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Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Christians are inconsistent and confusing?

A recent controversial post spurred a tempest of comments on both sides of the "gay marriage" issue. During that posting flurry, a commenter named Tucker asked some very interesting questions concerning the Christian faith. In fact, there were a lot of interesting questions, comments and answers that directly or indirectly touched on Christian beliefs.

As a Christian I feel compelled to post something regarding questions Tucker had raised. For instance, she said:

"if you will allow me i would just like to ask an honest question (it is somewhat off topic)...please dont feel that i am attacking any of you...i have posed this question only to people of my like-mind and we just can't figure it out: as you may have noticed i am not a christian and am not as knowledgeable as i would like to be about the christian faith...what i want to know is how the many facets of christianity are justified? i said it before: if marriage is indeed a religious institution then it should not be changed just because gay people want to fit it...but how then is it justified that there are so many different takes on christianity? are the protestants right, or the catholics? the baptists or the methodists or the anglicans etc...surely if the word of god is so true and all encompassing, christianity should be composed of a very definite set of beliefs, values, morals and laws...why is it that so many christians feel that they can interpret the faith the way they like and in whatever they choose? how do you know what segment of christian society is actually right? every christian thinks he is right and i have yet to find 2 christians who can agree on all aspects of the bible and gods word..."

Commenters like Simon and Highboy made excellent posts in an attempt to address this but now I wish to add my two cents worth.

THE BIBLE is God's Word to mankind. There are all sorts of translations out there in all sorts of languages. In almost every case the translations agree and there is very little controversy about the actual text of the Bible itself, Old Testament and New. It is how the Bible is interpreted that is at issue.

Denominational Churches have come to conclusions about the major doctrinal issues and made statements of faith to nail those down. Strictly speaking, if you are a Catholic you supposedly both agree to and adhere to the Catholic teachings. If you are a Lutheran, same thing. Of course, there is more than one faction within the Catholic Church and more than one Lutheran group and so on. So the outsider will hear more than one opinion on many doctrinal issues.

Non-Denominational Churches. My family belongs to such a church. The leadership of our church set up some doctrinal guidelines in a statement of faith that are pretty general and leave most issues up to the individual believer and God. There are churches that dispense with a statement of faith entirely and others have much larger and more inclusive ones than ours.

Then there are believers that meet in homes and so on that reject the idea of an organized church at all. Yes, to the outsider looking in it looks pretty disorganized. Why can't Christians get it together??!!

Fact is, if you don't believe that Jesus came to save you and that you must trust in Him and His sacrifice to repair your relationship with God you actually aren't a Christian. The Apostles main job was to preach Christ, crucified and risen again and help spread the faith around. No Christ, no Chistianity.

The point is that man should have a real and individual relationship with God. This is what I understand from the Bible. This is both the beauty and the confusing aspect of Christianity, that it is not a large group of Stepford believers all saying the exact same things.

But here are two things from the Bible that really help. First, the Bible itself is the source for understanding doctrine:

"2 Timothy 3:16 - All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:"

The entire Bible is useful and authoritative as to how a Christian should live out his life on this earth and to help us know the nature of God.

"Romans 15:4 - For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope."

The Old Testament, written in the past to the Jews who were under the law, is now for our learning but is no longer law. Christ brought about redemption through His blood and thereby salvation. We believers are now "new creatures", bought by the blood of Christ and indwelt by the Holy Spirit.

There are several additional principles Bible students use to study and understand the Bible, including understanding context, previous Bible teachings and audience,etc. Become a Christian and begin the journey, I say!

As to a Christian's standing with God and hope of heaven, Tucker wrote:

"apologies...i am being sarcastic and somewhat pedantic...but only to prove a point...the rules for acceptance are so finicky and interpreted differently by almost every christian or at least every christian church or subgroup...surely god would have laid it out in clear, straightforward english...surely he wants his people to be aware of the prerequisites for entry into heaven...isnt is kind of perverted of him to leave it so open ended so all of you christians are left constantly wondering if you have done enough and fulfilled all the criteria?"

I say, salvation? Romans 5:1 begins: "Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ..."
and the thought continues in Romans 5:9 - "Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God's wrath through him!"

Salvation and also right standing with God...

And then Ephesians 2:8-10: "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

And Titus 3:5 - "..he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit,"

As a Christian, I give God credit for saving and preserving my salvation. I do the best I can to live as He would have me live and much of that is by yielding myself to the leading of His Spirit and following the teachings in the Bible as I understand them and helped to understand by the Spirit within. I don't justify myself by what I say or do, but I do seek to give God a good reputation by what I say or do. Christianity may, from the outside, appear to be inconsistent. The goal of every believer, though, is to be as consistently like Christ as possible.

(Thanks to Bible Gateway for the quotes from the Bible.)

27 comments:

cranky old fart said...

But given the importance of the ETERNAL consequences for our brief time on earth, wouldn't it be important to know some of these things for sure?

highboy said...

The hard part that most unbelievers have a hard time getting over is "what do I gotta do?" We always have to do something, always have to control something. Christians should be stressing to non-believers that its not a matter of do's and don'ts. Its loving Jesus and giving your heart to Him. We debated rather harshly over homosexuality, but it must be said that homosexuality is no worse in God's eyes than other sin, and a homosexual/lesbian is no more damned/forgiven than anyone else. I say come to know Jesus, because that is what Christianity is, fellowship with Jesus. The rest will take care of itself.

Anonymous said...

The Bible is not God's word to mankind.

It's a library of conflicting beliefs - not even written by the names attached to them. For instance, no one knows who wrote the Gospels - and the original documents have been lost. Most importantly the Book of Enoch is missing - which predates Genesis. Men edited these 'holy' words - and others changes them.

Check this out on the Internet.

cranky old fart said...

Highboy,

Well said. Now just follow your own words and all will be well. All this obsessing over literal translations just hurts your cause, IMHO.

As for the "what I gotta do" stuff, I just love to listen to the Simon's of the world on this subject. They've got explicit rules. They say 3-year-olds are off to eternal damnation if their parents are wicked, etc.

As with other religions, fundamentalists do Christianity much more harm than good.

Middle_America said...

Nice post. I would like to comment on a couple of things, if I may.

1) The first question is a good one. However, for one to take the bible
literally, it is very clear on the do's and dont's of marriage.
Regarding marriage itself, it is between a man and woman. This is found
in Genesis.

Genesis 1:27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He
created him; male and female He created them.

Genesis 2:24 Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and
shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

This is the foundation of marriage. This is also why the framers voiced
such a definition of marriage.

Who should not get married, per the bible? The only thing Jesus mentioned
that should not be married other than one of the same sex, is those with different beliefs (believer and non-believer). 1 Corinthians chapter 7 1-16 touches on this. Note the race (we are all of the human race) is not the issue.

2) On the prerequisites for entry into heaven...

Again, it is quite clear within the bible.

John 3:16-17 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but
to save the world through him.

True Christianity is different from any other religion. In all other religions
people have to perform task or good deeds to be accepted to their heaven. HOwever,
in christianity, Christ was the one performing the deed. All we need to do is
accept His gift.

highboy said...

anonymous: Wrong. The original manuscripts are not lost, and you'll have to do more than online sourcing to back that up. Almost every respectable scholar both Christian and secular know who the author of the Gospels were.

"Book of Enoch is missing"

Proven to be a fake. Look it up on the internet.

"It is a library of conflicting beliefs."

Wrong. When one reads the whole Bible, instead of picking out a line here and there it harmonizes beautifully. This may take a while to do, but is much more responsible than making basless claims you have no hope of demonstrating.

cranky: Not sure what you are implying by your "follow your own words" line, or anything else you said. My walk with God is a walk with God, was never based on do's and don'ts and never will be. I follow Jesus, and the actions take care of themselves.

"As for the "what I gotta do" stuff, I just love to listen to the Simon's of the world on this subject."

you've lost me. Or is that to someone else?

"As with other religions, fundamentalists do Christianity much more harm than good"

Actually, the Baptist denomination, the most fundamental of them all, is the largest, most encompassing church in the Protestant realm. Fundamentalists stick to the Bible as it was intended and that is how people come to Christ. Liberalism is bad enough without it reaching its filthy fingers into the Church. Keep it in abortion clinics where it belongs.

cranky old fart said...

Highboy,

You really don't know much about your own religious texts. There are no original gospels. The earliest copies, rather fragments of copies, are from the 3rd century at best.

I won't even get into what the passing down of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies, etc. might mean.

What are they teaching you in that Canadian church school anyway?

Disciple said...

There are a few things that need to be said here. First of all, I would like to add to the comments that Radar made in answer to “Tucker.” It is important to know that not all churches claiming to be Christian are Christian. There are a few heretical teaching that have spawned “churches” and they claim to be Christian. 1st, Arainism is a heretical teaching that teaches that Christ was not God, but was simply the highest of all of God’s creations. 2nd, Modalism is a heretical teaching that claims radical unity of God (that the three parts of the Holy Trinity are merely three separate manifestations of one God). This is the heresy that spawned the Mormon Church. Dynamic Menarcianism teaches that Jesus was nothing more than a mere man, given powers by God.
The truth lies within the Bible itself. Don’t be going and taking to heart secular author’s giving their interpretation of what the Bible means. Read it for yourself. Many of these so-called Christian sects, are nothing of the sort, and actually incorporate teachings from people other than the original authors. Do yourself a favor and simply seek the truth. There is nothing wrong with asking questions; in fact I personally encourage it. My only hope is that ultimately, you will seek the truth and read the Bible for yourself. I recommend the New American Standard Version, as it is the most literal modern English translation.
Now, in response to some of the idiocy that has been posted by “unknowns, and crankys.” First, 3rd century what? The oldest Gospel documents are nowhere near that old! Where do you get your “facts,” a cereal box? No, wait, I remember now . . . your wealth of knowledge comes from the Internet. “I won't even get into what the passing down of copies of copies of copies of copies of copies, etc. might mean.” Uh . . . do I really need to be the one pointing out that all history books are copies of copies of copies. Many of what we know to be Biblical stories are recorded elsewhere in other historical documents. Another thing is that until last century the oldest biblical records dated back a little more than one thousand years. When the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered, they used your precious C-14 dating, and proved that they were written in the time of Christ Himself. What you may find interesting is that the documents were virtually identical to what had previously been the oldest documents. So either you’re wrong about carbon dating, or you’re wrong about this . . . or both. You see, the Lord promises to keep His word intact, and He has.
Also, on the subject of education . . . the comments you made about the education that Highboy was getting in Canada baffle me. First, after some investigation, I found out that the university that he goes to is not only accredited, but also one of the most recommended for theological education. This would lead me to conclude that your comments are nothing more than arbitrary name-calling. By the way, where did you get your degrees in theology and science? Mail order? I’ve been reading through many of the posts on your website, as well as the comments that you leave on other people’s. You seem to have no real knowledge, and like to spend most of your time name-calling. Do me a favor, take some time out, actually read the Bible (the whole thing) and then we can all talk without this needless stupidity.

Simon Peter said...

Radar: You may also want to include a distinction between salvation and non-salvation doctrine.

Acts 2:38 is salvation doctrine, whereas pre, mid or post tribulation rapture is an interesting discussion but absolutely non-salvation doctrine.

Highboy: The remark that confused you was aimed at me. I appear to have the unique ability to get Cranky even more worked up than usual. Naturally, I shall use this power for good and not evil! :-)

Cranky: I'd ask a vegetarian for advice on selecting a steak before I'd talk to you about my eternal destination.

cranky old fart said...

Disciple,

Help this old fool then, as I can't make head or tails of what your problem seems to be with my most recent comment.

First you deride my statement that the earliest known gospel manuscripts are perhaps 3rd century ("The oldest Gospel documents are nowhere near that old"), and then you say they are from the time of Christ’s life ("they were written in the time of Christ Himself")?

Well, you tell me, how old are the oldest manuscripts we have? Do we have the originals as highboy claimed ("The original manuscripts are not lost") or 3rd century or later as I said?

As for the science stuff, you will recall that you were the one posting that c14 was used to date dirt. Sheesh.

cranky old fart said...

Simon,

I wasn't talking to you about your eternal destination, or mine.

I was talking about your plan for 3-year-olds heading to eternal damnation because of bad parents, as you seem to forget. Again.

Simon Peter said...

Cranky: Nothing wrong with my memory. And God still takes EVERYTHING into account when deciding a person's final destination.

So, how about abortion, Mr. "cares for the children"? You're awfully quiet about that. Nearly as quiet as when your asked for actual evidence of evolution.

No wonder you're so cranky. No facts and no evidence. I'd be cranky too under those circumstances. I'm still praying for your salvation though.

Disciple said...

Cranky:

Wow! Do you even read, or think before you write. No one said anything about dirt! In fact, what I spoke about was the C-14 content in the atmosphere. Do you know the difference between the atmosphere and dirt? You make all of these subjective comments on people’s sites and you continue to misquote, misrepresent, and name call.

You go to great effort to cut down sources, and people with no basis for your statements. For you to point at Dr. Hovind (which I said wasn’t the absolute truth, but merely food for thought) and call his education nothing is a pointless distraction. He didn’t do the C-14 tests, but merely reported results from scientific study. He speaks to the doctors and scientists behind the research, and collects various journals for his library. What he doesn’t do is sit around all day, picking and choosing his source website for the day, and playing that off as an education. Sheesh!

Disciple said...

Simon Peter says, "No wonder you're cranky."

I second your thoughts. One day he is going to wake up and realize that the only things that are created out of nothing are his rantings. Although, he does prove that at least some of us evolved from goo.

cranky old fart said...

Simon,

"And God still takes EVERYTHING into account when deciding a person's final destination"

Thanks for the clarification. Not quite what you were saying on your site, but we can't really go back and check as you shut the comments down and wiped the slate clean. In any case, thanks for the update.

Now, what about abortion? Like any sane person I wish there never was one. I wish all children had a safe and loving home. I wish all crack babies and all lost and neglected children were adopted and loved. I wish they all had healthcare.

As for the evolution v. creationism issue, we will just have to agree to disagree. We just are just talking past each other on that one.

Simon Peter said...

Cranky: Oh no! You're on to me. You've figured out that I slammed the brakes on my blog, for the sole and express reason of annoying you. Goodness, I am undone!

Or not.

Actually, there was a domestic issue. I offer no further details. It's about sorted out. "I'll be back!" he says with his really bad Arnold impression.

Hawkeye® said...

Hey Radar,
Looks like you got quite a few comments on this thread. So why should I stay out of the mix? (:D)

Anyway, whenever somebody asks about why there are so many different Christian denominations and sects, I am reminded of the following passage...

"31 Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his field; 32 it is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.” --Matthew 13:31-32

In this parable, the tiny mustard seed represents Jesus himself. The seed being planted represents Jesus' death and "burial". The tree that grows out of Jesus' death represents the Church... the Kingdom of God... with its many branches. The trunk of the tree of course represents the Roman Catholic Church. The other branches represent all of the various off-shoots.

And the final product is a beautiful creation that is not a monolithic structure. Each branch exhibits its own beauty. Each leaf (or person) is unique. But all the branches and all the leaves each draw their nourishment and life from the same source -- Jesus.

And who are the birds of the air that to come to make their nests in the tree? They are the homeless, the hungry, the poor and the needy. They find life and support amongst the various branches of the Church.

God bless you Radar.

radar said...

Hawkeye, I receive that! Thanks for the blessing.

Anonymous said...

It's quite true that the ealiest documents of the gospels have been lost. And how many people realise, for instance thar there's a'feeding of the FOUR thousand as well as the FIVE thousand? The folllowers of JC are amazed at both times - proving it's a legendary embelishment. A myth.

There is no mention of Nazareth in the Old Testament. It got invented to equate with Nazarine or Nazaritr - sects. (There was lot of sects in them thar days!)

And Genesis is very late. The first woman was Lileth. Check it out on the Internet!!! god gave Adam a new partner after Lileth went off with a clap of thunder as an accompaniment. She was the first women's libber!

And Adam noticed that all the animals he was naming had partners. He tried out each one - but didn't care for them. That's why god gave him a mate. These are all ancient Jewish myths, translate, discovered and written about by Graves. Again pleeeeeese check on the web - it's all there, crazy as it may sound to Baptist Bible thumpers and others with the same mad beliefs/ideas/notions.

Anonymous said...

Why are there two differing genealogies in the Gospels for Joseph - back to David in one and Adam in the other - when he wasn't the father of JC at all? It was to prove the Davidic line - but Miriam was fertilised by old Gabriel we're told!

And why was Miriam cleansed at the Temple when she didn't need cleansing - having been impregnated from on high. What a lot of nonsense.

Anonymous said...

'Peter' of course is a pun on the word 'petra' rock. And the nickname meant rock - hence the church stood on the rock. Unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Why doesn't Josephus, the Jewish historian know about the miracles and the murder of the infants by Herod? Because it's all a myth.

And the Essenes, down by the Dead Sea, had a Saviour who'd been 'hung on the wood' a century or so before biblical references. Those Essenes thought the priests in Jerusalem were raving communists, and had pushed off to freak out on their own. Xttianity developed from their ideas - wgich included in the Dead Sea Scrolls references to Enoch, who'd been to heaven - or thought he had (what was HE on?) and announced that God had created a punishment pit before He'd created anybody to punish. Anyway, if you're given free will, that's a permit to sin, if you believe it's a good idea. All this theology is rubbish and should be abandoned for a bit of genuine humility and agnosticism.

Anonymous said...

The earliest writing in the Bible is by Paul - who freaked on the road to Damascus.

He invented Christianity.

And he thought JC had been killed by wicked angels. Only later did the Romans get the blame!
Read Prof Wells on the web if you don't believe all this.

highboy said...

"And how many people realise, for instance thar there's a'feeding of the FOUR thousand as well as the FIVE thousand? The folllowers of JC are amazed at both times - proving it's a legendary embelishment. A myth."

Um, no, that proves nothing. What is your definition of proof?

"There is no mention of Nazareth in the Old Testament. It got invented"

Prove it was invented, and that Nazareth didn't exist beforehand. Italy wasn't mentioned either.

"when he wasn't the father of JC at all? It was to prove the Davidic line - but Miriam was fertilised by old Gabriel we're told!"

You mean "Mary".

"'Peter' of course is a pun on the word 'petra' rock"

Peter is the English translation of Caiphas.

"Why doesn't Josephus, the Jewish historian know about the miracles and the murder of the infants by Herod? Because it's all a myth. "

Because he sucks as an historian.

"The earliest writing in the Bible is by Paul - who freaked on the road to Damascus. He invented Christianity. And he thought JC had been killed by wicked angels. Only later did the Romans get the blame! Read Prof Wells on the web if you don't believe all this."

Wrong. The earliest writing of the Bible is Job. Yes we've looked on the net and we are not impressed "anonymous." You'll have to do more than online sourcing to prove thousands of years worth of historical record is inaccurate. The fact you think Christianity was made up by Paul has me chortling when Jesus Christ, His teachings, and followers are even taught in secular World Cultures classes in public schools. They just don't teach He performed miracles. I'll stick to the campus full of scholars with Doctorates, MBA's, and degrees of various natures before I trust the "research" performed by some guy named anonymous pressing clicking "browse."

cranky old fart said...

Highboy,

Don't diss Josephus, he's one of the primary reasons ya'll can "prove" from an early historian that Jesus lived at all. And it is kinda strange that the other gospels seem to overlook that mass murder of innocents, along with Josephus....

And I'm sure anonymous meant that Paul was the earliest NT writer. Cut the dude some slack. ;)

radar said...

One reason it appears anonymous posts anonymously is that he would be embarassed were he to attempt to back up his statements.

There were hundreds of witnesses to the resurrection of Christ. Many of them, such as John and Peter, wrote about Christianity.

Anonymous cannot get his numbers or his names straight when referring to biblical accounts.

Josephus had to be careful, as did many of that time, as to what he put down as historical. Here is a quote from the writings of Josephus:

“Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was [the] Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.”

It is remarkable that he wrote anything even this favorable to Jesus, since he was a Roman citizen, not only under the rule of Rome but also becoming an historian in Rome under Vespian, Titus and Domitian. To ascribe great powers or miraculous acts to any other than a Roman god or emporer could have cost him his life. Nevertheless, his account augments the evidence for Christianity rather than presenting refutation.

highboy said...

Some of the reasons posted to try and discredit the Bible are similiar to the reasons neo-Nazis use to claim the Holocaust never happened.