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HolyGround >> Reconciling the OT and NT Biblical God's character


3/12/11 7:50 PM
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Grakman
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prof - 
No problem.

Does my answer make sense to you?

Prof.


 Sure. Even in 'real life' when people are faced with extremely high odds of risk of death or disease, they still choose to take those risks anyway.
3/12/11 10:33 PM
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the rooster
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shoot, Prof was on here. I'm so far behind. Never anytime anymore. HOpe everyone is well.
3/12/11 10:36 PM
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Grakman
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the rooster - shoot, Prof was on here. I'm so far behind. Never anytime anymore. HOpe everyone is well.
And a good time was had by all.
 
3/13/11 6:59 PM
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Lahi
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prof - 

So...much of the OT is "very wrong" in it's claims and depictions of God?
Why then put stock in a book so filled with untrustworthy information?

And why are you picking the NT as the "right" version of God? Both OT and NT make claims about God's behavior and character, so why can't the OT have
depicted God correctly and the NT have gotten "much of it very wrong." Seems to me it's because you like the NT God better.

Further, if the Bible was going to be God's lasting message to mankind, what possible sense does it make that it would contain so much misrepresentation and false information about God? (As you claim, the OT got "much of it very wrong")?

That is hardly wise or rational behavior.

If you were dictating a message about yourself, would you accidently add...or knowingly allow...false claims included that you were, say, a serial killer?
Of course not. This is why it makes no sense God would leave us with a message so marred with wrong information about Him. (And, remember, the assertion that the wrong parts are due to fallible humans getting it wrong is no excuse...no more than a boss knowing his secretary was writing falsehoods into his message, but he let's it get sent out anyway).**

See, no matter how one approaches it, no matter how much sensitivity or nuance one attempts to bring to the task, holding the bible up as representing the reality of contact with a God is a fools errand from the start. Which is why I made the analogy to trying every which way to support the claim Star Trek represents the knowledge of an advanced, future alien race. No matter what talent you bring to the task, the fundamental irrationality of the claim is unavoidable.


Prof.

** (This is an analogy. It's not to say you have to believe God "dictated" the bible like a lawyer...but the analogy is that the Bible was clearly going to act as God's message, or a recording of his message, to mankind, and hence it makes no sense God would allow so much misrepresentation about Himself in this message)



I would say that parts of the OT, if taken literally, give an unhealthy picture of God. I don't think that this is true of all of it, or even most of it. What I see is Jesus coming into this system of belief, and revealing God in the context of that system.

I think the questions of why an honest seeker can end up an atheist, or why we are capable of getting Jesus so wrong, are legitimate ones. But as far as the terrible misrepresentations of God you've mentioned go, Jesus very clearly addressed all of them, as did the early Chruch, along with many Christians today.

I don't pick the NT as the "right" version of God. Rather I believe that it testifies to His revelation in humanity. I don't see the books as a perfect system of theology, or a perfect revelation in and of themselves. I think you're jumping to conclusions about me picking Jesus because he is a God that is easy for me to accept. My point in mentioning some of his difficult teachings was that he is anything but that for me. Believing that Jesus is good, and not immoral, is very different from believing he is easy to follow. I really believe that he calls us to follow him in the face of our natural desires and the clashing values of the world around us, quite literally unto death in many cases. If I were looking for something easy, Jesus would not be it. Atheistic hedonism is much more my natural bent.

As for why I am a Christian I will get to it in a bit, have to run for the moment.
3/13/11 7:47 PM
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Lahi
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First, because of personal and collective experiences, I am not a naturalist. I also don't see any philosophical reason why naturalism would have to be true, or why we shouldn't base important beliefs on things that we can't (at least currently) test scientifically. We do this all the time in history, for example.

I don't accept the Christian claims while denying any other supernatural claims. When I read independent accounts of white academics participating in Lakota religious ceremonies, and experiencing Supernatural phenomenon, I lean towards them being reliable. Other similar claims I question, or deny all together. Like many things not subject to strict scientific scrutiny, I admit the answers are not always going to be easy or clear, and often have to be considered case by case.

I am a Christian as opposed to other religions for a number of reasons. I find that a strong case for the relative historical accuracy of the Gospels can be clearly made. As someone who has experienced Supernatural events personally and collectively, I have found that the claims Jesus made about his Lordship are true. Along these lines, it would be hard for me to write off the experiences I have had while worshiping as part of the body as fanciful speculation, or nerves, or imagination. If a Christian has never experienced this, I could understand why they might question their faith.

I find that Jesus fills the need I have for God in a way that other religious figures do not. Also, some things I accept as true because they speak so deeply to my heart: the beauty of a song or sunset, the deep truth in reaching out to the helpless and hurting people among us, the fact that it is wrong to rape someone. I realize this last part sounds easy to write off, but I'm not talking about sappy emotionalism here, but rather a recognition that something speaks to us as true on a deep and undeniable level.

I try to be genuine in my questioning of all of these things. But I would offer that a person in my position, with my life experiences, would not be honest in rejecting Christianity.
3/13/11 11:04 PM
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TheStewedOwl
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Ridgeback - Couple this with what I pointed out early in this thread about the Hebrews writing within their own language, cultural assumptions, and experience and that leaves a lot of room to say that the God of the Bible that the Hebrews experienced in OT narratives is also the God that became Incarnated in Jesus Christ. This is further confirmed when one actually reads the OT (rather than taking select passages off of atheist websites) and sees a pervasive concern with righteousness, the care of the poor and powerless, and the insistence on becoming far more than a life spent simply living for animal instincts would lead us to. It is not as if traditional Christians pull out an OT and try to take one small part of a narrative and use it as a code to live by. It is understood that many of the proscriptions of the OT have to do with time and place and are not general commandments like "do unto others" and "forgive your enemies" and "true religion is caring for widows and the homeless" etc. etc.


Agreed. It is a mistake to view history – any history – without context.

There are 613 commandments (mitzvoth) scattered throughout the Torah. 265 are commandments enjoining behavior and 348 are injunctions against behavior. Some are still observed today by religious Jews, some were required as part of the ritual of the original Temple and the Ark of the Covenant (neither of which still exist, although the Ark may be in Ethiopia) and so are no longer in effect; and lifestyle restrictions based on the life they led as nomads in a harsh climate, and which no longer apply.

Many of the laws required death as a punishment, but do not seem to have been very often applied. The laws were written to indicate the seriousness of the sin. The Jewish rules of evidence would have made it difficult or impossible to apply most such punishments in practicality. Many of what seem to be strange (to our minds) OT laws were simply injunctions, without any accompanying punishments, such as not wearing cloth made of two different fibers, or not planting different crops side-by-side. These laws, and the kosher dietary laws, are known to the Jews as hukim, laws for which there is no explanation, but which loyal Jews observe to demonstrate their obedience to God.

Many of the actions, laws, and beliefs of the ancient Hebrews, which they believed to be given by God, viewed from a 21st Century perspective, seem needlessly cruel and inhumane.

But by the standards of that time, the ancient Hebrews were kinder than Mother Teresa and more progressive than the Rev. Martin Luther King put together. It was an age that apparently was in the thrall of Satan, and human sacrifice, inhuman acts of slavery, sexual assault, bestiality, human castration, incest and other cruelties were apparently common, respected, and sometimes even commanded by the state.

Were there people or peoples of the ancient world that showed anything like the traits that would be considered humane by our modern standards?

Roman law in 450 BC not only allowed, but required that a deformed child be murdered by his father (“Cito necatus insignis ad deformitatem puer esto” in The Law of the Twelve Tables).

Female infanticide among the pagans was common and casual, as indicated by a letter in 51 BC from a pagan husband in Egypt to his pregnant wife: “Know that I am still in Alexandria…I ask and beg you to take good care of our baby son, and as soon as I receive payment I shall send it up to you. If you are delivered, if it is a boy, keep it, if a girl, discard it.”

Jewish law in the Torah is so compassionate by comparison that it’s hard not to recognize it as the word of God. You are not allowed to commit murder or commit adultery, you must intervene to save another’s life, you can’t sleep with relatives or animals, you can’t treat a widow or orphan badly, you can’t cheat someone in business, or rob them, or make your daughter become a prostitute to pay off a debt. You can’t molest or oppress an immigrant. Kind of hard to argue with those, but they were radically different laws for the time, where a Roman head of the household was given almost unlimited control over his family and slaves. Some of the laws even express a modern commitment to kindness towards animals – you’re not supposed to castrate an animal (or man), and you should help an overburdened donkey even if you don’t like his owner.

Infant infanticide, and the sacrifice of one’s one children to either Moloch (or, possibly, a heretical sacrifice intended for Yahweh), Ba’al, or Cronus, in a furnace in the hopes of material reward, is an evil almost beyond imagining, but was apparently common practice at the time. Based on Greek and Roman reports that are independent of the Bible, there was either a unified cult of infant sacrifice by fire that extended throughout the ancient world, or else the practice was exceedingly common, based on findings of burned infant remains at archaeological digs at Carthage (corroborating the writings of Cleitarchus, Diodorus Siculus and Plutarch), Amman, Sicily, Malta, Sardinia, Tyre, and in North Africa.

Plutarch wrote of the Carthaginians who “offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mothers stood by without tear or a moan.” (Moralia 2:17).

The Jews were seen as bizarre by the Romans and others for their abhorrence of the murder of children, and that they considered children – male AND female – as a blessing. Tacitus was apparently perplexed that “It is a crime for them to kill any newly born infant.” (Histories, 5:5).

Israel’s adoption of Canaanite and other foreign practices, such as infanticide, was seen by themselves as the reason why the northern region of their kingdom, Israel was sacked by Sargon II of Assyria in 750 BC and the 10 tribes deported and sold into slavery: “They mingled with the nations and learned their works…they sacrificed their sons and their daughters to demons, and they shed innocent blood, the blood of their sons and daughters, whom they sacrificed to the idols of Canaan, desecrating the land with their bloodshed “(Psalms 106:35, 37-38). “They mutilated their sons and daughters by fire…till the Lord, in his great anger at Israel, put them away out of his sight.” (2 Kings 17:17-18).

The viciousness and total warfare which God approved for use against the Canaanites can be explained the revulsion God and his people felt for this practice and their degenerate culture.
3/14/11 1:18 AM
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Ridgeback
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 Sorry I had to bug out of this conversation everyone.  I am swamped with work and probably shouldn't have entered the fray in the first place.  I hate leaving things like this undone, but answering questions and elaborating on points carefully is very time consuming.  I wish we could all get together on a beach somewhere, have some beers, and have endless hours to have these discussions.  
3/14/11 1:26 AM
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Lahi
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For sure. I hate leaving things unanswered too, just hard for me to find much time anymore either.
3/14/11 1:50 AM
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Ridgeback
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 In the briefest of ways, let me try to summarize what I think lies at the nature of God, man, and evil.  I believe that God is a communion of self-sacrificial and otherness directed agape love.  I believe that in order for a created being to truly join this communion, she has to have the freedom to choose to give up herself in a sacrificial way, or cling to herself and descend into a shadow reality that exists apart from the will and life of God.  The Christian view of evil in the world is that much of God's creation has fallen into shadow reality and that much takes place that can't be described as God's will or even God's "justification" for suffering.  It is certainly the risk of creating creatures that creates the possibility of this shadow reality, but that is not the same thing as saying God creates evil for a greater good.  

I once asked a bunch of OG forum atheists if they would push a button that would render all humans suddenly and painlessly extinct.  Presumably, based on the argument from evil many atheists make, this would be a no brainer.  Ending existence would end suffering.  But the funny thing was not a single atheist said he would push the button.  He deemed existence worth the potential evils that came with it.  And that was only for the short span of life we have on earth.  So I am not sure how we can condemn God for making creatures when his will isn't to have them simply live a few years in a dying world and then cease to exist, but something much greater-- full participation in his life and in the attendant Paradise that exists when his will is done by creatures who freely choose to join his life.  

When I see a disaster like we see in Japan, I don't think "well they deserved it" or "this is all part of God's glorious plan" or even "this is the cost of free will."  I think "it didn't have to be this way and yet, even though we live under this shadow of death and evil, it will come to an end."  
3/14/11 4:25 AM
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Ridgeback
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 I should also add, that I tend to be Universalist in my beliefs, meaning I think that every person will not only have a fair chance to be reconciled to God, but will be actively pursued by God.  I also believe that in the resurrection, every person will experience the "physical" reality of paradise and be given a new and eternal body through which to experience the New Heavens and New Earth.  The issue will be whether they have died to themselves and joined the communion of God's life, or still love themselves first and experience that communion as "outer darkness" or "the worm which dyeth not" or "a consuming fire" hence being in Gehenna through their failure to transform by a process of dying to self.  I don't know if these people will reconcile with God, perhaps after aions, but I don't doubt it will be through their own choice if they don't, and not because God did not give them every means to be in Paradise and share his life.  

Reading the Bible through a Universalist lens radically changes how one views it.
3/15/11 11:50 PM
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Ridgeback
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 I wanted to mention one other thing about this issue of reconciling the OT with the NT, since many people are probably not aware that this is an old issue.  The Gnostic sects wanted to get rid of the OT since they saw contradictions between the OT God and the NT God revealed in Christ.  These were the Marcionites.  Ireneaus argued against their approach and argued that the OT was a Christian collection of books so long as it was rightly understood with the lens of Christ applied to it.  This means that Christians are under no obligation to take the OT literally as history or to agree that everything written about God in it presents  an accurate picture.  That approach to scripture is the approach of fundamentalists who came along long after even the Protestant Reformation.  You have to have a concept of sola scriptura and a very poor sense of ecclesiology before you start framing the Bible in the terms that the average American fundamentalist does today.  Unfortunately, many critics of Christianity are only familiar with fundamentalist views so they think these represent historical Christianity when nothing could be further from the truth.  When one tries to explain that a traditional and original Christianity takes a very different approach to scriptures, one is accused of soft-peddling and looking for a cop out even though, in reality, one is actually being true to the approaches taken by the earliest Christians.  


3/15/11 11:51 PM
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Ridgeback
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 Here is the passage from Ireneaus entitled "The Treasure Hid in the Scriptures is Christ."

If any one, therefore, reads the Scriptures with attention, he will find in them an account of Christ, and a foreshadowing of the new calling [vocationis]. For Christ is the treasure which was hid in the field, (1) that is, in this world (for "the field is the world"); (2) but the treasure hid in the Scriptures is Christ, since He was pointed out by means of types and parables. Hence His human nature could not (3) be understood, prior to the consummation of those things which had been predicted, that is, the advent of Christ. And therefore it was said to Daniel the prophet: "Shut up the words, and seal the book even to the time of consummation, until many learn, and knowledge be completed. For at that time, when the dispersion shall be accomplished, they shall know all these things." (4) But Jeremiah also says, "In the last days they shall understand these things." (5) For every prophecy, before its fulfilment, is to men [full of] enigmas and ambiguities. But when the time has arrived, and the prediction has come to pass, then the prophecies have a clear and certain exposition. And for this reason, indeed, when at this present time the law is read to the Jews, it is like a fable; for they do not possess the explanation of all things pertaining to the advent of the Son of God, which took place in human nature; but when it is read by the Christians, it is a treasure, hid indeed in a field, but brought to light by the cross of Christ, and explained, both enriching the understanding of men, and showing forth the wisdom of God and declaring His dispensations with regard to man, and forming the kingdom of Christ beforehand, and preaching by anticipation the inheritance of the holy Jerusalem, and proclaiming beforehand that the man who loves God shall arrive at such excellency as even to see God, and hear His word, and from the hearing of His discourse be glorified to such an extent, that others cannot behold the glory of his countenance, as was said by Daniel: "Those who do understand, shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and many of the righteous (6) as the stars for ever and ever." (7) Thus, then, I have shown it to be, (8) if any one read the Scriptures. For thus it was that the Lord discoursed with the disciples after His resurrection from the dead, proving to them from the Scriptures themselves "that Christ must suffer, and enter into His glory, and that remission of sins should be preached in His name throughout all the world." (9) And the disciple will be perfected, and [rendered] like the householder, "who bringeth forth from his treasure things new and old." (10)
3/16/11 2:49 AM
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Lahi
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Thanks Ridge, enjoyed reading that.
3/27/11 3:15 PM
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Grakman
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We are constantly trying to evaluate God on our terms, and why he allows the world to continue with rape, incest, murder, war, famine, disease. However, if one looks at it from God's point of view, one wonders why he doesn't just wipe us off the planet for the very same reasons? On the one hand we like to argue that the world is really messed up, and thus we thing we righteously rail against God for allowing ito be so. On the other hand, when we leave God out of the equation, everyone seems to like the world just fine and does not want it to end.

I have taken to looking at the existence of the world -as it is- as a work of mercy on the part of God, that despite our continued sinning, our wars, desire to hurt one another, marginilizing of God and love from our loves and those of our fellow human beings, he allows us to live and  existence to continue  - without robbing us of our free will at the same time. We should instead be thankful that God even bothers to be involved with us at all, in my opinion, and quite frankly our mortality at this point, in our fallen condition, is more an act of mercy rather than a curse.

Whether literal or metaphor, in the OT we read how God wiped out mankind through the flood because all our ways were wicked and evil, saving only eight people to continue life.  In our case, God through Jesus Christ has forgiven the sins of the world and allows us to live, the same as he allowed the eight in Noahs's day to avoid extinction.

So our attitude should not be to blame God for the evils of the world, but realize instead that we (mankind collectively) are responsible for the condition of this world, and that God through Jesus Christ has forgiven the world it's iniquity and through his mercy allows the world to continue instead of wiping us all out as he did in the days of Noah.

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