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The bible is a work of fiction


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Question Cap. You and I have spoken on occasion and I am privvy to quite a few things that bother you in this life. I understand if you want privacy for this and as you know you can go back to our PM and clue me in.

What is it about God that you feel has failed you?

Appreciate it KoG. It's not that I feel that I've been failed, it just didn't feel genuine. So now, I'm going down a path of questioning what I really believe.

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Appreciate it KoG. It's not that I feel that I've been failed, it just didn't feel genuine. So now, I'm going down a path of questioning what I really believe.

Not sure how well you remember me, but I was there as well. It didn't feel real. Couldn't be. No way and no how. I found God in an almost satirical way which is much funnier for my wife to tell it, but I will tell you this.

Love is universal and its through love that God exists in His truest form. Not in rules, regulations, or code. Not in a theory, hypothesis, or intellectual space. Just love. Through that very love man and women with the hardest of hearts are changed. But the only thing that blocks us are ourselves.

You're a man of intellect, so its not strange to me that an intellectual as yourself first needs to understand what and where in the ways of logic. What I had to learn is that my love for anyone isn't logic, but rather it is overcast by that love. In a conversation with someone over the stance of my beliefs, its easy to see what I say and believe that my tone is harsh or that I am not understanding or feeling their pain. I do. Its not about me, but rather the Call placed firmly on my life where my life is no longer my own, but is His. By "His" I mean God.

We have free will and the right to choose Him, or not. I was not going to say another word, in fact my time on this board is narrowing down. BUT! I need you to know one thing. All things aside, God truly loves you. You're not debating here as much as having a talk with Him. You're telling Him, not me or Dave, what you feel and what you need.

You see, God doesn't need for us to believe in Him in order to exist. He needs you to love Him the same way a real father needs their son to love them. You said that you do not think you were really failed. Neither was Simon Peter and he still had doubts until the ascension. That after all he had personally seen. Our Father does not fault you for having doubts. He only asks that you have a mustard seed of faith. I believe you have that much. He's knocking man. Just tell Him what you need.

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Not sure how well you remember me, but I was there as well. It didn't feel real. Couldn't be. No way and no how. I found God in an almost satirical way which is much funnier for my wife to tell it, but I will tell you this.

Love is universal and its through love that God exists in His truest form. Not in rules, regulations, or code. Not in a theory, hypothesis, or intellectual space. Just love. Through that very love man and women with the hardest of hearts are changed. But the only thing that blocks us are ourselves.

You're a man of intellect, so its not strange to me that an intellectual as yourself first needs to understand what and where in the ways of logic. What I had to learn is that my love for anyone isn't logic, but rather it is overcast by that love. In a conversation with someone over the stance of my beliefs, its easy to see what I say and believe that my tone is harsh or that I am not understanding or feeling their pain. I do. Its not about me, but rather the Call placed firmly on my life where my life is no longer my own, but is His. By "His" I mean God.

We have free will and the right to choose Him, or not. I was not going to say another word, in fact my time on this board is narrowing down. BUT! I need you to know one thing. All things aside, God truly loves you. You're not debating here as much as having a talk with Him. You're telling Him, not me or Dave, what you feel and what you need.

You see, God doesn't need for us to believe in Him in order to exist. He needs you to love Him the same way a real father needs their son to love them. You said that you do not think you were really failed. Neither was Simon Peter and he still had doubts until the ascension. That after all he had personally seen. Our Father does not fault you for having doubts. He only asks that you have a mustard seed of faith. I believe you have that much. He's knocking man. Just tell Him what you need.

1. I remember you well my friend (even have some of those conversations we've had to go back to)

2. You better not leave the boards!

3. I definitely appreciate your encouragement. :)

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A couple of things, Cappy, and not to try and convince you, but rather to give you some understanding of why your approach to this is problematic.

When you say it doesn't "feel real," that is a bit of a red flag to me. It's possible I'm reading you wrong, but having been in a Church that heavily relied on my feelings to judge my salvation, it sounds too familiar to me. A lot of Churches teach that if you don't "feel" saved, then you just gotta believe more. You gotta pray more. You gotta really trust God. Etc. But according to Christian doctrine, it's difficult to judge God's presence by how you feel. If it doesn't "feel real," sure, it might not be. Or you might be deluded by sin. Or you might be in the wrong place to perceive God's presence in the first place. I am very comfortable saying that God is not present in a salvific way among everyone who claims to be Christian (and I am equally comfortable saying that He is present in a salvific way among MOST who claim to be Christian, so don't hear me the wrong way).

The point is, our feelings are a poor basis to judge God's presence and activity. We do in fact perceive Him that way (I know I am rarely as much at peace as when I go to confession and hear "God it was who forgave David through Nathan the Prophet, when he confessed his sins, and Peter weeping bitterly for his denial, and the sinful woman in tears at his feet, and the Publican, and the Prodigal Son: May that same God forgive thee all things, through me a sinner, both in this present world, and in that which is to come, and set thee uncondemned before His dread Judgment Seat." Even more so when I hear "....and now, having no further care for the sins which thou hast declared, depart in peace."). But even that is fleeting -- I rarely leave Confession and make it out the door without sinning again, so there is always the need for forgiveness. If my feelings are my guide, then my feelings usually tell me I am sinful and broken.

I, too, was in the same place you were. What ultimately moved me off the fence was simple -- I learned a bit of theology and I learned that my feelings are dangerous but God's promises are secure. Then I learned about the Sacraments and I learned that God works through means, not by my feelings. Even when Jesus healed people, He didn't do it immediately. He did it through means. For example, He healed the blind man by taking dirt and mixing it with His saliva. He healed the woman with issue of blood when she touched His cloak (note that Mark says "He realized that power had gone out from Him" -- the Greek word for "power" is "dynamis" and means literally "power residing by virtue of nature"). So instead of viewing God as some penultimate judge deciding whether to punish me or forgive me, I learned to view Him as the source of life itself, and His Son as the means through which that life is restored to human nature. That changes things a bit from the typical view of Christianity that most people hear and dislike.

Now, if I am waiting to "feel" something to make my experience of God real, and I don't have this understanding of God as the source of life, the healer of humanity, and the agent of the healing of our souls, but rather I am looking for God to "change my heart" so I can be forgiven, then anytime I don't "feel" saved or forgiven, I am lost. But if I view God as ultimately merciful, and bearing Gifts in the form of the Sacraments to heal me (rather than as judgmental and using the Sacraments as tools to forgive me, or worse, basing my forgiveness on my sinful feelings and not even having the Sacraments at all), then God is cast in an entirely different light. And let me be clear again -- I DO "feel" the presence of God, and I DO "feel" the mercy of God. It's not that you never get that. It's more that when you don't, which is often, the answer is not that God has abandoned me, or I need to do this, that or the other in order for Him to make His presence known. It's that God is with me and I need to flee to the source of His healing, the place where He restores the communion that was broken in the garden. So my hope doesn't rest in how I feel, but in what God has done, the Gifts He bears, and His mercy toward mankind.

In the Orthodox Divine Liturgy, the close of the service is the priest asking God to forgive us and save us, and it takes this form:

"May Christ our true God have mercy upon us and save us, through the intercessions of His most pure and holy Mother; the power of the precious and life-giving Cross; the protection of the honorable, bodiless powers of heaven; the supplications of the honorable, glorious, prophet, forerunner and baptist John; the holy, glorious, and all victorious (Patron Saint of the Church), and all the saints, for He is good and loves mankind." (emphasis mine).

Ultimately, this is the Christian faith. Not that God works through my feelings, but that God works through means, and He is in fact good, and He does in fact love mankind. And ultimately, our hope is not that God will be merciful and forgive us because He otherwise has to punish us for being bad (though He is merciful and does forgive us), but rather that God will be merciful and heal us because He loves us and wants us to be whole. Ultimately, forgiveness is like me telling my children I love them after I punish them for something. But salvation is more like me providing them a house to live in, clothes to wear, food to eat, and ultimately, giving them their very life in the first place. If God is our Father, that is how He treats us. Not like an abusive parent, but as the most loving possible parent.

I'm not suggesting to you that you will ever agree with any of what I write above, nor necessarily that you should (though, obviously, it is my prayer you would). What I am suggesting is simply that it doesn't sound to me like you have experienced Christianity in anything close to its fullness. KOG is right -- no one can argue you into the Church or convince you to accept what God offers. That decision is yours and yours alone. But it pains me when people are given this false, "if you really believe and have faith God will turn your heart" brand of Christianity. That's true to a point, but making it the focal point of your theology is dangerous to souls. If God's presence and love are dependent on how I feel about Him, I am doomed. If they are dependent on how He feels about me despite the fact that I am an unworthy fool and a miserable servant, then I am secure. KOG hit the nail on the head about that as well. God doesn't need my praise, worship, adoration or love. He wishes it, but He does not need it. Putting the impetus for salvation on me and my feelings is getting theology exactly backwards.

In the end, salvation is most dependent on me being connected to Him through His Son, which is why I reference the importance of the Sacraments and proper teaching about them. Most Christian Churches have Baptism, so there is almost always a Sacramental element there. But in my experience, a rich Sacramental theology is far less likely to result in people falling into despair based on how they feel than a non-Sacramental theology. I am biased in that regard, because I had the exact same problem you did before I became Lutheran, and I left a Lutheran Church that downplayed the Sacraments for Orthodoxy. And ultimately, Church history led me to Orthodoxy over other Sacramental alternatives. I acknowledge my bias there. But that's my experience, for whatever it is worth.

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By the way, on that note, a friend of mine wrote this excellent blog post about this very issue:

the Holy Spirit, part 5

We all need spiritual guidance.

St. John counsels us, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1) Discerning the Holy Spirit, however, is not always easy. In fact, the ability to do it is itself a gift from the Holy Spirit. (I Corinthians 12:10) Therefore, the cardinal rule of discernment is always: have the humility (and common sense) to ask your spiritual father (or mother)! Lack of humility is never from the Holy Spirit. Every Orthodox Christian needs a spiritual mentor and coach. Ideally, he or she should be a saint overflowing with spiritual gifts like healing and prophecy. In practice, you can get by nicely with anybody who is markedly more mature in Christ than you are. (You only need him to coach you along that part of the path which lies between where you have arrived and where he has arrived.) For most of us, that makes finding someone, if not easy, at least not terribly difficult. Usually it is the parish priest, but it can be anybody, whoever is the most Christ-like Orthodox Christian you know, willing to undertake the task. Your spiritual father will know far better than you if what you have experienced is the Holy Spirit or is from Him.

The following guidelines may be helpful, but they must never replace being mentored by someone who is already a close friend of the Holy Spirit.

Flee! Run; do not walk, if what happened to you involved:

• paying any money for it, even indirectly, for tickets or seats. (Conferences, involving fees for food, transportation, lodging, or study materials, are not included in this warning.)

• any whiff of showmanship.

• insults to your human dignity, such as groveling on the floor or making animal noises.

• loss of self-control. The Spirit of the true God does not do that to you.

• contradictions of holy scripture, the Creed, or the prayers and worship of the Church.

• pointless, meaningless happenings.

Be suspicious if:

• you think you were cured. Consult your doctor before throwing away crutches or discontinuing medications!

• you think you were given a glimpse of the future. Acting upon false premonitions of the future obviously can have unfortunate consequences. Consult your spiritual father.

• the experience involved high emotions and bodily sensations. Spiritual realities cannot be discerned except by spiritual means. Emotional/bodily “highs” are pleasant, often thrilling, and may even help a person get through the week, but they are not what the Holy Spirit is all about. In fact, their presence makes spiritual discernment more difficult than it is in their absence; their presence obscures the Holy Spirit.

• you think you have received the Holy Spirit in other than an Orthodox setting. It can happen, for the Spirit blows free and certainly isn’t confined to the Church, but such an experience should raise some red flags in your mind.

• the alleged spiritual experience leaves you feeling satisfied or pleased with your spiritual condition. It should do the opposite: show you how far you still have to go.

It’s an encouraging sign if our experience bears spiritual fruit (rather than emotional fruit) such as:

• new insight into our true spiritual condition, insight otherwise known as humility

• repentance, meaning sorrow over the ways we have “grieved” God, turning from those ways, and having faith in and rejoicing in His measureless forgiveness. True contrition, turning, and faith are all works of the Holy Spirit. (But subtle counterfeits abound.)

• ability to forgive someone we couldn’t forgive before

• liberation, as when an issue that had blocked our prayer is resolved

• Receiving understandings we needed, answers that are suddenly so obvious we marvel we couldn’t see them before

• courage to do the right thing, of which we were incapable before

• seeing the solution to our problem, which solution wasn’t apparent before because it required humility

• a doctrine of the Church or passage of Scripture suddenly making clear, immediate, obvious, perfect, practical sense

Do not try to discern these things alone, whether by these few guidelines or any others you may find elsewhere. There are always exceptions and evil is often very subtle indeed. Always check everything with a wise and mature spiritual father (or mother). This is how the genuine, living Treasure is passed down, from person to person, through all the centuries.

How do we encounter the Living Jesus? It can happen in many ways. Perhaps most often, Christ comes to us in preaching, as happened to the crowd on the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem. (Acts 2:37) Sometimes He suddenly makes Himself present to us as we are reading the Bible and the words seem to leap off the page and stab our hearts. other times, He comes when we are not doing anything “religious” at all. Sometimes He discloses Himself in a dramatic manner, as in the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. (Acts 9:1-20, Acts 22:6-16, Acts 26:9-18) Sometimes He reveals Himself as a “still, small voice.” (I Kings 19:11-12) Sometimes the encounter is sudden, and sometimes it steals upon us.

Spiritual experience, a pure gift from God, can happen to anyone at any time – but the Holy Spirit first comes to live within a person in Holy Baptism/Holy Chrismation. Before then, the Holy Spirit works from outside a person; afterwards, from within.

Bishop Kallistos Ware, in The Orthodox Way, notes:

A distinction, however, needs here to be made between ‘experience’ and ‘experiences’. Direct experience can exist without necessarily being accompanied by specific experiences. There are indeed many who have come to believe in God because of some voice or vision, such as St. Paul received on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). There are many others, however, who have never undergone particular experiences of this type, but why can yet affirm that, present throughout their life as a whole, there is a total experience of the living God, a conviction existing on a level more fundamental than all their doubts. Even though they cannot point to a precise place or moment in the way that St. Augustine, Pascal or Wesley could, they can claim with confidence:
I know God personally
. (St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, Crestwood, New York, 1990, p. 22)

Notice, too, that “spiritual experiences” are not what a person ought to seek, for such a search is self-serving. Our striving, rather, should be to find and to love and to serve the Truth. Those who do seek spiritual experiences are all too likely to encounter the wrong kind.

Finding God, or rather, being found by Him, is strictly His gift. It cannot be accomplished by all our striving nor is it merited by our striving – but it just as surely will not be accomplished without it, either. This is because seeking itself is already the first phase of being found. (Put another way, the extent to which we actively search for Truth is the extent to which we have come to value it.) In the Scripture, we read, “He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Heb. 11:6) Jesus said, “Seek and you shall find, ask and it shall be given to you, knock and it shall be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7, Luke 11:9) And, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they shall be filled.” (Matthew 5:6) He is here echoing Deuteronomy 4:29, "… you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.”

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  • 2 weeks later...

Jesus-Ta-dah.jpg

Sadly, this caricature of Christianity is based in large part on certain hyper-Protestant views of salvation.

The good news is, you're right -- it's completely ridiculous. The better news is, that isn't what Christianity teaches. At least not historic Christianity. Hyper-Calvinists' mileage may vary (ask Fred Phelps, for example).

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The Old Testament is a history of a peoples with fictionalized parts to reinforce the belief that they are the chosen ones and to set up a draconian law system for harsh, ancient times. The New Testament is about a peasant preacher attempting to reform the extremely corrupt Jewish hierarchy and being executed for it with some age old myths seen in multiple religions and cultures to make him appear to fit prophecies of a savior. I think the Old Testament is largely ignorable but I am a fan of the Jeffersonian New Testament where all the miracles and other supernatural things omitted since, for the most part, there are many lessons and philosophies in regard of how to treat others in it that should be taken to heart no matter what your religion or irreligion is.

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The Old Testament is a history of a peoples with fictionalized parts to reinforce the belief that they are the chosen ones and to set up a draconian law system for harsh, ancient times. The New Testament is about a peasant preacher attempting to reform the extremely corrupt Jewish hierarchy and being executed for it with some age old myths seen in multiple religions and cultures to make him appear to fit prophecies of a savior. I think the Old Testament is largely ignorable but I am a fan of the Jeffersonian New Testament where all the miracles and other supernatural things omitted since, for the most part, there are many lessons and philosophies in regard of how to treat others in it that should be taken to heart no matter what your religion or irreligion is.

This is exactly how I'm feeling about it. Thank you for putting it in better words than I've been able to!

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This next question may be the hardest, and I'm especially curious about your answer because you've played God, and had to guess how God would act...

Well, I need to play the devil now, to balance it out. [Laughs.]

Did we invent God?

Yes.

So there isn't a God up in the sky somewhere. We came up with God ourselves.

Well, here's a scientific question: Has anybody ever seen hard evidence? What we get is theories from our earlier prophets. Now, people who think that God invented us think that the Earth can't be more than 6,000 years old. So I guess it's a question of belief. My belief system doesn't support a creator as such, as we can call God, who created us in His/Her/Its image.

Would you consider yourself an atheist, or agnostic?

It's a hard question because as I said at the start, I think we invented God. So if I believe in God, and I do, it's because I think I'm God.

Morgan Freeman on Inventing God, Aliens Eating Us and His Survival Odds in 'Dark Knight Rises'

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Would you consider yourself an atheist, or agnostic?

It's a hard question because as I said at the start, I think we invented God. So if I believe in God, and I do, it's because I think I'm God.

He said a mouthful with that one. That's the problem in a nutshell.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Not even my church goes at it that way. That basically depends on how well learned the person who explains the whole thing is.

Not sure what Dave is talking.

In the most simple terms, it's a caricature of penal substitutionary atonement, where God is mad at us and needs to have His anger assuaged, so He kills His Son in order to allow us to escape His judgment. That's implied in the meme. Penal substitutionary atonement is most naturally characterized by the more extreme forms of Calvinism (like Westboro Baptist Church, hence the Fred Phelps reference), though it is borrowed from medieval Roman Catholicism.

Rome, and much of Calvinism, has repented of it of late. Some (Phelps) didn't get the memo. Wesleyan and Arminian Protestantism seems to be the foil to this within Protestantism. Fortunately, the Orthodox Church never really grasped hold of the concept to begin with, and we tend to hold to what is popularly referred to as the "Christus Victor" model of atonement. Of course, we have held that from the beginning, so we were "Christus Victor" when "Christus Victor" wasn't cool tongue.png

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In the most simple terms, it's a caricature of penal substitutionary atonement, where God is mad at us and needs to have His anger assuaged, so He kills His Son in order to allow us to escape His judgment. That's implied in the meme. Penal substitutionary atonement is most naturally characterized by the more extreme forms of Calvinism (like Westboro Baptist Church, hence the Fred Phelps reference), though it is borrowed from medieval Roman Catholicism.

Rome, and much of Calvinism, has repented of it of late. Some (Phelps) didn't get the memo. Wesleyan and Arminian Protestantism seems to be the foil to this within Protestantism. Fortunately, the Orthodox Church never really grasped hold of the concept to begin with, and we tend to hold to what is popularly referred to as the "Christus Victor" model of atonement. Of course, we have held that from the beginning, so we were "Christus Victor" when "Christus Victor" wasn't cool tongue.png

smh...I said in another thread. I'm not talking about religion on THIS board anymore. Far too much bigotry.

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