Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Biblical Literalism and Out of Context Scripture

When I first learned of reports that certain high level government reports from soon after 9/11 had been framed using Judeao-Christian scripture, I was neither surprised nor outraged. Perhaps I have become desensitized, but it is little more than I have come to expect from that time in our nation’s history.

Perhaps it was not the brightest public relations move, but the attitude behind it was deeply imbued in our government during the last administration. It might not have been within a strict understanding of the separation of church and state, but the prior administration were not “strict constructionists” on that particular issue. It might have been contrary to the interests of our nation if we were perceived as “crusaders”, but I’m not certain that our top government officials of the day would have agreed with me on that. They might have thought there was a benefit to our being perceived in such a way.

One of the many things I have learned in seminary is that I can, if I wished to, find a section of biblical scripture and use it out of context to imply just about anything I wish. I can make the bible seem to support modern polygamy, slavery, hatred, homophobia, violence against women, violence against the other, and yes… even crusades against those who believe other than I do. Out of context, biblical scripture can be used to justify just about any atrocity or prejudice I might wish.

And we humans are great at justifying things.

Yet when such out of context uses of scripture are placed against the overall context of the message of Jesus of Nazareth, they often fail to live up to what it means to be Christian. When I place the “scriptures of hate” as John Spong put it, up against the overall message of honoring God, loving your neighbors, loving engagement with the other, and redress of hypocrisy… such out of context, small text uses of scripture seem what they are… disingenuous at best, and maliciously misleading at worst. They cipro portray a caricature of the Christian Faith that is disconnected from the root teachings of Jesus.

To put it another way, such groups that use out of context biblical references to justify crusade, hatred, and atrocity are doing to Christianity the exact same thing that radical Islamacists are doing to Islam… portraying religions of peace and love as religions of war and hatred. This is the danger of a biblical or scriptural literalism that does not understand historical, societal, cultural, or even textural contexts for the religions themselves. This is the danger of believing that either the Bible or the Koran is the “Perfectly infallible Word of God”.

Even if that were true… even if any scripture were the perfectly infallible Word of God… that does not mean that we humans would always understand it perfectly nor does it take into account the continuing human tendency to seek justification for our baser selves. Even if God is perfect and unlimited, we humans certainly are neither.

As to the government administration that misused out of context scriptural references to justify a sense of “Crusade” they were already feeling, in the end the responsibility for that comes down upon the American People who elected them. And I don’t want to hear about the Supreme Court and Bush v. Gore… the American People, including myself, still bear responsibility for letting it even get that close. We elected individuals willing to misuse scripture and mislead millions of earnest Conservative Christians into believing that Jesus would have supported a political agenda involving fear and war instead of hope and peace… and that’s just not the Jesus I know. We knew that when we elected them the first time, and we certainly knew it when we elected them the second time. We can not now pretend outrage and shock at something so in character.

We can only remember the lesson, and commit ourselves to electing only those who will not misuse religion in such a way.

Yours in Faith,

David

14 Thoughts on “Biblical Literalism and Out of Context Scripture

  1. On the other hand, who gets to decide what is the “real” context? Are we not sometimes guilty of thinking scripture is taken out of context if it is saying something that we don’t like? It seems to me that holy scriptures are filled with both good AND evil. We pick and choose which passages we like and don’t like.

  2. Words can be construed conveniently to justify almost anything. Makes me wonder if books such as the Bible, Koran, Geeta, etc. – that were written in very different contexts have outlived their purposes – and should either be re-written or be done away with.

    I am reading Kunhn’s “Structure of Scientific Revolutions” and it makes me wonder if religions have/should similarly go through revolutions that bring about paradigm shifts in thinking when the current paradigm is insufficient. Surely if religion considers itself a valid belief based system (as different from an evidence based system) it should also go through paradigm shifts from time to time in order to survive. And I don’t think the either the Protestant movement or Buddhism can be argued to be paradigm shifts from Catholicism and Hinduism respectively. If anything, they reinforced orthodox thought.

  3. Indeed, picking and choosing Bible verses based on what we like or don’t like, how we wish to live and act apart from God’s will, or how we personally want to define God in our image has created the denominational mess and garbled message we hear today.

    For getting to that central message you were writing about, David, means taking the Bible for its plain sense meaning, such as Acts 4:12, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name [Jesus vs10] under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

    Funny little phrase I use to remember this hermaneutical tool: “if the plain sense makes sense, look for no other sense, lest we end up with nonsense.”

    Your old buddy,
    Nathan

  4. Nathan….

    The “Plain Sense” dictum leaves out an important ingredient… context. For example, most modern Christians do not hold slaves, because they realize that the sections of the bible that condone slavery were written for a specific historic context that does not apply in today’s world.

    What many fail to realize however is that the entire Bible is contextually and historically bound. There is wonderful and valuable teaching in the Bible… but it was not written for this time. The plain sense interpretation technique worked wonderfully for those who lived in the same contextual time and place as when it was written… but can be deeply misleading when applied to a modern context.

    We also have to take into account the context of any particular scripture in relation to the other books in our modern bible, as well as the non-canonical texts. For example, modern scholarship has linked the Author of that quote in the book of Acts with the author of the book of Luke (who was not actually Luke, but someone writing in his name.) It was written between 40 and 70 years after the death of Jesus… and so the author most likely never met Jesus personally. In the days immediately after the crucifixion, there was no need to write anything down, for they believed that Jesus’ return would occur any day, and so why write any more than the guide to evangelists written in the Didache? Also, most people could not read or write, and so the written word was not a good way to spread the gospel. Oral traditions and teachings were the way of the first few generations after the crucifixion.

    So the Author of Acts and Luke was speaking in a time of early development in the early Christian Church, at least one full generation after the death of Jesus, and during a time of struggle between different competing interpretations of the teachings of Jesus. Some scholars have compared Acts to Romans as the voices of two such competing schools… This history of early fracture in the church continued until 325 at the Council of Nicea, when the Roman Emperor required the different factions of the church settle their differences.

    It was there that those who believed in what came to be known as the Aryan heresy that many Unitarian and Universalist Christians claim heritage to walked out rather than allow the political needs of the Roman emperor determine their theology. But factionalism continued even after the Council of Nicea… not because of a lack of understanding the “plain sense” meaning (for even plain sense scholars disagree widely) but because it is deep within human nature to see different meaning in the same stimuli. Why? Because each of us has a different set of life experiences that we understand our world through. What is plain sense to you may seem plain sillyness to someone else.

    This is the basic truth behind post-modernism. That the world you see depends greatly upon the experiences that create the lens you look through.

    I will also freely share that the Bible is not the “Word of God” for me. The bible is a record of several thousand years of humans trying to understand their relationship to God and to each other. It is a history of a people and their struggle to find the meaning of their existence. For me, the Word of God, what I can point to and say that I see God’s hand is the Creation itself. As such, the Bible plays a different role in my faith. Perhaps that is why I have the distance to see it and scripture in a different light.

    Yours in Faith,
    David

  5. The dictates of hermeneutics (the art and science of interpreting the Bible) very much require context in its interpretation, as well as cross-references, cultural alliterations and so on. What context tells me is that the Bible with its 40 authors (yes) writing over 3,000 years with the consistent theme – God’s redemptive plan – as well as it’s archeology and historical collaborations and amount of first century fragments and third century copies… well, there’s no book in the whole wide world like the Bible.

    The Bible as well cannot stand along with other religious writings, for each concept of “God” is not at all the same, and overall conflicting. In Buddhism God is nothing, in Hinduism God is everything, in Islam God is a lone aloof entity, in animism there’s only spiritism, in Christianity God is 3-in-1 who seeks to fellowship with His creation, and so on.

    Universalism only sound like it works by equating all those religions without understanding they are polar opposites, then even throwing that out and saying people are in search for God and therefore must be gods themselves. Ironically, even the atheists believe they are evolving into gods.

    When we say we are gods (and I’ve seen the banners in a UU church), we remove God from His position of authority in our lives and throw out the only guidebook He has given us (the Bible) that teaches us how to return to a relationship with Him (by accepting that Jesus did all the work by dying on the cross in our place).

    Whether one wants to be “liberated” from God (which is rebellion), it doesn’t change reality. Post-modernism doesn’t work because it’s the acceptance of any delusion regardless of how things actually are. In the end, one still has to face John 3:36, “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.” To have God’s wrath remain on you is to go Hell, the punishment for our continued rebellion against God.

    David, I don’t want you to go to Hell. Whether you no longer believe in it or not, Hell still remains a reality for those who reject Jesus’ lifeline of salvation.

    Your old buddy,
    Nathan

  6. Wow… I’ve never seen such a banner in a UU church… and whoever did that would be far outside mainsteam Unitarian Universalism. Not even Humanism teaches that. Arguing that as the basis of UU’ism is a strawman argument, almost as if I equated all of Christianity with this “Fellowship” movement in DC.

    But I digress.

    Simply put, Nathan, we are operating on two very different conceptions of God and of faith. You say the Bible “can not stand along with other religous writings”… However I say it has no choice. All human writing must stand in relationship to all else to have any validity at all. Any other position requires the belief in a perfectablitiy of human knowledge that I do not believe can be justifiied, even with divine revelation (because humans misunderstand God constantly).

    The God I believe in is too grand, too vast to be able to be captured, even if you combined every single concept of God… and it certainly can not be captured in the writings and theology of any single tradition. While I operate primarily from a Christian understanding, intellectual and spiritual honesty requires that I accept that God is bigger than even my most grand concept of God.

    Reinhold Neibur put it this way… God is eternity, inclusive of time, conceived as a realm of meaning. All of this… including Christianity, Buddhism, Hinduism, all of creation, all of human history, all of universal history, all of science, all of sociology, all of us…. all of it is part of God.

    No human conception of God can encompass all there is… and so we must look at all of our conceptions of God with deep humility and understanding.

    Now, I will address the hell question… it is always a fun one. I beleive that we carry hell with us every day, and that the fear of a metaphysical hell is one of those hells that people inhabit throughout their entire lives. drug addiction, depression, hopelessness… many Americans are trapped in hell each day of their lives.

    Hell is also the “trump card” that many Christians play in an argument… only it does not have the power it once did.

    Hell exists all around us. We live in a world constantly at war. We live in a world of suffering that western society serves to insulate us from. Because much of Christianity has sought to separate the Kingdom of God from the world we live in, we perpetuate the hell that many live in every day.

    Hell does not frighten me… for until we bring the Kingdom of God to pass here on earth, we are already living in hell.

    I’ll leave aside the arguments that the modern Christian concept of hell is actually a leftover from Greek mythology… I dont beleive that it was a part of the original teachings of Jesus. If it had been, it would have been a far more prominent part of his teachings, not what seems to be a mere afterthought. Rather, it was added in the Greekization and Romanization of Christiantiy that happened in the first century. I will simply say this.

    The modern Christian focus on the afterlife has taken away the true force of the message of Jesus of Nazareth… and that is the creation of the Kingdom of God, of Beloved Community, here on earth for all. The removal of that message from the gospel is, I beleive, the true heresy.

    Yours in faith,
    And with deep thanks for your caring for my soul, in your own way…

    David

  7. Funny that the anti-spam word is “reason.” 🙂

    Have you noticed that you concepts of God, the Universe and Hell are all based on “I believe,” David? What is your foundation for belief? If I understand the 10 or so articles I’ve read of yours so far, your foundation of belief is you (backed up by a smathering of quotes by humanist intellectuals). How can you be the ultimate authority of what is and is not reality?

    You have decided Hell is our suffering on Earth. You have decided that God has no Son. You have decided to accept the liberal and shoddy arguments that the Bible cannot be God’s word. Do you see how you’ve formed your own reality?

    As we are not the Creator, neither all-knowing nor all-powerful (and who in their right mind would claim such a thing), then we are not qualified to decide how reality should be. We just have to live in the reality as it is and accept it until God fulfills his promises through Jesus to bring about the revitalization of the earth and mankind. To not accept reality, to create a delusion of a world as we would like it to be, is in essense the definition of insanity.

    And that’s where it cuts us to the chase, because insanity is the result of sin-sickness. We wish to reinvent the universe in our own image, and therefore be it’s god.

    As a minister I have counseled more folks than I can count who can’t deal with evil in the world, or suffering, or that they aren’t empowered enough. They dislike, even hate, God because of what they perceive is some great injustice done upon themselves. In their rebellion/sin against God, they fall to “insanity” and reinvent a new world around themselves.

    David, I don’t know what happened to you after the military, but I see you in these people I’ve counseled. I’m worried for you, Man, as one worries for their friend who is dying of cancer but thinks they only have a bad case of the cold.

  8. Nathan,

    Rather than post a response here on the issue of divine authority, I will write an article about it later today. Once again, it is something I preach about, but it has been a long while since I have written about it here at Celestial Lands.

    In short, though… my divine authority is my relationship with God… discovered through my life of prayer and spiritual practice.

    When I talk about divine authority, I’ll talk a bit about Bosnia, so I will let that answer come then…

    Wow… insanity as the result of sin-sickness… I could not disagree more… though I might agree that many of the personal hells we carry with us is the result of “soul-sickness”, and that realizing that we create the realities we live in, that we have both the power and the responsibility to do so (something any decent psychotherapist will tell you) is where healing is found.

    It is interesting you mention counseling… for I counsel many who have left the kind of belief system you describe and help them to learn to live in a complex universe…. and I see them in you. The fact that you see me in some of those who you counsel is proof of one of the points I have been implying to you… that our experiences and our pre-dispositions create the reality we live in…

    We see what our lives and our beliefs teach us to see. One of the primary differences between us is that my faith accepts the fungible nature of the human perception of reality, and accepts that there must therefore be a humility in what I perceive to be reality and truth.

    This is why I have done my best not directly challenge the things that you find faith, truth, and meaning in… even though I disagree with them deeply. You have the right and responsibility to believe as you are called to believe. Your life and experiences have created your reality, and it has deep meaning for you. The same is true for me. The difference is that I realize the reality created by my life, my experiences, and my pre-dispositions is not the same as your reality… and so I can not expect you to believe as I do.

    Nor can I expect you to accept the transformational understandings, truths, and vision that have come directly from my relationship with God… so I tend not to speak of those experiences. You were not there, you did not touch God in the same way, and so anyone who believed in things I say because of my spiritual experience would be placing their faith in me and not in their own relationship with God.

    You should place faith in your own relationship with God, not in the revelations of others. Our role as ministers is not to issue divine truth (the ultimate in egoism) but to share what we have come to from our own spiritual path in the hopes of inspiring others and learning in community, and in teaching others to find a spiritual practice that allows them to develop a deep relationship with God.

    In my expeirence with many who are much more conservative Christians (many who are military chaplains) I have found a lack of deep spiritual practice, and a series of “beliefs” and patterns that are more designed to protect someone from a deep experience of God. It became clear that unyielding belief is in its own way a kind of armor to defend someone from direct experience of God.

    This is not true of my pentecostal or full-gospel colleagues, which explains why I am much more spiritually comfortable in their company. The relationship they find with God in ecstatic experience, I find through meditation and trancendental experience… but I am convinced that where that takes us us the same.

    So, in some ways I am a “Pentecostal Unitarian” or a “Universalist of the Holy Spirit”. Like some of my colleagues, the direct expeirence of God is paramount for me, beyond scripture, beyond reason, and beyond tradition. I use scripture, reason, and tradition in seeking to understand and contextualize the experience, but also realize that such contextualization is and always will be a thin shadow of the expeirence itself.

    I also realze the highly personal nature of someone’s direct experience of God, and I trust that God does not need me sharing my experience of divinity with the expectation that people will show faith in it. I trust that God can speak directly to the hearts and lives of individuals, if they can be open to it… and I trust that God may have something different to say to them than to I.

    Faith, at its core, is sacred trust. It is trust we invest our whole being in. I place that sacred trust in my direct experience of God, and my beliefs, vision, and hope flows from that. If your beliefs flow from direct expeirence of God, and we deeply disagree, that just shows the depth, complexity, and beauty of God. I praise God for that complexity, and for your willingness to share… for your sharing of your beliefs has already deepend my understanding of my own experience of God.

    Not what you intended, I know… but I thank you for it.

    I’ll let you know when the essay is up…

    Yours in Faith,

    David

  9. Let me see if I’m understanding your universalism… Reality is what we make of it. Truth is based on our own personal experiences. Conflicting positions are both equally “true.” It is egotistical to acknowledge one thing is the ultimate truth. Why, David, you’ve become the poster boy for Post-moderism! 🙂

    If everything is true, then wouldn’t it be nothing is true?

    Again, David, we have to go to the Creator to get the accurate view of the Creation. We go to the Source to find meaning. We have to go beyond our finite selves to the infinite to understand reality. In other words, God has to be the source of what is and is not reality; what is and is not truth, and not us.

    And, we have that in God. Not some arbitrary god that we make up in order to suit our own fancy of what a God should be, but an actual entity who has His own plans and values that He hass set His creation to live by. We don’t have to be buffeted in uncertainty all the time, guessing what is reality and living a delusion. God gave us an instruction manual (the Bible) to tell us just what that reality is, how we should live, and what God has in store for us.

    I can live in certainty, knowing who God is, what He expects of us, and whether something is true and real. There’s no egotism in acknowledging the way things are. It’s actually rather liberating.

  10. Nathan,

    It is wonderful how well you make my point for me. Can you not see how your characterization of my beliefs, based upon the lens you bring to them, the experiences and training and beliefs you hold, says much more about what you believe than about what I do? Can you not see that your “truth” is completely bound by the experiences and choices you have made? Your lens determines your reaction, and therefore creates your reality…

    Reality, impartial, immutable reality, does indeed exist… I am not claiming there is no such thing as “ultimate truth”. That is something you have read into my beliefs. The core of what I am saying is simply this… we humans do not have the ability to grasp all that is God, all that is Creation, all that is truth… and so any claim by any of us to an authoritative understanding of all of reality can only have meaning on an individual level.

    You seek certainity… and I am not judging you for that… so you have found something you can hold certainty in. Amen! May you find deep meaning for your life in that. But that certainty is something you have accepted, not an encompassing whole of all that is. The egotism lies in believeing that the certainty represented by your faith encompases all that is, all that was, and all that ever will be. I’m sure you do find liberation in it. For me, I would see it as a box, a prison of my own creation. A hell, if you will.

    There is nothing arbitrary about my faith, although I do not expect you to be able to accept that. Your lens will not allow you to do so, and I do not seek to chalenge your lens. As such, I will accept that the majority of your comments in the last post which deeply misrepresent my view of God are indeed much more about what you oppose than about what I beleive.

    I will simply express this… the key to understanding my faith is that I admit that I do not, and can not know anything in its absolute fullness. To accept that limitation while I explore the nature of God, while I explore the nature of creation, while I explore the nature of life, of meaning, of scripture, and of myself means that all of the constructs that I build to seek deeper understanding are just that, constructs. Of course my understanding of God, of creation, of nature, of life, and of myself are flawed… they must always be. And yet, the quest of faith, of sacred trust, continues.

    Believing you understanding totality is the trap the human race has fallen into over and over again. Learning to live without that certainity is my faith, and the center of my understanding of Unitarian Universalism.

    At its core, the quest of post-modern faith, of Unitarian Universalist faith, and of my faith is the realization that all the answers we come to, all the beleifs we hold can at their best only be approximations of reality. It is to understand doubt not as something to fear, but as the deepest signpost to deeper meaning and understanding.

    I am not going to debate your beliefs with you, Nathan… because I hope they give you comfort and provide you peace. I hope your view of the Bible as an instruction manual from God gives you a sense of solidity and meaning in life, and I am deeply pleased that it provides you with guidence in your life. I am deeply pleased that in sensing an eternal hell or an eternal heaven, you are able to locate yourself in the universe. I am joyful that you are able to provide such a solidity to your understanding of God.

    I would not take that away from anyone who finds meaning in it… because it provides you comfort and meaning in your life. I know how frightening it is for some to live in a fluid universe, because I walked my own way through that fear. For those who are not prepared for an uncertain universe, adopting a perceived solidity in a conservative Christian faith is an answer that can work, at least in the short term. The same is true for conservative Muslim faith, or indeed any faith that gives someone an absolute view of reality. There are some deep and troubling societal implications when those absolute views come into conflict, and we as a species are struggling through those implications right now. Perhaps, over time, we will cease killing each other over our certainties… but until then we continue to muddle through.

    Adopted certainty simply does not work for me, because I have seen a glimpse of the immensity of the universe, of God, of totality… and I overcame my fear of it. It changed my life, it changed me, and it allowed me to see interdependence of all, and my own place in it. And when I worked past my fear, I found myself in awe before the immensity of God. Now, I spend every day in that awe and wonder with praise.

    I dont even wish you to have the experience I did… because you have found a meaning that is working for you. But it can not work for me, my friend. It is too limited to encompass my relationship with God.

    Yours in Faith,

    David

  11. We are in total agreement, David, that God is bigger than comprehension. That He’s all-powerful, all-knowing, and all-present.

    I want to understand how God is personal to you, though. By throwing out God’s description of who He is in His book, and not having His Spirit indwell in you by salvation, how can you have more than general revelation by which to know God?

    It is like if I wrote an autobiography “The Life of Nathan,” which first person detailed who I am, but then a reader decided that nobody could really know me by my autobiography. Instead, they look at how my lawn is cut, or what others theorize my life could be like, or dig through my trash in an attempt to find out who the “real” Nathan is. Without reading my book and having a pesonal relationship with me, they would have a most inaccurate picture of who I truly am. The same with God.

    One certainly can use general revelation to get a glimpse of God at work. And that is what makes mankind accountable for how they respond to God’s salvation, as Romans 1:20 states, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen, being understood through what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”

    But, general revelation only takes one to the first step. God is way bigger than that. And yet, He’s left His Word and Spirt so that He’s also knowable.

    To craft a god apart from the real God, whether by mental or physical image, is idolatry (Ex. 20:4).

  12. Nathan,

    To substitute an image of God, including the image of God represented in the bible, in the stead of an understanding of God that is all and is in all is the true idolatry… though I do not expect you to be able to see that.

    Take a look at your response to me… do you not see how it more deeply applies to your own professed image of God than to the God that is touched through deep spiritual practice?

    I do not know, and readily admit that I do not know, the full or complete nature of God. No human being can. If the image of God represented in the Bible is taken as absolute, that is idolatry.

    I disagree with you on the nature of General and Special revelation, primarily in this way. I do not beleive that Special revelation can ever be generalized, but must be limited to the individual. When Christian evangelists attempt to “Generalize” Special revelation, they make a base mistake in understanding the nature of Special Revleation, and they substitute themselves for God.

    Only God can grant or share Special Revelation. When a Special Revelation Evangelist of any faith attempts to share the particulars of their understanding (for they can not conceive of it in its fullness) of Special Revelation, there are three mistakes they are making.

    First: It is not their place. God can speak into the hearts and lives of individuals more than they ever can. It shows a lack of faith and trust in God. Rather, they should be helping and facilitating each person to touch the presence of God and to receive their own Special revelation.

    Second: Special Revelation, by its very nature, is impossible to translate into words. It is composed not just of words and ideas, but of feelings, of emotion, of the spiritual sense that reason and language often fails to carry. I cannot explain to you what it means to touch God… I can only help you to experience it yourself.

    Jesus experienced this, as no matter how many times he tried to explain his special revelation, the disciples just could not understand. I’m convinced that the majority of Christiantiy has continued to misunderstand, just as the disciples did… only now we’ve codified that misunderstanding into doctrine and creed.

    Third: Believing in someone else’s special revelation is an excuse not to listen to God yourself. To me, secondarily recieved special revelation is actually an armor against deep relationship with God. It is a defense against deep spiritual engagement with the divine. That is ok… for many people do not want or need to really be engaged with more than an idol of God. But I find it humerous when you try to turn Exodus 20 on me…. I was thinking the same of you.

    I do not share my special revelation because it is between me and God. I have faith that God can share with you, if you will only listen. I have faith that God may say something different to you than to I, for you and I are not the same person. I have faith that your special revelation from God is meant for you, as mine is meant for me.

    It is not only Idolatry, but it is placing yourself in the place of God when you attempt to require or convince others to believe in the Special Revelation God has placed on your heart. It is an attempt to “Generalize” Special Revelation.

    So, you are rigth… I do argue and publically share mostly from the General Revelation… and I seek to help others to hear their own Special Revelation.

    Yours in Faith,

    David

  13. David, your conclusion that the Bible is not God’s own Word, that God does not reveal everything He wants us to know about Him through the Bible, and that the Bible isn’t our handbook to answering the fundamental questions like “Why am I here?,” “What is my purpose in life?” and “Where am I going?” is fatally flawed by it’s lack of empirical evidence. God’s big enough to not leave us to feelings and emotions to figure out who He is.

    The greatest of these evidences God gives us, and the reason I’ve dedicated my ministry at http://www.lamblion.com to sharing it, is the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. 300 general and 108 specific prophecies concerning the First Coming of the Messiah were fulfilled in Jesus.

    What line of people the Messiah would come from, what town he’d be born into, how he’d be killed by a method not invented until 100’s of years after the prophecy was made, that his clothes would be gambled away, that he’d be betrayed… are just a few of those prophecies. The finding of the Dead Sea Scrolls that have all but 2 of the OT books and date about 150 years before Jesus ever came on the scene prove the prophecies were made before Jesus arrived. The probability that just 8 of those being fuliflled in one person is one impossible chance in 31,135,104,000,000,000,000,000. And yet, secular historians like Josephus and leaders like King Agrippa attested that Jesus was a real man that proved himself to be God by the miracles He performed. Jesus’ own followers were willing to be tortured to death they believed so strongly in His claim to be God. And, that’s just the First Coming.

    There are 500 prophecies concerning Jesus’ Second Coming yet to be fulfilled. They foretell a time when Jesus will return to take those saved up to be with Him, that God will pour out His wrath upon the world for 7 years for man’s continued rebellion against Him, and that when Jesus returns to set up His 1,000 year Kingdom of peace, love and righteousness on Earth He will judge those remaining alive who haven’t already been made clean by accepting Him as Savior, leaving those who are saved to live into the Kingdom (called the Sheep-Goat Judgment). The signs of the end times (political and spiritual alignments) are all in place for this to begin very soon.

    I say this because I care about my old friend David and know your patience for this thread is winding down. The only thing that I can prove to you that you’ve fallen for “a doctrine of demons” and are already part of the humanistic universalistic one-world religion that will dominate the world for the first half of the 7-year Tribulation, is the Rapture. When millions of believers in Jesus are suddenly removed, I hope you won’t be as 2 Thes. 2:9-12 warns will happen:

    “The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.”

    If I’m wrong, I’m wrong, and your universalistic God will let me into whatever celestial land He offers. But, if I’m right about the Bible being God’s Word, then David, remember our conversation and use my website at http://www.lamblion.com to guide you in living through the Tribulation.

    I pray, David, that the Lord will reveal Himself to you and that I will see you forever in Heaven one day.

    Your old buddy,
    Nathan

  14. Nathan,

    I always know when an evanglist is running out of arguments…when someone turns to a Christianized version of Pascal’s wager. I have enjoyed our conversation, and as you can see in this post I have brought the attention of others to it, and encouraged more of my colleagues to engage with conservative Christians… because it is through such engagement we can deepen and clarify our own faith.

    I thank you for the engagement. Any time you wish to continue it I am here…

    I will say that I am unconvinced by the argument from Prophesy, as are the millions of Jews and the hundred of millions of muslims around the world. I know that is not a compelling argument to you, but it is a significant one to me. I could argue it line by line, but that would be as unconvincing to you as your belief in such fulfillment of prophesy is to me.

    Simply put, I think you have completely misunderstood the purpose and role of the prophet in Jewish tradition and scripture. It is too easy to decide that what you wish to believe to be the fulfillment of a prophesy is the fulfillment of said prophesy… your own desires make you unobjective.

    I want to thank you for your care for my soul. It is a core part of my belief that we are called to build the Kingdom of God here, not wait upon an afterlife. If we do the work we are called to do, then beyond this life will take care of itself.

    I understand that your beliefs provide you deep meaning in life. They would not for me. I would find them to be a box even tighter than the one you seek to capture God in. Relationship to God is found in spiritual experience, not codified and simplified belief.

    I wish you well, and if you ever want to chat some more, I am here!

    Yours in Faith,

    David

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