Saturday, February 24, 2007

Following God’s example?

I am not an expert on the Bible, but there are some things in that book that I find incredibly disconcerting, especially when it comes to God’s moral conduct. It is often said that a leader who is worthy of respect is a leader who sets an example. When I read through the pages of the Bible, I become more convinced that if the God of the Bible exists, he is the type of leader I will not follow, simply because he sets an example that at times I find morally objectionable. I’ve written this post in the realisation that I could be mistaken, that it is possible that I’ve missed something. If so, please let me know where I’ve gone wrong.

One of the arguments for the truth of Christianity, put forward by various apologists, including CS Lewis, is that all humans are endowed with a moral sense of right and wrong. Due to the fact that this objective, moral sense exists, there must be a Moral Law Giver (i.e., God).

For arguments sake, let’s accept that this divine moral sense exists. Now, the problem is this: as a human being I must have been endowed with a slightly different moral sense than that of the God of the Bible. Why? Well, there are instances of God’s conduct that differ substantially from what I, and many others, consider to be ‘moral’.

A few examples:

  • Many would consider it immoral to kill an innocent human being, especially if it is a child. The God of the Old Testament, however, ordered the Israelite nation to kill children (1 Samuel 15:3). As a Christian, would you kill a child if God ordered you to do it? If God orders it, is it moral?

  • Many would consider it immoral to implement the death penalty for mundane, victimless actions. Again, the God of the Bible seems to act otherwise: think of the death of Uzzah (2 Samuel 6:3-8) who was struck down dead for simply trying to stop the Ark of the Covenant from toppling over. Also think of the thousands who perished simply because King David held a census (2 Samuel 24:1-15). And what of Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11) who were killed for simply lying?

  • Many would consider it illogical to hold individuals accountable for the crimes of their parents or their ancestors. According to Exodus 20:5 and 2 Samuel 12:7-14, the God of the Bible seems to hold individuals guilty by association.

  • Many would consider it just for a person to be judged by their actions, but according to conservative Christian doctrine, we are not saved by who we are in terms of character, or by the deeds that we perform. Instead, we are judged on the small act of belief. Mass murderers who surrender to Jesus on their deathbeds will be welcomed into heaven, but those who do not believe in the Christian message, but who have devoted their lives to charity and social causes, will go to hell.

Am I interpreting the Bible correctly here? When I read the Bible, these are some of the questions that I ponder: why does God order humans to follow a moral system that he himself does not adhere to? Why are some of his actions in conflict with the moral sense that many people – including most Christians – follow today? Why the double standard?


CyberKitten said...

I was given a copy of C S Lewis's 'Mere Christianity' by a christian @ work. He told me that the book had convinced him that Christianity was the path to follow and as a rather outspoken atheist he thought that it would change my mind.

Quite frankly I found the book to be unreadable. The idea of a Universal Morality Code put forward by Lewis was laughable. Just a few minutes thought and a passing knowledge of history blows that idea *so* out of the water that I lost all patience with the book and gave it back to the guy who leant it to me.

Hard Rain said...

Ironically enough, I encourage as many people as I can to read the Bible thoroughly.

I've found the more you read, interpret and understand from the Bible, the more you gauge just how infinitely absurd, not just Christianity is, but organized religion as a whole.

Martin said...

Yet again we find ourselves dealing with the dubious religious argument that it requires an external judge (god) for anyone to have [what we generally judge as] a good personal moral code (be kind, help others, use your turn indicator, &c.).

It seems freethinkers, humanists, and/or rationalists just can't convince the religious that we can have a good moral sense guided by what we have learned from the experience of our lives, which, yes, includes a good amount of teaching from others. Teachings that we, as freethinkers, put up against the sum of our experience and reject or accept as we believe best.

How about a theory from the evolutionary end of things: those groups which developed moral codes which promoted caring of others and other similar traits found themselves in an advantageous position in terms of long-term survivability. While the argument can be made that the most belligerent are the ones who survive, recent evidence suggests that such advantage is short lived--evolutionarily speaking and the cooperators ultimately win out.

Like most freethinkers, I tend to believe that the moral teahings of religion, while perhaps once a tool for passing on effective cultural behaviour, have long since lost their value because somewhere along the line they also included the requirement to accept the infallibility of religious teachings and leaders and crushed the process of personal evaluation.

It has taken a lot of us a long time to shake those teachings.

Juno Walker said...

Kevin -

Instead of playing devil's advocate, so to speak, you might want to direct your readers to philosopher Julian Baggini's excellent summary of Plato's famous Euthypryo dilemma. Here's the link to Baggini's analysis. And here's an excerpt:

"Plato made this point extremely clearly in a dialogue called Euthypryo, after which the following dilemma was named. Plato's protagonist Socrates posed the question, do the gods choose what is good because it is good, or is the good good because the gods choose it? If the first option is true, that shows that the good is independent of the gods (or in a monotheistic faith, God). Good just is good and that is precisely why a good God will always choose it. But if the second option is true, then that makes the very idea of what is good arbitrary. If it is God's choosing something alone that makes it good, then what is there to stop God choosing torture, for instance, and thus making it good? This is of course absurd, but the reason why it is absurd is that we believe that torture is wrong and that is why God would never choose it. To recognize this, however, is to recognize that we do not need God to determine right and wrong. Torture is not wrong just because God does not choose it."


FCSuper said...

Yes, the bible is contradictory, and its adherents are ALL hypocrites.

Also, I don't hold "good" and "bad" are moral standards. Everything that one does is both beneficial and detrimental at the same time. I may buy a loaf of bread for a poor family, but that loaf was made by growing and then killing yeast; it was likely delivered to the store in a truck that consumed fossil fuel that polluted the atmosphere; it was packaged in plastic, also from fossil fuel, that when discarded will be garbage polluting the Earth. If a more basic example: every breath we take adds a few seconds to our life, but also takes us one breath closer to our last.

Something good is something we perceived as more beneficial than detrimental; and visa versa for something that is bad. So, from this, how does one presume a moral code?

"Experience" is often sited. However, since everything is relative to one's prespective, how is society supposed to trust each individual's experience to steer them towards activities which it feels are more beneficial than detrimental?

Once we answer that, then we can toss out religion. Any takers?

Casey Kochmer said...

when you ask:

Am I interpreting the Bible correctly here?

I would say, as a book of man

Only you can interpret it for yourself correctly.

I would say, as a book of god:

If god gave men free will, that too also means

Only you can interpret it for yourself correctly.

To have anyone else interpret or give you meaning for the book then would actually be a falsehood or lead down paths which won't answer these questions to the degree honesty you require now. While we can glean insights , and new ideas from others. In the end we must stand up and take our own meaning to move forward.

In this: look for reflections. We see ourselves reflected in our actions and interpretation. This makes it even harder to find an answer, since it brings up the darker side of our souls.

So in this: if you are trying to resolve some the harder issues of the morality and harmful aspects of our humanity. This is actually a good sign as it also means you are getting close to finding an a level of personal peace and acceptance. Keep digging into these contradictions and the strange answers that people will give you in this quest. This will cause a unexpected insight to occur through which you can find a peaceful resolution to your questions.

Personally: I would look at these stories as a myth, meant to teach us more about our own humanity, than of the nature of god. However, in finding our own humanity, many people discover in the reflection: God.


ercatli said...

Well, I am a christian, so I guess that makes me a hypocrite, fcsuper! : )

These are difficult problems you have raised, Kevin, and I can't pretend to have good answers. Here is as far as I have reached ....

I believe in Jesus, not the Old Testament, which was written for and by Jews more than 2 millenia ago.. He was in some senses a reformer of wrong beliefs, and "corrected" some aspects of Old Testament teaching.

In Jesus I find affirmation of God's moral and loving character. I believe him, therefore the problems you raise are not correct perceptions, but definitely problems.

There have been various attempts to explain these problems - including that the writers got it wrong, or there was a slow growth in understanding or revelation, or that we cannot possibly apply our understanding to a culture so far removed in time. I can't say I'm happy with any of those explanations, but I think there is some truth in each of them.

In the end, I think that there are two worldviews confronting me. For me, christianity explains the origin & design of the universe, the glorious nature of humanity (our reason, sense of beauty, morality and freewill, etc) and the life of Jesus better than does the naturalist worldview. But christianity has the problems you have touched upon. If I change worldviews because of the problems, I lose (logically) far more than I gain, because nothing else much makes so much sense.

So that's where I sit, and I don't believe I'm being hypocritical Thanks for the opportunity.

jerry said...

We would love to choose a god according to our rules and morals, but if you believe in God and trust Him and accept Him as your King and Creator you can struggle with many difficult passages in the bible and have doubts and problems, but it won't change your faith. These 'problem passages' don't tell you that there is something wrong with God but with our limited understanding. Indeed, many people have tried to take into account the culture of the bible times and there seems indeed to be a 'progression' or 'development' through the bible. It's not a document that fell from heaven, it is written by humans in their time and culture and spans quite an extensive period of time.But the message of the bible has been offensive in all times: 'a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks', but 'the foolishness of God is wiser than man's wisdom' (1 Cor.1:19). But I understand that you can only say that in faith, you can't discuss it so it might not be helpful at all.

gip-k said...

I'm a Christian, and I'd feel it would be foolish for me to pretend that I didn't ask myself these very same questions. The only answer I've come across, is that we're supposed to follow the example of Jesus- not God Himself, the Father, because basically God does as He desires.

For example, are you familiar with the incidence in which James and John asked Jesus if it would be all right to call fire down from heaven to burn a city that rejected them? Jesus responded by reminded them that He came not to judge the world- but to save the world. That was His first coming. His attitude about cities that rejected his message was

"Shake off the dust of your feet as a testimony against them, and I tell you it will be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the day of judgment than for that city"

So in essence, Jesus was telling us to leave the judgment up to God-and not to ourselves.

At Jesus second coming, He won't be coming back to save. In fact, Revelation's account states that He is going to kill so many people that "the blood will flow to the horse's bridle." That doesn't seem like the Jesus we know, but you'll see it's not a contradiction. It's simply in that in His eyes, and the eyes of God, humanity will have had it's chance to enjoy grace.

Of course, it's always frustrating to think of that, because according to the Bible, God hardens who He wills, it's Him who draws people, and it's not even ourselves who make ourselves righteous. It's not as easy following God as it may seem. Sometimes, it seems, that all Christianity is is about survival, and getting rewarded for something that you didn't even do- that GOD did through you.

But that's only if you haven't decided to tell others about what Jesus has done and God's plan- however crazy it seems- for salvation. Sometimes it all adds up to, that the only way I could really be satisfied and maybe get rid of some of my guilt, was to try and help people know about God and come to Him. But I can't do that, because I don't have all the answers to all these questions. I DO know that Jesus never turned away anyone who came to Him- and as you recall, it's Jesus' example that I think the Christian is meant to follow- and that He was willing to pray for them, provide for them, and help them. So I feel somehow that that's who I should be.

Because, what can I do once I've already believed? Can I turn my back on it all? Would rejecting God do anything for me, or anyone else? Does it bring anyone joy for me to be in hell? Yet it doesn't bring me joy- at least not in this life- to sit complacently in Christ's sacrifice when it seems like so much can be done. So I want to channel my guilt to what I hope is a noble purpose, rather than becoming swallowed in it. It's more important for me to ask God- God, who I can't stand against, who IS merciful in some instances despite all the evil that He does- to just please, Do something. Not let everyone perish. So in a way it feels necessary for me to be more like Moses. I think God had Moses there, just because He knew his anger might get the best of Him. And many, many times Moses stopped God from destroying His own people.

So I think there's a lot about God-from the Christian viewpoint- that we don't totally understand.

So there's my two cents for you, from a different slant.


Skywolf said...

At Jesus second coming, He won't be coming back to save. In fact, Revelation's account states that He is going to kill so many people that "the blood will flow to the horse's bridle." That doesn't seem like the Jesus we know

Nope. It really, really doesn't. Every single Biblical passage recounting Jesus' life makes it abundantly clear that he would have been the last person on Earth to go out and slaughter people. Any people... innocent or otherwise.

So if you honestly believe that this same Jesus will then come along and act utterly against his own nature (or at least, the nature that we're led to believe he had), then how can you possibly profess to know him? Either the New Testament is wrong and Jesus was nothing like he's portrayed to be, or Revelation is wrong. You cannot have it both ways. Otherwise, how can you trust what you believe about Jesus on any level? When people ask 'What would Jesus do?', they are reflecting solely on what he did in the New Testament. If that same Jesus is going to reject all of that totally and go on a slaughtering rampage, then he is no better than the God of the Old Testament. You're basically saying that Jesus has a whole other side that no one has yet seen. In which case, how can he and his message possibly be trusted and believed in if he's utterly peaceful and forgiving on the one hand, and horribly violent and vengeful on the other?

It simply doesn't add up.

Lui said...

If the Bible had actually been authored by a super intelligence, it would have been written without blatant contradictions and would not be so open to various "interpretations". The mere fact that the Bible can be interpreted in so many ways, and that such diversity of opinion is often divisive and harmful, precludes the notion that it could have been thought up by an omnipotent, beneficent creator. Sure, everyone will tell you that their interpretation is the "true word of God". I say: bullshit. Not just to one interpretation, but to all of them. The fact that God didn't write clearly and unambiguously enough to avoid fuelling centuries of strife - despite supposedly having the ability to create the universe - is absurd. It's not just that it's absurd from my point of view; it's absurd any way you look at it, if you employ even a modicum of logic. We can argue back and forth about free will, about what the Bible does and doesn't say, about how you "have to read the whole Bible to understand that passage", but it all comes down to this: Christianity is based upon a book supposedly authored by a being who couldn't be bothered to write with the clarity of a Dawkins or a Gould. There's a way to convey information efficiently and to get to the point so that virtually everyone can agree on what those points are (what else are books for? Many fail to be clear, but the Bible seems “intelligently designed” to engender confusion); the Bible is an example of how not to write, and yet some almost seem to argue this to be a virtue. And I can say that without having read even a majority of it, for the reasons above. I find this whole debate about what the Bible says and doesn't say, what the nature of the God of the Old Testament is, almost completely superfluous and beside the point. The problem isn't really the Bible, though. The problem is that people take it seriously in the first place.

The same goes for the Koran. Many will say that Islam is a “religion of peace”, and that Islamist terrorists are actually desecrating the “true teachings” of Allah. Whatever. The “true teachings” are irrelevant; the actual consequences of how people choose to interpret their holy book is what matters in the real world, and if they choose to interpret them in a way that, to them, justifies violence and/or bigotry, then the problem is that these people have taken seriously a book that was written in such a way that such interpretations could even be made. I think that religious texts have considerable historical significance because they tell us about the mindset of people living at the time of their writing, how people viewed their world, and how ideas have changed throughout time. As a pathway to “the truth”, however, I think they are next to useless.

gip-k said...

This is to skywolf.

Belief and trust are not the same thing for me. Of course, what I know of the Bible cannot and will not change the fact that I believe that it's historically accurate, that there are such things as angels and demons, that Jesus is the Son of God, et cetera. Do I have trouble trusting God's promises? Of course. I can't pretend to try and explain His character.

I can't tell you why miracles happen to some people, why they are protected in train crashes, from persecutions and hardships, whilst hundreds of Christians are being martyred in Darfur, Sudan. Is the faith of the Christians in Sudan so weak that God refuses to visit them? Or is their only sin being born in a country where it is a crime to believe in Jesus? And about the tragedy- is it my job to pray for the persecutors of the Christians, or to push my government to intervene militarily?

Jesus gives us a clear example to follow in the Beautitudes, and Paul says that the government doesn't hold the sword in vain. Where religion and government mix I have no clue. Could God ask us as a nation- like Israel, to annihilate a group of people who wronged the Jews someway, whilst at the same time ask us to pray for those people and not to hate them?

I'm not trying to make excuses for my beliefs. I haven't figured everything out for myself. I DO know that God and Jesus have other, darker sides to their behavior than what we know. It's not that God is not benevolent, kind, or good- to who He seems to randomly choose to be that is. It just feels like somehow "God so loved the world" however, either doesn't mean what we think it does or must not be true.

As a Christian, I'm commanded to accept everything God says about me- logical or illogical- as being true. If He wants to demand blood sacrifices, like, the blood of His son, over good works, He gets to do that. But when it comes to actually trusting and believing His promises, believing that you step out into blindness, sometimes risking your life and expecting Him to show up for you- you have to have an infallible belief in His character, his infallibility, his inabillity to lie to you about His good side, or just change His mind on a whim how He feels about you.

That, I haven't got.

Of course, there is a place you can get to where God shows up. There are people who give their lives to Jesus, and become transformed people. Yet on the other hand, in the largest Christian denomination- Catholic- we have a GIANT molestation scandal, which was covered up by the very organization that is the most holy-conscious. We can argue that only faith- and not constant struggling as many Catholics do- produces goodness. Or we can just say that Jesus lied. That He DOESN'T change people's lives- at least not for the better.

It's all up to you.

Cori said...

I want to come in here and think out loud a little... What if morality is not so much about do's and don't but about something much bigger, or transcendental? For example, what if abortion was neither absolutely wrong or right, but rather right in certain circumstances and wrong in others? What if, then, the decisive factor as to what is moral or not moral does not lie in an absolute stance on specific issues, but rather something bigger or transcending those issues altogether?

This something could involves issues of motive, state of heart, long term effects, love, compassion, empathy, authenticity, and things like that.

So that the right and wrong of particular events or actions can change according to this bigger thing that is happening behind them.

If this were the cae, my argument would be that what when Kevin judges things as being moral or immoral in the Bible, he is basing it on his judgement of a particular isolated event rather than in the context of this 'bigger' morality I'm suggesting.

This bigger morality would ask questions like: Is murder wrong when it's ending the life of someone who is severly suffering? Is abortion wrong if the fetus is severly handicapped? Is it wrong to put to death one violent man or nation (eg: Hitler, Germany) to save other nations?

We can take this further and say that IF it all comes down to this bigger thing (state and motive of the heart, love, compassion etc) then a person;s understanding of treating, say, animals morally a thousand years ago would differ from what would be considered moral today - and yet in both cases people would be acting as morally as they could as in both cases people's motives and heart states would be at the same place.

This argument supports an absolute morality - an absolute based on motive and state of heart, love, compassion, empathy etc, with a subjective result: what might be a moral act in one case might not be moral act in another case.

Does that make any sense?

Lui said...

I think it makes sense. I have often made up thought experiments roughly along these lines to keep myself entertained when bored, like "What if I could bring back a group of Viking raiders and have them tried in a court. Would I want them punished for their atrocities? That is, would I apply the values of the civilised 21st century on people who, for all I know, actually thought they were doing the right thing and perhaps didn't know any better because of the context in which they grew up?" Given that I think morals change, I don't know that I would feel completely comfortable judging them by my criteria. But then, if I hesitate with Viking raiders, why do I feel such disgust towards the marauding militia in the Sudan, who have murdered and raped thousands? These people, surely, are just vile arseholes who don't care about the suffering they cause. Or is the fact that they continue to do this in the age I happen to live in just incidental? Are they more accountable for their crimes than the Vikings? If so, is the reason they're more accountable because more civilised people happen to be their contemporaries?

Note to all theist detractors: this does not mean that absolute morals actually exist, let alone "out there" (i.e. independent of ourselves in some spiritual "realm", like God's whim) however much it might be beneficial to treat morals as though they were absolute.

Going back to God for a moment: he is supposed to be all knowing and all-wise. It is no wonder that the Bible was rife with atrocities and lurid sexism, and that the God of the Old Testament was a vengeful mutha: people wrote it in a barbaric, uncivilised age. Humanity and its values evolve; God doesn't evolve, because he's supposed to be immutable and perfect.

Finally, in case anyone's interested (and somewhat off topic): Darwin's God. It’s utterly fascinating.

Mark said...

Kevin and all those who happen upon this blog,

One of the most important things to remember when reading the Bible is that is must always be taken in context. You need to look at all stories, parables, etc in their original setting so that they can be properly understood and the lessons learned from them taken and applied to daily living.
For all of this I am writing from my Bible which is the NIV Life Application Study Bible. I suggest getting a bible that has the study supplements. It helps you understand what is going on and gives you quick references around to other passages to help in understanding what you are reading. Bible commentaries are always a good way to go as well. Often you pick up insight into the culture or the Hebrew language. I have found them to be indispensable.

Lets look at the examples you gave in you original massage and try to better understand them in their context.

In 1 Samuel 15:3 the word used in the passage is destroyed not kill. Here destroyed is a word used to indicate completely giving over to God often by totally destroying them. Now we must ask ourselves why they were being completely destroyed. Here God is talking through Samuel to Saul the king of Israel. God says that He will punish the Amalekits because of what they did to Israel while they were coming up from Egypt. Now we are getting a better picture. The Amalekits had sinned and in a very big way. Here is a little background on the Amalekits. They were descendants of Amalek a grandson of Esau. Though not part of God’s covenant people they were affectively cousins of them. They were a fierce nomadic tribe that lived in the desert region of the Dead Sea. Part of their livelihood was made by conducting raids on other settlements and carrying off plundered goods. This was a nation of people who killed for pleasure. Based on that we see that they had been sinning for some time and the sin of killing a person is one of the big ones. The Israelites were being used as an insturment of God’s judgment in 1 Samuel. Now let’s move into the future of the Israelite nation. During the conquest of the Promised Land God sent Israel on the offensive numerous times. Each time there was a dual purpose for their going into battle. The first was to take the land that had been promised to them ever since the original covenant with Abraham (Genesis 12: 1-7). The second and just as important was to bring judgment to the people of the land because of their evil ways.

Now let’s look at 2 Samuel 6:3-8 the story of the arc of the covenant’s return to Jerusalem. As they party taking the arc to Jerusalem on a brand new wagon is passing the threshing floor of Nacon the oxen stumble and Uzzah reaches out to steady it so that it doesn’t fall. At first this seems like an unjust punishment from God. Lets look a little closer taking it in context. First of all I will point out the important parts of this story. The arc is being transported on a cart and Uzzah touches it. That’s about all we need to know to start looking for reasons why Uzzah would be stuck down. First off the cart. The arc was to be carried between two poles. That is specifically stated in Exodus 25:14-15. Further more the arc was to be carried by the Kohathites a section of the Levite priests. (Numbers 4:15) The people transported the ark in a cart and in that way were already sinning against God. Second the fact that Uzzah touched the Ark is also a sin. As it states in Number 4:15 anyone who touches any one of the holy things, including the Ark, will die. That is very clear. Now you might argue that he was just trying to protect it from falling off the cart and that may be true, however that Ark was not to be on the cart and if it had been transported that way God had instructed it to be transported it never would have been in danger at all. Just because they had sinned once does not mean the rules change.

The story of David holding a censes. At first when reading 2 Samuel 24 we might be horrified to discover that God caused David to sin. This however is not true. If you look at first Chronicles 21:1 we discover that Satan incited David to take the censes. Often God allows Satan to temp us so that we might be refined and strengthened in His good ways. The Hebrew writers didn’t always distinguish between primary and secondary causes. This means if God allowed Satan to temp David then they put down that God tempted David.

Now that we understand that lets examine why taking a censes was a sin. This occurs during a time of peace where Israel is a strong nation and David has been expanding her boarders. There was no reason to take a censes other then to find out the strength of Israel. That seems innocent enough but remember Satan is tempting David. David is filled with pride wanting to know Israel’s might, his might. He has strayed from trusting in God that if Israel is in danger from attach God will provide and deliver the attackers into Israel’s hand. We don’t know the exact reason why God decided to judge Israel now but it could be for any number of reasons. Some of these may include the fact that the people supported the rebellions of Absalom (2 Samuel 15-18) and Sheba (2 Samuel 20) or the fact that the nation was putting its trust in military of financial prosperity rather then God. Either way, be assured that God is just and there was a reason why Israel was judged.

The story of Ananias and Sapphira demonstrates that even after the Holy Spirit had come to the believers Satan still tempted them. He tried to trip them up and succeeded. Many people might ask about this wondering what happened to the loving God spoke of in the New Testament. That answer to the is He is still there, God does not change.( Malachi 3:6) That also means that He hates sin just as much now as he did back in the Old Testament. The sin that Ananias and Sapphira committed has nothing to do with selling their land or how much they gave. They land was there own and it was their choice how much they gave. Their sin was not telling the truth about how much they gave in order to look better in the eyes of their peers. This lying among the church breaks it down and destroys our testimony about Christ. This is particularly bad and damaging. They sinned and received punishment for it. We must always remember that we are forgiven and protected by God through his grace. There is nothing we can do that will take away our sins or give us some sort of reason not to go to hell. Jesus is the way the truth and the light and no one comes to the father except through him. (John 14:6)

You present the question of why people are blamed for the sins of their parents. This is a little more complicated then it seems. First of all no one is accountable for the sins of others. Each one of us has enough sin to condemn us forever. One important thing to remember when reading the bible is to take its message in historical context. The bible is applicable in every time and place but understanding the culture it was written in helps us to understand the message presented. In the near east there is a deep sense of common liability. For instance, if a member of a family steals something the whole family is guilty of stealing. For us we can better understand it when we think about how families operate. Each family has its different quirks and mannerisms. That may be anything from how a birthday is celebrated to how the Sabbath is kept. The children in the family learn these things from their parents which is only natural. This means that if a parent is sinning in some way such as using the Lord’s name in vain the children will most likely pick up this behavior. Since the children exhibit the same tendencies to sin as the parents they will receive the same punishment as their parents.

I would like to point out the next verse because it shows an important aspect of God’s character. Exodus 20:5-6 says “You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the fathers to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.” God is patient and willing to forgive us even though we don’t deserve it. He is gracious enough to only let us continue in sin for a few generations. God also delights in us following his ways and keeping his commandments. Can anyone grasp the fact that He will bless a family for thousands of generations if they love and keep his commandments? Can anyone praise him enough for the great love and grace he shows us?

Your last example. We are judged by our belief in the redeeming power of Jesus Christ that he came to earth fully human and fully God and then proceeded to die for us all taking the sins of humanity on his sinless shoulders. What a beautiful thing. Can you imagine a situation where we had to act right or do good things in order to get into heaven? No one would get there. As humans we are naturally evil. Without the grace and mercy of God no one would get into heaven because our hearts are evil and therefore our actions are as well. When a person tries to get into heaven by acts or deeds they are refusing to believe in the redemptive work that Jesus did. Effectually that person is saying that God is not capable of taking away their sins and just simply forgiving you. Also it is important to remember that sin doesn’t come in levels. A sin is a sin is a sin. The mass murdered has sinned just as much as the person who committees adultery or steal or lies etc. Sin is what separates us from God and no matter what we do God is always capable of forgiving us, we need only ask. Once you have asked forgiveness and accepted Jesus into your heart that’s it, you’re his and he will continue to protect you just as he has done before. He is patient to no end working on us, asking to be let into our hearts that he may change our lives and bring us to heaven so that we might spend eternity with Him. Now if you have accepted God into your heart your life will change because you will follow his ways. Behavior, thoughts, actions, worldview all of that is effected and I assure you for the better.

All those who read this I hope that this stirs within you a desire to study this issue more closely. For those of you who are unbelievers may God bless and keep you safe from harm allowing you to get to know him. May you all find the truth and delight in the saving grace freely offered to you.

In closing Ephesians 4:20-21

“Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout al generations, for ever and ever! Amen.”

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Anonymous said...

I never really objected to Christ's teachings & behavior... if the world actually lived that way, it would be like heaven on earth. But here is my issue... God is in Charge, the hairs on our head are numbered, He knows everything & has the ability to intervene at any given moment. Test the scripture... To him that knoweth to do Good and doeth it noe, to him it is sin. Where are you God? What ails thee? Stetch forth your hand. The tree is judged by its fruit.

Anonymous said...

never really objected to Christ's teachings & behavior... if the world actually lived that way, it would be like heaven on earth. But here is my issue... God is in Charge, the hairs on our head are numbered, He knows everything & has the ability to intervene at any given moment. Test the scripture... To him that knoweth to do Good and doeth it NOT, to him it is sin. Where are you God? What ails thee? Stetch forth your hand. The tree is judged by its fruit.

Anonymous said...

"My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord.
'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways,
And My thoughts than your thoughts." -- Isaiah 55:8-9

Basically, in this life we can never hope or expect to understand everything God is doing, has done, or will ever do. Nor will we fully understand who He is, although Jesus gives us what we need to know:

"Christ is the visible image of the invisible God." -- Colossians 1:15

To anyone needing more, this looked okay:

Ilse said...

"Of course, it's always frustrating to think of that, because according to the Bible, God hardens who He wills, it's Him who draws people, and it's not even ourselves who make ourselves righteous. It's not as easy following God as it may seem. Sometimes, it seems, that all Christianity is is about survival, and getting rewarded for something that you didn't even do- that GOD did through you."

Exactly the same argument is used in Islam. Allah leads whoever He wills. So I was always told that I just should be sincere in worship, not question, be humble and not give myself credit and always be thankful for what Allah has given me. This first to me was a very beautiful fact, because I do realize that everything on this earth is not of myself, it is a gift and I should use it with care and respect. So I never complained. But howcome then, if two people sincerely start out and ask God or Allah to lead them, one becomes Christian, the other becomes Muslim? I see both Christians and muslims following the exact sincerity going to the exact struggles you are describing here, but still any one of the two groups would be misled and going to hell for all eternity?

Ilse said...

'Like most freethinkers, I tend to believe that the moral teahings of religion, while perhaps once a tool for passing on effective cultural behaviour, have long since lost their value because somewhere along the line they also included the requirement to accept the infallibility of religious teachings and leaders and crushed the process of personal evaluation.' Couldn't have said it better. To take one example is the treatment of women in the Qur'aan or even slavery in the Qu'raan. I have heard 100 different explanations telling me that times evolve etc and this society is different from the society back then etc., just to hear 100 other muslims tell me never to doubt that the moral codes in the Qu'raan never change and we should live by them or go to hell. That's fine for them, but what AMAZES me is that nobody ever even seems to see the logical contradiction in it, some see it but still make excuses and only 0,001% dare to state out boldly that yes according to Qur'aan slavery in certain cases is allowed. Maybe they will say it once they get you sufficiently afraid of hell, but they certainly won't say it as it is when they are explaining it to non-muslims. Have it whatever way you want, but don't beat around the bush ;-).

Michael Gormley said...

Am I interpreting the Bible correctly here?

The false doctrine of Sola Scriptura, first proclaimed by Martin Luther, created the 'everyone for himself' syndrome for Bible interpretation.

Each individual would claim, 'the Holy Spirit told me'. This thinking flies into the face of what the Bible actually teaches, that individual interpretation of Scripture cannot be done.

See Acts 8:27-39, and 2 Peter 1:20, and 2Peter 3:16-18. Belief in Sola Scriptura is the primary reason for the fact that there are over 28,000 splinters in Protestantism.

There can be only one truth, and yet each splinter claims, 'the Holy Spirit told me'.

Each claims the truth, yet each has differences with the others. Truth is one, therefore all Churches should be united in the one truth.

Are we led to believe there over 28,000 Holy Spirits, each telling a protestant sect something different, or maybe one Holy Spirit giving a different truth to each?

The doctrine of Sola Scripture is clearly a false doctrine invented by mere men, and has no Scriptural basis whatsoever.

Marcus said...

Why the double standard?

Double standards are only unfair when they apply to two entities that are equal and thus the same.

God knows a mans heart, man doesn't. God knows every intention and agenda, man doesn't. God knows what the consequences of letting an evil man live will be, man doesn't.

God gives life, man doesn't. God sustains life, man doesn't. God can judge perfectly every single time... man doesn't.

That is why Judgement is and can be executed by God. He knows everything including the heart. He can give life and take it away. We don't/can't.

Marcus said...

Michael Gormley said...
"There can be only one truth, and yet each splinter claims, 'the Holy Spirit told me'."

Sure, there are a lot of protestant groups. But the overlap is enormous. Some of them don't even materially differ, they just have more lively or sedate music by which they choose to praise God.

The ones that do differ usually do on the tiniest detail of scripture. All, by definition agree that Christ is the Son of God and that belief on Him will mean you're saved.

By contrast not all historians agree by any strech (in fact they rarely do) the same can be said for economists and theoretical physicists, does that mean all these subjects are worthless?

No, of course not, it is just when someone is important and there is the tiniest ambiguity then people will disagree. But that makes little difference to the over all matter, which is agreed by millions and millions all over the world.

Kevin Parry said...

Hi Marcus

Thank you for commenting. I appreciate you popping by.

I just have one question regarding your comments. It seems as if you are arguing that God can do whatever he wants, because he "can give life, and take life away." If this is so, then isn't God practicing subjective morality? I find this quite ironic in that Christians always decry subjective morality and instead preach objective morality. But, according to your comment, God is himself a subjectivist.

I would like to you know your thoughts on this.

Keep well