Can We Have a Bible Thread? (Catch-All?)

One aspect of the depictions of God in the bible I'm interested in is as follows. When I read the bible there is a lot in it about God being just. When I have conversations with people about all those "problem" areas of the bible the response I often get is that "Gods justice is higher than ours". But I feel very unwilling to toss aside my sense of justice. After forty years I feel pretty confidant in the things that I consider to be right or wrong. Take Gods slaughter of the Egyptian first born for instance. As is mentioned above you have a story where God hardens Pharos heart so he can show off his powers. This makes the death of innocents seem even more unjust.

What conclusions about Gods character are we meant to draw from this story?

If I don't kill is it too zero sum to sugest we must either disregard this part of the bible or asume that I am more moral than God?

Is this story more or less problematic to a bible literalist?


They are both "specious arguments". That was the point. A similar story from a separate culture does not discount the Bible.

That was not the point. It discounts *Biblical literalism*, not the Bible. If the Bible is based on the word of God, literally true, then it *can't* be descended from previous religions, because they are *not* true, according to the Bible. And yet, there's a lot of evidence, from direct remnants of and references to polytheism, to the names for God, that show that the Old Testament (Pentateuch) is derived from religions found in Canaanite and Babylonian regions, where the Jews originated and spent time. That can't be discounted; unless one argues that it's a massive coincidence, there is no other explanation. There is plenty of evidence outside the Bible to tell us about it's precursors, and that's very helpful in explaining the origins of Judaism, so far as we know them.

The Bible is not a problem; it's a religious book. Biblical literalism is a problem, because it makes claims about the world that are not true, and the ramifications of people trying to wedge those inaccuracies and bronze age mythologies into education, politics, science and society as if they were real has created a huge rift in American society, and cost us lots of time and money in dealing with it.

IMAGE(http://i.imgur.com/JokXH.jpg)

strangederby wrote:
One aspect of the depictions of God in the bible I'm interested in is as follows. When I read the bible there is a lot in it about God being just. When I have conversations with people about all those "problem" areas of the bible the response I often get is that "Gods justice is higher than ours". But I feel very unwilling to toss aside my sense of justice. After forty years I feel pretty confidant in the things that I consider to be right or wrong. Take Gods slaughter of the Egyptian first born for instance. As is mentioned above you have a story where God hardens Pharos heart so he can show off his powers. This makes the death of innocents seem even more unjust.

What conclusions about Gods character are we meant to draw from this story?

If I don't kill is it too zero sum to sugest we must either disregard this part of the bible or asume that I am more moral than God?

Is this story more or less problematic to a bible literalist?

God has made it clear that the penalty for sin is death. This means there are no innocents. God as the divine judge has every moral right to execute judgement. The question really isn't "Was it fair for God to have the firstborn of Egypt killed?", but "Why doesn't he just kill everyone?" The answer is because He is merciful and wants to give people time to repent and accept the rescue plan He has initiated through Christ.

Who do you think can better judge morality? Who do you think is better equipped to determine what is in the best interest for the well-being of the human race? Or to determine the standard or right and wrong?
A flawed human being, who is notoriously susceptible to bias, has only experienced but a tiny fraction of human history and most of the written history he has access to is either inaccurate or woefully incomplete.
Or
An infinite and all-knowing God, who has experienced the entirety of human history Himself from every angle, who can see into the mind and heart of every individual, and even after all that is still capable of love, justice and mercy.

Nomad wrote:
This means there are no innocents.

Are the billions of people (and other self-aware creatures on this planet) who died before the sacrifice of Christ or who were by some other circumstance unaware of the message just S.O.L.? Certainly doesn't seem very merciful or loving if that's the case but then I'm but a man.

Also is there a biblical explanation or even a serious theological conjecture as to why god bothers doing anything at all or is that just "we can't possibly know the mind of god" turf?

God has made it clear that the penalty for sin is death.

This is one thing that always made me wonder... If the penalty for sin is death then what is hell for?

Thank you for the responce Nomad it's appreciated. When you say "This means there are no innocents." in this context are you talking about the doctrine of original sin?

Dr.Ghastly wrote:
God has made it clear that the penalty for sin is death.

This is one thing that always made me wonder... If the penalty for sin is death then what is hell for?

Death meaning both physical death and spiritual death (separation from God ie.Hell)

krev82 wrote:
Nomad wrote:
This means there are no innocents.

Are the billions of people (and other self-aware creatures on this planet) who died before the sacrifice of Christ or who were by some other circumstance unaware of the message just S.O.L.? Certainly doesn't seem very merciful or loving if that's the case but then I'm but a man.

Also is there a biblical explanation or even a serious theological conjecture as to why god bothers doing anything at all or is that just "we can't possibly know the mind of god" turf?

Good questions. I don't have time now, but I'll post later about it.

strangederby wrote:
Thank you for the responce Nomad it's appreciated. When you say "This means there are no innocents." in this context are you talking about the doctrine of original sin?

Like poking a badger with a spoon?

So, I tend not to wade into these things, but biblical literalism is something I'm always keen to discuss. One of the major reasons I'm a practicing Episcopalian is precisely this. While most people think of Church of England/Episcopalians as essentially being stuffy "Jack Catholics," a core precept is the idea that there is a "three legged stool" of faith, and that each is critical and has to have balance. Scripture is only one leg of that stool. The other two legs are Tradition -- that is, while the bible never lays out how to conduct a communion service, Episcopalians think there is value and learning in the traditions of christianity as a culture in the last 2000 years. That's why we sing a lot, stand up and sit down a lot, get dressed up, and so on.

But the third leg of the stool is Reason. The running joke in Episcopal churches is that no two episcopalians agree on anything. Here's how it was said on one church website:

"Each one of us, with God's help, makes a decision about how we use tradition and Scripture in our lives. A personal relationship with God allows us to realize and celebrate our lives to the fullest. The gift of reason, as a complement to Scripture and tradition, leads us to seek answers to our own questions and to grow spiritually. Being active in a community of faith strengthens us to carry our faith into the world. Weaving scripture, tradition and reason together, we strengthen our faith and grow as children of God."

Anyway, just wanted to toss that out there. Surveys show the vast majority of western christians do not actually ascribe to biblical literalism. Which is why we don't see a lot of stonings.

Indeed while I'm currently an atheist I was brought up high church of England, (some people refer to this as smells and bells), so I've experienced a lot of church tradition. On the other hand I spent all my teenage years in a very evangelical church, (some would call it happy clappy). So I spent my formative years being taught and believing that the bible was literally true.

When you say that each of us with Gods help makes a decision how to use scripture in our lives do you think that means I could decide to discount some of the teachings in the bible that appear to conflict with my sence of morality? And therefore maybe even move away from my atheistic stance? It sounds intriguing but also like it would be going a step too far. I mean.... Discounting parts of the bible?

strangederby wrote:

When you say that each of us with Gods help makes a decision how to use scripture in our lives do you think that means I could decide to discount some of the teachings in the bible that appear to conflict with my sence of morality? And therefore maybe even move away from my atheistic stance? It sounds intriguing but also like it would be going a step too far. I mean.... Discounting parts of the bible?

People discount parts of the bible all the time

rabbit wrote:
Which is why we don't see a lot of stonings.

Nomad wrote:
Dr.Ghastly wrote:
God has made it clear that the penalty for sin is death.

This is one thing that always made me wonder... If the penalty for sin is death then what is hell for?

Death meaning both physical death and spiritual death (separation from God ie.Hell)

An, never thought of that aspect. Ok.

NathanialG wrote:
strangederby wrote:

When you say that each of us with Gods help makes a decision how to use scripture in our lives do you think that means I could decide to discount some of the teachings in the bible that appear to conflict with my sence of morality? And therefore maybe even move away from my atheistic stance? It sounds intriguing but also like it would be going a step too far. I mean.... Discounting parts of the bible?

People discount parts of the bible all the time

rabbit wrote:
Which is why we don't see a lot of stonings.

Guys sit in seats that women have sat in while on their period.

We wear clothing made of more than one type of cloth.

Large segments of both the Christian and Jewish populations are not kosher (shellfish, bacon cheeseburgers, etc...).

There's a great book on looking at all of those things. It's called... A Year of Living Biblically. Even for a Buddhist who doesn't particularly care for organized religion... it was a good read for me. Entertaining and thought-provoking. Funniest thing was the guy explaining to his wife about not being able to sit somewhere she had during her period... she then proceeded to sit in every spot in the house.

Demosthenes wrote:
There's a great book on looking at all of those things. It's called... A Year of Living Biblically. Even for a Buddhist who doesn't particularly care for organized religion... it was a good read for me. Entertaining and thought-provoking. Funniest thing was the guy explaining to his wife about not being able to sit somewhere she had during her period... she then proceeded to sit in every spot in the house. :)

When yo mama sits around the house...

strangederby wrote:
When you say that each of us with Gods help makes a decision how to use scripture in our lives do you think that means I could decide to discount some of the teachings in the bible that appear to conflict with my sence of morality? And therefore maybe even move away from my atheistic stance? It sounds intriguing but also like it would be going a step too far. I mean.... Discounting parts of the bible?

If you're looking to explore the bible more (or any religious text), one way would be to start at the core and work your way out. Just for fun, I highly recommend going through the gospels in the new testament and writing down just the parts that Jesus said. If the Christian faith is based on the supposition that Jesus was indeed the son of God and gave us the straight story from the man himself, then what Jesus had to say was probably pretty important to the faith as a whole. Even just reading the Jesus-y parts can give someone a lot to spiritually mull over. Read those parts and work your way out and see how you feel about what the rest of the bible has to say. You may find that there are parts that seem to contradict what you've read elsewhere, or even what came straight from Jesus. What you choose to do with that information really is up to you.

"Discounting parts of the bible" makes it sound like you're approaching it as a rule book for life, but in my experience that path can make for frustrating study material. There's a lot of arguing and rules lawyering that goes on about the bible, which confuses me a little - the aforementioned teachings of Jesus paint a pretty simple picture to me. There's a lot of wisdom in the phrase "the devil's in the details". It's the little bits, the edge cases that cause most of the grief and strife and among Christian believers and those outside the faith.

No I'm not looking to use the bible as a rule book for life. Mine is more a fundamental question about the character of God as shown in this and other troublesome parts of the bible. Can I just choose to believe that, "Gods not really like that", and so fit him into my view of what is moral? That's what I mean by discounting parts of the bible. Discounting the sections where God, by my standards doesn't seem to be moral. If we aren't to take those parts literally then what conclusions are we meant to draw from them?

edit: I'm sorry, I shouldn't have posted here. It was just a wisecrack, but my intent was to stay out of the Bible thread. I remember how irritating it was trying to have an atheist thread with all the god-botherers, so I shouldn't be snarking here.


If you're looking to explore the bible more (or any religious text), one way would be to start at the core and work your way out. Just for fun, I highly recommend going through the gospels in the new testament and writing down just the parts that Jesus said. If the Christian faith is based on the supposition that Jesus was indeed the son of God and gave us the straight story from the man himself, then what Jesus had to say was probably pretty important to the faith as a whole. Even just reading the Jesus-y parts can give someone a lot to spiritually mull over. Read those parts and work your way out and see how you feel about what the rest of the bible has to say. You may find that there are parts that seem to contradict what you've read elsewhere, or even what came straight from Jesus. What you choose to do with that information really is up to you.

The Jefferson Bible has already done this sort of thing for you... Note that any analysis of this sort, especially older ones, will be dependent on who the assembler considers to be the author of a particular Book. We know a lot more about the sequencing of the NT and it's authorship than Jefferson did, for example, and far more than did the authors of the KJV. So even "What did Jesus say?" can benefit from modern textual analysis. Bart Ehrman writes often on this sort of topic, as do others in the academic study of the Bible (while others bitterly oppose textual analysis because they feel it threatens the Bible itself.)

strangederby wrote:
No I'm not looking to use the bible as a rule book for life. Mine is more a fundamental question about the character of God as shown in this and other troublesome parts of the bible. Can I just choose to believe that, "Gods not really like that", and so fit him into my view of what is moral? That's what I mean by discounting parts of the bible. Discounting the sections where God, by my standards doesn't seem to be moral. If we aren't to take those parts literally then what conclusions are we meant to draw from them?

One of the core messages from the New Testament is "this is what God is really like", and it all ties back to the Old Testament very well. One of the overarching narratives in the Bible is how our understanding of God grows and changes over time, and how incorrect it can be sometimes (the story of David's life is good for that - there's a huge struggle with understanding throughout). I believe that the characters/narrators in the Bible often confuse their own perceived needs as well as the need to explain events with actions of God. It's a necessary, very human, part of the story.

Personally, I subscribe to a more apophatic form of theology. I define God more often by what God is not rather than attempting to explain what God is. When life shovels sh*t on things, I don't feel the need to attribute that to God. I feel the same way when things are good. For existence itself though, I give thanks. For the ability to interact with that existence in a positive manner, I lean my intent in that direction and pray.

strangederby wrote:
No I'm not looking to use the bible as a rule book for life. Mine is more a fundamental question about the character of God as shown in this and other troublesome parts of the bible. Can I just choose to believe that, "Gods not really like that", and so fit him into my view of what is moral? That's what I mean by discounting parts of the bible. Discounting the sections where God, by my standards doesn't seem to be moral. If we aren't to take those parts literally then what conclusions are we meant to draw from them?

The way you're phrasing it though, "Can I..." makes me wonder if you think there's some sort of obstacle to viewing the bible in a specific way. Of course you can. There's nothing stopping you - you can do whatever you want! I can't defend every part of the bible - I've been reading it for decades and there's still parts I either don't understand or don't agree with. Regardless of how you're going to approach/read/study/believe in the bible, someone will tell you're doing it wrong because there's no general consensus on the truth. That's why churches splinter into the Fifth Baptist Church of Omaha or the New New New New Word of Life Church II (these are made up examples). So nuts to all of them. It's a personal journey, and through reading and reflection you'll be able to figure out exactly what you believe. Some people can help, some people can hurt, but in the end you're the one that has to make these calls.

Robear wrote:
The Jefferson Bible has already done this sort of thing for you... Note that any analysis of this sort, especially older ones, will be dependent on who the assembler considers to be the author of a particular Book. We know a lot more about the sequencing of the NT and it's authorship than Jefferson did, for example, and far more than did the authors of the KJV. So even "What did Jesus say?" can benefit from modern textual analysis. Bart Ehrman writes often on this sort of topic, as do others in the academic study of the Bible (while others bitterly oppose textual analysis because they feel it threatens the Bible itself.)

That's really, really interesting, I'm going to have to check that out.

I also think I remember my mom having a bible where everything Jesus said was highlighted in red, while the entire rest of the book was in normal black print.

You should be able to find a study Bible for any particular format or use, Michael. Tons of them out there.

One thing to consider is that though we are made in God's image, we are not God, and thus imperfect. By extension, neither is the bible. It is an interpretation of God's message through fallible intermediaries as well as eyewitness accounts. Therefore the bible shouldn't be taken literally.

I, personally, don't believe in God. I do, however, believe in the possibility of the existence of God. I was raised christian and I feel that there are a lot of good lessons about how to live as decent people in the bible, but it must be taken with a grain of salt. I've read a passage where God sends down a couple of bears to maul 42 children for calling someone names while he was passing through their village. Old Testament God seemed vengeful, overreactive and inclined to hurt people just to prove a point.

Michael wrote:

I also think I remember my mom having a bible where everything Jesus said was highlighted in red, while the entire rest of the book was in normal black print.

Not a biblical scholar myself, but I guess I thought that all the bibles did that. At least the ones I've seen.

FeralMonkey wrote:
Michael wrote:

I also think I remember my mom having a bible where everything Jesus said was highlighted in red, while the entire rest of the book was in normal black print.

Not a biblical scholar myself, but I guess I thought that all the bibles did that. At least the ones I've seen.

I think it's a more old-school approach; none of the bibles I've ever owned (NAS and NIV) have ever done it.


Not a biblical scholar myself, but I guess I thought that all the bibles did that. At least the ones I've seen.

Nah, that's a study Bible thing. Take a look at the KJV or New International or some other "regular" Bible and it's all just undifferentiated text, no call-outs or commentary.

They are called "Red Letter" editions and are available in nearly every translation:

http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_no...

Of course, if you're going to study "what Jesus really said," that's a pretty deep subject in and of itself:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Q_source

I think it's one of those older ideas that gets recycled every few decades. I don't think there's any evidence that hundreds of thousands of Jews left Egypt, or were even *in* Egypt as slaves (although there's evidence that early, polytheistic Jews were in a city and an area controlled by Egypt, but that's not been locked down yet.) Modern archaeology has greatly changed the shape of what is known about events and places in the Bible.

Dr.Ghastly wrote:
God has made it clear that the penalty for sin is death.

This is one thing that always made me wonder... If the penalty for sin is death then what is hell for?

I don't think Hell is ever mentioned in the bible. Heck, the only place I'm aware that Satan appears is in Job as "the adversary", and Job is popularly considered a metaphorical story.