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I've come from the same background as you it seems and appreciate what you're saying. I agree that a lot of 'ardent' Christians are more interested in having people being judged by their theological belief structure (Trinity, Calvinism, Allah!=Jehovah) rather than their actions.
My observation over time is that the Christ of Matthew, Mark & Luke talks about that people will be judged by their actions. The Good Samaritan as one simple example. And further on - that people who don't forgive others will not be forgiven (the unforgiving servant parable, Lords Prayer - forgive me
as I forgive etc) And BTW - that seems to be the only real unforgivable sin - regardless of the unforgiving person's theological understanding / or 'belief'....yet you don't get John or Paul elaborating on that... which makes me call into question their understanding - and/or our interpretation of them. (Just to be clear though - it's only unforgivable while you remain unforgiving. And modern psych / the popular understanding can vouch for unforgiveness being self destructive)
So I have to divide the NT to remain with an internally consistent systematic theology. Basically I'd throw out the book of John for starters (or demote more specifically). Because I think that's the greatest problem right there (and go with the other half of the early church that didn't accept The Book of Revelation too I suggest).
I love this book I've recently read called
Moral Transformation - and I was coming to similar conclusions already - that God doesn't require a bloody sacrifice in order to forgive - and the fact that there are purification rituals and sin sacrifices in the OT are more a product of the what Israelites were comfortable with / 'needed' after a couple of hundred years in Egypt following Egyptian customs - but wasn't what God had originally intended. The book also addresses how the modern day idea of Christ's death has morphed significantly from what the early Christians understood - and lo and behold - Christ's death doesn't become a mysterious requirement for the forgiveness of sins! God will forgive those who recognise their bad deeds and decide that if they were ever faced the same situation again - they wouldn't make the same mistake twice.
Again - I'd recommend the above book for a thorough treatment of the topic.
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Study ancient history and find out.
about a year and a half ago
top MESSENGER Probe Finds Strong Evidence of Ice On Mercury
I'll believe it when they prise the ice out of Mercury's cold dead craters...
top University Receives $5 Million Grant To Study Immortality
You said a bunch more but it was claptrap
I'm not disagreeing with that or that the claim of godhood came after Christ's death and a million other things....
Although he was executed by the Romans - the NT texts make Pontius Pilate out to be very reluctant to do so - and not for the reasons you claim. Pontius was afraid of the trouble the Jews (not Christ's followers) were going to cause him (and it is well demonstrated that they were very troublesome indeed with multiple uprisings documented). It's documented that Pontius tried to get out of his crucifixion by having the crowds pick either Jesus or Barabbas - but that vote didn't go his way so he 'washed his hands' of the affair and sent Christ to his death.
Interestingly - the only 'follower' of Jesus that possibly was trying to actively install Jesus as Emporer - was Judas. It is argued that his 'betrayal' was an attempt to get Christ to assert himself - which obviously he refused to do - and Judas ultimately suicided because his despair and guilt at sending an innocent and inspiring leader to their death. Judas was a zealot - so he was always in favour of taking over by force. The other disciples - though they might have been brimming with confidence when with Jesus was alive - weren't nearly as brave. Hence the standard Roman execution of the leader (though motivated by the Jews) - should have had the impact you imply by nipping Christ and along with it - Christianity in the bud. However much is made of the resurrection - from that point on in fact - but perhaps the only remaining 'proof' cited today is that Christianity is still a living meme despite countless other 'Messiah's' and uprisings being put down and not being heard from again other than a footnote in Roman history.
So on that basis - the resurrection is claimed as literal (and most definitely by the NT texts) out of necessity - as without it - like countless other cults of the day were - it had all the signs of being 'nipped in the bud' up until that point.
top University Receives $5 Million Grant To Study Immortality
That's a seriously good question. Without trying to defend the gp post (i'm not in agreement with a number of his claims) I'm thinking along the lines of;
If he actually did do miracles - then he clearly knows something that everyone else doesn't - so he'd be worth listening to at least.
If he sacrificed himself to help others - then also he might be worth listening to.
And if he did both - then you can be fairly assured of his benevolence - otherwise he could have installed himself as despot and had a whale of a time.
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I hadn't heard of the opinion that they were kicked out of the garden was due to the blame game before - interesting. What makes you think it was that as opposed to breaking the clear command of not eating said fruit? Especially as the penalty for eating (not blaming) was certain (eventual) death (separation from tree of life) - which was carried out as outlined to them on that very day...
I agree that the (eating knowledgeable fruit) sin wasn't attributed to their offspring - though the 'consequences' of that sin applied to mankind from that time on. So I think this is where the 'original sin' concept confuses 'inherited guilt' vs 'inherited consequence'. Besides - the 'original sin' would have been that of the sneaky 'snake' for inciting rebellion
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Actually Jewish law allowed
divorce and remarriage without the waiting for the ex-partner to die - see Deut 24:1-4. The 'only one wife/ex-wife until they're dead' is a flawed interpretation of Christs words, placed on top of the Greek tradition of monogamy which then supplanted the Jewish laws within Christianity under Paul and John's (Greek philosophical) influence.
I'd like to joke and say 'Maybe you should have been listening to your teachers rather than school yard jokes for the lesson material' ;)
but unfortunately you probably did hear what they said correctly...
top Censored Religious Debate Video Released After Public Outrage
There is of course a lot of what Paul wrote isn't particularly at odds with Christ's teachings - due in no small part to them both being Jews. There's still a lot of be good to your neighbour etc + a lot of the new churches (amongst the gentiles) established by Paul weren't coming from Judaism - but rather pagan influence - which was really quite base in comparison and must be taken into account with some of his letters.
Jesus (in seeing the up coming destruction of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation even) spoke about being at the end of the age. Called the 'temple age' I believe but even if it's seen as ancient Judasim because without the temple a lot of the laws can no longer be followed etc. Christ was setting up what should have been 'true Christianity' (prehaps 'essential' Christianity is a better term) to go beyond the destruction of the temple/Israel. Note also that a large number of the laws given to Israel - _weren't_ asked by God to be enforced on the other nations. A lot of those seemingly meaningless laws (don't wear a cloak that mixes cloth - or don't cook a kid goat with it's mother's milk) were either calling them away from pagan rituals (the latter a fertility rite) or were designed to mark out Israel as different from the surrounding people - to mark out how they were assigned a special place among the nations (to be 'priests and prophets' to the nations. e.g. Jonah to Nineveh).
Interestingly Israel also wasn't called to proselytise the other nations! And in support of that the other nations weren't automatically assumed to be going to 'destruction' (otherwise they would be trying to convert as many as possible - much like modern day Christianity unfortunately) The other nations had as a basis the Noahide laws (the common origin) which was a slightly more fleshed out (1 extra
;) ) version of the Adamic laws - which gave them the basics. Of course the nations fleshed these out further as would be expected - with varying degrees of 'fairness'.
Christ lifts the proselytising restriction with 'Go and make disciples of the nations' - which unfortunately has been interpreted today as being 'make everyone a disciple'. Unfortunate because back then it was recognised then that not everyone needs to be a disciple per se - that the disciples are basically your ministers in training - and not everyone is called / expected to go to theological college for example when the essential requirements are easily understood by 'Love God & love you neighbour'.
So with the destruction of the temple/Israel - a lot of laws no longer are applicable (which many Christians have claimed out of pure tradition - but now I can see it supported by reason) - and only applied to ancient Israel in the first place. E.g. the death penalty for murder - Not even God applied that rule to Cain after he killed Able and actually 'protected' Cain from others seeking his death.
And here's an interesting thing - how many nations do you know have reformed after 2000 odd years of dispersement? And then have the international community in agreement to put them back together??
This from the time of ancient Israel's inception;
Deu 30: I have now given you a choice between a blessing and a curse. When all these things have happened to you, and you are living among the nations where the LORD your God has scattered you, you will remember the choice I gave you. If you and your descendants will turn back to the LORD and with all your heart obey his commands that I am giving you today, then the LORD your God will have mercy on you. He will bring you back from the nations where he has scattered you, and he will make you prosperous again. Even if you are scattered to the farthest corners of the earth, the LORD your God will gather you together and bring you back
I offer no guarantees - but we may well be coming to the end of the 'church' age.
top Censored Religious Debate Video Released After Public Outrage
Perhaps this a few years too late for you - but here goes
I hear you on the Pauline doctrine...and more. In fact (having significantly revised my faith over the last 10 years - roughly age 30 onwards), I now can see a significant distinction between the 'hellenistic' portion of the NT (typically John & Paul) vs the classic jewish Matt, Mark and basically Luke (though He's greek - he's not pushing a strong hellenistic agenda, remaining more pragmatic than philosophical). By hellenstic I do mean pushing a lot of platonic philosophy (Christ is the Logos and the Logos was in the beginning etc etc; Presumably
Logos was part of John's attempt to woo the platonics - but essentially breaking stuff as he goes about it. I'd recommend reading some of Eusebius to understand where John is coming from re Logos - but I'd also recommend reading him as he buttresses his early church history with a lot of other external material and is generally well regarded.
Maybe a bit easier - I'd also/instead recommend the following
podcasts by Michael Patton - particularly the early ones too. I don't agree with everything theologically - but found the intellectual honesty to be very high there and significant concepts expounded - all of which is sadly lacking generally. Put it this way - I wish my parents had grown up on that ;)
Sorry - I'm just going to dump some stuff as it comes - but I can't emphasis how critical these realisations have been to me - and if I hadn't come across them - I could imagine going the the severe doubts that you've grappled with without relief.
1/ Paul (and generally the Christian church today) - overplays the spiritual/mystical aspect (yes - a throw back to the platonics/stoics concept that spiritual=good, flesh=bad - which is actually in sharp contradiction to God generally & the OT - but just highlights the reality that Paul/John were products of the culture they were in). Not bad per se - but not theologically accurate I believe. This causes a significant derailment in the commonly preached theology of today.
2/ Our (western) culture is strongly weighted / generally all about innocence-guilt - which is one of the many things from the Greek/Roman culture we inherited. Middle-Eastern culture was based more around
Honour and Shame - and I suggest that rather seeing that type of culture as backwards - realise that our innocence-guilt culture may not really work in an ancient world that's dominated by feuding tribes/cities/nations - that doesn't have a police force that can turn up on your doorstep minutes later after dialling 911/000 or an overarching judicial body to enforce our 'inalienable' rights. The judicial system often consisted of your neighbours/village. Christ spoke to a culture that understood and praticed honour and shame as a daily necessity for survival - and group survival at that. While simple innocence & guilt played a part - to see what a lot of the 'that doesn't make sense' parables are about - there is no way around the need to understand the middle-eastern culture at the time. Yes - I can recommend a book Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes . e.g.: The parable of the 'faithful' servants who invested their money for return in contrast to the 'unfaithful' one who buried it - make no sense on face value - but the meaning lies in that the servants transacted business in the master's name - a master that wasn't all that popular - and who may not be returning (as he's gone off to secure his position with his soverign - just as had happened with the jews some years before with Herod heading off in a simliar manner), so the servants that transacted his business while he was away - did have faith (i.e. actually were faithful to him as they threw there lot in with him) - as opposed to the unfaithful one which thought he was unlikely to return - and tried to play it both ways by burying it hoping for a win-win but in fact demonstrated his disloyalty. Tons more of this - lot of 'oh I see' moments when reading the book.
3/ Christ (from the Matt/Mark/Luke Gospels - which I consider more accurate than John's lengthy monologing Christ) is on far more about 'doing' the right thing rather than the heavy 'belief' requirement (which is somewhat undefined) in Paul/John's letters. Also note how modern church to be 'saved' you have to 'believe' the right stuff? (and actually this 'believe' is more about knowlege than true belief) Believe 'Jesus is God' or 'you *must* believe in Jesus....' etc etc which is actually quite vague and not what Christ actually pushed when he was here either.
3.5/ A strongly emphasised key to being 'forgiven for your sins' from 'accurate' Jesus - is that you must forgive others *before* God will forgive you - in fact in the parable of the 'unforgiving servant' - the servant was initially forgiven his huge monetary debt - but when he failed to forgive others there small/minor debts and treated them harshly - the anger of the King came down on him. Also - 'forgive us
as we forgive others' in the Lord's prayer - more so in the original greek - makes it clear that our sins aren't forgiven UNTIL we forgive others. Now - with such a critical issue as being forgiven by God - apparantly the reason for Christ's death - surely the paragons on the Church Paul & John should have heaps to say about it???...?? surely???.....nope. Which is a key reason why I question some of their theological credentials.
4/ The word 'saved' is unfortunately equated with 'getting into heaven' - The actual word in cultural context is more about your are physically saved from death (e.g. S.O.S) / your physically healed / your relationships are restored / your are at peace with yourself and God (wholeness) / disaster averted etc etc. Nothing about looking forward to post death salvation - it's all about the here and now physical/emotional salvation!! That's something to ponder in that it contrasts the traditional 'spiritual is better than physical' notion.
5/ The whole concept of 2nd coming make a lot more sense when you realise Christ is talking (occasionally metaphorically)
about the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. This explains a lot more of the text - and fits well historically with the destruction of Jerusalem. E.g. Christ tells people to flee when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Luke) - generally at that point you couldn't get away / it's too late - but as history tells it - the army did unexpectedly pull away for documented reasons - and many people then had the opportunity to leave. Note that a strong walled city such as jerusalem was considered the 'safest' place to pull back to in times of war - so running away generally went against common sense.
Generally Paul I think misunderstood this and his whole 'the church falling away' discussion can be linked to his misunderstanding about the above event (which occurred after he died - so it'd be interesting to see if he actually reconsidered his position - but Paul being Paul - I'm not so sure he would. Even John misses this.)
I've thrown a little bit out there and there's more. There's so many supporting aspects to a world view that it's not until the old ones are brought into doubt / discredited and a new set raised in readiment - that a new world view can be tolerated. But I can only encourage you to go with your gut feel - question all that doesn't make sense with religion and seek out intelligent answers - recognising that it may not all be explainable at this stage - but be prepared on occasion to give it the benefit of the doubt - and I guess that includes God
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If I was drinking milk - It would have been out my nose
top The Dead Sea Scrolls and Information Paranoia
Re Josepheus mentioning Christ: scholars generally agree that the text has been embellished by Christian copiests - however there's an 10th Centruy Arabic copy of Josespheus' text without the embellishments that scholars agree that would be consistent with what Josepheus would have written given that he hadn't converted to Christiantiy. And as there are no copies of Josephus that don't mentioned Christ (that I'm aware of) - the evidence is strong that Josepheus does mention Christ.
The Romans had no sense of humor about sedition in the first place
To go along with that - Jesus at the _start_ of his ministry mentioned 'he who wants to follow me - take up their cross'. Not metaphorically - literally! This was a clear warning for those who thought Jesus would be the all conquering Messiah that they were anticipating that they were going to be more than disappointed if they attempted to install him as King (of the Jews).
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I think think the idea's got legs.
You can see some of my thoughts on this via the comments by Marble on
someone else's blog.. (You'll have to scroll down / ctrl-f for gravity).
I gave up arguing not because he convinced me otherwise - but lets just say he has a greater belief in the infallibilty of published science that I (or history I believe) can afford to give it.
top UN Climate Report Fails To Capture Arctic Ice: MIT
Warming a fluid system, such as a planet's atmosphere or water in a pot, results in more, and more vigourous motion. Weather will become more violent.
That fails to explain why there are colder outer planets with significant atmosphere that have orders of magnitutude more violence. And the place on earth with the higest average wind is Antartica.
I guess a heated pot is not a good approximation for a planetary weather system. So - no - I don't really buy the higher temperature = more violence meme. Nor the 'once in a lifetime' crap the media regularly dishes out.
top New Mega-Leak Reveals Middle East Peace Process
For the record I absolutely agree with ethos re opposing antisemitism.
And I understand if you dont want to continue the discussion. Having said that...
Do you have any evidence for this 'orthodox revisionist' movement? Because I'm struggling to see how it worked. Such a movement would have spawned a culture of scriptural revisionism - and as far as I'm aware - the Jews were far from revisionist. Even their duplicating practices (of scripture) were extremely strict - to the point of implementing a rudimentary 'checksum' to ensure the scribes copied the scriptures correctly. And there is also quite a bit of obscure scripture/theology that a revisionist would naturally want to 'clarify'. The fact there is obscure text and errors to some extent, points to the authenticity rather than away from it.
Then there is the content of the scriptures which itself argues against a revisionist practice. The O.T. *really* does not paint a good picture of the Jews - any of them. Even Moses and David have their (sometimes dire) failings recorded. Even starting from as early as the leaving of Egypt - the hewbrews immediately start worshipping other gods. If you wanted to enshrine monotheism in your fictional national foundations document - you'd want the evidence for a singular powerful God to be convincing - not have the people turn back to those weak Egyptian gods as soon as Moses' back was turned!.
And then there are external documents such as the Mishnah which recorded debate and rulings based on the Torah. This document would be a natural first port of call for (later) revisionism - in that it leaves the original untouched. I would expect to see some evidence of either revisionism there - or even references of the transformation from revisionism to non-revisionism.
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Even the first "proto Jews" weren't strictly monotheistic (the Hebrew Bible / Old Testament contains fragments of polytheism, eg. Psalm 82) which -- at least by today's standards -- would not qualify them as Jews...
Psalm 82:1, 5 and 6 are the main verses in question starting with
82:1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgement among the 'gods': ...and then with God quoted as saying...
82:5 The 'gods' know nothing, they understand nothing...
82:6 I said, 'You are "gods"; you are all sons of the Most High.'
There is debate on this verse over is who exactly is being referred to by 'You'. Is it a) Israel's rulers - normal people, b) angels, c) some other 'Gods'?
Psalm 82 is about chiding these sons of the Most High for being corrupt and not defending the oppressed. This in the greater context (ie all the Psalms / Prophets and the rest of scripture) would generally be construed to be the people of Israel and/or their rulers (as a reoccurring theme of their behaviour), the O.T. sometimes closely ties rulers/judges with the term God (check a literal translation of Ex 21:6, 22:8), and also note that Hebrew Scripture generally doesn't spend time chiding disaffected angelic beings through prose. (BTW on that last point note that I'm of the view that Isaiah's 'morning star' reference is prose directed to a pompous human king - not some angelic being named 'Lucifer' - whose claims of existence are probably owed more to the questionable King James translation (or lack of rather) of the latin term for 'morning star'.)
So while I see you prefaced your polytheistic claim with the word 'strictly', I think it might be a little pre-emptive to attempt to make a such a 'strict' claim based on a Psalm that is probably within context, referring to the rulers of Israel as 'gods' in a somewhat figurative (but not novel) sense, without further evidence to support the claim.
In any case this verse in no way sanctions 'worship' of these 'gods'.
In fact in Psalm 81 (by the same author Asaph), repeats the 1st commandment saying
81:9 You shall have no foreign god among you; you shall not worship any god other than me
So perhaps I should refine my comment a little. Judaism (particularly from Moses onwards - but also from Abraham) was about
monotheistic worship, and the 'host of heaven' - angels, cherubs etc, were all created by God and not to be worshiped as such, despite there being among them (by human standards) powerful beings. I'm not aware that Judaism presents a clear definition of a what/who constitutes a (lower case) god, nor does it have clear presentation upon the make up of the host of heaven. Such information is not what the Hebrew Scriptures were about. So to argue a strict claim of polytheism depends on your definition of what constitutes a 'theos', and even then - I don't think the scriptures are concerned with attempting to answer the question as to what beings would qualify bar One.
Generally I expect that when people refer to Judaism as monotheistic, they tend to mean 'monotheistic worship', along with the worshiped God being the 'omni-everything' one.
If interested I used: Tyndale O.T. Commentaries Vol 16; TNIV; Youngs Literal Translation
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top Alternatives for Small Company Online Store/Cart?
You could try checking out Word Press - it has a few 'eShop' plugins.
top What Scientists Really Think About Religion
For what it's worth;
Matter before light - Whether you see light as waves of some form of matter, or as a different form of matter (photons), neither possibility excludes matter existing prior to either material.
Light before Sun - Space has an awful lot of glowing plasma. You don't need a star for there to be light.
The division of the waters can be taken as the separation of liquid water under/around dry land from water in the atmosphere in form of clouds / water vapour / ice / snow / hail etc. There's plenty of water in there to be sure... and we couldn't live without it.
I'll dodge the evolution argument for now thanks and make the point that your 'objectively wrong' is well objectively wrong. Unless you've witnessed a solar system / universe come into being lately or better yet managed to replicate it and published a peer reviewed paper? No? Ok - then perhaps 'subjectively wrong' is more accurate.
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top Second Inquiry Exonerates Climatic Research Unit
To scientists, the theory is this: adding CO2 to the atmosphere will somewhat warm the atmosphere. This may cause some minor changes in the earth's climate system. This hypothesis is fairly well accepted by every scientist, even the anti-AGW ones.
The climate has always been undergoing minor changes, except when undergoing major changes... so what was the falsifiable part again?