that many atheists become atheists in reaction to the literalism and other related abuses. Some call it “reification” when something that was originally intended as metaphor or literary tool becomes taken too literally. Much of organized religion seems outdated, and doesn’t touch many people, in part because of this process of reification. The gig is up, because many people can sniff the possibility that much of the original intention and meaning is lost, or simply seems missing.

    But I don’t think it’s the atheists who are in need (or I would not place the burden there). If organized religion is not connecting with them, it’s not their fault. It’s the fault of the stewards of organized religion, who have often failed to do their jobs well and keep things clear and fresh.

    I don’t agree with everything Epicopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has written, but he makes many good points along these lines in his book, “Why Christianity Must Change or Die.” There are folks who are embracing cognitive revolutions, for whom organized religion may never hold any attraction, and if the organized religious folks care at all about relevance and evangelization, they should give this some serious thought.

    The Catholic church has a mixed track record on the point of literalism: Some of their teachings are wonderfully rich, insisting that various books and passages in the bible have certain aims that don’t seek literal interpretations. There are poems and songs, wisdom sayings, etc., and you have to determine the form and the intention of the human author before deciding how literally/historically to take something. So if the book of Jonah is a fable, it doesn’t have to be historically true. Same with stories of creation. Fine.

    But the Catholic church is by no means unanimous on this. There are many within the hierarchy of the church who would be quite satisfied taking a great deal more literally than was probably intended.

    July 1, 2008
  119. David Ludescher said:

    Jane: I am much more frightened by the “liberal left” than the “religious right”. Here’s why: the religious right (tend to) presumptuously believe that God will do too much – e.g. “goofball prayers”. However, the vast majority still believe that reason is God-given and instrumental in faith development.

    Many of the liberal left, on the other hand, believe that God cannot do enough, or some, atheists, maintain that God can do nothing at all. While they may profess that everyone is equally entitled to Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness, they deny we are endowed with these rights by our Creator. They accept the word of their prophets, Nietzsche for one, who declared that God is dead. But, they arrogantly refuse to believe their prophet when he warns that a world without God will result in total chaos as rights become those things which men give to each other.

    Those in the middle understand that faith needs reason to purify it from its irrational beliefs and superstitutions, and to guide it to understand what it knows to be true but cannot articulate. Reason needs faith to limit reason’s reach to its areas of competence, and to provide reason with hope when it finds itself lacking of an explanation for the disorder in the world.

    The liberal left needs to simply acknowledge that they have been using the religious right as an excuse not to think. They need to admit that the world has an intelligible design, that fetuses are humans from conception, that man and women have procreative abilities unknown to same sex partners, and that these are scientific, not religious, facts. They need to stop qualifying every unfavorable fact as a religious issue, or worse, inventing a religion to conform with their version of the facts.

    July 1, 2008
  120. David Ludescher said:

    Paul: Equating the Catholic Church with its leaders is a serious intellectual error. Do you equate being an American with George Bush and Dick Cheney? The Church is a human institution, and it will have human errors. But, as long as she continues to be guided by the Holy Spirit of faith, hope, and love, she will never be deceived nor will she ever deceive.

    If the Catholic Church must change its teachings or die, then die she must. If the Church must change her methods of teaching or die, then change she must. But, why should she change the most logical, comprehensive, consistent, and inclusive moral teaching in the Western world.

    July 1, 2008
  121. john george said:

    David L.- What you said in your post 212,”…Those in the middle understand that faith needs reason to purify it from its irrational beliefs and superstitutions, and to guide it to understand what it knows to be true but cannot articulate…” very well articulates where I am coming from. Thank you for putting it that way. I don’t consider myself part of the “religious right”, for that sounds more like a political party than Chrisitanity. In fact, I don’t like the moniker “religious”, for that infers, to me, that I was able to do the “right things” to end up where I am. Because of the way I analyze things, I see the Bible as being very reasonable.

    I guess I don’t expect anyone else to analyze things the way I do, because we are each individuals. But like everyone else who writes here, I appreciate an opportunity to express my ides to a group of people with whom I have no other contact. Anne, I’m sure you are very glad they broke the mold when they made me. Ha! Ha! Each of us has the same importance to God. According to NAS:John
    {17:23} I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
    2002 (C) Bible, this , I believe, is a simple statement of the will of God for His followers. I would have to say, by observation, it appears we haven’t done a very good job of getting ahold of it.

    I’ve been thinking about some of the challenges that have come about me using scripture to support what I believe. Since the Christ I embrace is revealed in scripture, I’m not sure what else I would base it on. I know I will not find a foundation in the Koran or the writings of Confuscious, even though there are common moral directives in all three writings. When I mis-interpret scripture, then that is something I want to own up to and correct. If a person simply has a problem with the scriptures in general, then that doesn’t really leave me anywhere to go. I would not expect the Catholics here to quote Luther to support what they believe, and I would not expect the Baptists to embrace the teachings of the Pentacostals. One thing we do have in common, though, is that we believe that Jesus is the Christ, that He died on the cross, shedding His blood for the remission of sins, and God raised Him from the dead. When the 70 returned from their time of ministry, telling of all the things they had seen demonstrated, Jesus told them that it was more important that their names were written in the book of life.

    Paul F.- In your examples of the variations of the records of certain events in the Bible, for me, this doesn’t demenish the sovereignity of the Word. It just shows me more examples of our unique perspectives. Perhaps God needs all the observations here to show all the facets of His character and works. I’m sure you have heard the 4 different perspectives attributed to the writers of the Gospels. These four perspectives show four different parts of Jesus character. The thing I am always amazed at is when we begin to try to explain something supernatural in natural terms, we always fall short. I do not see these as inconsistent with each other but each is a necessary part for a better understanding of something we really can’t understand (Re.- David L.’s comment).

    Anne- Keep searching. It is written that those who seek after righteousness shall be filled, and those who are pure in heart shall see God, and those who are peacemakers shall be called the sons of God. I believe you are closer than you think you are.

    July 1, 2008
  122. Anthony Pierre said:

    Mr. Ludescher

    Please tell me where in the bible you would find this:

    hey need to admit that the world has an intelligible design, that fetuses are humans from conception, that man and women have procreative abilities unknown to same sex partners.

    July 2, 2008
  123. Anthony Pierre said:

    Also, all of those things I mentioned above are things the religious right are trying to get passed into laws. When they do that they should pass up their tax exempt status.

    July 2, 2008
  124. Jane Moline said:

    David L: On the most part, your commentaries have been quite thoughtful and thought provoking. However, don’t you think it is a bit broad to say that liberals have used the religious right as an excuse not to think?

    I consider myself a liberal, and I have not ignored thinking because of the radical religious.

    You then go on to claim that liberals must agree with your religious-based beliefs because they are scientific “facts”–that “human” life begins at conception. (What is human life–some cells splitting? The beginning of cognitive life? Have you ever seen a severely deformed baby with no brain–only a brain stem? Is it human? Really? Have you really seen one?)

    So you are claiming that fertilization and cell-splitting is human life. I am certain that it is not a legal human life, and I am also certain that it is 100% a part of the woman’s body–not separate, nor can it be sustained separately, at least not for 6 months, and then, only with heroicly expensive medical care that may result in retardation, blindness and deafness.

    So is it human life as long as it must be attached and completely dependent on another human? When the mother naturally aborts (called a miscarriage), say at 16 weeks or 20 weeks, do you have a funeral? Do you charge her wtih murder? Do you think she is a murderer? What if it is at 6 weeks? (Note that in many societies, mostly in the past, the inability to carry a baby to term was considered a deformity in the mother. Most medical professionals understand that 40% OR MORE of all pregnancies terminate by natural abortion–many unnoticed by their host.)

    My point is simply that it is NOT SIMPLE. You can claim that human life begins at conception, but I would say it begins with an egg–each unfertilized egg is a potential human lost. You want to put a marker down on your particular spot of the beginning of human life in order to place a rule on that woman that carries that life. And that is where it gets really not simple. Keep your laws off my body.

    You are ignoring the really really hard questions–what if the mother suffers from cancer and can only live if she takes chemotherapy that will kill her cancer and her fetus? Easy for you to say that the baby gets precedent, but the mother and her husband might feel a tad differently.

    These decisions are private and personal and difficult–and they should not be made by legislature–they need to be made by the people who are affected. You have every right to attempt to persuade people to your beliefs–my fear is the continual attack on women (and gays) in order to legislate your conservative religious beliefs.

    I am proudly liberal, and I am sorry that you are afraid of me. I sincerely do not want to overthrow the government or take everything away from you or turn you into a communist (or a vegetarian.)

    I think, however, that history shows that the conservative religious (have done and) do more damage than the wildly-left-wingers any day (any year). So perhaps my fear of the radical religious is based on historical facts, and your fear of the radical-lefties is based on….what? Fear-mongering?

    July 2, 2008
  125. Jane, every being has a right to life, no matter if it lives up to your standards or not. Yes, you have a right to your body, but when you bring
    forth another being through your body, it belongs not only to you, but to your mate, your ancestors and the possible future offspring, it is part of society…and it may be part of one great learning experience, you never know.

    As to say people who don’t dress correctly in your opinion or others’ will not be taken seriously as voters, that is so UN liberal of a statement, so NOT inclusive, so much against diversity. Are people really that jealous around here? This is the only state I have ever lived in where people will put you down for wearing cowboy boots, short skirts on a hot day, and so on. In
    Florida, proper weather attire, meaning less is cooler, is perfectly acceptable, not even a question. In Oklahoma, cowboy boots are practical, beautiful and even fine craftsmenship, but not here.

    Just to clarify my position, animals are great intelligent beings. While they don’t author a whole lot of books or movies, they do what they are here to do, with grace and complete abandon. My 5 year old male collie, who is fully intact, has never known a female in the biblical sense, has no problem with that situation whatsoever. He is calm, beautiful, playful and empathic and intelligent-he knows at least 50 words that I can prove.

    We are animals or animal like if that sounds better, and as such come into our sexuality before legal adulthood. Teens in this country want to and need ? to experiment, read flirt and giggle and make out, in order to prepare for the eventuality of sex for procreation and for some, recreation. While teens in a less rigorous society are ready for marriage by the time they are 14 or even 12 years old…I guess they don’t get a lot of time to
    prepare for the inevitable joining of the two genders…and because they have a more structured society, may not need to figure out the complexities we know in our primary relationships.

    And as for reading the Bible, and all great books of knowledge and learning and exploring unknown realms of thought and being, there is another layer of information that comes to one who reads with a pure heart, and
    if you aren’t getting it, you better go polish up your heart and come back and try again later. Even if you feel justified hating those who are not ‘right’, the hatred or mild disgust is the very thing that will keep you from your own true self and the real connection between us all.

    July 2, 2008
  126. Paul Fried said:

    You write,
    “Many of the liberal left, on the other hand, believe that God cannot do enough, or some, atheists, maintain that God can do nothing at all. (….) They accept the word of their prophets, Nietzsche for one, who declared that God is dead. But, they arrogantly refuse to believe their prophet when he warns that a world without God will result in total chaos ”

    Are you speaking of political liberals, or theologically liberal? I thought this was a discussion of cognitive revolution in churches, not politics, so I’d assume you’re talking about theological liberals, and if so, it seems you’re aiming at caricature more than reality, but I’m just checking.

    In what way do liberals believe God does not do enough? Which liberals believe this? Was Jesus a liberal when he said that “Whatever you do to the least of these, you do unto me” — because he implied that human morality should be in harmony with God, and share in God’s work, instead of God doing it all herself?

    July 2, 2008
  127. Jane Moline said:


    You are mixing your strings.

    Regarding every “being” having a right to life, that is your opinion. My comment to David L was that he is ” afraid” of liberals (Paul–I believed he meant to be opposite of what I said of the radical religious right, so somewhat a mix of politics and religion.)

    Again, I repeat. It is the radical religious that intend to force their beliefs and religion on society through legislation that I am afraid of. When they legislate their religion, they are the same as the Taliban.

    In his response David L said that he is afraid of liberals because, and I am shortening it up, their Godless ways will lead to anarchy (and, I think, hell and damnation as the sisters always told me.) My response to him was that history has shown that legislating religion (Shi’i law, the Taliban, the Crusades, the Inquisition) has done more damage than those crazy liberals any day.

    I also responded to his statement that liberals must agree with his “facts.” I pointed out that his facts are not hard and true.

    From your response, I am sure that you have never seen a baby without a brain. I think you might differentiate–understand that it may be your burden to care for that “baby”, but baby it is not. Just because we can sustain life through heart pumps and ventilators does not mean we should sustain life–that is the tough question that the religious right refuses to address by lumping everything together as “life.”

    (Note that a baby born without a brain does not have any measurable brain wave activity. When an adult has a stroke or other brain damage that results in the lack of measurable brain activity, they are termed “brain dead” and their family may receive a request for organ harvest. When their heart and lungs are removed, do we think the doctors have “murdered” this person?)

    This string began with a discussion on the result of a measurable activity that Dr. Taylor claims proves a spiritual connection. Someday our instruments may be sensitive enough to measure our soul and its activities. Until then,we must rely on faith AND reason–reason based on scientifc facts.

    David L claims that reason leads to but one conclusion, and that I must concur. I do not.

    I think that organized religion packages its product for the “masses.” Only a small percentage of people truly question and learn from their faith. The rest blindly follow their religious leaders, condemning others, judging, and finally changing the message of their faith to something dogmatic, completely polluted by the unthinking followers “interpretation” of their leaders “interpretation” of the prophet.

    (Note that historically, only the priests were educated. The people relied on them for reading the bible and telling them what it meant. Some of those priests were not so educated and made up their own version of things–some of which is still practiced in the church today.)

    Anyway, I am always concerned about people who claim to read the bible and now they know the truth and they are ready to make sure everyone else complies with their version. I understand witnessing your faith. In the Christian religion, you don’t hide your faith under a basket. But some believe that means infiltrating every level of government and changing laws to comply with their faith. That is very scary.

    Right now we have Christians claiming that we should make war in order to bring about the end days. Iraq is not enough, we are massing forces in the Middle East to prepare to attack Iran. This is REALLY SCARY.

    I do think that the bible-pounders who believe that encouraging war is what the bible tells them are quite a bit off their rockers–using their faith to encourage our nutty president is REALLY SCARY.

    So, David L, I think I am more scared then you, if it is scientifically measurable.

    July 2, 2008
  128. Patrick Enders said:

    David L wrote:

    Many of the liberal left, on the other hand, believe that God cannot do enough, or some, atheists, maintain that God can do nothing at all.

    It would be more accurate to say that atheists believe that there is no God. Discussing a non-entity’s inability to act is nonsensical.

    July 2, 2008
  129. David Ludescher said:

    Anthony, Jane, Paul, and Patrick: You give me credit for too much.

    Anthony: I didn’t say that intelligible design, “human” life, and same-sex issues came from the Bible; I said that they came from science. I need science, not the Bible, to know that evolution is the most intelligible design that I know for creation. Science has firmly established that all of the DNA needed for human life starts at conception. Lastly, I learned in seventh grade science class that when men and women copulate that they have babies. You can’t argue with those basic scientific facts.

    Jane – I am not trying to push a religious nor a political agenda (yet). In fact, I am all over the board politically on these issues. Intelligible design is a theory, and evolution is the proof. I’m not sure if government should tell women what to do with fetuses. But, I do know that slave owners made the same arguments for slavery (i.e. my property). The current state of Minnesota law is that if anyone but the mother takes the fetus’s life, then that person commits murder. If the fetus is the mother’s property, then shouldn’t it be criminal damage to property and not murder? As far as gay marriage, the law doesn’t care if it is a loving and committed relationship; that is a faith-based belief. Gays don’t need civil marriage to be in a loving committed relationship; they need a faith-based, and sacred agreement.

    Paul: I know Griff labeled it as being a church issue, but if Griff or anyone else from the unchurched intelligentsia (my term, not his) is going to attack the churched, then they should attack at its strongest points, and not its weakest. Being able to refute the churched at their weakest points doesn’t make the unchurched right; it only makes the churched wrong. Further, the unchurched intelligentsia have their own brand of faith, often referred to as “politically correctness”, which nearly everyone with a sense of intellectual honesty would have to label as being an seriously flawed system of rationality.

    Patrick: I don’t know what atheiests actually believe about “God”. I don’t think that it is cognitively possible for the human mind to conceive of a God who does not exist without conceiving of he/she/its possible existence. It may be more accurate to say that atheists do not believe that the Christian “God” has any power, because he/she/it is a false concept of the human mind. To that argument, I have this response – Nietzsche is right – if God is dead, we are all screwed.

    July 2, 2008
  130. Paul Fried said:

    Yikes. This thread is oozing out its own ears.

    Jane: Interesting observations, but I think (and hope) the soul will not be scientifically/”objectively measurable, ever. To speak of God and soul in such ways thingifies, objectifies, reifies it, and misses the original point (perhaps) of such language.

    David: You write, “Intelligible design is a theory, and evolution is the proof.” You’re already jumping to conclusions and speaking (like Nietsche?) as if we can or should all agree on your view of facts.

    You say Nietzsche (“God is dead”) is “one of” the “prophets” of liberals and atheists. Not sure I agree, and note that you leave off part of Nietsche’s claim: “And man has killed him.” Nietsche was right that enlightenment, science and secularity had laid claim to much of human reality that seemed mysterious and once the realm of religion; many “mysteries” were being understood and questions answered, so at least it seemed to Mr. N. that God had been killed by humanity, if not forced from the room of consciousness/attention. Even conservative religious folks would admit that there is some truth in this claim.

    Doesn’t make Mr. Nietsche the “prophet” of liberals and atheists. For atheists, to have a prophet, you need to believe there’s a God for whom the prophet can speak.

    I think we should get over viewing the world as bi-polar (liberal/atheist/humanist on the one side, and right-wing fundamentalist-conservative on the other). Humanity comes in more flavors and shades.

    Jane: What is scary to me is not just the religious right and their march toward war behind the father-figures, but the fact that it’s very unclear whether the father-figures are religious at all, or if it’s simply a Machiavellian act whose goals are power and profit.

    David, Jane and Bright: I’m not sure how abortion really relates to the cognitive revolution, but if we were a society that did not torture or practice capital punishment, and if we valued and respected the lives of women and men more equally, I think we might be a society that would be less quick to claim that the lives of the unborn should be in the hands of only a mother and her doctor. If a woman can abort (kill) for economics and convenience, and if that’s ethically right to allow and make legal, then why can’t we invade countries that have oil (and kill) for economics and convenience? Yes, in one case, it’s a fetus, and in another, it’s men, women and children, but there’s an ethical similarity.

    July 2, 2008
  131. Nature, or we might say God, stills the hearts of babies who are not able to live on their own. I don’t believe in keeping anyone alive with extreme measures…especially when it prolongs the torture and delays the inevitable. I confess I don’t know exactly where the line is drawn, and so it must be up to the conscience of those directly involved.

    But I do know that the time to have say over your body and your life is BEFORE you lay down with some dude who isn’t going to stay around and give a baby a father. After that, the baby is a creation, and you didn’t create yourself and you won’t create a baby. That is the realm of God, Nature and All That Jazz. That is why you can’t kill an unborn child. It’s simply not yours to do with whatever you want. After it’s born, you can’t beat it or throw it out of a tall building, you know. Even if every other type of abortion was fine with me, and it’s not, abortion for convenience is simply out of the question.

    Why am I talking about abortion, cuz Jane brought it up and I never let it
    go unsaid when the subject is brought up, that killing a child is just fine.
    And, all life should be honored or it is worth nothing, and that goes for everyone, not just the babies.

    It goes right along with war. Needless wars should not be fought. I don’t know which ones are and which are not. I leave that to the soldiers and their leaders and honor their choice. If I had to defend myself or my family, I would do the best I could without killing anyone. If I had to kill to defend my family with no other choice, knowing I had done nothing to anger the opposition, I would do so, I think. Don’t know until you are actually there with weapon in tow.

    July 2, 2008
  132. Jill Bolte Taylor is the 10 a.m. guest on Midmorning today on KNOW 91.1 FM. I’m sure the archived version will be available at

    July 3, 2008
  133. Patrick Enders said:

    Patrick: I don’t know what atheiests actually believe about “God”.

    That’s easy. ‘God’ is an idea with no concrete evidence supporting its existence in reality. Sort of like ‘dragons,’ or ‘gremlins,’ but a more commonly held belief in the present day. If you want to explain why something happened, but you can’t point to an observable, measurable cause, you say ‘God’ did it.

    I don’t think that it is cognitively possible for the human mind to conceive of a God who does not exist without conceiving of he/she/its possible existence.

    I can imagine the possibility that a god exists. However, it is cognitively possible to imagine a lot of things that do not exist. Again, dragons and gremlins come quickly to mind.

    On a purely speculative level, I accept the possibility that I may have grossly misunderstood the nature of the universe. It is possible that there are dragons in the foothills of the Urals. It is possible that there are gremlins still living in the rusted out hulks of WWII bombers. It is also possible that there is a God hidden out there somewhere. But there is a serious lack of evidence supporting the existence of any of these things.

    To get through my day, I have to make some decisions about how the universe works – based on my experiences and observations. Therefore, while I accept the hypothetical possibility that a God may exist, I am quite comfortable in my belief that there is no God who has any measurable influence on how the world I live in works.

    But that’s all a digression into the nature of knowledge and proof.

    It may be more accurate to say that atheists do not believe that the Christian “God” has any power, because he/she/it is a false concept of the human mind. To that argument, I have this response – Nietzsche is right – if God is dead, we are all screwed.

    No, the atheist point of view is that there is no God.

    The world is a bright and beautiful place, occasionally fraught with perils and hardships to overcome. Without a ‘God’ to fall back on, it is up to us to work it all out and make the best of it.

    I, for one, find that a very reassuring and optimistic view of the world.

    July 3, 2008
  134. Patrick Enders said:

    David L,
    Apologies. I left out that I was addressing (and quoting) your comments and questions in my preceding post.

    July 3, 2008
  135. Patrick,

    Thanks for your clear and concise comments (#s 135 and 136). I’ve resisted wading into this discussion for over a month because discussion of the Unknown and Unknowable (i.e. God) is such a morass. (Before anyone suggests that God is knowable to those with an open heart/mind/whatever, that is your BELIEF; it is not demonstrable.) Discussions of religious belief/disbelief, almost inevitably, lead to battle lines getting drawn, people’s motives and morality being questioned, and things getting ugly. (That’s been the sad story of the past 5,000 or so years of human history that we know about, and perhaps one that predates the historical record.)

    I especially appreciated and agree with your closing: “Without a ‘God’ to fall back on, it is up to us to work it all out and make the best of it.

    I, for one, find that a very reassuring and optimistic view of the world.”

    Whether one believes in a God or not, I offer the following suggestion humbly. Might it not be a wise course of action to accept that there will likely ALWAYS be disagreement between individuals, groups and nations about the Unknown and Unknowable, view this as an unavoidable, acceptable (and dare I say desirable) part of the human condition, and peacably agree to disagree? It is, as Patrick says, up to US to work it all out and make the best of it. This would seem to apply to interpersonal, community, national and international relations.

    July 3, 2008
  136. Anthony Pierre said:

    Would Jesus be against gay marriage?

    July 3, 2008
  137. Vicki Dennis said:

    Jane – for what my opinion is worth, David L. isn’t at all afraid of liberals. My “Obama in ’08” and my “Republicans for Voldemort” stickers were prominently displayed on my car throughout the interview process for the job I now have in his law office. (The stickers are still there, in fact.) My political/religious/social views don’t seem to intimidate him much.

    Now that I think about it, I think he’s even ridden with me in my sticker-bearing vehicle.

    July 3, 2008
  138. Jane Moline said:

    Vicki: Although David is very talented he can’t read the stickers when he is inside the car. : )

    I was responding to David’s statement that he was afraid of liberals which he said after I said I was afraid of radical religious legislating their religious beliefs. I, of course, pounced on what he said.

    I agree with Patrick and Bruce.

    July 3, 2008
  139. Patrick said:

    The world is a bright and beautiful place, occasionally fraught with perils and hardships to overcome. Without a ‘God’ to fall back on, it is up to us to work it all out and make the best of it.

    The Catholic Church and others teach that God planted us here and then gave us Free Will…so that we Are responsible for our own actions…no room to blame it on the deity. The two concepts don’t have to be mutually exclusive. It’s a this And that sort of thing.

    It doesn’t prove their is a god either way, it shows that many things are possible scenario wise, and the Thing that makes that allowable, why that just takes the work of a major game planner…to be able to make all the parameters and rules and then let us run around to freely make what we want of it.

    (Hoping the block quote works well.)

    July 4, 2008
  140. Patrick Enders said:

    Thanks for your response. I agree that the existence of a God does not preclude the possibility of free will. Many theologians have taken up that issue, and have come up with very creative possible answers to that conundrum. If you believe that there is a God, then some of their answers might work very well for you.

    I was simply taking issue with the idea that, “if God is dead, we are all screwed.”

    Many Christians’ conceptions of the nature of existence are so tightly bound to their perception of the existence of a God, that they cannot imagine the possibility that others can find a positive, meaningful existence without embracing such a God. I find this unfortunate.

    I accept that their perception of the world is a possible (though very unlikely) one, and I don’t assert that their beliefs are an inherently negative thing.

    For my beliefs, I am instead offered false assertions that science has proven the existence of God, as well as a straw man misrepresentation of atheism, and the assertion that “if God is dead, we are all screwed.”

    To which I feel compelled to assert that an existence without belief in a God is not a miserable one.

    July 4, 2008
  141. john george said:

    Pat- I appreciate your perspective and the way you articulate your position. Oh that I could attain to that ability. Your comment in post 143, “…For my beliefs…”, I think expresses a universal, if I might suggest it, part of all our thinking. We at some point choose to believe some things which cannot always empirically be proven. There are certain observable natural laws, gravity for one, which, to claim you do not believe them would be a little foolish. Because you say you believe only observable phenomina and discount (not believe) claims of something that cannot be observed leaves a person in an awkward position. Take for example electricity. Have you actually seen electricity? Have you not just seen the effects of electricity? All the characteristics of electricity can be measured and quantified, ie. amperes, volts, ohms, watts, etc., but these are just terms, some named after their particular discoverers, to describe the effects electricity has upon particular measuring devices. Our own nervous system operates on electrical currents, yet not at the same level as our power tools, fortunately. Yet, in all these measurements, has anyone actually seen electricity?

    How about considering the concept of a God in the same way? If you line up however many individuals you like who say they have experienced God in some form (let’s leave out the mentally deranged at this time), is there not similarity of the effects of God in each of the lives? Just wondering.

    As I have said before, and I hear this infered in many comments here, Christianity, and the effect of God, can only come from the spirit out. A particular behavior can be imposed from the outside in through training, but a change of heart can only come from the inside out. This is the effect we Christians claim has happened to us through the work of the Holy Spirit. This same change of heart can be effected by other means, such as demonstrations of kindness, to change a person’s heart, but I believe that a person’s faith in God cannot be imposed by another from the outside. It must come from a personal encounter with the living God. I believe there have been many misguided efforts by many claiming to be Christians to impose their own beliefs onto others through legislation, religious practices, etc. I think these are the things that Jane is fearing in her comments, and rightfully so.

    Another characteristic I think has been infered here is that if God is all powerful and in control of what is going on, then He must be some type of puppeteer and we humans are just marionettes. This is a false concept, and one that I cannot find in the Bible. I do find much evidence to support a God who loves, cares for, and wants to be involved in each person’s life, but it appears to me that this involvement is something He wants us to choose rather than be forced upon us. It is in this pursuit of Him that I find meaning for my life and change comes as I find more of Him. This is the experience I would wish upon all, but I cannot force this upon anyone.

    July 4, 2008
  142. Patrick Enders said:


    Apologies, but I’m bowing out at the moment – partly because my only interest in this thread has been to defend atheism against misrepresentation, partly because this is all a digression from the original topic, but mostly because I really should be packing the car for the weekend.

    But since you asked, I accept that electricity exists because its effects can be observed and measured objectively. I also accept that people believe that they are touched by God – both because they say they feel it, and (IIRC) because objective measurements have shown changes in people who say they feel these things.

    However, science has also shown that belief in a placebo (a dummy medicine consisting of nothing more than sugar) can have a significant restorative effect on people suffering from depression and a host of other illnesses. What that demonstrates is that belief has power, even if it is placed in nothing more than the healing power of a sugar pill (or a doctor). But the fact that belief has power over the self does not prove that the sugar pill, or doctor, has intrinsic power.

    Mightier minds than you and I have spent many years contemplating the existence/non-existence question, and neither side has been able to prove anything conclusively. Let’s leave it at that, and I’ll let everyone who’s interested return to their regularly scheduled theological debate.

    Anyway, for anyone who’s interested in finding common ground, here’s a nice little tune from David Byrne, Natalie Merchant, and Iris Dement on the subject:

    p.s. George, thanks for your email last week. I’ll take a look at the linked article as soon as I have a chance.

    July 4, 2008
  143. john george said:

    Pat- I always appreciate your comments, this one especially, “…Mightier minds than you and I have spent many years contemplating the existence/non-existence question, and neither side has been able to prove anything conclusively.” I was just thinking the same thing, but isn’t the discussion fun? Have a great trip this weekend.

    Oh, and I agree, belief does have power. Is this a right brain activity? As far as the placebos, how do we explain the people who took the real drug and yet did not have any effects? Was it perhaps their lack of belief? The possibilities are endless, I suppose, but the age old question still is in what do you believe? This is where free will comes in.

    July 4, 2008
  144. Holly Cairns said:

    OOh, now we’re talking free will.

    I’m a Lutheran. I find it odd that Martin Luther didn’t believe we had free will (his philosophies seemed to support/ follow Paul and the doctrine of predestination/ determinism). This, in my mind, doesn’t fit nicely with Sola Gratia, and since Luther had outlined a new way to worship, this is huge.

    It seems to me that Luther presented a new way to understand predestination– not a puppet situation with a controlling God, but one where God knows what we’ll do before we do it.

    The idea that some are damned has always made me squirm. It’s better to think we all have a chance at the pearly gates.

    For years I’ve tried to figure out what the Lutheran church thinks about predestination. We aren’t taught that we don’t have free will (or that some are predestined to damnation), and the little catechism seems to leave it out. The big catechism and Luther’s Bondage of the Will don’t seem to be used much in congregational interaction. And don’t try to bring up any of these questions with the blue hairs over coffee.

    Does it matter? Is it the right question to ask? Do we have free will? I say, why not ask? When we question, can we talk ourselves out of what might even be a strongly rooted belief, and then end up defending another label, such as atheist?

    Atheism, to me, is the hardest to understand. Agnostic, maybe, but Atheist? Life is not so arbitrary.

    And what about gnosticism and paganism, and the influences those factions had on what is written in the Bible. I wish we had a truly clean/ accurate version of what Jesus did, said, and wanted us to do. THAT seems to be the important question. WWJD. What would he do. Where is that Q doc, anyway… that’s one mystery I’d like solved.

    The book of Judas was recently found, yes? And boy, does it seem to include a lot of what might be outside influence and not true historical data (making it almost worthless, perhaps?) So much emphasis placed on the stars and Sophia, and etc. Makes my head spin.

    Correct me if I’m wrong about Luther or whatever…. thanks.

    It would be nice to discuss stuff like this at church… maybe they do. We’ve been negligent in our going, lately. Maybe that is one side effect of having my mother die early– if she were alive, we’d be at church, I tell you! And she’d ask me, “What the heck are you worrying about predestination, for? Just calm down and focus on what you can do for others.”

    July 4, 2008
  145. john george said:

    Holly- You are welcome to our small group any time you would like to come. It is not in our church, but in my home, and we wrestle with just these kinds of questions many times. We also spend a fair amount of time praying for each other. I’m in the book. We meet about twice a month, although summer schedules have interrupted our schedule slightly.

    Here is an interesting perspective on the whole issue of salvation, predestination and free will. NAS:Revelation
    {3:20} ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.
    2002 (C) Bible and NAS:John
    {15:16} “You did not choose Me but I chose you…” 2002 (C) Bible, are a couple of those verses which seem to contradict each other. I have heard this explained this way. Salvation is like a doorway. On one side, it says, “Who so ever will, let him come,” so you choose to open the door. When you get on the inside, you turn around and it says, “You didn’t choose me but I chose you.” I see it as two different perspectives on the foreknowledge of God. He chooses to invite us in, and then we choose to enter. From this verse, NAS:1 Timothy
    {2:3} This is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior,
    {2:4} who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.
    2002 (C) Bible, I believe the invitation goes out to all men. I don’t see that any are excluded from being invited. Only those who choose (free will) to open the door will gain the relationship.

    The whole concept of predestination is hard to understand, although I have come across many Calvinists who are fully convinced of it. My concern with their definition of the concept is that it produces a passivity in the person who embraces it and they never really learn to excercise their will in following God. I liken it to a resignation that whatever happens, we have no control over nor responsibility for it. I just don’t see life happening this way.

    July 5, 2008
  146. Paul Fried said:

    I bumped into Griff while taking my children to the film, WALL-E. Have any folks on this thread seen the film?

    Whether or not area churches are waking up to the cognitive revolution, Wall-e seems to show that Hollywood is waking up to religion, and the possibilities of not taking Christian scripture too literally.

    Imagine the Noah-and-the-ark story, in which Noah sends out a dove to look for signs that the water is going down, and life is regenerating. Then imagine that it’s a female dove who falls for a quirky yellow bird that survived the flood, and the entire story is told from the point of view of the yellow bird that was left behind.

    Then make some changes of setting:
    – Instead of the earth being destroyed by a flood in the ancient past, it’s destroyed by human-created pollution in the not-so-distant future.
    – Instead of an ark that saves a remnant of creation (two of every animal), the ark saves a bunch of humans. – Instead of the ark setting out on the waters of the flood, they go into outer space.
    – Instead of a dove being sent to find a sign of life as the flood waters go down, a robot is sent back to earth to see if it’s inhabitable.

    You would tend not to take such creative liberties with a scriptural text if you were too tied to the literal rendering of the story in the bible. Most viewers of the movie would not even notice that it’s a retelling of the Noah story.

    July 6, 2008
  147. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi, ah, the old Noah story once again, which was really a story about many things, including one about a violent God, who made a promise after the flood. 🙂

    Thanks for the invite, John George. I’ll keep that in mind.

    July 6, 2008
  148. Paul Fried said:

    Yes, not only does it show a violent God who wants to destroy much of his creation after it goes awry, but it highlights the contrast between the early story-telling and the later philosophy and doctrine:

    If this God were consistent — and all-knowing, and all-powerfull — he would not have to make creation, and then destroy it, to regenerate from a remnant. It’s a moody God who changes his mind — a God who seems to be going through a rough childhood.

    July 6, 2008
  149. john george said:

    Paul- In your comment about God being all-knowing and all-powerful, I pick up an inference that I often hear concerning Him. It seems that we men percieve knowing and power with controling, and I think we eroniously project this judgement onto God. Is this what you are inferring? If so, then this premise kind of throws out the idea of we humans having a free will. If we were created in His image, and that image has a free will, then for Him to be all controling would be violating His own creation. See what I mean? That would appear to be inconsistent. The fact that He judges sin but raises up a remnant out of those who choose to follow Him to carry on His image would appear to be consistent in my analysis. Peter writes this about it, NAS:1 Peter
    {3:18} For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;
    {3:19} in which also He went and made proclamation to the spirits now in prison,
    {3:20} who once were disobedient, when the patience of God kept waiting in the days of Noah, during the construction of the ark, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through the water.
    2002 (C) Bible
    That is why I percieve Him to be unchanging in His love for us, not a moody, spoiled brat.

    July 6, 2008
  150. David Ludescher said:

    Paul: I don’t understand your point. Are you suggesting that the Bible cannot be read literally, but can still be read as the Word of God? Or, are you suggesting that it is just a bunch of stories without any relevance to today’s man?

    After 150 posts, I am still wondering what is the “cognitive revolution” to which Griff is referring. So far, all I have been able to discern is an argument that goes like this:
    a) No one can cognitively prove that God exists,
    b) therefore, we should believe that God doesn’t exist.
    c) Because we don’t think God exists, we can develop our own morality (not a universal imperative from God).

    The problem, cognitively, is that b) doesn’t follow from a) anymore than we can’t prove God doesn’t exist mean that we should believe God does exist. The real problem with is with c). Without a belief in the universal and the infinite, men will gradually develop a morality based upon consenus, convenience, or even utility. Ultimately, as Nietzsche says, all morality will degrade to a Will to Power where the strongest will rule the earth with their own fabricated morality to justify their acts.

    July 6, 2008
  151. I’ll bring this back to the top opening statements/questions:

    * First, the self is not a fixed entity but a dynamic process of relationships.
    * Second, underneath the patina of different religions, people around the world have common moral intuitions.
    * Third, people are equipped to experience the sacred, to have moments of elevated experience when they transcend boundaries and overflow with love.
    * Fourth, God can best be conceived as the nature one experiences at those moments, the unknowable total of all there is.

    For the first one, I could not agree more. Just look at Griff and all the hats he wears.

    On the second point, even without the patina, people for the most part do not want to live under the violent scrutiny of the taliban, al qaeda, or GWB.

    Third, I agree, although I could not say this is true for everyone, but certainly for many.

    Fourth, God is constantly being experienced by us, we are part of him, we are her, all of us ar in this universal boat together, and even the rocking and destruction of the said boat is godly or gODLY or GODfilled, or GoDlEe.

    WE don’t know what happens after our own deaths. It could be even cooler than the life we now live. We simply don’t know that. So ‘destructive god’ is really a bizarre term, and so presumptuous. I keep saying this and I don’t know why no one hears me…everything that we see and know about,or have an inkling about, or that we may agree or disagree with or about is part of the whole creation of everything, including us and our thoughts.

    Furthermore, it makes no difference to us if it is predermined, fated, a free for all or whatever, cuz we don’t know the difference anyway. It’s all in our attitude that we think we have a choice about. Maybe we do, maybe we don’t. It’s not important. What is important is if we can make the journey to become all that we set out to become and to me, hopefully be able to enjoy and wonder about it along the way, recognizing all the time that it isn’t just me and it isn’t just somebody or something else, but it is ALL, all the time, and all the ways. For me, that is the fruitful life I choose or have been given, either way, it’s okay.

    If I choose to be all hateful, and violent, my world would suddenly becomes very tiny and stressed and I would miss so much that is lovely
    to us as humans. Can you believe there are actually people who do not see beauty in a sunrise or sunset? or a flower? or a child’s face? or the face of a friend whom you love and trust? How sad, how lonely. But even those sad people are part of the Big Deal.

    Maybe I got off topic again, but it’s all good medicine.

    July 7, 2008
  152. Holly Cairns said:

    Noah and the flood can be seen as this:

    Yes, not only does it show a violent God who wants to destroy much of his creation after it goes awry, but it highlights the contrast between the early story-telling and the later philosophy and doctrine

    Or it can be seen as this: No one believed Noah, who was telling them about God and the boat. People weren’t lined up to get on that boat. Hence, those left behind didn’t believe and chose their own fate. Violence, yes, but controlling, no.

    I believe God’s promise is a significant part of the story since I like to focus on “the light” and hope.

    Here’s a/the problem for those that want to read the Bible literally: When retelling, you can change one line or word, and change the whole point of a story. This leads at least me to wonder what has been lost in translation, what was included as rebuttal to another religion/ philosophy of thinking, etc.

    I do wish we could talk about these things in church. Were we more open in the 70’s?

    Thinking back, I remember a (Burnsville) pastor telling us (the congregation) the feeding of the 5000 may have been about the ‘miracle of giving’– people opened their hearts. The baskets passed and people gave, even though they may not have had enough for their own group. Perhaps there were leftovers in the end as a result of such selflessness. Perhaps such selfishness was, in fact, the miracle and the point of the story.

    The ride home that day was talkative, with each of us throwing in our own perspective on… the pastor and his boldness, the possibility that the miracle wasn’t God producing the goods for the people, reading the Bible literally, etc.

    Don’t put words in my mouth, however: I believe that if God wanted to create baskets of fish, He certainly could. And He may have that day 5000 people were fed on so little.

    Good times 😉

    July 7, 2008
  153. David Ludescher said:

    Holly: The story of the fishes and loaves is a good illustration of an opportunity for the cognitive revolutionists to lend a more “scientific” explanation to the event. However, in my experience, the cognitive revolutionists (i.e. liberal left) stick firmly to a literal interpretation and argument (in spite of their disbelief in the truth of a literal interpretation) as a means to justify their firmly held belief that God doesn’t exist. They are simply unwilling to address illiteral interpretations.

    An honest cognitive revolutionist should be marveling at the story of 5000 people sharing their precious food with total strangers simply on the request of a preacher. What existed that day was a “holy” spirit of sharing so grand, so special, and so marvelous that it could only be called a “miracle”. I would challenge any cognitive revolutionist to give me a better and more complete explanation than that the Holy Spirit performed a miracle that day.

    Griff, Jane, Patrick, Bruce: Why should churches be talking about a scientist who had a stroke? Why should we believe her testimony before we believe 4000 years of testimony? More specifically, why should we believe her interpretation of her testimony? To do so would seem quite unscientific.

    July 7, 2008
  154. Holly, thank you for bringing up the story of the fishes and loaves. TO my poor pitiful brain, the story is all too literal. If you look at the seas in those days, the clean, pure waters, they held fish. Whale, Salmon, Trout, many fish I don’t know the name of many of the thousands of fish. What Jesus was showing people and GOD (and the Beach Boys) ONLY KNOWS why no one can see this. Each fish has thousands of eggs, which are now heavily harvested by TURKEY and other countries, and if left to fullfill their natural cycles, we would all have all the lovely fish we wanted to eat and to keep as pets and as natural wild beings. Each stalk of wheat holds so much potential for future generations, if we wouldn’t use it for gasoline to move our vehicles, if we wouldn’t make it into every processed non nutritional food in aisles 4-9 or whatever it is. The miracle was and is already created, Jesus was just showing us the way. Hey, look, there is a million fish created every minute, there are thousands of plants and trees for you to eat and give you shelter, there is art in the clouds and the colors of the day. There it is, for you, my gift. God holds the sparrows, gives them their need, they only have but to go forth and gather it. People, people, people.

    Oh, but yet, there is another ‘miracle on hand’. A salvation if I ever saw one…

    July 7, 2008
  155. David,
    I have no “firmly held belief that God doesn’t exist.” I would characterize myself as an atheistic-leaning agnostic. Although I was raised in a Christian family and was confirmed at the Northfield United Methodist Church under the able and caring guidance of Rev. Toby Horst in Anno Domini 1974, I have come to the conclusion in recent years that I simply don’t know whether God exists or not, am not likely to ever know, don’t feel a burning need to know, don’t feel a need for others to share my belief system, and frankly get rather tired of being disrespected in a Christian-dominated culture.

    I rather have come to the firmly held conclusion (at this point in my life; who knows what the future might bring?) that the universe makes more sense to me when viewed in a natural rather than a supernatural context.

    I’m frankly not all that interested in the “cognitive revolution” that Griff blogged about. I have no views about what y’all “should” discuss in your various houses of worship. That’s your bidness.

    I’m much more worried about the global and local consequences of the weird interpretations of Christianity/Islam/Judaism/etc. that have gotten the world into so much trouble so continually over the millennia, up to the present day, than I am about Nietzsche’s Will to Power.

    I am perplexed and a bit annoyed that you seem to feel the need to lump me and others into a “liberal left” secular straw man. Some of the most devoutly religious people I know are quite liberal politically and socially. Some of the least religious people I know are quite conservative politically and socially. Stereotyping just doesn’t get us anywhere. As Rodney King so plaintively asked during the LA riots of the 1990s, “Why can’t we all just get along?”

    July 7, 2008
  156. Barb Kuhlman said:

    In a study group I am in at my church (St. John’s Lutheran ELCA), we recently read Marcus Borg’s “The Heart of Christianity,” which I understand incorporates material from some of his earlier works, such as “The God We Never Knew” and “Meeting Jesus Again For the First Time.” It’s controversial for some Christians, and it opens up new ways of thinking about Jesus and the Bible. From some of your comments, I think you would enjoy it. By the way, the most helpful and hopeful thing I have found emphasized in the Lutheran church (ELCA anyway) is the concept of grace.

    July 7, 2008
  157. Paul Fried said:

    John G. and David L., regarding your comments in 152 and 153: I don’t think the Noah story, or its challenge to traditional doctrines about God as omniscient, omnipotent, and never-changing, is about free will (although the Noah story might be about free will in a way). More simply, if God is perfect and never-changing, as the doctrines claim, then the Noah story doesn’t make sense, nor do Old Testament stories of an angry, wrathful God repenting of his anger when requested in the right way by an upright, prayerful person. Supreme beings that are perfect, all-knowing and all-powerful don’t have to repent of their anger at the request of lesser beings, and they don’t have to get angry and wipe the slate of creation clean to start again. They’d simple plan ahead (knowing the future, as omnicient being do), and get creation right the first time, while still (John G.) allowing perfectly for giving mortals the gift of free will. Or at least if you’re a neo-scholastic theologian, you’d insist more on God being perfect and consistent than on his fits of anger in the Old Testament. (So even between the times of the Old Testament and that of Aquinas, there was a cognitive revolution, inspired in no small part by Aristotle. Does this make Aquinas, or Aristotle, a liberal, and a revolutionary, David?).

    I don’t claim from any of this that God is therefore a spoiled brat, or that there is no such thing as the “inspired word of God” when the Noah story (like many others) is so much a reflection of the cultural expectations of a particular cultural context and moment in history.

    Some claim the Noah story (and other flood stories) originated because of a cataclismic event when a land mass holding back ocean waters broke and let in a flood in an area that was, till then, below sea level (like the Mediteranian or Black Sea regions). There are some areas on some continents that are dry and below sea level, and sometimes natural events transpire so that they get flooded. Such events would leave a lasting imprint on the survivors, for many generations. People would strive to make sense of the event, even centuries later, especially if they belonged to a religion that believed in a loving God who “chose” them. Such events could have been part of the genesis, or human motivation, involved in the initial telling of what became the Noah story: God once punished the wicked and saved the just.

    The Noah story also contains an explanation of the rainbow (a wonder that may have seemed supernatural to a pre-scientific culture?). And it contains an explanation of why God does not continue to punish (snuff out!) the wicked and save the just: He promised he would not bring such destruction again, although he tried it once. And he sealed his promise with a rainbow as his sign.

    Now should we assume that, in the time of Noah, there was less biological diversity, so there was enough room on the boat for two of every species? Or that a supernatural God intervened to allow for more room in the boat than was actually there?

    Or shall we consider that the story was made up in a specific culture and historical context, and was not meant to be taken literally, and historically, and scientifically (in an age before modern science and historical studies?), and end it there?

    I don’t think the story is a historical account at all (this is what many mean when they speak of “taking a story literally” — they mean applying to it modern expectations of journalistic or scientific/historical truth that had nothing to do with the expectations of the original tellers and hearers of the story). The Noah story was composed as a catachism tale meant to teach a religious lesson, not to tell history any more than Aesop’s fables are meant to tell history.

    (David L., the Catholic church, in some of its teachings since the mid-1800’s, has insisted that one needs to know the form in which the human author was writing before one can interpret correctly: was it a fable? a parable? a poem or song? Some things are not meant to be taken too literally/historically).

    And David, I still don’t get it when you speak of your assumptions about how liberals interpret. Taking a text literally, at first, is always the first step. It’s through the literal that you discern other possibilities, including those that negate the literal (such as sarcasm).

    The point is not about being a liberal or a conservative when interpreting, but to be good at carefully discerning the truth with whatever literary/historical tools needed, and as a human being, to have an open heart while reading, receptive to whatever truths or insights a text (Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, atheist, whatever) might yield. If a conservative comes to an insightful interpretation, a liberal should recognize the good work, and vice versa.

    Why the chip on the shoulder about how liberals interpret? You give no examples of liberals doing as you describe.

    July 7, 2008
  158. Holly Cairns said:

    Thanks Barb, that sounds like a good read. The Borg we have around here is “The Meaning of Jesus, Two Visions.” Pretty good stuff, although I’ve only paged through much of it.

    Yes, Sola Gratia, by grace alone. Lutheran good stuff. 🙂

    The only church I would attend here in town is St. Peter’s (disclaimer, I even set up and maintain their blog) but those St. John’s Bible study groups sound pretty interesting.

    Bright, that’s a lovely outlook! The baskets can stand for a much larger gift.

    David L., although Bright tried to steer us back to the original posting’s premise, no one really seemed to challenge your a-c in comment #153. I think “cognitive revolutionists” might include more than what you ultimately define as the composition of that group.

    And so, on that note, I just cannot give this topic enough time. Like usual, there is more to say, and I type fast, but I’ve set goals for myself regarding how many blogs I have to sell this month. Loftly goals based out of need. So there, I can’t do anymore of this online thinking. But I love it– have fun.

    July 8, 2008
  159. john george said:

    In thinking about this whole issue of the cognitive revolution, it occured to me that we are talking about two approaches to determining how we respond our environment. I am a product of the age of reason (there are reasons that things happen) as opposed to the post modern thinking pattern that is in vogue (feelings are more relevant than reasons). Dr. Taylor, in her desertation, is coming from the post modern side. The things we feel that we attribute to a “religious” experience are, from her perspective, simply a function of the right brain. They do not have to have a reason, they are just feelings, and thus have indivudual validity in and of themselves. No person can judge these feelings because they are not based on an external force, which would imply certain laws that have to be proven. It is an extension of the philosophy of “I’m ok; you’re ok.” When we Christians take a position of basing our experience on an external force, say the Holy Spirit, and base that on the Bible, we are inferring a different philosophy, something like this, “I’m ok, but you’re not ok.” This is what infuriates the post modern thinker. How dare we say that there is a standard by which things can be evaluated? In the whole scheme of things, the post modernist is using my tongue in cheek philosophy, “We are ok but you are not,” in their rush to comdemn our position. It seems an exercise in futility, trying to convince each other that our side is right (if there be such a thing). We both use the same evidences to try to disprove one another. The following url is pretty simplistic, but I think concise in differentiating these two sides. It is posted by a Christian organization, so that bias is evident. I know many who post here will not agree with that bias, but I would like to use it as a point of discussion for understanding rather than a point of division. I think communication goes a long way in helping to understand and respect one another. Whether we choose to do that, or not, is up to us.

    July 8, 2008
  160. Nora Felton said:

    I don’t know why, but I have spent hours reading and considering (cognitive thought) everything everyone has said…it draws me in, it makes me want to defend certain positions and argue others…but why? I guess when you love someone, you always feel like you should defend them, but God doesn’t need defending and I’m slower of speech than Moses..all I know is that “He was, He is, and He is to come” and I must come to Him with child-like faith (the clay does not tell the potter what to make)…I don’t have the right words or even where the verses come from, but I must come humbly before Him and seek His face, making every thought captive to Him…He leads me and gives me His peace…..I pray your searching will end with His peace—the peace that passes all understanding (including cognitive thought!)

    July 9, 2008
  161. David Ludescher said:

    Paul: I guess I do have a chip on my shoulder against “liberals”, especially from an intellectual honesty and integrity standpoint. The main point I was making regarding the “liberal left”, “atheists”, or “cognitive revolutionists” (or whatever term does not offend someone) is that it is logically inconsistent to argue:
    “religious” or “faith” beliefs should not be given serious attention or thought because of their unprovability,
    and then turn around argue for unscientific, and essentially faith-based claims such as:
    We should all love each other,
    Why can’t we all just get along, or one of my favorites,
    That is just a religious belief.

    I will use Griff as an example (partly because he has been so strident and partly because his courage in admitting the obvious):

    Griff blogged about the ELCA’s position on gay rights by saying, “…wake up and smell the coffee”. As it turns out, Griff had not read the document that he was criticizing. He was relying on the AP or Strib or some other equally incredible source (who had probably not read the document either).

    Both Clay Oglesbee and I contributed to the blog. I suggested that Griff had not read the document, and Clay detailed the struggles that the ECLA has had with this issue. To his credit, Griff admitted that he was relying on someone else’s reading and apologized for not reading the document. But, I got $20.00 saying that Griff did not go back and do an intellectual analysis of the ECLA’s thinking. If he had, he would have found a deep and caring analysis of the issue, together with a sincere lament of how polarizing this issue has become for its members, and a genuine commitment to discern an answer that is morally satisfactory.

    Perhaps I fear the skeptics more than the dogmatists because at least the dogmatists are systematically close-minded, whereas I find the skeptics to be selectively close-minded. The dogmatists claim that there is only one way to the truth; the skeptics claim either that there is no truth, or that each individual is capable of possessing his or her own truth meaningful only to him or her.

    July 9, 2008
  162. Holly Cairns said:

    David L. said

    Paul: I guess I do have a chip on my shoulder against “liberals”, especially from an intellectual honesty and integrity standpoint. The main point I was making regarding the “liberal left”, “atheists”, or “cognitive revolutionists” (or whatever term does not offend someone) is that it is logically inconsistent to argue:
    “religious” or “faith” beliefs should not be given serious attention or thought because of their unprovability,
    and then turn around argue for unscientific, and essentially faith-based claims such as:
    We should all love each other,
    Why can’t we all just get along, or one of my favorites,
    That is just a religious belief.

    Along those lines, I’d add that oranges are purple and bananas are blue.

    David, I would classify myself as a liberal leftie. Would you care to ask me any questions about religion? Seems like you assume a lot, rather than seek to ask. I am willing to try to answer your questions to the best of my ability. Maybe I can help to dispell your thoughts about a lack of integrity or a lack of intellectual honesty… As to that, of course, I am only one person, and can only answer for myself, and so the rest of the liberal lefties will have to chime in if things badly for me.

    July 9, 2008
  163. Patrick Enders said:

    David L,
    That’s quite a broad brush that you wield. If you spent some time talking to a few of the liberals, atheists, and even those bobos (if you can find any) that you like to go on about, you’d probably find out that – like every other group in the world – your stereotypes come far short of capturing the diversity of persons you have so broadly lumped together.

    I’d suggest talking to a few of those strange people. (I hear there’s even one working in your office!) I’m sure you’ll find that some of them will inevitably be flakes, or intellectual lightweights unworthy of your time, but some of them might actually prove to be reasonably intelligent, sensible, and decent persons who are lacking in neither intellectual honesty nor integrity.

    Just a thought.

    July 9, 2008
  164. David, there’s not much danger in philosophies of life like “Let’s try to be nice to each other,” and I doubt there are many who say we should disregard a moral teaching like the Golden Rule. They don’t need “proof” because they don’t cause harm to anyone. But I’d suggest that teachings upon which we deny equal human rights or constrain reasonable freedoms or wage holy war (to grasp at some general examples) should require stricter scrutiny, if we want to look at it in terms of levels of judicial review. A person’s or group’s right to exercise their beliefs ends at the tip of the other person’s or group’s moral nose, so to speak, and that point an objective assessment of the competing interests involved is essential.

    July 10, 2008
  165. Paul Fried said:

    Holly, Patrick and Penny had some great insights, but I’d only add this: Your beef is with sloppy and inconsistent thinking more than with liberals. Those troubles are human failings, not liberal traits.

    Some (not all) conservative Catholics display similar sloppy and inconsistent thinking when they claim to support laws that reflect a respect for life, but they are not too bothered by an illegal war of aggression that breaks the Geneva Conventions (which the US agreed to, so they’re part of US law); they’re not too bothered by civilian casualties (as long as they’re on the other side of the world), or euphemisms about torture, or illegal wiretapping, or a president who breaks his oath to uphold and defend the constitution. They may think the world is in a sorry state, but they don’t seem to believe that changing course would help. Some of these conservative Catholics voted twice for Bush, and while his ratings are in the toilet, some are among those who still support Bush.

    I’m with you in your frustration with sloppy thinking, inconsistently applied moral standards and such, but it’s not just liberals who have those troubles.

    I agree with Penny that there are some examples of simple thinking (Golden Rule) that may be fairly harmless and even helpful and clarifying, while others (“Gee, I trust the president because he has access to all kinds of secret intelligence that I don’t”) can lead to a lot of damage (and hundreds of thousands of civilian deaths).

    July 10, 2008
  166. David Ludescher said:

    Holly, Patrick, and Penny: I will take you guys up on your challenges:

    Holly: Abortion is legal for the woman in the sixth month of pregnancy. So, how does a “liberal leftie” justify making it murder for someone else to “terminate” the pregancy in the sixth month? I don’t care if you give me the faith based answer or the rational answer, but please no political mumbo-jumbo.

    Patrick: We haven’t met; but you seem like a decent, reasonable, and intelligent person. Tell me what guarantees do we have to the inalienable rights in the Constitution if those rights don’t come from the Creator (as Jefferson wrote, and our forefathers agreed)?

    Penny: Is it morally permissible for Griff to say that someone is praying for “goofball prayers” when that person prays for God to send rain? How does one form a judgment about the “objective assessments of the competing interests” in such a case? Does it matter that the First Amendment guarantees the right of free speech in determing the moral boundaries of offense?

    July 10, 2008
  167. Paul Fried said:

    David, you said you weren’t sure what the “cognitive revolution” was. Maybe it’s an aftershock of certain other conceptual revolutions. Here’s how I see it:

    1. The Enlightenment. David, you speak of the primary place of human reason in your understanding of humanity/God/religion. The centrality of reason (instead of scripture, or church authority) is an Enlightenment value. (It was also a value for Aristotle and Aquinas, but that’s another strand of history).

    2. The Enlightenment included (and contributed to) both the development of modern science, and also, eventually, German “higher criticism” of the Bible. At a certain point after Galileo and Darwin, it was hard to turn back from more-than-literal readings of the Bible. Higher criticism included the recognition that cultures have literary forms and ways of producing texts; why should we accept the Bible as a literally dictated “word of God” without attention to its genesis as a collection of literature written and edited by human beings who belonged to an evolving culture? Other cultures have sacred texts too; why should we accept, uncritically, Christian claims about their own scriptures without considering cultural and historical context? Higher criticism led in part to readings of the New Testament that rediscovered and emphasized the social gospel more than authoristy and miracle. Miracles stories may have included some culturally accepted poetic license on the part of the original writers and editors, etc.

    The higher criticism contributed to what some call an awareness of cultural relativism, but it also led to backlash in at least two forms in Christianity:

    a. Catholicism eventually allowed for cultural, historical and literary form criticism, but clung to certain literal claims about the perpetual virginity of Mary, the bodily resurrection of Jesus, etc. (It also took the Catholic church a long time to let go of the idea that Moses wrote the Pentateuch; the story of Moses’ death is included in it, and it’s hard to write about your own funeral unless you’re a Mark Twain character).

    b. In US Protestantism, the fundamentalist movement arose in reaction to higher criticism and the social gospel, attempting to return christianity to certain things that were viewed as essentials: This movement started out as a scholarly-theological one, and later was financed by the president of Union Oil (Lyman Stewart), who published a series of publications (4 volumes). Stewart dedicated hundreds of thousands of dollars (in 1909, a fortune) toward the project of making these publications available to any minister who wanted them.

    (Ironic that some of the same oil interests with connections to Christian Fundamentalism would later inspire a return to Islamic “fundamentals” after the US overthrow of Iran in the 1950’s. You reap what you sow).

    I think the cognitive revolution David Brooks speaks of in the article Griff linked is not a totally new thing, but a sort of fleshing out (through brain research, etc.) of other conceptual revolutions that have been evolving (and engaging in tugs-of-war) for a longer time since the enlightenment and German higher biblical criticism. You might also trace it to ancient Greece and Xenophanes (500 B.C.E.), who noted that, if horses had Gods, they’d look like horses.

    The stuff Brooks speaks of about might be traced more specifically to William James and his book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience” (1902).

    James lived around the same time as Freud and Jung, when psychology was splitting, in part, between those who wanted to allow the testimony of the patient (including dreams and psychoanalysis, Freud and Jung), and those who wanted psychology to look more like the hard sciences with physical, “objectively verifiable” data (which led to B.F. Skinner, behaviorism, the more materialistic strand of which Brooks speaks in the article).

    William James was remarkable in that he was OK with both paths: He didn’t want to downplay the relevance of patient testimony, but neither did he want to neglect brain science.

    Brooks is saying, in part (in paragraph 7), that the cognitive revolution will lead to more challenge to faith in a merely-literally interpreted Bible. I’m fine with such developments, but I’m skeptical that the cognitive revolution will lead to richer-and-less-merely-literal interpretations of the Bible.

    Brooks claims that neuro-science will lead to new awarenesses about the relationship of certain parts of the brain to religion, faith, mysticism. OK. But William James was onto much of that, so if it’s a revolution, James was one of the early revolutionaries, and the revolution is more than 100 years old.

    July 10, 2008
  168. David Ludescher said:

    Paul: Bingo! I don’t like bad theology either. My thinking is that using bad theology to justify sloppy thinking is much worse than using sloppy thinking to justify bad theology.

    July 10, 2008
  169. Holly Cairns said:

    Hi David L.,

    Late term abortions are very rare, and done to save the mother, but you didn’t ask me about that.

    As for two counts of murder, I cannot justfiy that, although the situation is truly terrible.

    July 10, 2008
  170. Holly Cairns said:

    And David L., I thought we were talking about religion. Are you getting to that part, or what?

    July 10, 2008
  171. Holly Cairns said:

    Oops, another thought. And David, don’t give me any of that lawyer mumbo-jumbo. Lawyers seem to argue for that one exception (whereas politicians seem to argue for the majority. I’d day my beliefs fall somewhere in between those two).

    July 10, 2008
  172. Paul F made this statement in post #168

    Some (not all) conservative Catholics display similar sloppy and inconsistent thinking when they claim to support laws that reflect a respect for life, but they are not too bothered by an illegal war of aggression that breaks the Geneva Conventions (which the US agreed to, so they’re part of US law); they’re not too bothered by civilian casualties (as long as they’re on the other side of the world), or euphemisms about torture, or illegal wiretapping, or a president who breaks his oath to uphold and defend the constitution…

    It is completely within the bounds of clear thinking to be pro-life, as a defendent of those innocnets who are totally defenseless themselves (the unborn children) while simultaneously being either hands-off or in favor a war that you believe is in the best interest of this country.

    Warriors choose their life’s path, just as everyone living in a democratic leaning nation can. As for the innocent and non participatory victims of war, they may not always have a clear ability to choose, but they may have been able to take action prior and did not. All sorts of things are possible, but do we choose every action for our brothers and sisters around the globe, or do we let them choose and build their own lives in their own way?

    As for the torture, I am not a war master or monger, so I will not try to
    get into that part of it here, but warriors don’t go into these things without knowing that there are dangers upon dangers and injustices upon injustices when entering the theatre of war. They do know and they are trained for it, and the ones who change their mind get a discharge.

    Just ask any kid who has had a wrestled with their sibling on the living room floor when mom and dad were out of the room if he or she expects all the moves to be above board.

    July 11, 2008
  173. William Siemers said:

    David L.

    The language you mention with regard to a ‘creator’ and ‘inaliable rights’ is from the declaration of independence. While a wonderful document, it guaranteed no rights and, as you know, is not the legal basis of our system of government.

    The constitution, which is the legal basis of our government, and guarantees our individual liberties, makes no mention of God. None. God is, one might say, conspicuous in his absence.

    July 11, 2008
  174. David Ludescher said:

    William: You are correct that the rights are embodied in the Constitution. But, when the colonies filed their grievances against the King of England, they knew that they had no legal basis to win independence.

    Hence, they told the King of England, that he was denying them those certain “inalienable rights endowed upon them by the Creator”. It is the belief in the Creator that makes it possible for us to have inalienable rights.

    When in 1857, the United States Supreme Court ruled that black men have no rights which a white man is required to honor, it didn’t get the Constitution wrong; it simply refused to give black men the rights endowed upon them by the Creator.

    July 11, 2008
  175. David Ludescher said:

    Holly: I was talking religion. What kind of religion says that it is OK for a woman to terminate her pregnancy without consequence, but makes it murder for husband to do the same?

    July 11, 2008
  176. William Siemers said:

    David L.

    In the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence, well before Jefferson mentions a ‘creator’, he mentions the ‘Laws of Nature and Natures’ God’. I think a case could be made that the ‘Creator’ he refers to is embodied in the concept of the “Laws of Nature and Natures’ God”. And who knows what he meant by that?

    One could argue that the inalieable rights he refered to, are endowed by Natural Law and the ‘god’ of natural law. And that this is the creator he is referring to. That is not that they are granted by a god, but that they are the natural, self-evident nature of mankind.

    In any case, the founding fathers, when codifying those rights in the constitution did not deem it necessary to mention a creator. If they had believed as you reckon it, wouldn’t they have included that concept in the document that guarantees and deliniates the rights first broadly addressed in the declaration of independence?

    Anyway…It did not go without notice that god was left out. When Alexander Hamilton was asked why that was he said…”Our new nation is not in need of foreign aid.”

    July 11, 2008
  177. Holly Cairns said:

    Okay, David L., what kind of religion? What doctrine are you talking about? Thanks, Holly

    July 11, 2008
  178. kiffi summa said:

    Think about this with reference to the separation of church and state: The fact that in this country we have NO state religion, although there may be references to God, Creator, etc in some documents, PROTECTS everyones individual belief system. It does not limit, in any way, any rights, but guarantees that all may believe as they choose.

    No majority may claim that because of their Religious beliefs, they are being denied some civil/human/religious rights which then alter the Rule of Law.

    Think twice about saying the law offends your religion; would you prefer to be truly fettered by a state religion that just might not favor your belief system?

    The total separation of church and state insures freedom, not fetters.

    July 12, 2008
  179. David Ludescher said:

    William: I am willing to concede your argument both from a historical and cognitive standpoint for the purpose of discussing the origin of “natural, self-evident” rights. Whether one terms the originator of inalienable rights “God”, “the Creator, “Nature’s God”, or “Nature”, the idea is the same – inalienable rights stem from a source other than man himself.

    It is at this point that I find the greatest failings of the rationalists (atheists, cognitive revolutionists, or whatever name you give to those who profess an opposition to faith-based modes of thought).

    Rationalists will concede that all the natural sciences must be rational – including physics, chemistry, biology etc. They will concede that all of the arts must be rational – including psychology, anthropology, law etc. Yet, many, if not most, are simply unwilling to concede that all sciences must fall under the supreme rationality. If they do concede the supreme rationality, they are unwilling to name it God, the Creator, or anything else which might imply that their rationality is incomplete, or that rationality fails to supply the answers to the important questions of life.

    So, William, I would be interested in hearing your explanation of how a person is supposed to develop a system of self-evident rights that could be embodied in a document that would not only serve America, but serve the world. Why is it that we can’t all, in Bruce’s terms, “all get along”. Is it religion’s fault?

    July 13, 2008
  180. Holly Cairns said:

    I had a thought about inalienable rights.

    Kiffi was talking about separation of church and state on a national level, but since you asked about getting along as a human race, we might apply that ‘separation’ philosophy on a larger scale, and leave religion out of it.

    Thanks to John Locke and others, we now believe each of us has worth and therefore all of us have certain rights. (Even if these people are at Gitmo?) That wasn’t a commonly held, political notion before a certain time in history.

    I thought we (as a nation) already agreed that every human, no matter if they are U.S. citizens or if they are citizens of another country, have these rights simply because we’re human.

    Whether these rights come from God, another deity of sort, or are simply man-made, they mean nothing unless people agree we have them and believe there is reason to protect them.

    I think it be more interesting and productive, perhaps, to argue over what specific rights we have (should have) that can’t be taken from us, rather than agruing about where these rights came from… Ultimately, they come from us, because we define the rights and the consequence for violation…

    And have you decided to leave “liberals” out of the group you are pointing the finger at, David? Or are you still working to demonstrate that liberals lack intellectual honesty and integrity?

    And what religion/ doctrine are you talking about (see my question in #180). I’m still wondering about that.

    July 13, 2008
  181. kiffi summa said:

    Thank you, Holly for the viewpoint re: inalienable rights.

    I think you said we have them because we are human.

    And therefor we determine our own destiny, because it is obvious from our “acts”, and the consequences of those acts of determination that we have the ability to both determine our own destinies, and yet fall to circumstances beyond our control (lightening, viruses, embezzelment etc.)

    We are human , and therefor “Various”, but looking at the Human Genome Project, all also so very like, both to other humans and to much of the animal world.

    We know WHAT we are, many of us wonder WHY we are, and therein lies all the squabble, in my point of view.

    July 13, 2008
  182. David Ludescher said:

    Holly: I’m not trying to point fingers at any one class of people. I am trying to point out systems of thought, which are most prevalent among the “liberals”, “cognitive revolutionists”, “atheists”, or whatever name you want to attach to those who deny the existence of revelance of “God” in today’s world.

    So, when I asked you about abortion, I wanted you to tell me what kind of system of thought is it that makes it murder to terminate a fetus, unless the terminator is the mother? What system of belief holds that these two laws are legally consistent?

    With regard to inalienable rights, Locke proposed politically what Jesus of Nazareth proposed religiously some 1500 years early. Jesus proposed equal dignity in all aspects of our lives, which would include our political lives. Locke proposed it as a mere theory; Jesus showed it as a reality by dying on the cross.

    This religious idea of inalienable rights is why Pope John Paul strongly denounced War of American Agression against the Iraqi people, even at a time when almost all conservatives, and a good share of the liberals thought that it was a good idea.

    This idea also explains why Bush is wrong for holding prisoners in Gitmo. If we really believed that the American system of justice is the best, what better way is there than to put it to the test?

    July 13, 2008
  183. Oh, gosh, I’ll probably regret this, but let me wade into the waters that you’ve presented Holly with, David. As a preface, though I consider myself more in the “pro-choice” camp than the “pro-life” camp, I abhor the thought of late-term abortion and think even middle-trimester abortions are sad and ugly and that we should do everything we can by way of education (both moral/ethical and science-based) and access to family planning to make abortions at any stage of development rare indeed, while still protecting reasonable access to them.

    But, to turn to your question, there is a logically consistent “system of thought” that could support a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy (one would hope as early as possible, if it’s going to be done) while calling the killing of her fetus by someone else murder, or something akin to murder. That system of thought, unlike those that seek to give even a day-old embryo and its mother absolutely equal rights to exist, recognizes the unique physical relationship between the mother and her unborn child, which works in both directions. That life inside her may be deemed uniquely hers to sustain and protect if she chooses to do so, and she could be granted legal standing to defend that life against others and press charges against someone who destroys it against her will, but because of the enormous burden and permanent physical effects on her in bringing a child to term and delivering it — a burden that is gladly borne when a child is wanted but onerous indeed if not — it is not prima facie illogical, as you imply, to assert that she alone is in the moral position of determining whether or not that burden is too much for her to bear.

    There is a logical consistency to such an approach that does not require that the unborn child be declared a legally independent human being, vested with all civil and moral rights.

    July 13, 2008
  184. Patrick Enders said:

    David L,
    IIRC, the whole idea of charging people with murder for causing the death of a fetus was invented by people who were trying to create a legal precedent for the rights of fetuses. Those people were not liberals. Or atheists.

    July 13, 2008
  185. William Siemers said:

    David…If guess I think these rights exist in nature. And so they developed as nature developed.

    July 14, 2008
  186. Holly Cairns said:

    David said:

    So, when I asked you about abortion, I wanted you to tell me what kind of system of thought is it that makes it murder to terminate a fetus, unless the terminator is the mother? What system of belief holds that these two laws are legally consistent?

    Those two laws are legally inconsistent, and I don’t know what system of belief holds that these two laws are legally consistent. Is there a system of belief that holds them consistent?

    Plus, are you saying certain people think late term abortions are perfectly fine, but would condemn someone else as a murderer for aborting that same, late term, fetus? I wonder how many people think late term abortion is fine. Probably not many.

    Penny talked about a woman’s body being her own. That’s pretty deep. 🙂

    Well, get to the point then and we can see what’s wrong with me, the liberal. Instead of having me or others provide the example of the faulty thought, perhaps you can just go for it and describe what is inconsistent yourself.

    David said:

    With regard to inalienable rights, Locke proposed politically what Jesus of Nazareth proposed religiously some 1500 years early. Jesus proposed equal dignity in all aspects of our lives, which would include our political lives. Locke proposed it as a mere theory; Jesus showed it as a reality by dying on the cross.

    “Inalienable rights” isn’t the same as “equal dignity”. Also, Jesus did a lot of things for us by dying on the cross, but I think it is too much of a stretch to say He was demonstrating equal dignity.

    And, Locke was all about property and “what is the mind”. Not too similar to Jesus?


    Holly: I’m not trying to point fingers at any one class of people. I am trying to point out systems of thought, which are most prevalent among the “liberals”, “cognitive revolutionists”, “atheists”, or whatever name you want to attach to those who deny the existence of revelance of “God” in today’s world.

    I consider myself to be pretty average– an average representation of what is “liberal” and I don’t deny the existence of, or relevance of, God. I wish you would stop lumping liberals together with atheists and cognitive revolutionists. Point me to the stats, man. Point me to the stats!

    “Cognitive revolutionist” isn’t the same as “atheist”, either.

    I’d like to know more about the “real” Jesus. Too bad we don’t have a working time machine around here. Thinking about it– that’s the cognitive part. Thinkers don’t have to be atheists. Maybe this discussion is too deep for the average blog. Getting kind of boring.

    July 14, 2008
  187. Holly Cairns said:

    I agree with Patrick, too, I think… but I wish he would have said who those people are so I can be sure if I agree with him or not.

    IIRC, the whole idea of charging people with murder for causing the death of a fetus was invented by people who were trying to create a legal precedent for the rights of fetuses. Those people were not liberals. Or atheists.

    July 14, 2008
  188. Patrick Enders said:

    I’m not sure that the identity of its advocates should determine the validity of the law, but a 1990 NYTimes article ( says:

    In a case closely watched by both sides in the national abortion debate, a Minnesota man will go on trial soon facing separate accusations of murder: one of shooting his girlfriend to death, and the other of killing the 28-day embryo she was carrying at the time of her death.

    The case hinges on Minnesota’s 1986 fetal homicide law, which is described as the most sweeping of its kind in the nation.

    The statute, adopted with the strong backing of anti-abortion groups, specifically excludes medical abortions, which are permissible under state law. But the case has insinuated itself into the abortion debate because the statute otherwise defines the killing of an embryo or fetus, without the consent of the mother, as a homicide, subject to the same criminal penalties for murdering an adult or a child.

    Advocates of abortion rights say they are especially troubled by the Minnesota law, which they contend is unconstitutional because it defines an embryo or fetus as a person from the point of conception onward – a legal precept that has long been sought by some opponents of abortion.

    July 14, 2008
  189. Patrick Enders said:

    Hm. Lost posts. Apologies if my previous posts reappear, and this sounds redundant.

    You were right in saying,

    Those two laws are legally inconsistent, and I don’t know what system of belief holds that these two laws are legally consistent. Is there a system of belief that holds them consistent?

    David L wrote,

    So, how does a “liberal leftie” justify making it murder for someone else to “terminate” the pregancy in the sixth month? I don’t care if you give me the faith based answer or the rational answer, but please no political mumbo-jumbo.

    David L,
    I see very little evidence that this is a belief that is common among liberals, atheists, bobos, and/or cognitive revolutionists. Rather, as I have shown above, the concept of feticide=murder is typically advocated by conservative anti-abortionists. Perhaps you could provide corroborating evidence supporting the existence of liberals who support both abortion rights as well as the belief that feticide=murder?

    July 14, 2008
  190. Griff Wigley said:

    Done, Patrick. Can I make an edit to your comment above, last paragraph, where you broke one of our rules re: addressing the person you disagree with directly?

    1:43 PM update: Patrick agreed. Changes made. I deleted his ‘agreement’ post. Carry on. (Thx, Patrick.)

    July 14, 2008
  191. Patrick Enders said:

    David L,
    More specifically, I would ask for evidence that this is a commonly-held opinion among liberals, atheists, bobos, and/or cognitive revolutionists.

    There’s always at least one outlier.

    July 14, 2008
  192. Holly Cairns said:

    Nicely said, Patrick.

    And we wait! 🙂

    July 14, 2008
  193. David L: I’m going all the way back to your comment #163, where I appreciated your candor in saying

    I guess I do have a chip on my shoulder against “liberals”, especially from an intellectual honesty and integrity standpoint.

    I guess I find this peculiar from someone such as yourself who (apparently, given your references to Pope John Paul in comment #185) cleaves to a faith that found Galileo guilty of heresy in  1633 for his theory of heliocentrism, and couldn’t bring itself to express regret for how the Galileo affair was handled, and officially concede that the Earth was not stationary, as the result of a study conducted by the Pontifical Council for Culture, until 1992. I don’t think conservatives, Catholics, the faithful, liberals, atheists, or any other group has a corner on intellectual honesty and integrity. Can’t we attempt to avoid stereotyping, David?

    Later, in comment #182, you ask

    Why is it that we can’t all, in Bruce’s terms, “all get along”. Is it religion’s fault?

    I don’t pretend to know precisely why we can’t “all get along.” As human animals, our behavior, like that of other animals, is complex, both as individuals and as social groups. However, the historical record is clear that religion has far too often played a dividing, not a uniting role. From the the vengeful Jahweh of the Old Testament, to the Aztec priests who felt the need to rip the hearts out of living sacrifical virgins and prisoners, to the spread of Islam at the edge of the sword from the 7th through 18th centuries, to the Crusades, to the Spanish Inquisition, to the forceful conversion of “heathens” to various Christian denominations from the late 15th century to darn near the present worldwide, to the jihadis of Al Qaeda, to the nutcases who want to nuke Iran until the rubble glows as a prelude to the End Times, the history of organized religion ain’t a pretty picture.

    I don’t believe that all folks who hold religious beliefs should be held accountable for these historical (and contemporary) atrocities. I don’t judge my religiously-minded friends and relatives in such a way. However, if we expect to ever achieve anything remotely resembling peace and justice on THIS WORLD, rather than hoping to achieve it in the afterlife, maybe, just maybe a first step would be to admit that no individual, and no individual religion/denomination/sect/cult will ever have a corner on the truth market, and that expecting there to be universal religious agreement is just pissin’ in the wind. It seems that the hardest three consecutive words for Homo sapiens, the Clever Upright Monkey, to say, are “I don’t know.” Perhaps in some distant day, when our sun is dimming (if we survive that long as a species) the Clever Upright Monkey will achieve god-like omniscience, and truly know the mind of God (or whether God exists). For now, I am content to keep my eyes wide open and say “I don’t know.”

    July 14, 2008
  194. David Ludescher said:

    I might need to take a “cognitive breaK” to think about the high-quality questions you have all presented. Perhaps someone (Clay, where are you?) would like to join in.

    July 14, 2008
  195. Paul Fried said:

    David: Thanks for taking a break. I was getting uncomfortable, not only with the thread drift (whew!), but also with some of the stereotyping.

    I consider myself a liberal in many ways, but I do like and sometimes read some theology (have a degree in it, too). I’m not an atheist, nor am I pro-abortion. Some religious folks would consider me too atheistic, while atheists and agnostics might consider me too optimistic about the prospects for religion. I am not unwaveringly pro-life: in cases of rape, I have a hard time imagining the value of any law that would make it necessary for a woman to carry the child to term. If a woman took the saintly position that she held nothing against the child because it was not the child who raped her, I’d be awed by her charity and courage (while still recommending adoption over keeping the child).

    But you can’t legislate a rape victim to become a Mother Theresa.

    So I’m uncomfortable with the stereotypes in that they don’t fit me, and don’t seem to fit others. Sometimes God (and/or the devil) is in the details.

    Or as Holly said, “Show me the stats.”

    For more centuries than we’ve had legal abortion, cultures often regarded wives and children more as legal property of the husband than as people with full rights of their own; in some cultures, daughters had a hard time inheriting property, even when there were no sons. What’s consistent about that? When the Declaration claimed that all men are born with certain inalienable rights, they weren’t talking about women (yet).

    In scripture (Deuteronomy 21:18-21), parents have the right to hand over a rebellious child for stoning (to death) by the town’s men. What’s consistent about that if you live in a modern age but still hold to the inerrant truth of the Bible as the Word of God? What’s consistent about that if we’re going to complain about abortion rights in a state with strict fetal death guidelines? Which rebellious children shall we stone this week?

    Americans consume too much and waste too much, and it seems it may contribute to dooming the planet to global climate change and dying oceans. For Christians, what kind of “stewards” of the earth have we been? What’s consistent about this? (I count myself among the guilty here).

    It’s safe to say that few people and cultures are even mostly consistent if you look closely enough. Religious folks would seem at first glance to have good reason to be self-righteous, and yet most major religions warn against pride and counsel humility, so some of the most famous and best-loved of saints are often those who don’t forget they’re sinners. Go figure. It’s not very consistent on the surface, but if you’re the humble Buddhist, or Muslim, or Jew, or Christian (or fill in the blanks), it tends to make sense for those who occasionally muster some humility (It’s not easy; I count myself among the guilty here, too).

    There are many Christians and Catholics who have never had an abortion, or performed one, or recommended one, but who have participated in their share of many other evils. Catholics confess at the start of mass to having sinned “through my own fault, in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do.” There’s plenty of evil in our own backyard and government that we have done little to stop. We could have impeached Bush, Cheney, Rove, Rumsfeld and Gonzales long ago if we were living up to our Christian mandate, and if enough of us had stood up. We could have saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Instead, too many of us may have been thinking that maybe the price of gas would go down, so we didn’t do enough, or ask enough questions. I know I didn’t do enough. So who are we to pick splinters out of others’ eyes?

    July 15, 2008
  196. Living in a world where Spirit Moves Through ALL Things, i don’t think the churches need to defend their biblical teachings as stories, either true or embellished, that show how things go if such and such circumstances exist, and if it is believed that Jesus walked this earth with instructions and demos of what is possible. DO these stories apply today…yes, if you want to maintain relations amongst family, friends, nations, and with the earth and God, though they may not represent all possibilities in our modern world.

    Zen Buddhists are all about living in the moment. Don’t worry about heaven, do the best you can with this heaven here on earth. When you are presented with a problem, listen to your self for a solution, if one is needed. Many problems solve themselves. Wow! Same if you decide to make a great gesture, listen and see if your instincts say yes or no or wait. This is because ZBs believe that we have access to the infinite, and that all knowledge is available to those who are ready to hear it.

    It all depends on how many channels you want to go through before you
    move to the Spirit Who Moves Through All Things.

    July 15, 2008
  197. john george said:

    Paul & Bright- Thank you for getting us back on track. I copied this from the second line of Griff’s post of the original article by David Brooks: “The cognitive revolution is not going to undermine faith in God — it’s going to challenge faith in the Bible.” This is what many of you have challenged David L. and myself about. David L. fell into the trap of defending his facet of the Faith against those who are not part of it, and I think he did a pretty good job. Unfortunately, none of us, if we are honest, has 100% of the revealed truth of the word of God in our particular stream. That is why we can grow in the faith.

    As far as there being common moral truths in all the great religions, I attribute this to us having a common ancestor- Adam, not some ape. Since these moral truths would have been passed from generation to generation orally before they were written down, I interpret this observation in this way. If you compare Islam, Judism and Christianity, we all have a common ancestor- Abraham, and he- Noah, and he, Adam. If the acount of the flood is true, as I believe it is, then it would follow that all the ancestors from Noah (all of us) would carry a precusor of the original teachings, and they would have been passed down orally within each race. It just depends on what you believe is an accurate interpretation of history. Some of you may label this circular logic, but I don’t think it is. Since science deals with observable phenomina, then there must be a basis to judge what we observe. I believe it is the same with the things of God. Whether you attribute this to God or not depends on your convictions.

    This leads us back to the question- what should we believe in? If a person is going to call himself a Christian, then he will be hard pressed to find anything in the Koran to base this on. He is (or at least should, I believe) base his faith on Biblical truth. The Bible, as it has been demonstrated in my and my friends’ lives, has proven to be accurate. I know we as Christians have many times failed in our demonstration of these truths. What the world is looking for right now is not a lot of hype, but some reality. He has promised in His word to produce signs that follow us believers. It is up to us to believe. Now, please don’t get under condemnation over this statement. He is also faithful to gently lead us into truth. And, as it is written, His word will not return to Him wihout accomplishing that thing for which He sent it out.

    July 16, 2008
  198. David Ludescher said:

    John: I wasn’t trying to defend my faith so much as trying to determine what cognitive revolutionists have to teach the “churched”.

    “Church-bashing”, “religion-bashing”, and “faith-bashing” seem to be a popular sport among certain segments of the population. Especially popular is using centuries-old practices of some people, who have claimed to be Christians, to argue that faith communities have nothing to teach modern man. These people often build false, incomplete, or ignorant systems of thought as substitutes for the previous faiths.

    Among the new faiths of modern man are: materialism, relativism, liberalism, sciencism, secularism, historicism, existentialism, nihilism, and, currently the most popular – undifferentiated pluralism.

    In my opinion, the “churched” and the “unchurched” must not shirk from the confrontation and clash of cultures, but must work toward a common understanding of what is demanded from us – morally, ethically, and politically. Both sides must admit the truths offerred by the others if we are to all, not only “get along”, but live meaningful and purposeful lives.

    The first thing to do is to admit that there are morally certain truths. Otherwise, the world is just full of chaos, with or without God.

    July 17, 2008
  199. john george said:

    David L.- Well stated, IMNSHO. We ought to get together for a cup of coffee sometime. The way my schedule has been going, it may be next year, but I’ll give you a call sometime.

    July 17, 2008
  200. Paul Fried said:

    David, I notice your claim that a starting point is the agreement that there are moral certainties. But morality, while linked closely to some major religions, is not the same as religion; Christianity’s Jesus says the most important laws are to love God and neighbor as self, but religion is not morality; you can have morality without religion, and in some cases, you can have religious sinners (religious but not moral).

    Furthermore, Jesus is cited in the gospels in numerous contexts where he challenges people’s assumptions and certainties about morality:
    – If the assumption (certainty) was that the Jews were the chosen people and the covenant and salvation were only for them, Jesus challenges it by telling the story of the Good Samaritan, and the gospel writers challenge it by telling the story of the Caananite woman and the Roman soldier (outsiders to Judaism) who ask Jesus for favors and prove to have great faith.
    – If the assumption (certainty) is that the Judaic law is to be followed carefully and to the letter, then Jesus challenges this by healing and picking corn on the Sabbath (“the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath”).
    – If the certainty was that only certain people (high priest?) could declare a Jubilee year in which debts were forgiven, Jesus challenges this by declaring one himself.
    – Etc.

    One could claim that now we have moral certainty because Jesus clarified everything for us, so the book is now closed. A hard claim to defend in the end.

    Or one could claim that Jesus’ challenge was that our certainties might always be challenged; there might always be exceptions to many rules.

    In this way, it might be that Jesus was a supreme relativist because he reminded people of the limits of human culture and certainty, and the radical claims of transcendence (which to some might include cultural evoltion, but to others might merely include a supreme God).

    Jesus is, in this way, like the line from Isaiah: “My ways are as far above your ways as the heavens are above the earth.” When faced with the supremely transcendent, what human understandings and laws can stand?

    This is where some agnostics and atheists may have some good instincts about certain truths: Authentic religion should not be self-serving (as it too often is), but should be compassionate and humble in the face of life’s wonders and mysteries. Instead, atheists and agnostics sometimes watch those of us who call ourselves religious, and they see things that often seem inauthentic and sometimes downright hypocritical. Sometimes atheists and agnostics are more in touch with mystery and transcendence, and we religious folks are stuck in the letter of the law (or scripture, or church doctrine, etc.).

    You have your list of “modern” faiths (some of them are actually as old as religion: materialism?). There’s another so-called “faith” that causes as much trouble now as it did in Jesus’ time: Conservatism, which sometimes takes the form of undue attention to the letter of the law, to the point of losing the spirit.

    July 18, 2008
  201. Paul Fried said:

    Here’s your circular argument:
    – Various conceptual revolutions (including the so-called revolution du jour, cognitive) challenge literal faith in the bible. Yet…
    – …in the face of this, you assert that there are various truths that have been passed on orally from Adam, Noah and Abraham, because you take all these stories in the bible very literally, as history, not as fable-written-as-catechism. Truths were passed on from Adam, Noah and Abraham, you claim, because you believe they were.
    – So it begs the question: You assume (by your particular flavor of Christian belief) the very thing that is being called into question.
    – Yet you claim it’s not a circular argument.

    You have a right to your beliefs, but you should call a spade a spade (in this case, admit the circular argument instead of claiming it is not one).

    Also consider that those who study the literary forms of the various books of the bible might not be destroying an always-held truth, but restoring an understanding of the biblical texts as they were originally intended by their first writers and as they were heard by their first audiences (restoring something that was lost over time and translation, over centuries). This might not be about the evil academics and secularists imposing falsehoods, but about an effort to strip away false modern expectations (of journalistic and scientific accuracy) that have been imposed on modern readings of the bible.

    Most early exegesis read the texts of the bible as spiritual allegories and symbols, not as historically-scientifically accurate. That only came later as new cultural expectations in evolving cultures dealt with new philosophies and sciences.

    July 18, 2008
  202. john george said:

    Paul- In your last post, you said,”…You assume (by your particular flavor of Christian belief) the very thing that is being called into question.” If you read my comment again, I thought I was making it clear that I CHOSE to believe the Bible as true. Perhaps I didn’t make that clear, but that was my intention. We all have to choose what foundation we work from to make our decisions. After seeing Biblical truth demonstrated in my life and the lives of my family and many friends, this has bolstered my confidence that I made the right decision. From my experience, it appears that the Kingdom of God works inversely to the pattern of the world. When I was an unbeliever, my challenge to believers was ‘”Show me the goods!” When someone did, I then found out that I will see something of God when I believe it, not I will believe it when I see it. There are other concepts that seem to be opposite, but I will not go into all those here.

    One term I have a little problem in reconciling is the term “literal interpretation.” I just take the Bible at face value for what it says. If the passage is poetry, then it is poetry. If it is propheting (predictive), then it is prophetic. If it is directive, then directive. If comparitive, then comparitive. When you say I am a literal interpreter, I perceive a condiscention, as if I am just following some fables of men. I could make the same judgement of humanism, for that matter (and that would be accurate.) The question we seem to be dancing around here is the “why” of faith. When I say I experience God’s involvement in my daily life, then I am saying I can find tangible evidence of this, not just some feeling. I have seen healings in myself, my immediate family and others. These have not been just a headache going away. When my second daughter, at the age of 10 mo., had her finger pinched in a door and broken to a 90 degree angle, and through prayer, have that finger straighten and the swelling go down instantly, then that pretty much makes a believer out of me. Has every person I’ve prayed for been healed? No. Can I axplain why? No. But just because I can’t explain nor have any control over the outcomes does not deter me from praying for the sick and injured.

    I have an aquaintence on the mission field in the mountains of Mexico. He has seen about 100 people raised from the dead. These are not just somone going unconscious and coming to, but two day old, deteriorating corpses. In fact, one of the resurections so shocked the small village they had gone into that all the people fled into the jungles. They eventually returned to the village to find their previously dead companion quite alive and well. Did this cause a mass turning of these people to the Lord? You better believe it. He also said that he has prayed for probably over a thousand dead people, but only these 100 or so actually came back. Can he/I explain this? No. Does he still pray for the dead? Yes, on every occasion he comes across. One of we humans’ mistakes, I believe, is trying to put God into a bottle so we have Him figured out and have the right “code” to access the miraculous. The Kingdom just doesn’t work this way. He is still soverign.

    In saying all this, I am just trying to point out that I have tangible evidence that the God of the Bible is quite alive and well. I am not just making an assumption out of convenience or naivete. When I am challenged by someone to “do some sign,” I will decline. I have no power in myself to produce any results. When God moves in a situation, though, it is quite evident. God will reveal Himself and glorify Himself as He choses.

    As far as the passing on of truths, I was only trying to establish the connection between Islam, Judaism & Christianity. But I do believe the explanation of the flood is plausible. I think it is interesting that all the ancient religions of the world make reference to the flood. There is also archeological evidence of a flood, such as petrified trees standing straight up in a hillside of soil in South Dakota. If I am making any assumption, it is that there is a God, but from my anecdotal evidences, I think my assumption, if it be, is validated.

    You made this statement in your post #204,”…Jesus is, in this way, like the line from Isaiah: ‘My ways are as far above your ways as the heavens are above the earth.’ When faced with the supremely transcendent, what human understandings and laws can stand?” I agree with this, but I’m not sure I understand what you are trying to accomplish with the statement. On the one hand, you question my “literal” interpretation of the Bible, yet this would appear to invalidate any attempts to question it’s authority. What did you really mean, here?

    You also said, “…Authentic religion should not be self-serving (as it too often is), but should be compassionate and humble in the face of life’s wonders and mysteries.” I believe this is true. It is also written in NAS:James
    {1:27} Pure and undefiled religion in the sight of our God and Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
    2002 (C) Bible
    That is why I made this statement in my post #201, “…I know we as Christians have many times failed in our demonstration of these truths. What the world is looking for right now is not a lot of hype, but some reality.” God challenges us many times in His word to test Him and see if what He says is true. This is the invitation in NAS:Psalms
    {34:8} O taste and see that the LORD is good;
    How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!
    2002 (C) Bible
    Like the old ad said, try it, you’ll like it.

    Oh, just one more question. What on earth were you doing up at 2:51 am?! Do you have a night job or something?

    July 19, 2008
  203. Patrick Enders said:

    In my opinion, the “churched” and the “unchurched” must not shirk from the confrontation and clash of cultures, but must work toward a common understanding of what is demanded from us – morally, ethically, and politically. Both sides must admit the truths offerred by the others if we are to all, not only “get along”, but live meaningful and purposeful lives.

    The first thing to do is to admit that there are morally certain truths. Otherwise, the world is just full of chaos, with or without God.

    David L,
    I’m glad to hear that you want to work towards a common understanding. Here’s my first question:
    What is a “truth”, and who determines it? More importantly, how does a group of people prove that their “truths” are true, to people who don’t share the same beliefs about the nature of the universe?

    “Truth” is a very high standard you’ve set for yourself. Merely asserting that you believe something is true, and I also believe that something is true, does not prove it to be a “truth.” For a truth to be truly true, it would have to be proven beyond all doubt.

    July 19, 2008
  204. John George said:

    Patrick- As always, you bring up a couple good points. Sometimes, I think we get hung up on the words we try to use to deliniate our convictions. For instance, your comment about having a common understanding, what are your expectations that you see need to be accomplished to achieve this? It seems there is an underlying premise in many of our comments that to have a common understanding means we must have a common belief system. I’m not sure on this, but I’m throwing it out as an idea. It would seem to me that we can have understanding and agreement on specific actions, say a government structure, without having a common belief system. I think the founding fathers were able to achieve this in laying out the constitution. We can choose to live in peace with one another, if that is the common goal, rather than to have total chaos. It seems there is a common value we all have in our sheer existence, and being able to recognize and accept specific differences is, IMHO, a sign of maturity.

    I have this opinion about any militant/radical faction of any belief system is that they are trying to impose their belief system on others rather than coming to an understanding and acceptance of the differences. I think this is exemplified throughout history, re. the Crusaders and the current Jihadists. I don’t think we can point fingers at any particular religion as being intrensically this way, but to deny that some adherents have practiced this is foolish.

    Your assertion about truth would appear to make it subjective in nature. Is it? Can we just say that a particular thing is true just because we believe it? Perhaps, but this sounds foolish also. Perhaps the application of scientific principles cannot be applied here. If something cannot be demonstrated by evidence, does that make it false? Could be. There has been a number of assertions made about things standing up to peer review as being a scientific safety net. How is having a group of agnostic scientists who all believe the same thing review certain evidence any different that having a group of theologians who all believe the same thing evaluate the same evidence? Just because the scientists are agnostic, does that make them more credible? Just wondering. It would seem, according to Ben Stein’s documentary that this could be so.

    For me, this goes back to the responsibility each of us who profess to be Christians has to the world around us. How good of a job do we do in demonstrating the principles we believe in? It is written that the world will see our love toward one another and be drawn to it. I’m not sure we have done a very good job of demonstrating this within our own groups, let alone what Jesus challenged us- love your enemies and bless those who despitefully use you. I miss the mark on this many times, but just because I fail doesn’t mean I’m going to stop aiming there. And just because I fail does not make this any less true.

    July 19, 2008
  205. David Ludescher said:


    First, my critique of the liberal/cognitive/leftist/bobo/scientific/rationalist mentality was an attempt to reach a common understanding about a shared reality. Religion/churches/faith is not an irrational human response; it is necessary if we want to become fully human.

    Second, truth is not a high standard for judging our knowledge/ideas – it is the only standard. For example, evolution is not a “truth”; it is a theory. Most people believe it to be true based upon evidence. If evolution had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be true, then it would be fair to say that evolution is not “true”.

    Truth is when the evidence coincides with the concept. Sometimes truth is discovered when the evidence confirms the concept, e.g. evolution. Sometimes truth is revealed when the concept is discovered which confirms the evidence – e.g. the Bible.

    One of the failures of the “cognitive revolution” is its unwillingness to admit the truths that have been revealed to men through their “religious experiences”. Another failure is attacking revealed truths because of a lack of proof – for example, claiming that pre-born children are not human.

    July 19, 2008
  206. Patrick Enders said:

    David L, you state:

    For example, evolution is not a “truth”; it is a theory. Most people believe it to be true based upon evidence. If evolution had to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to be true, then it would be fair to say that evolution is not “true”.

    I agree completely: Evolution is not truth. It is a Theory.

    A Theory (in technical use, which is far different from its colloquial use), is “a more or less verified or established explanation accounting for known facts or phenomena: the theory of relativity.” (

    But you also assert,

    “Sometimes truth is discovered when the evidence confirms the concept, e.g. evolution.”

    Are you now suggesting that evolution is a truth? Because science makes no claim to have proven the truth of evolution.

    I offer an excerpt from the testimony of Dr. Ken Miller, Brown University Professor of Biology, in the 2005 “Intelligent Design” trial, as presented in the excellent 2007 Nova documentary “Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial” (

    ROBERT MUISE [lawyer] (Dramatization): Dr. Miller, would you agree that Darwin’s theory of evolution is not an absolute truth?

    KENNETH R. MILLER [Brown University Professor of Biology] (Dramatization): Well, I certainly would, for the very simple reason that no theory in science, no theory, is ever regarded as absolute truth. We don’t regard atomic theory as truth. We don’t regard the germ theory of disease as truth. We don’t regard the theory of friction as truth. We regard all of these theories as well-supported, testable explanations that provide natural explanations for natural phenomena. [emphasis mine.]

    ROBERT MUISE (Dramatization): Should we regard Darwin’s theory of evolution as tentative?

    KENNETH R. MILLER (Dramatization): We should regard all scientific explanations as being tentative, and that includes the theory of evolution.


    Now, Dr. Miller is a supporter, not a critic, of evolutionary theory. He goes on to state (after a discussion of the overwhelming evidence supporting the Theory of Evolution),

    Not a single observation, not a single experimental result, has ever emerged in 150 years that contradicts the general outlines of the theory of evolution. Any theory that can stand up to 150 years of contentious testing is a pretty darn good theory, and that’s what evolution is.

    But it’s still not truth. Again, because there are still unending ways to test the Theory.

    By it very principles, science first looks at the minutiae of the world, seeks to see patterns and similarities, and then develops hypotheses about what predictable principles might be behind the observations we make. Scientists then spend years trying to prove those hypotheses wrong. If a hypothesis is thoroughly tested, and not contradicted by any of the evidence found through that testing, it can eventually come to be commonly accepted, and accepted as that highest thing that science can produce, a Theory.

    Yet you say evolution has proved a truth. I disagree. You can’t prove that you are right, and I cannot prove you are wrong. So now what?

    July 20, 2008
  207. Patrick Enders said:

    John G, I believe that you hit the nail on the head when you say,

    It seems there is an underlying premise in many of our comments that to have a common understanding means we must have a common belief system. I’m not sure on this, but I’m throwing it out as an idea. It would seem to me that we can have understanding and agreement on specific actions, say a government structure, without having a common belief system. I think the founding fathers were able to achieve this in laying out the constitution. We can choose to live in peace with one another, if that is the common goal, rather than to have total chaos. It seems there is a common value we all have in our sheer existence, and being able to recognize and accept specific differences is, IMHO, a sign of maturity.

    This is, I believe, is the essence of the matter. Our society has been endowed by its creators with excellent democratic institutions designed to help us work and live together positively and peacefully, without ever being required to agree on any universal truths. We can talk with each other, we can help each other out, and when we agree, we can work together to make our society better. When we disagree, we have a well-established set of institutions designed to help us (eventually) hammer out a compromise that we can all live with.

    David L,
    I understand that you believe that there are absolute truths of the universe which you can perceive and observe in your daily life, while the rest of us are deluding ourselves. I am sorry that you believe that all of us who don’t share your world view are misguided, inconsistent, hypocritical, or even not “fully human.”

    I have not attempted to show that your beliefs are wrong. Rather, I have simply attempted to show that there are other belief systems which can be reasonably held, and which cannot be disproven merely by your say-so.

    This seems to be a lost cause.

    I think my time may be better spent having a coffee with John G, contemplating Capital Improvement Plans, and figuring out who to vote for in the upcoming elections.

    July 20, 2008
  208. Patrick Enders said:

    Oops. Bad formatting above. Here it is again:

    John G, I believe that you hit the nail on the head when you say,

    It seems there is an underlying premise in many of our comments that to have a common understanding means we must have a common belief system. I’m not sure on this, but I’m throwing it out as an idea. It would seem to me that we can have understanding and agreement on specific actions, say a government structure, without having a common belief system. I think the founding fathers were able to achieve this in laying out the constitution. We can choose to live in peace with one another, if that is the common goal, rather than to have total chaos. It seems there is a common value we all have in our sheer existence, and being able to recognize and accept specific differences is, IMHO, a sign of maturity.

    This is, I believe, is the essence of the matter. Our society has been endowed by its creators with excellent democratic institutions designed to help us work and live together positively and peacefully, without ever being required to agree on any universal truths. We can talk with each other, we can help each other out, and when we agree, we can work together to make our society better. When we disagree, we have a well-established set of institutions designed to help us (eventually) hammer out a compromise that we can all live with.

    David L,
    I understand that you believe that there are absolute truths of the universe which you can perceive and observe in your daily life, while the rest of us are deluding ourselves. I am sorry that you believe that all of us who don’t share your world view are misguided, inconsistent, hypocritical, or even not “fully human.”

    I have not attempted to show that your beliefs are wrong. Rather, I have simply attempted to show that there are other belief systems which can be reasonably held, and which cannot be disproven merely by your say-so.

    This seems to be a lost cause.

    I think my time may be better spent having a coffee with John G, contemplating Capital Improvement Plans, and figuring out who to vote for in the upcoming elections.

    July 20, 2008
  209. Paul Fried said:

    John G: Thanks for your good comments, questions and testimony in #204.

    I’m not against the choice to believe, but there are different ways to choose to believe in biblical truth, and different ways to interpret. Whether you feel your belief is a choice or a matter of being impelled (that God chose you, and not that you chose God), I still think it’s a circular argument for the reasons I described in my earlier post.

    I attempted in an earlier post to differentiate between the more vague complaint about “literal interpretations,” but I’ll give it another try here:

    First, we all start with the literal interpretation. Where we go from there depends on a variety of factors.

    When you hear the story of Jesus speaking to the Geresene Demoniac, it sounds as if you might take the story fairly literally as a description of a historical event. That’s OK. But when the demoniac says his name is “Legion” (instead of “hosts” or some traditional translation of a Greek or Aramaic word), he’s using a latinate word in an otherwise Greek text. And “Legion” happens to be the name of the occupying army: the Roman Legion.

    If one has been conditioned to take the story literally as one about the literal healing of a demoniac and the release (and demise?) of the demons in him, then one would tend to interpret it that way. I would guess that you would be in this camp.

    If one were living at the time of the disciples and listening to the early gospels proclaimed in the first Chrisitan communities, one might see the demoniac’s naming of his demon as “Legion” as a kind of code for a complaint about the Roman occupation and the suffering that went with it. it’s a Latinate word in an otherwise Greek text, so it would stand out, but not so much that the Roman army or authorities would necessarily catch wind of it and arrest one for listening to or proclaiming that passage.

    The same is true of the parable of the good seed and the enemy who sows the weeds. This may have been read, at the time of the gospel’s origins, as a parable about the kingdom and the Roman occupation, but also about sinners and general evildoers. Don’t destroy the good harvest by trying to get rid of the weeds (don’t bring destruction down upon all of Israel by rebellion against the Roman occupying forces). After all, some of the Romans might benefit from the Christian message.

    The problem I have with the too-literal, or literal-as-historical interpretations, is that they assume that the gospels were written as literal history, or in other words, they bring to their interpretations the same expectations we bring to our modern world, in which we have tape recorders and video cams and strive, at least, for journalistic accuracy. They didn’t have our expectations at the time the gospels were written: There are cultures besides Christianity where we know writers used poetic license to get across a point.

    Getting across the point was more important than historical accuracy in such cultures. So to assume that poetic license was not used, and to expect literal, historical truth, is to impose something on the gospels that was never intened in the first place, and it ends up reading an ancient text very badly through the rose-colored lenses of the present culture and its expectations.

    I believe the bible has a great deal of truth to offer, but I don’t expect the Genesis stories of the creation of earth to be historically or scientifically accurate, or even a dim, symbolic rendering (in which a day of creation lasts x number of years or centuries).

    Regarding unexplainable healings, etc., I’ve had similar experiences (but not stories from Mexico about 100’s raised from the dead. There’s a lot in life that we can’t explain. But the older I get, the more I find that Jesus seemed to prefer teaching over signs and wonders, even complaining about people’s desire for miracles. Sometimes miracles are in the eye of the beholder as much as they are in the event. Some of the stories of healing of the deaf, blind and lame are considered allegories (more than history) for how the teachings of Jesus open eyes and ears, and help people become active, positive players in their lives (instead of being crippled spiritually). I don’t need to see miracles, or to put my hand in Jesus’ side, to believe in the spiritual truths; but netiher do I need the historical literalism.

    Regarding the hour of my posting, I’ve always been something of a night owl, but in the summer when I’m not teaching, and when my wife and daughter are in Iowa visiting relatives, my son loves to stay up and watch movies, and then I always read or write a bit before I go to bed, so at times, I catch up on email or read LoGroNo in the wee hours. Much less likely to happen during the school year.

    July 20, 2008
  210. john george said:

    Paul- I, too, remember the late nights I spent with my kids discussing life issues, etc. There is a reason we have children when we are young. I couldn’t do what I did then at my present age.

    As far as the various perspectives of approaching the Bible, we all must come to some conclusion as to how we are going to do that. There are different perspectives and combinations of words in the original texts that, I believe, cause us pause in this present age. For instance, the creation story in Genesis consists of 3 primary perspectives- Yahwist, Elohist and Priestly. This is most likely the predominant traditions that the writers drew from in recording the original texts. I don’t have a problem with this, in that I believe it gives us three perspectives of God that are important in revealing His character that any one of the sources would be incomplete in accomplishing. I don’t see any difference in three scientists giving their perspectives on a particular experiment. The traditions all come from, or attempt to establish, a common perspective- there is a God who created our universe. The three scientists will come to the same conclusion in evaluating their experiment, even though each will have their own unique perspective. I guess I just don’t see the difference, here, and I don’t think these things should be stumbling blocks to faith.

    The same is true of the Gospels- they were written at different times by different authors and each gives his own perspective of the same story- the birth, life, death and resurection of Jesus. A person can spend a lot of time tearing down various word combinations, which I think we see in other streams on this blog, but miss the importance of the specific perspective of the other person we are tewaring down. I do not have a problem with there being a combination of Romanic and Greek words in the same text. After all, both cultures had a profound effect on the area being refered to. I would use an example of my own household. My oldest daughter and son-in-law live with us right now. He is native Costa Rican, so we have a combination of both languages going on in the house. There are a number of Spanish words that can better describe a particular situation than English words, so we intersperse them where we desire. As far as the word “legion”, this most often refers to a company of 1000 soldiers. It can also mean a strong company. That is not of any significance to me. It appears to be to you, and that is ok. The idea here, in my simple approach to the Word, is two sided. 1) Jesus desires to and can set people free from a lifetime of torment. 2) The other conclusion is that a normal human state is one of being clothed and sane. I suppose you can read other things into this. There has been much read into many things when it comes to the manufacture and support of various conspiracies. I am not saying you are doing this in any way, but I again would offer that each of us must choose how we relate to the Bible.

    There is another example of a particular wording that occurs in the 1st. chapter of the Gospel of John. NAS:John
    The Deity of Jesus Christ
    {1:1} In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
    2002 (C) Bible. The idea being presented here is that Jesus is God. The original Greek text does not say this. The best translation would be that “the word was next to or approached God.” Does this mean that our present day translations are incorrect, and that Jesus really isn’t God? I don’t think so. As I have studied the Greek culture, they do not have a word that could be translated “the Word was God,” because they could not concieve of something/one being two things/persons at the same time. The weakness is not in the translation but in the original language. When you hold this verse up in comparison to the other references in the prophetic writings about the Messiah, it is evident that He is God. This is what I refer to as taking the whole counsel of God. Does this make any sense?

    You also made this statement, “I don’t need to see miracles, or to put my hand in Jesus’ side, to believe in the spiritual truths…”. I agree with you wholeheartedly. I also do believe that God is desirous of demonstrating His power in our physical world, and He desires to get us involved in that because He loves us and is not an indifferent God. It was He who sought out Adam in the garden afer he disobeyed, not visa-versa. When He asked Adam where he was, it was not to find him, but to get Adam to come out with the truth and not hide anymore. We can allow anything to happen in our lives that can result in a sense of separation from Him, including intellectualism. Having a high level of intelligence does not, in and of itself, separate us from God unless we allow it to become god of our life. When we confess this, we are not letting Him know something He wasn’t aware of. His desire is that we acknowledge what He already knows.

    You also said, “…but neither do I need the historical literalism.” I suppose you may not, but in my experience, it has helped explain a lot of paranormal events that I could not explain any other way. I believe that the whole concept of we humans being invited to experience the Kingdom of God rather than Him forcing it upon us is a privilege. The “religious” term for this is grace. Whether you choose to be a literal interpreter or a historical critical interpreter is yours to make. My question is whether the historical critical approach builds up your’s or anyone else’s faith in Him? If it does, then may God bless you richly in it, for it is written in NAS:Jude
    {1:20} But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit,
    2002 (C) Bible. As far as Jesus prefering teaching over signs, it would appear to me that the signs gave credence to the teaching. Even some observers argued this, as in NAS:John
    {3:2} this man came to Jesus by night and said to Him, “Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”
    2002 (C) Bible. The signs aren’t a necessity; they are a privilege.

    July 21, 2008
  211. After watching World Youth Day on EWTN tv yesterday, I am rejuvenated and wanted to share part of the message from Pope Benedict concerning his words, and that is each of us hear the words in our own way in our own hearts, and we will each hear what we need to take from the message or homily, and do what we can to use the gifts we were given to go out and love our neighbors and friends and enemies and poor alike, to honor Christ and to enrich our own lives.

    I think many of us remember stories about how Satan would appear to his next victim as the person to whom the victim would most likely respond in
    a way favorable to El Diablo. Whereas Satan tries to control and manipulate the response, Christ allows the response to come as the respondent feels appropriate for his or her situation and experience.

    This is also the same in musical lyrics oftentimes. Upon hearing a love song, one might think, oh, this is like the love i have for my parents, and another will think, this is about the love I have for my significant other,
    and so on and so forth.

    You try to move as many people as possible but not being too specific. Allow for the interpretations as these will become part of the varied and diverse experiences we know as free peoples of the earth.

    See, the devil only wants you to look at it one way, like the suppressive governments of the 20th century. Whereas Jesus lets us scamper around like children until such time comes and we may decide to follow Him as He allows for sin and error with the church providing a weekly way out through confession and penance (thou we are not to take that lightly by repeating the same sins over and over again…that means a big delay in the enlightenment process, a punishment in itself.)

    Well, I’ll cut back now,Kinda preachy for Monday AM, not sorry though. 🙂

    July 21, 2008
  212. Paul Fried said:

    John: You write, “My question is whether the historical critical approach builds up your’s or anyone else’s faith in Him? If it does, then may God bless you richly in it….”

    Thanks for the wiggle-room.

    You also write, “When you hold this verse up in comparison to the other references in the prophetic writings about the Messiah, it is evident that He is God. This is what I refer to as taking the whole counsel of God. Does this make any sense? ”

    It makes sense to a point, but realize that you head in one direction with this, and I head in another: To you, “whole counsel” seems to be a way of reconciling all possible contradictions according to “whole counsel” assumptions. I have a hard time with this. If the original in John doesn’t say that “the Word is God,” but only the translation, then yes, it should receive attention. In one passage, Paul claims that Jesus only becomes Son of God after he obeyed to the death on the cross, which is very different from John’s Christology, for example. I think we do an injustice to tweak John and Paul and other texts, and then claim that they were all in harmony because we assume that the inerrant Word of God can’t contradict itself.

    Some Christians (often those inside organized religion) are never bothered by these seeming contradictions for the very reason you cite: They never notice them. The translations have been tweaked so that we don’t notice potential conflicts. In other words, we’re not reading a careful translation of a sacred text, but a doctrinally corrected translation geared to reconcile all possible differences. It has been censored, in other words, by authority figures that claim the power and truth of a sacred text, but then are unwilling to let that power and truth be, and live with some of the finer details of what it says.

    This would not be my approach. If as Paul says, the body is one but has many members, and if the eye should not say to the ear that the ear is unimportant, then neither should sacred texts be censored and reconciled to reflect a “pure” view of doctrine. This would be like saying everyone should be Catholic, or Wisconsin Synod Lutheran, and nothing else. It seems a position of little faith in God, but great faith in the control of the one doing the censorship; a kind of self-idolatry.

    You have your approach that takes into account what you call the “whole counsel” of God. I’d use my historical-critical approach and ponder how a particular text, written at a particular time, reflects the concerns of those people at that time; and I’d also remember that the view of God reflected in the many texts that make up the bible is a view that was evolving through many dialectics. It was not in any simple way the one voice of one God, but rather, the many voices of many peoples, speaking in various ways, striving for a clearer vision, given changing and challenging circumstances and questions. If in fact one voice of one God speaks through all of that, it’s only in a most mysterious way, not easy or self-evident to grasp at all.

    Your “whole counsel” approach imposes some assumptions on your interpretations of the text (and some choices have already been made for you by the translators, as you’ve noted). My historical-critical approach imposes its own assumptions too, but my scholarly faith about my assumptions hopes that I’ll get a clearer picture of what the writers and editors intended, and I trust that this can be fruitful, and will be enough to provide my daily bread, without having to be censored and reconciled.

    And finally, again, I would note your use of the word “choose” in relation to the way you and I interpret. Again, there is that famous scripture passage: “You did not choose me; I chose you and commissioned you to go out and bear much fruit” (John 15:16). Some people experience religion as a choice. Others experience it as a gift, as something that comes clear, slowly or over a long period of time. I’ve read scripture by way of the historical-critical approach long enough to have seen great value and truths in it, and when things seem plain and true after some labors, it often seems less like a choice, and more like being chosen, or like something is somewhat self-evident. People who use a historical-critical approach sometimes have this experience too.

    July 21, 2008
  213. john george said:

    Paul- I like your comment here, “…Some people experience religion as a choice. Others experience it as a gift, as something that comes clear, slowly or over a long period of time.” I see these as being two facets of the same experience. I look at Christianity as a “gift” from God. I also believe the gift doesn’t do me any good until I receive it (choose) and unwrap and apply it. From that point, there is a lifetime of continuing revelation of what this gift actually entails. I think I use some of your historical critical approach more than I probably recognize. I have not defined my search in these terms. When I was in seminary for the short time I was there in the mid ’70’s, the historical critical approach, for the most part, seemed more like agnostocism. Perhaps that attitude was more in the professor than in the approach itself, so please forgive me if I projected that onto you. Just because I say I take the Scriptures at face value does not mean that I don’t question and wrestle with them. Mine is not a passive approach to the word, just as yours is not. I appreciate your depth of scrutiny and willingness to articulate it. As we often discover through open communication like this, there are probably more things we have in common than there are differences. Hopefully that thought is not repugnant to you.

    One comment about my use of the word “choose”. I believe that when we enter into studying and trying to understand things that are paranormal, and not universally demonstrable, there is a point at which we make a choice of what to believe. I just want to make it clear that these are my choices and not someone else’s, ie.: a bishop or church leader. I believe in the priesthood of the believer. We each have the right, authority, permission, or however you want to term it, to find our own understanding of the Kingdom of God. I (we) do not need to go through some other person to determine the truth of the Scriptures or approach God. You say that I am already doing this because there are discrepencies in the translation, and I am a slave to the interpretations and predjudices of a particular translator. For me, this is where faith comes in- that God was able to get enough of the important things of the Kingdom into the Bible through imperfect men to be able to establish that Kingdom in the hearts of people.

    You also said, “…If in fact one voice of one God speaks through all of that, it’s only in a most mysterious way, not easy or self-evident to grasp at all.” I agree wholeheartedly on this point. In fact, I believe that understanding of the Kingdom of God can ONLY come by revelation of the Holy Spirit. If this Kingdom were that easy to understand with our own intellect, we would not need God’s involvement, nor would the World be in the state it is in today. I believe God’s foremost desire is to have relationship and fellowship directly qith each of us. Back to learning truth,these two scriptures bear that out. NAS:John
    {14:26} “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.
    2002 (C) Bible and NAS:Luke
    {12:11} “When they bring you before the synagogues and the rulers and the authorities, do not worry about how or what you are to speak in your defense, or what you are to say;
    {12:12} for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”
    2002 (C) Bible. I believe that any growth we have in understanding and living out the Scriptures comes by revelation, and not our own intellect. God works through our intellect, but the desire to seek Him out does not originate from within our soul. It is deposited there by the Holy Spirit, Christianity is not a passive life of resignation, but an active one of seeking and finding.

    July 21, 2008
  214. Paul Fried said:

    John: You write, “When I was in seminary for the short time I was there in the mid ’70’s, the historical critical approach, for the most part, seemed more like agnostocism. Perhaps that attitude was more in the professor than in the approach itself.”

    This brings to mind two things: First, an observation by C.S. Lewis regarding what seems to be the faith experience of many people, as related to Jesus’ words on the cross. Lewis observed that in one gospel account (Mark), Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” (quoting Ps. 22). He then used this as an analogy for faith experience, and wondered if perhaps people, as they mature in faith, sometimes experience more alienation instead of less. In other words, to a neophite or beginner, every coincidence is a miracle or answered prayer. To a person of mature faith, with clearer priorites, life’s greatest mysteries still elude, God seems more distant, and one sometimes enters a long, dark night of the soul (yes, a reference to mysticism).

    Second, some passages from scripture came to mind: Paul (in 1 Cor) talks of the difference between being and thinking like a child, or like an adult. And at the end of the gospel of John (sea-shore, disciples fishing), Jesus speaks of how, when Peter was young, he put on his own belt and went where he pleased, but later on, others would put a belt on him and take him where he would not wish to go (this is the way some theology students feel, squirming in class while their childhood faith is challenged to become something more critically differentiated).

    Children take the Genesis story, and the Noah story, very literally. But many seminarians and theology majors tell stories of losing–or almost losing–their religion in seminary or theology school. Maybe adults are ‘supposed’ to read the bible differently, and maybe a mature faith is like C.S. Lewis describes: Maybe sometimes, it looks a lot more mysterious, and more like agnosticism, than like an easy, literal childhood faith.

    Finally, you wrote, “As we often discover through open communication like this, there are probably more things we have in common than there are differences. Hopefully that thought is not repugnant to you.” Not at all. I think our faith in the value of conversation is very similar.

    July 22, 2008
  215. Holly Cairns said:

    Mine is not a passive approach to the Word, just as yours is not.

    Count me in, too.

    I don’t think we choose God, though. That doesn’t sit right with me, exactly.

    I am not a literalist, but I wouldn’t align myself with “theorists” to prove that point. I just realize there are many messages in the Bible, and mostly the message of love is important. I’d still like more information on the real Jesus. You’d think at least one of those many disciples would have taken notes.

    I think there are more things alike than different between us all. 🙂

    July 23, 2008
  216. john george said:

    Paul- The one thing I have found in my walk with God is born up in a number of scriptures, both Old & New Testament, that attribute God’s ways, judgements, etc. to be unsearchable. It seems the deeper a person goes into God, the more we realize we are just scratching the surface. There are two reactions to this that can be counterproductive- hopelessness and skepticism. These are not the only two, mind you, but I want to touch on these two. Because God is so deep, a person can become hopeless in his pursuit of Him. I like to think it is God’s joy to keep our appetite whet just a little bit. Besides, if we really could figure Him out, He wouldn’t be much of a God. Heb. 11:6 comes to mind here. Hopelessness is a baracade to greater understanding. It seems there is a pattern in the Kingdom that moves around suffering. I’m not sure why God seems to have set it up this way, but it can be exemplified through many of the Biblical stories. Perhaps the examples are there for us to realize that, as Holly stated, there are more things alike than different between us.

    Skepticism, on the otherhand, can lead to apathy, if we are not willing to press through on an issue. It can also produce doubt, which I differentiate from questioning. I believe God challenges us to question Him. This reference in NAS:Malachi
    {3:10} “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, so that there may be food in My house, and test Me now in this,” says the LORD of hosts, “if I will not open for you the windows of heaven and pour out for you a blessing until it overflows.
    2002 (C) Bible would seem to indicate that. I have tested God in this, and He has shown Himself to be true to His word. But we are admonished not to test Him as the chilren of Israel did in the wilderness- see I Cor. 10:1-12 and Heb. 3: 7-13. It seems there is a proper way to go about testing God at His word, and it lies in the attitude of the heart. And, just to keep us in reality when we think we have figured God out, Heb. 3:12 says it best.

    Where I come to in this is Heb. 3:13. Let us encourage one another while we have opportunity. There are certainly enough things to be discouraged about in this present time. To know that God loves us, and that we can love one another, is the second of the greatest commandments. I hope to strive toward that.

    July 24, 2008