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Archive for the ‘Reflections’ Category

We Can’t Use The Bible To Suggest A Caring God Condemns Homosexuality!

Many feel every moral fiber in their body can’t condemn gays when they can no more control their feelings toward those of the same sex than heterosexuals can control their feelings toward the opposite sex. Many may judge homosexuality to be wrong because they are convinced they are honoring God according to Scriptures. Some feel homosexuality isn’t natural but they aren’t gay. God-followers should be non-judgmental and treat others like they would want to be treated if gay.

Human moral intuitions guide us what a moral God is like.

A universal desire to treat others like we want to be treated may be how a Creator communicates caring behavior. Nations can establish laws because most agree it is wrong to steal, abuse, or murder. Laws help protect individual rights not being violated. Personal relationship decisions are not violating anyone’s personal rights. I hope more may stop judging others about their personal relationships if convinced God doesn’t condemn them through Scriptures.    

Please reconsider interpretations if they don’t lead to loving gay and straight friends more. 

Some reject caring, same-sex relationships because of their understandings of Scripture. But, about seven main passages used to condemn homosexuality are highly debatable. Interpretation isn’t exact, especially of a Book written over 2000 years ago edited over centuries by dozens of writers. A must read is David Gushee’s book Changing Our Mind which I reference below.

  • The Sodom and Gomorrah story may be the easiest to dispute. Genesis 19 and Judges 19 are stories about men seeking to assault male guests receiving hospitality in a local household (Chapter 11). In both stories women horribly are offered as an alternative for sexual pleasure which should caution us against applications of these stories. Besides, the story is about gang rape and as has nothing to do about loving, consensual, same-sex relationships.
  • Lev. 18:22 and 20:13 list same sex activities, though we can’t know the exact nature of such relationships, as an abomination and recommend the death penalty. The OT also lists as abominations lying lips, eating pork or rabbit, arrogance, etc. (Chapter 12). Whoops! Not only can we not know the exact nature of the same sex relationships, to be consistent should we also advocate today the death penalty for those who curse their parents, various sexual acts, or being a sorceress (Lev. 20)? How we apply OT laws to our lives is hardly clear.
  • Matthew 19 and Mark 10 are used to suggest Jesus condemned homosexual relationships by using Adam and Eve as the norm in discussing marriage. Jesus spoke out against casual attitudes about marriage and divorce. Isn’t permanence in marriage, if couples continue to act loving to one another, in the best interest of couples and children? We cannot say definitively Jesus is condemning same-sex relationships who don’t have a lackadaisical attitude toward marriage. Jesus’ teachings in this context shouldn’t be used to condemn such relationships.
  • Romans 1 condemns same sex relationships, or surely any sexual activities, devoid of fidelity or love (v. 31). The writer may have in mind relationships common during that time including masters involved in sexual acts with their slaves or men having sex with younger boys. Who doesn’t condemn abusive, controlling, unequal, relationships! It is doubtful the writer had in mind, thus condemning, consensual, loving, monogamous, gay relationships.
  • I Cor. 6:9 and I Tim 1:10 translates two Greeks words malakoi and arsenoloitai into the English word homosexual. There are tremendous scholar debates about the meaning and correct translations of these words, though not always admitted. Plausible translations for arsenoloitai also are sex traffickers, rapists, sexual predators, etc. (Chapter 13). Besides, for what every reason other sins listed in these passages are seldom used to threaten Hell (i.e. adulterers, thieves, drunkards, slanders, or the greedy). These passages clearly don’t resolve the issue.

Please read David Gushee’s book for further reflection if convinced the Bible can be used to condemn gay relationships.  

Even if claimed morality is only determinable according to a book such as the Bible or Koran, as opposed to also common moral sense, interpretations that condemn homosexuality are highly debatable. The Bible encourages loving, consensual, caring relationships to avoid heart-break. Any sexual behaviors that are abusive, unequal, controlling, mindless, selfish engagements, as opposed to consensual monogamous relationships, are wrong to most rational human being. Passages possible mentioning homosexuality condemn abusive, unequal, controlling, loveless sexual behaviors for satisfying one’s own pleasures. 

I am not suggesting God-followers impose their monogamous views of sexual behaviors on others. I am convinced God thinks, as most of us do, that committed, life-long, mutual-consenting, monogamous sexual relationships are always in our best interest. A good God surely supports all loving, caring relationships. Most parents don’t wish to condemn their children for relationship choices they feel they can’t control. Are humans better than God as a parent?

We need to consider our attitude about interpretation in general as well as verses used to condemn homosexual relationships.

Gushee points out the Bible was used for centuries by the church to condemn Jewish people in the name of God. Then, miraculously within twenty years of the murderous assault of anti-Semitic violence during World War II, attitudes begin to change where the Bible is seldom used in such a matter (Chapter 20). The Bible hasn’t changed. Family members no longer need to be broken hearted when they think their devotion to God requires them to give their loved one some version of “love the sinner, hate the sin” speech.

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How To Understand Evil Portrayals Of God In The Bible Rather Than Rationalizing?

One doesn’t have to read the Bible a great deal to understand why many stop reading after certain passages. The Old Testament causes more unbelief in God or confusion than we care to admit. One may want to continue learning about God through the Bible but rightly expect rational explanations that don’t depict God’s actions opposing our moral consciences.

Violent images of God in the OT are morally unacceptable humanly-speaking.

Many passages in the OT contradict God’s claim to not be evil. All have a sense of what is immoral. Universal moral intuitions can be how a Creator communicates to us. Why else do we want and strife for perfection in relationships and expect a Creator to be the same? Every moral fiber in our body cries out when reading certain descriptions of God in the OT.

Who crushes their daughter in a winepress because upset (Lam. 1:15)? What kind of God orders killing boys and non-virgin women but sparing non-virgins (Num. 31:18)? Does God expect young woman to watch their mothers, sisters, and brothers murdered by men who one day may expect marriage or sex? What God orders capital punishment for rebellious children, adulterers, or those involved in witchcraft (Lev. 20)? God says in war to kill all the men, women, children, infants, and animals (I Sam. 15:3). Many more passage depict a God opposed to common moral sense.

Rationalizing the Bible opposes human and God’s expectation.  

God sometimes is said to be a mystery beyond human comprehension, because one’s interpretations clashes with even their own moral intuitions. Scriptures claiming God is not evil is nonsensical if evil sometimes is good. We can’t say anything is good because it might be evil sometimes. We are told to not dare question God. How can many have a relationship much less understand a God who rejects questioning them, when God created us to know evil?

There is a rational explanation of immoral portrayals of God.

God obviously did not verbally dictate the entire Bible. We cannot be certain when God allowed the writers the freedom to misunderstand and express their understandings of God, explaining many violent passages supposedly in the name of God. This explains many false portrayals of God. Evil in the world, though God opposes, is surely a sign of God’s uncontrolling nature thus supporting God didn’t perform a lobotomy on OT writers. Writers were surely influenced by surrounding cultures where gods demanded respect by claiming them to be all powerful and controlling.  God though always seeks to continually persuade of one’s own accord. 

So, how can we understand and accept the Bible?

The Bible was never meant to be a story controlled by God. God got involved with the nation of Israel to begin revealing what a loving God is like compared to other gods. God surely intended us to understand them best through the life and voice of Jesus. God all along attempted to influence and persuade what God is really like, but Jesus was Gods’ ultimate explanation. What kind of person sacrifices their life, when they have the power to prevent it, to convince others that God desires to help us be the kind of person we want to be deep down?

So, how can we understand and know God?  

You believe in morality if you believe in evil. It seems to me the presence of moral outrage hints of a personal external force communicating through our moral intuitions that lead to outrage. How else do we explain a universal desire to treat others morally like we want to be treated? Nations can establish laws because most agree it is wrong to steal, murder, lie, or commit adultery. Obviously, nor all have the same moral intuitions. We know terrorists are wrong because they do not wish to be treated by our imposing our beliefs on them. Only extremists believe disputes about interpretations are more important than love when personal beliefs aren’t violating the rights of others. True religion doesn’t seek to be served but serve.

What is possible to believe about a God who claims to not be evil?

It is impossible that a God, who denounces evil, would ever be involved in genocide or women used as sex options for spoils in a war. It is impossible God desires war and violence if nations are willing to live in peace with one another and protect the rights of all. It is impossible that a loving God wants a relationship but refuses any questions to understand them. It is possible that a God who claims to not be evil, who created us to not be evil, who created us to know evil, begin a relationship with a nation that ultimately accumulated in the example of one sent from God.

 

 

Can We Make Sense Of The Bible If Not Infallible Or Has False Portrayals Of God?

TAKEAWAYS

⇒Only a controlling God would not allow human perceptions recorded in the Bible

⇒The Bible is for reflection about God rather than a rules book to gain God’s favor

Many believe the Bible is without error regarding science or how God is portrayed when it comes to war or punishment. Keep in mind Genesis may not contradict science. The writers may not have intended parts of Genesis to be an exact literal report as opposed to a rendering to explain spiritual truths. A writer with knowledge of earth science available in their lifetime doesn’t make then a liar or all they have written is untrue. In the Bible’s defense, it is as historically reliable or more so than any ancient literature we take for fact such as Caesar’s Gallic Wars.

But, does the Bible claim infallibility because of one main verse: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16)? The word translated as God-breathed is greatly debated among scholars. This verse may not imply God controlled every word written; this verse can mean God approved of the writings of Israel’s history and Jesus’ life for reflection upon our relationship with our Creator. After Jesus left this earth in person, God’s Spirit than a Book is promised in discerning what God is really like (Jn. 14:16).

How would it work anyway if God controlled what was written?

No one argues that God verbally dictated the Bible. We don’t know exactly how OT authors writing “God said” differs from impressions and feelings one has about God. A uncontrolling God would give writers the freedom to misunderstand and grow in their understandings of God. Many books were written over time by several writers. What is inerrant – when the writer first spoke the words to their audience, when the writer recorded the words, when an editor(s) edited the original words, or finally when such recordings were gathered into a book?

Besides, a writer’s meaning is interpretation which we can’t claim is infallible or inerrant.

Claiming God only communicates what is good and perfect through a book such as the Bible or Koran has led to justifying immoral actions because of misinterpretations. Literature is interpretation and we often end up claiming our interpretation is God’s. The Bible or any book written in the past cannot be definitive ultimately of what is good, because the writer is not available for clarification and explanation.

How then can we determine what is truth if not according to some Book?

If you believe evil exist you believe morality exist. Our sense of obligation could result from the random collection of impersonal atoms over time, but it is also very plausible that such intuitions are the result of a moral Creator communicating to human beings. We know good from evil according to moral intuitions. Such intuitions can guide our reading and interpretation of literature.

Oh, so everyone’s opinion is right!

The text clearly cannot mean anything. Nations can establish laws because it is wrong to steal, murder, lie, or commit adultery because there is universal agreement on most moral matters. Some opinions are clearly wrong. Only extremists think disputes about supposed truth are more important than love. True religion doesn’t seek to be served but serve.

We don’t have to throw out the Bible just because a writer may be expressing an erroneous opinion of God at that time in their spiritual journey. God never intended a Book to take the place of a relationship with God and others but to be read reflectively. God wishes to influence our heart to make choices in the interest of ourselves and others in the long-run. We can always consider Jesus’ perspective when OT passages confuse us of what God is really like. Most agree Jesus is the most exact representation of God. Actions that don’t lead to loving your neighbor more are likely mistaken.

Reasons You Don’t Feel Close To God Though Wanting To?

Many who believe in a God may desire more of a connection with their Creator. After all, isn’t spirituality and God about being more the person we deep down desire to be? There may be as many reasons as there are individuals why we don’t pursue more of a connection, but I am not convinced many are actively rebelling against God as claimed.

Rebelling against God is desiring and believing in selfishness over unselfishness in relationships. Is that really you?

We may not seek out God more because of what we assume about God and spirituality according to others.   

Becoming more of a spiritual person isn’t accepting a set of beliefs others suggest are important to be accepted by God. Besides, which supposed required beliefs do you accept since there are thousands of different beliefs as to what God wants? It is suspect that a good God leaves to chance what beliefs we are supposed to believe.

Spirituality surely is as simple as considering help from your God, if you are so inclined to believe there is a Creator, in being more the person you deep down desire to be. Can you imagine Jesus freaking out if that was our core belief?

We may not seek God out more not because of lack of belief in God, but because of what we believe about God.

We can only be as close to God as our mental images of God allow. Marriages always do better if one doesn’t think their partner is the devil sometimes but deep down truly cares about them. We may not pursue God more because we assume others’ beliefs about God are true, or God is like the poor role models we have had who claim to represent God. The God often portrayed by others condemns gay people, favors men over women despite the history of men abusing power, and created Hell to throw people in after death if they don’t discover the right beliefs before death.  

We may not seek to be more spiritual with God’s help because of supposed expectations or rituals to follow.

God doesn’t demand you seek to convert others to your beliefs. Having more of a connection with God doesn’t mean you have a hidden agenda with others in your interactions. God certainly isn’t in the business of telling people they are going to Hell if they don’t believe certain things. Go to a church, synagogue, or mosque if that is where you are encouraged and able to encourage others in making for a better world. 

So, what can we believe about God?  

All of us wish for perfect love in relationships, and to give such love back. Most of us are striving to be a better person that we are. Such inclinations could be an invisible Creator’s way of communicating to their creations. God can’t ask us to strive for moral perfection unless perfect themselves. Don’t we deep down somehow know that love is uncontrolling, love is forgiving, love is freedom of beliefs when they don’t violate the rights of others. Imagine a world that showed such respect to all. God is exactly like what we expect and hope from others.

God only desires that we love ourselves and others to the fullest, but God is not going to coerce you into such actions.

God’s expectations aren’t that you must believe certain events in the Bible that you may have difficulty believing. Just seek out relationships that encourage spiritually striving to be a better partner, parent, friend, and neighbor. Trust God for faith and encouragement in loving others to the fullest in becoming more the person you deep down desire to be.

 

 

Steps Toward Undividing Our Nation

I wrote about this topic recently but I wanted to suggest specific steps individuals and groups can take so differences can be discussed for workable solutions. It seems to me we must agree on necessary actions so change has a chance.

First, violence is never an option unless protecting ourselves from danger.

Protests must be peaceful. Violence must be called out by leadership. Leadership cannot stand silently or speak provocatively implying violence is ever appropriate. Police must be obeyed for consideration of their own safety. Police actions must be reviewed for possible discipline, expulsion, or criminal charges. Police leadership must show how they are not protecting their own in reviews.

Secondly, we must always listen and be open-minded.

Relationships much less nations cannot survive or thrive unless we respective one another rights to have opposing views. It is only when we accept one is entitled to a different perspective that we may listen and change or beliefs as appropriate. The attitude of “I am right and you are wrong” is destroying possibilities of peace and solutions. 

Thirdly, most beliefs can be viewed as personal than moral for discussions to happen.  

The first two steps could lead to much problem-solving, but a third step is necessary for extremely difficult issues. Moral beliefs, such as murder or stealing, are the only beliefs to impose upon others because they violate the rights of others. It is difficult for me to accept that KKK members have a right to their beliefs so discussions can begin, but their actions must not deny blacks their same freedoms. It is difficult for me to accept that gays may not have certain legal privileges so discussions can begin, but we must allow the majority to be the rule of law. Keep in mind personal consensual relationships of the same or opposite gender do not violate the rights of others.

Also, God followers cannot use the Bible definitively to determine moral laws to impose upon others. Ancient literature is always subject to interpretation, thus why those who revere the Bible disagree. No one can claim their interpretation is the correct view of a Supreme Being.

Not being violent, not listening, not being open-minded, and not imposing our personal beliefs are necessary first steps.

The blessing of a democratic society is the freedom to express our personal beliefs and vote when laws are necessary because of personal differences. Laws voted on must be accepted until voted upon again, while allowing the right to non-violent disagreements for discussion. I hope athletes find another way to protest than during the national anthem to avoid perceptions of ingratitude toward our veterans. I wish President Trump could show empathy rather than speak provocatively. You don’t have to be black to understand that blacks continue to suffer inequalities. We must work toward changes.

 

 

How Can A Divided Nation Unite More?

A divided nation can’t totally unite when their views strongly differ. We can begin by respecting one another’s right to have opposing views. It is only when we accept one is entitled to a different perceptive that we may listen and change our beliefs if appropriate. The blessing of a democratic society is the freedom to express our personal beliefs and vote when laws are necessary because of personal differences.

Those who make peaceful resolution impossible make violent revolution inevitable. (JFK)

Violence is never appropriate unless protecting oneself from danger. We must peaceful protest so we can discuss solutions to our differences. It is horrible when people of different color or gender don’t naturally have the same rights. Such views must not be enabled through silence by those who enjoy their rights protected. Violent protestors who share our views must be called out.  Martin Luther King demonstrated change is possible through peaceful means.

Moral laws are the only beliefs rightfully imposed upon others.

Universal immorality, such as murder or dictating religious belief, are intuitive to all except extremists. Universal moral laws necessary for survival can be identified by whether we would accept such actions dictated to other to be imposed on ourselves. Stealing is wrong because we do not wish to be stolen from. Terrorists seek to impose their religious beliefs on others, but they do not accept certain religious beliefs imposed upon them.

Personal beliefs that do not violate the rights of others don’t have to be treated as moral laws.

Gay people obviously believe their sexuality is a moral issue. I don’t disagree. Many God followers oppose homosexuality morally according to the Bible. Though I disagree that God condemns gay relationships, we must find ways to discuss. Personal beliefs can be distinguished from moral beliefs by whether one’s rights are being violated. Rights are not being violated between two consenting adults who can no more love one of the opposite sex than one can love the same sex.

God followers can take an important first step by accepting that any book, such as the Bible, cannot be used definitively to determine moral beliefs. Literature is interpretation, thus we must admit our interpretation may not be God’s view. It is important to recognize that biblical scholars who believe in the value of Scriptures rightly debate if the Bible condemns loving, gay relationships. If sexuality can be discussed in this matter, police actions and other dividing issues can be as well.

Not listening or not being open-minded is not an option. Violence is not an option. Imposing our personal beliefs on others is not an option.

The attitude of “I am right and you are wrong” is destroying possibilities of peace. In marriage couples gradually fall out of love because they forget the only reasonable demands are moral behaviors intuitive to all. All other expectations are negotiable. In a nation of laws personal beliefs can be voted on when necessary. Imagine a world of relationships that did not argue with certainty that their personal beliefs are necessarily moral. True spirituality insists only on the Law of Love which entitles all to form their own personal beliefs if not violating the rights of others.

The Danger In Not Reinterpreting Violence In The Bible And How To View?

The Old Testament causes more unbelief in God than we admit. God often commends killing all the men, women, and children during wartimes. God orders killing all the boys and non-virgin women and seemingly approves of sex slavery: “save for yourselves every girl who has never slept with a man” (Num. 31:18).  OT laws encouraged capital punishment for adulterers and rebellion children. Can you imagine some parents believing God approves of this? I may be dead?

I have rationalized in the past violent passages: “…do not leave alive anything that breathes. Completely, destroy them… (Deut. 20:17). I argued God first ordered driving the same nations out of their land (Deut. 7:1), thus destruction was only carried out if the people refused to leave. If one is able and refuses to leave lands inhabited by terrorists coordinating to destroy other nations, it is a moral option for soldiers to destroy whoever before being destroyed. There is a danger in such an interpretation, and passages such as Numbers above are even more difficult to justify.

There is better option to rationalizing God as truly violent according to the Bible.

There are two basis viewpoints about God’s role in Scriptures. God either controlled the writers’ thoughts and writings to perfectly represent God, or God did not control writers reporting their views of God at that time even if false portrayals. The amount of evil in the world, though God opposes, is surely a sign of God’s uncontrolling nature thus supporting God didn’t perform a lobotomy on OT writers.

Misinterpretations of the Bible or Koran has led to justifying immoral actions.

Literature is interpretation, thus no one can claim their view with certainty. The Bible or any book written in the past cannot be definitive ultimately of what is good. If you believe evil exist you believe morality exist. Universal moral intuitions could be the result of a moral Creator communicating to human beings. We determine what God is really like and good from evil from such intuitions, then claiming our interpretation is God’s. Only extremists don’t recognize that true religion doesn’t seek to be served but serve, that genuine beliefs are freely chosen not demanded.

We can interpret confusing OT passages through the views of Jesus.  

Those who value the Bible would agree that Jesus’ views of God were perfect. Bible believers do not suggest OT prophet views have the same authority as Jesus’. Whenever we are confused or sense a contradiction between the OT and NT, Jesus’ view can be accepted as the final word. Trusting an interpretation of a Book rather than our moral intuitions or perceived views of Jesus leads to justifying violence in the name of God.

Only extremists don’t sense that God loves peace over war, but few would argue a wife cannot protect herself against a husband’s violence or nations cannot defend themselves against other nations who are a threat to their existence. We must never justify violence according to an interpretation of a Book. It simply is impossible that a good God, who denounces evil, would ever be involved in genocide or women used as sex options for spoils in a war.

The Bible is valuable for reflection and not meant to be a rules’ book to gain God’s favor.

Jesus clearly chose non-violence as a way of life whenever possible. If we every sense the OT justifies God being immoral, we can assume something else is going on. A uncontrolling God can give writers the freedom to misunderstand and grow in their understandings of God, without denying the Bible is useful for teaching through the lens of Jesus. Comparisons encourage seeking what God is really like. Guidance from God that doesn’t lead to loving your neighbor more are likely to be a false representation of a God who claims to be perfectly good.

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