NOTE: I received a long message, so I'm answering in chunks. My answers are in red.
I don't think that you and I will agree upon the things that I question, but I will state a few of the things that I believe and question.
Two of the things I question are suicide and murder. Most devout believe that anyone who commits suicide is automatically condemned to hell. I cannot believe a merciful God would condemn someone who was mentally ill when they killed themselves, to hell. Nor do I believe that all mentally-tormented people, even those who commit murder, are sent into everlasting torture. I'm not talking about inherently evil people who kill for the thrill of it, I'm talking about the mentally ill or incompetent, and the abused who finally reach a breaking point. The ones who deserved help and compassion before it was too late, but never received it.
I know of no place in the Bible that says suicides or murderers go to hell simply because they killed themselves or someone else. Moses was a murderer. King David, whom God said was a man “after my own heart”, was a murderer. The Bible states pretty clearly that these men are in heaven. In fact, Moses appeared with Jesus at the transfiguration, do you recall that story? None of the Christians I count as friends believe in the way you describe, and the Bible certainly does not put forth those beliefs. Those are the opinions of men, not God. If you want even more evidence, then consider this: Jesus was a suicide. He came to earth on a suicide mission to die for us. He knew the Jewish leaders would crucify Him, and He allowed it to happen. In fact, He did things to ensure it happened, even after His friends warned Him. What else would you call it when someone intentionally does things to ensure their own death? I call it suicide. Is Jesus in hell? The Bible says no, He's at the right hand of God. So no...just because you kill yourself or someone else does not cement a place for you in hell, but on the other hand, it certainly doesn't mean there are no suicides or murderers in hell.
And what about people who are possessed (examples are given in the Bible)? My understanding is that Lucifer was given permission to torment believers and I think this is one way that he does it. Because these people are tormented by hell's minions through no fault of their own but only because they believe in God, does that mean that they are condemned to hell when they die? Are they forgiven for the sins committed by the demon who possessed them? I think they should be, since it was not by their choice.
Again, I know of no place in the Bible that says demon-possessed people go to hell. However, it is typical that those who ARE demon-possessed actively participate in things adamantly condemned by God prior to possession, such as drugs and the occult. In other words, before a demon possesses a person, that person often chooses things that enable the possession. In a case like that, yep, I’d expect that person to go to hell unless God intervenes in some way. But the Bible tells of other possessions where the person hasn’t really done anything to encourage the possession, such as that of children. I've even read of a strong Christian being possessed. I expect God will judge each case justly.
My pastors do teach the Bible, but the Lutheran Church that I now belong to takes a different view of the Holy Book from the Fundamental Baptist faith that I was raised in. Like any myth, which is always based on real events, they do not preach the Bible as a complete reason or fact-basis for belief, but rather as God's teaching tool to get us thinking (like a parable). The Lutheran Church does believe in God, Jesus, the Holy Ghost (which I've never quite understood), and Lucifer. Lucifer is the fallen angel who became the devil, Satan is the "avatar", so to speak, that is used to personify all evil that is created by both Lucifer and man. I believe that some evil simply comes from man himself, and it would happen even without Lucifer's help.
They teach that the Bible is a myth? If they do, they don’t teach the Bible. If one part of the Bible is a myth, then it’s ALL a myth. God has so tightly woven and interconnected it that there is no other option. Noah’s a myth? Well, Christ spoke of it as a true story. Adam and Eve just a fairy tale? Jesus didn’t think so; He quotes these stories as fact. Jesus a myth? Not according to all the historical documentation.
The Bible identifies Lucifer as God’s most powerful angel who led all the angels in praises to God before his sin. After his sin of pride, he was renamed Satan, meaning “accuser”. It is one and the same person. That is what the Bible teaches, not this avatar thing used to personify all evil.
I also believe evil comes from man himself, but Satan was the first to sin.
Belief has to come from within, regardless of how we interpret the Bible. Just like parents have independent and different relationships with each of their children, I believe that each of us has a separate and personal relationship with God and we cannot be judged by how another person relates to God, and it is probably not the same kind of relationship that you have with Him. He knows what each of us needs and that is what he gives us. Some of us need challenges to finally reach that pinancle of belief independent of how others come to it (and that usually means having questions and finding the answers ourselves); some can accept unquestioningly; still others need someone to help guide them the whole way.
This is a direct contradiction of the Bible, which says faith (belief) comes from hearing the Word of God, not from within ourselves. The Bible says that nothing good resides within ourselves, and that the human heart is desperately wicked and unable to be understood. It is only when we surrender ourselves to God that we can hope to escape that horrible condition.
We do have separate and personal relationships with God, but the Bible constantly encourages Christians to gather together, to encourage one another in truth, to hold each other accountable to that truth, to confess our sins to each other. We are supposed to help one another understand and follow God’s Word and love one another. The Bible constantly warns us NOT to trust ourselves, but to seek guidance from the Bible, and others who follow the Bible.
I don't understand the whole movement today of people believing that Jesus was God. If Jesus was God's only begotten son, how could he be his own father?
Jesus claimed to be God often. Read John 8 sometime. The Jews didn’t have any difficulty understanding Who He claimed to be. In fact, that's exactly why they crucified Him - He claimed equality with God.
Jesus performed miracles like God. He spoke with the authority of God. He entered the world like no other man. He raised Himself from the dead. He accepted worship from people, while his disciples did not. He forgave sins. Who else but God can do these things? And if He was not God, if He just convinced millions of people that He was God and that He was the only way to heaven, but it was a lie…what would you call a man who does that sort of thing? Either Jesus was God and good, or He was not God and evil; there is no middle ground.
The Bible consistently presents God as a trinity, right from the beginning - three separate personalities equal in essence and power, yet united in love. Read in Genesis where God says, “Let US make man in OUR image.” I don’t even pretend to understand the dynamics of that relationship, but the Bible makes it abundantly clear: there is God the Father, God the Son (Jesus), and God the Spirit. When God created the world, He marked it with signs to reflect this relationship all over the place. We are mind, body, and soul – three elements united into one person. Water can be ice, liquid, or steam – three forms, but the same thing. There is morning, noon, and night - three times, but one day. Trinities upon trinities throughout creation each lend voice to the character of their Creator.
So Jesus is God, and His Father is God, and the Spirit is God – three separate beings, but one God. Why do you think the Old Testament always says “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one”?
I have always questioned - what does "begotten" mean, as in "His only begotten son"? And then I hear angels called the sons of God. And in the verse talking about the sons of God who looked upon the daughters of men and found them beautiful, was this talking about angels, or about other sons? And why weren't they "begotten" sons? Does it depend upon how they were created? And why doesn't the Bible explain this?
Begotten means born as a human. Jesus was the only pre-existing heavenly being ever born as a human; there are no others.
The sons of God mentioned in Genesis were angels, or at least most Bible scholars seem to think so. They weren’t begotten because they were never born; they were created directly by God.
Begotten is the adjective form of the verb “to beget”. In the Old Testament, you read of men begetting children all the time. I imagine the Bible doesn’t really explain it because it’s fairly self-explanatory. The language is just archaic.
I never said that any of the authors of the Bible wanted to be worshipped. But, like any deeply devout person, interpretation of God's or Jesus' words are still just human interpretations by human men who were limited by their knowledge, their mental health and their mental ability to understand what was imparted to them. Just as today in any group of men - some will be of high intelligence, some of normal intelligence, and some of low intelligence. And this affected how they wrote.
Alrighty…give me a good example in the Bible of what you would consider a man using his own human interpretation to understand what God imparted to him. I can give you several, and in every single case, the man disobeyed God. Take King Saul…Samuel told Saul to wait for his arrival so he (Samuel) could do the sacrifice. Samuel was late, so Saul thought HE should perform the sacrifice to please God. However, Samuel said God does not desire sacrifice, but obedience, and Saul lost the kingdom to David because of his disobedience. I can give several examples of people putting their own spin on what God says, and it never, NEVER ends up good. Take Moses, once God told Moses to strike a rock to cause water to gush forth from it. A second time, He told Moses to simply speak to the rock to get water. However, Moses decided to strike the rock instead, and God was not pleased. Moses missed out on the promised land because of that disobedience.
God gives us the Spirit to help interpret His Word. It is Him we should seek out to answer questions, not ourselves.
As for ideals I don't believe in, how can a woman make a vow to God, but if her husband hears it - he can prevent her from fulfilling it? But if he doesn't hear her speak the vow, it is upon her to fulfill it. To me, man or woman, if one gives a vow to God, no one should have the right to stop them from fulfilling it, other than parents protecting children who aren't old enough to understand what a vow really means.
Like it or not, God instituted order, a hierarchy, in His creation. Part of this order is, for the most part, men as leaders, both in the family and in the world. In Genesis, as a consequence for her sin, God told Eve she would be subservient to Adam. He said her desire would be for her husband and that he would rule over her, and for the most part, that’s the way it’s been ever since.
I don’t know the particular verse to which you refer or if that’s what it actually says…I imagine it’s somewhere in Exodus or Leviticus. But let’s say that’s an accurate quote for the sake of argument. Here’s what you’re saying: God instituted a law, and I don’t like it. I am against God’s law, and I think it should be changed in accordance with what I think is right and good.
All I can say is welcome to the club. The Israelites didn’t like it either. They rebelled against God CONSTANTLY. And guess what? All humans don’t like God’s laws any better today. That is why Christ died – to save us from the consequences of disobeying God’s laws. We literally cannot obey God's laws to save our lives. We are all like sheep who have gone astray. But luckily, we have a Shepherd Who cares for us and gathers us into His fold.
God also states that a husband should revere his wife as he would the church. But then he gave dominion to man. A man, according to the Bible, is allowed a divorce, although God would not be happy about it. But nowhere is a woman allowed a divorce, although I may have missed that part.
God did NOT state that. He said a man should love his wife as Christ loved the church. Christ has dominion over the church; a man has dominion over his wife. Christ lived his life as an example and in service to the church; a man should live his life as an example and in service to his wife. Christ died for the church; a man should be willing to die for his wife.
The Bible says it plainly: God HATES divorce (Malachi 2:16), especially for the cruelty it commits upon women. Jesus said the only reason divorce was allowed was because of the hardness of men’s hearts. The reason women had no right to divorce at that time was because it was a patriarchal society, a very different culture. I don’t think a single woman alive back then would EVER consider a divorce even if she had the right - the consequences were simply too devastating. And though women have that right today, are the consequences any less devastating? Lives torn to pieces…why should anyone, man or woman, desire the option to do what God hates? To me, it is a moot point. To me, a divorce should only happen to protect a spouse (usually the woman) from either physical or mental abuse from the other spouse, but that is hardly the impetus for most divorces today.
And what about where the rich man gave his handmaiden to the rabble to abuse in his place, and then she was villified for it? To me that is a sin and a great cowardice - to allow the abuse and murder of another. But I didn't read where God punished him for this - is this because according the Bible she didn't matter? And why was this crime written about in the Bible anyway, I never really got that it had any religious meaning to it?
I don’t recognize the story. The closest thing I can think is the story in Judges 19 and 20. The man gives his concubine for the rabble in Gibeah to abuse, but she dies from the abuse. She was not villified. The man cuts his dead concubine into twelve pieces and sends a piece to each tribe of Israel. The tribes have a powwow and decide to war against Gibeah (the home of the tribe of Dan). They ask Gibeah to send out the men guilty of killing the concubine, but they refuse. In the end, the children of Israel massacre all but 700 men from the tribe of Dan.
I too, think it was a reprehensible, cowardly thing for the man to do, but then, there's plenty of other rotten things the Bible records. I suppose it's in the Bible, at least partially, to show the depravity of humanity. It's not like these kind of things don't happen today. I've never heard any kind of sermon on this story, so I don't really know the spiritual significance of it. I'll have to do some research.
And I have never read in the Bible that Mary Magdelene was a whore, yet that seems to be the pervasive belief. Why?
I don’t know anywhere that the Bible states Mary Magdelene was a whore. It is an opinion of men, not a teaching from the Bible.
And how was it righteous for Lot to lay with his daughters in order to impregnate them? Righteous incest? And how many pedophiles have used this very situation to vindicate themselves in the rape and abuse of their own daughters and granddaughters? Why is it a good thing in one situation and not another?
Lot did not lie with his daughters; his daughters lay with him. The Bible says that his daughters got him drunk and had sex with him to continue their family name. The Bible says Lot was unaware of his daughters laying down or getting up. It’s interesting to note the sons from this union fathered two nations that God eventually annihilated because they were filled with every sort of evil. The Bible in no way endorses what Lot’s daughters did. It simply records the events.
I wonder how it is you blame Lot and not the daughters for this sin. If it were two sons who got their mother drunk and laid with her while she was unconscious, would you blame the mother?
And who became the wives of the sons of Adam and Eve, if not their own sisters? Again with the incest, since the Bible doesn't state that there was another family around for their sons to get wives from. Why is this not clarified in the Bible? Sometimes, I think the men who wrote this left it out because they didn't want to expose something unholy. A biblical cover-up if you will. And who wrote Deuteromony(sp?)?
The Bible doesn't clarify it, because it needs no clarification. It’s obvious that in the beginning, brothers married sisters, and that God did not view the practice as unholy at that time. God told Adam and Eve, “Be fruitful and multiply.” Well…no way that’s going to happen unless brothers marry sisters. It was not until the time of Moses that God instituted laws prohibiting these types of relationships. Abraham was married to his half-sister. Jacob and Isaac married their cousins. Moses’s own father was married to his (the father’s) aunt.
Moses wrote Deuteronomy.
And what, specifically, does the Mark of Cain look like? How would we recognize it, if we don't know what we're looking for?
That was a one-time deal. Only Cain had it, and no one since. The Bible does not specify what the mark looked like, only that God put it on Cain, and that it was noticeable enough for people to recognize so they would not kill Cain for murdering Abel.
Why would God curse the sons for the sins of their father - sometimes up to, what was it, ten generations? This sounds so unjust to me. What if the sons were good and righteous men? Are they still condemned to hell through no fault of their own? And why?
Deuteronomy 5:9-10 says, "I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, and on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, but showing loving kindness to thousands [of generations, see 7:9], to those who love Me and keep My commandments."
God does not curse the sons for the sins of the father or send them to hell. He “visits the iniquities” of the father on his children. In other words, if a father is an alcoholic or a drug addict or a philanderer or whatever, his children are going to suffer because of his sin. No big surprise there. However, the third and fourth generation thing applies only to those who hate God. Fathers who hate God more than likely raise children who hate God, wouldn't you say? God says that the repercussions from that hatred will last 3 or 4 generations. Again, no big surprise.
I wonder…you think it unjust that God acts in this way...do you also think it unjust of God to show loving kindness to thousands of generations of those who love Him and keep His commandments? Kind of lop-sided, isn't it? The wicked, the ones who really hate God, only suffer consequences for three or four generations, but those who love God benefit from it for thousands of generations. Why doesn't He punish the wicked for thousands of generations to even things up? Or maybe just reward those who love Him for three or four generations and balance it that way? Surely that's fair, isn't it?
Not for a God of unfathomable love and mercy.
I want to believe that Noah and the Ark is more than a myth. So why can't we find the ark today? And I know, wood disinegrates. But still, I would have thought the location of something of this magnitude would be written in stone so people could gaze upon it and remember God's wrath.
The area where the ark is located is a hotbed of unrest. It seems like the government over there changes every month, and there's always some kind of war boiling. Not exactly a walk in the park to obtain permission for an expedition.
I believe it will be found one day. There is supposedly an alter at the location where the Bible says Noah built an altar. On it are eight symbols…the same number of people who were in the ark. There have been several accounts of ark sightings in the ice of the mountains of Ararat where the Bible says the ark settled. I think it’s only a matter of time. It will be exciting, but I don’t think it will make much difference. People will still refuse to believe.
I am on my own journey of faith, and I believe this is the way God wants me to go. I have faith that if I stray, he will let me know.
In the Bible, God makes it abundantly clear which way He wants us to go. However, He never forces Himself on anyone. If you want to follow a path other than His, He'll allow that, and you will earn whatever consequence that path leads to. God says plainly that any path but His leads to death and hell. I will follow God's path.