This is me, thinking, about theology, philosophy, and anything in general not related to my main blog about everything else..

Saturday, May 03, 2008

What I can't deal with

Lately my faith has been at an all time low. In fact I'd struggle to say that I even had any right now. I still believe there is a God, but in what capacity I do not know. I'm even tending towards the idea that God is everything, everything is God. More like how the eastern religions think.

For a long time now, and you can probably tell, I've been doubting the bible. And recently I worded my thoughts with the idea that, if my belief is based on the bible, then I have to make sure the bible is correct, and I'm sure this makes sense to people. If you're going to believe in the Christian God, then every single idea you have about him should be coming from the bible. But, if the bible isn't correct, then your beliefs aren't correct, right? (Because unlike having personal beliefs which aren't necessarily dependent on anything external, christian beliefs are)

I've always had a few questions about the bible:

Why does the OT not talk about an afterlife?
This to me is a big one. In the OT, people sin, and the wages of their sin is lived out within their current life, maybe God takes away their food, or kills them, and quite often their lineage is cursed too. Quite a contrast to the NT where the wages of sin is being judged and sent to the lake of fire. If this is hell or if it's eternal is up for debate, the bible itself is not clear, the church has stepped in and filled in all the gaps and passed it off as doctrine over the years, so the concept of an eternal hell isn't so much biblical as it is from the church, but either way, it's different from the OT.

What about certain contradictions in the bible?
Did the crow crow 2 or 3 times? That's a pretty small inconsistancy, but it's far from the only one. List of inconsistancies from wikipedia. I've read what the christian community say to these inconsistancies, and of course they come up with reasons to explain away all of them, but it's just not acceptable. Is the bible innerant or is it not? Because if it's not, well then, it's a slippery slope isn't it, if one part isn't right, then how do you decide others are? This is where Conservative Christians and Liberal Christians are seperated. Some would say this is why Liberalism is so bad. To be a Conservative, you need to hold that the bible is innerant. You need to decide that despite the fact that the bible has internal inconsistancies, and despite that some of it doesn't make sense, that you're going to follow it blindly anyway. In fact you need greater blind faith this way as opposed to Liberal thinking.
I find it an interesting position, because you're essentially putting your faith more in the bible than in God.
And if you're to think liberally, well, as far as I'm concerned, if you're going to be a liberal, why be at all? I guess you can still believe that Jesus is the Saviour, but how can you be sure?

Are we saved by grace or by works?
Sometimes I used to go to a bible study or service and come away quite scared. They'd read from the bible, and it would make statements like "drunkards, theives, will not inherit the kingdom of heaven" and "forgiveness for a sin only works once, after it is used, it is no longer there", these are paraphrased, but they're in there.
Other times I'd come away feeling much better because the bible's statements this week would be along the lines of "you are saved by grace".
Now basically it's telling me that a) if I commit certain sins, I will go to hell and b) it's nothing to do with you, you're saved purely by grace. They seem to contradict, so which one is it? I guess some would say it's grace, if you truely repent, but I never felt like I could. Christians will point out that people continue to sin for their entire lives, so surely some of these people will go to hell, even if they believe, because the bible says so? But then again, maybe they won't? Either way it kept me in a state of pleasant submission and acceptance while at the same time fear.

What about all the people who've never heard the word?
Obviously there are people out there that never got a chance to hear the gospel before they died. What about them? The bible doesn't say they will be spared, but the church has told us that God wouldn't send them to hell even if they had no choice. Hmm?

What of us goes to heaven/hell?
I was sitting there one day trying to work out exactly what it was of us that went into the afterlife. It would seem that we are in essence our memories. If we were to wake up tomorrow with no memory whatsoever, would I be me? I surely am a conglomeration of all my lifes events? What if I used to be a christian, but then I got amnesia. Would I go to heaven if I died, and if I did, who would I appear as? The old or new me? It's clear that our memory is an aspect of the brain. Maybe we go to heaven with our consciousness as a snapshot, although that seems unlikely, it's the only answer that makes sense despite the fact that it kind of doesn't.

What about all the OT laws?
Most people know about the 10 commandments. What about all the other more specific and bizarre laws. Some are about not eating kinds of meat, some are about how you can treat slaves or woman from other societies, or what makes a person unclean. Now Jesus said he came to complete the law, not replace it. The only thing I can gather that has changed is the need to present sacrifices for your sin has changed. So there is a lot of stuff that is still sin, that the Christian church just decides is no longer relevant. This is like the liberalism thing, when you decide to not use the whole bible the way it's written, they who decides exactly what to use?

I haven't really found acceptable answers to those..

Here are some musings, not really questions, but things that I think about that "help" to break my faith

I've had a number of arguments about the new creation and I think people don't understand what I'm trying to say. According to the bible the idea of heaven itself isn't like what most people think it is, it's describe in Revelation I think as a new world and new creation. There will not be sin or pain. Now if you ask me, that requires a different set of physical laws that the creation will obey. I can deal with that. But others say that it won't, but that God can and will disobey them from time to time to remove pain and sin, but to me, this means a different set of laws of physics. I have a good memory of some of my sin, but surely if I was to take my memory with me to the new creation (if I didn't well, then it would be as if I was born originally into the new creation as opposed to carrying on from this life) then I'm sure I wouldn't be "allowed" (by the physical laws) to have good memories of sin, so in essence I would have had to have a change in personality too. This doesn't really affect my faith in any way, but it's interesting to think about.

It's interesting that most Christians aren't open minded to changing their faith, because in the Gospels, that's exactly what the disciples did. The Pharisees were preached against, but if you look at today, the most hardcore Christians resemble the Pharisees more than anyone.

God treats people terribly in the bible. In the OT especially. On another website another person does this a lot better than I so I'm quoting him (Merle Hertzler) here:
Many Christians have never read the whole Bible, and are not aware of the moral teachings that are found in it. Let's look at some. Exodus 23:19 tells us we cannot cook a baby goat in it's mother's milk. Do you worry about keeping this commandment? Gen. 17:14 tells us a child is to be punished when his parents neglect to have him circumcised. Is that fair? Ex. 20:8-11, 31:15-17, 34:21, and 35:1-3 tell us that no work may be done on the Sabbath (Saturday) not even the lighting of a fire. The penalty is death. Do you recommend that we kill people who light a fire in their fireplace on Saturday? Lev. 3:17 tells us that we may never eat fat. So how is it that we eat hamburgers without guilt? Lev. 27:1-7 tells us that males are more valuable than females. Do you agree? If you are female, do you think males are more valuable than you are? No? Than these verses are mistaken, aren't they? Num. 5:12-31, tells us that if we suspect our wife has committed adultery, she is to be tested by making her drink water mixed with dirt. If she gets sick, she is guilty. Do you recommend that we implement this test procedure? I don't. Interestingly, there is no such test given for men. Is this fair? Deut. 22:5 tells us we may not wear clothing of the opposite sex. Do you think it is a sin for a woman to wear her husband's shirt? No? Then you disagree with Deuteronomy. Deut. 23:1 tells us that a man whose testicles are crushed may not enter the assembly of the Lord. Should we set up an inspection station at the church doors, asking every man to kindly drop his drawers for inspection, so we can keep injured people out? Or should we just pretend this verse isn't there? Deut. 25:11-12 tells us that a wife who grabs her husband's attacker by his private parts must have her hand cut off and is to be shown no pity. It does not matter that she was only trying to rescue her husband. Do you agree? I could give many more examples.
Obviously some of these are pretty bad. So are we to just put aside all moral judgement we have (which according to the bible is given to us by God) and just accept this? I've had people say that because the Hebrews were an ancient tribe people that they needed to be treated like this, but I disagree, in fact, shouldn't God have called them to a higher standard?

What about other religions? Why is Christianity necessarily correct? What about older eastern scriptures? Are they wrong? Were those people destined to do the wrong thing since before Judasim?

If you're a calvinist, which I used to claim that I was, you'll believe in pre-destination and a God who's totally in control. I have a challenge for you, I'd like you to find a girl that has been raped by her father and tell her that it was all God's plan for her, that he planned it from before the start of time, and that his plan for her involved her father raping her. Then preach the gospel to her. From that perspective to me, I can't do the whole "God works in mysterious ways" sorry.

Also, does might make right? Why is it OK for God to just decide to do things the way he does? Because he's God that's why. It doesn't actually have to be right or OK, but you'd better do it anyway since God has more power than you and you don't want to fight him. So maybe none of what I said matters since God can do what he want, create a race of beings that can think and maybe not follow him, and treat them how he wants and even condemn some of them not being with God.

So a lot of these things make me think that I don't want to follow this God, and in essence, that doesn't allow me to, could I truely submit to a leader I didn't want to? I could pretend to, and trick everyone but God. But he doesn't want that.

Since having stepped back from the faith, I see things a lot differently. I know a lot of good people in the church, but I just can't help but think everyone is blinded.

I might sound really bitter and whatnot, and in some ways I feel like I am. It's a weird place for me to be in, I think it's been coming for a long time but I was not quite ready to actually admit it.

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